Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Local Gone MissingLocal Gone Missing by Fiona Barton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love books with a dual timeline, and I also love multiple narrators. This book had both of these things, however in this instance, it just didn't work. For some reason, I just struggled to keep up and remember who was who and when was when. Getting lost in the details meant I couldn't get into the mystery and clues placed along the way. I also need to stop reading procedural thrillers, and that is more about me than this book. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this recent release.

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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRueThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, y'all, this one was a ride. It was definitely a slow build, and it was one where the build pays off in the end. The last quarter or so of the book was absolutely incredible. That said, the rest of the book is great, too! The story focuses on Addie LaRue who has made a pact to escape the life that is ahead and must live forever. The story then tracks where it all began, what happens along the way, and where she is now in her immortality. It was unlike anything I've read (especially because fantasy isn't always my jam), and I loved the journey of seeing where life took Addie. It was just so beautifully told, and it's one I'm still thinking about even a week after finishing it. I'm glad it's a book club selection because I have much to discuss!

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Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was another book in my re-read of memoirs I loved in my late twenties/early thirties. The first time around I listened to this as an audiobook, and I will say that adds so much to this one and is definitely my preferred medium. It was still a joy to read through the physical pages of this one. Given this is an older read, I was also reading this around the same time Amy wrote it which made it connect with me in a different way as I re-read, especially the pieces about being a mom. While this is a memoir, it's more so her thoughts on life, love and career through her experiences. It's a collection with a little bit of everything, including some good nuggets of advice and reflection. I enjoyed the chance to revisit, and I'd love to see her build on this based on what she's learned since with a second book!

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The ShoreThe Shore by Katie Runde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is one word to describe The Shore: FEELS. Literally, all the feels. The first layer of these feels is Brian, a father and a husband is dying of a brain tumor. His wife and two daughters are each trying to navigate the grief and loss that comes with this process. Meanwhile, both daughters are also exploring young love and relationships. The other really interesting layer of this is that Margot, the wife, looks to an online support group to process her emotions and what she wants to do next. One of her daughters finds her mom's thoughts in this group and not only that, she creates a persona in the group to be able to engage with her. This one is real and hard emotion, but also it's told in such a beautiful and authentic way. It's a wonderful story exploring where we find comfort and connection through whatever comes our way. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the early look at this recent release.

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Carrie Soto Is BackCarrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Y'all, no one writes character-driven books like Taylor Jenkins Reid. This one is quite different from the first four of her novels that I've read, and that speaks to just what a brilliant author she is. This book focuses on retired tennis star Carrie Soto in the nineties. There is a new star in tennis, and Carrie just isn't ready to let her records go just yet, so she decides to mount a comeback. It's a little weird to read about a woman who is around your age being "old" and coming out of retirement, AND I also could relate with the feeling of trying to figure out where you fit into the world as you grow and age. Again, this author is masterful at writing compelling characters to create stories that just sweep you away, and Carrie (or the "Battle Ax" as she's been known) is so, so much that. I was thrilled to get this one early because I literally could not wait to get my eyes on this story. This is another must-read by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this August 2022 release.

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Rough Draft: A MemoirRough Draft: A Memoir by Katy Tur
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is an interesting experience to read the memoir of someone you know nothing about. However, when an invitation to read this one landed in my inbox, I was intrigued. Y'all, I'm so glad I checked this one out, and I now want to know even more about the author! The story focuses on the author's reflections on a life in journalism. This starts with her parents who captured some of the most memorable news stories of the twentieth century through helicopter reporting. The story then goes into her own beginnings and journey through the news industry from local news to international work to her days following the T***p campaign to being an anchor. Throughout, she is candid and honest about the struggles she encounters as well as the lessons she learns. The story isn't just about her as a professional, but also a person. In particular, she talks about the abuse in her childhood from her father, as well as her father's transition to a woman. In these reflections, she reflects on the emotions and lasting feelings of the experiences. I appreciated that this was truly the author's memoir in that she talked about herself as a professional, but also the human she is. Again, as someone who knew nothing going in, I felt I truly got a window into this woman. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this upcoming June 2022 release!

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The Diamond EyeThe Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again, Kate Quinn is a master in the historical fiction game. What I especially appreciate about her books is that she tells stories about women in history I never knew and brings attention to their incredible tales of strength and perseverance. This story focuses on Mila Pavlichenko. As the story starts, she's a young mother, and then with the German invasion of Russia, she joins the fight literally. Mila becomes one of the most skilled snipers for the Russians. Mila then finds herself in America where the Russians are trying to build support for their cause. She even connects with Eleanor Roosevelt! Ultimately, Mila has a key role in stopping a happening that literally would've changed the course of history. As I read this one, I had to remind myself it was in fact a true story. It was unbelievable this was the first time I'd even heard of Mila, especially knowing the uniqueness of her journey. Thanks to the publisher for the look at this recent release!

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Hello, Molly!Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't know much of Molly Shannon's story beyond that she was on SNL until she was recently on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. After watching her talk about losing her mom and sister at a young age, I knew I wanted to read this memoir. This is a beautiful and honest exploration of Molly's childhood through today. The most powerful parts of her story are her reflections on the long-lasting impacts of grief and how this grief influences her work. This is such an important topic, and I appreciated how she was willing to share her journey, as well as talk about her relationship with her father. Molly was on SNL during an era I loved, so I dug the behind the scenes look at her time on the show. The only thing I wanted more of was her life post-SNL. I know there was some intentionality of not sharing all the details about that, and I was just so loving her story that I just wanted a bit more of that, too!

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Year on FireYear on Fire by Julie Buxbaum
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading books about high school student as a thirtysomething is always an interesting experience. For this go-round, it was a love triangle or some shape of sorts. Immie and Arch are twins, and their friend Paige completes their triad. Except lately things within the three of them have gotten complicated. One of the twins kissed Paige's ex. She thinks it was Immie, but it was actually Arch. Meanwhile, Immie is trying to connect Paige with the new kid, Ro, except she likes him, too. The story is then a journey in trying to see who is going to end up with who, if friendships survive, and then also figuring out who is responsible for the fires in the bathroom. Ultimately, I just wanted more feels in this one. It was a interesting premise, and that premise just left me craving more connection to the story. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this recent release!

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Out of the Clear Blue SkyOut of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What I love most about Kristan Higgins is the way she writes books that provide depth to all of the women in the story. With this one, she could have easily just focused on one character, but instead, she created a cast that allowed this story to be explored from a variety of perspectives. The story focuses on Lillie. Just as she's preparing for a new chapter as an empty nester, her husband informs her that she'll be taking on another new chapter with divorce. Lillie is devastated, especially because she didn't see this coming. Her reaction of choice to her ex-husband's choice is then pettiness and revenge. In addition to working through this, she's working to re-establish her relationship with her sister which has been strained since a decision they each made as a child. A childhood friend who was part of a tragic night from her past also re-enters her world. Oh, and there's a connection she finds in her ex-hsuband's step-daughter. That's a lot of layers, right? That's what makes this one so great. Each of these add dimension to Lillie's story via their relationship to her. This was just such a wonderful read about complicated dynamics when it comes to love, family and friendship! Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this June 2022 release!

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Bad Vibes Only: (and Other Things I Bring to the Table)Bad Vibes Only: by Nora McInerny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adore the perspective Nora McInerny brings into the world, so I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy of this new essay collection. Literally as soon as I was approved, I started reading! With this book, it's important to know that this is more essay collection than straight memoir like her previous two books - Not a critique, but just worth noting for knowing what you'll be checking out. I mention a lot in my reviews as of late that being a new parent influences what I resonate with as I read. This was very much the case with this one, and I absolutely adored and loved the essays on parenthood. I will devour pretty much anything this woman creates, AND this was such a wonderful collection of her thoughts and reflections on a variety of topics. Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced copy to allow me to have some more Nora McInerny in my life!

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Big Feelings: How to Be Okay When Things Are Not OkayBig Feelings: How to Be Okay When Things Are Not Okay by Liz Fosslien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The thing to know about this book is that it's heavy in its emotional content. I mean, my goodness, it's covering seven of the roughest and toughest emotions there are! What I always appreciate about Liz and Mollie is the way in which they approach the emotions of the workplace and world. Their comics always perfectly explain how different scenarios and situations can feel. For this book, these illustrations are perfectly coupled with stories about what it's like to feel and navigate hard emotions and situations. I especially appreciated how honest and raw these explorations were. Rather than going for a surface "feel good" vibe, this book talks about true and real struggle and ways to get through. In a world where things are far from okay, these can be hard topics to take on, but the authors did this in a way that was helpful and digestible!

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Book LoversBook Lovers by Emily Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my third time reading of Emily Henry's books, and once again, I loved the romance she created! On title alone, I could have inferred that I was going to dig this. Yes, I could guess how it might end, and I still loved the journey of Nora and Charlie in getting there.

I recognize this is a shorter review than I usually offer, AND I'm not sure what else to offer other than Romance + Emily Henry + Book Lovers = A BOOK I WAS DESTINED TO LOVE AND YOU WILL, TOO!

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Rush: Memoir of a Gay Sorority GirlRush: Memoir of a Gay Sorority Girl by Kristin Griffith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an incredibly honest exploration of what the author's coming out process looked like in college. She reflects back on this experience in the early nineties and layers this with her experience in her sorority. This was especially intriguing for me as we share a sorority affiliation. What I appreciated most about her story was the reflections on how different reactions impacted her, and she notes how hurtful the silence she often encountered was. It's so, so important to share these stories about both college and sorority, and I'm grateful Kristin was willing to revisit and share her experiences to open up conversation in this space!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

HazardHazard by Frances O'Roark Dowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Y'all, Hazard was such a powerful and emotional read. The book is about a kid named Hazard. Hazard has been kicked off his football team for aggression and mandated to attend therapy. He's resistant to this, but then he starts to explore his emotions through assignments from his therapists. Told through emails, text messages and reflective exercises, Hazard starts to share more and more about his family and himself. Hazard's father was injured by an IED while deployed overseas and has lost a leg, and it turns out this has had quite an impact on Hazard. The storytelling devices in this one were so masterful to show how this life-changing experience influenced Hazard's behavior and emotions. This was such an honest look into one kid trying to navigating his family's circumstances and better understand himself. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this recent release!

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Rivals (American Royals, #3)Rivals by Katharine McGee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of my biggest regrets is that I read this as an advanced copy. I was so excited to read this that I devoured it as soon as I received my copy. The problem is I now have so much I want to discuss, but since I got the sneak peek before my friends and book club, I have to keep my thoughts to myself. So, here's the thing, I loved the first book in this series. It was such a unique premise, and it was so interesting to think about America as a monarchy and to learn about this alternate reality through the stories of the women in the book. The third book wasn't so much a love for me, and much of that has to do with why I fell in love with this series. The very title Rivals accentuates the stuff I don't like as much. I don't like the fighting and the gossip and the deceit that is a component part of some character's stories, and I didn't like that it took center stage here. The story picks up where the last left off as Beatrice is learning what it means to be queen, Sam is in her new relationship with Marshall, and the Nina/Daphne/Jefferson love triangle continues, but also has some new dimensions. What I ultimately wanted and didn't get was way more Beatrice. To me, her story is the most powerful and one I love the most. I wanted to see her centered so much more. Again, given the title that just wasn't what this was, but a girl could dream. I should also note this ends on a cliffhanger, so there's likely going to be a fourth read. Even though this one wasn't my jam, I'll be back for that one as I'm too invested to quit now. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this upcoming release!

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Would You RatherWould You Rather by Allison Ashley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes you just need a good romantic story in your life, and that was so much this. The premise was interesting in that it was two lifelong best friends (and I'm always in for a good friends turned lovers tale) with the added dimension of quasi insurance fraud? Wait, wait, let me explain. Mia gets an opportunity to return to school and pursue her dream career. The only problem is she needs health insurance. Her best friend and co-worker Noah offers to marry her so she can have insurance and work towards her dream. She agrees, and the sham begins. As you can imagine, just being married on paper isn't what happens, and feelings that have been there for some time start to bubble to the surface. Obviously, in a romance you have a hunch how thing might go, and even with that, this was a delight of a read. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this August 2022 release!

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Family of LiarsFamily of Liars by E. Lockhart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll be honest that I only kind of remember what happens We Were Liars (mostly I remember the big twist), so while this is a prequel, I didn't really make the connects with WWL. That said, this was also a book that stood on its own. Even without that context, this one was a ride! The premise of this focuses on Caroline, Johnny's mom, telling the ghost of her son stories from her childhood that no one knows. The book's focus is flashbacks to the childhood/teenhood of Caroline and her sisters. As you can imagine, they navigate some tough stuff, and as the story goes, the thrills build and there are some big twists. This is one that kept me reading. I knew something was going to go down with the sisters, and I had to know what it was! Similar to the first book, this one makes you think you know the twist and then it's got an even bigger twist that gets you! Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this May 2022 and solid page-turning read!

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I Guess I Haven't Learned That Yet: Discovering New Ways of Living When the Old Ways Stop WorkingI Guess I Haven't Learned That Yet: Discovering New Ways of Living When the Old Ways Stop Working by Shauna Niequist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again, this was a book of reflections that came into my life at the exact right time. Present Over Perfect is one of my all-time favorites, so I was very excited to be back with this author's work. For me, this is definitely a season where things are new and different. There's the experience of the last two years that we've all gone through, and then, for me, it's about becoming a mom. I just love the author reflects on faith and family and finding the opportunities to reflect and ways to grow. I also appreciate that she isn't afraid to write honestly about pain and when she doesn't get it quite right. I find these are the moments I resonate with her books the most. I have lots of passages from this one marked, and I'm glad I decided to buy this one as I anticipate this is one I'm going to want to reread every so often.

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Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life InterruptedBetween Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an absolutely beautiful, emotional read. I've had this one on my list for awhile, but I finally picked it up after seeing the author and her boyfriend Jon Batiste on CBS Sunday Morning. The way she spoke was so powerful, and I wanted to know more. This memoir focuses on the author being diagnosed with cancer in her early twenties. Just as her life is beginning, things take a drastic turns. She's had to make decisions she never thought she would about her body, her relationships and just life itself. Through it all, she writes and processes and provides a window into what this experience is really like for better or worse. While heavy, this is such a captivating and beautiful look into one's woman trek through a really hard chapter of her life.

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The Miscalculations of Lightning GirlThe Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, this was just a delight of a read! The fact that it involved a rescue dog (as the mom of a rescue pup) meant that it was always going to have my heart. This was just a story that oozed so much heart and good feels. The story focuses on Lucy, a math genius, headed to public school for the first time after being homeschooled. Lucy's grandma wants her to survive one year of school and to even make some friends along the way. With a premise like that, you have to root for Lucy! The humans she does connect with are also just such a treat. This one had SUCH heart, and it just got me all up in my feels. There's some sad stuff, too, so know that going in, but the way it's told is just so beautiful and wonderful and clearly this is one I can't stop gushing about!

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Answers in the PagesAnswers in the Pages by David Levithan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Talk about a timely read! This is an exploration of a book banning from a number of perspectives. First, there is the story of Donovan who is experiencing the banning as a student. Then, there is the story being told in the book. Finally, there is the author's story. This story is especially strong in the parts about Donovan as he tries to understand why this book is being judged and grapples with his own feelings about why this is problematic. I think this is such an important topic for kids to see and explore through books talking to them, and this is so very much that. The multiple storylines were sometimes a bit hard for me to follow and connect with, however reading the author's note at the end, I appreciated why he chose to tell this story in this way! Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this May 2022 read!

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Never Coming HomeNever Coming Home by Kate Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Y'all, what a ride. The best way to explain this one is And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, but about influencers. With that, this closed circle mystery also holds its own. This story focuses on ten teenage influencers who are invited to Unknown Island. Always looking for a way to grow their reach, they all accept even though few details are provided about the experience that awaits them. Very quickly, they find that this island is not paradise at all. That is abundantly clear when a secret they each have is also revealed, and these are some heavy secrets! And then, the murders start. This one moves quick, and the way it ends was so good as the thrills and questions keep coming until the very last sentence. I needed a really good pageturning thriller in my life, and this so hit that spot! Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this summer must read!

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The Rumor GameThe Rumor Game by Dhonielle Clayton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Any book about rumors in high school serves as a reminder of how glad I am to no longer be in high school. They also serve as a reminder of how glad I am that my high school experience did not include the social media dimension. This is the story of a rumor that grows and grows and grows. Georgie returns to school having undergone a significant physical transformation, and with that, a rumor about who she is involved with and how spirals. With these growing rumors, others are pulled in and feel a certain kind of way about the allegations. This is very much about the web of rumors and how they are weaponized for hurt, as well as how quickly they can get out of control. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this recent release.

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The One Thing You'd SaveThe One Thing You'd Save by Linda Sue Park
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a quick read, but so interesting and insightful. Told in verse and with simple illustrations, this is a collection of answers to a question told in verse. The question is simply - What is the one thing you'd save in a fire? The answers go in a variety of directions, and the rationale as to why different items are chosen are so fascinating. It's one of those books that goes by and just makes you think and reflect in a deeper way than you were expecting. It's an incredibly unique read that is the kind of book that sticks with me long after I've finished.

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Jennifer Chan Is Not AloneJennifer Chan Is Not Alone by Tae Keller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone is a book about one thing, but really it's a much deeper and powerful message. Jennifer Chan is the new girl, and her story is told by her neighbor Mallory. Mallory is excited to have someone her age in the neighborhood. She also has to figure out how Jennifer, who has lots of interests including exploring the existence of aliens, fits with her current friends. Because the reality is, her other friends just don't want to build that relationship with Jennifer. More than anything, this is a book about what healthy friendship looks like, and those moments when we realize friendships just might not be the best for us anymore. This is told through Mallory who has to encounter some tough truths, and seeing it through her eyes is especially powerful. This is such a powerful read on the true dynamics of friendships for kids, and this is such an important topic. Also, this book has an author's note at the end, and it is an essential read to understand the importance of this story. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this April 2022 release.

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Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America's Kings of BeerBitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America's Kings of Beer by William Knoedelseder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While this is mostly a book about beer, it's really a book about the family behind the brand. Going in, I knew little about the Busch family other than their connection to the brand and St. Louis, so I learned quite a lot about them. This was a deep dive and behind the scenes look at where the family started through the takeover by InBev. It shared where they made smart choices, and it shared a lot about when that definitely wasn't the case. It also explored the relationship dynamics of the family and to say it was complicated was an understatement. This was a well-researched and captivating story of the family behind one of the most well-known brands. The author did a masterful job at blending the story of a business with the story of a family which is so much of what the Busch saga is all about!

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The Art ForgerThe Art Forger by Barbara A. Shapiro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a thriller that explored art forgery and theft in multiple ways. The story primarily focuses on Claire, a young artist who has been shunned by the art community. She is contacted to do a replica of a famous painting. This is something she does as a side gig, but this time, she's being asked to do it as part of a theft. The story then explores in several storylines which paintings are real, which aren't, and where the lines are blurred. It was interesting to see how these determinations were made and why. Through it all, Claire is focused on connecting to her passion (art) and finding the truth (and lies) that exist all around her!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Just Like MotherJust Like Mother by Anne Heltzel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Y'all, I have to say that horror is definitely not a genre I read ever. That said, this was a wild ride that kept me reading! The story focuses on Maeve and Andrea. Maeve and Andrea were both children in a cult. Maeve escaped, and she's always wondered what happened to Andrea. Then, they find one another again in New York. Andrea has taken on some new ventures in the fertility industry, and Maeve is invited to be part of these. Maeve has some hesitations, and then as she is drawn more into Andrea's world, more things start happening. As a reader, there were lots of moments where I could totally see what was happening, but the characters couldn't which was part of the solid horror experience. This was quite intense, and I'm glad I jumped out of my normal genres for some emotional thrills!

I would offer the content warning that this might not be a good read for anyone who is trying to conceive, struggling to conceive and/or pregnant. I'm a new mom and did okay with the content, but thinking about other stages of my motherhood journey, this would've landed differently with me.

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Saints for All OccasionsSaints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adore the way J. Courtney Sullivan writes characters, and this was another masterclass in her telling the stories of people and relationships. This focused on two Irish sisters who immigrate to America. In America, their lives are anything but what they expect including one life-changing turn for both of them. This story goes between tragedy in the present and explaining what happened in the past. It's a beautiful and tragic story about family that was just so, so wonderful.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human ExperienceAtlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Brené Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is basically the dictionary of Brene Brown, and that's a good thing. It is literally all the feels. With each feel, there is a definition and exploration of what this feel actually means. It's more a reference piece than anything else as it summarizes some of her previous work and establishes common language for emotions. What I found is there are words I use when I actually mean something else, and that something else can help me better explain what I'm actually feeling and needing. If you've read all the Brene as I definitely have, this is a beautiful companion piece. It's also one I can see myself referencing as I build out content as it's wonderfully explained common language. If you're a fan of Brene and/or just want to do more exploration of emotions, this is definitely a comprehensive piece to add to your collection!

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Going ThereGoing There by Katie Couric
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This memoir could have no other title than GOING THERE as that's very much what Katie Couric does in this reflective piece. No topic is off limits, and she's also not afraid to name names as she walks thorough her life and career. She is willing to share those times she messed up and/or things didn't go according to plan, AND she's also willing to share about when other humans made mistakes and/or didn't support her. I've always known Katie's public persona and remember many of the public experiences/events she mentions, so it was interesting to read her reflections on what was really happening in that moment, as well as how she feels about these happenings all these years later. This is definitely raw and honest and again epitomizes the concept of "going there" in a memoir.

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TurningTurning by Joy L. Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise of this book is about a dancer who suffers a traumatic injury, so she can no longer dance. However, this story is so much more than that. Said simply, Genie is navigating some really heavy stuff. This includes grief, unhealthy relationships and determining what she must do now that her dreams have been shattered. While this is explained as a book about Genie the dancer, it's really about Genie the human. For me, I wish there would have been some more about who Genie was before and just more about the characters in general to really get that strong emotional connection to the story. Thanks to the publisher for an early copy of this recent release.

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Thursday, March 17, 2022

Why Not Me?Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After re-reading Mindy's first book, it was obviously time to come back to her second. What I love about reading these books as a duo is that you get to hear from her as her work and life has shifted. For example, in the first book, she focuses on The Office, and this is more about her experience with The Mindy Project. This is more of a collection of essays and reflections, and it's such a random menagerie, AND that's what makes it so great!

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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another book in my tour of memoirs by women I've read before and want to revisit. Y'all, I love Mindy Kaling, so I have always and will always love this one. The fun thing about re-reading her books is seeing the evolution of her work and her reflecting on her experiences as a human. There are some lines in this one that will forever make me laugh. This was absolutely a delight to revisit!

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My MonticelloMy Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a collection of short stories and a novella that above all else are just wonderfully written. While each story is independent, there are common threads of emotion, tragedy and exploration of fictitious experiences that are grounded in the real, lived experiences of today. Short story collections aren't always my jam, however this one was one that I found intriguing and thought-provoking.

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One True LovesOne True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I devoured because I needed to know what happened, and it was legit stressing me out not knowing the outcome. The story focuses on Emma who marries her high school sweetheart Jesse. They are both in jobs and live a life full of travel and adventure. Then, Jesse goes missing and is presumed dead from a helicopter crash on their first wedding anniversary. Emma is devastated, and she moves back home. Devastated, Emma moves back home. There she begins running her family's bookstore, and finds love again with Sam who she has known since childhood. She's engaged to be married, and then Jesse is found alive! The story then takes on major Ben/Noel vibes (which is what induced the stress reading) as Emma has to choose between the two men she loves. I will say throughout I had one dude I was definitely rooting hard for, so it was almost a romance suspense novel as I had to read on to see if that's who Emma ultimately chose!

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BossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After re-reading another memoir, I decided that I wanted to revisit this one, too. All these years later, there are still parts of this one that make me laugh out loud (literally) and parts that make me smile. Revisiting books I first read in my twenties and return to in my thirties, it's also a fun reflection to see what passages I resonated and flagged back then, as well as to find new stuff that connects with me now.

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Year of YesYear of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here's the thing y'all. I read this book when it first came out, and I didn't love it. I've always wanted to re-read it as I just felt like something was "off" in that first read. Looking back at the date, the disconnect absolutely makes sense. I wasn't at a place where I could really connect with this one back then. So, seven years later, I came back. The second time around I loved this one. First off, I think I just understood the message so much better. It wasn't about saying yes to all the things with reckless abandon, rather this is about saying yes with intentionality and purpose. It's about living in the moment and seizing opportunities for joy both the big things and the simple everyday things. I also connected with the motherhood part of the story this time around being a new mom, so this was also a re-read with a completely new perspective. All around, I'm glad I came back to this and that I can report I loved it so much more this time around.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2022

How All This StartedHow All This Started by Pete Fromm
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked up this book long ago because it involved baseball. The reality is this story is so, so, SO much more. This is really a story about a family, specifically the sibling relationship between Abilene and Austin. It's about making someone else's unrealized dreams come true. It's about understanding the burdens we each bear. It's about that moment where we realize people are dealing with more than we knew. It's about trying to find truth, resilience and a way forward through it all. This is a read that is teeming with feels. Yes, there's baseball, too, but more than anything, it's about two siblings just trying to figure it all out.

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See You YesterdaySee You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Y'all, this book was an absolute delight! I love a good take on the Groundhog Day trope, and this is one of my all-time faves. What a ride! It's Barrett Bloom's first day of college, and she's excited for a fresh start. High school was a hard road, and she's ready to blaze a new trail. But then, her first day is anything but what she hopes. Everything that might go wrong does, and the fresh start she has hoped for is not working out so well. She goes to bed defeated. Then, she wakes up the next morning, except it's the same first day all over again - and then it is again and again, etc. After a few iterations of being in this loop, she finds out Miles, a guy who was the source of her embarrassment in her physics class on the real first day is stuck, too. What then follows is Barrett and Miles living the same day again and again together. Through this, they get to know one another, decide to take the day they have in different directions, and also try to figure out how they're even going to literally see tomorrow. Barrett and Miles and their dynamic absolutely kept me reading. I loved the evolution of the time they were stuck together. I both wanted to be in the loop together AND I had to know what was going to happen next! While this is a trope that's often done, this was a new spin with new layers, and again, I just adored this story. Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the early look at this May 2022 release.

Also, I just have to say I'm very aware I've aged beyond the young adult part of my life. It did make me chuckle and also have that "Wait, what?" moment when the pop culture Barrett's mom loved in college was the stuff I loved in college. If you're reading this as an "older millennial" just be ready for this aspect of the story. However, I will also say I'll always take a shoutout to Felicity!

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Friday, March 4, 2022

Life's Messy, Live Happy: Things Don't Have to Be Perfect for You to Be ContentLife's Messy, Live Happy: Things Don't Have to Be Perfect for You to Be Content by Cy Wakeman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As I've gotten older and further into my thirties, I've found self-help-ish books aren't always my jam. I get tired of the fluffy quotes and toxic positivity they teem with. Y'all, that is not what this book is, and I'm so grateful for that. This is a book about the realities of life. This book acknowledges that sometimes life can be real tough, but that doesn't mean you can't still get through and find happiness. With that, happiness isn't a generic "thing" rather it's something you have to explore understand for yourself. The section I liked the most was one on the words we choose and how these simple choices can make a world of difference. Overall, this was a spin on navigating life that was authentic and real in a space that can often be anything but this. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this March 2022 release!

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Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Barakah BeatsBarakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a delight of a story about Nimra. After attending an Islamic school, Nimra is moving to a public school. With this, it means she'll be navigating what it means to be Muslim in this space. Then, the unlikeliest of things happens. Nimra is asked to join a Muslim boy band, Bakarah Beats. Nimra decides to join, but doesn't tell her parents as she believes this doesn't align with her religion. In addition to this, Nimra is navigating the change in dynamics with her best friend. She and Jenna have gone to different schools, but now that they're finally at the same school, things seem strained. While a unique premise with the boy band, this is very much real in exploring the challenges of fitting in during middle school and finding your voice. Nimra was a wonderful main character, and I loved seeing how she found her place at her school in ways she never would have expected. Thanks to Scholastic for the copy of this October 2021 release.

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Playing the Cards You're DealtPlaying the Cards You're Dealt by Varian Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the story of Anthony (Ant) who is preparing for a spades tournament. His family has a reputation of doing well in the tournament, so Ant feels extra pressure to perform well. In addition to navigating the spades tournament (and finding an unlikely partner in a new girl), Ant is working through a complicated family situation. The title of this one very much speaks to the focus of the book. Yes, there's the literal connection to a game of spades, and there's also coming to understand what hand life has given you and how to proceed. More than anything, this is Ant learning some difficult truths and coming to see certain people and situations were not what he thought. It's some tough stuff to work through, and the book is very much about how we often have to do this as humans. Thanks to Scholastic for the free copy of this October 2021 release.

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The Lying ClubThe Lying Club by Annie Ward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a thriller that is very much a slow burn. The book begins with two bodies being found. However, it isn't revealed who these two bodies are. The rest of the novel is then slowly revealing who these bodies are and how others might be connected. The twisty connections are explored through three women and one man who are connected via an elite private school. There's Natalie who is an administrative assistant at the school, Brooke and Asha who have daughters on the soccer team and are each navigating their own issues, and Nick who is the assistant athletic director. As you can imagine, there are secrets and lies and all the things that make this thriller great. Again, this one is really about the build, so the last 10% moves quick as the truth comes at you as the reader fast. For me personally, I wish the big action would have come sooner, AND I did dig the way the ending was written with a solid twisty reveal. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this March 2022 release.

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Meant to BeMeant to Be by Emily Giffin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Y'all, you should know I devoured this book in a day. I was so captivated by this love story, and I just had to know what was going to happen! The story focuses on the relationship between Joe and Kate. Joe is a member of the well-known and well-to-do Kingsley family (basically the Kennedys) who is trying to figure out his own path while also having the weight of the expectations of his late father and family. Cate is a model who has found success despite a difficult childhood. The difficulties of her childhood are also something she keeps hidden from the world. Joe and Cate have a chance meeting and fall fast in love despite having very different backgrounds. However, these backgrounds do play a part in how their relationship evolves. Again, I just loved this one as Emily Giffin knows how to write a great love story, and that is so, so much this. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this May 2022 release that is sure to be the hottest beach read of the summer!

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Friday, February 25, 2022

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and TomorrowTomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Y'all, let's talk about this book. It is hauntingly beautiful. It was one of those books I found myself reading as much as I could as I was so drawn into the story, AND it was one I was still thinking about once I turned the last page. I also owe a thanks to NetGalley for putting this on my radar AND giving me early access as I never would have found my way to this one otherwise. So, what's it about? Well, I'm glad you asked. This is the story of two childhood friends who bond over a love of video games. As adults, they go into business together making video games. That said, this is not just a book about video games. It is about the two humans, Sam and Sadie, behind the games. It is about their relationship. It is about how the why behind the games they design. It is about how they handle the reception of their games. It is about how they handle success and sadness and surprise and every emotion in between. It is a beautiful exploration of two people doing what they love with people they love and the challenges that can come with this. I could rave on and on about this one. It's been days since I've finished, and it's still on my mind. Also, I should note I'm not even a gamer, and I would absolutely play all the games they design. Read. This Book. Please.

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Turn Of The Silver Wheel: James Island Trilogy Book IITurn Of The Silver Wheel: James Island Trilogy Book II by Shawn Keller Cooper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Turn of the Silver Wheel by Shawn Keller Cooper is the second in a series about three sorority sisters. There are some connections to their collegiate days, but it's moreso about the women they've each grown into which isn't without lots of challenge and hardship. What I love about this series is the realness with which the stories are told. While fiction, the emotions are raw and authentic. I also appreciate that they cover topics that are heavy, but it's stuff that needs to be talked about and explored! Before diving into this one, you definitely need (and are definitely going to want) to check out Drawing Down the Moon just so you can get to know and (then continue to learn through this one) the captivating stories of these women as individual and sisters through the years.

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The FavorThe Favor by Nora Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leah and McKenna know one another's lives well. They know the struggles and the secrets most of all. However, Leah and McKenna do not know one another. However, one night McKenna sees something happen at Leah's house, and she knows how it goes because it's her story, too. Not only does she see what's happening, but she decides to take action on Leah's behalf. Y'all, this was a thriller that is also chock full of feels. It's told from three perspectives - Leah, McKenna, and a detective who investigates after things go down - and y'all know how much I love multiple narrators! The advantage of these three narrators is it also lets the reader see the story from all angles, including what's really happening behind close doors. I found the story to be a pageturner because I was invested in what was going to happen to McKenna and Leah as they are each carrying and hiding so much from others. This one is so well told and definitely packs so many thrills. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this May 2022 release!

Content Warning: A central theme of this book is domestic violence.

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Bad Luck Bridesmaid: A NovelBad Luck Bridesmaid: A Novel by Alison Rose Greenberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Above all else, I have to say that what I loved most about the book were the mentions of early 2000s teen dramas from the WB. These shows are very much my jam, so the references were most appreciated. Now, onto the book. This is the story of Zoey who believes she is a literal bad luck bridesmaid as every time she is a bridesmaid, the wedding itself doesn't happen. With this, Zoey has become scared of marriage even when she does find love. The story is about her navigating this challenge and relationships, as well as her best friend's upcoming marriage. Overall, this was a delight of a read. Although I'm not sure I love the ending - even though I had a hunch it might play out as I did!

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