Books of the Month: April 2021

I had a slower reading month; I actually started two additional books this month but did not finish so I wasn’t able to get through as many as I have stacked next to my bed. I include blurbs about each at the end of this post, just for reference of why I stopped reading each. Both left me wanting more and I couldn’t ignore the heap of books that I knew would be more intriguing. So in an effort of self care I moved on and honestly don’t regret it. That being said, here are the books I did finish this month:

The Poppy War was a surprise for me; a coworker recommended it and to be honest, it’s not one I would have personally chosen to read, but I’m happy I did. In book one of a trilogy, Rin, a war orphan peasant, has landed herself in one of the most prestigious military academies in her land. While there, she learns the art of war, but also the art of shamanism. When war does break out, Rin must fight for her people and decide whether or not to work with her gods, even if it means total destruction. I really enjoyed this book and its strong female lead. The first chunk of the story was a lot of world building and slower to get through, but once war broke out, the story really took off. I can’t wait to read the next book in the trilogy!

Honey Girl was another surprise, I was expecting a romance and got a coming of age story that was really nice. Grace Porter has been following her plan for 11 years, strenuously working to get her doctorate in astronomy. Once she has her degree, she struggles with getting a job because of who she is, so she decides to run away… to find the girl she married in Vegas on a drunken night weeks before. It’s sweet and really hit a chord, I also remember being done with school and feeling this large emptiness and not knowing how to define myself. I wish I had turned to therapy during that time. Very cute and quick read!

The Lost Apothecary was good but I feel a smidge let down by the book? I initially heard about it from someone who hyped it up A LOT so I went into it with really high hopes; not to say it wasn’t a good story, but I just want to set that stage before I continue. The story was about a woman who uses her late mother’s apothecary to help other women kill men, for lack of a better description? I loved the story of women supporting women and the present day story woven in that had a modern scorned woman on a hunt to uncover the lost apothecary. It was a fun read and I didn’t see some of the twists coming?

The Four Winds was phenomenal. I’ve always loved Kristin Hannah’s stories; she has a wonderful way of weaving a beautiful story with rich characters together to make a great book. The Four Winds is about a Texas family during the Great Depression/Dust Bowl, who decide to migrate to California to save themselves. When they get there, they only find discrimination and unfair jobs. It made me sad to think that America has always been routed in capitalism and the fear of outsiders? I feel like you could change the characters to Asian or Mexican and set it in the present day and the major themes would still be present, which was something I kept thinking about as I progressed through the family’s time in California. A must read!

Beach Read was talented brilliant incredible amazing show stopping, please read this book ASAP. January, a heart broken and uninspired author, moves to her late father’s beach house for the summer while she writes her next novel. She starts a friendly bet with the author next door that eventually spirals into something more. It’s a classic rom com that mocks rom coms and happily ever afters throughout the story, but I really felt these characters had actual depth to them. It made me want to write a book? Also, the books they each wrote over the summer, where can I read them? They sound really good? Finally, if you need any other excuse to read this book, it’s full of Taylor Swift references, particularly the ‘You Belong with Me’ writing messages on notebooks for hot neighbor across the way, so.

The end KILLED MEH.

The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R.F. Kuang

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Beach Read by Emily Henry

If I had to recommend one book, and this is really hard, I would say The Four Winds but if you can’t handle a heavy book right now, or you’re a Swiftie like me, pick up Beach Read!

What did you read this month?

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Books I Wanted to Like and Started to Read but Didn’t Finish: April 2021

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I’ve been wanting to reread books we were forced to “read” in high school (aka sparknote) and I realized I wasn’t actually forced to read East of Eden but it sounded really good. It’s rated highly on good reads and I thought, ‘let’s do it!’ …but I found that Steinbeck’s writing still puts me to sleep after all these years. I couldn’t do it, and instead of forcing myself, I said ‘Goodbye John’ and moved on. Maybe another time.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I know somewhere, someone just flipped their computer off a table. I KNOW. I’ve had multiple people tell me Good Omens was an awesome book. I have seen the show and loved it (shoutout to Michael Sheen and David Tennant, also Jon Hamm) so I expected to love the book. I got about halfway through and just… couldn’t? I don’t know if it was the lack of chapter division? Or lack of Crawley and Aziraphale characters that are very prominent in the show? I could only read like 3-4 pages and I would call it a night. Seriously you guys, I spent like 10 days (1/3 of the month) trying to chug through this book and I only made it to when Armageddon starts happening. I decided to stop as there were other books I knew I would enjoy more. End of story, you can hate me if you want, but I stand by this.

Books of the Month: March 2021

Whew, I read 8 books last month! Let’s see if I can remember them all….

This Close to Okay was okay? It was a very well written story about Tallie, a therapist, and a man she stops from jumping off the side of a bridge on night. The two eventually build a connection together over a rainy weekend, but I felt like the ending fell a bit flat? I don’t know, the end made me smile but it wasn’t what I was expecting to happen? Curious if others have thoughts on this one…

You’re the Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion should be required reading for literally everyone. This book details very real stories of real people who’ve had abortions in America, written by a abortion clinic doctor. It really breaks down each situation and the reasoning for the person having the abortion, as well as how the laws affected that situation, based on the state the person was living in, or had to travel to in order to have the abortion. Before reading it, I always said I was pro-choice, but I could never have an abortion myself; after reading it, I can no longer say for certain that in every situation, I would never have one. Abortion isn’t black and white, and the laws preventing it disportionately affect those of color and low income. It’s a really great book to read if you want to educate yourself more on this topic that shouldn’t even be a partisan issue.

What Kind of Woman was a beautiful book of poems. I loved Part 1 the most; ‘Moon Song’ and ‘To Take Back a Life’ were probably my favorites? Kate fully captured all the different facets of being a woman, from being a mother to a wife to single woman. I feel like I will come back to this book throughout my life and take different things from it each time.

Girl A had a good story, about a girl who was held hostage and abused by her parents, and eventually escaped, freeing herself and her siblings. The story jumps back and forth in time, from the past to the present, when the mom dies and the girl has to reconnect with her siblings as adults. It was a good story, I saw the twist coming, the end.

An Offer From a Gentlemen/Romancing Mister Bridgerton were books 3 and 4 in the Bridgerton series and, in my opinion, these books are getting worse and worse as they go on. These books were the love stories of Benedict and Collin respectively, and each man is kind of an asshole to their respective partners? They have horrible tempers (which is passed off as a ‘quirky/cute’ Bridgerton trait) and treat their loves with no respect while claiming they’re ‘protecting’ the women. Benedict basically kidnaps a woman and forces her to be his mistress, while Collin acts like a jealous child around angel of the whole series, Penelope, and is constantly calling out the fact that even he’s surprised he fell in love with her. I am no longer reading any more of these; overall would not recommend the series…

The Marriage Game was cute but I don’t remember much of it? It would be good to read on the beach. Layla has returned home after another bad breakup and failed career path; she goes on blind dates her dad has found for her online (they’re Indian, he’s trying to modern day arrange a marriage for her), but due to her dad’s heart attack, the dates are chaperoned by her hottie office partner and eventually, they fall in love. He’s kind of a dick to her, tbh? IMO she could have done better, but maybe I was just still salty after reading the Bridgertons

Calling Me Home tore at my heart strings. Isabelle, a 90 year old woman, asks her hair dresser/friend, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral all the way in Cincinnati from Texas. Along the journey, Dorrie hears the story of Isabelle’s life, specifically about when she fell in love as a teen with a black man during WW2, when Jim Crow laws were raging in America. It was beautiful and sweet love story and I would definitely recommend reading.

This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith

You’re the Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion by Meera Shah

What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer

Girl A by Abigail Dean

An Offer From a Gentleman (Bridgertons #3) by Julia Quinn

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai

Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Bridgertons #4) by Julia Quinn

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

If you read anything from this list, read You’re the Only One I’ve Told, and whatever you do, DO NOT read the Bridgerton novels. What did you read last month?

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Books of the Month: February 2021

Another four books for the month of February! I want everyone to know that two of the books I read this month feature cultures with arranged marriages, and for two weeks, I kept having dreams that my parents had arranged a marriage for me to random guys from my past and I had to return to PA to get hitched. It was SO weird and I kept waking up feeling angry and uncomfortable, but as a result, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the right and wrong of cultures/religions based in patriarchal origins where women aren’t deemed as worthy which angers me as a feminist, but also forces me to respect a religion’s doctrine regardless? I don’t know, I’m on the fence, any opinions welcomed….anyway, back to why we’re here…I decided to take it slow this month and not speed through my books, but rather enjoy the stories I read. I feel like that’s why these reviews ramble on a bit more than normal? I had a lot more thoughts about these books and I credit that to take about a week to read each, versus blowing through them in a few days.

With that being said, here’s what I read this month:

Followers was…good? There were kind of two plots going on, one plot that was really interesting conceptually, and one that felt reminiscent of a Freeform TV show (read: semi boring, sub par acting, but I would definitely watch it on Friday night while drinking wine and eventually fall asleep and not remember much of it the next day). The book toggles back and forth in time between present day and 2050, and goes into depth exploring how our present society values ‘celebrity’ and ‘social media’ and how that eventually results in a nationwide electrical shut down where everyone’s secrets are spilled and the society moves towards a government controlled internet. If you couldn’t tell, this was the part of the narrative that was really interesting to me, because if you told me this would all happen tomorrow, I wouldn’t be surprised? It felt very thought out and was the reason I kept reading this book, if I’m being honest. The main (Freeform-y) plot in the present day was about two girls, one in a Buzzfeed type job, the other an up and coming instagram influencer; together they plot the influencer’s rise to fame and then deal with the resulting outcome of their choices. The plot in 2050 was about how society has worsened thanks to the new internet and how people are seemingly more obsessed with social media and celebrity. The two timelines are connected. Next.

The Island of Sea Women was phenomenal. I am definitely biased because it’s historical fiction and you all know how I feel about historical fiction, but regardless, I do feel that it’s a well written book with well rounded characters and plot. It was also fascinating because it was about a part of history that I was honestly unaware of, so I learned some things along the way as well. The story was about the haenyeo women on Jeju island off the coast of South Korea; haenyeo women are sea diving women who come from a matriarchal society where the haenyeo are the breadwinners and the men stay home with the children (side note, why isn’t more fiction based in matriarchal societies? Even the patriarchy wins out in our fictional worlds? Bleh, on a feminist rant since it’s International Women’s month now). Overall, the story follows two girls has they grow up and become women during the time of Japanese colonialism in Korea, followed by American occupation and the fight against communism, all the way up to present day. It touches on friendship, loss and duty to family. In my opinion, add this to your TBR pile!

A Place for Us was a beautiful story about a Muslim Indian-American family, told from the perspectives of the mom, oldest daughter, youngest son, and dad. The author chose not to write from the second daughter’s perspective, which for some reason, has stuck with me. Why leave only her voice out of the family of five, and if not including her voice, why even have her character in the story at all? She always sort of felt like an afterthought to me and wasn’t part of the major plot, but I guess her presence was needed to separate the children to strengthen the story of the friendship between the sisters, forcing the son to be a lonely outlier. Anyway! A quick summary would be that it’s a story about the way parents pass on (force?) culture and religion to their children, and how children in turn, try to balance that with coming into their own persons. It touched on duties as children, duties as parents, loss, addiction, and love. It ended and I was weeping. Add to your TBR pile.

The Office of Historical Corrections was a series of novellas and short stories, and to be quite frank, I’m not recalling what the difference between the two is, maybe something about length? Regardless, I loved every single story in this book. Each one was better than the last, ending with a longer story (novella?) that strongly reminded me of The Vanishing Half. Most touch on race, but the author also touches on love and grief. I think my favorite was “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain”? I wish that story could have been a full length book, digging more into the characters and backstory, as well as what the future held for Rena and Dori. Very quick read, would also add to your TBR pile.

Overall, it was a good book month with only one book that I would pass on. If I had to choose one to recommend, I would chose The Island of Sea Women.

Followers by Megan Angelo

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

What have you been reading? I’m finally starting This Close to Okay, and You’re the Only One I’ve Told is ready for pick up at the library. Heading into March with determination to get through my ever growing TBR pile.

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Books of the Month: December 2020

December was rough. After reading 55 books for the last 11 months, I was pretty burned out and almost gave up for the month; I did not start reading until 12/7 when I decided I should at least try, and several friends recommended some quick reads. I made it to my goal of 60 which was incredibly exciting…and I’ll never do that again! Here are my December reads:

The Queen’s Gambit was….alright. I watched the show twice and was obsessed, but I felt the book didn’t measure up? I felt the characters had more of a story arc within the show, and in the book the characters, especially Beth, fell a little flat. Had I read the book before watching the show, I would have enjoyed it, I think. I still smiled with a warm feeling when the book ended, so was still worth it. For those who haven’t seen the show, “The Queen’s Gambit” is about a young prodigy’s rise to fame in the chess world; would recommend the show over the book.

Girls on Fire was a very good thriller story? It was easy to piece together what happened, but essentially it’s a story about a mouse-y teen and the angst-y friend she makes at school that leads her down some interesting paths. It begs the question, can anyone make you do something or are all your actions of your own will?

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self Love was fantastic, even for those unfamiliar with “Queer Eye.” It made me laugh out loud, many times, but it also made me break down and cry. JVN regales the tales of life, basically from birth to present day, and that queen went through it, multiple times. Like how JVN came out on the other side as this self assured and badass queen, like I can’t even fathom after hearing this journey. This needs to be listened to on audiobook so JVN can tell you the story, I don’t see any other way to read this.

The Midnight Library was a delightful story, well sort of. The main character decides to take her own life and ends up in a library full of books that tell the stories of her parallel lives she could have had. I really liked the theme of the book and how Nora learns to love her current life, even though it’s not “perfect” or how other people wanted her to live.

Transcendent Kingdom was a quick read and a good story, about a Ghanaian family and their trials through separation, addiction and grief. It touches a lot on the tug of war between science and faith. I would really like to read Gyasi’s first book, Homecoming, as I quite enjoyed her writing style.

The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

I did manage to read 60 books by the end of 2020 (huzzah!). I think my favorite book this month might have been The Midnight Library, or Over the Top, honestly would recommend both! As for 2021, I’m setting my goal at 45 books, although after watching Bridgerton, I guess I have at least 9 books on my to be read list…

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Books of the Month: October 2020

Holy moley, it’s November! Clocking in at 50 books, I’m only 10 (TEN!) away from 60 and around 60 days to finish (lol 60 days til this year is OVER, whew). I’m pretty sure I can do this, thank you for all supporting me along the way. Feel free to send me book suggestions, I’m open to all genres! Here are the books I read this month:

Unmarriageable was a retelling of Pride & Prejudice set in Pakistan. I enjoyed it, mostly because I love P&P, but also it was interesting to learn about the Pakistani culture AND loved how Alys (Elizabeth Bennett) was a strong feminist and tried to teach her students to see their options beyond getting married and being a housewife. Would recommend if you’re into P&P!

Clap When You Land was another story by the same author as Poet X. I love how she tells the story through poetry; this one was about 2 girls with the same father who don’t know of the other’s existence; one lives in NYC and one lives in the DR. When their father dies, they learn of each other and their stories entwine. Very quick read!

Wild Game was… wild. Set in Cape Cod, a young girl is let in on her mother’s secret, she’s having an affair with her step-father’s best friend. This true story told over decades of time, discusses the effects of lying and secrets and how they impacted the girl for most of her life. It also touches on the mother and daughter’s relationship which was an essential theme for the girl in understanding herself and her mother.

Daisy Jones and the Six was really good, I think I mostly liked it because of the interview style format the book was set up in? Made it a quick read with interesting storylines. Another good one by Taylor Jenkins Reid about a band’s formation, rise in the music scene, and swift downfall.

Praying For Emily was a beautiful story of the first child to receive an experimental T cell treatment that cured her leukemia. It’s a story of both science and faith that helped Emily survive. The Whiteheads are actually distant family of mine here in Pennsylvania, and I followed Emily’s journey on her mom’s blog/Facebook back in 2012 when it was happening. It’s so amazing to read about her journey and a large collective group across the world was praying for her to survive. Get some tissues if you read this one.

Summer of ’69 was a good beach read (not that I read it on the beach, but rather in an airport). A story about an American family during the summer of ’69, with their son off to serve in the Vietnam war. Would recommend if you need a quick, good story.

Unmarriageable: A Novel by Soniah Kamal

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Praying for Emily: The Faith, Science, and Miracles that Saved Our Daughter by Emily Whitehead, Kari Whitehead, and Tom Whitehead

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

I’m currently reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab that I got for my October Book of the Month club pick. It’s really good so far, can’t wait to share more about it!

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

P.s. Seriously, drop book recs in the comments…

Books of the Month: June 2020

Wow, SIX months of reading and I am SO close to my goal for the entire YEAR (My goal was 30 books total and I’m already at 28). I did not think I read as much this month, as I was taking 2 online courses that were job related but I guess I did read 5 books which is still on par. I cheated though, some of these were very quick reads! I am proud of all I accomplished this month in my life, since I stopped using social media for the month.

Godshot was a very heavy book that took me longer than expected to finish; set in a small California town going through a drought, this book details the coming of age story of Lacey May. It deals with a religious cult leader, female friendships, family and motherhood.

The Guest List was a classic ‘Who Done It’ murder involving a wedding party and the guests during a wedding set on an eerie island in off the coast Ireland. Interesting read, but I wouldn’t rush out to buy it.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird was a sweet book; Josie Silver stole my heart with One Day in December, and this one was no different. Lydia’s fiance, Freddie, dies in a freak accident and while she grieves his death, she finds a parallel life in her sleep where Freddie is still alive. A good option if you need a quick feel good.

Normal People was…okay? I’m not sure why there is so much hype around this book. It was good, but definitely not my favorite. No one in my book club liked it either, so I would say to pass on this if you’ve been thinking about it (I’m going to watch the Hulu show, I’ll keep you posted how it compares).

The Garden of Small Beginnings was a favorite. Years after Lili’s husband suddenly passes, she is starting to feel a sense of normalcy with her two kids, but she has to attend a gardening class for her job and everything turns upside down. There are also gardening tips throughout the book in between chapters, which are so cute. If you haven’t read Abbi Waxman (I also read Bookish Life of Nina Hill in April), I would really recommend!

Godshot: A Novel by Chelsea Bieker
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Overall for this month, I would recommend that you read The Garden of Small Beginnings, without a doubt, but if you can handle a heavier topic book, check out Godshot as well!
Next month, I’m planning to read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and The Last Flight by Julie Clark. Feel free to join me reading either if you can, would love to hear your thoughts!
Sincerely,
Sara Ann
*I have linked all books through a local LA bookstore, Eso Won Books, that is black and veteran owned. I believe they ship nationwide, but I would encourage you to research black owned bookstores in your area to purchase