2020 Reading List: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

The first book of 2020 was one chosen by the office book club. Based on the book summary, I would have thought that Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, would be written differently than it was. I anticipated following along the story as it happened, the events unfolding as they would have in real life. Because this book is, of course, based on real life.

But I was thrown a bit when it read more like a mystery novel. Flashing back from present day to the 1930’s, we swapped points of view between Avery, who is uncovering the mystery of her grandmother’s past bit by bit and Rill, who is living an unimaginable life.

To find out the truth of the past, Avery’s telling of the story is maddeningly slow in the most riveting way. Avery is caught up in her family’s politics, being groomed for a Senate seat while at the same time planning a wedding with her fiance. A chance encounter with a woman at a nursing home during a public appearance has her off on a wild goose chase to connect the dots between this stranger and her grandmother, who happen to have similar photographs in their rooms of the same people.

You realize that Avery is on the brink of discovery, but hits a snag as she encounters a stubborn realtor who has sworn to keep her family’s secret – and yet, she finds herself falling in love with him.

Meanwhile, the reader is transported back a few generations to follow the story of a family on a river.

Be warned: I’m going to give away some spoilers in this review. If you want to read this book and don’t want the ending ruined, I suggest you stop now. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

This was supposed to be one of the “best books of 2018” and it was on lists for the O Magazine and Newsweek. I say “supposed to be” because I was just not a fan.

Maybe I missed something. I found Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver to be tedious and slow and disconnected. It was boring. I kept waiting for the plot to thicken, for something interesting to actually happen.  But the only thing that happened was the house kept falling apart and no one, in either time period, was able to actually fix it.

Maybe I missed some deeper meaning. Maybe there were parallels I was supposed to draw, metaphors to decipher, or allegories to interpret. But I didn’t catch them. Maybe because I would read two pages before drifting off, so it took me weeks longer than usual to finish the book.

If I missed the point of this book, then so be it. I don’t have to like everything. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

A summary of this book in one phrase: a tragic historical romance with an unexpected twist.

Next Year in Havana, by Chanel Cleeton, was part of our office book club, and I must say that it exceeded my expectations. It was a story of two women from different generations, who end up going through some surprisingly similar events. Cuban-American, Marisol, wants to fulfill her deceased grandmother’s wish to have her remains scattered in her beloved Havana, Cuba. So now that Marisol is able to travel (somewhat) safely to Cuba, she visits her grandmother’s old family friends, falls in love, and uncovers some hidden family secrets along the way.

The story is told from both perspectives of Marisol, as well as her grandmother Elisa. Switching back and forth between past and present, we get a full picture of Havana, then and now – how so much has changed, and yet, so much hasn’t. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

As someone who is about to bring a child into this world and will soon come face to face with all of the difficult questions of how to raise a kind, strong, independent human being, I found this book, The Coddling of the American Mind, to be an important lesson in what not to do.

This book is talking mainly about college students and universities – how young people, members of the iGen or Generation Z, believe they need to be “safe” from differing opinions, “safe” from guest speakers on campus, “safe” from offensive language. There is a pervasive trend in our current culture of people not wanting to have to hear diverse viewpoints. Their argument is that they may be “triggered” by someone else’s words or actions.

So the book explores what this means, how we got to this point and why, and what we can do about it. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

I was took a mini vacation to Florida this past week and needed a good mystery book to keep me occupied by the pool. I finished Watch Me Disappear, by Janelle Brown, in less than five days.

When I first started the book, I thought it would feel like a template: interesting and captivating, but not particularly new or unexpected. And I was okay with that. But things definitely got a little twisted at the end, so I give this one five stars. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

The next book I read for book club was one I would never pick up myself. Those always turn out to be the best kinds of books though, don’t they? It’s not that I would have had anything against this book. I just would have gone for other ones first. Maybe stayed on more familiar territory.

This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel, is about a family whose fifth and youngest child is transgender. There may be some unavoidable spoilers in this post, just to warn you now.

This book was so terrifically written that there wasn’t a single copy available in the entire county. The wait list was a couple weeks long, though I got notified a copy was ready for me earlier than I expected, maybe because like me, people couldn’t put it down and finished it in just a few days. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Are you currently looking for a good girl friend to tell it like it is, tell you the truth about yourself and motivate you to be better? Rachel Hollis is your girl, and Girl, Wash Your Face is like having her in your living room telling to get off your phone, off your ass, and change your life.

I have heard of Rachel Hollis and of course her recent nonfiction books, but I am not a follower, I don’t read her blog, and I don’t know too much about her. But I was hoping this book would be a nice little pick-me-up and it did not disappoint. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Once again, I love reading about a futuristic world that could plausibly and theoretically come to fruition.

I am late to the game, but I honestly don’t know much about The Handmaid’s Tale phenomenon that is on Hulu. I don’t have Hulu. Pretty much all I know about it is Peggy Olson wears a red dress.

When I picked up this book, I actually anticipated reading historical fiction.

Funny, how Margaret Atwood takes us to a place in the future where we’ve actually reverted to the past, implemented archaic politics and policies and cultural norms, surrounded by the desire for power and control. Is that not where we’re at today?

We’re detaining children and separating them from their immigrant parents. We’re controlling women by controlling their access to birth control and prenatal care and, if they want it, their right to their bodies through abortions? We’re allowing gun rights advocates and activists to keep the laws unchanged that are allowing firearms into the wrong hands, the hands that shoot up children’s schools, places of worship, sporting events, and supermarkets. I could go on.

Instead, I’ll turn to the book. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: She Wants It by Jill Soloway

When you have a story to tell that’s this colorful and radical, where do you start?

Do you start with your family and drop right into the moment where your father reveals he’s trans? Or how about your successful career in television? Or do you go back a little further and start with the less successful years working on various TV shows? What about your children, born to two different fathers, 14 years apart? Or your later divorce to your husband? Or maybe you just start up front with the story about how you became a lesbian. You might want to start with your white privilege though. Or what about your fight for women’s rights? LGBTQ+ rights? Human rights?

The memoir, She Wants It, by Jill Soloway, covered all of these hot button topics and more. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

I will start with this: I love Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. That’s why I picked up this book. I love Lean In. I love WorkLife. I love their Ted Talks. I love Facebook.

I did not love this book. And I’ll tell you why. Continue reading