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: January 2021

Happy new year of reading! I promised to read 45 books this year and, I’m already 6 down (hehe)! My love for reading clearly hasn’t ceased and I have fully recovered from my end of 2020 reading burnout. I have 5 books ready for pick up at the library and I cannot wait to get them this week! In the meantime, here are quick reviews of the 6 books I read in January.

It feels like ages since I read Whisper Man; a thriller based in a small town where a serial killer is preying on local children, a dad and his son move into a new home unaware of the local happenings. There are a few twists I didn’t see coming and this book literally kept me on my toes as we made our way through the investigation, and inevitable occurrence of the son becoming prey and hearing the whispers of the whisper man. This book was a solid story and wrapped up nicely.

The House in the Cerulean Sea was big far my most favorite book of the month. It made my heart burst at its seams. Linus is a case worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth that reviews cases of magical youth in orphanages. He is selected for a special mission to evaluate an orphanage with very special magical youths and little does he know, it’s an assignment that will change his life and bring him home (this was truly the part of the story that melted my heart). It really a wonderful story that you need to read ASAP.

The Girl in the Mirror was a meh book in regards to plot, but the end twist left me SHOOK. I’m still trying to find someone to discuss this with because I just can’t get past it. It’s a story of identical twin sisters in a race to get their inheritance. During a boating trip, one twin gets lost at sea and the other assumes her identity. I personally thought the premise for them getting the inheritance was weird and random as hell? I can’t decide if I’m recommending you read this, but it is a quick read and the twist is 100% something you won’t see coming.

Of course, after watching the show, I had to dive into the Bridgerton book series. I started, of course, with the The Duke and I, and can I just say, I think I like the show better? The book on it’s own is good; however, after watching the show, the book left me wanting so much more. The book focuses only on Daphne and Simon’s love story which is pretty wonderful, but I missed the plots of the other characters as well. I guess, all the siblings get a book, so I’ll have to keep reading!

The Last Story of Mina Lee was…okay? The book tells the story of Margot and her mother, Mina Lee, whom Margot finds dead in Mina’s apartment upon returning home around Christmas. Margot then searches for information about her Korean immigrant mother and discovers a woman she never got to know. I say this book is okay, because there was a bit of an investigation/suspense plot that I found odd? It felt forced and unrealistic? I loved the story of Mina, and all the struggles she had to overcome, or never did overcome from being a Korean immigrant in the US. I honestly would have taken a whole book just about Mina’s life, save the murder mystery plot that was less than desirable.

The Viscount Who Loved Me (#2 in Bridgerton series) was cute? Again, I wish more of the ton was featured in the book, but as Anthony is my least favorite Bridgerton, I assumed I would hate the book and I nearly did, but his love story ended up being cute. Even though his character has quite the anger issue, his devotion for the woman he marries is quite sweet. On to Benedict!

The Whisper Man by Alex North

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn

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

Let’s Go, 2021.

2020 has finally come to an end, whew. I was not one of the folks who was desperately waiting for 2020 to end, excited for something to magically change on January 1, 2021 about our current predicament in the world. But, that being said, I am happy to leave 2020 in the past and looking forward to vaccines, possibly traveling to see family more often, and not caring about what the government is doing on a daily basis…simple things really. I feel like 2021 will be a year of relaxing and getting life back in order; I am not expecting big things until 2022. And by big things I mean traveling and paying off my student loans.

Here are my goals for 2021:

  1. Be smart with finances. I am trying to pay off my student loans by the end of 2022 (3 years ahead of schedule) so I really need to be smart with my finances and make smart money moves over this year and the next. I also kind of want to get a Peloton once we move into a larger apartment, so I’m thinking about saving a bit to get one by the end of 2021. But we’ll see, debt first.
  2. Keep reading. I’m not setting a goal of 60 books again this year, as I got burned out this year by December and it wasn’t enjoyable to read any more. I’m cutting back to 40; I hope to read some series and longer length books I was unable to read in 2020 since I was sprinting to hit my 60 reads mark. I do really enjoy reading and want to keep that in my routine.
  3. Have a better relationship with LA. I lived in LA for 6 months before COVID happened and once that hit, I was unable to do anything, so I don’t have a best relationship with LA/California. I really want to take more time to go to the beach and read or walk. I also want to explore more of the parks/trails, and try some more cultural restaurants that I won’t be able to eat once I move back to the midwest.
  4. Take trips. Kind of in tandem with the above, but it’s so easy to access hundreds of small coastal towns, national parks and interesting places from southern CA. We have friends in Denver, so hoping to visit them, possibly visit a friend in SF, as well, and possibly a glamping trip in the mountains with my best friend. Will any of this happen in 2021? Who knows, I’m keeping expectations low this year, but overall, just want to leave my apartment more in 2021, even if it’s a day trip to Santa Barbara.
  5. Buy 30 clothing pieces, only. Seriously, I want to keep track of my clothing purchases and only buy 30 pieces total. I’ll write more about this in a post later, but I bought way too much this year and I want to cut back in 2021.
  6. Try new things. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone, take a baking or tennis class, try boxing, or try a new food. Not about to go sky diving but small things I can do to push myself in 2021.

What are your goals for 2021? Or after 2020, have you learned to not focus on goals/intentions and just let what will happen, happen?

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: 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