Top 10 Favorite Books I Read in 2019

As I said in my most recent post, Top 10 Most Disappointing Books I Read in 2019, this year was a great reading year in terms of quantity AND quality of books read – making it really difficult to narrow down my Top 10 Favorites of the year. I started by looking at all of my 5-star ratings – which, surprisingly, ended up being almost exactly 1/5 of the total books I completed. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a variety of genres represented, proving that I enjoy all kinds of books and that I should continue exploring outside of my comfort zone.

I ultimately was able to narrow the list down to my Top 10 favorites, listed below along with some explanation of what exactly I loved so much about each of them. If you have read any of the books below, I’d love to know if you enjoyed them yourself. If you haven’t read any of the books I list, I’d encourage you to pick at least one of them up! 🙂

Title: Verity
Author: Colleen Hover
Genre: Thriller/Romance

This book was not only my favorite read of the year, but also my biggest surprise. I had no idea what the premise was, and I have not read any of Colleen Hoover’s other books, but I picked this one up as part of my Goodreads Choice Award Thriller Nominee Predictions reading challenge – and I am SO GLAD that I did. This book follows a young writer named Lowen, hired to complete the remaining books in a series started by famous author Verity Crawford. In order to perform this job, Lowen moves into the Crawford household temporarily in order to sort through Verity’s office to find things that might help in her writing, and ends up uncovering all sorts of things about Verity and her family that she never expected. I definitely recommend going into this book not knowing much more than that – a combination between a thriller and a romance, this book kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and I absolutely loved every single twist and turn that the plot took – all the way up through the ending. Highly recommend, and I’m very excited to read more from Colleen Hoover in the future!

Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

If you have spent a lot of time on the bookish internet, then you no-doubt have heard of this super-hyped, universally highly-rated book. The story is about Evelyn Hugo, a fictional Hollywood actress who, now at the end of her life, is giving an exclusive interview to young journalist Monique revealing everything about her life, including the seven men she married and what each one brought to her life. The story is smart and complex, but told in a way that is very easy to follow and is nearly impossible not to become invested in. I loved the unraveling of the story and the way that everything connects and becomes important at just the right time, and think that this book can appeal to fans of almost every genre in literature.

Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Genre: Contemporary

This book is one of the slower-paced on my list of favorites, something that is both surprising and unsurprising to me. The story mainly follows two families of very different backgrounds that become intimitely involved with each other’s lives through employment arrangements and their children becoming friends, but ultimately end up on different sides of a custody battle happening for a third family in the community. I ended up loving all of the well-developed, complex characters and appreciated how the book made me think about morally charged issues including abortion, adoption, and how knowing the people behind these decisions can change your viewpoints very quickly. I think Celeste Ng did a wonderful job interweaving multiple story lines in a realistic and impactful way, and would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy slower-paced, character-study type books.

Title: Recursion
Author: Blake Crouch
Genre: Science Fiction

This was the second Blake Crouch book that I read this year and – spoiler alert – they BOTH ended up on my favorites list. Recursion I liked just a little bit more – this science fiction novel is all about memories, and a disorder that is showing up in individuals called False Memory Syndrome. This syndrome is infiltrating sufferer’s minds with memories of lives they have not lived, causing some of them to go mad and eventually kill themselves to make the flood of false memories stop. I absolutely loved everything about this book – I appreciate how Blake Crouch’s plots and science elements are just enough to keep your mind reeling, but not too much so that you feel lost or stupid for not fulling understanding (it is still fiction, after all). I found the exploration of memories super intriguing and also found myself really invested in the characters and their outcomes. I highly recommend this book to you if you already know you like Blake Crouch’s writing, or if you are intrigued by the phenomenon that is False Memory Syndrome 🙂

Title: Dark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Genre: Science Fiction

Very similarly to Recursion, Dark Matter is a sci-fi novel that gives you plenty to think about yet remains entertaining and readable. This novel follows Jason, a seemingly average husband and father whose life is completely derailed when he’s attacked one night and awakes to find himself in a life just slightly different from his own – his wife is no longer his wife, and his son seems to no longer exist. The story takes off from there, exploring the possibility of alternate universes and the implications of wanting to step into a reality not your own. This is the book that got me completely hooked onto Blake Crouch as a writer, and if the premise sounds at all interesting to you I’d recommend it as a great sci-fi read.

Title: The Girl He Used to Know
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Genre: Contemporary/Romance

This is the first ARC I have ever received – the publisher kindly sent me a physical copy in exchange for an honest review. I was so, so happy when I ended up completely falling in love with the characters and story, a pretty straightforward second-chance romance that follows Annika and Jonathan throughout two timelines, one when they first meet in college and the second ten years later. I found myself falling in love with both of the characters twice over, and appreciated that they were crafted not to be perfect but to be realistic, making the overall story and love story feel authentic and genuine.

Title: The Art of Fielding
Author: Chad Harbach
Genre: Contemporary/Sports

This was another one that took me completely by surprise, as it’s my husband’s book and I read it per his recommendation. It’s a contemporary novel that follows the players on a midwestern baseball team. Although baseball takes up a majority of their time, and therefore makes up a lot of the book’s plotline, the characters also deal with plenty of other issues. I was COMPLETELY invested in this story – the characters are super complex and the book is long enough that we get very intimate with all of their thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, and uncertainties. I think that non-sports-lovers can and will enjoy this book, but fans of baseball will enjoy it that much more.

Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Dystopia

I’m a sucker for a dystopia – I loved The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, and The 5th Wave, despite some of their inherent flaws/plotholes and immature writing. When I first heard about Scythe, I was so intrigued by the synopsis, by the fact that it seemed to be more of an adult read, and because so many people online actually loved it. After reading it myself, I can say that the online community is correct and this book is COMPLETELY worth the hype. Absolutely the best dystopian novel I’ve ever read. Just this last month I read the sequel, Thunderhead, and I can’t wait to get to the recently-released conclusion, The Toll.

Title: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Thriller

If you don’t consider Verity to be a thriller (I do, but many don’t), then here I listed my favorite thriller of the year. This is the second of three thrillers I read by Riley Sager this year, and by far my favorite. The story follows a young woman who is returning to a summer camp as an instructor 15 years after she attended as a camper and her three bunkmates went missing. Not only is she hoping to gain closure for herself, she’s hoping she can dig up some secrets and solve the mystery that has remained open since that time. I loved the atmosphere Sager created in this book, and the plot itself had me on the edge of my seat completely unsure of what to expect with every page flip. Highly recommend to thriller lovers, whether you have read any of Riley Sager’s other works or not.

Title: I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This
Author: Kate White
Genre: Nonfiction

And finally, rounding out my top 10, we have the sole nonfiction book. I try to read as much nonfiction as I can, but a lot of them in the “self-help” realm start repeating the same information and blend together in my mind. This book, however, completely stood out. If I could recommend ONE book for a woman looking for career-focused advice, this would be it. It covers everything from how to apply for and land your first job, to how to impress your boss, to how to get promoted, to how to manage other people, all the way up to how to handle reaching the “big job” that you’ve spent your career striving for. Even though my industry is COMPLETELY different from the magazine/media industry (the author’s area of expertise), I still found so many helpful tips within this book. They are actionable, there are a lot of them, and it fully flushes out one idea before moving onto the next. I plan to reread this book several times throughout my career, and because of that would recommend to anyone at any point in theirs.


With my Top 10 set for 2019, I’m so excited to get into 2020 and discover what great reads are waiting for me next year. If you haven’t already, check out my posts below that include some of the books I’m planning to get to! And let me know what your favorite reads have been this year, and what you’re planning on reading next year (if you know)!

2020 Anticipated Releases

2020 Owned TBR

20 Backlist Titles I Want to Read in 2020


September 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

I am loving fall so far and all the inspiration and motivation it’s giving me to keep reading 🙂 This month I read 11 books – while that’s not my highest of the year, I’m still very happy with that amount and really happy with the books themselves that I was able to complete! Without too much of an intro, let’s go ahead and get into the wrap-up!

This month’s quick stats:
11 books (3 audiobooks)
2,814 pages
9 authors (5 female)
2 nonfiction | 9 fiction
This year’s quick stats:
77 books (15 audiobooks)
19,832 pages
73 authors (37 female)
23 nonfiction | 54 fiction

Title: Golden State
Author: Ben H. Winters
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia
Pages: 319
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book takes place in a futuristic society where lying is among the very worst crimes a person can commit. We follow Lazlo, a member of this society’s “Speculative Service,” as he enforces the laws requiring citizens to tell the truth at all times.

My Thoughts: This is a WILD ride of a book… at first it seems clearly dystopian, then it turns into sort of a mystery/thriller, and then it erupts into complete chaos. I didn’t know who was good and who was bad, who and what I was supposed to believe, and I CERTAINLY didn’t know what to expect from the ending. Not sure I’m completely satisfied with how it wrapped up, but it had/has my mind reeling, and I really enjoy that. Aside from the ever-twisting plot, I really enjoyed reading about the nuances of this society – for example, finding out that fiction books are outlawed because of their obvious deviation from the true world, and that sarcasm is considered okay as long as all parties understand that the speaker isn’t deliberately trying to mislead the listener. Overall a great read, and I fully recommend to fans of dystopias, science fictions, and government conspiracies.

Title: Appalachian Book of the Dead
Author: Dale Neal
Genre: Metaphysical Thriller (?)
Pages: 250, DNF’d at 100
My Rating: 1 star
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
An ARC of this book was provided to me by SFK press, but I am under no obligation to review positively or otherwise. All thoughts are my own and are given voluntarily!

Brief Summary: This book has been described as a “metaphysical thriller,” as it starts out by telling the story of an outlaw escaping prison and disappearing into the woods in South Carolina, murdering the unlucky few who get in his way. The book then follows several different individuals living in the near vicinity, paranoid by the news of this escaped convict but otherwise trying to live their lives.

My Thoughts: I just could not get into this one… I was confused about the tone and vibe of the writing – very slow-paced and ominous, but no clear plot – and I didn’t care about or connect to ANY of the characters. I unfortunately DNF’d after 100 pages, which is something I have a really hard time doing, but my reading experience was that bad.

Title: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office
Author: Lois P. Frankel
Genre: Female Nonfiction
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This nonfiction book highlights “101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers,” and then offers advice and solutions to stopping them.

My Thoughts: The format of this book was enjoyable – each of the 101 sections/tips were short enough to easily digest, and it offered plenty of convenient stopping points for reading this book in small chunks. Most of the advice was pretty generic, but overall good. Some of it started to rub me the wrong way, however – her advice to women “with thin skin” and who find themselves getting overly emotional at work is to just “get over it”… really? That along with a few of the sections on personal appearance felt way over-simplified and a little outdated. Overall not life-changing, and I will not be re-reading or recommending in the future, but there are some helpful nuggets if the reader is open to some tough love.

Title: The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth
Author: Alexandra Robbins
Genre: Miscellaneous
Pages: 448
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This book explores “quirk theory,” or the idea that quirks and things that usually make us feel excluded early in life (like in high school) are exactly the traits that make us unique and successful later in life. The book follows seven individuals from different locations in the U.S. throughout one school year, going in-depth to their feelings and experiences – particularly how their quirks make them feel in relation to their peers and if there is anything they wish they could change about themselves or their situations. The book alternates between their stories and the author’s expression of different social theories, how they apply to each individual, and what it means for us as the readers and society as a whole.

My Thoughts: This book is really hard to summarize in just a few sentences because of just how in-depth it goes to each of the followed individuals’ lives, plus we get constant commentary from the author relating everything back to different psychological and social theories. It was really, really interesting, plus the seven different storylines made it feel like reading a fictional novel. I enjoyed seeing how each of the individuals’ lives played out, and I think I gained some insight and confidence that my own quirks should be celebrated and honed, not ignored. I would DEFINITELY recommend this book to high-schoolers or any individuals who are struggling with feeling excluded from their peers.

Title: The Last House Guest
Author: Megan Miranda
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This thriller follows Avery, a young, 20-something woman living in Littleport, Maine and working as a property manager for some of the vacation homes. It follows two timelines, the first being the summer of 2017 when Avery’s best friend Sadie is found dead in the water near her family’s vacation home, and the police are questioning everyone near to her to find out whether it was an accident, a suicide, or a murder. The other timeline is one year later, as Avery is dealing with the closing of Sadie’s case and wondering whether the police might have gotten it wrong.

My Thoughts: As an audiobook, I generally enjoyed this story. The setting of Maine gave it a great small-town, beachy vibe that was both fun and a little creepy. I can’t say that anything in the story was particularly great or terrible – a pretty run-of-the-mill thriller. I didn’t predict the ending, but that’s not usually my strength or my goal when reading thrillers. I love to just absorb the story and twists as they come – but some reviews I’ve seen say that the twists were obvious, and veteran thriller readers may find this story unsatisfying. If you’re a fan of Megan Miranda, I think this one is worth a try, but if you require huge plot twists or over-the-top storylines, you may want to skip this one.

Title: The Art of Fielding
Author: Chad Harbach
Genre: Sports/Contemporary
Pages: 512
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This book mainly follows the players on a midwestern collegiate baseball team throughout the senior year of team leader Mike Schwartz and junior year of talent standout Henry Skrimshander. Although baseball takes up a majority of their time, and therefore makes up a lot of the book’s plotline, the characters also deal with plenty of other issues including plummeting self-esteem, messy relationships, and uncertainty about the future.

My Thoughts: Whew… this book. There is so much more than meets the eye. First of all, I will say that although this book centers heavily around baseball, I do not think you have to be a sports fan in order to enjoy it. But if you ARE a baseball fan, you will enjoy it that much more. These characters are SUPER complex and the story is long enough that we get very intimate with their thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, and uncertainties, which I think makes the story extremely relatable and easy to become invested in. Since my husband was the one who originally recommended this book to me, I think I can safely recommend it to both men and women – anyone who is looking to dive into an emotional story with lots of ups and downs, not unlike what we all go through in life in general.

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Fantasy
Pages:418
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This fantasy novel follows Karou, a college student who spends half of her life in the human world, attending art classes and struggling with a nagging ex-boyfriend, and half of her life in a fantastical world, running errands for her part-human-part-animal father figure and receiving wishes in return – one of which she used to have her hair permanently grow in a bright blue color. She doesn’t know much about this other world, or her own past for that matter, and suddenly things start happening in and around this fantastical world that cause her to start questioning more deeply, which ends up putting her in danger and leaving her wondering if she should abandon the other world to live safely as a human, or risk everything to get the answers she’s been looking for.

My Thoughts: I’ll start out by saying I am NOT a fantasy reader. I prefer my fiction realistic, but I have seen this book and Laini Taylor often highly rated and recommended by members of the book community, so I decided to give it a try – and I really enjoyed it! I appreciated that I could still identify with the main character as a person (not just a mysterious magical being), and the fantastical world/magic system was complex enough to make for a compelling and satisfying story while also staying simple enough that I could follow and understand it all. I enjoyed the entire story, including the ending, and although I don’t think I will be continuing with this series nor will I only be reading fantasy from now on, I’m glad that I branched out and overall enjoyed my reading experience with this one. 

Title: Maybe in Another Life
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 342
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book starts with main character Hannah moving back to her hometown of Los Angeles after several years moving from city to city, job to job. On one of her first nights back, she is confronted with a turning-point decision: go home with her best friend after a night of drinking and dancing, or stay out with an old fling possibly wanting to rekindle their romance? The story then splits into two alternate realities, following Hannah as she lives out her life based on the two possible outcomes of this decision.

My Thoughts: I think the concept of alternate realities is really interesting, and I loved reading about both possible outcomes and the compounding effect of one seemingly simple and trivial decision in the main character’s life. It really makes you think about all of the pivotal decisions in your own life and where you might be had you chosen a different path (which I guess is equally exciting and terrifying, depending on your personal outlook). I don’t think any of these characters were overly compelling, and this is not my favorite TJR book to date, but it was a thought-provoking page-turner of a book and I was ultimately left extremely satisfied after reading it.

Title: Final Girls
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 339
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book follows Quincy, a woman who is twelve years removed from a traumatic life event where she was the sole survivor of a mass murder in a cabin in the woods. This puts her in a very small and exclusive group of women known to the press as “final girls,” something she shares with only two other women in the country. When one of the other final girls is found dead having committed suicide, and the other shows up suddenly at Quincy’s doorstep, Quincy is forced to dig up old memories and emotions she’d been repressing in an attempt to form a normal life after such an abnormal past.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this as my first Riley Sager read. The idea of uniting sole survivors from mass murders into this kind of “final girls club” is really intriguing, and that was enough to pull me through the first half of this book, which has very little thrill/mystery to it other than the backstories of all of the final girls. Once the twists and mysteries of the present time are revealed, it becomes more of your typical thriller and although it includes one of my least favorite plot devices – women with memory problems – I still enjoyed the ride and didn’t predict any part of the ending. So far I see why the Riley Sager hype is there and I’m excited to get to his subsequent books!

Title: After I Do
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 336
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: In this book, a couple that has been married for 9 years finds themselves in a rut in their relationship – they are constantly fighting, resent each other over small things, and are just generally unhappy being together. They decide to take a one-year break from their marriage, during which they are free to explore other people and relationships and are not allowed to contact each other in any way. The goal is for each of them to re-evaluate the relationship and decide if they want to fight for their marriage or go their separate ways for good.

My Thoughts: As someone who is married, a lot of the elements of this book hit close to home – it’s super common for small, nitpicky items to add up and boil over into a huge fight if you can’t communicate before it gets to that point, and it’s definitely difficult to learn to love the other person past the honeymoon phase of the relationship. Other than the interesting ways this couple chose to deal with their issues, I didn’t find myself super invested in the relationship and rooting for one outcome or the other. The couple is very average – which is what they’re supposed to be – but it made the overall story kind of boring and forgettable.

Title: One True Loves
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This book follows Emma, a young woman who is celebrating her engagement to a man named Sam when she suddenly gets a phone call from her previous husband, Jesse, who has been presumed dead for 3 years. With this revelation that Jesse is still alive, Emma is caught in between her feelings for both men and wondering if it’s possible to love two people at the same time.

My Thoughts: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books are so unique and I always find the plots super interesting to think about. I mean, nobody can imagine losing the love of their life early and having to move on to another relationship only to find out that the first person is still alive. However, with this book I just didn’t feel like I had enough time with the characters to be fully invested in any relationship. The story flips back and forth between current-day Emma and Sam, current-day Emma and Jesse, high-school Emma and Sam, and high-school Emma and Jesse – which are all relationships with completely different dynamics that make it really hard to sink your teeth into one before you’re whisked into another.


As I said in my October TBR, I am sooo excited to get to reading allll the thrillers this upcoming month. Let me know what you read in September and what you have planned for October!


Contemporaryathon TBR | September 2019

Well, well… better late than never when it comes to planning a readathon TBR, am I right? I’ve decided to partake in this month’s round of Contemporaryathon (a week-long readathon hosted by I think 4 different Booktubers) mainly because I can fit the challenges in with a few books I’m already planning to read by the end of this month!

Contemporaryathon starts TODAY and goes through this Sunday, September 29th. Still time to join in if you’re interested! Here is a link to one of the announcement videos, in which you can go deeper into the challenges, get some recommendations, and be linked to the three other co-hosts.

Contemporaryathon Round 5 Challenges

  1. Read a 2019 release
  2. Read a book with yellow on the cover
  3. Read a book that is diverse from your own experiences
  4. Read a book with an illustrated cover
  5. Read a book with a dark or hard-hitting storyline
  6. Read a book with plants on the cover
  7. Read a book that is beloved by someone in the book community (plus shout them out!)

The rules of this readathon are pretty relaxed – the only real requirement is to read “contemporary” books, which in itself can even be up for interpretation – but essentially any book without any speculative or fantastical elements. You can choose to follow none or all of the challenges, and you are free to double- (or triple- or quadruple-…) up on challenges if you find books that hit multiple!

My Contemporaryathon TBR

I’m choosing to keep my TBR fairly attainable this week with 3 books. I did manage to get these to cover all 7 challenges, thanks to one book that actually hits 4 of them. See below for the books I chose and what challenges they each fulfill!

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

This book was recommended and lent to me by my mother-in-law, which is a big reason I’m trying to prioritize it. Nothing I hate more than borrowing something from someone and accidentally never returning it!

Challenges Covered:
2 – Read a book with yellow on the cover
5 – Read a book with a dark or hard-hitting storyline – I believe this book is all about a school shooting – a highly sensitive topic that I’m sure will be VERY hard-hitting and emotional. I wouldn’t be surprised if I shed a few tears…


One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

On top of helping me fulfill one last contemporaryathon challenge, this book will also round out my goal to read all of TJR’s books. Be on the look out for a post likely early next year ranking all of them!

Challenges Covered:
6 – Read a book with plants on the cover


Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I was not originally planning on reading this book this month… but things just kind of worked out – it fulfills 4 readathon challenges, was available immediately at my library, and WAS on my someday TBR – so I’m glad to knock it out!

Challenges Covered:
1 – Read a 2019 release
3 – Read a book that is diverse from your own experiences – this book features a male-male romance. Not only is that not something that I have experienced in my life (obviously, as a woman), but it’s also not something I think I’ve ever read in a book before!
4 – Read a book with an illustrated cover
7 – Read a book that is beloved by someone in the book community – This is extra fitting as this book is HIGHLY beloved by ChelseaDollingreads, one of my favorite Booktubers, one of the hosts of this readathon, and who I would consider to be one of the biggest consumers of the contemporary genre – if she recommends a contemporary, I expect it to be one of the best of its genre!


That’s it – like I said, keeping it reasonable this week! I’d love to know if you’re participating in Contemporaryathon this round and what you’re reading – if you’re not, let me know what you’re planning on reading the rest of September regardless!


August 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

I started out my September TBR post last week by saying how excited I am for it to be September and all of the exciting things I have to look forward to this fall! I’m sure I’m not alone in that love for fall activities and cozy fall weather – but August has definitely been a whirlwind, trying to cherish these last bits of summer while I still have them.

For those reasons, August was a bit of a slower reading month, and I only have 7 books to wrap up (4 of them were actually audiobooks, so that’s really telling of my reading habits!), but still a good reading month in itself and I definitely found some great reads to recommend. As usual, my reading stats and then mini-reviews for each book are below!

This month’s reading stats:
7 books (4 audiobooks)
1,171 pages
7 authors (4 female)
1 nonfiction | 6 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
66 books (12 audiobooks)
17,018 pages
61 authors (34 female)
21 nonfiction | 45 fiction

Title: Swapping Purples for Yellows
Author: Matthew Duffus
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 285
My Rating: 4 stars
This ARC was provided to me for free by SFK Press, but I am under no obligation to review positively or otherwise. All thoughts are completely my own and are posted on my own accord!

Brief Summary: This book follows the Sutherlands, your typical middle-class family with plenty of drama but trying to hold it together, if not for their own sakes but for everyone else’s. Alternating between Rob, the father and professor at the local university, Molly, the mother struggling with her identity and gambling issues, and their two teenage daughters, this slice-of-life story dives into each character’s thoughts, feelings, and problems over the course of an action-packed weekend.

My Thoughts: At the very least, I thought this was an entertaining slice-of-life story in which readers can find at least one character to relate to. At the most, though, I think this story is a real teacher of empathy and reminder that you never really know what is going on behind-the-scenes of someone else’s life. With the length of this story only spanning three days, you get such an in-depth view to all of the characters’ perspectives and nuanced situations that you can’t help but root for all of them and none of them at the same time. Do I think this book had such a profound message that I’ll be thinking about it every day for months to come? No, but I can appreciate a story that gets me out of my own head and into the shoes of a person/family with a life as complex as mine.

Title: The Unhoneymooners
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 2 stars

Brief Summary: This is a very popular contemporary novel that features an enemies-to-lovers romance plotline. Olive and Ethan are the maid of honor and best man in a wedding where every single OTHER person – including the bride and groom – gets food poisoning and becomes violently ill. Because of the illness, the bride and groom cannot attend their non-refundable honeymoon, so Olive and Ethan step up to redeem the trip – even though they hate each other.

My Thoughts: Like I said, this book is super popular and I’ve seen it hyped everywhere on the bookternet, and I wanted to love it. I actually think that if I watched this book as a movie, I’d love the light-hearted cheesiness of it, and I’d appreciate that it only took up an hour and a half of my time. But I listened to the 10-ish hour audiobook instead, and it just felt like a waste of my time. If you love rom-com books and are looking for a light summer read, this probably would be right up your alley! I just didn’t find anything great about it. Plus – I’ve lived in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, which is where these characters are from, and at first I thought it was cool hearing them mention places I know and have been to myself. But I don’t know, when the audiobook narrator mispronounces Mankato and Menards… it loses its charm pretty quick. Overall just not my cup of tea, and I will probably steer clear of rom-com books like this one in the future.  

Title: Gone
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Dystopia
Pages: 558
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This book, probably intended for a middle-grade audience, is a dystopia that follows a group of kids all under the age of 15 after every single adult instantaneously disappears. Nobody knows why it happened, where they went, or what they are supposed to do now that the kids are completely on their own.  

My Thoughts: I’ve said it before, but there is a special place in my heart for dystopias, no matter who they are intended for. I really loved the focus on kids in this one – no adult characters for us to follow even if we wanted to. The story was super intriguing and kept me turning the pages. I was disappointed in the middle and ending though – absolutely zero questions were answered. There are something like 5 more books in the series, each of them probably consisting of 500+ pages, and I just don’t want to have to read all of them to get to the bottom of the mysteries uncovered here. So I will not be continuing, but I would recommend this book to any dystopia-lovers ready to dive into the whole, long series.

Title: On the Island
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 328
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This contemporary novel alternates between perspectives of teacher/tutor, Anna, and student, T.J., the two victims of a tiny plane crash between islands in the Maldives on the way to T.J.’s family’s vacation home for the summer. When their pilot has a heart attack and dies on the way down, Anna and T.J. land in the water alone and eventually wash up onto shore with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. As they struggle to live on the island until the authorities can locate them, their relationship becomes possibly the most important factor in their survival.

My Thoughts: This is the second novel I’ve read by Tracey Garvis Graves (first was The Girl He Used to Know), and my second 5-star rating. I just love her books – her character development is amazing and I always end up caring so deeply for both characters in the relationship despite all of the flaws they inevitably have. This story particularly is also incredibly suspenseful – I spent every page wondering if Anna & T.J. were going to survive, and if they did, what was going to happen to their relationship. Can’t wait to keep on reading TGG’s books.

Title: Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
Author: Kerry Patterson, et. al.
Genre: Business/Nonfiction
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book is a non-fiction guide to identifying the vital behaviors that lead to any rapid and profound change, whether in an individual or organization. It teaches how to apply strategies for changing both thoughts and actions, making change not only possible, but inevitable.

My Thoughts: I always enjoy self-help-type books that offer real stories and case studies showing how the strategies being highlighted actually work in the real world, and this book definitely had a lot of that. I thought the information was simple and clear and presented in a helpful way. Definitely recommend to anyone looking to make changes happen on an individual or organizational basis.

Title: Forever, Interrupted
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book is about Elsie, a young woman whose husband is suddenly killed after only two weeks of being married. After his death, Elsie has to deal not only with her grief, but also with getting to know her mother-in-law who never even knew her son was in a relationship – let alone married. We alternate between reading about the early stages of Elsie and Ben’s relationship and Elsie’s present-day struggles.

My Thoughts: This book was HARD to rate! On one hand, it’s a really nice love story that we get to see develop between Elsie and Ben. But then we are constantly thrust back into the tragedy of his death, and those sections are really, really hard to read. Ultimately I think the fact that this book made me feel so much is a testament to the storytelling and writing, so it deserves a good rating – but readers should definitely know going in that the story is extremely sad.

Title: Jane Steele
Author: Lyndsey Faye
Genre: Classic Retelling
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This is a retelling of the classic novel Jane Eyre, centered around a character named Jane Steele. Though her life and personality are like Jane Eyre in many ways, there is one major difference – Jane Steele is a serial killer.

My Thoughts: I had some mixed feelings about this one. The things that I liked include the fact that Jane Steele is a fan of Jane Eyre, and even references the classic novel several times throughout the book. I thought it was a clever way to incorporate the old story and help me relate to the main character with our mutual enjoyment of Jane Eyre. I also ultimately enjoyed the story of Jane Steele’s life and particularly liked the ending. However, for a non-classic, I thought this book really dragged on. One of the benefits of being a classic retelling, in my opinion, is the option to keep the interesting parts/themes of an old story but take out all of the wordiness and unnecessary description that classics are known for. Also, I thought that the fact that Jane Steele was a serial killer ended up being a much less exciting and prominent part of the story than I expected. Some people may find that to be a positive, since there are many other key plot points that make the story unique, but it’s used as such an attention-grabber that I just expected it to be more of the focus. I still would recommend this story for lovers of Jane Eyre, but anyone else may want to skip it!


Let me know if you have read any of these books, if they are on your TBR, or what you are planning on reading this fall!