Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West | Berkley Publishing {Gen The Bookworm Book Review}

Kathleen West

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

Book Summary:

Perfect for fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Small Admissions, a wry and cleverly observed debut novel about the privileged bubble that is Liston Heights High–the micro-managing parents, the overworked teachers, and the students caught in the middle–and the fallout for each of them when the bubble finally bursts.

Isobel Johnson knows helicopter parents like Julia Abbott–a stage mom whose world revolves around interfering in her children’s lives–come with the territory. Julia resents teachers like Isobel, who effortlessly bond with students, including Julia’s own teenagers, who have started pulling further away from her.

Isobel has spent her teaching career in Liston Heights side-stepping the community’s high-powered families. But when she receives a threatening voicemail accusing her of Anti-Americanism and a “blatant liberal agenda,” she realizes she’s squarely in the fray. Rather than cowering, Isobel doubles down on her social-justice ideals. Meanwhile, Julia, obsessed with the casting of the high school’s winter musical, inadvertently shoves the female student-lead after sneaking onto the school campus. The damning video footage goes viral and has far-reaching consequences for Julia and her entire family.

With nothing to unite them beyond the sting of humiliation from public meltdowns, Isobel and Julia will find common ground where they least expect it, confronting a secret Facebook gossip site that’s stirring up more trouble for this tumultuous, fractured school community.

Publication Date:

February 4th, 2020

Genre:

Contemporary Fiction

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⁣

My Review:

Kathleen West

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes is a nuanced look at school politics at a prestigious school in an affluent Minnesota community. Written with humor and plenty of drama, West succeeds at sharing a look at high school life from the perspective of a well-meaning teacher who gets caught in the web of meeting the demands and expectations of parents/administrators and other teachers. We meet a slew of characters who set the scene and it is all too relatable to anyone who has ever been a part of a school community, whether as a teacher, parent or both.

There are helicopter parents, bullying on social media and conflicts between faculty and families. And then there are the students just trying to get through their high school years. The overbearing parents rule the roost at this school and West shares a great balance of laughable moments that seem totally unbeliever (unless you have been there and then you get it!) mixed with insight about just what students AND teachers are up against these days.

I found Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes to be a light read with a great mix of thought-provoking and timely topics many of us can relate to. While some of the storylines may seem over the top, for me, they added to the complexities schools deal with in this digital age. I did struggle at times with keeping track of all the characters but all in all, this was a very enjoyable book that would make for a great book club discussion!

More about Author Kathleen West:

Kathleen West is a veteran middle and high-school teacher. She graduated with a degree in English from Macalester College and holds a Master’s degree in literacy education from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her hilarious husband, two sporty sons, and very bad Goldendoodle.

For more information, please visit: https://www.kathleenwestbooks.com

Thank you to Berkley Publishing for an advanced copy. 


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!

The Best Books of 2019 {Gen The Bookworm Book Recommendations}

favorite books 2019

Best Books of 2019…

Hello! I have been planning on doing this post for weeks and I am so happy to finally be sharing it today. For some reason, figuring out which books would make this list was much harder than I initially anticipated. I think this is partly because I read so many amazing books last year that it was just hard to narrow it down, which is NOT a bad problem to have.

Tracking My Reading:

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After overthinking it for weeks, I decided I was going to look back at all the books I read and then decide which ones were the most memorable. Does anyone else have a hard time remembering exactly what happened in a book? I am always super impressed when someone tells me in detail about a book they read many books ago..While I can remember basic things, mostly I remember how they made me feel. All the books that I picked for this list were ones that stuck with me long after I finished them.

So How Do I Remember The Books I Have Read?

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  1. The Bookworm Life 2. So Many Books, So Little Time. 3. Book Journal (*Etsy shops -these are not affiliate links)

I am not a super-organized person and I definitely don’t have one of those cute reading tracker journals  (but how amazing are the ones pictured above?!) or an excel spreadsheet of all my books.

I would love to be one of those people but at this stage of my life, I am just not.  For me, if tracking my reading doesn’t happen pretty much automatically, it probably is not going to happen! Enter Goodreads!

Goodreads Year in Books!

Goodreads year in books

Goodreads has been a savior for me and helps keep track of all the books I read whether they are hard copies, ebooks or audiobooks. It’s what I use when I do my monthly reading recaps and it also makes it easy to look back and sort by date or rating.

Picking My Favorite Books of 2019…

top books of 2019

In July I recapped my favorite books from 2019 (so far!) and it was interesting to see how everything stacked up six months later. You can read that blog post HERE.

2019 was a GREAT year of reading which made making this final decision not easy! While some of these books remained on my favorites list I read a lot of amazing books in the second half. When I reflected on my “favorite” books of the year, the ones that came up are the ones I still think about today, even if I read them many months ago.

favorite books of 2019

My list of favorite books from 2019!

Claire Lombardo

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

I kept seeing The Most Fun We Ever Had on #Bookstagram and I put it on my TBR list but I  wasn’t sure if summer was the time to read it. I was a little nervous about the length and I didn’t know if I was in the mood for a family saga piece of writing during this more hectic time of the year. After seeing yet another raving review I decided to read it on a whim and boy was I wrong!

When you are reading a 500+ page book it is a real commitment. Your reading experience is more like a marathon and just not a sprint to the finish. Author Claire Lombardo pulled me right into the lives of the members of the Sorrenson family and I had a hard time putting this one down. The writing was both captivating and completely absorbing. I ended up going back and forth between both reading the hard copy and listening to this on audio. This made it an absolutely amazing and engrossing reading experience and was perfect for this style of writing.

While there were a lot of well-developed characters and the narration jumps back and forth from present (2016) to the past I never felt confused or that it was hard to keep track of it all. This is all such a testament to Lombardo’s skilled writing ability.

The story was compelling and the characters were both raw and relatable. I loved that their relationships with each other and themselves showed the intricacies of both families and just being human. The nuanced history and complexities of relationships that have spanned decades were presented in such a completely compelling manner. There were humorous parts and so many memorable quotes that I will never forget.

When I wasn’t reading or listening to this book I was thinking about it.  It was difficult to leave this fictional family at the end of my reading journey, which for me, makes this truly a remarkable read. I highly recommend this debut(!!) novel and I can’t wait to read what Lombardo shares next.

You can read my full review of The Most Fun We Ever Had HERE.

Cara Wall

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

I wasn’t sure what book should follow The Most Fun We Ever Had but I knew I wanted to read another family saga. The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall fit into this category so I decided to give it a go.

Wall introduces us to two couples, Charles and Lily and James and Nan. The beginning of the book gives us a rich background for each character starting from their childhoods through early adulthood. These couples lives then become intertwined when Charles and James become pastors at a New York City Presbyterian church. Over the years we see them struggle with their faith, beliefs, marriage, parenthood, and friendships.

This book is a deep dive into these four characters, who navigate many joys and heartaches over the decades we follow along with them. I loved seeing their evolving relationships with both themselves and one another and having the rich backstory to these multi-dimensional characters made this storyline even more rewarding.

While there are religious themes in The Dearly Beloved, Wall presents them without judgment or bias toward any belief system and the writing never feels preachy. I appreciated that it showed the struggles of all four characters at some point within their own belief systems.

You can read my full review for The Dearly Beloved HERE.

Know My Name

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

While I knew she was a great writer from reading her victim impact statement (you can read it on Buzzfeed HERE) when she was known for so many years as “Emily Doe”, I was blown away by Know My Name by Chanel Miller. Her voice is strong and her writing is filled with details, reflection, humility, and even hope. I listened to this one on audio but I also purchased a hardcopy because I knew it was one that I needed to have in my own collection.

I loved how poignantly Chanel Miller shared what it is like to deal with very private grief while at the same time needing and move forward with daily life…I loved learning about her amazingly supportive family unit and her ability to see the good in people, like the men who stepped in to help the night of her attack. While she only speaks for herself, she really is speaking for a generation and I can’t recommend this one enough.

“We don’t fight for our own happy endings. We fight to say you can’t. We fight for accountability. We fight to establish a precedent. We fight because we pray we’ll be the last ones to feel this kind of pain.”

You can read my full review of Know My Name HERE.

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She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

I followed Know My Name with She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey and the timing couldn’t have been more timely for me. She Said is a fascinating and powerful look at what it means to bring a story of this magnitude and sensitivity to life through journalism.

Told step by step, She Said shares what journalists Kantor and Twohey learned, uncovered, and reported on in the early stages of the Weinstein investigation.⁣
I was greatly impacted by the power of women coming together and sharing their stories and this book is one that I just cannot stop thinking about. It was absolutely my favorite audiobook of 2019 and I highly recommend it.

time management fable

Juliet’s School of Possibilities by Laura Vanderkam

I love Vanderkam’s nonfiction books about time management and this is her first novella. In Juliet’s School of Possibilities, Vanderkam incorporates her knowledge and expertise into a short fable about a woman named Riley who is “spread too thin”. ⁣⁣⁣I wasn’t sure how this would work but I was definitely intrigued and it ended up being a small book that packed a big punch.
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In a society where “busy” reigns supreme, Vanderkam’s books are a wonderful reminder about how we get to choose how we spend our time and energy and this book is such a fun spin-off. We meet Juliet who shares profound wisdom and helps Riley rethink this balance.

“I don’t have time’ means ‘It’s not a priority.’ We always have time for what matters to us.”

This book is a quick read but it one that I think back to all the time. I love the idea that we are in control of our time and we choose what we prioritize and how we react to the chaos life can sometimes throw at us.

When I am having one of those days where I feel I am feeling rushed and stressed, I think back to Juliet and how she would react. I love how much this quick read has really stuck with me in my day to day life and I highly recommend it!

“Expectations are infinite. Time is finite. You are always choosing. Choose well.”

You can read my full review of Juliet’s School of Possibilities HERE.

book of the month club

Beyond The Point by Claire Gibson

Beyond the Point is narrated by three women who come to West Point to play basketball. We follow Dani, Hannah, and Avery over the course of seven years through their introduction into West Point and as they navigate early adulthood. The writing is beautiful and makes you just want to keep reading and I was fully immersed in the lives of these three women.

The aspects of military life were powerful and a great reminder for me as a civilian about the sacrifices so many thousands of women and men make that serve our country every single day. While this was a powerful piece of this book the story really is about their interpersonal lives.  The characters were flawed and real.  Gibson did an amazing job speaking to their strengths and resilience as individuals and also weaving their stories together. I loved learning about their pasts and how they played a part in who they are and who are yet to become.

The story is a journey of their relationships both with themselves and with each other. There are aspects of love, loss, discomfort, growth, and forgiveness. As someone who does not know a lot about military life, I learned so much about cadet life in an academy.

I also connected personally with their three women.  As someone who started adulthood around the same time as they did, I love the flashbacks to life in the early 2000s. The references to technology and how different life was not even 20 years ago was spot on. There were some Christian themes but it felt natural and worked for me as a reader. Faith was a part of the storyline for one of these characters in particular and I thought it added another thoughtful dimension to this writing.

You can read my full review of Beyond The Point HERE.

motherhood narrative

To Have and To Hold by Molly Millwood, PhD

While I am lucky to have had many conversations with the people in my personal life, never have I read something that explains the complexities of motherhood and marriage in such a profound manner until I read this book. The highs and lows of parenthood, the immense love and also the intense quest to reclaim ourselves as women and partners when our lives will never be the same are so real and valid.

To Have and to Hold spoke to me on so many levels. Millwood’s ability to write with both her voice as a professional and her voice as a mother was a perfect balance. This book was a favorite by so many that we picked it for our first Better Together Book Club selection this past fall.

It was the perfect book to start off our book club that focuses on motherhood. While we are all in very different stages of parenthood (from babies and toddlers to college-aged children), we could all relate back to the adjustment of new motherhood. And not only did we get to discuss the book with each other but we also had the most wonderful guest, author Molly Millwood herself! 

James Clear

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. After seeing Atomic Habits recommended by some of my nonfiction loving book friends, I knew I had to pick this one up. This book does an amazing job of explaining the framework for how habits are formed.

Clear’s writing is relatable and accessible and in this genre of writing, this is definitely not always the case. He provides insightful feedback and approachable and practical steps towards making a new habit or breaking an old one. 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!

Kelly Rimmer

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

I enjoy the historical fiction genre but it can be a hard one to really wow me as a reader. This book ending up checking all the boxes of a memorable historical fiction reading experience. Told in a dual narrative format, we meet Alina, a girl who is growing up in Poland during World War II and Alice, a mom who lives in present-day Florida with her husband and two children. We quickly realized that these two storylines are connected and the story unfolds beautifully over these 400+ pages.

“Not for the first time, I wish just once when I asked my grandmother about the war, instead of her telling me “that was a terrible time, I don’t want to talk about it,” she’d been able to say something more. Anything more. Maybe if she could have shared some of her story, I could have learned from it, I could have taught my children from it—we could have built a better world from the hard lessons she surely learned.”

This was my first book by Kelly Rimmer and I was blown away by her ability to share multi-faceted characters that felt so real and raw while also diving into a heartbreaking part of our not so distant history.  I love the dual storylines and how they wove together and kept me guessing until the end. Rimmer captured the power of sharing our stories while also reminding us that so many people have a history we might know nothing about.

As well as being completely enthralled by Alina’s harrowing and heartbreaking time in Poland, I connected so much with present-day Alice and her struggles to find herself amidst the daily challenges of family life.

“I can’t wait to tell him how much of a revelation it has been to do something like this – standing on a mountaintop for no reason other than the sake of the experience. This moment is an investment in myself. I’m giving myself permission to make a memory that benefits no one but me. I love being a mother, and I love being a wife. I even love being a daughter and a granddaughter. But as I stand here on the mountaintop, I’m not any of those things. I am simply Alice, and for one breathtaking moment, I’m completely present.”

This book captures heartbreak, resilience, persistence and the power for standing up for what is right, not only for yourself but for those around you.

Sometimes a book comes along at just the right time and this was the case for me and The Things We Cannot Say. Not only did I read a book that I connected with so deeply but I also found a new author to follow along with. Her April 2020 book release Truths I Never Told You was another 5-star read for me and I am excited to dive into her backlist now!


I hope you enjoyed seeing my favorite books of 2019. I would love to hear which books made your list! <3

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!

Follow Me by Kathleen Barber | Gallery Books {Gen The Bookworm Book Review}

domestic thriller

Follow Me by Kathleen Barber

Book Summary:

From the author of Truth Be Told (formerly titled Are You Sleeping)—now an Apple TV series of the same name—comes a cautionary tale of oversharing in the social media age for fans of Jessica Knoll and Caroline Kepnes’s You.

Everyone wants new followers…until they follow you home.

Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past.

But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private.

With “compelling, suspenseful” (Liz Nugent) prose, Kathleen Barber’s electrifying new thriller will have you scrambling to cover your webcam and digital footprints.

Publication Date:

February 25th, 2020

Genre:

Domestic Thriller/Psychological Thriller

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Review:

Kathleen Barber

Follow Me (you can pre-order a copy with my affiliate link HERE)

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.

Audrey isn’t very likable and I think that is the author’s point. She may have over two million followers online, but she lives for the posts and likes while her “real life” is quite dull and lonely. Her best friend Cat is the complete opposite and I enjoyed the polarization between these two characters that ended up adding a lot of dimension to this storyline.

Follow Me was creepy but light enough for a weekend or beach read which was exactly what I was looking for.

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for an advanced copy.


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!

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier | Minotaur Books {Gen The Bookworm Book Review}

Minotaur books

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Book Summary:

From the author of Jar of Hearts, a mother driven to the edge by the disappearance of her son learns her husband is having an affair with the woman who might have kidnapped him.

Four hundred and eighty seconds. That’s how long it took for someone to steal Marin Machado’s four-year-old son.

Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They’re admired in their community and are a loving family. Up until the day Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. The only thing keeping her going is the unlikely chance that one day Sebastian reappears. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding him, she discovers that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman.

Kenzie Li is an artist and grad student—Instagram famous—and up to her eyeballs in debt. She knows Derek is married. She also knows he’s rich, and dating him comes with perks: help with bills, trips away, expensive gifts. He isn’t her first rich boyfriend, but she finds herself hoping he’ll be the last. She’s falling for him—and that was never part of the plan.

Discovery of the affair sparks Marin back to life. She’s lost her son; she’s not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix. But as she sets a plan in motion, another revelation surfaces. Derek’s lover might know what happened to their son. And so might Derek.

Publication Date:

April 21st, 2020

Genre:

Domestic Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Mystery & Suspense

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫⁣

My Review:

Jennifer Hillier

Little Secrets (you can pre-order using my affiliate link HERE.)

Mood Reading…

My reading choices tend to be very cyclical as I am primarily a mood reader. I go in waves and sometimes I am into drawn-out character-driven family sagas, other times I am looking for a lighter read.

When I am reading to escape, thrillers, suspense and mysteries are my kinds of books. They are entertaining, face pasted and super engrossing which is great for when you have a million other things running through your head.

Last week was one of those times and after seeing my friend Kristina raving about Little Secrets on #bookstagram, I couldn’t wait to read it myself.  I try to read books by their release dates so I can stay more on top of things, but it doesn’t always happen! I am currently reading an August 2020 advanced reader copy so yeah, I don’t do all that well with this, ha!

More About Little Secrets:

So Little Secrets ended up being just what I needed.  It 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.

Jennifer Hillier

I loved it so much that I am now listening to Hillier’s 2018 release Jar of Hearts on audio.  It’s the best when you read a book you don’t know a lot about beforehand and then leave with a new to you author to follow along with.

Thank you to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an unbiased review. 


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!