2019 Book Reviews

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

3.4/5 Stars

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I know what you’re thinking: am I going to be super suspicious of my husband while I read this? The answer is -yes. Is it worth it? Well, if you appreciate a well crafted story with shocking twists and inter-tangled webs, then yes.

In this story Moriarty takes a deeper look into those “perfect little families” and the secrets that no one else knows… sometimes not even the wife. This is the perfect light mystery to dive into.

""Things You Save in A Fire by Katherine Center

3.5/5 Stars

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Another great light read for vacation or a long weekend. Center challenges the idea of cultural and gender norms through the story of a female fire fighter, and the obstacles she has to face to not only make it in a male-central career, but also at a male-only firehouse.

This story follows all the rules of a romance- take that as you will. The dialogue made me cringe just a little– but hey, once again, a romance. Nevertheless, this book was a quick read, and it certainly kept me turning the pages.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

4.5/5 Stars

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Brilliant- this book was brilliant. The way Keane explores the hard topics of mental health, nature, nurture, and how it all impacts relationships… brilliant!

This is the type of story that keeps you engaged even if you aren’t exactly flying through the pages. But more than that, this is the type of book that your mind returns to for weeks after you finish it. Definitely a book to have on your list, especially if you’re interested in the many layers of the mind and health.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

3.5/5 stars

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As far as historical fiction goes, you can’t beat a solid WWII story, as far as WWII novels go, this one was solid, but I think there are much better contenders in the running.

The WWII genre is a hard one to compete with in terms of story and character., The story was unique, and the characters were relatable , but this was not exactly a book that will stick with me for years to come.

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess

3/5 Stars

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A book for book lovers, clearly written by a book lover. This book was a fun, fierce, and interesting view into the late 1980’s world of publishing.

While this book was an interesting view into a unique story, there were times that it could really drag out. If you are an avid fan of 1980’s literature and really want to see the underlying secrets of that world, then this could be a great book for you. If not, you might be better off with another story.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

4.5/5 stars

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“To live each day as if it had been stolen from death. That is how I would like to live.”

Oh man. Cuddle your fur babies close, and dive into this sweet world with the goodest boy! The Art of Racing the Rain is an heart-warming tale of love and loyalty on multiple dimensions.

I took a few days to process this book. It’s definitely one to make you want to hold your family and your pups a little closer. Is it perfect? no. There are plenty of moments where you stop and think? “Oh a dog would never think that,” but the love and loyalty between Enzo and Denny is something that any dog owners knows, and that was captured beautifully in this book. The Art of Racing the Rain took hard topics and presented them beautifully through the eyes of a wise old dog. It is one of those books that you genuinely feel better in your soul for having read it.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

4/5 stars

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Endearing- that’s the absolute best way I can describe this story, and that’s the only reason I can possibly recommend that you push through the first 200 pages, which unfortunately, was a bit of an uphill climb, to come to the heartfelt climax and conclusion of this story. The unique characters and the meaningful conversations work together so well to make an incredibly impactful novel.

As mentioned before, it took me about half the book to really get into it, and that’s about 150 pages more than I typically give most books, but I promise if you just hang with this story to that midway point you’ll fly through the rest.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

4/5 Stars

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This book broke all the rules. Admittedly, when I first started, I was hesitant to keep reading, because the structure and lack of (what I consider) appropriate grammar and quotation marks made me uncomfortable.

As I trudged through, I realized that this is all apart of the point being made. Everyone needs to read things that make them a little uncomfortable, stories that feel incredibly unfamiliar.

This coming of age story is like no other as Ana struggles to become a woman, a wife, and a mother at the young age of 15. It is truly empowering to walk along this young woman as she finds her voice, her strength, and her independence.

Recursion by Blake Crouch

4.5/5 Stars

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I’ve never been a huge fan of science fiction, but this novel absolutely blew me away. It explored the philosophy of time and memory, and how both of these things can absolutely torture the soul.

I don’t even know how to explain this novel without giving it all away. I’ll just leave you with this- If you like science fiction, read this book. If you don’t like science fiction- read this book.

Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby

3.5/5 Stars

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Cute, quirky, witty. Those are the three words I choose to describe this book. Hornby creates fascinating characters, and allows these characters, their goofy personalities, and their passions to drive the entire book.

It’s is by no means the best book I read this year, but the writing is solid, and the plot is a fun journey.

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

4/5 Stars

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And this is where I lose my readers… but if you are interested in keeping an open mind, hear me out.

I hate to be preached at, no matter what side is being preached, and because of that, I was hesitant to read this book. However, there was so much buzz, that I thought I would give it a chance.

This book did not preach. It was simply her experience with a controversial topic. She shared about her time at Planned Parenthood, shared about all the good she saw there, and also some of the things that just didn’t sit right with her.

She shared the good and evil she experienced on both sides of the choice vs. life argument. This is a challenging book, and it is uncomfortable to read no matter what side of the platform you stand on, but I do think it was worth my time, and if you are interested in the topic, it could be worth your time as well.

The Winter Street Series by Elin Hilderbrand

4/5 stars

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The Quin family. I was honored to spend four whole novels with them. You will absolutely fall in love with this family as you enter each of their unique perspectives to deal in both hardship and joy.

This series was the perfect holiday read- even if I started it way before the holiday. Hilderbrand is master at putting you right there in the drama to enjoy Christmas in Nantucket with the owner of the Inn and his goofy little family.

Winter in Paradise Series by Elin Hilderbrand

4/5 stars

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I warned you guys earlier, this year I was introduced to Elin Hilderbrand, and I became obsessed with her quick and engaging reads.

This series has yet to let me down. In true Elin fashion these books promise drama, likeable characters, and plenty of scandal. Hurry up and read these two, number three in this series is coming at you this fall!

Night Music by Jojo Moyes

4/5 Stars

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JoJo Moyes never lets me down. While I wouldn’t necessarily chart this as one of her best, it was certainly by no means bad.

Reasons I love this book and author?

Moyes’ strong women characters are incredible. She always creates a world with the most unique and inspiring of women.

Her writing style always keeps me engaged by switching points of view pretty regularly.

And finally, her research is always there. In this book, it was the beloved mayhem of renovating an old home. But not matter the story line, the time period, the crisis, there is never a moment where you think a little more research should have been conducted. Moyes always seems to deliver.

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

4/5 Stars

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To say I Fell in love with these kids would be an understatement. These orphaned characters will steal your heart, and you’ll be rooting them on with everything you have from the first page to the last.

In This Tender Land Krueger handles hard topics of who you are, where you came from, and what family looks like. He builds such an adult world using adolescence. Reading this book was one an incredible journey down the Mississippi.

The Strays by Emily Bitto

4/5 Stars

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Art and scandal, family and friendships. This book explores it all and how it all can effect the lives of children growing up in the midst of it.

In a sense this is a coming of age novel, in another sense it is so much more. It is a deep exploration of humanity and desires, and how this can impact others when explored selfishly.

The Giver of the Stars by Jojo Moyes

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Another Jojo Moyes, so you know it’s going to be good, and guess what? It was.

This is the perfect story for book lovers, for strong women, for independent souls.

Set in the depression-era, this is based off the true story of women who trudged all through the mountains of Kentucky to deliver books to the community.

While on this trek, in true Jojo fashion, the women establish an independence and strength in a world determined to oppress them. Truly an incredible historical fiction novel.

Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Frederick Backman

4/5 stars

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Backman is just so darn endearing, so you better beleive that a novel written as a letter to his infant son is guaranteed to gear up all the feels.

This book is exactly what the title declares it to be- a whole letter touching on all of the things he beleives his son needs to know about life from what Futbol teams to pull for to how to best navigate Ikea.

It was beautifully written, incredibly witty, and so full of love and admiration for his child. I don’t even have kids and my heart was warmed by this short book of essays. It is definitely a read to add to your list if you’re a new parent. Also congrats!

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

3.5/5 Stars

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This book was hard to stomach. The writing was well-crafted, but the subject matter was incredibly uncomfortable.

Full disclosure, this is a love story, but the story starts when the man is a young adult, and the girl is a child.

I can see the thought behind it- love conquers all, age is just a number, all that stuff. But the vsual was just too much for me. I managed to make it all the way through- it was a slow process, but it will definitely take a VERY open mind to be able to push through this book.

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

4.5/5 stars

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I had the immense privilege of reading a Lisa Jewell novel in January and one in December, and I was completely baffled by both.

The way Jewell explores psychology, family, and mental dynamics is mind blowing. She creates unique characters and leads you down a million different paths.

If you are like me, and you love a good thriller, but you are also prone to nightmares, her books are the perfect match, as they as way more psychological than thriller, but so very addicting.

American Wife by Taya Kyle

4/5 stars

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I read her husband’s book earlier this year, and I knew I needed to know more about this brave and heroic family.

Battles don’t just exist in the war zone, the family of these heroes face so much on this side of the world, and this should be recognized.

American wife is a story of love and strength through some unfathomable circumstances. If you enjoyed American Sniper, this book is the perfect way to see behind the scenes of it all.

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

4.5/5 stars

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Everyone wants to be the best- and everyone wants their kids to be the best. This is a deep dive into how petty parents can actually get.

This book explores what happens in a small town when kids are given the option to test into a new “gifted school.” parents go nuts putting outrageous amounts of pressure on their kids.

This book is such an interesting outloook on the pressures thats parents can put on theri kids, and the ways it can affect them.

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

4/5 stars

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I was actually listening to this audbile book while reading The Gifted School, and the two books seemed to go hand and hand.

This is a memoir by a woman who was forced to keep her mother’s affair a secret for years. Brodeur explores how the pressure of being her mother’s confidant weighed on her and her choices for years following. It also explores the idea of what a kid will do to get their parent’s approval, and how this can damage relationships for the rest of their lives.

It’s an interesting view into humanity, parenting, and how the two aspects go hand in hand.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

3.5/5 stars

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Just another fun, quick, quirky read for your trip to the beach or relaxing weekend.

This is a goofy romance of two people who shared a flat, but never saw each other due to different work schedules.

Obviously, their interactions are hilarious when they finally do meet, as is their entire relationship.

One Day in December by Josie Silver

4/5 stars

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The perfect December read, or July read, because that’s when I read it, and it really isn’t a Christmas story, despite the Christmasy cover and title.

This is just a light read of a love story that expands over years of irony, friendship, more irony, missed opportunities, the wrong match, the right match for the time, the end of a wrong match and a right match, the feeling of “this can never possibly happen” right before it does– basically there is at least something or someone in this book you will relate to.

This is the perfect book to binge by the fire over the holiday break!

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

4/5 Stars

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This is a book way outside of my comfort zone, hence why I enjoyed it. I think we all, me included, tend to read too many books about people like us- the same ethnicity, same religion, same overall culture.

In a Woman is No Man, Rum shares the good, bad, and ugly of a culture she knows very well. This story expands multiple generations of a Muslim family struggling to make ends meet in New York. She explores the pain of cultural norms that oppress women, and the strength needed to overcome.

This is an impactful and eye-opening read.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

4/5 stars

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Anyone who has ever heard Brene Brown speak knows that she is incredibly qualified to write a book on leadership.

Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson

4.5/5 Stars

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In my opinion- Debut novel of the year. You guys, THIS BOOK. The research, dialogue, questions, and characterization… incredible.

Beyond the Point goes between the perspectives of three beautiful, power, and unique women during their time as West Point Cadets and the years following.

Set in the early 2000’s, this book is about war and sacrifice, but beyond that, it is about the existence of faith in a world that is simply too evil to make sense and the power of friendship to carry you through.

I laughed, I cried, and I truly felt as though I had the privilege of fighting alongside this group of friends as they battled their own wars both stateside and in the Middle East. I am DEFINITELY looking forward to more from this author!

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

4/5 Stars

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This one is for my fellow music lovers- particularly those who have romantic longings for the 60’s era of rock and roll.

This book was written in a unique tone- acting as a long magazine interview- with a brilliant discovery at the end. Though this band and its songs are made up, reading this book allows you to ride alongside a fun and eclectic group of musicians through artistic differences, addictions, love, trials, and the power of connection through song. It’s a quick read with dynamite characterization, witty humor, and the reality of what goes on both on and off the stage.

Girl Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

3/5 stars

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I should preface this by saying- I was a HUGE advocate of Rachel’s previous memoir, Girl, Wash Your Face.

This one, however, just didn’t do it for me.

Positives- Hollis is a master motivator. She’s an advocate that you can do anything you set your mind to, as long as you are dedicated to put in the hours. This whole book was about standing firm in who you are, and not letting anyone else determine your worth. That’s something we can all stand behind.

Negatives- I think her last memoir really expressed how she got to where she was, and this one just kind of humbly bragged about it while asking you why you’re not quite on her level yet. It didn’t really accept that some people are very happy where they are, even if they’re not a super fit, power woman, mom, running a multi-million dollar company. Her suggestions on being a better {{bla bla bla}} also weren’t very practical for people who aren’t making millions a year (ie.- make time, hire a nanny, hire a house cleaner, stop wasting time on these things and instead pay someone to do it for you so you can do more important things.)

I could go on for days… but the bottom line was this book wasn’t for me. I hope that if you choose to move forward with it, you can get a little more out of it than I did. My copy was returned to Audible (which, did anyone else know you could do that?)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doeer

4.5/5 Stars

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This was the year of Historical Fiction for me… seriously, I don’t think I came across a single book in that genre that I deemed a dud.

This Historical Fiction novel was no exception. It followed two very different stories during WWII. The first was a young German Boy genius who rose from the poverty of an orphanage because of his brains. It really explored the “other side” in this time, as the boy’s ticket out of poverty was to use his mind to help the Germans. This obviously leads to a significant amount of internal and moral conflict.

The second story followed a young French girl who fled Paris with a treasure she was determined to protect. She spent years navigating the war and German control, and she even participated in the resistance, but this is the kicker– this girl was blind. This posed all new thrill to an already stressful tale.

It was an incredible novel, with clear and thorough research, and two very unique perspectives making a WWII story (a subject many might see as overplayed) new and relevant.

Bear Town by Frederick Backman

5/5 stars

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FIVE STAR ALERT !

I know I have one more month left, but I will go ahead and deem this as my favorite book of the year!

I don’t even know where to start: the characters, the story, the hockey, the rivalry, the politics, the emotion, the stress, the frustration, the morals. This book ripped me in so many directions.

Backman is a master at characterization, and beyond that, he is incredible at writing narrative that reveals simple, but overlooked, truth. This book, in particular, really explored the “god” complex culture tends to give to young athletes, and questions- not what this does to them as athletes- but what it does to them as humans.

Us Against You by Frederick Backman

4.5/5 Stars

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This book obviously had a lot to live up to- and sequels can rarely be as good as the first, but this book came about as close as you can get.

The truth is, once you finish Bear Town, you probably won’t even need a review to convince you to read the sequel, but if you do, this is me telling you… read the sequel.

Us Against You picks up right where Bear Town left off. I loved continuing the journey with a few of my favorite characters. This book focuses on division in a town, the extremes that exist in rivalry, and that beautiful game of hockey that some how both divides and brings people together.

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Verity by Coleen Hoover

3.5/5 Stars

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I went back and forth when trying to decide how I felt about this book. The story is engaging and interesting, the premise and psychology of it all was absolutely fascinating, but I felt that the delivery was lacking.

There were parts of this book where I felt the author stopped showing me, and instead just started to tell me. This messes up the flow of a thriller. There were areas where creative and descriptive language would have kept the novel flowing, and the suspense building, but instead her use of blunt language ripped me out of the scene as it just didn’t fit with the way the story should continue.

That being said, this book still read very quickly and pushed me forward as I was always wondering what would happen next. You can’t complain too much about a book you finish in two days.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

4.5/5 Stars

I started off the year strong, and scared, very very scared. Disclaimer: I rarely read thrillers. I love them, they just MESS ME UP. This book did that.

In this novel, you go back and forth between different lives and years, but ultimately, in true entrusted thriller fashion, it all collides, and you will gasp… a few times.

But this book is so much more than a frightening tale. It is a deep, horrifying, and enthralling view into humanity and motivation. It shows the darkest corners of a soul and a mother’s determination for answers.

My Lady of the Chimney Corner by Alexander Irvine

4.5/5 stars

This book was gifted to me by family in Northern Ireland, and it was such a privilege to experience this view into one of their culture’s treasured works. Thank you so much, Robert and Sharon!

Written in the Early 1920’s, and set in the years of Irish Famine, this is Irvine’s story of his own mother and father and their determination to overcome so many obstacles in the midst of poverty. It is a beautiful and inspiring tale of the power of love and resilience in even the hardest of circumstances. It is a classic that BELONGS on your “to-read” list- especially if you have any Irish heritage.

If you choose to read this one, and you should, I recommend finding a quiet space to read the dialogue out loud, particularly if you are not from the UK, as it does tend to have many colloquialisms and choppy dialogue that is better understood when read out loud.

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods

4/5 Stars

“Because, cupcakes make everything better. Except type two diabetes, I guess.”

Oh man, do I appreciate optimism, and oh man did I appreciate Polly. There are so many hard books that handle the hard topics, and they are so necessary, but sometimes you just need a light and optimistic way of viewing the absolute crap we have to go through in this life.

This book was that for me. This book looked at hard topics, and showed the different ways people face hardships, one person falling apart, the other person choosing to live really LIVE until her very last breath. This book was breath of fresh air in the heartache department, and it was such a joy to live even the darkest pages with the brightest character.

This is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today by Chrissy Metz

4/5 Stars

Surely I have some Fellow This is Us fans out there! Even if you’re not a fan of the show, I thought this book was so introspective into the mind of a woman, who rarely gets seen below surface level.

That’s essentially what happens when you are severely overweight, people start to see this first impression of you, and nothing more. This book was a story of overcoming countless odds, and making it in a vicious field. Follow her journey from a broken family in Florida to staring in an beloved NBC television show. This book was both well-written and inspiring. It gave me such an authentic view into the life of this woman who I watch on TV every Tuesday night.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

5/5 stars!!!

FIVE STAR ALERT! Yes this was my first five-star book of the year because… wow. This book was worth every hour (there were many) that I dedicated to it. What an interesting story, or stories, for that matter. It was so many stories, all revolving around this one man’s passion to live and love the way he wants to in a world that is violently opposed to his life style.

The book comes full circle multiple times like I’ve never seen before. It gave me a view into the AIDS crisis in America, the shame that so many of these humans faced while dying of such an awful disease, and the devastation of all involved in the fight.

Truly such a devastating and impactful story.

Disclaimer: language, and heavy, HEAVY topics. But I challenge you to jump out of you comfort zone, and dive into this beautiful, ugly, and incredibly well-crafted tale.