Book Reviews: Everything I Read in January & February
Last year, I plowed through so many books, especially in the summer, as my escape from what was going on in real life. When November hit, I began my job at the magazine and just took a hiatus from reading. As the new year rolled around, I knew I wanted to be more intentional about reading and decided that I would aim to read 50 books total this year. February isn’t quite over, and by the end of the month I will have read 8, but at this moment, I’ve completed 7 and wanted to share with you. Over the last two months I’ve read a parable, a book about writing, a leadership book, historical fiction and some thrillers. Since they’re all across the spectrum, I’m listing them in no particular order. Hopefully you’ll find some new reading material. (This post contains affiliate links and I am an Amazon Associate.)
The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
4 stars If you’re looking for a book you can totally plow through in two days, this is it! The Wives by Tarryn Fisher tells the story of Thursday, one of three “wives” married to Seth. She knowingly shares her husband with two other women, and she gets him two days a week. But as it happens, Thursday meets one of the other wives which opens up a can of worms and suddenly things appear to not be as they seem. Is Seth a violent man? Is he beating one of his wives? Thursday sets out to find out and we, as the readers, go along with her as we learn the truth. OK, so I have to say, from the get-go, I knew the ending . . . I just had a hunch and I was right. However, it still captivated my attention and had to keep reading to see what was going to happen and if I was right.
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
four stars I am a huge fan of Ruth Ware’s and The Lying Game didn’t disappoint. This novel is about four teenage friends and a dark mystery involving a disappearance or possibly something worse. As they’ve grown into adults, this mystery still connects them and manages to bring them together many years later when a body is discovered that may be connected to them. This book took a close look at the things we will do for our friends, no matter what. Another page turner that kept me intrigued through the end. I would happily recommend any book by Ruth Ware, my personal favorite being In A Dark, Dark Wood.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
5 stars While this book is considered fiction, it is based on one Holocaust survivor’s true story of love found within the walls of Auschwitz as well as everything that was done in order to come out alive. It’s always hard to say a book like this is a “good” book because it’s painfully emotional and raw. However, the story is beautifully written and conveys all of the darkness as well as the light found during the Holocaust and for that reason I am giving it five stars. This story was so compelling and moving. I don’t know how humans ever treated each other so badly, but I know it happened. I just pray we never get there again. I also want to add that once I finished the body of work itself, I also read all of the author’s notes after the ending, which is something I rarely do, but I just had to keep going. I needed to know more about the man to whom this story belonged. My mom has given me a parallel novel by the author involving one of the characters from the book and I plan to read that later this year.
The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo
4 stars The Alchemist is a book that one could easily sit down and read in a day. Being a busy mom, it took me a few days, but it was a light, easy read with an incredible message. I had listened to Paolo Coehlo on Oprah’s SuperSoul podcast and just loved him. He sounded like a little old man I would like to hug. This book tells the story of Santiago, a shepherd, who seeks a treasure he feels he is called to find. We follow him as he embarks on journeys across the land, falls in love and eventually discovers that thing which he was after. The message is that we all have our calling, our journey, and it’s up to us to follow the dreams we know are for us. This book is an easy and inspiring read for anyone who just needs a little reminder about following their own dreams in life.
three 1/2 stars Man, this is a tough review for me to write because everyone and their mother seems to have loved this book. It won a Pulitzer Prize, and has received many other acclimations and recognitions, but I just did not love it. I did love the way that the book was written and I think the story-telling was masterful, with several tales woven together with the common thread of Olive Kitteridge. However, I struggled because I wanted to like Olive more, and I just didn’t. She wasn’t a terrible person, but she certainly wasn’t fantastic. We often saw her doing caring things such as caring for her husband when he needed it, but she struggled to really show her emotions or to be open to receiving those of others. Secondly, my mom and I were discussing it and she said she liked that the theme seemed to be making the best of your life and the choices you make, and I think I struggle with that because I believe that if you’re not happy with something you can change it . . . sometimes that is by making the best of it but sometimes it’s not. I just couldn’t come to terms with the way Olive lived her life so miserably, fully aware that she wasn’t happy. I wanted her to do more about it, not necessarily by leaving her husband but by changing her own ways and changing her mindset. All of that being said, I did grow up in New England, where this book takes place, and I am familiar with the term New England stoicism, so perhaps she’s just a product of her environment.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
five stars After I shared a story I wrote with my editor, she recommended this book to me, which I had never read. To be totally honest, I wasn’t familiar with Anne Lamott at all. I mean, I’d heard the name – who hasn’t in the literary world – but I had not read any of her work. I can safely say that I will be picking up another Lamott book soon! I absolutely love her style of writing. It’s real, relatable and just plain truthful. This book also holds so many helpful tips for writers that I can apply to my own work. Even if you don’t want to be a writer, I would recommend this book because it was hilarious and real and we all need more of that in our lives. For example, there’s an entire chapter on jealousy and throughout the book, Lamott writes (in a sadistically humorous way) about her own struggles with feelings of envy or bitterness toward other writer friends. I think we can all relate to that. If you can’t, are you even human?
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
4 stars I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for almost a year and decided I finally needed to read it. It was a little slow-going for me, but I think it’s because there was a lot of research and information to digest. I did find many sections eye-opening and I also love Brown’s own vulnerability and honesty. At the end of the book was a section on parenting, and I found that part truly helpful in particular. I would recommend this book to anyone who is in a position of leadership or aspires to be, and that goes for parents as well.
I’d love to hear from you: What have you read lately that is a must read?! Or, if you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them. Drop a comment and let’s compare notes!