April 2018 Reading List


Yay for books! Here’s what I read in April 2018.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

The Versions of Us is absolute perfection—add it to the top of my favorites list! I simultaneously wanted to gobble this story up and savor it slowly: I wanted to gobble it up so I could devour the story quickly (I truly couldn’t put it down), and yet I wanted to savor it slowly so it would never have to end. This is beautifully written, evocative, emotional, intelligent—really, it’s a masterpiece. Recommend, recommend, recommend!

P.S. Upon further reflection, I think one of the things I loved most about this book was that the characters had consequences for their actions. They made choices—some good, some bad—and all had some sort of resounding effect, which is just how real life is. This added a richness, another dimension, to the characters and their lives. It made all three plot lines so believable, relatable, and heart-wrenching.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

This book is just fantastic, and it’s certainly a title that I'll read & read again. I heard about this book through Anne Bogel's podcast, What Should I Read Next. I read Wild many years ago and while I liked some aspects of that book, on the whole I struggled with many parts in it. Anne interviewed someone on the podcast who felt the same way as I do, and she suggested her interviewee read Tiny Beautiful Things, citing the gorgeous writing and the insights into Cheryl Strayed's background as reasons for doing so. This intrigued me, so I added this book to my list—and I LOVED it. I kept sneaking moments to read it. There are certainly topics and verbiage choices that are crass/do not align with my belief systems, but if you are familiar with Cheryl Strayed's writing and personality, that comes as no surprise and, thus, did not bother me too much. I highlighted the heck out of this book—there were so many good insights and lots of wisdom—and I know I will be recommending Tiny Beautiful Things to fellow readers for years to come.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Pros: Really interesting story, well-written, quick read. Cons: I didn’t get sucked in, and I’m not totally sure what the hype is about with this book. I did like it, though, and I think it’s worth reading.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

A beautiful, captivating book that explores love, brokenness, and the many, many different ways that families can be planted, nurtured, and bloom. I loved this, especially the ending, and I have a whole new respect for the meaning and language of flowers. Highly recommend!

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

I went back and forth on how I should rate this book. On the one hand, it's so well-written and very captivating (the character development and plot lines were both excellent, making me not want to put the book down for the majority of my reading experience), which makes me want to give it all the stars. On the other, the subject matter is very dark, and it gets even more dismal/shocking as the book progresses—until the end, that is. No spoilers here, but I found the end to be very redeeming. I was almost ready to throw in the towel about 80% in due to the depressing nature of the content, but I felt pulled to finish the book and I'm glad I did. Even though there were difficult parts for me to read and process (I especially found the language in Simon's chapter regarding his personal life and relationships to be unnecessarily crass), overall I felt that this book was a literary victory that's worth a read. That being said, highly sensitive readers should be prepared for difficult content and a recurring theme of death.

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

What a fun, fun book! This was exactly what I needed after reading back-to-back books with really serious content. I devoured this book (I read it in just over 24 hours)—I got sucked into it the way you might binge-watch a great Netflix show. So funny, easy, lighthearted, and entertaining. Highly recommend!

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O'Farrell's writing is beautiful, and I can't wait to read her fiction. While I think this book is a literary success, the topic (seventeen brushes with death) is obviously dark and, pending your current life situation, potentially difficult to read. I came away with an understanding of what O'Farrell wanted to accomplish from a literary perspective, but that doesn't mean it's not kind of depressing. I am giving this book three stars because of how beautifully written it is and how interesting O'Farrell's perspective is, but I don't think this is going on my favorites list—at least not right now.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

A beautiful book with excellent writing + a moving storyline & such good character development. An all-around win—highly recommend!

Image via This Little Street

March 2018 Reading List


Next up: my reading list for March.

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

I do not recommend this book at all—I made it to page 292 of 318 before giving up so believe me when I say I tried. The plot strayed so far from the initial premise of a disjointed family reuniting in Ghana for their estranged father’s funeral; I felt misled by the promotion and reviews of this book. Initially I didn’t love it because the language was too flowery and overtly poetic, but the plot was engaging enough to continue. Things quickly devolved near the end when a family secret regarding forced incest was revealed (making my stomach turn) and, simultaneously, the book came to a halt.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder

This book was fantastic. The content was so unique and interesting (previous to reading Nomadland, I had no idea about the workamper revolution taking place in the United States), and the book itself was extremely well-written. I thought Jessica Bruder did an excellent job of combining anecdotes with facts; she is such a compelling storyteller. I will definitely be reading whatever she writes next. Highly recommend!

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

This was a good book. I particularly liked the exploration into the characters’ pasts and the inciting incident that brought them together. I thought the romance plot line was a bit forced and rushed, and I also thought the plot line relating to the crimes that were committed came together a little too seamlessly. Regardless, I’m interested in reading more of Isabel Allende’s work.

The Dry by Jane Harper

Darn, I was excited to read this book but I didn't really like it. It was entertaining enough for me to finish it but the end was so dark - be aware, highly sensitive readers, there was some messed up content in regards to children in the last few chapters. I loathed those parts, and wished I hadn't read them (I actually skimmed them to miss some of the gruesome bits). The beginning and middle parts of this book were good in a True Detectives sort of way, but the end came to a screeching halt—I didn't think the Ellie Deacon plot line was tied up at all, which may have been the author's intent but was definitely not satisfying for the reader. Maybe there will be some mention of Ellie in the next Aaron Falk book, Force of Nature, which, for some reason, I still may read, possibly because Jane Harper's writing is good. So, the two stars on this book are specifically for the unnecessary detail about difficult circumstances.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

This is such a sweet story. The beginning captivated me but I thought the plot wavered a bit beginning about 75% in. I recommend this book—the writing is great, and I totally want to be friends with Ona Vitkus—but it’s not an all-time favorite.

Our Little Racket by Angelica Baker

This book was well-written and had great character development for most of the major players, but it was really slow and ultimately didn't have much of a climax or resolution. I really enjoyed following teenager Madison's journey, and there was good insight into her mother, Isabel's, life and mindset. The rest of the characters were underdeveloped; nanny Lily, in particular, was featured significantly in the beginning but insights into her life dwindled near the end. I was entertained by this book but definitely not riveted by it.

I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam

I really liked this book. I relished it and read it slowly, as there is so much information and research to digest. Laura Vanderkam defines successful women as those who are making $100,000 or more, and while she honed in on that very specific/potentially limited demographic of working women for her research, I think many of her findings apply to people in any walk of life. I also think success is classified by lots of other factors besides salary, and Vanderkam does a pretty good job of expanding upon that concept. As a nonprofit development director, I certainly don’t make six figures, yet I found lots of good gems and takeaways that I could apply to my own life. I look forward to reading more of Vanderkam’s books.

Image via The Everygirl

February 2018 Reading List


It was another good reading month around these parts, so let's dive right in: here is what I read in February (and what I read in January if you missed that post).

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr

This beautifully-written book will make you want to plan a yearlong trip to Rome. If you've read All the Light We Cannot See, you know that Anthony Doerr is an amazing author, and Four Seasons in Rome is a fun peek into his personal story, part of which chronicles his initial work on his popular and critically-acclaimed novel. I'll be buying a copy of this book for my personal library. This was a quick, lovely read—a free vacation, even. I highly recommend it.

The Windfall by Diksha Basu

The Windfall was really fun and engaging until the end. With about 30 pages left, the book seemed to fall apart and come to a screeching halt; the author tried to halfheartedly resolve too much too quickly. It made me wonder if Diksha Basu is preparing for a sequel; regardless, the way this book ended changed everything for me. The book was so enjoyable (up until the end) that I thought it would go on my favorites list for sure, but alas, it won't. I am giving it three stars (out of five, per Goodreads's rating system) for great writing and the ability to keep me riveted for 85% of the book.

French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle

Just perfect—I love Peter Mayle! (A Year in Provence is one of my favorite books of all time.) French Lessons made me ravenous for a trip to France. This is a book I’m sure I’ll read and read again. Highly recommend!

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid's writing is beautiful, thoughtful, creative, and unique, with almost a poetic-like quality. I was hooked at the beginning of the book but I started to lose interest, though I can't exactly pinpoint why, about 60% of the way through. I did read this book quickly and the story is fascinating, but I'm not quite sure that this book lived up to the literary hype.

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

What a great, fun, poignant, thoughtful—and yet quick—read. I think author Aryn Kyle’s review of The Middlesteins sums the book up best: “Blunt and beautifully written...Told with great hope and humor, this is a novel about fear and forgiveness, blame and acceptance, the roles we yearn to escape, and the bonds that prove unbreakable.”

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

This book is so, so good. The writing is evocative, transformative, clever, and clean. I loved this part on page 273, a nod to the title: “They [the houses of his past] glitter whitely in his mind, like structures made of salt, before a tidal wave comes in and sweeps them away.” I loved the character development, the family dynamics and dysfunction, the cultural insight, all of it. Highly recommend!

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

An interesting read and unique storyline. Very well-written, and funny, too—this book made me laugh out loud several times. Many dysfunctional characters and family dynamics; cringeworthy in some instances, but interesting nonetheless.

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

** spoiler alert ** Dang, I don't know quite how to feel about this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed reading it and got through it so quickly (I read it in one day—granted, I was on vacation and had lots of time to read, but it was still quick to get through). I loved the writing and I thought the plot was interesting. I will definitely read more of Jonathan Evison's work. On the other hand, I thought the ending left a lot to be desired. Even though I totally respect the author's intentions, I wished for something more conclusive (what happened to Mildred? Skip? Dwight?). Also, in my current season of life as a mother with a young daughter, I had difficulty reading a certain plot line involving Harriet and Charlie Fitzsimmons; while I realize that horrific issues like she experienced with Charlie sadly happen every day (trying not to give anything away with specifics here), it's not something I want to read about.

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New Orleans


Last month, Ruby and I hopped over to New Orleans for a sisters trip with my darling sisters-in-law, Christy and Clare, and my youngest niece, Esther. We had such a good time together in spite of a little cold snap we confronted. We ate beignets with mounds of powdered sugar, explored our little neighborhood where we rented a darling house via Airbnb, rode the streetcar up and down Canal Street, wandered through the French Quarter, noshed on the very best sandwiches at Turkey and the Wolf, and had a wonderful time making memories together. New Orleans is such a good food city; I'd love to go back and try a few more restaurants. It's such a close jaunt from Dallas that I'm definitely adding it to my list of places to revisit. We loved our time together, and I can't wait for another sisters trip!


January 2018 Reading List


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've decided I'm going to track and read 1,000 books over the course of the next several years. While I'm confident I have already read at least 1,000 books in my life (think of all of the Sweet Valley Twins and Baby-Sitter's Club books I read in my youth!), I'm starting a fresh list by tracking the books I've kept record of on my Goodreads account for the past four or five years. As of today, I'm on book #218, and I thought it would be fun to keep a monthly record of titles here on my blog. I'll recount the books I've read at the end of each month, sharing a few brief notes about each piece. So, here we go: January's reading list. 

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

This was well-written and heartbreaking; the last page made me cry. It was a quick read. I did have to suspend disbelief that all of this information could have been tracked in a journal, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want by Rachel Cruze

I learned so much from this book, and I felt especially convicted about sticking to a budget after reading it. I love the way Rachel Cruze equated budgeting to freedom—this mindset makes me so much more excited about pursuing an otherwise tedious and intimidating task. I also liked the discussion about social media comparisons and assumptions, and how they impact our financial interests and desires—the concept of keeping up with the Joneses has changed over time, presenting new challenges and insecurities, and this book addresses that. This was a quick and easy read.

Living the Dream by Lauren Berry

I stuck with this so-so book because it was fairly entertaining, but I got to a part near the end that I personally couldn’t read due to my own convictions and beliefs. The way the author dealt with a sensitive subject made me really uncomfortable, so I ultimately gave up about 80% through the book.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book was beautifully written and I really enjoyed reading about the Nigerian characters and culture, but ultimately I felt that it ambled along too slowly for me. It didn’t captivate me; it was a little tough for me to bring myself to finish it, actually. But the book deserves extra points for the good writing.

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Captivating, quick, well-written book. The subject matter is dark, so beware to highly sensitive readers. I got sucked into the plot quickly, but I did feel that the last 20% was a little scattered—more slice-of-life style than linear plot.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Haunting & beautifully written. Celeste Ng is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. However, I did enjoy Little Fires Everywhere more than Everything I Never Told You—in the latter, I was super intrigued, on the edge of my seat waiting for something to happen, and that something never came. Maybe my expectations for this book were too high based on how much I loved Little Fires Everywhere, which I read first.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Just an absolutely perfect, heart-wrenching book, one that I know I will read over and over again and learn something new each time. I got this book at the library but will be ordering my own copy asap; I know I will cherish it forever and share it with fellow readers. Paul Kalanithi’s writing is so earnest and beautiful and wise, and so are the words in Lucy Kalanithi’s epilogue (I would be thrilled if she wrote her own book).

Marlena by Julie Buntin

A beautifully written debut novel—I’ll be looking forward to reading more of Julie Buntin’s work in the future. The writing was truly delicious; I gobbled this story up. Some of the content in this book is difficult to digest, especially if you’re very sensitive to references of drug use.

The Nix by Nathan Hill

I struggled to decide whether The Nix should garner three stars or four, and ultimately, I had to go with the higher rating. This is truly an epic novel, a creatively written piece of fiction full of twists and turns. It is long—620 pages—and I was tempted to give the book three stars because it took me over two weeks to get through, which is unusual for me—there were parts I really slogged through, even full paragraphs that I skipped altogether because they seemed repetitive and laborious. But I think that whole sentiment is less about the book itself and more about my current season of life + the resulting books I’m gravitating toward, which are not as long, so I'm giving it high praise. Plus, I really loved the ending. The Nix is certainly worth reading.

Image via Millay Vintage