Hello Book Worms! Hope everyone had a fabulous summer, I know mine definitely started looking up towards the end. While my international travel plans are still on pause for the near future, I have been having a blast being closer to home. You may have noticed there is a missing August post so forgive me! I was hiking along Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and soaking up the rays in Dennis Post, Cape Cod, Massachusetts for ten days earlier this month. These are two trips I have always wanted to take but ended up justifying it as “if it take 7 hours and 45 minutes to drive to Maine, I can just take a flight to Italy instead.” Since this is not an option for me right now, there is a small (very small) feeling of gratitude towards this pandemic for slowing my life down a little bit and appreciating things I never would have made the time to enjoy. So that is what I’ve been up to but we have book matters to discuss, keep reading for my quick book reviews:
An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena 4/5 Stars: A classic "whodunit" thriller set in a hotel in the Catskills during a winter storm. This was an intriguing read that kept me guessing until the end, a shocker, which I love. The characters were well crafted and we saw the story unfold from all of their perspectives. This is one of those book plots that I prefer getting from the library because sometimes they can be completely ridiculous but this did not disappoint.
The First Mistake by Sandie Jones 4/5 Stars: Finished this in about 24 hours because I love a good marriage related suspense book. I definitely had my suspicions early on and was right about them (hate when that happens) but, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Alice is a happily married mother of two who loves her husband Nathan desperately but when new best friend Beth is thrown in the mix of marriage a ton of secrets will be exposed.
What You Wish For by Katherine Center 2/5 Stars: Absolutely loved Katherine Center’s previous books especially, How to Walk Away. I usually enjoy her writing because it is just so darn easy going and heartwarming but, this plot was totally predictable and strange. The characters drove me crazy because the odds of a love story working out this ‘perfectly’ is pretty slim not to mention the corny factor was through the roof.
The Night Swim by Megan Goldin 5/5 Stars: This book left me shaken to the core with every emotion there is. It was much more than a thriller and touches on issues such sexual abuse and rape (which may be sensitive for some readers) which left me speechless at times. Goldin is an absolutely phenomenal writer and I look forward to more from this author.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle 4/5 Stars: I held on to this for a while and then happened to see Adele raving about it on Good Morning America and decided it would be a great time to pick up one of my least favorite genres, nonfiction, almost “self-help”-ish. This was actually great and I am pleasantly surprised on how insightful Doyle is on everything I feel but never knew how to say into words.
Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell 4/5 Stars: Another dark, twisty, psychological thriller set in London with well-crafted characters, typical Jewell style. I suspected several different motives and people but of course was left with all threads coming together in the end for a very surprising ending. But Lisa Jewell never fails to disappoint to me.
The Boys’ Club by Erica Katz 5/5 Stars: I can’t stop talking about this book because I loved it so much. A woman in the business/law world, partying it up in New York City and showing that she is just as powerful and competitive as her male colleagues, it all sucked me in so quickly, I wish I could relive this book. I was so invested in Alex Vogel’s life, I was sad when the ride was over had to go back to reality.
One by One by Ruth Ware 2/5 Stars: Almost DNF this one but didn’t so I rated this a two out of five. Ruth Ware really hooked me into her writing style with The Woman in Cabin 10 a few years back and since then it has been a steady downfall of interest that almost made me think she didn’t even write this book. Character development was poor with too many people to keep track of. Nothing major ever really happens and then it just ends with the obvious killer.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman 3/5 Stars: Sadly, I did not like this book as much as I thought I would. First and foremost because Backman has written a couple of my favorite books of all time, Beartown, Us Against You, A Man Called Ove, but I am not sure what happened here. I really enjoyed the first chapters and the build-up of what was happening with the hostage situation but I struggled as the book progressed. Some parts were so silly they were confusing, in the end it does make sense but I was not impressed.
The End of Her by Shari Lapena 4/5 Stars: Pretty good domestic thriller that I enjoyed reading however, I have so many questions! The plot was pretty straightforward and kept my attention the whole time but there were definitely holes that I wish were explored a more. There’s not much I can say without too many spoilers but, the subject matter involves a cheating husband (which is a little old and tired as far as thrillers go) and his world being turned upside down by his past. I still recommend this read if you need a little something to escape from your own world.
It's pretty hard to believe we're more than halfway done with 2020, over 140 days of working from home and 40 out of 60 books finished on my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal. It took some getting used to but now I'm not sure I can go back to the office after working from the porch on nice days, my backyard if I want to get some sun, and sometimes even from my local beach (sh!) only on really sunny days when there are minimal conference calls, can you blame me?
This month, I tried to read more books that take place outside of the states since I don't have any big travel plans this year (bummer). I have to admit it helped tame the travel bug in me reading about London, Barcelona, and Palestine but I am getting that itch to go farther than the tri-state area as soon as it is safe to do so!
This has also been a nice time to start and finish some household projects. I never had a green thumb but I decided to plant herbs and flowers in my backyard and have been using my mint harvest for infused water and basil leaves for pasta. I never realized how much goes into gardening if you want your plants to actually thrive.
July was also great because my local libraries opened up and I was able to pick up some reads I didn't necessarily want to buy or add to my collection but wanted to 'check out', literally. I also have a lot more time to browse and return books on time because usually after commuting home from work the last thing I want to do is get in the car and drive anywhere, but now it's become my fun outing and less of a chore.
Here is what I read in July, and heads up, it was a disappointing month:
You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat 3/5 Stars: Always a little frustrating when you have big expectations for a highly anticipated book and it takes a turn in the opposite direction. I thought this would be similar to 'A Woman Is No Man' (if you haven't read it yet, just go do it) based on the blurbs but it wasn't at all. I expected a book about a Palestinian-American woman's battle between being who she is and who her mother wants her to be but instead this was a tedious memoir-like book about 'love addiction' and eating disorders.
Barcelona Days by Daniel Riley 3/5 Stars: Was really excited for this release because it was raved about on social media and because well, Barcelona! The premise definitely draws you in as we are introduced to a young engaged couple stranded in Barcelona due to an erupting Icelandic volcano has grounded European flights and their relationship gets tested as a result. I was glad when this was over and just needed Whitney and Will could make a decision and move on. The author could have done a lot more here.
The Dilemma by B.A. Paris 2/5 Stars: A domestic "thriller" more focused on character development than plot which I found to be extremely frustrating. The whole book felt like it was about a husband and a wife not talking to each other. I absolutely loved B.A. Paris's Behind Closed Doors and over the years I kept reading more from this author to see if it will match my love for that book and I end up getting disappointed every time.
All My Mother's Lovers by Ilana Masad 3/5 Stars: Okay, a book with an excellent premise told by an interesting main character but the pace here is way too slow. It took a really long time for things to get heated and the ending was too clean, so to speak, to solve the whole family mess happening in the chapters prior.
The Shadows by Alex North 3/5 Stars: This was my Book of the Month pick for July since I loved The Whisper Man. The idea of "lucid dreaming" is interesting but also ludicrous, there were also so many parallel things going on it was hard to keep track of what was happening. A big twist, reveal or shocker never came so I finished this book feeling totally underwhelmed.
Life Update: Working from home feels way more normal than it did at the start of April. I absolutely love not wasting hours of my life commuting, which in turn saves me time for chores, errands, seeing friends and staying up to date on all of my reading goals. One thing I can say for sure has been particularly great about this whole situation is all the places that I am getting to experience for the first time that are close to home. New neighborhoods, beaches, parks, restaurants, scenery, biking trails, and just plain old thinking outside of the box for things to do on the weekends have been the highlight of this lock-down/quarantine. This holiday weekend, I am writing this post from a barn in Woodstock, New York and already feel the calmness of nature.
I like to keep these posts short and sweet so we can get to the real business at hand, which are my reading lists. At the beginning of June, I sat down and started writing reviews for my May books. I stopped immediately upon the current events that gained track especially, the Blackout Tuesday movement that spread on social media. I decided to put the May and June book lists together and wait to post on the C&C blog in July. As such, these are quick and dirty reviews to provide you some summer reading inspiration.
Quick Ratings (All Books Linked for Purchase):
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager 4/5 Stars: I always looked forward to a Riley Sager release so naturally this was one of my BOTM picks for June. A twisty novel about a haunted house in Vermont.
The Last Flight by Julie Clark 4/5 Stars: Unrealistic (you know how I feel about this by now) yet very addictive. A domestic thriller with a chance encounter.
A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight 5/5 Stars: Four couples whose seemingly perfect marriages slowly unravel. All are keeping secrets leading to shocking revelations, and, ultimately, to murder.
All Adults Here by Emma Straub 4/5 Stars: If you enjoy books about dysfunctional, small town families, pick up All Adults Here. Very well written although it felt like there was a lot of "social issue cramming".
The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell 4/5 Stars: As I continue to try and finish every Lisa Jewell book written, I was definitely hooked by the story but did not love the characters in this one.
Verity by Colleen Hoover 4/5 Stars: Every book podcast I listen to raved about Verity and it was finally time to pick this up. So compulsively readable that it's impossible to put it down until you've finished it, which I did, in one day.
The Is Not a Fashion Story by Danielle Bernstein 1/5 Stars: Danielle Bernstein's work ethic, energy and enthusiasm is admirable but this book is very poorly written. This memoir is about a privileged beyond measure, narcissistic, and materialistic Long Island girl becoming a millionaire from her fashion blog, WeWoreWhat.
Never Can Say Goodbye by Sari Botton 4/5 Stars: As someone who was born, raised and currently lives in New York, I constantly think about leaving but I haven't brought myself to do it yet because this city has a hold over me. This is a collection of essays by writers who New York has touched or shaped in some way.
When I was growing up, starting as young as kindergarten, all through my awkward teenage years and until the day I entered graduate school my dad used to say, "a book is your best friend." I know he meant the types of books that are a little deeper than my suspense/thrillers or British rom-coms, (War and Peace or The Intelligent Investor?) but nonetheless, it is still a good piece of advice. I have found his saying to be true for most of my life, especially these days when I am feeling the most in need of friendship and a change of scenery.
It is has been seven weeks since I have been at home, under a new working environment, in what everyone seems to be calling "the new normal". Gosh, I hope not. I am grateful for small blessings like my home office, Peloton and iPhone that are keeping me in some kind of "normal" routine, but books have been providing the comfort I need most right now. Many people (yay!) have messaged me on social media asking for book recommendations and my heart has never been happier to share some of the stories that I have truly loved and obsessed over.
While I wish I could be posting about traveling and eating out (what a time to have started a traveling and lifestyle blog huh), that will have to wait until things are safe again. In the meantime, let us talk books. Below are quick ratings for the books I read in April. Do not let my "stars" discourage you from reading any of the books I post. I take off points when I am unable to connect with a location, protagonist, or plot but that does not mean you will feel the same! Read reviews and plot summaries and make your own determinations.
Quick Ratings (All Books Linked for Purchase):
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell 5/5 Stars: This was really something, very deep dive into a student/teacher relationship. Warning that some parts might make you uncomfortable, but if you are up for it, I would highly recommend this read for anyone.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley 3.5/5 Stars: This was my very Agatha Christie BOTM pick for April. The plot was a bit over the top and set in a fixed location but if you like that sort of thing, I say go for it.
Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent 4.5/5 Stars: If you don't already know, Liz Nugent is one of my favorite authors ever. I would read her grocery list if it was published. (I might be a little biased here so just do yourselves a favor and read everything she writes.)
The Tenant by Katrine Engberg 3/5 Stars: A debut novel by Engberg, that felt like it needed more. I wish it was longer and discussed the main characters lives and characteristics in depth. Still pretty good and set in Copenhagen, which I enjoyed.
The Paris Hours by Alex George 4/5 Stars: I needed a break from all the murder and darkness, so I ended the month with this short but beautiful book set in 1927 Paris. Another book that I wish was longer because each character was so likable and intertwined with each other. If you are a francophile, this is right up your alley.
In light of global events, working from home and not having anywhere to go for most of the month of March, I thought I would get more reading done. Unfortunately, I have spent a lot of time feeling anxious and going stir crazy in my house, not to mention lots of baking and eating. Two cancelled (nonrefundable) trips and a lot of stress later, I am thankful now more than ever for having an escape through books. Hopefully everyone is taking this time to read, stay indoors, healthy and safe.
The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica 4/5 Stars: Extremely gripping just like Kubica's previous novel, (which I loved) The Good Girl. Plenty of twists and turns about a murder on a small, coastal, isolated town in Maine. A few parts of the plot dragged which is why this did not get five stars but it definitely held my attention. I have to admit when some thrillers are just not totally realistic and some things were farfetched but I still highly recommend this "popcorn read".
Breathe In, Cash Out by Madeline Henry 3/5 Stars: A cute and charming story about a financial analyst with aspirations of becoming a yoga instructor. Decided to read this book because, well, I can kind of relate. This is a book that is perfect for beach or pool reading. It got a little repetitive and I would not call it "laugh out loud funny" as the back cover described but I did enjoy reading this.
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver 4/5 Stars: I absolutely adored One Day in December so naturally I chose this for my March Book of the Month pick. This book gave me all the romantic feels. Lydia Bird and her fiancé Freddie are together for more than decade when on the night of her birthday, Freddie dies in an unfortunate car accident. Heartbroken Lydia is given a second chance at life with Freddie due to an incredible phenomenon. We see how Lydia navigates both her old life and her ongoing life in this witty and beautiful book.
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson 3/5 Stars: Three stars because I finished it and because it was a book about books, but I did not thoroughly enjoy this 'Agatha Christie style' murder mystery. It is hard to talk about this book without ruining the plot so simply, it is about a bookseller caught in the middle of an FBI investigation revolving around a potential serial killer basing their murders on books. This might be for some but didn't do it for me.
Writers & Lovers by Lily King 4/5 Stars: My "add-on" pick from Book of the Month for March and I am really glad I chose it. Totally relatable and light novel about a writer trying to juggle her creative life and getting serious about adulting. I love novels about figuring out who you are and what you want to be without being ridiculously rich or attending a whirlwind of fabulous outings with fabulous friends. This was a wonderful read and will pick up more from this author.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle 4/5 Stars: I really wanted to give five stars here but as per my thoughts above, there was a lot of luxury and perfection in these characters so that was a turn off but, I loved the overall story, the writing and the premise of this book. An emotional read about friendships, relationships and of course I love that it is set in New York City.
It is the second month of 2020 and I have finished 11/60 books of my Goodreads Reading Challenge. This month I tried to cut down on my usual thrillers/mysteries and dive into some other types of books that I would not normally pick up. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised by some of my picks and hope to read some more sci-fi, literary fiction and romance. Here is the linked February List and quick reviews for each:
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore 5/5 Stars: Thank you Flatiron Books for the Advanced Reader Copy of this wonderful book. If I had not received this amazing book mail I probably would have missed out on this read. Every New Year’s Eve Oona “jumps” to another year of her life out of sequence. This was such a fresh and fascinating novel about what it means to live your fully in the moment. This book is truly a unique approach to writing about time travel with a modern touch. I highly recommend this read to anyone who wants to think differently about moments in their own lives.
The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell 4/5 Stars: I was craving some Lisa Jewell so I decided to pick one of her older books that has been on my TBR list forever. I love Lisa Jewell for her thrillers so I thought The House We Grew Up In would be in the same genre based on the synopsis. It definitely was not a thriller, but I enjoyed very much. This book, written in the past and the present, revolved around a family with more drama than a soap opera. At times I thought the amount of drama was bordering utterly ridiculous but I was completely enthralled with the wild Bird family and everyone around them.
Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald 4/5 Stars: From the author of The Night Olivia Fell (which I loved) comes Behind Every Lie. An intense domestic thriller with so many twists you will not be able to tell what is going to happen next. McDonald’s storytelling is like riding an emotional roller coaster ride which I felt before in The Night Olivia Fell so I knew this was going to be a good one. Behind Every Lie was a highly anticipated 2020 release and for good reason.
Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams 4/5 Stars: As I tried to reduce thrillers for a bit and read something out of my realm, I chose Our Stop based on a recommendation from Bad on Paper Podcast host Becca Freeman. I am not into romance novels but I totally am digging “British Chick Lit” after reading this book. It is a cute story about almost missing the love of your life after some “Missed Connections” on the London tube.
Followers by Megan Angelo 2/5 Stars: I chose this book solely because it was the Bad on Paper Podcast February Book Club pick. Followers is a story about the future of social media, privacy and the internet. I thought the concept of this book was extremely witty and relevant in regards to “screen addiction”, but I did not enjoy it too much. I am not sure if it was the character development, who were all awful people, or if I need to re-read it without any distractions, but I could not get into it. Might give it another go in the future but for right now, I would advise readers to skip this one.
January is always my favorite book month. The start of the new year gives me a reason to set reading goals and there are always new releases to look forward to. After the holiday season it feels especially nice to wind down and get cozy with a blanket, a cup of coffee and my black cat named Zez. Here is a linked list of what I read and quick reviews for each:
You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen 4/5 Stars: Very grateful to have received an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book. (Release is March 3, 2020) As as a fan of these two authors' previous books, this one did not disappoint. One of my favorite book settings is modern day New York City plus being a thriller, it was a win-win for me.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore 5/5 Stars: A heartfelt, page turner. I did not want this book to end. What I loved most was reading about the bond of two very different sisters. Can't recommend this book enough.
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James 3.5/5 Stars: One of my BOTM picks for January. I can't say I did not enjoy this one but I am personally not a huge fan of ghost stories. I prefer thrillers and suspense that are more on the realistic side. However, this was an easy, spooky read that I finished in two sittings.
Topics of Conversations by Miranda Popkey 1/5 Stars: My second BOTM pick for January. I chose this book because the plot seemed different than what I would normally pick and also because it was highly buzzed about. Unfortunately, this was not a book for me. I could not connect to the unnamed narrator's life at all. A lot of people seemed to love it and call it "beautiful", maybe I am just not as artsy or deep to appreciate something like this.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid 3/5 Stars: Another book that was highly reviewed and buzzed about but I really did not like it. I was able to flow through it and the writing was fun, but I just did not find this story line all too realistic. While I loved the important social topics that were discussed, I feel like it could have been better laid out.
Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison 4/5 Stars: Picked this up this because it was the Bad on Paper Podcast January Book Club pick. This book had all the elements I love, snotty, rich, high school girls (that I would probably beat up in real life for bullying/hazing), a haunted boarding school, murder and scandal. Thrillers are always my go-to and J.T. Ellison hasn't failed me yet.