Reading Recap | April 2019

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Today’s reading recap is the shortest one yet since I only read one book in April. It was a stressful month for a lot of reasons, including this one, so I didn’t have the mental capacity to read like I normally do.

The book I managed to finish is one I’d been looking forward to reading for months, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s about mental health which is perfect since May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health is a subject I care a lot about since I’ve struggled with anxiety and phobias throughout my life and know many other people who have walked that road, too. Thanks to medication and a stint in therapy, my anxiety is under control. Hope and healing are possible.

And now, the recap!

The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live by Heather B. Armstrong
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS
BOOK ABOUT?

This book is a candid account of Heather B. Armstrong’s struggle with suicidal depression and the medical treatment that saved her life. Armstrong’s doctor referred to her a clinical study at the height of her illness, and she decided to go for it since it seemed like her only hope. During the trial, Armstrong received anesthesia ten times until she was nearly brain dead, an experience she compares to shutting down a computer in an attempt to get it working again. The results of the procedures are astounding and fascinating.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

If you read Armstrong’s blog, you’ll know she’s capable of being hilarious, profane, and deeply poignant all in the same paragraph. Her trademark style is present here, but the book is cohesive and structured well throughout. Armstrong makes complex medical information easy to understand and shows incredible vulnerability when describing her struggle to live a happy life. The love she feels for her mother and two daughters is beautiful to witness. You’ll be rooting for her on each page.

WHO SHOULD READ
THIS BOOK?

Anyone interested in mental health or those who have been affected by depression.


April’s Blog Posts

Reading Recap | March 2019

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

March was a fantastic reading month for me. I read seven books, and three of them received 5-star ratings. This post is long enough since I have many books to share, so let’s jump right in.

Homegoing book cover

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Rating: 5/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Effia and Esi are half-sisters born in Ghana during the 18-century, and Homegoing is the story of their descendants through the modern day. Each chapter reads like a short story about a different character.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

Everything. I marvel at how Yaa Gyasi fit so much depth and history into a relatively short novel. Each chapter is well-written and full of characters who are stuck in impossible circumstances. I’d heard nothing but good things about this book, so I thought there was no way it could live up to the hype. I’m glad I was wrong. Homegoing exceeded all my expectations. It’s a stunning accomplishment, especially considering it is Gyasi’s debut.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Everyone, especially those who enjoy epic stories set over a long time period.

I Found You book cover

I Found You by Lisa Jewell
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

I Found You tells the story of a single mom who finds a strange man with memory loss on the beach outside her home, a new bride whose husband has just vanished, and two teenage kids on a family vacation that went wrong twenty years prior. The less you know about the plot of this book going in, the better your reading experience will be.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

The vague plot outline I described above might not sound like it should work, but Lisa Jewell combines those three stories in ways that are consistently suspenseful, surprising, and ultimately satisfying. This is the first book I’ve read by Jewell, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

WHO SHOULD READ
THIS BOOK?

Most suspense fans will enjoy this, as long as they’re okay with flashbacks.

Daisy Jones & the Six book cover

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Rating: 5/5

WHAT’S THIS
BOOK ABOUT?

The Six are rising rock and roll stars in the late 1960s. Daisy Jones is a singer/songwriter who’s trying to get her voice heard. When Daisy performs with the Six one night, the chemistry she has with the band’s lead singer Billy Dunne is electric enough to make her a permanent part of the group. Daisy Jones and The Six tells the story of the band through all their highs and lows as they experience addiction, love, and fame like they never dared to imagine.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

Taylor Jenkins Reid wrote this novel as an oral history, and that structure makes it seem more like a documentary than fiction. I suspected I’d like this book, but what I didn’t predict was that it would be such a page-turner. Billy and Daisy are captivating protagonists, but each band member has an individual storyline and unique identity. This book inspired a blog post all about my favorite books about music.

WHO SHOULD READ
THIS BOOK?

I think this story has wide appeal, but literary fiction fans who appreciate nostalgia will be especially captivated by this story.

Before she knew him book cover

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS
BOOK ABOUT?

Hen and her husband Lloyd have recently purchased a house in the suburbs. Their neighbors Mira and Matthew invite them over for dinner, hoping to make some new friends. During a tour of the house, Hen spots a trophy in Matthew’s office that she’s sure is connected to a man who was murdered several years back. Due to her bipolar disorder and previous trouble with the law, no one believes Hen when she tries to convince them that Matthew isn’t who he seems to be.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

I’ve read a lot of thrillers, and Before She Knew Him is more original than most. The suspense in this book doesn’t come from the usual “whodunnit” question, but from wondering about motive, former victims, and who might be next. In addition to all the twists, this novel also has interesting things to say about mental illness and how it affects female credibility.

WHO SHOULD READ
THIS BOOK?

Thriller fans looking for something different will enjoy this novel.

The cassandra book cover

The Cassandra by Sharma Shields
Rating: 3/5

WHAT’S THIS
BOOK ABOUT?

Mildred is a young woman living with her verbally abusive mother in a small Washington state town during World War II. When Mildred gets the chance to leave and begin work at the Hanford Research Center, she’s thrilled to start her own life and help the US win the war. She becomes a secretary for a physicist whose work is top secret. But Mildred has these terrifying visions about what it is they’re really doing at Hanford and suspects how it’s all going to end.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

Mildred is a strong character who I was always rooting for throughout this novel. The Cassandra has a feminist perspective that is wonderful to see in historical fiction.

WHO SHOULD READ
THIS BOOK?

This novel is loosely based on the Greek myth of Cassandra, so if you know and like that story, this book might be worth checking out. Historical fiction lovers who like stories with a lot of grit will probably enjoy this, too. (I was unfamiliar with the myth and don’t reach for a lot of historical fiction, so I was definitely not the target audience for this story.)

How the Bible Actually Works book cover

How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How an Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Books Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers–and Why That’s Great News by Peter Enns
Rating: 5/5

WHAT’S THIS
BOOK ABOUT?

The Bible is often presented as an answer book for all of life’s questions. In How the Bible Actually Works, Peter Enns argues that what the Bible offers isn’t an index of answers, but is a collection of stories about how those seeking God found wisdom and how modern-day believers can find it, too.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS BOOK?

Peter Enns is one of my favorite biblical scholars, and this book is an excellent example of why. Enns is as funny as he is knowledgable which means that when he writes about the history of the Bible, it’s not only educational but also immensely entertaining. This book is filled with some challenging concepts, but they’re presented so that those of us who don’t have PhDs from Harvard (like Enns does) can understand them.

WHO SHOULD READ
THIS BOOK?

Progressive Christians who are looking for ways to read the Bible with fresh eyes will enjoy this book a lot.

The Child Finder book cover

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS
BOOK ABOUT?

Naomi is a woman with a dark past who uses her tragedy to help other people. She’s known as the Child Finder, and in this novel, she’s working to find a little girl who disappeared in a snowy Oregon forest three years earlier. The child’s parents still believe there’s hope, even though the situation seems dim. As Naomi works to find the missing girl, she has nightmares about what happened to her years ago and starts to piece together some of the memories of her story that she’d forgotten.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS BOOK?

I love books with a strong sense of place, and Rene Denfeld has undoubtedly created that with The Child Finder. The icy and snowy setting of the mysterious forest would make this a perfect winter read. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Naomi and her story. She’s a strong woman who is committed to the truth and bringing closure to desperate families.

WHO SHOULD READ
THIS BOOK?

This novel addresses child abuse head on, so keep that in mind if that’s a triggering subject matter for you. Otherwise, I think people who appreciate good, dark suspense novels will really like this book.


Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read in March?


March blog posts:

Reading Recap | February 2019

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

February was another good reading month for me. I read five books and liked all of them. I own three of the books I read, so I’m thrilled my owned books outranked my library books this time around. Yay for reading goal progress!

Spoken from the heart book cover

Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Spoken from the Heart is a memoir by the former first lady about her childhood in Texas, her early career as a teacher and librarian, her husband’s early political aspirations, and the eight years she spent in the White House.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

Last month I read and loved Michelle Obama’s Becoming, and what I liked so much about that book is here, too. All of the political stuff is wonderfully interesting, but I also enjoyed learning about Bush’s life growing up. I certainly relate to her passion for literature and libraries and admire her journey from someone who was promised she’d never have to give a speech to someone speaking out on the world stage on behalf of women and girls around the world.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

People who are interested in politics will be the best audience for this book.

The Dreamers book cover

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

A freshman girl falls asleep in her bed and doesn’t wake up. And then it happens to another girl in her dorm. And then it happens to another one. Soon there’s an epidemic and doctors can’t figure it out. The patients aren’t dead; they’re breathing and dreaming, but nothing can wake them up. Chaos and panic soon run amok in the small, idyllic Southern California town where sleep is to be feared.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

The Dreamers is a page-turner. The plot is fascinating, the characters are well-developed, and I never knew what was going to happen next. In addition to all that, the writing is quite lovely.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

I’d recommend this to literary fiction fans who appreciate unique tales.

The Fire This Time book cover

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race
edited by Jesmyn Ward
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

The Fire This Time is a nod to James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, a classic examination of race. Using that as inspiration, Ward has put together a collection of essays and poems about what life is like for people of color in modern America.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

Ward recruited some wonderful writers for this collection, such as Claudia Rankine, Natasha Tretheway, and Kiese Laymon. As with most essay collections, some pieces are better than others. That’s true with this book, but the good essays easily outnumber ones I thought were mediocre.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

People interested in race and social justice will be inspired by this book.

The Lost Man book cover

The Lost Man by Jane Harper
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Nathan is the oldest of three brothers. Right before Christmas, his middle brother Cameron is found dead. Like Nathan, Cam had spent his entire life in the Australian outback, so he knew the risks and how to survive the oppressive heat. The family questions the circumstances of his death and eventually face a disturbing rumor about Cam’s past. Meanwhile, Nathan is forced to confront his grieving mother, the widowed sister-in-law he always avoids, and the terrible memory of his abusive father.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

Jane Harper might be the queen of settings. When I read her work, I feel like I’m actually in the outback, thirsty and covered in dust. Her descriptions of the landscape pull you even further into her expertly crafted mystery and family drama.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Fans of Harper’s first two books (The Dry and Force of Nature) will love The Lost Man. Mystery and suspense fans will undoubtedly be satisfied with Harper’s first standalone novel.

The Hunting Party book cover

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

A group of friends from Oxford always spend New Year’s Eve together, and 2018 is no exception. This year, Emma, the newest member of the group, has planned a getaway to a remote lodge and cabins nestled into the snowy woods. Thanks to a snowstorm, there’s no way in and no way out, so when a member of the group is found murdered, everyone knows the killer is in their midst.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT 
THIS BOOK?

The Hunting Party has a delightfully creepy atmosphere and setting. The pacing is fantastic, and the twists are a fun surprise. This book is a highly enjoyable murder mystery.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Mystery fans who want a perfect winter read will enjoy this one.


What did you read in February? Leave a comment below and share!


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Reading Recap | January 2019

Photo by Holly Stratton on Unsplash

Hi there! I’m glad to be back. I’ve been sick with pneumonia and an unpleasant ear infection these past two weeks, so blogging was not at the top of my priority list. Taking my antibiotics and rewatching Parks and Recreation for the twelfth time held that distinction. Anyway, I’m finally feeling better, and I’m happy to be posting again.

Today I’m sharing what I read in January. I read nine books, so I’ll be brief with my thoughts on each one so it doesn’t take you thirteen hours to read this post. Let’s get started!

Garlic and sapphires book cover

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
by Ruth Reichl
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Ruth Reichl is the well-known food critic who once worked for the New York Times. This book is about when she moved to New York to start her new gig and the complications that ensued. Restaurants around the city knew who Reichl was and had her picture taped up in their kitchens. She knew she’d never be able to get fair service if the staff knew her, so she thought up several elaborate disguises in order to dine anonymously.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

This book is so much fun to read. Reichl’s passion for great food is evident on every page. I’d prefer a cheeseburger to most of the food Reichl describes in this book, but her excitement and joy when eating is contagious.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

People who love spending time in the kitchen will definitely enjoy this.

Becoming book cover

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Becoming chronicles Mrs. Obama’s life from her childhood in Chicago to the end of her husband’s administration.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

I love reading books about politics and presidents, so I knew I’d like that aspect of Becoming, but what I ended up loving most was the story of Obama’s early years. Learning how a black girl from Chicago’s south side ended up as First Lady was fascinating. I also appreciate that Obama repeatedly cites education as the key to her success.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Fans of the Obamas will love this, but readers of any political background should pick this up. Themes like family, love, and education should be universally appealing.

If beale st. could talk book cover

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Tish and Fonny are young and in love. They’re about to have a baby and start their own family when Fonny is charged and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Baldwin explores their relationship, their families, and how injustice tests everyone involved in this powerful story.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

The range of emotions I felt while reading this book is noteworthy considering its short length. Baldwin captures the sweetness between Tish and Fonny so well, which makes the idea of them torn apart deeply upsetting.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

If you’ve meant to read Baldwin or already love him, don’t miss this one.

Nothing good can come from this book cover

Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

This book is a collection of essays about Kristi Coulter’s life as a sober woman. She acknowledges the seriousness of her addiction, but her writing is funny and full of wit.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

Coulter is frank about the toll addiction took on her life, yet writes about her journey with constant vulnerability infused with humor.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Goodreads says fans of David Sedaris, Sloane Crosley, and Cheryl Strayed will like this, and I agree completely.

Looker book cover

Looker by Laura Sims
Rating: 3/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

The unnamed narrator of this book is facing the loss of her marriage and is grieving over the fact she can’t conceive a child. She becomes obsessed with the actress, a famous woman who lives with her family on the same block. As the narrator’s life spirals more out of control, her obsession with the actress grows even more intense.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

The premise of this book intrigued me as soon as I heard about it, and it delivers on the tension. I wish the book had contained more depth, but it’s a fast-paced story with a satisfying ending.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

If you like suspense books with unreliable narrators, you’ll enjoy Looker.

For better and for worse book cover

For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt
Rating: 3/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Will and Natalie meet during law school. They eventually marry and have a son named Charlie. Their lives have grown a little dull until the principal of their son’s school—who’s a friend—is seen taken away by police due to some terrible accusations. Once they realize their son is involved, they set off a chain of events they could never have imagined.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

For Better and Worse is definitely a page-turner. Natalie is a fascinating character who keeps you guessing until the very last page.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Anyone who shares my love of thrillers and stories about complicated marriages will like this book.

Sadie book cover

Sadie by Courtney Summers
Rating: 4/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

When Sadie is 19, her little sister Mattie is killed. She thinks she knows who’s responsible and without notice, she sets out to find the killer since the police haven’t. Meanwhile, a podcaster named West hears about the murder and Sadie’s disappearance. He puts it in the back of his mind until he gets a phone call from the woman who’s a stand-in grandma to Sadie and Mattie. She asks him to pursue the story and get some answers, so he develops a new podcast series called the Girls.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

Sadie is written in the form of the podcast and Sadie’s first-person thoughts. This style makes for a unique and effective structure that perfectly suits this suspenseful, brutal story.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Readers who don’t mind dark stories and enjoy unique narrative structures shouldn’t miss this novel.

No exit book cover

No Exit by Taylor Adams
Rating: 2/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

Darby is a college student who just found out her mom has cancer. She heads out to see her a couple of days before Christmas and gets stuck in a blizzard. She’s forced to stop at a rest stop with four strangers until the weather clears up. While walking around outside trying to get a cell signal, Darby sees something horrifying in a van parked out front: a little girl locked in a cage. Darby knows she has to save the child but doesn’t know how or who she can trust.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

No Exit offers a lot of exciting twists and turns. The bad news is that they don’t make much sense sometimes.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

Fans of thrillers who don’t overthink every chapter will be most satisfied with this one.

Sugar run book cover

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren
Rating: 3/5

WHAT’S THIS BOOK ABOUT?

After serving almost two decades of her prison sentence, Jodi gets a surprise release. (Readers learn about Jodi’s crime through flashbacks.) Jodi’s plan is to go live in the house she inherited from her grandmother, but first, she stops to check in on the brother of the woman she used to love. During her journey, she meets Miranda, a mother of three who’s addicted to pills. Jodi and Miranda have an instant connection, and the two set out to build new lives together.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT
THIS BOOK?

What I like most about Sugar Run is the setting, which is West Virginia. I don’t recall reading anything else set there, so I enjoyed the glimpse of life in Appalachia.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK?

I’d recommend this book only to readers who don’t mind incredibly bleak stories. This is a tough read that grapples with things such as addiction, poverty, and violence.


I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading lately. What was the best book you read in January?


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