May and June in the books

The past two months have been filled with a lot of books. I read a lot of new authors (well, new for me): Riley Sager, Mary Kubica, Elin Hilderbrand, and Jesmyn Ward.

In May I read a mix of nonfiction, thriller, and romance books. In June I really focused on diversifying my bookstack. I don’t want this to just be a trend. For July, I’ve added Rabbit, the Girl with the Louding Voice, Party of Two, and Take a Hint, Dani Brown to my TBR list.

Here’s a look at what I read.

May

35) Mr Nobody by Catherine Steadman – 3/5 stars

This book was just okay. The first half was so good and kept me guessing, but the second half left me wanting more. I wish the plot tied more into Emma/ Marni’s past.

36) The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren – 4/5 stars

I love this writing duo. This book had mixed reviews, but I really enjoyed it. I like the interior design background and grew to really care about Carey and James. I also loved that it was set in Wyoming.

37) Untamed by Glennon Doyle – 3/5 stars

Overall, I liked Untamed. It was a little too preachy at times and the chapters were a bit like stream of consciousness. I also thought that although the takeaway messages from some of the conversations she had with people were powerful, the conversations were stiff and unnatural. I did like the stories about her kids/family, Abby, mental health, letting people be wild, knowing, and the “memos” boys and girls are taught throughout their life about how they should act.

38) The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister – 3/5 stars

I rounded down this rating because of the ending. I loved the characters, the scents, and the growth. It was a lyrical and beautiful story about family and complicated relationships. But I really hated the ending. It ended in the middle of the climax. There was an epilogue, but it was only two pages long and didn’t wrap up the book. I also really wanted to see Emmeline reunite with Henry and Colette.

39) Lock Every Door by Riley Sager – 4/5 stars

This was the first book I read by Riley Sager and not only did I devour it in 2.5 days, but I read his books in quick succession right after this. I read something recently about the best books having endings that feel inevitable but are still able to surprise the reader in some ways. I felt that way about this book. I had a feeling where it was going but then again, I really didn’t. It’s a fast and creepy read.

40) The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager – 4/5 stars

I also liked this book. I liked the use of flashbacks and couldn’t read it fast enough to figure out what really happened. The twist really paid off and that ending was very satisfying. I absolutely loved the camp setting.

41) Final Girls by Riley Sager – 3/5 stars

After my very own Sager readathon- I thought this one was just okay. It was frustrating to read about the dangerous and stupid decisions Quincy kept making. Although I loved the theme of final girls/horror genre calls out, I thought the first twist was predictable and the second seemed out of place.

42) Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica – 3/5 stars

This is the first book I read by Mary Kubica. My local library recommended it because I enjoyed Riley Sager books. Overall, the book was just okay. it was really frustrating the main character kept taking her children along on reckless trips and leaving them alone in the car. I also found the ending very sad. I’m still going to give her other books a try, but I wouldn’t suggest this one.

43) Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand – 4/5 stars

This was also my first book by Elin Hilderbrand. I really liked it and thought it was the perfect beach/vacation read. Overall pros: the setting, Irene, Huck, Maia. Cons: the terrible communication between Irene, Cash, and Baker, the terrible relationship between Baker and Cash, and the cliffhanger ending.

44) The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica – 2/5 stars

I was not a fan of this book. An unreliable narrator, unlikeable characters, and the use of mental illness as a plot device. There were some red herrings and I thought the twists were too obvious and the plot was implausible. I also wanted more details and closure about Sadie’s relationship with her kids.

June

45) White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo – 5/5 stars

This book is written by a white woman for other white people about the difficulties white people have talking about racism without getting defensive. She talks about the unchecked biases many people have while saying they don’t see color and they think everyone is equal and so much more.

46) What Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand – 4/5 stars

I’ve heard Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of beach reads and I can see why! I thought this book was a great continuation and I loved reading more about the characters. I’m looking forward to the third book of the series that will come out in the fall.

47) The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates – 4/5 stars

I’ll be thinking about this book for awhile. It took me a little bit to get into, but the writing is lyrical/beautiful and includes magic realism. The story is shaped by William Still’s Underground Railroad records. I highly suggest the audiobook version!

48) Whisper Network by Chandler Baker – 3/5 stars

This book took me a long time to finish. I liked how it was twisty and I was surprised when it finally was all revealed. But, the writing itself was tough to get into, especially at the beginning of chapters when it generalized women’s experiences not as a plot point for Ardie, Sloan, and Grace.

49) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – 5/5 stars

This was my favorite book in the series growing up and it was so fun to reread it. It’s really the turning point in the series when things get dark and more grown up, but I loved reading about the games and seeing the friendship grow between Ron, Harry, and Hermione.

50) Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward – 5/5 stars

This book is beautifully written and is also heartbreaking. Ward’s memoir is written in revers chronological order about growing up in Mississippi and losing five men close to her in a four year period. It’s about grief, race, poverty, family, and more.

51) Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – 4/5 stars

I finished this book and said out loud, “what did I just read.” I went from liking it to hating it to overall enjoying the ride. The ending was truly shocking and a little like Hitchcock.

52) Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert –4/5 stars

Man, did I love this book. It’s more steamy than I was expecting, but I loved that the characters are complex. So often a romance novel is “will they or wont’ they” or two people hating each other who end up loving each other. Chloe and Red communicated in a healthy way and were vulnerable and open with one another.

What about you. What books did you read and what’s on your TBR list?

February in the books

February was a fun month for reading. I had a mix of genres— historical fiction, dystopian, thriller, non-fiction, and romance.

Here’s a look at what I read:

7) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 3.75/5 stars

This book pulled on my heartstrings. I listened to the audiobook while traveling for work. I enjoyed the audio version but at some points it was hard to follow because of the non-linear timeline. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thought it got better as it went on. I also enjoyed that although most of the book takes place during World War II, it’s very much a coming of age story. I did have some questions when I finished the book, but I think the author had some plot holes in there because of the setting.

8) The Grace Year by Kim Liggett – 4.5/5 stars

I really liked this book! It’s a young adult dystopian novel that felt like a combination of the Handmaid’s Tale, Hunger Games, and Romeo and Juliet. It was unique and the plot twists were unexpected- I really didn’t guess what was going to happen at any point while reading. There was lot of hype to this book and it held up to it.

9) Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – 4.5/5 stars

I listened to a skip-the-line copy of the audiobook on Libby through my local library. This debut novel was both readable and thought-provoking. It’s about class, race, and relationships. I laughed out loud at times, gasped at others, and got mad as I learned more about the complex characters. The ending wasn’t my favorite, but I didn’t hate it. I’d suggest this book to those thinking about reading it.

10) The Wives by Tarryn Fisher – 3.25/5 stars

This book was okay. I will say I don’t always enjoy books that have unreliable narrators so that’s one of the reasons I didn’t love it. The book has been compared to the Silent Patient, which I also didn’t enjoy. I thought it was odd that the major shift happened halfway through the book and then when it seemed like the book was wrapping up there was still a quarter of the book left. I was surprised by the twist at the end and thought the ending was unsettling.

11) The Library Book by Susan Orlean –3.75/5 stars

A nonfiction book about libraries sounds boring, but this book kept me engaged and interested. I also have a newfound respect for how important libraries are in communities around the world. The author talked about fond memories she has going to the library with her mom. I have similar memories with my mom. I loved that time and still enjoy going to libraries today.

“It was such a thrill leaving a place with things you hadn’t paid for. Such a thrill anticipating the new books we would read.”

12) The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – 3.25/5 stars

I thought this book was super dramatic, but I honestly couldn’t stop reading. I finished it in two days. There were so many secrets that kept being revealed throughout the book that made it a page-turner. I was also surprised by the ending.

13) Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker – 4.75/5 stars

This book started out a little slow and I didn’t care for the banter between Calla and Jonah over the suitcases and makeup. But, the characters and the story grew on me. I loved that the book was set in Alaska and it had a lot of heart. I ended up falling in love with the character and story and full on cried at the ending. I ordered the sequel and can’t wait to dive into it.

14) Nameless series by Dean Koontz – 3/5 stars

I thought the series was pretty good. I enjoyed that they were short stories that were brief and easy to read. I liked learning a little bit more about nameless throughout the series. I haven’t read anything by Dean Koontz before this but will plan to read some more of his books.

My goal is to read 55 books this year. Each month I’m keeping track of which books I’ve read. You can see my January list here.

My year in books

This year I decided to make more time for reading. I grew up reading a lot of books and getting lost in the different worlds and I wanted to get back into the hobby that I enjoy so much. I set a goal of reading 50 books this year and today I finished my 54th book.

Shortest book: Elevation by Stephen King – 146 pages

Longest book: The Stand by Stephen King – 1153 pages

Least favorite books: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames and The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Favorite books: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, Where’d you go Bernadette by Maria Semple, and Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Favorite books broken down by genre:

General fiction – Beartown by Fredrik Backman and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Fantasy – After the Flood – Kassandra Montag

Mystery/thriller – The Whisper Man by Alex North

Horror – The Institute by Stephen King and Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chobsky

Memoir – Know My Name by Chanel Miller, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, and Educated by Tara Westover

Young adult – Tell me three things by Julie Buxbaum

Science fiction – Recursion by Blake Crouch

Romance – Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Unhoneymooners by Christian Lauren, and Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Historical fiction – The Huntress by Kate Quinn and Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

True crime – I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Detection fiction The Cuckcoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Debut Novel – Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Some of the other books I read this year: Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult, Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman, The Night Oliva Fell by Christina McDonald, Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, The Other Woman by Sandie Jones, Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, One Day in December by Josie Silver, River by Peter Heller, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.

It felt good to set a goal this year and meet and exceed it. I plan to continue reading in 2020 and have set a goal for 55 books next year. Some books on my to be read list include China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory, Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren, Children of Vengeance and Virtue by Tomi Adeyemi, and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

A conversation with Bob Goff

Bob Goff is the New York Times Best-Selling Author of Love Does and Everybody Always. But more than that he’s kind, loves Jesus, loves others, and helps people go after their dreams.

I had the opportunity to interview him recently and kept my cool on the outside, but inside I was fangirling. If you’ve read his books you understand he’s a gifted storyteller and I was honored to be able to hear some of his stories in person.

Bob discussed the power of love, availably, and building character rather than career.

“Instead of telling young people what they should do, we should remind young people about who they are and then they’ll figure out the rest,” he says. “…I want us all to take a genuine interest in each other.”

He told the story of a women named Kelly who received a heart transplant and now travels the world climbing mountains with her new heart.

“But here’s the deal, her heart always thinks it’s at sea level so she had to figure out how to whisper to her heart,” he says. “I hope young people are reminded about whispering to their heart about who they used to be, who they want to be, and what they want to be remembered for. I want to remind people about who they are – that’s where it gets good.”

His biggest advice is to maintain childlike faith as you get older.

Maintain youthful idealism and enthusiasm,” he says.  

Some other takeaways:

-There’s power in availability. Bob printed his cell phone number in the back of his book. He believes there’s a power in being present and available to the people in your life.
-God doesn’t think less of you because you keep messing up. Failure is part of the process and it’s more about how God helps us keep going.
-We can’t fix what we don’t understand. Go deeper to understand who you are and what you want to do. That will help you be able to change the things you want to change.
-Use what you already have to get what you want. You are gifted with certain skills and character traits. Use them to get what you want and encourage others to do the same in the process.
-Your words can impact others. Words can change everything for someone and God made it so ordinary people can launch each other.

I walked away from the conversation with a smile on my face. Bob’s smile and laugh is contagious as well as his love for others.

Want to know more about Bob? He’s an attorney and the founder of Love Does- a nonprofit human rights organization operating in Uganda, India, Nepal, Iraq, and Somalia.