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Book Reviews: She Lives, She Loves, She Lies

Counterfeit Gods – Timothy Keller: This was definitely one of the best studies we’ve done with our Community Group in the last few years. It was convicting, challenging and created great dialogue among the group. One of the things Keller succeeds at doing in this book is weaving in Biblical stories and perspectives to tie in to modern day idols.
Grade: B+

Women in Sunlight – Frances Mayes: From the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, this book did everything I wanted it to and more. The story follows four older women whose children want to put them in a retirement home, but instead become quick friends and decide to move to Tuscany. I laughed, I cried and I was transported back to Italy with every single page. The writing is terrific, changing with the character’s perspectives, and the story will give you passion to do something radical.
Grade: A+

The Perfect Mother – Aimee Molloy: This book was a classic female-led thriller, which is my favorite mindless reading. Yet the ending was truly shocking. Though I’m not sure I loved that – it seemed maybe a little too out there, if that makes sense. That being said, it was an easy, enjoyable read AND Kerry Washington is starring in the movie, so obviously a win.
Grade: A-

Still Lives – Maria Hummel: Set in a modern museum in LA focused on the mystery of a famous artist gone missing, I was intrigued by the set-up. While it had all the makings of a good book, something about it fell flat for me. The behind the scenes of a museum and their artist relationships surrounding the plot was the most fascinating piece, but the ending was rushed and too complex.
Grade: B+

xo xo

You can read all my book reviews here.


Book Reviews: Crazy Asians, Crazy Ladies + Crazy Mobsters

Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan: What a unique book this was. And I say that meaning – I’m not quite sure what I thought of it, but on some level I enjoyed it. The setting is one of my favorites (New York) and the female lead is a badass woman who’s determined to be the first woman diver during WWII, but overall the story drifted and was a little hard to understand where it was headed.
Grade: B

The Breakdown – B.A. Paris: This had all the makings of a typical book I’d love, yet didn’t fully deliver. The beginning was enthralling, keeping me on pins and needles and the end was a satisfying twist, but the middle got too repetitive and I feel like I could have skipped probably 100 pages and been fine. Overall, good story that will make you think you’re going crazy from those tiny things you forget every day ….
Grade: B

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan: LOVE, LOVE, LOVED this book! I couldn’t put it down! It was hilarious. I dove deep into a world of which I knew nothing about, and didn’t want to come up for air. Luckily there are two more books by this author AND they’re turning this one into a movie this year. All you need to know is it’s about exactly what you think it is: Crazy Rich Asians.
Grade: A+

The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware: This book was actually a huge disappointment. So many people told me how much they adored this book, and I just couldn’t get into it. It was a fast read, but the character development wasn’t great, the writing was so-so and the “thrilling” plot was fairly predictable.
Grade: B-

xo xo

You can read all my book reviews here.


Book Reviews: The Best Ones + The Ones to Beat

Towards the end of last year, I took a little hiatus on my blog. I was getting overwhelmed with work + the holidays and was putting way too much pressure on myself to blog consistently, so I stopped. No harm, no foul. The great thing about this blog is I’m doing this for me so when it starts to be too much, there’s no reason why I can’t take a little break.

That being said, one my favorite things on my blog (and that friends tell me they love!) are my book reviews. I read quite a few books the last few months that I didn’t want to forget, so I added them to a list and here they are. A few of them made my top 5 books of the year list, and a few were duds, so we’ll quickly review these and get back on track for the new year.

GREAT books…

Lilac Girls – Martha Kelly Hall: (#1 book of the year) I have two typical genres of favorite books – thrillers with female leads + WWII historical fiction. This is the latter, following three very different women throughout the war and how their experiences shaped them for years to come. It’s unique in it’s perspectives (one a concentration camp doctor and one a prisoner) and is written in such beautiful detail, that you will be transported in time and come back remembering how very thankful you are.
Grade: A+

Sourdough – Robin Sloan: (#3 book of the year) This book is great and hilarious and I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s such an easy read about a young woman developer who turns baker through a funny happenstance. I learned a lot about sourdough starters (of which I knew nothing), and genuinely enjoyed this quirky book all the way through.
Grade: A+

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng: (#4 book of the year) This book is very different than my typical reads, and I’m so glad I tried something new. Little Fires Everywhere is a slow burn. Literally. You see the ins and outs of two family dynamics and how they become intertwined. While there were several surprises throughout, the book mostly just leaves you contemplative.
Grade: A

The Wife Between Us – Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen: Thriller with female lead – obviously knew I’d love it, and I did. There were several page-turning twists, that keeps you questioning everything. As the front cover of the book says, assume nothing.
Grade: A

Books not as great … 

Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen: I really liked this book, though think I would have enjoyed it more had I not seen the movie and knew what was coming. That being said, it’s a terrific story and gave me all the circus and animal and love story feels as it did via film.
Grade: B+

The Late Show – Michael Connelly: I honestly can’t remember now how I came across this book, but it’s a departure for me, as I don’t typically read established authors/series (such as a Michael Connelly, John Grisham, etc.). While this book wasn’t earth-shattering, it was a solid, easy-read, Detective novel.
Grade: B

Of Mess and Moxie – Jen Hatmaker: Sadly, this book disappointed me. I adore Jen Hatmaker, but this book was too hit or miss with no cohesive binding throughout. One chapter would be hilarious (as Jen is), then one would seem completely random and I couldn’t relate. 7 is still her best book I’ve read to date.
Grade: B-

The Unspeakable – Meghan Daum: This book was okay. It was a collection of personal essays/short stories that were billed as funny and deep and vulnerable. Some of the stories were a little funny or a little relatable, but mostly I was not impressed.
Grade: C

I’ve already read 2 terrific books this year and look forward to many more. What’s on your reading list for the year?

xo xo

[You can read all my book reviews here.]

 


Book Reviews: Into the Water, Into the Countryside + Into Small-Town Texas

 

My Italian Bulldozer – Alexander McCall Smith: What a fantastic, easy-to-read, fun book – especially as you’re on a train traveling throughout the Italian countryside. Thanks to Mom for buying it for me to take to Italy, as it was absolutely perfect. It’s a quirky read about a food writer going through a divorce who just needed to get away and get inspired. It’ll leave you salivating for a trip to Montalcino.
Grade: A

Option B – Sheryl Sandberg: I’ve already written an entire blog post about this book, so I’ll keep this short. This book rips you apart, then helps put you back together again. I want everyone to read it – especially if you’re grieving or if you’re close to someone who is.
Grade: A+

The Magnolia Story – Chip and Joanna Gaines: If you’re a fan of Fixer Upper, you’ll be a fan of this book. It gives you an inside look at the Gaines’ story – from their first date to their first call from HGTV and everything in between. It’s an interesting, refreshing love story that makes you fall in love with Chip and Jo even more. (And I didn’t even think that was even possible.)
Grade: A

Into The Water – Paula Hawkins: From the writer of Girl On The Train (one of my favorite books of 2015), I was a little skeptical about this one. I wasn’t sure how she could possibly follow such an incredible debut. Yet, she did. Though not quite as thrilling and page-turning as the previous, the story and characters were still terrific. I was thoroughly entertained throughout and pleasantly surprised. Her next book will definitely be on my list.
Grade: A-

You can read all my book reviews here.

xo xo

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Kicking the Shit Out of Option B

As you know, I typically do book review posts with short commentary on books I’ve read and give them a grade. I love sharing what I’m reading and inspiring others to read more as well.

However, sometimes there are books that are just so eloquent and inspirational, they deserve their own post. First of which was Carry On, Warrior, which you can read here. And now, Option B by Sheryl Sandberg.

I read Sheryl’s first book, Lean In when it came out several years ago and loved it. I blogged about it in my book reviews in 2013 and gave it an A, saying it had inspired me to lean in and take more control of my career. I knew then Sheryl was a remarkable, passionate woman and someone to follow.

Fast forward to her new book, Option B. Not only do I still believe she is a remarkable, passionate woman, but I’m convinced her writing is changing peoples lives all around the world, something I’ve always aspired to. And I say that, because her writing changed my life back in 2013 and again in 2017, and I’m just a simple 20-something girl in small-town Bentonville.

Option B is about facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy. It sounds like it could be a cheesy self-help novel, right? Completely wrong.

She opens the novel by sharing the story of her husband’s sudden death while on vacation in Mexico, and having to travel home and tell the kids their father wasn’t coming home. I read this on a train in Italy and had to literally stop myself from just losing it. It was so real and so raw and so emotional, and I could feel it all.

The thing about this book is, though it rips you apart, it then helps put you back together again. As she was telling her story of grief, it opened up all the wounds of my own grief from a few years ago when my Dad died. But then it put me back together again. Not only could I relate to so many things she wrote (like, the elephant in the room or using journaling as therapy), but she also gives very practical advice on how to build resilience and find joy again. She validated all of my feelings and reminded me I wasn’t alone on this journey of grief, even 3.5 years later.

I want everyone to read this book. Especially if you’re grieving or if you’re close to someone who is. And if for any reason you can’t afford it, I will buy one for you.

“Life is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B. This book is to help us all kick the shit out of it.”

xo xo


Book Reviews: A Lover, A Wife + A Handmaid

 

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff: There are only two reasons this book gets A minus – it starts a little slow and it’s a little too long. But everything else about it is just fabulous. It is a truly epic and fascinating love story that takes you on a ride with no clue of the final destination. Told in two parts – Fates is from the husband’s perspective and Furies is from the wife’s perspective. The latter infinitely more interesting and has a shocking twist.
Grade: A-

What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty: I’ve read several of Liane’s books, and I absolutely adored this one. It’s a tragic plot – she hits her head and has seemingly forgotten 10 years of her life, including her kids and her failing marriage – but it’s also so endearing. She sees her current life through a totally new, un-jaded lense and vows to get her marriage back on track. It’s cute, it’s easy, and it makes you thankful for what you have.
Grade: A

Wearing God – Lauren F. Winner: Highly recommended from a friend, I’m passing along this recommendation to all of you. This is a thought-provoking book about metaphors of God – though not the ones you immediately think of such as King or Shepherd, more like Clothing, Laughter, Laboring Woman… intrigued yet? This is a great book to read with a friend and discuss together. It will probably make you feel uncomfortable, but I promise it will also give you a new perspective on God.
Grade: A
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood: I vowed to read this book before I watched the show on Hulu, and I’m so glad I did. Oh.My.Gosh. This book AND the TV show are absolutely incredible. It’s creepy and weird and will make you cry and will make you gasp, but it is such a good story. I’m so glad Hulu has taken it over so well and expanded upon the book, because I finished it and was dying for more.
Grade: A

 

You can read all my book reviews here.

xo xo


Book Reviews: California, Cults + Catastrophe

What She Knew – Gilly Macmillan: This falls in to the typical genre of books I lean towards – thriller with a lead female character who’s a little shady (a la Gone Girl, Girl on the Train). That being said, I enjoyed it enough, but it didn’t hold up against the others on the list which kept me turning the pages all night. The ending didn’t close all the holes and left you with an uneasy feeling.
Grade: B

Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequiest: Let me start by saying, I love Shauna Niequiest. She gets me, I get her and she is just wonderful. I love love loved her book Bread and Wine, which I’ve reviewed previously, so I was highly anticipating this book. However, it kind of let me down. There were great points that I totally related to, especially the main point of the book being present over perfect, but it seemed to kind of ramble/drag on. This would have been better in a series of blog posts or a chapter or two of another book.
Grade: B+

The Girls – Emma Cline: This book has been on my list for forever, finally became available at the library, and oh my gosh I devoured it! Set in 1960s California, the book follows a teenage girl who gets caught up in a cult that ends very very badly. I was fascinated not only with the cult, but also the transformation of the main character. If you’re interested in cults at all or just want a unique read that will pull you in, this is for you.
Grade: A+

The River at Night – Erica Ferencik: What I learned from this book: I will never ever ever go white water rafting in a remote location, especially on an annual girls trip – which is exactly the basis of this book. The book started out a little slow and I almost put it down, but then it started getting intense and I just couldn’t turn my eyes away from the horror. And it was literally that, horror. I couldn’t put the book down the last 100 pages, though I’m not sure it’s because I was enjoying it. It still freaks me out to think about it now.
Grade: B+

You can read all my book reviews here.

xo xo