Friends, strangers, fellow readers! Welcome to 2021!
We’re taking these reviews in a different direction this year. I’m still not giving you a synopsis. That’s cheating, and also very redundant to everything else on the internet. But, since some of you don’t love going into a book blindly, I will give you a little sneak peak of what the book is about by providing what I found to be the, or at least one of the, best quotes in it.
I’m a big quote person, so this should be fun for the both of us.
Also, don’t forget, I love to know what you guys are reading too! Feel free to drop me a message if you have your own opinions on any of these books, or if you have a book that you think that I might like.
Thanks for reading with me!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
“And that sadness is intrinsically part of the fabric of happiness. You can’t have one without the other. Of course, they come in different degrees and quantities. But there is no life where you can be in a state of sheer happiness for ever. And imagining there is just breeds more unhappiness in the life you’re in.”
I found this book to be pretty fascinating. In one sense, we’re just talking about string theory. In another sense, string theory is absolutely nuts, and to write a book around the theme is absolutely bonkers, and this book will leave you really overthinking your own life and decisions.
So take that as you will.
The flip side, this book kind of jumps off the trail at time to give you a self-help feeling memoir, which is a little wonky, and I didn’t love that part.
Also, this book could be a bit of a trigger for those who suffer depression and/or suicidal thoughts, so keep this in mind.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
“Her father said the death of a loved one was like a house on fire. Even with everything intact, it still felt like mere ashes.”
Fascinating view into a world that I really have no experience in.
This book opened my eyes to a lot of issues currently occurring, and no matter where you stand on the political ideas around immigration, I think this book is worth a read.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
“There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you’d been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you’re suspended knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself.”
This review might make me a few enemies.
I know A LOT of people who LOVED this book. And this is why I gave it so many tries. I have opened and closed this book about five times before I finally read it all of the way through. I even tried the Tom Hanks read audio version of it.
I just didn’t love it.
The writing is solid, and I can appreciate it. The characters were unique enough, and the storyline was like nothing I’ve ever read (besides the Cinderella thread). It just did not grab or keep me at all.
With that said, a lot of my beloved book friends, whose opinions I trust very much, loved this book, so I don’t want to deter you from checking it out for yourself.
When Harry Met Sally by Nora Ephron
“How much worse can it get than finishing dinner, having him reach over, pull a hair out of my head, and start flossing with it at the table?”
Yes… this is indeed the screenplay for the movie. And yes, you should still read it if you have already watched the movie. This writing is gold.
To create such an intriguing, dialogue-driven plot is insane.
These characters are flawed, and yet so relatable. The things they do and say and so witty, without setting off a “I’m so witty” sense.
This movie script is simply screenplay gold.
In a Book Club Far Away by Tif Marcelo
This was cheesy in all of the best ways. Easy, predictable, but not unlikable in any sort of way.
If you need a quick weekend read, this one is solid. It wasn’t the best or most insightful book I read this year, but it wasn’t bad in any sense. Light, easy, breezy.
I mean… really, that’s all I’ve really got for you.
My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me by Jason B. Rosenthal
“I think one of the main reasons our marriage worked so well was that we genuinely wanted each other to be happy, to succeed, to make an impact, and to find inspiration.”
Well, this one hit close to home.
In this book, the author writes about a life continued after his wife went viral for an article published in the New York Times, written shortly before she died of cancer.
In this article, she was telling women why they might want to marry her husband when she passed.
The love this man and his family had for their matriarch was beautiful. He seemed to live his life alongside of her in mutual adoration. (Such a breath of relief as you read down at all of the other books I’ve read recently that offer a less than encouraging view of marriage.)
Whether you’re a widow, a widower, or just someone who loves their person and wants to read about another person who loved their person, this book was a sweet tribute of a man who loved his wife dearly, and his response to her article, which very much indicated that she loved him just as dearly.
Life-giving, even when surrounded by death.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
“You’d be amazed how little choice you have about loony bins.”
Hmmm… so this one didn’t exactly glorify adultery, but it sure did normalize it.
Honestly, this book was a hot mess. I dove into it, because I like Nora Ephron, and I LOVED When Harry Met Sally, but this one didn’t come close.
To me, so many of her characters are intriguing and likeable, and these characters just didn’t vibe with me. This is super unfortunate, because I’m pretty sure I’ve read before that the author based this off her own life.
With that said, it just makes me very sad for what is normalized in this secular, New York culture.
The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan
“There’s nothing the public loves more than to tear down someone who was once their idol.”
I read this one because it was compared to Dasiy Jones and the Six, and therefore, I was onboard. To an extent, I get the comparison.
They both have a pretty similar storyline and theme. This one may be a tad more heavy as it really dives into the dark chaos that can become of fame and fortune.
This book was interesting and heartbreaking. It kept me engaged, but it also disgusted me. Though this book is fiction, it is told in a way that helps you to grasp the sad reality behind every performance.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
“The lowest point of your life can lead to the highest.”
This was a breath of fresh air. Just a quick and easy read that kept me interested, laughing, and even hit me with the feels a couple times.
This is the perfect book to read by the pool over a long weekend. I loved and hated each of the characters for their own quirks and glimpses of humanity. They felt very real to me, even if the storyline itself was a bit of a stretch.
To top it all off—it’s also being made into a Hulu series, and if this series is half as funny as the book, I expect it to be solid, so if you’re like me and LOVE to watch the books that you read made into shows and movies, then add this one to your list.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
“Bitterness can be corrosive. It can rewrite your memories as if it were scrubbing a crime scene clean, until in the end you only remember what suits you of its causes.”
Re-read. This is my review from 2019. I still maintain everything I said then. LOVE this book.
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.
The Last Letter to Your Lover by JoJo Moyes
“If all we are allowed is hours, minutes, I want to be able to etch each of them on to my memory with exquisite clarity so that I can recall them at moments like this, when my very soul feels blackened.”
STOP GLORIFYING ADULTERY! Holy Moly, why is this a theme? Why are there enough books like this out there that this can be a theme? How did I blindly read two books in a row with this same dang message?
So… In case you didn’t catch this vibe, this is not my favorite JoJo Moyes book. The characterization was solid. The storyline was interesting enough, though it did drag a bit.
Mostly, she just caught me on a bad day, because I really am getting tired of the justification of cheating on your spouse simply because you don’t think they are your “soulmate.” Come to that realization before you bind yourself in marriage, dang it.
I’m tired of reading books by incredibly influential and popular writers that put these ideas in women’s heads that can potentially destroy marriages. No marriage is perfect. No man is perfect. Even your “soulmate,” the one that you leave your husband for, will piss you off one day.
I get it, book reviews are not the place for these rants. Look out for the blog in the future.
In terms of the book… If you value your marriage and do not want to be influenced into hating your spouse, maybe skip this one.
Side note, this book is being made into a Netflix movie, which is why I read it in the first place.
The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult
“When you lose someone you love, there is a tear in the fabric of the universe. It’s the scar you feel for, the flaw you can’t stop seeing. It’s the tender
place that won’t bear weight. It’s a void.”
Honestly, this one was not one of my favorite Picoult books. With that said, it’s still pretty stinking decent, as most of her books are.
I know I’m beating a dead horse with this one, but I am getting tired of the story line that glorifies adultery with the excuse that the person YOU MARRIED is not your soulmate, and therefore you should cheat on this person because someone else is your soulmate.
Spoiler? Not really… this book wrote this scenario in a way that suggest the cheater is actually a good and insightful person with just a little bit of regret that she deserves to pursue. Furthermore, and this is where I might be spoiling, I don’t know… EVERYTHING WORKS OUT FOR HER. It’s unrealistic, and cruel how this book is written in a way that suggests that everything will work out for you if you cheat on your spouse because someone else is your “soul mate.”
No… honestly, writing this review got me so annoyed and fired up, that I went back and took away another star on Goodreads. That’s how much I don’t like this narrative. I’m sick of it.
On another note, If you are super interested in the historic Egypt, this is the book for you. I, however, am only a little interested in Egypt, and therefore, I was a little overwhelmed by the fact trails this book would lead down, which ultimately pulled me away from the actual story I was trying to get through.
However, I will always applaud Picoult’s fierce research. Every time I read a book by her I assume she must be an expert on the subject. I am beginning to think that she is simply an expert.
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Frederik Backman
“I would rather be old than a grown-up. All grown-ups are angry, it’s just children and old people who laugh.”
I mean… do I even need to say it this time. I say it every single time I review one of his stories… BACKMAN IS A GENIUS. This book was lovely, and insightful, and heartbreaking, and every single thing that we look for in a Backman creation. I don’t know how Backman always nails that grandchild/grandparent relationship thing, but he does it just as masterfully in this one (even with significantly less words) as he did with My Grandmother Asked Me to Say She’s Sorry.
Fly Away by Kristin Hannah
“but sometimes one person can hold you up in life, keep you standing, and without that hand to hold, you can find yourself free-falling no matter how strong you used to be, no matter how hard you try to remain steady.”
This book wrapped up a couple loose ends, but there was not enough there to keep this dragging for 400 pages. The whole thing was a bizarre roller coaster. The points of view were interesting and exhausting. The characters, the same ones that were so endearing in the first novel, were super annoying this time around.
All in all, if you REALLY want to tie up those last few endings from the first book, go for it. If you’re doing okay without this closure, maybe skip it.
This was very much a sequel in every single way. The whole book seemed like a bit of a stretch to keep the last book going, but really, the last book didn’t necessarily need it.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
“Fear is smart until…” He headed for the door, paused as he reached for the knob. “Until what?” He looked back at her. “Until you realize you’re afraid of the wrong thing.”
Heavy. This book was pretty heavy. It’s the type to leave you a little exhausted at the end, but also with a better understanding of a whole period in history that you may have known very little about.
So speaking of that…hold up. Did anyone else know how bad things were in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and the rest of the dust bowl, while we were focused on the Great Depression? Yeah… well, kinda? No… not really?
Did anyone else know about the crazy conditions these people were forced into when they moved out west to California seeking better opportunity? Did anyone else know about the farmers who essentially forced labor on the desperate? About the formation of unions to combat this? About some insane conditions that were occurring at this dark time in history?
I mean, we all had that quick section during our seventh grade history class, but holy cow, to think these things happened in America less than a hundred years ago is baffling.
This book offers a very interesting glimpse at situations in our country that we tend to just gloss over really fast. I found a lot of benefit in diving into it.
Whiskey, Words & a Shovel by r.h. Sin
Keep in Mind-
Sometimes the devil promises us
a piece of heaven
disguises itself as light
be careful, be strong, be wise
I have found in recent months that in times when escaping into a novel seems too heavy, exhausting, a book of poetry can provide a sweet solace. This one was solid. It was gifted to me by a friend, and it was a gentle reminder of worth. The words were lovely and raw. The poems short, but moving.
If you are in a season of heavy, might I suggest putting away the tedious task of reading a long novel, and instead take baby steps into a book of gentle but meaningful poetry.
Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa Terkeurst
“Forgiveness is both a decision and a process.
You make the decision to forgive the facts of what happened.
But then you must also walk through the process of forgiveness for the impact those fcts have had on you.”
Forgiveness is a hard topic for me. It is a hard topic for most people. Hence why this book even exists. I think this book was beneficial because it kind of redefined the typical definition of forgiveness. It very much allowed that forgiveness can exists even where reconciliation might not. It suggests that you can forgive those who are not ready to receive, and you do this for you.
In this book Lysa takes you on her own journey of forgiving a lot of people for a lot of pain. She also wrestles with her anger at circumstance, and even frustration with God’s plan. It was all very relatable.
This was not just another “forgive your neighbor” book. It looked at the many different circumstances that exist with forgiveness and many different variable and barriers standing in the way.
In truth, all of us probably have someone in our life that we haven’t completely forgiven. Even if we rebuild that relationship, how quickly does the aftermath of the misconduct disrupt us again? I think everyone can benefit in some way from this impactful read.
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
“I will not misdirect or manipulate human beings…especially those human beings who love me enough to risk being misdirected or manipulated. I will not misdirect or manipulate myself…I will not say I am sorry when I am resentful. I will not give my blessings away. I will love myself enough to be honest when I fail at loving.”
I’m a huge fan of authors who are willing to share their own vulnerability to give me a glimpse of a world that I have never had to live, and therefore, will never understand. That is exactly what I got out of this book.
Laymon writes a memoir to his mother about his life. He writes about his struggle of being a large black kid in Mississippi. He writes about discrimination and rejection he faced both inside and outside of his community. He writes about his eating disorders and struggle to feel comfortable in his own body.
He writes about her. He writes about his childhood, the good and the bad. He writes about the pressure she put on him, and the growth she encouraged in him. He writes about how she shaped him through both her strengths and her flaws. It was a bold memoir to write to someone, to capture both your own and another person’s darkest parts. But he does, and he does it with elegance.
His broken heart writes with such beauty.
This book was both relatable, and far beyond anything I could ever relate to. It might rub you wrong at times, but I do encourage you to push through and to keep and open mind while doing so.
You’re Not Enough (and That’s Okay) by Allie Beth Stuckey
“While it’s true that we have experiences and trauma that shape us, these things don’t equate to moral truths. They just happened. And maybe they were significant, and maybe they taught us something. But in order to know whether these lessons we learned are truths worth building our lives on, we have to compare them to the standard of truth, God’s Word.”
Do you need a good reality slap in the face? If you said ‘yes,’ pick up this book. If you said know, then you probably need two slaps, so pick up this book AND follow this author on Instagram.
In all honesty, this book shared a lot of truth bombs, and addressed a lot of uncomfortable topics without any apology. I kind of ate it up, gave a lot of head nods, and laughed quite a bit. She had me hooked from the first sentence, “When I was seven, I explored the idea of following in Britney Spear’s footsteps.”
This book addresses the toxic atmosphere that can be found in the self-care culture when this adamant and affirmed refusal to be uncomfortable makes us lose our roots as a believer- to put others above yourself. It addresses that we begin to worship a God of Self over God, our own wants over kingdom sacrifice.
Besides the fact that I agreed pretty strongly with about 85% of this book, I think it was important to read more for the 15% that I might not have agreed with. She wrestles with a lot of ideas that people in modern culture will likely hard core reject. These are the types of books that we should probably all be reading. The ones that speak boldly, and passionately to a point that they makes us a little squirmy. I think this book was a perfect follow-up to Untamed, which I read earlier this year. The two books offer two different extreme views.
I think reading them both can help you find the middle where you you might land in some of these areas.
Moral of the story: read books that you agree with, BUT also read books that you disagree with. They can both impact you more than you may think.
by Christina Lauren
“She’s candy-sweet at the surface and probably terrible at communicating negative emotions. Meanwhile, I’m like a sour patch kid on the surface, but will happily detail all the ways I think the world is going to hell.”
This book is the chick-littiest chick lit you can find, and yet, me and my belly butterflies still ate it up.
I’m talking, everything you expect in a chick novel is right there for you. Beach vacation, nemesis fall in love, ex drama, twins, all of the above. If there’s a romance cliche, this book had it, but I’m not complaining.
This book, like a decent amount of my recent reads, falls under the “brain candy” sector. It’s is the perfect little life escape. A great vacation read!
Disclaimer- if you read this book while looking out your window at day 6 of snow on the ground like I did, you may also waste a decent amount of your day looking at island rentals that you really practically cannot travel to, and then be endlessly tortured by the ads that pop up every time you look at your phone. Just a warning.
By Kate Bowler
“What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, “You are limitless”? Everything is not possible. The mighty kingdom of God is not yet here. What if ‘rich’ did not have to mean ‘wealthy’, and ‘whole’ did not have to mean ‘healed’? What if being the people of “the gospel” meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough.”
When I first dived into this book, I didn’t expect to have to pull out and do a bit of research, but I did.
In all honesty, I chose this book because, in light of all recent events, I’m pretty bitter about the whole “everything happens for a reason” thought process, and considering this is the name of the book, I thought I would either love or hate what she had to say, but either way it would evoke something in me, which is always what I look for in my readings.
I was grabbed pretty quickly by both her witty banter and her train wreck of a life. I tend to be attracted to both of these qualities, once again, referencing back to my own circumstance.
This author has devoted her life and research to “the prosperity gospel” and this is referenced a lot. Despite growing up in pretty charismatic churches, I had never heard of this. I definitely recommend researching it just a little before diving into this book, just to add a little context, particular if you are newer to faith, or haven’t been exposed to too many charismatic ideologies.
Ultimately, this book was solid. I related to it in a variety of ways, and I really felt the magnitude of what this author went through, and continues to go through, even as much of the book was lightened in the way she shared heavy facts of life.
By Kristin Hannah
“That was what a best friend did: hold up a mirror and show you your heart.”
I like Kristin Hannah’s writing, I really do. This is the third book I’ve read of hers, and I have her new one on deck. Obviously, I’m a fan if I keep coming back.
With that said, I always feel like her books are about 100-150 pages longer than they really need to be. Her books typically push over the 400 page line, which is great, however, in her case, I think unnecessary. I think if she cut about 100 pages of this book it would have flowed much better, read much faster, and would not have really lost any important context.
However, I’m not her editor, and people keep buying her books, me included. So, I don’t have too much room to complain. Even at the higher page count, I flew through this book in three days, if that says anything.
It was really a sweet and complicated story about life and friendship. Both main characters were flawed and relatable, even in scenes where they were not particularly likable.
I’ve had this book unread on my shelf for over a year, and I honestly forgot about it. I decided to pick it up when I saw such good ratings for the new Netflix show based on it. So far, the show differs from the book a lot, but both are well made and well written. I’m glad I picked it up off my shelf and gave it a read.
by Anne Frank
“I’ve found that there is always some beauty left — in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you.”
Yes I, like you, did read this in high school. Yes, I do recommend going back to read it again. The fact that this girl is only 14 at the time of writing this is baffling. This is something you don’t recognize when you are a teenager yourself, but as a 26-year-old reading these words, it is so evident how Anne was wise beyond her years.
It is also fun to recognize the areas where she does act like a teenager, and really think back to her age. It gets so easy to make her older in our mind, and also to make her an angel. The facts are, she was only fourteen, and she had the angst and sass to back this up.
Overall, it is a totally different experience to read this book after high school, and it was a pleasant and heart-breaking surprise to find how much insight I gathered from the pain and unbearable circumstance of a teenager.
by Charlie Mackesy
“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said? asked the boy.
‘Help,’ said the horse.
‘Asking for help isn’t giving up,’ said the horse. ‘It’s refusing to give up.”
This book was gifted to me, and it was exactly what this soul needed. It was sweet, gentle, and heart-warming, all while being insightful for those of all ages.
This is another book that you can read in a single sitting. You can even read it to a child, and I think the words are poignant enough that everyone can gather something out of it.
So yeah, just a sweet, easy, beautiful, and quick, read. Give it a chance. You really have nothing to lose. I hope it warms your heart and grants you as much grace as it provided me.
by Fredrik Backman
“The only thing of value on Earth is time. One second will always be a second, there’s no negotiating with that.”
I will say this every time I finish anything that Fredrik Backman writes- he is simply a genius.
If you have an hour- it literally ONLY TAKES AN HOUR- add this insightful, painful, beautiful read to your mind’s sweet library.
There is nothing more I can even say besides read it… so Instead, I’ll leave you with another quote. Brilliant. Backman is brilliant.
“You’re not scared. You’re just grieving. No one tells you humans that your sorrow feels like fear.”
by Leesa Cross-Smith
“I hope you’ve heard it plenty of times before, but it’s okay to not be okay.”
This book was a bit… uncomfortable, and not really in the “sometimes you need to be uncomfortable” kind of way.
Yes, it handled uncomfortable, but important, topics- depression, suicide, etc. but that wasn’t what made it uncomfortable. The characters were both just a little weird and their interactions were very cringy to witness.
There were multiple times during this book where I kind of felt like I was eaves dropping on an awkward conversation that I wasn’t supposed to hear.
I didn’t really love either character, and it was honestly a pretty difficult book for me to finish, even with the shock ending. Just not one of my favorites.
by Glennon Doyle
“The truest, most beautiful life never promises to be an easy one. We need to let go of the lie that it’s supposed to be.”
I’m honestly pretty conflicted about this book. I’m usually one to judge a book by the writing more than whether or not I agree with the message. The writing in this book is a solid 4-4.5/5 stars. It is just really hard for me to push this book too intensely because I feel like the message is a little dangerous, as well as borderline blasphemy.
Anytime someone can make an allusion to the garden, to the literal moment that everything bad happened to the earth, and make a comment that if you’re in the garden you should dare to eat the apple… I can’t help but feel a little skeptical of the message.
So writing… good.
But hey, if you’re feeling bold, check it out for yourself. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
by Sophie Cousens
“Life is full of times you have to turn toward the storm, and life brings many storms. Sick children, parents dying, cancer, just the challenge of building a life together and not driving each other completely nuts. You need a man who’ll turn in to the storm with you when it comes.”
Refreshing. That’s the best word I can think about for this book.
In a season of heavy life and heavy reads that reflect that, I think everyone needs a book like this one to just relax and refresh a bit. Unlike most chick-lit, this book actually had a bit of depth to keep you deeper thinkers engaged. It just wasn’t quite as overwhelming as some other novels tend to be.
This was a cute romance, but without a lot of the cringe of most romances. It was a pretty cliche scenario, but it worked out to be a fun, quick, and cute read.
If you feel like you’ve been a bit bogged down by life, or even the heavy reads that you have been diving into, I definitely recommend feeding your mind a little bit of candy with this fun and heart warming read.
It’s Not Supposed to Be this Way :Finding Unexpected Strength when disappointments leave you shattered
by Lisa Terkeurst
“Humans are very attached to outcomes. We say we trust God but behind the scenes we work our fingers to the bone and our emotions into a tangled fray trying to control our outcomes. We praise God when our normal looks like what we thought it would. We question God when it doesn’t. And walk away from Him when we have a sinking suspicion that God is the one who set fire to the hope that was holding us together.”
But… actually. I have recently learned how frustrated I get whenever life doesn’t go my way, and this book helped me to navigate that. It was a solid reminder that we aren’t in control, and though that is unbelievably frustrating, that’s actually a good thing.
Whether your life is a dumpster fire or a field of flowers right now, I guarantee that you will be able to get something positive from Lisa’s words and experiences. The fact is, we all hit these hard seasons eventually. Sometimes, it helps to spend a little time hearing about how someone navigated their losing season so that we might have a little more insight whenever we enter our own.