2020 Book Reviews

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

4/5 Stars

This book offered such an interesting perspective for me. I appreciated her raw truth in telling her story, and he fearless pursuit to reveal her experiences over the years.

I think this book is important to enter with an open mind, and with a heart ready to listen and not dispute.

With that said, I am in no way qualified to add comment to any subject matter or points made in this book. I do, however, wish it was a little longer, and went a little more in depth into these important topics. It was a pretty quick read, which perhaps was purposeful, however I was anxious to know more.

I feel like she did such a great job telling her story and addressing clear issues. I feel like there was not quite as much focus on the start of solutions, or guidance into the next steps.

Perhaps there will be furhter follow-up. I look forward to more from this author.

Own Your Every day by Jordan Lee Dooley

3/5 Stars

This was a book written by an every day woman turned Instagram influence, and this book wore that these in every way. Complete with humble brags, and stories that I could just never quite relate to.

I appreciate the message of this book, and I appreciate her conversationalist writing style, but this book just didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

3/5 Stars

I’m just going to be frank here- this book was a lot of sex. I get that you can expect some sex with a romance book, but I mean, this felt a bit excessive. Not only was it a lot of sex, but it felt like pretty awkward sex. A lot of these scenes, and the dialogue that takes place in them, were cringe worthy. I started to just skim through them.

Unfortunately, this took away from a lot of the good of the book. There were interesting and important themes in the book that could have really carried the story if the author allowed.

I think ultimately, I struggled to connect with either character in this book, probably because I rarely saw either of them outside of a bedroom. I liked the writing style, and I’d consider another novel by this author in the future. This book just wasn’t quite a fit for me.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

4.5/5 Stars

She has spent years refusing to share her story- the story of her fame, the story of her career, the story of her seven husbands… until now.

The pop culture writing style of Taylor Jenkins Reid always guarantees engaging originality. With different story lines and narratives, this book certainly did not disappoint.

This is the type of book that you will either love, hate, or bitterly relate to all of the characters.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

4.5/5 Stars

This book handled heavy topics in an incredibly bold, but also gentle, manner. The truths and pain poured into this engaging narrative was an incredible journey to be a part of.

The author shows no fear in sharing what she believes, and she tells these things through an incredibly likeable protagonist. Her perspective is one of truth, but also one of such grace.

Even if you are not typically one to read YA, this is definitely a book to add to your reading list.

Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

3/5 Stars

I really hate to give someone’s true family story such a low rating, but this one was really hard for me to hang with. The story of this Jewish family and all that they had to endure during WWII was certainly one that deserved to be told, but the writing style just never quite grabbed me.

I know I say this every time, but the WWII genre is one of rich literature, so if you want to tell the story, you better be ready to compete. This story just didn’t quite compete, in my opinion.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

4.5/5 Stars

Find it HERE on Amazon

Reid handles the problematic “white savior complex” in a light and understandable way through this quick and engaging read.

This book follows the life of a girl simply trying to figure life out as she navigates from one awkward situation to another.

Reid pulls you into the point of view of multiple characters to show how even the best of intentions can cause a lot of hurt and destruction if not approached appropriately- particularly in topics as difficult as race and class structure.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Find it HERE on Amazon

4.5/5 stars

And my Jodi Picoult obsession continues. This book had so many unique story lines, and they all fascinated me. Even more fascinating is the way she linked this book, this story, to true facts about elephants.

As much as the central story intrigued me, I kept finding myself wanting her to go even deeper into the studies and facts about elephants.

All in all, this was a solid read, with interesting twists, conflicting ethics, admirable characters, and all of the other fantastic aspects that I am continuing to find in her books.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

Find it HERE on Amazon

4.5/5 Stars

“That day, I tell myself that even if I am not getting anything in this life, I will go to school. I will finish my primary and secondary and university schooling and become teacher because I don’t just want to be having any kind voice… I want a louding voice.”

My book reviews are not a place where I like to offer opinions on life, but one (of the many) valuable lessons that I learned in this book is not to take for granted the opportunity to receive an education.

This book was powerful. It was a coming of age story like no other. It was such an honor to grow with this character, to watch her finally find worth in herself, as she becomes educated, poured into, loved.

This book had so many important lessons- and it was such a interesting view into the many social and economic statuses of Nigeria.

I learned so much in these 384 pages.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Find it HERE on Amazon

4/5 stars

There was a lot of controversy over this book, and over whether or not this author was qualified to write it. I am in no place to share my thoughts on that- so note that this simply a commentary of how I found the writing.

To be honest, I was less than impressed at times, and incredibly encapsulated at others. This writing style shined in the scenes of action and conflict- including the opening scene- wow.

I finished that opening scene thinking that I definitely had a 5-star book coming my way. Unfortunately, I was let down a lot after that, and I found myself zoning out through most chapters.

I learned a lot with this book about a topic I did not know much about, but in my opinion, it was not quite all that it was cracked up to be. Between you and me- celebrity picks rarely are.

The Paris Hours by Alex George

Find it HERE on Amazon

4/5 Stars

Man, do I romanticize the idea of Paris in the 1920’s. The art, culture, literature- I am just smitten with it.

If anyone else is the same way, then this is a quick little book to get lost in.

It all takes place in a single day, while touching on many unique lives. It was sweet, and artsy, and everything you could ever want out of a little novel based in France from pompous culture, to Hemingway’s drunk affairs.

Lilly and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Find it HERE on Amazon

4.5/5 stars

Here’s one for my fellow dog lovers- and like with all of the good dog loving books, keep your tissues close by.

This book deals with some complex issues in an interesting, engaging, and devastating way. It touches on love, and grief, and most importantly the companionship that we have in our four-legged friends.

I am always hesitant to read these books because at times the thought of losing my pups is too much to handle, but I always find that I leave these types of stories eternally thankful to live in a world where dogs can be our best friends.

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Miracle Creek: A Novel by [Angie Kim]
Find it HERE on Amazon

4.5/5 Stars

Buckle up, because this is the kind of book that you do not put down until you have your answers.

This book was fascinating because it was so much more than a “Whodunit.” It took you on this complex journey of ethics, illness, and parental pressures.

There are so many secrets to uncover, and so many links to bust open in every single chapter. It’s highly engaging for my mystery lovers, but also relaxed enough appeal to those that can’t quite handle the intensity of most murder mysteries.

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

Find it HERE on Amazon

4.5/5 Stars

The Nantucket wedding of the century is cancelled when the maid of honor washes up dead on the shore.

That is quite the whodunit set up, and I was hooked. This was a clean, wholesome, murder mystery. I didn’t close the book feeling tormented or dirty like many murder mysteries leave me feeling. I didn’t have to get into the minds of sociopaths or explore the deep dark secrets of the human psyche. While I do enjoy a good psychological thriller, this was a nice break from the norm, and proof that you can read a solid murder mystery without leaving part of your soul in the pages.

One of Elin’s best novels, in my opinion.

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Find it HERE on Amazon

3.5/5 stars

An aspiring writer working as an agent, living in an old shed, simply trying to make it. That is the premise of this story.

While King is truly a master at prose, and her writing is beautiful, it is not always engaging. There were times that this book just went on and on in a way that can work with short stories, but causes a novel to drag.

While the writing in this novel was lovely, it takes a lot of grit and patience to make it through. (keep in mind– I came to this novel after two incredibly engaging murder mysteries.)

The Story Teller by Jodi Picoult

Find it HERE on Amazon

5/5 Stars

FIVE STAR ALERT!

Oh. My. Word. The dimensions of this book. I don’t even know what to tell you about, what story line to choose to talk about, because there was so much going on here.

You’ve heard me say over and over that the WWII genre is too hard for many authors to compete in, but let me tell you, Picoult delivers.

But beyond the WWII story is the present day story of an (ex) Jewish baker, a war-crimes FBI investigator, and an (ex) Nazi now 90-years-old after hiding out in the States under a new name.

Picoult is a master of exploring the gray area of ethics, and in this book she goes above and beyond to deliver.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Find it HERE on Amazon

3/5 Stars

I am typically a lover of all things Paris, 1920’s, and Hemingway, but I really struggled through the writing style of this one.

The research was clearly all there, however, at times this book really dragged on.

In her defense, this is an incredibly hard type of writing to take on. You are telling someone else’s true story. This makes dialogue and details incredibly difficult to execute.

With that said, I have seen this done well, and this book did not quite hit the mark for me.

The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar

Find it HERE on Amazon

4.5/5 Stars

Another incredible WWII story with a unique twist. This book follows the lives of female pilots during WWII as they work in the states to train new pilots and carry cargo from base to base.

This book presented strong characters and a very unique and empowering perspective to this time period. It shows an often neglected chapter in history.

I personally found this book to be a refreshing change to typical WWII stories.

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

Find it HERE on Amazon

4.5/5 Stars

Hilarious and vulnerable. This is typically the making of a great book. In my opinion, this book delivered.

I laughed, I cried, I cringed- it evoked all of the emotions. In this memoir, Dolly shares a very full picture of her 20’s- both the beautiful and the ugly. She is not afraid to make herself unlikable in order to get the truth out.

You’ll get to grow with her, learn with her, grieve with her, and laugh with her. She invites you to all of her nights out and one-night-stands. But most of all, she invites you to learn the same lessons she had to learn the hard way.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Find it HERE on Amazon

3.5/5 Stars

Can we start by admiring this cover? Katherine Center always has the best covers.

And just as her covers are always eye candy, her books could definitely be classified as brain candy, and this was no different.

If you are just looking for an easy, inspiring, and slightly cheesy read, this is your next book. While her dialogue can make me cringe at times, as can her “happily-ever-afters,” sometimes you just need to fly through a book that makes the world a little brighter for a few minutes.

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Find it HERE on Amazon

3/5 Stars

Well, I hate to leave you all on a 3-note, but here we are. I expected so much out of this book, after hearing people rave about the author for months.

Maybe I caught her on an off day, but this book did not do it for me.

It was just so slow. The subject matter was so intriguing, and I couldn’t wait to dig right in, until I stuck the shovel in the ground and just kept digging for miles and still not uncovering anything I had to know more about.

Oh well, you win some you lose some.

The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker

Find it HERE on Amazon

3/5 Stars

I’ve said it a million times, the WWII era is a hard literary field to break into. This book was okay, but in a field where it stands next to The Nightingale or All the Light We Cannot See, it simply cannot keep up.

I never felt connected to these characters, and I was rarely pulled into the action. In a solid WWII novel, I expect to be engaged throughout the entire story, but I felt like this book drew me in for maybe 5 pages out of every 70. It was an okay read, but there are just way too many other ones to choose from that share the same story with stronger characters.

If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

If You Want to Make God Laugh by [Bianca Marais]
Find it HERE on Amazon

5/5 Stars

Five Star Alert! This book checked all of the boxes. Flowing writing, enjoyable characters, adversity, lessons, and a clear and well researched introduction into a world that I really know nothing about.

This book was everything. It was so moving, and heartwarming, and heartbreaking, all in 432 addicting pages. The only times I could ever put this book down was when my heart couldn’t take any more for the time being. To me, that clearly distinguishes good literature from great literature. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Before She Knew Him: A Novel by [Peter Swanson]
Find it HERE on Amazon

4.5/5 Stars

Ah. Just ah.

Remember that I am a wimp with thrillers, particularly psychological thrillers. This book messed me up. In this book, Swanson really reveals both an impressive skill for writing, and a terribly messed up mind, as all great thrillers writer’s possess.

My forewarning is, if you, like me, have an incredibly sensitive soul, this might not be the book for you. The book goes to some dark places, and if you are not an expert of shutting that off when you shut the book, this book might impact you more than you were looking for.

However, if you are fascinated with mental illness and the negative impact parents can have on their child’s entire life and mental health, and you can handle, or even enjoy, the scaries, then I have your next read right here.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman

Find it HERE on Amazon

4/5 stars

I always really struggle to explain Backman’s work to people who have never read Backman. His books are so witty. His characters are so endearing. His thoughts are wild and creative. He’s just a masterful writer.

With that said, I don’t think I would recommend this as your first Backman book. While this book is all of those things, it was a little harder to stick with than Beartown or a Man Called Ove.

With that said, if you are like me, and you’ve already devoured everything else this man has written, this book is a sweet way to return to his familiar and beloved tone.

Fun fact- he introduces a minor character in this that go on to become main characters in another book, Britt Marie Was Here.

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Find it HERE on Amazon

3/5 stars

We all love a story of forbidden love. The last hundred pages of this book crushed my heart into a million pieces, but admittedly, it took trudging through a lot to get there.

While this was a beautifully thought-out story, I couldn’t help but feel as though the wrong person was the one writing it.

At times the flow and dialogue both felt a tad amateur and unrealistic.

It was a beautiful story, with heart-wrenching twists and important lessons on love and humanity, but ultimately, the literary aspects missed the mark for me.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Find it HERE on Amazon

5/5 Stars

Five Star Alert! I don’t know when exactly the switch occurred where non-fiction books became equally as engaging and page-turning as fiction books, but I am here for it.

I don’t even know how to explain this book. Gottlieb offers an introspective view into her own life and therapy practice. Through the engaging tales of her patients and her own life she somehow connects all humanity through the ways we all hurt, grieve, breathe, build and break.

Through it all, she breaks the stigmas on therapy, and goes to prove that even the strongest of hearts need a space to weep.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Find it HERE on Amazon

4/5 Stars

Whether you were all in to the lessons on Greek mythology in High School, or you snoozed through the entire class, this book is worth a read.

The research that went into this to create the story of an otherwise forgotten figure in the Greek tales is admirable. The protagonist is a gripping and fiercely independent woman.

Admittedly, this book took me a while to get into. I have gotten so use to the traditional mountain of a novel- beginning, climax, end- that I have come to expect that in every story. This novel didn’t follow that flow, but instead, it read a lot like the traditional Greek Mythology, just slightly more modernized. It was a chronological tale of multiple stories, rather than a single flowing narrative. I think this book would have been much more enjoyable for me if I would have known to approach it in that way.

The Only Plane in the Sky: and Oral History of 9/11 by Garret M. Graff

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by [Garrett M. Graff]
Find it HERE on Amazon

5/5 Stars

FIVE STAR ALERT! Yeah, that’s right, we started the year out with a banger. We also started it with perhaps one of the hardest books I’ve read in my entire life.

This book is a collection of over 500 accounts of 9/11, the day before, and the days that followed. It went hour by hour providing context from all over that day from the Pentagon to New York to the president’s security team. It provides context to one of the most monumental and tragic days in history in a way that has never been done before.

I highly recommend that if you choose this book, you purchase the audio version as each interviewer personally recounts their part in the experience. My heart broke more with every second of this book, but in an important way.

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

Find it HERE on Amazon

3.5/5 Stars

I expected a lot out of this book, and while the writing was lovely, it dragged a little too much for me.

I kept pushing through as many shared that it gets better after page 200, but let’s be honest- 200 pages is A LOT to drag through. When I finally made it, it did pick up speed, but it also became incredibly depressing.

If you have thicker skin and a lot more patience than me, you might find immense adoration for this book. For me it was way more struggle than enjoyment.

Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey

Find it HERE on Amazon

2.5/5 Stars

As I read this book I kept thinking, “wow, this reads a lot like a New Yorker Article.” I then read the author bio at the end and realized that she is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. I also came to remember why I stopped subscribing to The New Yorker. This style of writing is just not my thing.

It could be that I’m just a little too shallow minded for this kind of writing. It could also be that the author tried too hard to be intellectual, and as a result, she lost a lot of narrative thought and creative license.

The book had no true flow. Every chapter was just another off beat story from the narrator’s life, typically with some political or moral lesson to be learned.

This may be your cup of tea, I’m just more of a coffee kind of girl.

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Find it HERE on Amazon

4.5/5 Stars

Why why why did it take me so long to pick up a book by this author? This book raised so many questions about family, ethics, and purpose, all while being presented in a narrative that I just devoured.

While this book absolutely stomped on my heart, it was impossible for me to put down. the characterization, conflict, and unexpected turns kept me driving forward and left me hungry for more at the end.

Get ready, because I’m planning to read a lot of her books this year!

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Find it HERE on Amazon

4/5 Stars

The way this book handled the mind, and grief, and guilt, and tragedy… just wow. It follows the story of a single survivor of a plane crash, a twelve year old boy, as he grieves not only his own family, but the hundreds of strangers that went down in that plane with him.

Eventually he finds his own way of dealing with the grief, and rediscovers purpose in the life he was granted.

This book was beautifully tragic, and incredibly intuitive.