ALL My Quarantine Reads (March - May)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Hi there! Where has the time gone? I feel like I blinked and the weather is warm, I've been working at home for going on 8 weeks, and Memorial Day weekend came and went. We were supposed to be heading back from Japan this weekend after an amazing 15-day trip...but that has been put on hold until 2021 (hopefully).

I am going back and forth between lusting over travel pictures and researching hotels for our next journeys, and feeling far too sad to even think about traveling. So right now I am using books as my escape.

I have been reading a LOT (even more than normal) over these past months and I can't wait to share my thoughts with you all!


Wow, this book was short but so powerful. I have not read the first book by Julie Otsuka, but I am now adding to my list. This novel is written in eight parts using the first person plural. Rather than follow one or two characters we follow the story of thousands of women who came from Japan to the United States as mail-order brides. The book begins with the women on the boats, sharing photos of their new husbands, reminiscing about their loved ones they left behind, both fearful and excited. The novel then progresses to discuss their first nights with their husbands, the back-breaking labor they endure on farms and as house servants, giving birth to their children, raising children that reject their heritage as they are discriminated for being Japanese even though they were born in the United States, the start of World War II, and leaving for the internment camps. It is sad, moving, and powerful.

The narratives gives details of single members of the group but never wavers from using the first person plural. It put my own life in perspective on how easy I have had it. For anyone interested in history or looking for a powerful narrative on a human experience I recommend. 

I listened to this book on audio over the course of about two weeks. Wow. This book really touched me. I thoroughly enjoyed listening on audio, even though some of the parts were difficult for me to listen to as they were very emotional. I found myself tearing up, laughing, and smiling at different times throughout the book.

The short: Lori Gottlieb is a therapist working in Los Angeles. This book is part a reflection of her time in therapy following a sudden difficult break-up with her long-term boyfriend and part a reflection of her work as a therapist where we follow four of her clients.

The long: The book details Lori's journey to become a therapist, beginning her career as a production assistant and television writer, to attending medical school, to being a journalist. The book jumps to different times in Lori's life, starting with her already working as a therapist and breaking up with her boyfriend, then going back to her early days in her career, and then moving back and forth between her current patients and therapy journey intermixed with her career journey. It is not hard to follow and I thought the switches kept things interesting. I was never bored with one section, rather each time a new chapter started I was excited, like "Oh yay, we get to check-in with John or oh now we will get some more time of Lori working with Wendell".

The four patients highlighted include: John, a successful TV writer, Rita, a 69-year old lonely woman who has decided to commit suicide if she doesn't have a relationship before her 70th birthday, Charlotte, a 20-something who is coming to terms with her alcoholism and her habit of sleeping with the wrong people, and Julie, a newlywed dealing with a terrible cancer diagnosis.

Intermixed, we witness Lori's relationship with her own therapist, Wendell, who is helping her in the aftermath of her breakup. I laughed, I almost cried, and I really enjoyed this therapy-positive book. This will make you want to find a therapist like Lori or Wendell that you can go to to work through whatever you're facing in your life, because let's be honest - we all could use someone to talk to.

Overall Rating: A-

3// The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

This is a very quick read. Not only are there random blank pages, but none of it is dense or difficult to get through. It jumps right into the story on page one.

That being said, there was ONE like-able character in this book. ONE. Everyone else I found extremely unlike able and therefore was rooting for no one. The main character especially I did not like at all, which is a big reason it’s 3 stars for me. It will keep you reading as you will want to find out the answers to the mystery, but I didn’t find the reveals particularly compelling or shocking,

The premise of the story is Alicia Berenson was a successful artist living with her husband Gabriel, a fashion photographer, in a posh London suburb. They seem happy and in love but one day Gabriel returns from work and Alicia shoots him in the head before attempting to commit suicide. She never speaks another word and is committed to a mental hospital where she remains silent, expect for one artistic expression she creates during her trial.

Psychotherapist Theo Faber is obsessed with the story and applies for a job at the institute housing Alicia to attempt to get her to talk. Will Theo unlock the mystery surrounding Alicia? Will she ever speak again? What really happened the days leading up to the murder?

Overall Rating: C-

4// Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

This is a super quick, quirky read. Keiko Furukura has been working in a convenience store for the past 18 years. She likes being a convenience store worker as she knows exactly how to act (thanks to their training manual) and fits in easily as an employee of the store.

The issue is, the rest of the world does not seem content with Keiko working at a “dead-end” job, remaining unmarried and childless, and not seeking any change. This novel is a super short and quick read which will leave you thinking about society and what is “normal”. The social commentary upset me at times and the novel also had me feeling for Keiko, despite her rather dark thoughts at times. I thought this was an interesting read and could spark a very interesting discussion. I’d recommend it for your next book club pick!

Overall Rating: A-

5// The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

This book. This book. This book really messed with my mind and emotions, BUT I also loved it and read it very quickly. I’m giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars because while I did like the book there were a couple times I was angry at the characters and story-line and I could see some of the twists coming.

Caroline (Carly) Sears is a young physical therapist and Vietnam War widow living in the Outer Banks in 1970. She is pregnant with her late husband’s baby and is shattered when she finds out that the baby has a heart defect and will not live past birth. However, her brother-in-law tells her there may be another option. What he suggests seems impossible, but Carly will do anything to save her unborn daughter. However, going down this path will change everything forever.

Overall, I really liked this book, the characters were likable which is important to me and I found it moved at a good pace. Definitely recommend!

Overall Rating: A-

6// The Proposal by Jasmine Guillroy

Nikole (Nik) is shocked when she goes to a Dodgers game with her wannabe-actor boyfriend and his friends. In the middle of the game her proposes (out of nowhere) and is shocked when Nik turns him down! A couple of seats away, Carlos and his sister see it all going down and rescue Nik from the stadium cameras coming to assault her. Little to do they know, everything goes viral and Nik is mortified.

However, from this crazy situation Nik and Carlos develop a friendship...which quickly turns into a friends with benefits situation. However, Is Nik ready for a new relationship? Does Carlos even want that?

This cute rom-com will have you rooting for Carlos and Nik from the start. It was also nice to see minorities represented in a love story, and I really like Nik as a character. While not the deepest thing you'll read, still light-hearted and enjoyable. 

Overall Rating: B

7// Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I'm sure you're heard about this book before and don't need me to summarize...but I will for completeness sake. This is the story of two families who could not be more different. Mia and her daughter Pearl have been vagrant Pearl's entire life, always moving from town to town. On the flip side, the Richardson family has deep roots in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Elena Richardson rents her rental property to Mia and Pearl, and the families begin to interact and intertwine from there.

As Elena discovers more about Mia's past, Pearl becomes involved with the Richardson children. Secrets are exposed which shake the entire community, and leave neither family the same.

I enjoyed this book and love Ng's writing about family relationships, particularly mother-daughter. I thought the plot moved quickly and was interesting and compelling. 

Overall Rating: A-


1// Conviction by Denise Mena

Anna has a secret, we know this from the start. This novel begins in Scotland, with Anna at home and excited to listen to a new true crime podcast. However, her world is turned upside down suddenly, both her husband announces he’s leaving her for her best friend and the subject of the podcast is someone she knew years ago. As Anna struggles to hold on, secrets begin to unravel which set her, and her ex-best-friend’s soon to be ex-husband Fin, on an adventure across Europe.

Two mystery’s in one this novel was easy to read, however I wasn’t compelled by the main character. The twists I did find unpredictable, but maybe not earned. Either way, fans of British/Scottish thrillers will enjoy this novel. I thought the podcast element was also unique and fun. 

Overall Rating: B-

2// Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold. Turns out, the only thing wrong was the poison her mother, Patty gave her in her meals. Now, Rose Gold has sent Patty to prison, but she's about to be released.

And Rose Gold is anxiously awaiting for their their reunion.

This book was a very quick read for me (as in, I read it in one day). The story moves quickly and you will want to know what's happening next. While some of the plot points are fairly obvious, there are a few twists I did not see coming. The main issue with this book is most of the characters are unlikable, and it makes it hard to choose a side as both Rose Gold and Patty are deeply troubled.

Either way, if you enjoyed The Act on Hulu you will most likely find this book entertaining and easy to consume.

Overall Rating: C+

3// The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry

This book took me a little bit to get into. Roxy is a struggling artist mostly vegan working at the Whole Foods deli in Austin, TX. Her ex-boyfriend Everett moves in with her and she begins writing him letters which detail her bizarre life and failures at love.

At first I thought the premise was utterly unbelievable as who would sit and write this detailed of a letter to their ex, but as the story went on it took on more a diary/ Bridget Jones quality. Roxy became much more likable and I enjoyed rooting for her in her love life misadventures and her vendetta against the Lululemon moving in to her beloved intersection in Austin.

Overall, this book was kooky, light-hearted, and a fun read. For fans of Bridget Jones Diary, meet Roxy, your new BFF 

Overall Rating: B-

4// Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey tells the story of two women, Gray and Diana, whose lives intertwine one summer at the beach. Told from the perspective of both women the book focuses on the importance of friendship and family.

Gray is a 34 year-old (almost 35) soon to be divorced single mom. She owns her own multi-million dollar affiliate marketing company she built from the ground up. She is living down the shore for the summer and navigating her new normal since her husband left her for his 20-something assistant and her mother passed away from cancer.

Diana is a 40-year old woman who leaves her loser boyfriend of eight years and gets fired from her job at the pharmacy in the same day. She is unsure where is is going to live or even get her next meal. Through maybe fate, she begins working for Gray as her housekeeper and the women become fast friends. Together they navigate new (and old) love interests, family drama, and the curve-balls life throws in their path.

What I liked about this story is it focused so heavily on female friendships rather than rivalries. The love interests in the book seemed a little under-developed but I loved how built out the female characters were. The reason I am giving this book 3 stars is it dragged at parts and some of the story lines seemed to be wrapped up in a neat package that wasn't necessarily earned. Either way, I felt this was a nice light-spirited read. Fans of female friendship fiction will enjoy this as a fun summer read.

Thank you to the publisher and author for providing me an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. 

Overall Rating: B

5// Little Whispers by K.L. Slater

Little Whispers by KL Slater is a domestic suspense novel taking place in England. Janey is excited when her husband, Isaac, receives an offer for a new job with a huge salary increase. The new job will require them to move to a posh street, Buckingham Crescent. Upon moving into their new home, which is much larger than anything they've dreamed of living in, Janey gets to know the other moms on the street, Edie, Tanya, and Kyoko. Each of these ladies is elegant, wealthy, and a fellow mom at the school Janey's son has transferred to.

Janey grows close to one of the moms, Tanya, and confesses a dark family secret to her one night after too much alcohol. Tanya vows to keep her secret, however threatens Janey that she will expose it when Janey witnesses Tanya's teenage daughter, Angel, participating in some questionable behavior that has a connection to a murder in the area. Will Janey get to the bottom of what Angel is up to? And why is her own husband acting to strange? On Buckingham Crescent nothing is as it seems.

I enjoyed this book and found it easy to get into. One issue however, is I felt it dragged a bit in the middle. Particularly when they kept hinting about "big secrets" and sketchy behavior but pulling a bait-and-switch and not revealing the secrets to the reader. For example., the novel is told from Janey's POV however it will skip over details of Janey's secret for much of the book, which got frustrating after it happened a couple of times. Also, there is a lot of details of Janey going to work, going shopping, etc. which serve for some character development but begin to drag about halfway through the book when you just want to find out the twists/secrets.

I did not predict all the twists and was surprised at the ending - so that was great! Overall, this was an easy book to get sucked into and you will want to finish it quickly to find out what everyone is hiding!

Thank you to the author and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for my honest review.

Overall Rating: B

6// Followers by Megan Angelo

Two timelines: one takes place a few years ago and one is 30 years in the future. And the future is bleak. In 2043, Marlow lives in Constellation, California with her husband, Ellis. She has over 10 million followers who watch her every move, as influencers now live in a gated community where everything they do is broadcast.

In the past, wannabe writer Orla is living in Chelsea with her roommate Floss and trying to figure out how to be a published author and make her way in the concrete jungle that is NYC. With some backhanded tricks Orla and Floss manage to make Floss famous and get her own reality show - which also makes Orla famous. But there’s a price to pay for fame. And then some terrible events strike the entire United States - events which will permanently change the future.

I enjoyed this book and read through it very quickly. It dragged a little at the end but overall I found this a very enjoyable, quick read. Anyone who enjoys following social media influencers will find this a fun and enjoyable read.

Overall Rating: B

7// The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

Thursday has an interesting arrangement with her husband, Seth. She shares him with two other wives who she has never met and does not know the names of. However, when Seth accidentally slips a personal detail about one of the other wives to Thursday, she cannot get over her curiosity and goes to meet her...only to discover that she is being physically abused.

But Seth has never been abusive to her...soon Thursday goes down a dark road to discover what her husband is hiding and the truth about her marriage.

I was drawn to this book as I love a good Big Love/Sister Wives story-line and find it fascinating. This book will keep you guessing as it is a thriller with an unreliable narrator - which was agitating at times. Overall, I enjoyed the book and found it to be a quick read but it wasn't exactly the story I was looking or hoping for. 

Overall Rating: B-

8// Th13teen by Steve Cavanagh (#4 in Eddie Flynn series, but you do not need to read books 1-3, I did not)

What if the serial killer isn't on trial...he's on the jury?

Fans of I Am Pilgrim, Law and Order, and Criminal Minds will enjoy this court room drama. This book is told from two points of view: ex-con artist turned lawyer, Eddie Flynn and a sociopathic highly intelligent serial killer, Joshua Kane. The trial of the decade is happening and Eddie Flynn somehow ends up on the defense team. The client is movie star Bobby Solomon who is accused of murdering his wife and head of security. It looks like an open and shut case - but we know from the start that Bobby is innocent. The killer is not on trial, he has managed to get himself a seat in the jury.

I really enjoyed the twists and turns of this book. As a big Criminal Minds fan I loved the intricate serial killer analysis. This book felt like watching an episode of the show - and I loved that! While some of the twists were a little predictable overall I was highly entertained and rooting for Eddie while hoping Kane would meet justice the whole time. I tore through this book because I needed answers. If you are looking for a book that’s easy to get into, look no further!

Overall Rating: B+

9 - 11// The Selection books 1-3 by Kiera Cass

This was sold to me by Grace Atwood at The Stripe and her podcast co-host Becca Freeman (they have a show called Bad On Paper where I like to get book recommendations as Grace and I have similar book tastes). They described it as "The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games" and I totally agree with that teaser.

In the future the United State is no more, the country has been replaced with a new country with a rigid caste system and a royal family. The entire nation is anticipating the upcoming Selection process where 35 hopeful young women will compete for the heart of the handsome Prince Maxon, and a chance to change the life of themselves and their families forever. 

America Singer does not expect to be chosen for The Selection, even though she is naturally beautiful and a talented musician she is a Five and therefore a member of a lower caste. Not to mention, she is in love with a Six, Aspen, her gorgeous neighbor who she wants to marry despite their class differences. However, things don't always work out as planned, and America is picked for the process...she can get through this without falling for Maxon...right?

This YA book is a VERY easy read and very addicting. I read all three books in about a week and thoroughly enjoyed the escape. Are they groundbreaking literature? No. But will you be entertained and enjoy the ride? Absolutely. 

Overall Rating for the three books: B+

Esther, Essie, Hicks is the youngest of six children and has been on her parents' television show, Six for Hicks, since was born. Raised by a deeply religious family, Essie has always been known to be a devout "good girl". Her entire family's reputation is based on it. However, Essie has a secret which can tear her family apart, and she decides to take some things into her own hands. 

I really enjoyed this book, if you are a fan (or enjoy watching the train-wreck) of the TLC shows like the Duggars, Bates, etc. you will enjoy this book. It is a quick read and you will be rooting for Essie while rooting against her family throughout the novel. 

I enjoyed the writing of this book and the story kept my attention after pulling me in right away. 4.5/5 stars.

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.

Overall Rating: A-


An exclusive wedding on a remote island off the coast of Ireland. Multiple viewpoints. A murder has happened, but we don't know the victim. Everyone has a motive. This is the set-up for The Guest List.

Jules runs a successful lifestyle magazine and is marrying the dashingly handsome Will. Will, is an up-and-coming television star known for his survival show. Also attending the wedding is Will's childhood best friend, and best man, Jule's best friend and his wife (the plus-one), Jules' sister and bridesmaid, and the owner of the Island/Wedding planner.

All of these characters have a secret, and all seem to have motive for murder.

I was sucked into this book right away. My dad is Irish and I enjoy a book taking place in Ireland, and a classy wedding sounds like the perfect escape right now. However, I thought some of the characters were a bit exaggerated and the red herons began to get irritating by the end of the book.

In summary, I enjoyed the book and it was a solid thriller and an easy read.

Overall Rating: B

Vanessa Wye is a fifteen year old bright girl from rural Maine who is thrilled when she get a scholarship to an exclusive boarding school, The Browick School. Her first year there goes ok but her only friend, Jenny, abandons her for a new boyfriend so she returns for sophomore year friendless and feeling a little lost. Vanessa’s favorite subject is English and in her English seminar class she meets Jacob Strane, a 43-year old imposing man who takes notice to Vanessa immediately.

The book alternates between the past, when Vanessa is at school, and present day where Vanessa is being contacted by another girl who had contact with Strane when she was a student.

Vanessa begins to try and come to terms with what happened to her when she was 15 - she always looked at it as a love story, but was it something more sinister? All the values she’s built her life around begin crumbling and she’s forced to look at her past through the lens that others removed from the situation can see it.

This book was well written, but it is not a “fun” read. The subject matter is very heavy and there were times I wanted to scream at multiple characters I found them so frustrating (but that was the point). Overall, it was a thought provoking read and an interesting take on the complicated feelings survivors experience. I also wanted to blast the Dixie Chicks song Gaslighter to Strane every time he talked - it was so infuriating. If you think you can handle the content I recommend the read.

TW: Sexual abuse & relationship between an adult and a minor.

Overall Rating: B+

This is the second book in a series, I highly recommend reading Matchmaking for Beginners before this one!

Picking up where we left off in the first book, Matchmaking for Beginners, Marnie and Patrick have now been dating for a few years and things are looking great. Marnie is running a successful flower shop and filling her life with misfits and projects, just like Blix would have done. However, Marnie desperately wants a child and Patrick is still dealing with unresolved issues from his accident years ago which killed his last girlfriend and left him burned.

As it happens in most books, things do not go according to plan for either Patrick or Marnie, when a former two-night stand of Patrick's shows up out of nowhere with an eight-year old daughter that Patrick had no idea he fathered. The two become parents overnight, and while Marnie immediately loves the role, Patrick is not so sure.

Written in the style of the first book, this novel is filled with love and a sprinkle of whimsy. I really became more attached to Marnie and Patrick in this book and was invested in where it would end. Even though I could predict where things were heading, there were some surprises along the way and the book captivated me the entire time. If you are looking for a cozy, sparkling, romance look no further. Thank you to the publisher, NetGalley, and the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Overall Rating: B+

For fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine comes another bookish heroine, Nina Hill, who is also completely fine. Mostly. Nina has a very scheduled, organized life between her job at a (failing) bookstore, trivia league, book clubs, and scheduled time to do nothing. She certainly does not have time for a family she knew nothing about, dates with a cute man from the opposing quiz bowl team, or making changes.

This novel was cute, warm, and made me feel happy. I liked Nina and while I am not an introvert I still understood her. I rooted for her the whole story and was excited to see the various adventures she went on. I also enjoyed the author's style of narration. Anyone looking for a cute romance, feel-good novel with an introverted imperfect bookish heroine, look no further

Overall Rating: B+

Tara Westover has not set foot in a formal classroom before the age of 17. Growing up in rural Idaho, Tara has a rough (not even a strong enough word for it) upbringing. Her parents are devout Mormons who do not believe in modern medicine and are constantly preparing for the end of days. Eventually Tara moves away from the mountain she knows as her home to study at BYU and eventually Cambridge, and in that process comes to question many of the beliefs she held so closely.

At times, this book was difficult to read. It felt like deriving entertainment from physical abuse, mental illness, and PTSD. However, as it is the author's personal memoir I felt it was important for her to be able to tell her story and for me, as a reader, to embrace it with an open mind. I found the family dynamics fascinating, and genuinely feel pain for the members of the family, such as Emily, still in that dysfunctional environment.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and it made me think. It is a great book to spark discussion and I recommend it to my friends and family.

Trigger Warning: child neglect and domestic violence

Overall Rating: B+

Set in 1974 the Allbright family consisting of Leni and her parents Cora and Ernt have lived a vagrant lifestyle. Ever since her father returned from Vietnam, where he was a POW, he hasn’t been quite his old self. When he finds out one of his fellow soldiers has left him his cabin and land in a remote part of Alaska he believes this will be the chance his family needs to get away and start over.

Alaska is beautiful, but dangerous, and while there are a million dangers outside, inside of the cabin becomes just as dangerous for Leni and Cora.

This novel spans years and tells a story of courage, love, and finding oneself. I really enjoyed the writing and was compelled to keep reading the whole time. I grew to really love Leni as a character and felt for her during this novel. I recommend to anyone looking to have their heart stomped on just a little a good way.

Trigger warning: domestic violence

Overall Rating: A

Connell Waldron is one of the most popular boys in high school in a small town in Northern Ireland. Marianne Sheridan has no friends. Connell's mother cleans Marianne's home and Connell often comes by to pick up his mother, sparking an unexpected relationship between Marianne and Connell. On paper, they couldn't be more different. Connell is popular and comes from a working-class background. Marianne is an outcast from a wealthy family. However, they find a connection that transcends these circumstances and ties them together. 

Later, Marianne and Connell both go off to University, where the circumstances shift and Marianne is suddenly posh and popular, where Connell struggles to find his footing. However, like in high school the two continuously circle each other in both a romantic and friendly way throughout the years.

This book was beautifully written and I came to love both of the main characters, especially Connell. I found it a VERY quick read. I highly recommend, its a different kind of love story which will give you all the feelings. 

Overall Rating: A

Two families go on a summer vacation to Italy together, but something goes horribly wrong. Told from the view point of each of the four adults on the trip, Siracusa discusses the complexities and falling apart of two families. Lizzie and Michael are New York City writers, Michael constantly feeling in the shadow of his Pulitzer winning play which was his first work, and Lizzie navigating through life in a loud and boisterous manner. 

Taylor and Finn live in Portland, Maine with her daughter, the tragically shy Snow. Taylor and Finn have a cold relationship, and Taylor spends all her time doting on Snow, who barely speaks to anyone except her mother. The two couples have very little in common, and as the reader moves day by day through the trip they begin to see the cracks between all the relationships growing bigger and bigger.

I enjoyed this book - I have a couple of issues with the ending as I feel some things were left a little too open, but overall I think it was a solid summer read. I am dreaming of a vacation to Italy right now...but maybe not this vacation.

Overall Rating: B-

Drought has settled on the town of Peaches in the valley in California. 14-year old Lacey May lives with her alcoholic mother and attends a church where the congregation worships the pastor, Vern, almost as much as God himself. The town believes following Vern's orders are the only way to bring the rain back to the valley and restore the town's past as the top producer of raisins. 

However, Vern's methods are questionable and downright illegal. Not only that, Lacey's mother is outcast from the group for being disloyal, leaving Lacey to live with her fanatical grandmother who is a firm believer in Vern. 

Lacey will stop at nothing to find her mother, and along the way she will begin to learn more about her own morals and beliefs as well. 

I've seen mixed reviews on this novel, but I really enjoyed it. It was a little slow at first and I noticed that a lot of the negative reviews gave up before or around the 50% mark. I think the book hits its stride in the last 50% - so if the synopsis and the idea of a book about a cult in the California desert, narrated through the eyes of a fourteen-year old girl appeals to you, then I would encourage you to keep reading. 

This isn't the book that is going to pull you in right away, but I thought it was well written and had compelling characters. I was thirsty for a glass of water the entire time I was reading!

Overall Rating: B

Have you read any of these books? I'd love to hear your thoughts! What is on your to-be read list for summer?

Also, I am preparing a list of my anticipated summer reads! Would love recommendations!

Links in this post are affiliate links and I earn a small commission if you purchase something using them. Thank you for the support!

My Husband's Recent Reads and Reviews

Sunday, May 24, 2020

One of the things I love about Alex is that he is also a big reader. Its a hobby we have in common, however our tastes in books are very different. I thought it would be fun to let Alex come on here and share some reviews on his recent reads. If you have similar taste to Alex, great, here is something a little different than the genres I typically offer!

As always, stay safe, practice social distancing, wash your hands, and be smart! 

Five Families

This book is about the founding of the mafia in America, specifically the five families of New York. It is a dense read (over 500 pages) and begins in the 1880's and goes until the mid-2000's. It covers the entire history of the five families in NYC in great detail. There is a chapter dedicated to each family's founding and then progression through history. It lays everything out very well and is extremely informative and interesting. Don't let the size intimidate you, this is an easy read!

Rating: 5 mob hits out of 5

The Crusades

This book covers all the crusades, not just the crusades in the Middle East. It includes information on the muslims being driven out of Spain, the Baltic, etc. I found it very interesting and really enjoyed learning about the cause and effect of each of these events. This is an easy read as it is presented in a narrative form so it doesn't feel like you're reading a textbook. 

Rating: 5 pilgrimages to the holy city out of 5


Spooky October read. This horror novel tells the story of a town in upstate New York who is cursed with a witch from the 1600's living amongst them. They can never leave the town and can never open her sewn shut eyes or mouth. This novel is translated from Dutch and includes commentary on humans as a whole. It has a horror-movie feel the whole time you are reading. 

Rating: 3.5 peacock feathers out of 5

I Heard You Paint Houses

I liked both the book and the movie, while the movie was 3.5 hours long they were able to fit almost everything in from the book, but I would recommend reading and watching both. Frank Sheeran lived a fascinating life so I liked reading his stories about the mob. I also really enjoyed the epilogue where the author comments on the believability of the stories. The book is set up as a large quote from a recorded interview with Frank and then the author will add commentary afterwards about what was going on on the other side. I recommend to anyone who enjoys non-fiction and books about the mafia.

Rating: 5 handguns thrown into the river out of 5

In Process Reads:

Say Nothing

This book has been excellent so far. It is about The Troubles, which was a conflict in Northern Ireland where there was a paramilitary to push the English out to unite Ireland into a singular nation. It is an interesting period of history which doesn't have a many books written about it, I have been enjoying it thoroughly thus far. 

Red Men

This is a very dense, detailed book about the history of the Liverpool Football Club. It goes into the founding and season by season the history of the club. As a die-hard Liverpool fan I have been enjoying learning more about the club and the rich history. I would recommend for any Liverpool fan.

All time favorite recommendations: 

Anything by Dan Jones or Erik Larson

Next in Alex's to-be-read pile: Ten Caesars, The Last Book on the Left, Midnight in Chernobyl 

The ULTIMATE Book Recommendations List

Saturday, March 14, 2020


Hello everyone! What a wild, crazy week it has been. I know a lot of us out there are scared, anxious, and wanting a distraction. Social Distancing is the current buzzword and we're all doing our part to help stop/slow the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. As a result a lot of my friends who are not usually big readers are reaching out for book recommendations. This makes me so happy! Let's just take a moment to appreciate this bright spot in an otherwise scary, uncertain world. 

I love reading as its a way to escape to other worlds, get lost in character's thoughts, and get my mind off of whatever is going on in my real life. If anything positive can come from the current state of global affairs, let it be that our March reading recaps are LIT and maybe some of our non-reader friends will be converted! 

You can check out my Goodreads here to see everything I've read so far this year and the past few years. Also, check out my Bookstagram for more bookish content and recommendations. 

So without further ado, here are my 100% approved recommendations:

For the Romance Lover:

Romance Books Suggested by my friends that I have not read:

For the THRILLER Lover:

Thriller Books Suggested by my friends that I have not read:

For the FICTION Lover:

Fiction books I have not yet read but hear are excellent:

For the Non-Fiction & Memoir Lover:

Non-Fiction and Memoirs I have not yet read but hear are excellent:

Also, just for fun, here is a peek at my current to-be-read (TBR) pile:


This will be me all weekend and for the foreseeable future after work! Happy Reading! Stay healthy and safe out there!


Five Spotify Playlists for Every Mood

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


Does anyone else remember what we used to be before Spotify? Oh yeah, illegally download music using Limewire/Kazaa/Napster or paying $0.99 cents per song (on our parents' credit card) to buy a song on Apple...or that one time I recorded "My Band" by D12 feat. Eminem off the radio using a handheld tape recorder. Good times.

Luckily, nowadays we can pay a reasonable fee to stream unlimited music every month with no commercials. I love Spotify Premium. Having a hour - hour and a half commute to my client for the past four years I've spent a lot of time listening to music in my car. In the evenings I usually will listen to a podcast or an audiobook (or call and annoy a friend or my parents by chatting on the phone). However, in the morning I love listening to some good music and drinking my coffee on my drive to work. Depending on my mood I have a couple of playlists I've created that are in my current Spotify rotation. I'm pretty proud of some these as I have been working on them/adding to them for years. And therefore, I present to you a selection of my curated Spotify playlists:


Name: Emo Forever

Who is it for: Anyone who went to Warped Tour or wanted to go to Warped Tour. Anyone who had a Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, or Hellogoodbye T-shirt. Anyone who was a member of the Hot Topic rewards program and learned their eyeliner skills from My Chemical Romance.

Featured Artists: Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, Hellogoodbye, Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, Blink-182, Say Anything, Girls Like Boys, Cobra Starship, The Academy Is..., My Chemical Romance, and more.


Name: no words / music to focus

Who is it for: Anyone who needs a playlist consisting of only instrumental music. I like this when I want some background noise at work, but I am either reading or writing and therefore will be too distracted by lyrics.

Featured Artists: Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yaan Tiersen, Hans Zimmer. To be honestly most of this playlist is movie soundtracks!


Name: cotton candy songs

Who is it for: Anyone looking for soft, sudsy music. I love this playlist in the morning while I get ready. Its light, airy, and makes me smile. 

Featured Artists: Taylor Swift, Snow Patrol, Coldplay, Sara Bareilles, Beyonce, Imogen Heap, Of Monsters and Men


Name: Baby's First Nashville

Who is it for: Someone who is in the mood for country music, who is usually not in the mood for country music. Or if you're getting ready for a bachelorette party in Nashville and need to study up. Or you're drinking a beer on the beach and life is good. 

Featured Artists: Luke Bryan, John Pardi, Cole Swindell, Blake Shelton, Old Dominion, Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Sam Hunt, Dan + Shay


Name: 2000s woods party

Who is it for: The type of songs you would listen to while drinking crappy beer or malt liquor with your high school friends while home from college on break. Or maybe at a party the summer before college. If you graduated high school in the late 2000's - this one is for you.

Featured Artists: Kid Cudi, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, T-Pain, Akon, Flo Rida, Rick Ross, 3OH!3, LMFAO, Timbaland

Do you make playlists on Spotify? I have some seasonal playlists and holiday playlists as well - check out my Spotify profile here! What are you listening to currently?

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The Complicated Feelings Surrounding Death and Dealing with Loss

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

What a whirlwind the past 9 days have been. I know that there's never a "good" time for a tragedy to strike, but that doesn't make it any easier when it happens. Sunday (Feb 23rd) morning, I got awoke to a text from my mom asking if I was awake. The text was sent at midnight, which was very unusual for my mother. I immediately knew something was wrong. I sent my mom a text that I had been asleep but was awake now. After a call with her I found out that my grandfather, my Poppy, had been admitted to the hospital and the outlook was not good. 

My Poppy moved to Eastern Tennessee before I was born after meeting his partner, Charlotte, once he and my grandmother were divorced. My whole life growing up we had gone to Tennessee once, if not twice, a year to visit my Poppy and my aunt, cousins, and step-cousins who all moved down to Tennessee. My mom, brother, and I immediately booked the first flights we could get to go to Knoxville to rush to my Poppy's side. Fortunately, we made it in time to spend some time with him and were able to tell him how much we all loved him. Unfortunately, he did not make it through the week and passed in the early morning hours on Thursday, February 28th. After several draining days spent at his bedside at the hospital I was relieved that he was no longer in pain, but was grieving the loss of my last remaining grandparent. 

All four of my grandparents have passed away during my lifetime, the last when I was a sophomore in high school, age 16. My Poppy however, had been pretty healthy and even though he lived far away we got to visit him and he even made the trip last summer for my wedding to Alex. I am so grateful he was able to share in that joyous day with us. We not only have amazing photographs with him from that day that I will treasure forever, I am so happy that he was there for all of us. It meant a lot not only to me, but also to my mom. 

As this trip was unexpected and last minute, we all rushed into town without clear travel plans, no real sense of when we could come home, and a lot of uncertainty. My mom is one of three, and since the three children of my Poppy are all living far away from Tennessee (my family all living in Philadelphia, my aunt lives outside Pittsburgh, and my uncle lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico), we decided to plan the funeral services to be the weekend after Poppy passed. The whole thing passed in a blur for me. I am so grateful Alex was able to fly down and be by my side in those difficult days. He really was my rock. 

I made a photo collage on Thursday night to display at the viewing on Friday and printing out the photos all of us had with Poppy brought back so many good memories. I also heard some fun stories from my cousins I had never heard before. For example, I didn't know my Poppy's favorite musical artist was George Jones or his favorite color was green. My Poppy was an avid gardener and had taught my cousin everything he knew about gardening and canning. He made the best homemade marinara sauce and salsa. He was a Korean War veteran and work as a train engineer upon returning home. He always spoiled me as I was his only granddaughter. He loved animals and we buried him with a paw print mold of his late beloved cat, Onyx. 

I returned home Sunday with a heavy heart. I miss my Poppy so much, and I was feeling guilty for not spending more time with him the last few years. However, I cannot beat myself up over it. If anything, this loss has served as a needed reminder of what is most important. We are all only here for a short time, we need to make the most of it. Family is the most important thing, at the end of the day spending time with the people you love is what you will look back on. I think my Poppy was rich in time spent with those he loved. He lived a full life, with a big family. I am so happy to have had him in my life these past 30 years, a gift not everyone receives and I will never take for granted. 

I guess what I am trying to say is, I love you Poppy. I miss you. Rest easy, I will see you again one day. 

Everything I Read in February

Sunday, March 1, 2020


While February might be the shortest month of the year I was still able to squeeze in some good reading! It also helped we had one extra day this year as it is a leap year! 

Here are my reviews of everything I finished in February 2020. If you want to see more of my ratings, reviews, and what I've read check out my Goodreads profile here and my Instagram here where I try and update throughout the month and also have discussions with followers on the books I'm reading!

1// Reputation by Sara Shepard 

This novel, by the same author who wrote the Pretty Little Liars series, takes place in the days following an email hack at the prestigious (fictional) Aldrich University in Pittsburgh, PA. The hack reveals rumors, affairs, and lots of dirt on the Aldrich community, but especially Kit Manning-Strasser and her husband, Dr. Greg Strasser. 

Things really heat up when Greg is found murdered in their home the night following a fancy black-tie gala to raise funds for the university, the same week as the email hack. Was the murder due to personal details divulged in the leak? Or did Greg have more secrets than his email revealed.

The novel follows several of the characters at the center of the drama, including: Kit, Raina, a student at Aldrich who is not everything she seems, Willa, Kit's sister and an investigative journalist who comes to town right after the murder, Lynn, a co-worker of Kit's who will do whatever it takes to be the best, and Laura, a nurse who worked with Dr. Greg Strasser. The novel is a mix of mystery, drama, and scandal. 

I found many of the characters in this novel to be unlikeable which made it difficult for me to enjoy the novel. I did find the story easy to get into, but overall I wasn't too invested in the story as I didn't really like the characters! Overall, if you're looking for a dramatic brain candy read you can grab this, but it was not my favorite. 

My rating: B-

2// Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuistion

Fans of romance novels, especially with royal themes, will enjoy this book. When the FSOTUS, Alex Claremont-Diaz attends the royal wedding of Prince Henry's older brother sparks fly - but not in a good way. Now Alex must do a PR trip to prove to the world he doesn't really hate the Prince (even though he does). After the trip Alex's feelings towards Henry begin to change and he thinks of the Prince as a friend. Then, when Henry comes to the USA for a NYE party at the White House his feelings towards Henry really begin to change, and things will never be the same for him.
I enjoyed most of the characters in this book, enjoyed watching the story unfold, and I love most things with a British Royal twist.

Some things I didn’t like: some of the political storylines seemed contrived and not very realistic. Overall, I was left smiling in the end and enjoyed the book. It’s a warm hearted, fun read for anyone who enjoys the romance genre. It’s also my first LBGTQ+ romance book in a long time (the last one that comes to mind is reading Oranges Are Not the only Fruit years ago) and I’m glad it’s so widely accepted in the mainstream (that I’ve seen).

My rating: B

3// Long Bright River by Liz Moore

I talk more about this novel in my blog post on the best books set in Philadelphia. This is the story of two sisters growing up in a Philadelphia neighborhood which has been ravaged by the opioid crisis. Told from the perspective of older, responsible sister, Mickey, and alternating between present day and the past. In the present, Mickey is a single mother who works as a patrol officer in the 24th district of Philadelphia, the impoverished Kensington neighborhood. She likes her job as it allows her to keep an eye on her little sister, Kacey, who has been battling with addiction since her teen years. Mickey and Kacey used to be close while growing up, but recent events have caused distance between them. However, when women are found murdered in Kensington and Kacey goes missing Mickey works to try and find her sister while also uncovering clues about the case.

This book gives a gritty, dark look at the parts of Philadelphia which aren't the prettiest. The opioid crisis is a real issue in Philadelphia, and the United States, and this book showcases that.

I really enjoyed this book, and recognized almost all of the local references which made reading it more enjoyable. This book is heavy but I enjoyed it thoroughly. It also has twists and turns I did not see coming leaving me just wanting to discuss everything with someone when I finished.

My Rating: A-

For fans of Christina Lauren, and especially their newer novel “Unhoneymooners”, this rom-com style novel will be a hit.

Hazel has thought of Josh Im as the “blueprint for Perfect” since they met in college. Years later their paths cross again. Hazel is eccentric as ever, working as an elementary school teacher and co-workers/best friends with Josh’s little sister, Emily. Josh has grown into a responsible adult working as a physical therapist, although he has a not-so-great relationship. Hazel takes this opportunity to embed herself in Josh’s life and become his best PLATONIC friend.

When Josh’s relationship crumbles and they both find themselves single they begin a string of bad double dates, all the while developing feelings for each other. But, will Hazel’s manic energy and eccentricities be too much for Josh? Could they ever work as a couple?

With a few twists along the way, this book is light-hearted and enjoyable. While the ending may be a little predictable I still enjoyed reading it. As a character, Hazel was a little much for me in the beginning, but she grew on me and I really liked her by the end of the novel. Overall, a solid rom-com read and I give it a B rating. I look forward to reading more from this author duo, including the "Honey Don't List" which comes out this month!

My Rating: B

5// Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Have you ever felt in a creative rut? Or maybe you feel an urge to create or make yourself vulnerable with your art and expression, but you are letting fear stand in the way of expressing yourself. Well, this is the book for you.

Elizabeth Gilbert, best known for her novel "Eat, Pray, Love" talks about unlocking your creativity and moving past your fear to realize your dreams. She gives anecdotes, advice, and speaks from her personal experiences of being afraid to fail but wanting something so bad you must try anyway. While I am generally not a huge fan of the "self help" genre, I really enjoyed this book and the anecdotes within its pages resonated with me.

I was feeling stuck creatively and wanted some inspiration, I had heard others say great things about this book so I decided to check it out. What I really love here is that Gilbert addresses so many of my personal fears and qualms that have gotten in my own way. She talks about being creative beyond pretentiousness, allowing yourself to create because you love it, and embracing your passion. It really lit a fire in me and taught me to give myself permission to try and permission to fail. Would recommend to anyone looking to unlock their own potential and needs a little nudge to get out of their own way.

NOTE: I listened to this book on audio and I think hearing Gilbert narrate added something to the experience for me.

My Rating: B+

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially reading it during an election year where times are politically charged. Charlotte Walsh is a successful business tycoon living in Silicon Valley with her husband, Max, and three daughters. She is the quintessential Silicon Valley success story: she came from nothing in a small Pennsylvania town, worked hard and went to an Ivy League college, and made it in California.

After implementing some great changes at her company people begin to ask Charlotte if she will run for office. She decides to attempt to be the first woman elected to the US Senate from Pennsylvania and moves her family back to her childhood room in a poor town in Northeastern PA to make that happen. However, life on the campaign trail is tough, and Charlotte and Max’s marriage is not as perfect as they’d like people to think. Will their family survive intact the grueling campaign life? Will their deepest secrets become exposed? Will Charlotte stay in the race, and if she does will she win?

I really enjoyed the book and in some ways could relate to Charlotte. I am from PA (although I am from the Philly suburbs) and have met people from the towns in this book. I am interested in politics and found it interesting to read from a candidates perspective 

what it’s like to promise people things you can’t promise. I think this was a great read and would recommend, especially to women interested in politics. 

My Rating: A-

What did you read this month? What is next on your to-be-read pile? Did you read any of these books, and if so what did you think?

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