Reading List: No. 15

Book Reviews

After getting in a little reading rut this spring, I’ve been on a recent spree. I’ve read nine books in the past few months. A couple of clear favorites and lots of easy reads that I’d recommend. 

Reading List: No. 15

ONE // I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: At first, Jude and her twin brother Noah, are inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them. 

I absolutely loved this book. Gosh, it’s hard to realize at the time, but being a teenager is such a difficult period of life to navigate under normal circumstances. Noah and Jude are easy to root for. They both feel responsible for holding family secrets and protecting each other.  

Rating: 4

TWO // The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place. (Content Warning: Suicide)

The Midnight Library is one of the best books I’ve read this year. The premise is unlike anything I’ve read before. The Midnight Library explores the different paths your life can take and the regret of unchosen paths. 

Rating: 4

THREE // Nobody Will Tell You This but Me by Bess Kalb: Even after she left home for Hollywood, Emmy-nominated TV writer Bess Kalb saved every voicemail her grandmother Bobby Bell ever left her. Bobby was a force–irrepressible, glamorous, unapologetically opinionated. Bobby doted on Bess; Bess adored Bobby. Then, at ninety, Bobby died. But in this debut memoir, Bobby is speaking to Bess once more, in a voice as passionate as it ever was in life.

As I get older, I miss my grandmothers more and more. Reading Nobody Will Tell You This But Me helped me feel a little closer to them. It’s full of stories about Bess’s grandmother and their relationship. I’ve thought about one story in particular several times since I read it. When Bess was young, she was scared to go to school. Her grandmother stayed outside of the building for the entire day until Bess was comfortable. Sybil asked me to stay in the parking lot when she goes to school in the fall and I agreed. Who knows if she’ll remember it or not years later, but maybe she will. 

Rating: 3

FOUR // Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey: Recently separated Amelia Saxton, a dedicated journalist, never expected that uncovering the biggest story of her career would become deeply personal. But when she discovers that a cluster of embryos belonging to her childhood friend Parker and his late wife Greer have been deemed “abandoned,” she’s put in the unenviable position of telling Parker—and dredging up old wounds in the process.

I am a big fan of Kristy’s books (the Peachtree Bluff series is perfect for summer!) and really enjoyed this one as well. The topic was an interesting take on the typical romance novel and I really routed for Amelia and Parker.  

Rating: 3

FIVE // Delicious! by Ruth Reichl: Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine’s deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the “Delicious Guarantee”-a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries-until further notice. What she doesn’t know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.

I picked up Delicious! from the library since it was a Bad on Paper book club pick. While Ruth’s food descriptions are beautiful (and made me hungry more than once), there were a few too many plot lines that weren’t more fully explored. Ruth’s memoir, Save Me the Plums, is full of beautiful writing about food too and was one of my favorite books of 2019. 

Rating: 2

SIX // Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane: Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too.

But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever. In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction…

This is the second book I’ve read by Mhairi McFarlane (the other is If I Never Met You). I’ve found both of them to be smart romance novels that are a step above others in the genre. Eve is sort of lost in life and through a tragedy she’s able to find her way again. There were plot line twists that I didn’t see coming right up until the end.

Rating: 3.5

SEVEN // Life’s too Short by Abby Jimenez: Vanessa lives life on her own terms — one day at a time, every day to its fullest. She isn’t willing to waste a moment or miss out on an experience when she has no idea whether she shares the same fatal genetic condition as her mother. Besides, she has way too much to do, traveling the globe and showing her millions of YouTube followers the joy in seizing every moment.

But after her half-sister suddenly leaves Vanessa in custody of her infant daughter, she is housebound, on mommy duty for the foreseeable future, and feeling totally out of her element.

The last person she expects to show up offering help is the unbelievably hot lawyer who lives next door, Adrian Copeland. After all, she barely knows him. But as they get closer, Vanessa realizes that her carefree ways and his need for a structured plan could never be compatible for the long term. Then again, she should know better than anyone that life’s too short to fear taking the biggest risk of all. . .

Life’s Too Short is the 3rd book in this series (the 2nd book, The Happy Ever After Playlist, was one of my favorite books of 2020). This one is more loosely tied to the characters in the first two books and I almost forgot it was part of a series (i.e., you don’t need to read the first two to enjoy this book). Life’s Too Short was a little predictable and glossed over the challenges of motherhood (at least in my experience), but I found myself pulling for Vanessa and Adrian anyway.

Rating: 2.5

EIGHT // Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino: A love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City.

I immediately messaged a friend after I finished this book and told her to request it from the library. The book fluctuates between Matt and Grace’s college romance and present day as told from both of their perspectives. It’s sweet and steamy and unpredictable and left me in tears at the end. There are so many little and big moments that happen in life to lead you to someone else.

Rating: 4

tbr: up next

I have an entire reading list for the year mostly made up of books I already own and there are a ton of new releases by favorite authors this year too. So many books, too little time! I have read the first two chapters of A Promised Land and want to read the next couple of sections (it’s a long book at 700+ pages so I’m breaking it into parts). I also have The Sum of Us, The Soulmate Equation and People We Meet on Vacation on my nightstand to read next.

rating system

5: A book that you treasure and keep prominently displayed on your bookshelf. All other books will likely be measured against this one.
4: Could not put it down, possibly read through the night, still thinking about it, extremely satisfying and highly recommended
3: Captured my interest, entertaining, would seek other titles by the same author, would recommend
2: Okay to pass the time, probably not memorable, just okay
1: DNF or ended up feeling dissatisfied

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