January 2020 Book Recap & Ratings {Gen The Bookworm Monthly Reading Wrap-Up}

book recap

Happy February!

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 #AudiobookSwitch

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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

ALC program at LibroFM

In December I learned about the LibroFM Audiobook Listening Copies (ALC) program! This program allows book influencers to listen and review upcoming audiobook releases.

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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!

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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

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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

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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!

Jame 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.

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!

Jia Tolentino

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!

Emma Jane Unsworth

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.

Jennifer Hillier

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!

Megan Goldin

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⁣

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin was one of my favorite thrillers of 2019. You can read my full review HERE.

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!

Book of the Month book selection

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.

Emily Elgar

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?

Jennifer Hillier

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.

genthebookworm-8

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.

Kelly Rimmer

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.

Tarryn Fisher

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.

Rebecca Serle

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!

Emma Copley Eisenberg

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.

Laura Hankin

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!

Lyssa Kay Adams

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!

 

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen | St. Martin’s Press {Gen The Bookworm Book Review}

You are Not Alone book

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Book Summary:

The electrifying number-one New York Times best-selling authors of The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl return with a brand new novel of psychological suspense.

Shay Miller wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is increasingly lonely.

Until Shay meets the Moore sisters. Cassandra and Jane live a life of glamorous perfection, and always get what they desire. When they invite Shay into their circle, everything seems to get better. Shay would die for them to like her. She may have to. 

Publication Date:

March 3rd, 2020

Genre:

Domestic Thriller/Psychological Thriller

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Review:

Book of the Month February 2020

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. I think this just might be my own reading taste but endings out of nowhere just don’t work for me, especially when I haven’t been given anything that helps me feel super invested with the main characters.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest 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!

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher | Graydon House & Book of the Month Club {Gen The Bookworm Book Review}

The Wives book review

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

Book Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Tarryn Fisher delivers a pulse-pounding, fast-paced suspense novel that will leave you breathless. A thriller you won’t be able to put down!

Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.

But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.

What follows is one of the most twisted, shocking thrillers you’ll ever read.

You’ll have to grab a copy to find out why.

Publication Date:

January 30th, 2019

Genre:

Domestic Thriller

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Review:

book of the month

The Wives (*Amazon Affiliate link)

Have you read any books lately that you highly anticipated and ended up falling flat for you? The Wives, a December Book of the Month Club selection, was super hyped up for me because I kept hearing SO much buzz, especially about the ending.

Big Love

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.

So I totally can get behind a brain candy type of book and I try not to be nitpicky with those because sometimes reading a totally outlandish book is just what you need, but I just couldn’t get behind this one.

I think I am an outsider with this reaction but I always love reading reviews when someone doesn’t LOVE a book that has been getting a lot of hype, so here you go!!

I would love to know your thoughts on this one if you have read it!


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!

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano | The Dial Press {Gen The Bookworm Book Review}

Dear Edward book

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano 

Book Summary:

What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live? 

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them are a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured veteran returning from Afghanistan, a business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. Halfway across the country, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a part of himself has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery—one that will lead him to the answers of some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other? How do you learn to feel safe again? How do you find meaning in your life?

Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.

Publication Date:

January 6th, 2020

Genre:

Coming of Age Fiction/Family Life Fiction

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫⁣

My Review:

Dear Edward book review

Dear Edward was a surprisingly touching read and the perfect book to end to 2019 for me. While this book centered on loss and tragedy, it is also a book full of hope. We neet 12-year-old Edward, who is the lone survivor of a plane crash that killed one-hundred-plus passengers including his own immediate family members, his mom, dad, and brother.

We follow Edward on his path through grief which includes flashbacks to the passengers who were also on board the flight that day. While this book sounds like it would be quite depressing to read, I really found it to be quite inspiring in so many ways.

Edward’s character is such a wonderful reminder of the power of connections on a journey of healing and how people you meet by chance can forever change the path of your life.

The book also keeps you guessing with the dual timelines which go back in time to also tell the story of the day of the plane crash. For me, it was a perfect balance that allowed Dear Edward to be both powerful and also super engaging.

Thank you to The Dial Press and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest 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. You can read more about affiliate links in my FAQs section HERE. Thank you!

Long Bright River by Liz Moore | Riverhead Books {Book Review}

Riverhead Books

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Book Summary:

Two sisters travel the same streets, though their lives couldn’t be more different. Then one of them goes missing.

In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don’t speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.

Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey’s district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit–and her sister–before it’s too late.

Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters’ childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.

Publication Date:

January 7th, 2020

Genre:

Literary Fiction/Suspense

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⁣

My Review:

Read Good Books

Book of the Month Club December Selection

I wasn’t sure I was going to pick a book this month from Book of The Month Club, as I had read a couple of choices already as ARCs and the rest of them weren’t really calling to me. I have been taking a break from thrillers and thought this one might fall into that category too.

Then I started reading reviews from my most trusted #bookstagram sources highly recommend Long Bright River. I decided to go for it! and I am so glad I did!

(*You can get your first Book of the Month Club book for just $5 when you use my referral link HERE.)

Long Bright River alternates between past and present and shares the lives of Mickey and Kacey, two sisters who each are involved in the opioid crisis in very different ways. When Kacey goes missing, Mickey starts unraveling the clues of her disappearance while also bringing us back in time to share how each of them got to the places they are in.

This book was thought-provoking and sometimes was uncomfortable to read, which is a good thing in my opinion! It is part mystery and part family drama, which I think is why it worked for me so well…because we really get to know these women and their stories. I had a hard time putting this one down and can’t stop thinking about it now.

Author Liz Moore

The Unseen World Liz Moore
Long Bright River was my first book by Liz Moore and it won’t be my last! Her writing was nuanced and layered while also being completing engrossing! My friend Michelle shared that her book from 2017, The Unseen World, is one of her very favorites so I am adding it to my January 2020 TBR list!

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 Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes | Pamela Dorman Books {Gen The Bookworm Book Review}

Jojo Moyes

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Book Summary:

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England.  But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. 

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic–a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond. 

Publication Date:

October 8th, 2019

Genre:

Historical/Women’s Domestic Life Fiction

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⁣

My Review:

The Giver of Stars Jojo Moyes

The Giver of Stars

I have always loved Jojo Moyes’ writing and I was very interested to read a book by her in this historical fiction genre. Moyes has such a gift for writing characters with depth and The Giver of Stars was no different!

I so enjoyed learning more about the history of the Packhorse Library in rural Kentucky that helped bring books to everyone. I absolutely loved learning about the history of the traveling library, as well as how it gave women the ability to discover their own identities in a time and place when this wasn’t the social norm.

This book ended up blowing me away with its multifaceted characters and layered storytelling. I loved feeling immersed in the bonds of these women and life in rural Kentucky. I know this one will stick with me for a long time and I highly recommend it!

*I read this book through a Book of the Month Club subscription. You can learn more about BOTM and get your first book for just $5 when you use my referral link HERE!

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. 

November 2019 Book Recap & Ratings {Gen The Bookworm Monthly Reading Wrap-Up}

Gen The Bookworm Monthly Book Recap

Happy December!

I can’t believe that we are in the last month of 2019. I think because Thanksgiving was so late this year, it seems like the holiday season came out of nowhere! We have three weeks of school (including this one) until Christmas Break for the kids and there is a lot packed in there beforehand.

I also have ALL THESE ideas for the end of the year posts and recaps, but then normal things end up going by the wayside, like regular book reviews posts… I normally like to link to the reviews of the books I am including in these monthly recap posts, but there aren’t too many yet…I will be adding them over the next few weeks so I can be caught up by 2020. 🙂

November Reading at a Glance

November ending up being a great month of reading with a lot of 4 & 5-star reads and just a couple that were a bit of a disappointment. While I wasn’t planning on it, I did read a fair amount of non-fiction which fit in with Nonfiction November which is a popular reading challenge in the Bookstagram world.

I also read some of my very favorite books of the year this past month. I shared my Best of 2019 (so far!) favorites back in July and I am looking forward to seeing how everything stacked up at the official end of 2019 in just a few weeks!

November Highlights

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My top four books of last month were The Giver of Stars, American Dirt, Be Mighty, and Such a Fun Age. They were all very powerful reads that I won’t forget anytime soon.

November Lows

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I had a lot of anticipation about both of these titles as both Elizabeth Berg and Malcolm Gladwell are authors I have just loved in the past. Unfortunately, both The Confession Club and Talking to Strangers just did not work for me. I have a hard time connecting with either book and found Talking to Strangers quite concerning at some parts. I discuss this one more below and will be sharing my full reviews for both of these books soon.

Camille Pagan

This Won’t End Well by Camille Pagan

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Pagan’s writing is relatable, funny and whip-smart. Her 2019 book I’m Fine and Neither Are You is one of my favorites of the past year.  This Won’t End Well will be published in February and you can pre-order it now with a kindle deal HERE. This book made me laugh out loud and I just find Pagan’s writing to be so approachable and enjoyable to read.

Elizabeth Berg

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Elizabeth Berg was one of the first authors I really got into as an adult reader. I love how she can create simple scenes and environments with complex and multifaceted characters. Unfortunately, this one just didn’t hit the high mark she has set for me in the past, but her backlist is fantastic!

Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

The Family Upstairs was one of my most highly anticipated Fall 2019 reads. I often struggle with the thriller genre and am frequently left feeling disappointed, either because they were way too far fetched and the ending comes out of nowhere or they feel cliched and totally predictable.

There are a few I have just loved but far more that felt like a letdown…and I get it, I am rather picky about them. I like the perfect balance of detailed characters, suspense, mystery and a satisfying, yet semi-realistic ending.

The one author that has yet to let me down is Lisa Jewell, and so this made my expectations even higher for this one. I am happy to report that she has done it again! The Family Upstairs was the perfect book to cozy up with on the couch and read the afternoon away.

You can read my full review HERE.

D.J. Palmer

The New Husband by D.J. Palmer

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I was in the mood for a thriller to get sucked into and some of my book reviewing friends had really enjoyed The New Husband. It ended up being very engaging and a total page-turner. You can read my full review HERE.

Emily Belden

Husband Material Emily Belden

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Husband Material is a contemporary fiction novel that had a great balance of humor and relatability. I really appreciated how the author Emily Belden built detailed characters that have a level of depth that doesn’t always happen in this genre of writing. Because of this, I was really able to connect with the storyline and follow these characters on their path of grief and the process of moving forward.

I appreciated the discussion of death and loss, especially for younger characters who are still on the path of finding themselves while at the same time dealing with this huge loss. I am so glad I didn’t judge this one by the cover alone because while the cutesy cover might let you think this is just another “rom-com” I really found this to be so much more.

 

Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks to an amazing book friend, I was able to get my hands on an ARC of American Dirt. As soon as it arrived I picked it up. I had heard ALL the hype and I often get wary of overhyped books but let me tell you, THE HYPE IS REAL! I cannot wait for this one to be released in January (you can pre-order HERE) because I know this one is going to be discussed everywhere!

Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Speaking of upcoming 2020 books, Such a Fun Age is another super winter release! This is one of those books that is written in a light and engaging manner but is deceptively heavy-hitting. It a compelling contemporary fiction novel that dives into racial issues from two very different standpoints as well as how we identify with ourselves and with one another. You can read my full review HERE.

Jondi Kantor & Megan Twohey

She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters who broke the news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse for the New York Times, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the thrilling untold story of their investigation and its consequences for the #MeToo movement. 

She Said is an incredibly powerful and enlightening read, not only about the sexual harassment scandal but also what goes into reporting a story of this magnitude. Kantor and Twohey pulled back the layers of both their work and the stories of the women that were a part of sharing what eventually became a movement for millions.

The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I was very interested to read a book by Jojo Moyes in the historical fiction genre but I didn’t get super motivated to pick it up until I started hearing a lot of my book reviewing friends just raving about it!

I absolutely loved learning about the history of the traveling library and also how it also gave women the ability to discover their own identities in a time and place when this wasn’t the social norm. This book ended up blowing me away with its multifaceted characters and layered storytelling and I will be sharing my full review soon! 

Be Mighty by Jill Stoddard

Be Mighty by Jill Stoddard

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Author Jill Stoddard shares that there isn’t a human that hasn’t deal with some kind of struggle or pain. These struggles can get us down or they can also speak to us and help us understand what we need in our lives to be healthier and happier. Instead of working to avoid discomfort, when we let ourselves really feel, we can then really bloom as whole and imperfect people. Allowing ourselves to feel “all the things” can help guide us on our paths instead of just trying to avoid things that “hurt”.

I could go on and on about this one because I really got so much out of it but I will just say that while books about stress and anxiety are nothing new, I loved this fresh and approachable take on the subject and I highly recommend it! You can read my full review HERE.

Susannah Cahalan

The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Cahalan’s first book, Brain on Fire, was a personal look at her own experiences and I loved that this book was a wonderful follow up to this important and timely topic as a whole. While we have come so far, we still have a way to go when dealing with mental health stigmas and treatment.

Non-fiction books like this are such a powerful and important conversation starter. While this novel was insightful and thought-provoking it wasn’t an easy read at times. With that said, sometimes discomfort is what can fuel the fire for change and I am so glad I gave this once a chance.

Malcolm Gladwell

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

⭐️⭐️⭐️

I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, but I just had a hard time connecting with this one. Not only was the title a little misleading with what the book was actually about, but it just didn’t sound like his regular voice or style which I have really related to in the past. I especially struggled with some of the stories he chose to dive into and his responses regarding sexual assault were quite astounding.

I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt but after reading Know My Name by Chanel Miller last month, I felt quite appalled when I read his discussion about Brock Turner. While I do think alcohol can cloud judgment (and consent) it does not take away from the fact that Brock Turner CHOSE to assault Chanel Miller and whether she was under the influence of alcohol or not, it is not the issue. Victim blaming is scary and real and it is disappointing that someone of this power and influence chose to blur the lines on this one.

Quiet

Quiet by Susan Cain

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Quiet has been recommended me to me for a couple of years and I finally got around to reading it. While some of it was a little dry, there were so many fascinating sections that really made me feel so understood. As someone who is social but also can be completely overstimulated by noise and crowds, this book made me feel so understood. I am planning on sharing my full review soon!

Neil Pasricha

You Are Awesome by Neil Pasricha

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Everyone can relate to failure but how we react to it can change our paths entirely and keep us moving forward. Every “misstep” is a chance to assess, learn and then move up and onward. I love the balance of personal stories, accessible writing, and strategies that are approachable for everyone.

Pasricha writes with compassion and proactivity and reminds us that we are all works in progress. Sometimes self-help books can help you feel heard but not really have a plan, or make you feel like you are being talked down to and make you just feel worse.  You Are Awesome contains straightforward steps that make you feel less alone but also help you move FORWARD. You can read my full review HERE.


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. 

Coffee Talk | Currently Loving… Beating The Winter Blues (in November), ALL the Winter Gear, Barre Book Club & More

Currently Loving...

Checking-in:

dog on the couch

Good morning!! I am trying to become more efficient (and not overthink these posts) because you guys were so great when I asked for more feedback over on Instagram. I too love reading random daily life updates and so I am going to try and commit to sharing these once a week! I am very externally motivated so when I know someone is expecting something of me I am all in, ha.

gentle

(image from Reddit)

The last couple of weeks have had some ups and downs. My life has so many wonderful things, and it also has some painful and sad parts. I do try to be real on here, but also keeping in mind that this is a very public space. I love the image above so much because it is so very true and it is something that I try very hard to keep in mind when interacting with the world around me.

I am a glass half full person. I think because I have such great supports and self-care practices in place, it helps me focus on the good parts BECAUSE I am able to process the tougher stuff when it comes up. This is a work in progress of course, but I think it is important to mention as these posts are definitely more of the “highlight reel” kind of recaps. Okay, moving on!

Sunday Routines:

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I am a little off schedule today because Lucas was away for the night at his family’s deer camp. He isn’t a hunter but going to camp is one of his very favorite things to do this time of year. He ends up bringing the kids with him a lot because we try and coordinate it with when Kristy and I are teaching on the weekends so this was a nice adult only visit for him!

Normally Sunday mornings are my barre and grocery shopping time, sometimes mixed in with a visit to Target to peruse the bookshelves. Last weekend I got together with one of my reading buddies and we had a great Pure Empower workout with Lauren and then walked around Target and caught up. My friendships are so very important to me, and there are certain times when you just need them a lot more and this is definitely one of those times.

Snow Days!

vermont winter

By mid-month, the boys already had TWO snow days. I think they are much easier to take this time of year than in say, late March but I was still a bit surprised. The boys were super excited of course and it was a reminder for us that it was time to pull out (and FIND) all the winter gear.

Currently Wearing…ALL the Winter Gear

vermont life

We have built up quite the collection of Skida accessories over the year and especially love hitting up their Summer Sidewalk Sale in August to replenish anything that gets lost at school.

It doesn’t matter how much you label the crap out of your kid’s stuff, some of it WILL go missing and it hurts a bit less when at least you know you got a good deal on them! We have also had great luck with LL Bean gloves for the kids!

Darn Tough

For socks, we LOVE Darn Tough socks and they are guaranteed for life! I love the Women’s Stripe Micro Crew Cushion style that is the perfect height and feel snug enough without feeling like they are cutting off your circulation on your ankles! 

Bogs For Life

We are big Bogs fans around here. Bogs Boots are our go-to footwear for our whole family from late October until the end of April. I updated mine this year after having my pair for 5+ years and I went with the Women’s Whiteout Bogs that are super easy to slip on and off (A MUST for me with winter boots) are so warm and cozy and waterproof. I loved my Plimsoll Bogs but these have even better traction for better grip on ice and snow. I am ladies size 8.5 in most shoes and I size up to a 9 in Bogs. I find that having a bit of extra room is super helpful, especially when wearing heavier socks this time of year.

winter boots

While I could never be a fashion blogger (LOL) I can talk for days about winter outwear and basically anything from LL Bean or Talbotts…

You can find the Kids Rain and Winter Boot Bogs HERE.

You can find the Women’s Whiteout Bogs HERE.

You can find the Men’s Classic Bogs HERE.

Beating The Winter Blues in November

vermont life

When you have the right winter clothing, getting outside this time of year is the best! One of my favorite ways to get together with friends is to go for a walk. Kristy and do this on our lunch break at work because she has some great trails right behind her house.walking with friends

I have been trying to prioritize this lately as I have a bit more flexibility during the work week now that photography season is slowing down a bit and it is so good for our mental health…there really is nothing like some fresh air and sunshine.

This week Buzz and I met my friend Elisa for a walk at Shelburne Bay and went on a lunch hour walk with Kari up Mt. Philo. All of these walks take less than from start to finish so they are perfect to add in during our day when we don’t have a long block of time available. 

Currently Embracing…Weekend Walks

vermont kids

We are also embracing the slower-paced time of this year on the weekends. Being cooped up with kids is not for the faint of heart so getting everyone outside at least once a day is necessary no matter what the weather conditions are. While we love to walk in the woods around our house, it is hunting season now so we stick to parks and places that off-limits for that until it is over in December.

A Night Out With Friends

Owl Feet Studio

It is rare that I do something at night (besides our Better Together Book Club!) because I am not a night owl, and especially this time of year when it gets dark out at 4pm. But when Sonja at Owl Feet Studio announced she was having her first Ladie’s Night Out, I was going to be there!

When I told Lucas I was going to attend a Shibori night, he definitely chuckled. Shibori is a cloth dyeing method originating in Japan in the 18th century and utilizes the incredible properties of the indigo plant (This is Sonja’s great description, not mine!) It is a similar process to tie-dying but because you use indigo, it results in beautiful shades of deep blue.

As a photographer, I am definitely a creative person, but I also like things just so(hence why I spend my work life in Lightroom and Photoshop, ha)

So going with the flow isn’t the most comfortable thing for me. I like having a concrete plan and detailed instructions! It ended up being such a fun night and it was also great to get a little out of my comfort zone. I can’t wait for her next Art Night Out!

Currently Loving…Barre Book Club!

Pure Barre

I know I talk about barre all the time, but it is just such a positive part of my life (and one of my biggest forms of regular self-care). The Pure Barre community is definitely the number one reason why. I am a group exerciser for many reasons (motivation because of signing up ahead of time is one of them) but I also love how it brings me together regularly with such a wonderful group of (mostly) women.

I love arriving a bit early to have time to catch up and love that we now have an (unofficial) Barre Book Club! In addition to chatting about all sorts of random things, our local studio has become an awesome place to share recommendations and also to exchange books!

Pure Barre

And whenever I post a photo with my barre socks, I get asked what kind they are! A barre studio opened near my friend Sarah’s house recently and she asked me if I had recommendations for my favorite sticky socks and these are it!  If you haven’t been to a barre class before, most barre studios have you wear socks (no shoe) that help you grip the floor, which especially comes in handy during planks and pushups.

The Tavi Noir Chloe ones are my current favorite. We started having them in our studio last spring and the pair I bought them have held us amazingly well and are still super sticky and grippy! They are super comfortable and the criss-cross straps stay put and don’t dig in at all like I worried about when I first saw them.

 An Amazing Homegoods Find

Homegoods find

The other weekend, Flynn and I hit up Homegoods to browse the aisles, and we walked away with this Quilted Eddie Bauer Dog Pullover for Buzz! Pullovers are necessary when you have winter weather for 6 months of the year (they are pretty much all I wear…) and I couldn’t resist this one for him when it was under $15…and now we can match!!

quilted dog jacket

I mean, is there anything better than twinning with your dog? I don’t think so!

Currently Becoming…A Harry Potter Fan

harry potter illustrated book

I have to admit, I have never read the Harry Potter series…and I don’t know that I really want to…

A few years ago my friend Kari recommended the Illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to get our family going on the Harry Potter train. Well three years later, our 9-year-old decided to dive in…better late than never right?

He is loving this version so much that has taken to reading right after school which isn’t the norm around, that’s for sure. Both of our boys have really grown to love reading but it is normally something they do in the evening before bed.

They have a boxed set right now of books 1-3 that is a great deal and would make a great holiday gift!

Currently Reading and Listening to…

Jojo Moyes

After much apprehension, I started The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes this week! I often get a little wary of books that are SUPER HYPED UP but this one really is amazing. I have been alternating listening to it on Audible and reading Kristy’s hard copy Book of the Month copy and am just loving it.

Fireside Reading (and Napping!)

Kindle

While this time of the year can be tough with the lack of daylight, it is also such a wonderfully cozy time of year. There is nothing like cuddling up next to the fire and reading an engrossing novel or taking a nap on the couch. After Thanksgiving next week the full rush of the holiday season will be upon on us so I am trying to soak in the quiet moments like this.


I hope you have a wonderful rest of your weekend! I have some great book reviews in the blog line up and another What’s On Your Nightstand? post coming your way soon!

Disclosure: Some of the links above are Amazon 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 Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell | Atria Books {Book Review}

The Family Upstairs book summary

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Book Summary:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

Publication Date:

November 5th, 2019

Genre:

Domestic Thriller

My Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

My Review:

Lisa Jewell

The Family Upstairs was one of my most highly anticipated Fall 2019 reads. I often struggle with the thriller genre and am frequently left feeling disappointed, either because they were way too far fetched and the ending comes out of nowhere or they feel cliched and totally predictable.

There are a few I have just loved but far more that felt like a letdown…and I get it, I am rather picky about them. I like the perfect balance of detailed characters, suspense, mystery and a satisfying, yet semi-realistic ending.

The one author that has yet to let me down is Lisa Jewell, and so this made my expectations even higher for this one. I am happy to report that she has done it again! The Family Upstairs was the perfect book to cozy up with on the couch and read the afternoon away.

In the Family Upstairs, I loved how Jewell moved back and forth in time which helped unravel the mysteries surrounding the three main characters. Jewell weaves an intriguing story and while there are a few storylines to follow, because of her immaculately detailed characters it all flowed so well for me.

I was able to follow along and quickly became engrossed and curious about how they were all connected. There was the perfect amount of intrigue and behind the scenes details that left me guessing until the very end. Jewell’s writing is always compelling but I think this is my favorite one of hers yet. She has a unique voice and strong originality in her writing which in this genre, is especially impressive!

Thank you to Atria Books for an advanced copy.