Part of me can’t believe it is February already and another part of me feels like January lasted forever. The good thing about the last month feeling long is that my reading list feels the same way! I ended up having a pretty great month of reading that was heavy on the audiobooks.
LibroFM is a wonderful alternative way to enjoy audiobooks and also support small bookstores and if you haven’t heard of it before you have to check it out. Right now they have an amazing introductory offer! If you are interested in trying it out you can use my LibroFM referral link HERE.
LibroFM Influencer ALC Program
In December I learned about the LibroFM Audiobook Listening Copies (ALC) program! This program allows book influencers to listen and review upcoming audiobook releases.
If you would like to apply you can use this link HERE. My understanding is that you ave to have an official title (such as librarian, educator or press) or have a minimum of 1,000 followers if you are a “book influencer” to be approved.
How Do You Read SO Much?!
I get asked this question a lot, and I get it. I am going to do a longer blog post about this soon but my short answer is that we all have things we do in our free time and reading just happens to be the thing I prioritize. That means I choose reading over other things, not that I have found some magical hours in the day that other people don’t know about!
I don’t watch a lot of tv or movies, or have many other hobbies so when I have “downtime” reading is what I do with it! And when I do get sucked into a show (it does happen sometimes!) I read less.
Audiobooks for the WIN!
I also listen to a lot of my books, hence all the talk about audiobooks on here! This means I can read while doing a lot of other more mundane tasks, like folding laundry, cleaning, cooking, working on the computer or walking our dog. I listen during my commuting time in the car which is about an hour a day so it really adds up. Listening to an audiobook with your noise cancelling headphones is also an excellent way to “hide” from your family when you live in a house full of noisy boys. 😉
Back to the Book Recap…
Alright, so I get easily off track, and you are here for the book recap and ratings, right? January was a great reading month with a lot of 4 & 5-star reads. I did have a few books that were a bit of a disappointment but all in all, it was a good month!
January Reading Highs
My favorite books I read last month were all 2020 ARCs that were all highly anticipated reads and did not disappoint! In Five Years by Rebecca Serle (Publishing 3/10/20) Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer (publishing 4/14/20) Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier (Publishing 4/21/20) and The Night Swim by Megan Goldin (publishing 8/4/20. I finished Atomic Habits at the very beginning of the month but it was one of my favorite (published in) 2019 books! You can read the full list HERE.
January Reading Lows
My reading lows were The Third Rainbow Girl, Grown Ups, and The Wives. I will link to my full book reviews when I share my ratings below. These all had a lot of potential for me but ended up being disappointing.
On to the Book Ratings!
Atomic Habits by James Clear
This book was the last book I started in 2019 and was the perfect way to welcome not only a new year but a new decade.
Clear’s writing is relatable and accessible and in this genre of writing, this is definitely not always the case. So much of this book spoke to me but I especially appreciated his sections discussing compound effects and how small changes over time can have a very big impact and how the best make to make a change is to make the habit part of your identity.
Atomic Habits was helpful to me both personally and professionally and I can’t recommend it enough!
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
I became intrigued by Jia Tolentino’s 2019 release Trick Mirror when I started to see some buzz about it online. When I heard it discussed on the @10thingstotellyou podcast I knew I had to read it! I love any kind of cultural criticism related to the digital age, societal norms, and expectations, feminist discourse, etc.
In Trick Mirror, Tolentino shares nine personal essays that are insightful, researched and thought-provoking. Just like any essay/short story type book, I did connect with some of the essays more than others but I loved the idea of the “trick mirror” and how there is so much gray area when we really dive deep into hot button issues.
Tolentino shares critique of reoccurring themes while also wading into muddy waters of her own which felt like a great balance as the reader. Her writing is definitely lengthy and does sometimes come across as a stream of consciousness at times, which may not work as well for you if you like things straight and to the point.
I really enjoyed her perspective and especially connected with her essays Always Be Optimizing (even as a Pure Barre enthusiast!), The Cult of Difficult Women and I Thee Dread. I listened to this one on audio!
Grown Ups by Emma Jane Unsworth
I was super intrigued by the concept of Grown-Ups by Emma Jane Unsworth. The strong focus on social media mixed with the desire for approval from others was timely and in a nutshell, life in the digital age. I ended up enjoying the mixed media style which I wasn’t sure would work for me at first.
Unfortunately, I just had a hard time connecting with the main character, Jenny, for much of this book. I understand that this book is party a satire, but the obsession and thought process that went into presenting her life a certain way was funny at first but then I just became disinterested.
As someone who is also in my mid-thirties but also in a very different life stage, I just could not relate. I think some of this would be great in a shorter essay format but it just felt dragged out and sometimes a little cringe-worthy. A lot of this is just my perspective and I can see this being a huge hit for many, it just wasn’t for me.
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
I have been on a thriller/mystery kick again and this was recommended to me after I finished Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier. Jar of Hearts is her 2018 release and it was addicting, fast-paced and just what I was looking for. I listened to this one on audio!
The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
When I saw that author Megan Goldin was publishing another book this summer I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. While I try to read my ARCs in some kind of order when I saw the book summary of The Night Swim I couldn’t wait…
After the first season of her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.
The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places.
Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.
Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?
A domestic thriller with a true-crime plotline? Sign me up! I will be sharing my 5-star book review for this one soon, but definitely add it to your Summer 2020 Reading List ASAP!
You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
You Are Not Alone started off on a great note for me as far as thrillers go. The first scene totally grabbed my attention and immediately made me want to know more. I appreciated that the book summary was pretty undescriptive, which helped me not make any assumptions about the plotline.
Unfortunately, it just went a little downhill for me after that and I found keeping up with all the characters tedious, especially with the jumping between past and present. I didn’t find any of them particularly likable and some of their choices just made me think “huh?!”.
The pace did pick up at the end but it just felt a little too unbelievable for me at that point. Without a strong connection to the characters, the ending wrapped up too quickly.
*You can read my full review of You Are Not Alone HERE.
Grace is Gone by Emily Elgar
Grace is Gone is a plot-driven mystery and suspense novel inspired by real-life events pulled straight from the news headlines. If you are a true crime fanatic, there might not be a lot of surprises for you with this one, but otherwise, this is a page-turner that dives into not only a crime but also a mental disorder.
Although there wasn’t a lot of intrigue for me because I was previously familiar with this case, I enjoyed Elgar’s writing style immensely and the characters were well developed which I always appreciate in this genre of writing.
Her writing was simple yet incredibly purposeful. I loved the balance of suspense, family dynamics and life in a small town and is a great reminder of the question, who can you really trust?
Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier
Little Secrets was engaging from the very first page and I just love Jennifer Hillier’s writing style so much. Her characters are multifaceted and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep me guessing but not so much that they just felt like they came out of nowhere.
I love a book where things look a little too perfect on the outside to be true and this book has all of that and more. It does involve the kidnapping of a small child but it has so many other elements that made it rise above this common thriller plotline. I so enjoy a good domestic thriller and this one is a roller coaster of suspense with a super satisfying ending. Highly recommend!
*You can read my full review of Little Secrets HERE.
Follow Me by Kathleen Barber
Follow Me is a psychological thriller full of twists and turns and kept me captivated until the end. I loved that the storyline was based around social media and the idea that nothing is ever as shiny or perfect as it may appear online.
This page-turner is shared in alternating chapters between the main character Audrey, her best friend Cat and a third narrator who is only known by the reader as “him.” I thought this was such a clever way to have the story unfold and I loved that it kept me guessing.
Follow Me was creepy but light enough for a weekend or beach read which was exactly what I was looking for.
You can read my full review of Follow Me HERE.
Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer
Truths I Never Told You captivated me from the very beginning. The topics in this book were also something I could personally relate to. While this might not be the case for all readers, I think this is a powerful and important read either way. In the age of new parenthood being portrayed in such a polished (and often super unrelatable or not totally honest manner) on social media, this book was just so spot-on and important.
Rimmer is absolutely amazing at writing stories that are both compelling and nuanced. She doesn’t shy away from interweaving thought-provoking and sometimes very challenging topics while also being absolute page-turners.
I was super impressed with Rimmer’s ability to write about the struggles of new motherhood when dealing with some of the mental health issues and general ambivalence that can arise and are often not talked about. This is something that is starting to be more common in nonfiction writing about motherhood but not in such a readable fiction format.
Truths I Never Told You alternates between Beth, a new mother in the mid-1990s and her mother Grace who was struggling immensely in the 1950s with raising her four young children. Just like in The Things We Cannot Say, there is a family mystery element that keeps us guessing until the very end. This part of the book is woven so beautifully between the layers of family dynamics and the important complexities of her carefully crafted and multifaceted characters.
I can’t wait to share more about this book when it is published this spring and I already know it will be one of my top books of 2020.
*You can read my full review of Truths I Never Told You HERE.
The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
Did anyone else watch Big Love on HBO? Oh my gosh, we were way into that show and when I started The Wives I couldn’t believe my luck that it felt so similar to the whole polygamous family theme, but with a twist.
I ended up being really intrigued and engrossed by The Wives until I hit the 3/4 mark and then it all went downhill. For a majority of this book, it was impossible to put down and author Tarryn Fisher’s writing style is totally engrossing. I guess I should put a semi spoiler alert…
Okay, are you ready? I can’t stand when mental health issues are used as a big twist in a book. I get that everyone has their own perspectives with this but it is also why I couldn’t stand the book One of Us is Lying…ugh!!!
All of these totally inappropriate behaviors ended up being blamed on mental illness which was just disappointing and harmful to the stigmas that already surround mental health issues. This is actually quite a common use of a twist in thriller novels which is a bummer to me and often why I ended up disking so many of them. If you are interested in reading more, you can see my full review of The Wives HERE.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
This was my first 5-star 2020 read and still am thinking about it now. In Five Years was the absolute perfect mix of being completely engrossing, thought-provoking and I also COULD NOT put it down.
And the ending, oh my goodness I am not a crier when I read usually but this one just gave me all the feels. I love how this novel was unexpected and how sometimes the best things are not what we initially expected.
It was such a beautiful story of love, loss, and friendship and it ended up being my first 5-star read of 2020. and I can’t wait for its publication date in March and I look forward to sharing more about it then!
The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg
While I love a memoir and investigation into a person or area, I think my expectations for this to be more of a true-crime deep dive made this book disappointing for me as the reader. This may just have been one of those situations where I thought this would be a different kind of book based on the book summary.
I struggled to engage with the content because I was really wishing I could get more information about the actual events related to these cases. I have recently enjoyed some of the books that portray life in Appalachia that were quite compelling but this one was just really hard to engage with and felt quite unfocused.
The Third Rainbow Girl ended up being such a slow read for me and it just didn’t hold my interest. While there was some relevant information a lot of it just seemed unnecessary and way too drawn out. This one was just not for me.
You can read my full review HERE.
Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin
Happy & You Know It is basically a beach read on steroids. I was looking for some escape reading and hade a perfect mix of twists and humor. It’s fast-paced, witty and a little dark. While it was a little out there with the exaggerated plot, it totally worked in so many ways. It had a relatable take on upper-class new motherhood, social media and other cultural phenomena.
You either loved or hated these characters which were part of the appeal. It was super readable, engaging and not as predictable as I originally thought. I found this book to be was the perfect brain candy. that was the perfect balance of being ridiculous and totally relatable at the same time. This will make the perfect summer vacation read!
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
I have recently gotten into the contemporary romance genre and I have found that I really love ones that incorporate a little more unconventional themes. I can’t do cheesy but sometimes a lighter book is just what you are looking for and these books are great for that.
Last year I read The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves and enjoyed it so much. You can read my review HERE.
I love books about second chances and also loved seeing the transformation of not only this relationship but also the characters individually. Even though it was an easy read it was also unforgettable.
I kept hearing great things about The Bromance Club and finally picked up a copy. I love the idea of a guys book club and it is the perfect balance of being a rom-com and also a heartwarming tale of men supporting one another in their personal growth.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means if you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission that helps support this blog at no cost to you. Thank you!