“Why do we do this? Why do we undervalue things when we have them? Why is it only on the verge of losing something that we see how much we need it?” ― Taylor Jenkins Reid, After I Do
Summary: When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.
Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?
My thoughts: While the summary was intriguing, I do not think that I really knew where the plot would take me until I truly got into it. What a controversial idea on how to save a marriage. What an interesting way of navigating love and all the different ideas surrounding it.
Taylor Jenkins Reid writes flawed and clueless characters, which helps make the book feel relatable. The character development was so wholesome and satisfying to read in this one particularly. While we only see from Lauren’s point of view, I must say all the characters were fleshed out. I truly enjoyed each one and their journey!
My only complaint is that the ending wrapped up a little too neatly for my liking. I felt that there were some parts of how Lauren and Ryan handled their separation that were not realistic at all. The ending was too fictional for me, but I still rate it highly!
Summary: Tova Sullivan has spent her nights cleaning at the Sowell Bay Aquarium. It has helped her cope with the quietness of her life after the death of her husband. Over time she has developed a friendship with the aquarium’s octopus, Marcellus. Then when Tova has to take a leave of absence from her job, she befriends and teaches the young man who is her temporary replacement. As they interact, Marcellus starts to notice that there is a bond between the two and he has to reveal what he knows before it is too late.
My Thoughts: If you are looking for a feel good book to end your 2023 reading challenge then this is the book for you. This very much reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman in the way I felt reading it. There is little to no romance, great friendships are made and at the end a secret is revealed that leaves the reader feeling all the feels.
I loved each chapter narrated by Marcellus the octopus. He plays such an important part to the story but is mostly an observer. His haughtiness about the humans around him was always funny to read.
Even though reading something like this it is pretty obvious how the story resolves it still feels right when it happens. It is like putting a puzzle together and the final piece being added. I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook because the narration is well done and the Marcellus’s voice is perfectly cast.
“The line between normal and not normal had always been so thin for Gabe; sometimes I didn’t know if I was talking to a genius or a madman.”
― Sally Hepworth, The Soulmate
Summary: There is a cottage on a cliff. It is Gabe and Pippa’s dream home in a sleepy coastal town. But their perfect house hides something sinister. The tall cliffs have become a popular spot for people to end their lives. Night after night Gabe comes to their rescue, literally talking them off the ledge. Until he doesn’t.
When Pippa discovers Gabe knew the victim, the questions spiral…Did the victim jump? Was she pushed?
And would Gabe, the love of Pippa’s life, her soulmate…lie? As the perfect facade of their marriage begins to crack, the deepest and darkest secrets begin to unravel.
My Thoughts: To describe this book, I would say it is twisty. Sally Hepworth structures the story so that the character’s secrets slowly unravel. Gabe has a complicated past, and their marriage is recovering from an affair. The police have mounting questions as they uncover more details about the situation.
I loved the original concept and the ominous feel of the first half. And there were some cliffhangers that kept me intrigued. However, I felt the last half dragged on, and it became a bit repetitive. The final twists were decent but not amazing. Overall I enjoyed this, but it was not my favorite kind of suspense.
“It was like someone let all the air back into my life when I had no idea I was even suffocating.” ― Colleen Hoover, Layla
When Leeds met Layla, he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. To put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the now abandoned bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. Items start moving on their own, and strange occurrences happen around the house.
Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—an unexpected guest at the house. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers conflicts with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to choose between them because he cannot help them both. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental to all of them.
Once I got about halfway through the book, I could not put it down! This book is great for anyone who enjoys a little paranormal activity and suspense, especially in their October reads! Leeds might not be the most morally sound character, but this book might even make you question what the right thing to do is.
I am so excited to finally be on the Colleen Hoover bandwagon! I have heard so many good things about her writing. With a little research, I found a few common factors in her writing. Her stories are usually about a relationship with a partner who has major red flags. From other reviews I have read on her books, a lot of people find these relationships upsetting to read about. With that, I suggest checking the content of each book before you start it. I went into this book with no expectations, and I really liked it!
Summary: It’s 1714 in a small village in France. A young woman of twenty-three is being forced to marry but she does not want to be tied down. She wants to live and see the world. So she makes a bargain with one of the old gods. She promises her soul for the chance to live forever. But there is always a catch. No one will remember who she is.
For centuries she lives her life by stealing, lying and relying on “strangers.” Love has come and gone for Addie but nothing ever lasts when everyone she meets forgets her as soon as she is out of sight. Until one day she meets a young man who remembers her.
My Thoughts: At the beginning I was enthralled by the story and the idea of this book. How can a person live when no one knows who you are? While I was reading I kept thinking that things wouldn’t be hard to live like this until I remember that from one minute to the next every person becomes a stranger again. You could not have an apartment, a job, friends, or anything really. Sounds terribly lonely.
I liked being able to see Addie change and make her way through the turbulent 300 years from the beginning of her curse and meeting Henry. She learns very quickly how to get by on her wits and luck. But as I continued through the story I felt it getting a little repetitive. The author did throw in some twists to the story which helped liven up some of the slower parts.
But the ending was the best part of all. It was imaginative and perfect for this story. I won’t spoil it but I will say that I cannot think of a better way to end the story.
First line of the book: Once upon a time, a little boy loved a stuffed animal whose name was Old Rabbit.
Summary and thoughts:A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was a read that left me in tears in some parts and left me doing a lot of self-reflection at the end. The book begins with an essay written by Tom Junod, a journalist who spent time with television star Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers. Junod follows Rogers around New York City and his hometown. It details what Rogers likes to do, how he maintains his weight and why, just stuff that makes him Fred Rogers. Rogers tells Junod about his upbringing and the charitable deeds being a celebrity has offered him the chance of doing. Advice from Mr. Fred Rogers took over after the essay. It is split up into different parts so the right advice would fit under a certain category. The guidance he offered were rarely more than a couple of sentences, a paragraph at most. He talks about how to reflect on your own childhood, how to form meaningful connections with your child and their educators/caretakers, discipline, and adulthood.
The essay was a beautiful read as we see that Rogers really is one of the rare few who are the same off-screen as they are on-screen, maybe even better. I liked that the essay was good at showing the human aspects of Fred Rogers. The advice portion was my favorite part. What I adored was that a lot of the advice tied to love. Whether it be showing love to others or to yourself, he emphasizes the importance of both. As long as you are surrounded by love from childhood to adulthood, you will be just fine. This resonates with me as I find lack of love to be prevalent in this world. I appreciate how he goes into compassion, empathy, meaningful relationships, and accountability in such a sensitive and careful way that it is easy for anyone to understand. This was a cute and needed read. It made me want to be better for myself.
First line: The day I learned of my father’s plans for me, I was but nine years old.
In the summer of 1492 in Rome Cesare Borgia sees his father rise to the
become the newest pope. Cesare has been forced to follow his father
into the church but he knows that he is destined for something more. He
has a strong military mind and passion to rule. However, his father is
blinded by his ambitions to consider what Cesare wants.
Moretti has come from the country to work in the Vatican. As a servant
she sees into the world of powerful men who rule Europe. When she
catches the eye of the handsome cardinal, Cesare Borgia, their lives
become entwined as Rome and the rest of Italy fight the changes that are
coming for them all.
My Thoughts: I love Alyssa Palombo. She is such a talented writer. She brings her stories to life and makes the characters believable. Even though many of the characters in this story are not likeable she does a fantastic job of getting the reader to at least understand them. I have been fascinated by the Borgia’s since picking up The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis. I was very excited when I saw that Alyssa Palombo’s newest book would be centered on this notorious family.
I love the intrigue and drama of the
Borgia family. They were people who schemed for everything they got but
were at the center of religious power in Europe. I am very familiar with
their story so there was not much that surprised me in the narrative
but I loved the naughty bits which were more prominent in this novel
compared to her other ones. I liked seeing the world from the eyes of a
servant. At the end the author discussed how she wanted to look at the
events from someone of power and someone without power. I agree it makes
it much more interesting to see both sides.
FYI: Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir.
First line: A bitter wind sheared through the darkness, biting into my exposed flesh and lashing my hair across my face.
Sadie Keller is determined to find out what happened to her brother on
the night he died. She does not believe the story told to her by his
wife, Crystle. But the police do not believe that there is enough
evidence to allow them to look deeper into the events.
hoping to escape from her small Kansas town. Her family are involved in
some dangerous activities and she wants to leave before she is sucked
My Thoughts: I loved the author’s previous book Arrowood. It was thrilling. This was sold to be a thriller but it really fell flat. I was hoping for more but it took almost 60% of the book to get to the more interesting pieces. The beginning was about the town, its people and the life in small town Kansas. This made it easy to connect with at least, as a girl from a small town in Kansas.
I liked the characters
but they needed something more. We got glimpses into Sadie’s past with
her brother. I would have liked more of that. Henley seemed like a
filler character. She did reveal some information that lead to big
reveal but her story was blah.
First line: “Sophia, let’s go,” I call out from the hall.
Alice’s life is beginning to come back to normal. She has remarried
after the death of her first husband. She has two beautiful daughters
and a successful business. But when her husband, Nathan begins acting
strangely she turns to her best friend, Beth. As they talk about the
situation Alice begins to wonder who she can trust anymore.
My Thoughts: This by no means is anything groundbreaking or new to the genre but it was a lot of fun to read. It went by very fast and kept me interested the whole way. I liked how it was divided into sections for each of the women. We got a look into each of their lives and pasts which helps build up to the conclusion. I had so many theories flying through my head as I read. Each became more twisted with each passing page.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes a fun thriller. It is a perfect summer read!
First line: Goldengrove devoured my sister every time I closed my eyes.
Charlotte Smith is the daughter of a wealthy San Francisco business
man. She is engaged to a respectable man. Her manners and comportment
are perfect. However, her sister Phoebe has fits of depression or
energy. Her parents do not know what to do with her. Their only hope is
to send her to a respected asylum for women called Goldengrove.
Charlotte loves her sister and is determined to get her out of the
asylum. She devises a plan to be admitted to the asylum in order to find
and rescue her sister. When Charlotte arrives at Goldengrove she
realizes that her plan may not be as easy as she originally thought.
My Thoughts: The story took a little while to gather momentum. The first several chapters were devoted to giving a little backstory but once Charlotte enters the asylum everything picks up. Quoting one of the reviewers I follow on Goodreads, “…the chick in this book is cray cray!!” Why do you think that walking an insane asylum is going to be easy. She figures that she can just waltz out with her sister once she finds her. Even though her main goal is to find her sister, she learns a lot about the struggles that women have to face out in the world. She was raised very sheltered and wealthy where these hardships are not shared. I loved seeing her growth.
Most of the story is told through Charlotte’s
thoughts rather than interactions and conversation. This style makes the
reading a little slower but as a reader you can tell that the author
did a lot of research in order to fill out her novel. Everything down to
the specific treatments to the activity at docks in San Francisco.
other women at the asylum though were hands down my favorite part. Each
of them had a story to tell even though we get it in bits and pieces.
Hearing how easily a wife, daughter or sister can be discarded is so
sad. If you wanted to do or be anything other than what was expected you
were clearly “insane”. It makes me want to scream at the injustice that
they faced. And the women that were truly disturbed did not get the
help they needed. Be ready for a look into a cruel world but it will
also give you the feels for how much Charlotte and Phoebe truly care for
each other. I hope that I would do something this crazy for my sister
if the time ever came around.