Reading Recap: July 2018

Another month, another stack of reads. This one was particularly good, with my favorite being Us Against You (you probably could have guessed that, huh), a new one from Colleen Hoover, and a stunning debut from Fatima Farheen Mirza. Let’s get to it!

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

While this book was a little outside of my usual comfort zone, I’d heard so many good things that I decided I had to give it a try. And I’m glad I did. Both disturbing and informative, Killers of the Flower Moon tells a true story I knew very little about. The devastating murders of hundreds of members of the Osage Nation is a shameful part of our history, but one we should all be aware of — and something that should be taught in schools. Grann is a masterful storyteller, creating a convincing and haunting narrative that can’t be missed.

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

The first from Sarah Jessica Parker’s imprint, A Place for Us is a stunning debut. I was blown away not only by the writing, but by Mirza’s ability to so accurately depict each character’s feelings, especially those of a parent. This is a beautiful and gut wrenching story of family, finding one’s place in the world, and figuring out who you are. Beware, the last 80 pages will leave you sobbing. I can’t wait to see more from this incredibly talented woman.

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

I was terrified to start Us Against You, thanks to my love of Beartown. I thought there was no possible way it could live up to it — but it did. Backman has a way of writing devastatingly beautiful stories that will wreck you in the best way. It’s difficult to find words to describe what he does, so I’m not even going to try. Plus, part of the pleasure of reading these books is going in with little information and just staying with it, without trying to figure out where Backman is taking you. As with Beartown, this book left me in tears, and with a giant book hangover. Full review on Goodreads. (Thank you to Atria Books for gifting me this copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

The story of Sarah and Eddie is like a cross between Bridget Jones and Eleanor Oliphant, with a surprising twist. I finished Ghosted in a couple sittings and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you like contemporary fiction with lovable but flawed characters and an interesting plot, pick this one up. It was the perfect summer escape that I have a feeling I’ll be thinking about for a while.

Reading People by Anne Bogel

I’ve always been partial to a good personality quiz, but only recently have I become utterly fascinated with the various personality frameworks (think Meyers Briggs, the Enneagram, etc.). Reading People, Bogel’s first book, does a great job of giving a thorough overview of the most popular ones, and even provides additional resources to explore if readers want to delve deeper. I listened to this one on audio, which I personally thought the subject matter was perfect for. (An added bonus? Anne narrates it in her soothing voice we’ve all come to know and love through her popular podcast, What Should I Read Next — check it out if you haven’t.) I, for one, was hooked, and will be referring back to this book as I continue my journey of personality discovering.

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

I’ve only recently become a Colleen Hoover fan after years of skepticism and wrongly assuming romance wasn’t a genre I’d like. Hoover has a way of depicting relationships that, while sometimes problematic, you can’t help but relate to and root for. All Your Perfects is the fourth Hoover book I’ve read, and strays a little from her typical theme. This time, instead of being about a budding romance, it’s about a marriage that’s failing. It alternates between present day — as the couple’s marriage is starting to crumble — and when they first met and are falling in love. Full review on Goodreads. (Thank you to Atria Books for gifting me this copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

We picked Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows for my IRL book club and I started it by reading a physical copy. A colleague had mentioned that the audio was great, so when I got a little stuck I decided to give that a try. I’m so glad I did because she was right—listening to it was great. The narrator did a fabulous job of changing her voice for each character, and since there are quite a few characters, this made following along much easier. I found this to be a fun and entertaining read, but a warning for those who might not love steamy scenes: this is chock-full of them.

Sick by Porochista Khakpour

For obvious reasons, I tend to be drawn toward books about people living with chronic illness—particularly women. I was especially eager to read Sick, Khakpour’s memoir, because I know a number of people affected by Lyme disease. Khakpour’s story is a difficult one, full of not just a lifetime of illness, but a lifetime of struggle. At times I had to put it down and step away — it can be difficult to read someone’s story of illness when you live with an illness yourself. While I didn’t relate to her story as much as I’d hoped, I found it fascinating, informative, and painful. Hers is a story that is needed in our society, for many reasons. We have a tendency not to believe women’s physical pain, and Lyme disease seems to be an illness our country has a difficult time understanding. I hope that the more stories like Khakpour’s that are heard, the more we’ll start really listening to both women with chronic illness and those who live with Lyme disease. (Thank you to Harper Perennial for gifting me this copy in exchange for an honest review.)

As always, you can see what books I’m reading and eagerly anticipated on my Instagram account, @kathareads.

What was your favorite book you read recently?

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stack of books

Reading Recap: June 2018

With the end of a month comes another reading recap, and June had some pretty good reads — 8 books in total, 2 of them on audio. Instead of coming up with a stack of books I wanted to read, I just picked what my mood told me to. And apparently I was in the mood for engaging and compelling reads. 1 nonfiction, 3 thrillers, 3 contemporary fiction, 1 YA.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman — This was my second Backman book (my first was Beartown and you KNOW how I felt about that one). It was also my first real foray into listening to fiction — most of the time I find I’m too easily distracted to follow a story, so I’ve been sticking to nonfiction. But something about the narrator and Ove as a character held my attention, and I ended up loving this story. It’s no Beartown, but Ove is an endearing character with a lot of flaws and a lot of heart. I both laughed and cried many times while learning about Ove’s both tragic and average life.

Providence by Caroline Kepnes — I read Caroline Kepnes’ You a couple of years ago and found it fascinating and terrifying, so I was excited to get my hands on her latest. Providence definitely wasn’t what I expected but I still really enjoyed it. It’s the perfect mix of suspense, romance, and science fiction, as well as being a quick + engaging read. While the ending wrapped up a little too quickly and didn’t have quite the big reveal I was hoping for, I enjoyed each of the main characters and was eager to find out what happened. This might not be my favorite of hers, but I’ll still be looking forward to the next book Kepnes writes. [Thank you to Randomhouse for gifting me this copy in exchange for an honest review.]

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir — This book hooked me from the very beginning, and I gobbled it up in just a few sittings. As someone who is fascinated by families like the Duggars, this was a compelling read. Essie and Roarke were by far my favorite, and I rooted for them until the very end. I was captivated by both the inner workings of Essie’s family and Libby’s childhood — which had threads that wove them together in interesting ways. However, I was disappointed by the ending, which felt rushed and oversimplified. After spending 80% of the story building up to the final moment, I felt a little cheated. Regardless, I’d still highly recommend The Book of Essie to anyone who is intrigued by religious extremists and who likes a fast-paced, engaging plot. [Thank you to Alfred A. Knopf for gifting me this copy in exchange for an honest review.]

Scythe by Neal Schusterman — I fully intended not to like this book. YA fantasy is a little out of my wheelhouse, however, it hooked me more than I expected. The whole concept of the book — a future that has eradicated death and therefore tasks certain humans with the job of killing people in the name of population control — was fascinating to me. The first third of the book flew by as Schusterman built this world and introduced us to the main characters. And as much as I was entertained, it was too easy to put down. For some reason that I still can’t put my finger on I wasn’t eager to gobble it up. Full review on The Bookly Club.

Shrill by Lindy West — I listened to this on audio, which is narrated by Lindy herself (the author as narrator almost always guarantees a good listen). It was exactly what I hoped for: funny, brash, heavy, and relatable. West has a voice and a story that I’m glad is out in the world, and I highly recommend this for people who enjoy Cheryl Strayed, Roxane Gay, and Samantha Irby.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell — Any thriller that keeps me guessing and has me hooked immediately gets four stars from me, purely for entertainment value. I read this in one sitting because I could. not. put. it. down. I DID end up guessing a few of the main twists, but I still found the story compelling and engaging. I also really enjoyed the characters and the family dynamic. A fun, fast-paced thriller that’s perfect for summer.

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben — I’ve read a handful of Harlan Coben’s books before and have always found them entertaining and quick reads. Which honestly? Sometimes that’s exactly what I need. This one dragged a little for me, but it kept me guessing and eager to find out how it would end. If you want something mindless to distract you from reality, this is definitely worth a read.

November 9 by Colleen Hoover — I want to preface this by saying that I know Colleen Hoover’s books can be problematic. Some aspects of the story don’t always sit well with me, but I’m comfortable with moving forward as long as I’m aware of that. For me, her books are the perfect palate cleanser, and they almost always get me out of a reading slump. Which is exactly why I picked this one up. I’d been paralyzed with indecision, faced with picking my next read from a giant stack of popular, buzzed about books. Instead, I went with a book that I knew would hook me and that I would read quickly — sometimes being able to finish a book is exactly what I need to build my reading momentum. I instantly wanted to know what happened with Ben and Fallon, so I stayed up way past my usual bedtime to finish it. #noregrets If you’re able to suspend belief, or overlook minor flaws, and you’re a fan of contemporary romance novels, give this one a try.

Come tell me what you’ve been reading! And, as always, you can follow along with my reading life at @kathareads.

(All reviews can also be seen on my Goodreads account.)

Reading Recap: May 2018

It’s that time again! A reading recap. I failed at sharing these the past couple months, so consider this the first in what will be a new effort to actually do this every month. I didn’t read quite as much as I’d hoped, but all four books were four star reads, so I’ll take it. Have you read any of these? What did you read this month?

Love and Other Words by Christina LaurenIf you’re a fan of contemporary romance — or if you aren’t sure this genre is for you but want to give it a try — READ THIS. I’m fairly new to the romance genre, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites (two others I’ve loved: The Wedding Date and It Ends With Us). What makes these books so appealing are the lovable characters, steamy sex scenes, surprise twists, and ALL THE FEELS, and Love and Other Words has it all. Plus, reading plays a crucial role in Macy and Elliott’s lives, and who doesn’t love that? I laughed, I cried, and I smiled from the first page to the last — I wish I could read it again for the first time. This was my first Christina Lauren book, but it definitely won’t be my last. [Thank you to Gallery Books for providing a free copy in exchange for my honest review.] 4 stars; for fans of Colleen Hoover, Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Light We Lost.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: It took me a while to feel like I was ready to tackle this hefty book, both because of its size, but also its high praise — I always fear a book with so much buzz will fall flat for me, or one as highly lauded will go completely over my head. But once I got started, just like everyone said, it went surprisingly quickly and kept me engage… until about the last 100 pages. One thing that makes me feel invested in a book is good well depicted characters, and Min Jin Lee has a knack for that. I did feel like the story fizzled out at the end, leaving some characters’ story lines unfinished and making me rush through it just to finish. There are lots of themes here: hope, parental roles and influence, class issues, identity, to name a few. I also liked that it taught me so much about Korean history, something I was embarrassingly ignorant of. While this book didn’t impact me like it did some people, it’s a story that will stick with me for a long time, one I’m very glad I finally worked up the motivation to read. 4 stars; for fans of Little Fires Everywhere, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, The Nightingale.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara: I bought Michelle McNamara’s book as soon as it came out… and then let it sit on my shelf, neglected. When news broke that the killer had been caught, I no longer had an excuse not to read it. McNamara’s writing sucked me in immediately, as did the details of each gruesome attack. I’m a HUGE fan of murder-y things (not sure what that says about me) and had just finished rewatching alllllll 19 seasons of Law & Order: SVU, so I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was right up my alley. It’s hard to imagine a person being sick enough to commit these acts, let alone with the survivors and families of the victims went through. Pro tip: Try not to read this right before bed; the fact that he’s been caught only makes it a TINY bit less terrifying to read. I only wish McNamara was alive to see what her years of work accomplished. 4 stars; for fans of true crime, especially In Cold Blood and Helter Skelter.

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld: This is the first short story collection I’ve read in its entirety and I LOVED IT. I didn’t want it to end! Curtis Sittenfeld’s cleverness, wry wit, and ability to make every story resonate had me eager to keep reading. Plus, she tackles topics very relevant to our current culture — social media, class issues, gender roles, political differences, etc. I was particularly struck by how much she made me care about the characters in just 10 to 20 pages; she did a phenomenal job of developing a story and making me feel invested in a short amount of time. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while — particularly American Wife and Prep — but now I might just be a super fan. [Thank you to Randomhouse for gifting me this copy in exchange for my honest review.] 4 stars; for fans of anything Curtis Sittenfeld, The Female Persuasion, and I Was Told There’d Be Cake.

For more of my reading life, check out my bookstagram account.

January 2018 Reading Recap

Ever since starting my Instagram account dedicated solely to books (aka bookstagram), I’ve been getting a LOT more reading done. And since I could talk about books all day every day, I figured posting a monthly reading recap would be a good way to give this ol’ blog a little much-needed revival. So let’s get to it!

Beartown by Fredrik Backman –I’m not sure where to even begin with how to talk about my love for this book. Everyone said it was amazing, yet it still took me by surprise. The depth of feeling it evoked, the love I developed for every single one of the characters — I simultaneously didn’t want it to end but couldn’t wait to see what happened. In the beginning I was a little frustrated with how slow the story was to develop, but I quickly recognized — and came to appreciate — how necessary and intentional that was. The time Backman spent developing each character, as well as Beartown itself, made you know them intimately and care for them deeply. This was quite a first book for 2018. I’m not sure how anything else I read this year can live up to it — it has earned a firm place in my top 10 books of all time. All I can say is READ IT.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman — I read this immediately after Beartown so it had a lot to live up to. To my surprise, it exceeded my expectations; I LOVED this book. Eleanor is a troubled girl with a more than quirky personality that made me laugh and cry. It didn’t take long to fall in love with Eleanor and it was impossible not to root for her. Watching her discover herself, and develop a truly special relationship with Raymond, made this one of the most charming, heartfelt, and delightful books I’ve read in a while. We could all stand to be a little more like Eleanor.

Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Feel Just Fine  by Michele Lent Hirsch — As a young woman living with a chronic illness, I jumped at the chance to read this. Living with cystic fibrosis has had an enormous impact on every aspect of my life, both in the tangible sense and in the way I view my life and plan for the future. It can be incredibly isolating to live a life that feels so different from your peers, and I’m always searching for any kind of media in which I might be able to get a glimpse of myself. (Thank you to Beacon Press for providing my copy in exchange for an honest review! Full review on Goodreads.)

By the Book by Julia Sonneborn –A loose translation of Jane Austen’s PersuasionBy the Book is a light, fun, entertaining read from author Julia Sonneborn. If you like a charming romance and are a book nerd, this might just be the perfect palate cleanser for you. (Thank you to Gallery Books for providing my copy in exchange for an honest review! Full review on Goodreads.)

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (audiobook) — This was my first audiobook and it was perfect. As someone who has trouble staying focused, listening to fiction has proven difficult. But the subject matter combined with Rubin’s calming voice kept me engaged and interested. Plus, I found this book to be incredibly helpful — I’m for sure an Obliger who falls prey to rebel tendencies when I reach burnout. I feel like now I’m better equipped to establish systems to help keep me accountable and from reaching burnt out so quickly. I highly recommend The Four Tendencies for anyone, especially those interested in learning more about personalities.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas — I had a copy of this book for a couple months before I finally picked it up, I only wish I’d read it sooner. Red Clocks tells of a harrowing future, one that feels eerily close and all too possible. With short, powerful chapters, Zumas tells the story of five women and the impact of the Personhood Amendment, a law that governs women’s bodies to an extreme (a very real extreme). I flew through this book, both eager and terrified to find out what happened to the biographer, the wife, the mender, and the daughter. As a woman who has pondered the ways in which our government could dictate what I do with my body, I read this book with a lump in my throat, unable to stop turning the pages.  (Thank you to Little Brown for providing my copy in exchange for an honest review! Full review on Goodreads.)

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny — The second book in the Inspector Gamache series was equally enjoyable as the first. I like how we’re starting to get to know the key players better, especially Armand. Losing myself in Three Pines will always be a treat, but I’m eager to keep reading since most fans say the books tend to get better with each one. (If you’re an LP fan, let me know if you agree!) Even though I’m only two books in I’m glad I started the series and am excited that there are still many more ahead of me.

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid — As someone with a chronic illness, health care is a necessity. My life depends on medications that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every year, not to mention doctors appointments, hospital stays, lab tests, bloodwork, etc. The issue of access to affordable health care has been on my mind for years, particularly during the past 12 months as the current administration tried to repeal the Affordable Car Act. (Full review on The Bookly Club.)

All in all it was a great month of reading. In the meantime, you can follow what I’m currently reading on Goodreads or at @kathareads. Come let me know what books you’re reading and loving!

picture of the

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

I’ll admit upfront that I’m a little disappointed to only be giving this book three stars. BUT, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, just that it didn’t live up to my expectations. (Read the synopsis.)

I read In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware last summer, and liked it, and I’ve heard The Woman in Cabin 10 is even better, but it’s been sitting on my shelf making me feel guilty for months. I plan on reading that next month, so it’ll be interesting to compare all three. Stay tuned!

But, back to The Lying Game. I started this on a Tuesday night and stayed up way too late, blowing through 125 pages, and finished it the next night, when I stayed up late again. Needless to say, it had me hooked from the beginning.

And it stayed that way through the entire first half, making me feel like I was at the Mill with Isa, Fatima, Thea, and Kate, reliving their boarding school days and the drama from that was resurfacing in their present lives.

But somewhere around page 250, it started getting a little tired, and I had to push myself to keep going. And while the ending was satisfying, it wasn’t jaw dropping or heart pounding or any of the adjectives I’d give a four-star thriller. In fact, I’m not sure I’d even label it a thriller. It fits better in the mystery category, or even general fiction, due to its lack of suspense. The setting and mood of the book are ripe for a terrifying roller coaster of a read, but that isn’t what you get. Instead it’s a well-written and intense story of friendship and the secrets we keep.

And maybe that’s where this book gets a little off track. Comparing this to her other books, as well as the thriller genre in general, makes it feel a little lacking.

Atmospheric and slow burning, The Lying Game is a fast-paced and quick read with well-developed and relatable characters. Fans of mysteries, stories of friendship, and family dramas will find this book enjoyable, just don’t go into it think it’s a thrilling ride.

The Lying Game comes out on July 25, so be sure to stop by your local bookstore and pre-order a copy, or pick one up when it comes out. Big thanks to Gallery Books for sending me an advanced copy!

As always, you can check out more of the books I’m reading, loving, and hoarding over at @kathareads.

June Reads

If you couldn’t tell from my previous post, I’m attempting to make reading more of a priority. I used to DEVOUR books, starting one as soon as it entered my house. But over the years, probably thanks to #adulting, reading has taken a backseat. Don’t get me wrong, my love of books is still going strong, as evidenced by the hundreds — yes, hundreds — of books I’ve continued to accumulate with the intention of reading them.

In order to create the space to read more, I’ve drastically cut down the amount of television I watch. I canceled almost ALL of my DVR recordings, and instead of watching a show while doing my daily treatments, I read.

I’m also trying to read more of the (many, many, many) articles I save to Pocket. Are you sensing a theme here? #overlyambitious #contenthoarder

So, here’s what I’ve read in the month of June! Follow along with more of the books I’m reading, buying, and hoarding at @kathareads on Instagram.

Books

Hunger by Roxane Gay. HarperCollins was kind enough to send me an advanced copy of this gem and I’m so glad they did. This book will stick with me for a long time. (I reviewed this book in a standalone post a couple weeks ago.)

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. This was the May/June pick for The Bookly Club and surprised myself — I LOVED it. You can read my full review over there.

The Assistants by Camille Perri. I picked this up on a whim, needing a reprieve from the heavier subjects (see above). This was PERFECT. I read it in two days. Yes, TWO days. The full review is on Goodreads.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan. June was full of good books, and this one was no exception. This will definitely end up being one of my favorite reads of the year. My full review is on Goodreads.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This critically acclaimed book sat on my shelf for FAR too long. After finding some extra time at the end of the month, I finally picked it up and I’m so glad I did. Again, full review on Goodreads.

Articles

9 Things Readers Do Better Than Anyone Else

Why Venmo is My Favorite Sympathy Card

YES PLEASE: S’mores Slab Pie

The Best Ways to Support Independent Publishers

I Don’t Know How to Explain to You That You Should Care About Other People

How to Be a Contemporary Writer

Read It Forward’s Favorites of June 2017

Women’s Friendships, in Sickness and in Health

Tell me: What did you read and love in June? Come chat with me in the comments!

Spine of Roxane Gay's Hunger

The Story of a Body

“What does it say about our culture that the desire for weight loss is considered a default feature of womanhood?”

I’ve been a fan of Roxane Gay‘s for a while — it started with Bad Feminist, then I followed her on Twitter (trust me, you want to, too), and then Difficult Women. They are all varying in genre: nonfiction, fiction, memoir, and Gay brings her unflinching honesty + powerful voice to each of them. But Hunger might be the most vulnerable and important of them all.

“Writing this book is a confession. These are the ugliest, weakest, barest parts of me. This is my truth. This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions. They think they know the why of my body. They do not.”

Gay’s experience is not mine, which, aside from wanting to read all of her work, is why I was so eager to get my hands on a copy. It’s important we read books that aren’t always echoing our own lives — especially in our current society. Approaching someone’s personal story with an open mind and heart is crucial to creating a more open and accepting society. Gay’s raw vulnerability makes it impossible not to feel empathetic, and to think differently about the way we view others and the assumptions we make.

At times painful and heartbreaking, Hunger should be required reading for all humans.

“I hope that by sharing my story, by joining a chorus of women and men who share their stories too, more people can become appropriately horrified by how much suffering is born of sexual violence, how far-reaching the repercussions can be.”

Big thanks to Harper Collins for sending this — I have no doubt it will stick with me and be one of my favorite reads of 2017.

For more of what I’m reading, follow me on my bookstagram (aka books on Instagram) at @kathareads.

(Fair warning, this book deals with difficult subject matters like rape, drugs, and eating disorders.)

Don’t miss her interview on NPR’s Fresh Air!