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: November 2020

One more month left of 2020 and 5 more books to read. I feel like the books of this month were all about discovering your inner voice and following your own path? I liked most of these books this month, I don’t think you could go wrong with reading any of them!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was such a great story. It was a unique tale about Addie selling her soul to live forever, the only consequence being that no one can remember her. I loved it so much; however, I am a big historical fiction fan and I feel like the author could have delved more into the story of Addie doing exciting things, like being a spy in WWII, versus just mentioning it in passing? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the author probably didn’t want to spend time researching history? Regardless, still would recommend the book!

A Woman is No Man might have been my favorite book of this month? It was a story about 3 generations of women within an Palestinian- American family and how their desires are quelled by their culture. I’ve seen some backlash on this book as it portrays a commonality of domestic abuse within Arab culture; this is a culture I am unfamiliar with personally, so I’m not sure, but as someone unfamiliar with Arab culture, it did give me the impression of domestic abuse being common? Just something to keep in mind . The central theme of the story is about women finding their voices, and finding the courage to follow that voice which I love!

The Star Crossed Sisters of Tuscany was a cute story about a family whose second born daughters have been cursed from finding love. A woman, her cousin and aunt set off for Italy to break the curse, uncovering family secrets along the way. It’s very much a story about learning to listen to your own heart and following your heart for your own path. Would be a cute Hallmark movie!

This Time Next Year was another cute, would be Hallmark movie. Minnie and Quinn were both born on New Year’s Day in the same hospital. They meet as adults and through flashbacks discover their paths have been intertwined their whole lives. Another story about learning to listen to your own heart and following your heart for your own path. Very cute, very fluff, quick read!

Anxious People was another knock out by Fredrik Backman, who also wrote, A Man Called Ove. This was another heartwarming story, this time about idiots. And a bank robbery turned hostage situation. Backman has this really unique ability to write about honesty of the human condition? It makes his books highly relatable and enjoyable, at least in my opinion.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

A Woman Is No Man: A Novel by Etaf Rum

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Overall, I would recommend Anxious People or A Woman is No Man from this month’s pile!

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: September 2020

Yinz, how is it almost OCTOBER? I really can’t handle how fast this year is slipping by, is it just me? I’ve managed to read 44 books, which is still insane to me, having initially set my reading goal at 30 books for the entire year. Can I make it to 60? We’ll see! Here are the books I read this month:

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was…okay? I had heard from several people that it was a good read, but it did not do that much for me. It was slow to read and the story was…okay? It was about a New York man who becomes wrapped up in the lives of many people in Savannah, GA, one of whom ends up on trial for murder. I was expecting some shocking twist, but nothing ever came. Would pass.

I Was Told It Would Get Easier was another home run from Abbi Waxman. This book made me want to hug my mom. It’s about a relationship between a forty something mom and her teenage daughter, as they go on a college tour trip on the east coast. I really liked that one of the main tones was that college isn’t for everyone, and it’s a rat race to get into a good college, followed by a rat race to make money until you die, which is SO TRUE and no one talks about it.

A Man Called Ove made my heart burst with joy and tears. It’s really a roller coaster of emotions, but Ove reminded me of my grandfather, a man a few words and fewer emotions. It also makes you think about how you don’t know what other people around you are truly going through and not to judge a book by it’s cover (not literally here). Would recommend ASAP.

Parable of the Sower, was OOF. Octavia Butler kills it again. A dystopian novel about 2024-2027, written in 1993, the United States are divided, climate change is mostly to cause, and it’s everyone for themselves. Water is scarce, and costs more per gallon than gasoline. Lauren, the main character, is trying to survive and make her way to safety she hopes to find in the north. It’s a crazy tale, but I could see it becoming a reality if we continue to ignore climate change and its effects on our world. It was a slow read, but worthwhile.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was a ugly and wonderful novel. Wavy is a young girl when she befriends Kellen, one of her father’s (adult) drug thugs. They grow close and as she gets older, they become more than friends. It made me uncomfortable since it skittered around pedophilia, but the way the story was written made me root for Wavy and Kellan’s relationship. I think, while the nature of their relationship, was, er, unconventional, they really cared for one another, and Kellan tried hard to not cross any lines until Wavy was of age.

If I had to tell you to read one book from this month, it would be A Man Called Ove. It was a wonderful story about people and connecting and made me laugh and cry. Absolute gem. I’m currently reading Pachinko, and hope to read Anxious People and A Woman is No Man in October. What are you reading?

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Sincerely,

Sara Ann