Reading List: August 2018 – December 2018

marriage vacation review, the good liar review, to all the boys ive loved before review, social creature review

Marriage Vacation

I’m a fan of Younger. I think it’s a super charming show, I think that Sutton Foster is amazing, and I love that it’s set in the publishing world. So, the backstory behind this book is that it was a fictional book being published on the show. But then, in a brilliant marketing move, they hired a ghost writer and published the book IRL. As a fan of the show, I felt like I had to pick this up!

It’s about a woman named Kate, a stay-at-home mom, who’s feeling stuck and unfulfilled in her daily life. She books an impromptu vacation to Thailand in order to recharge and reset, but she doesn’t tell her husband until after she’s on the plane. She keeps extending what was supposed to be a brief vacation, and before she knows it, she’s been away from her family for a full year. When she finally decides to go back, she has no idea if she’ll be welcomed back or if her marriage is still alive.

The book mostly describes Kate’s life: how she used to be a writer, how she met her husband, and how they got married and had kids. The author shows us how Pauline ended taking a vacation from her family, even though she didn’t initially intend to. It paints a pretty sympathetic picture of Kate, but the whole time, I kept thinking that it’s one thing to abandon your husband, but it’s an entirely different thing to abandon your kids for a whole year. The kids, that’s the part that I couldn’t get over.

Kate is also very privileged, and while she acknowledges her privilege, there are still certain things that she says and does that make her sound very entitled.

It turns out that it was written by Jo Piazza and I do enjoy her writing. It’s engaging and accessible. Considering this as a standalone novel, I’m not sure if it’s strong enough to recommend. The story was a bit lacking and I was hoping the author would delve a bit deeper into Kate’s motivations. I didn’t think that I gained much insight on Kate that I hadn’t already gleaned from the show. However, I think other Younger fans like me will probably enjoy this. It was fun to see the book brought to life and to catch references to characters in the show.

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Good Liar

I always keep a close eye on Grace’s monthly book posts and this one sounded really intriguing to me. When I picked up a copy, I discovered that it was published by Lake Union, which is a subsidiary of Amazon. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book published by Amazon before.

In Chicago, one tragic day changes the course of three women’s lives forever. Our main characters are Cecily, Kate, and Franny, and the novel alternates between each of their perspectives. As the story unfolds, we begin to see how each of these woman is connected, and how the incident had drastic effects on their lives.

It was interesting to get to know these women. I think I felt the most connected to Cecily because I felt I would have reacted somewhat similarly if I were in her shoes. I also liked the relationship between Cecily and her kids, which felt very sweet and genuine.

I enjoyed the writing and the characters, but I think the plot was the strongest part of the book. The author revealed certain things bit by bit, like she was peeling back the layers of an onion, which constantly left me wanting to know more.

In this book, the author explores what motivates and drives people. Do people always have a reason or a justification for their actions? It’s a tricky question, but in this book, I believe the conclusion is that you can’t always know or fully understand a person’s motive.

There was one strange scene that left me questioning why it was included in the book. There were also a few moments that required a suspension of belief, but overall, this was a solid mystery read.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

If I’d known that this book would be this cute and heartwarming and adorable, I would have read it a long time ago! When the Netflix adaptation came out a couple weeks ago and everyone was buzzing about it, I had major fomo. So I went out and picked up a copy and read it in a few days.

Our narrator, Lara Jean, is the middle of three sisters. Her mom died when she was younger, so her older sister, Margot, became the de facto mom and looked after Lara Jean and her younger sister, Kitty.

Lara Jean is a romantic at heart and she’s formed a tradition of writing love letters to all the boys she’s ever loved. She uses the letters as a therapeutic way to pour out all her thoughts and feelings about these boys. No one else is ever supposed to see these letters, but one day, they somehow get mailed out to all the boys.

First of all, I would be absolutely mortified if I was Lara Jean in that situation. Imagine pouring out all of these private thoughts that one day become (somewhat) public?? Ack!!! Just thinking about it gives me anxiety. And she’s a teenager too. I feel like a catastrophe of that level would have been enough to finish me when I was that age! Ok, ok, I’m being dramatic, but the point is, what a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad situation to be in.

While I was reading this book, I just fell in love with the Song sisters and their whole family dynamic. Their dad sounds like such a good dad, and you know it’s not easy being a single dad raising three daughters on your own. You could just tell that there’s a lot of love in this family, which is so sweet.

The book is narrated by Lara Jean and one thing that bothered me was that I thought her voice sounded very young. She’s supposed to be about 16, but sounded more like she was 12 or 13. She’s also a bit dramatic in the way that teens tend to be, when they think every little incident is the end of the world. I couldn’t fault her too much for that though, because I remember what it was like to be that age.

Look, I’m a romantic too, so I love a love story. And I don’t mind a love triangle if it’s done well. Lara Jean is torn between Josh, the boy next door, and Peter, the secretly sensitive high school jock. Lara Jean has a really cute friendship with Josh since they were friends before she started developing feelings for him. Peter’s a bit full of himself, but also has a great heart underneath all the bravado. I have to say that I’m team Peter on this one. I’m a sucker for that type of character!

But this is not just a love story. Family plays a very important role in Lara Jean’s life. She cares what they think about her. She really values her family’s opinion, particular Margot’s, and she doesn’t want to let anyone down. I enjoyed how food was an important part of their family and of retaining their Korean heritage. And that’s another thing that I loved- that our main character was a mixed-race, Korean-American teenager.

In this novel, her Korean background is part of who Lara Jean is, but it’s not the only part. She’s a rich and nuanced character, and it’s a treat to have a well-rounded person of color as the protagonist.

This book had the depth that I feel like YA novels sometimes lack. It was such a delightful read and I was in such a good mood by the time I finished it (except for the fact that it ended and I need to know what happens next in Lara Jean’s life!). I do regret not immediately picking up the other two books in the trilogy when I bought the first because now my usual bookstores have been sold out of those books for the last week. I will eventually get my hands on the next book though, and I cannot wait to watch the Netflix movie.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Social Creature

Set in New York City, this novel follows Louise and Lavinia, two young women who form a fast and intense friendship. Lavinia’s life is full of glamorous parties, beautiful clothes, and swanky events, while Louise’s is the opposite. When Louise meets Lavinia, she’s desperate to become a part of that world, and will go to great lengths to hold on to her new lifestyle.

This book wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I did feel like the first half was a bit slow, and then the tension ramps up quite a bit in the second half. In terms of the characters, I thought Louise was well-formed, but Lavinia was rather insufferable. That trait does fit in with her character, but she did seem more like a caricature, rather than a real person. Louise as a twenty-something felt more realistic. I think many of us can relate to struggling to make ends meet and wanting to make something of your life, but not knowing how to.

Social media has a big presence in this book, as the author draws contrasts between the life that is curated and displayed online, versus reality. I don’t know if this is true, but I got the sense that the author has a very low opinion of social media, and in this book, you can see why that’s the case.

While this wasn’t thrilling in the way that I was expecting it to me, the writing was definitely taut and urgent at times, with a strong sense of foreboding. I liked this novel, and I would read more of Burton’s work.

Rating: 3/5 stars

the hazel wood review, third girl review, lethal white review, the banker's wife review

The Hazel Wood

This was a total cover buy for me. I was at the Brooklyn Book Festival a few months ago, when the sun glinted off this beautiful cover, making it sparkle, and I could not say no!

Happily, I liked what was behind the cover as well. Our main character is Alice, who’s spent most of her life moving around with her mom, running from something that she can’t really articulate. One day, her mom disappears and the thing she’s been running from all these years finally catches up to her.

This book has fairytale elements and was very atmospheric. I read this just as fall was starting to arrive, and it felt like the perfect season. There are fairytales within the novel that were dark and twisted, which I really enjoyed.

I think my main complaints are that it took so long for anything to happen, and that some of the fairytale elements were not as developed as I would have liked. The story was rooted more firmly in the real world than I was expecting, and I’d hoped more time would be spent in the fairytale world.

This book had a great premise and overall I enjoyed it, but I was left wanting a bit more. It gets a full 5 stars for that cover though!

Rating: 3/5 stars

Third Girl

A young woman visits Hercules Poirot because she thinks she may have committed a murder, but she’s not quite sure. Like me, you might be thinking at this point, how do you not know whether or not you’ve committed murder?! Poirot decides to investigate her case to determine if there was a murder, and if so, who the victim was.

This was not my favorite Agatha Christie novel. I don’t know if it was particularly strong in this book, or if I’m just more aware now, but I was very sensitive to the sexist comments made by Poirot. They really annoyed me and brought me out of the story.

Aside from that, the mystery was intriguing. I definitely did not have it figured it out before the truth was revealed. I still love Agatha Christie, but I found this book disappointing.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Lethal White

I was pretty excited to read the latest installment in the Cormoran Strike series. I love Robin and Cormoran as characters and I was excited to pick up where the last one left off.

Strike is visited by a mentally ill young man, who claims he witnessed a murder decades ago. Meanwhile, Strike is hired by a prominent politician to find out who’s been blackmailing him. Strike thinks that it’s unlikely that the young man actually saw a murder and that the blackmail case will be fairly straight forward, but of course, things are not always as they seem.

I’m definitely into this series for the mysteries, but perhaps even more so for the characters. We’ve seen so much development from Strike and Robin’s characters over the course of the series, and I’m pretty invested in their lives.

Lethal White wasn’t my favorite in the series, but I still throughly enjoyed it. I didn’t find the plot as interesting as some of the previous novels, likely due to my personal tastes. I was also a bit miffed by one of the reveals; I thought it would be much juicier than it actually was.

Regardless, I loved getting back into Strike and Robin’s lives, and seeing Robin’s detective skills grow stronger. I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series.

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Banker’s Wife

I can see this book making an excellent movie (and I believe that I read somewhere that the film/TV rights have already been optioned). It’s told in alternating chapters from the perspective of two women. There’s Marina, the journalist in New York City, and Annabel, a former art buyer, who’s married to a private banker in Geneva. One day, Annabel’s husband dies under mysterious circumstances. Meanwhile, Marina gets involved with a story that could be the biggest one of her career.

This is marketed as a “high-stakes thriller,” but for me, the stakes didn’t feel as high as I think they were meant to. I did feel some of the tension, but I also thought it could have been dialed up a couple notches.

I found our main characters to both be a bit lacking in personality. I know that they were both beautiful and smart, but not much beyond that. I did like that they both kept digging to find the truth, even as it became more and more dangerous.

I thought the story was a bit rushed at times, when a character’s feelings seemed to change drastically from one page to the next. However, it kept me engaged and turning the pages to find out what happened next. Overall, I enjoyed this read and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the adaptation.

Rating: 3/5 stars

ps i still love you review, nine perfect strangers review, the proposal review, one day in december review

P.S. I Still Love You

The sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was just as adorable as the first book. This one picks up right where the last one left off, so Lara Jean is still dealing with boy trouble.

One of the things that I love about this trilogy is the relationship between the sisters. I love that family is so important to Lara Jean. Also, the way that she takes care of Kitty, her younger sister, is so sweet. I love that Lara Jean loves to bake as well. It reminds me of me and my sister.

This book ends on another cliffhanger, so I definitely plan to read the last book to see how it all turns out. Oh, and I finally watched the movie adaption on Netflix and I loved it. The movie includes some elements from the second book, so if you prefer to read the book before the movie, I’d recommend you read the first two books before you watch the movie.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Nine Perfect Strangers

This was the first book I’ve read by Liane Moriarty. It was a long time coming! Originally I’d planned to read Big Little Lies before watching the TV series, but I couldn’t resist watching the show before reading the book. So I think subconsciously, I was comparing the TV adaptation of Big Little Lies to this book a little bit. Nine Perfect Strangers wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I kept waiting to get to the really exciting and juicy bits, but we never got there.

It follows nine people who meet at a health resort. This isn’t a conventional health resort though, and some of the treatments that the guests participate in are a bit… unorthodox. The experiences that these strangers have together will bond them together for life.

I thought the characters were well-written and I felt like I had a good sense of who they were as people. The book is written from multiple perspectives, so we’re able to get into each character’s head. However, I thought the plot was a little bit all over the place, especially in the second half. I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of book this was trying to be.

This being set at a health resort, there’s definitely some commentary on society’s obsession with health and wellness, and the lengths that people are willing to go to achieve peak health.

I was a bit unsure of my feelings when I finished this book, as it didn’t really match up to the idea of it I’d had in my head. I really want to read another one of Moriarty’s books though. Based on my conversations with others, it seems that Nine Perfect Strangers is quite a bit different from her other books, and it’s possible that I’d enjoy one of her previous novels more. If you’ve read this one and any other Moriarty books, I’d be really curious to hear your thoughts!

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Proposal

This was such a fun read! How do you deal with an unwanted proposal? That’s something that our main character, Nik, has to figure out when she finds herself the recipient of an unexpected proposal.

I loved that our two main characters were people of color. Nik is African-American, and her love interest, Carlos, is Latinx. The author definitely touched on issues that people of color face, which I appreciated. I also enjoyed that Nik is a self-professed feminist. She prides herself on being independent and on giving a voice to women of color in her work.

As a sucker for romcoms, I was totally into this story. Both Nik and Carlos are wary when it comes to love. Nik in particular, has had experiences in the past that hurt her and shaped the way she viewed relationships. Reading about her experiences made me feel bad about the heartache she had to go through. I was definitely rooting for her and hoping that she’d be able to open herself up to love again.

Overall, I thought this was a great lighter read with substance, and I can’t wait to go back and read her other novel soon.

Rating: 4/5 stars

One Day in December

Does this cover look familiar? I feel like this book was everywhere in December. It really did feel like every person and their mother was reading this book last month. So of course, I had to jump on the bandwagon and read it too.

I have to say, I really, really enjoyed it. There’s definitely some problematic elements, but they didn’t detract too much from my feelings about this book.

Laurie doesn’t really believe in love at first sight, until one day at a bus stop, she spots Jack. There’s an instant spark between them and it looks like he’s about to jump on the bus to come talk to her. But, he hesitates just a moment too long, misses it, and Laurie is left wondering about the identity of the handsome man at the bus stop.

A lot happens in this novel since it spans the course of about ten years. It’s written from both Laurie and Jack’s perspectives, so have the opportunity to see what each of our main characters is thinking. I feel like the author did a good job with the pacing of the plot.

I definitely got sucked into this story. While I didn’t approve of all of their choices or feelings (did anyone else think that Jack was a bit of a jerk?), I was pretty hooked on the story. There were points where I wanted to shake Laurie and Jack and tell them to grow up! I think that’s why I preferred the later years, when Laurie was a bit more mature and less naive.

A good chunk of the novel was set around the holidays, which I loved because I freakin’ love Christmas. This was the perfect December read and probably one of my favorites last month.

Rating: 4/5 stars

christmas camp review, seven days of us review, luckiest girl alive review, my favorite sister review

Christmas Camp

After I finished One Day in December, I was in the mood for more holiday reads. I went to Target while I was back home in CA, and there was a section of Christmas books calling my name. I thought this had a pretty inviting cover, but what really got me was the following note: “From the writer of the hit movie, A Christmas Prince.” Ding ding ding! I was sold. I was hoping this would be like a heartwarming Christmas movie, but in book form.

Haley, the main character, is a brand strategist at an ad agency and she’s rather lacking in Christmas spirit. She wants to win a big Christmas campaign for the agency, so her boss sends her to Christmas camp so that she can remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Sadly, this was wayyyyyy too cheesy for me. I thought Haley was a really flat character and that the writing was repetitive. I didn’t feel like there was any drama or tension or anything to make me feel like these were real people with real problems. What I’ve learned from this reading experience is that I much prefer watching a cheesy movie, over reading a cheesy book.

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

Seven Days of Us

Even though the last book was disappointing, I still felt like reading another holiday book afterwards. This one follows a family that is stuck together for seven days during the holidays, due to a quarantine. As you can imagine, things get a little bit crazy when they’re all cooped up in the same house for several days, and old family secrets start to rise to the surface.

I thought all of the characters were well done. They are a family that’s used to stuffing down their feelings, and that’s something I can relate to. We also see how feelings can fester for years and years, but eventually, they all come out into the open.

The family dynamics were interesting, especially the relationships between the parents and the children. You have a father that loves one daughter more than the other, because it’s easier, and a mother that tries to be everything for both daughters, to the point where she smothers them.

For me, there were some things in the book that stretched plausibility, but not to the point where it snapped. I really enjoyed this as a holiday read and I would recommend it.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Luckiest Girl Alive

I remember this being a popular read a few years ago, but I didn’t remember what it was about, so I went into this book blind, as I like to do with thrillers.

Ani has the perfect job, the perfect fiancée, and the perfect life. She’s left her troubled life behind and worked hard to achieve all that she has. However, the past never stays in the past; it’s inescapable.

This was a pretty dark read, which I liked. Ani is rough around the edges, as much as she tries to pretend she’s not. It’s pretty interesting to have a main character that’s not likable and not trying to be.

This book jumps between the past and the present, which I found a bit confusing to keep track of. There was also a large cast of characters, most of whom were on the periphery, so I had a little difficulty keeping them straight.

With Ani’s background, the author explores class differences. There’s the middle class, who are trying to keep up with the Jones’ and pretend they’re wealthy. As Ani grows up, she’s constantly seeking approval and trying to fit in with the cool, rich, popular crowd.

This book discusses the masks that people hide behind and ponders on whether it’s possible to truly reinvent yourself. The author really kept the tension up throughout because I definitely wanted to find out what exactly Ani was running away from in her past. I don’t think this book would be for everyone because of some difficult subject matter, but I thought it was a good read.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Favorite Sister

I liked this one a lot less than Luckiest Girl Alive. This book focuses on several women that are on a reality tv show. As you can imagine, these women are pretty cutthroat and every single one of them is lying about something. From the very beginning, we know that one of the women has died, but the questions are why and how?

I couldn’t tell if this was trying to be more of a mystery or a thriller, and I don’t think it hit the mark for either one. The characters in this book are motivated by greed, ambition, fame, and the allure or appearance of success. They are all miserable and trying so hard to hold on to the limelight.

It felt like the author was trying to say something about successful women, and if it’s possible for a woman to be successful without her success coming at the expense of another woman. But her message got lost between the despicable characters and twisted plot.

I think this premise had the potential to be juicy and entertaining, but instead, it fell flat for me. I didn’t enjoy these characters and thought the plot was pretty convoluted. All in all, it was a disappointment after reading Luckiest Girl Alive.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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I’m Nnenna and this is my online journal where I write about the books I can’t put down, my personal style, the places I’ve traveled to, the products I love, my favorite spots in NYC, and more!

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