January Reads and Reviews
You can probably tell that I stayed indoors a lot in January because I read A LOT. It got colder outside and it seems like everyone I know either got Covid or was in contact with someone that had it, so I did not venture out much this month! Books were my comfort once again, and I explored so many new places through the power of words. Here's what I read this month-
The Second Mrs. Astor by Shana Abe
Madeleine Talmage Force is just seventeen when she attracts the attention of John Jacob “Jack” Astor. Madeleine is beautiful, intelligent, and solidly upper-class, but the Astors are in a league apart. Jack’s mother was the Mrs. Astor, American royalty and New York’s most formidable socialite. Jack is dashing and industrious—a hero of the Spanish-American war, an inventor, and a canny businessman. Despite their twenty-nine-year age difference, and the scandal of Jack’s recent divorce, Madeleine falls headlong into love—and becomes the press’s favorite target.
On their extended honeymoon in Egypt, the newlyweds finally find a measure of peace from photographers and journalists. Madeleine feels truly alive for the first time—and is happily pregnant. The couple plans to return home in the spring of 1912, aboard an opulent new ocean liner. When the ship hits an iceberg close to midnight on April 14th, there is no immediate panic. The swift, state-of-the-art RMS Titanic seems unsinkable. As Jack helps Madeleine into a lifeboat, he assures her that he’ll see her soon in New York…
Four months later, at the Astors’ Fifth Avenue mansion, a widowed Madeleine gives birth to their son. In the wake of the disaster, the press has elevated her to the status of virtuous, tragic heroine. But Madeleine’s most important decision still lies ahead: whether to accept the role assigned to her, or carve out her own remarkable path…
Tried a different genre than I usually read and it was just ok. I've never read a book about the Titanic before so it was pretty fascinating and heart breaking to read about it from a passenger's perspective. I didn't love the courtship of Madeleine and Jack- the age difference felt really uncomfortable for me and I didn't really understand why they fell in love (besides them always saying it was basically love at first sight.) The writing was absolutely beautiful though and I loved the descriptions of all the fancy and foreign places they traveled to!
My Rating - 3/5
The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman
Note- this won goodread's Best Poetry book of 2021
On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation and brought hope to viewers around the globe. Her poem “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” can now be cherished in this special gift edition. Including an enduring foreword by Oprah Winfrey, this keepsake celebrates the promise of America and affirms the power of poetry.
My Rating - 5/5
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you---and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget . . . one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.
This was my book club's January selection and I was happy that it got picked since I've been meaning to read it after hearing that it got adapted for a Netflix show. There are so many things I loved about this book- the two very different paths that the main characters took but kept their lives intertwined, how current events were woven in the story, and the sweeping arc of a lifelong friendship told from start to finish. What I didn’t like was the actual friendship (spoiler?)- Tully was always so self-centered and borderline abusive to Kate, particularly with her daughter’s relationship. I got so angry reading some of the parts, especially close to the end of the book. I guess this kind of relationship is more realistic but it still made me feel sorry for Kate and wished she had a more supportive friend in her life. I also felt sorry for Tully and how she grew up but don’t give her a pass to hurt the only people that were always there for her. And that ending- UGH so emotional! (side note- I watched a few episodes of the show and it was so different from the book that I wasn't able to enjoy it at all!)
My Rating - 3.5/5
56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard
No one knew they'd moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?
56 DAYS AGO -Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.
35 DAYS AGO -When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who - and what - he really is.
TODAY -Detectives arrive at Oliver's apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.
Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?
Such a good book! I liked the structure of changing timelines and points of view- it could have been really confusing but it was done well and really made the story. The end has a lot of twists I didn’t see coming and it was great. Not recommended if you’re still triggered by Covid situations but it was an interesting look at how another country handled the early stages (and a reminder at how things were at the start of the pandemic!)
My Rating - 4/5
Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne
Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.
Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.
Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.
Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.
I really don't know what to make of this book! It almost seemed to me like it was written by two different people- some chapters seemed so normal and the conversations regular and then it would get so weird and cringey. I liked how the setting was really unique, but I wasn't really a fan of Ruthie and Teddy just seemed like a caricature. Plus- everything just seemed so unrealistic (like the conversations with Rose and Teddy? Did not seem believable, especially how their conflict resolved so nicely at the end.) I absolutely loved the interactions with all the old people and the lovely "sisters". Could have had a whole story about them!
My Rating - 2.5/5
The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Inheritance Games ended with a bombshell, and now heiress Avery Grambs has to pick up the pieces and find the man who might hold the answers to all of her questions - including why Tobias Hawthorne left his entire fortune to Avery, a virtual stranger, rather than to his own daughters or grandsons.
Thanks to a DNA test, Avery knows that she's not a Hawthorne by blood, but clues pile up hinting at a deeper connection to the family than she had ever imagined. As the mystery grows and the plot thickens, Grayson and Jameson, the enigmatic and magnetic Hawthorne grandsons, continue to pull Avery in different directions. And there are threats lurking around every corner, as adversaries emerge who will stop at nothing to see Avery out of the picture - by any means necessary.
Good follow-up from the first Inheritance Games book (you can read my thoughts on that one here!). Beginning was basically reminding us what happened in the first (which was good since it's been a bit since I've read it) and then the middle got a bit repetitive and tedious. End was great and moved along really quickly. I always wish there was more of a romance in the book instead of being completely about the mystery and games (a few quick kisses aren't cutting it for me!!). Maybe I'll get my wish in the final book- although (spoiler?) there wasn't much of a cliffhanger at the end so I have no idea what to expect?
My Rating - 3.5/5
One Day in December by Josie Silver
Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic... and then her bus drives away.
Certain they're fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn't find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they "reunite" at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It's Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.
What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.
Spoiler-ish alerts ahead!! I loved this book but kind of hate the premise...the actual story was amazing and sweet and I always love following characters as they go from early twenties to mid thirties. But- the main aspect of the story really bothered me and didn't really seem probable. Maybe it's because I don't believe in love at first sight but I can't picture devoting a year of my life to finding a mysterious man IN LONDON that I barely saw for a minute through a bus window, then having it be this huge secret that destroys my best friendship. Plus- Jake was kind of a jerk and I don't understand what Laurie saw in him at all. Take out those parts and it's a beautiful story (even if the scene right before the wedding absolutely wrecked me and took me on a roller coaster of emotions!!). The ending was also really cute and reminded me of The Ex Talk!
My Rating - 4/5
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Note- this won goodread's Best Romance book of 2021
Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.
Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.
Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.
Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?
I loved this book so much- one of my favorites that I've read for a while! I really connected with the characters- they reminded me so much of Dan's and my relationship- and I've never connected with a character the way I did with Poppy before. Her outlook on life and feelings of being different than everyone else growing up was really relatable to me, and I could really see myself in her throughout the story.
Each chapter was so fun to read with the different adventures and trips. The relationship between Poppy and Alex made my heart swell (even if it was very confusing and frustrating at times) but it was so pure! And all of the side characters were so lovely- even the evil girlfriend ended up being likable!
My only disappointment in the book was that the situation in Croatia was built up so much and when it happened I was like...that's it?!? But otherwise this book is flawlessssssssss.
My Rating - 5/5
Okay that sounds so different than every other Catherine Ryan H book I've read, I'm intrigued! I'm going to request if from the library.ReplyDelete
I've had the Amanda Gorman on my list for a while. I don't read poetry much anymore (as opposed to like 20 years ago in college LOL) but I'm changing that this year. Slowly going through some collections now alongside my typical fiction.
Let me know if there are any other good poetry books out there! I have no idea where to start :)Delete
Mary Oliver is great!Delete
i felt the same way about firefly lane. i am a sucker for reading things if they are shows or movies, so that's why i read that... and i still haven't watched the show lol. good to know it's super different.ReplyDelete
i still get angry when i think of parts of one day in december. GAH.
glad you liked people we meet on vacation, it was sweet!
i agree with Steph, that 56 days book sounds like nothing of CRH's i've read before so i'll check it out!
This was my first book of hers so now I'm interested in what she usually writes! I liked her style a lot so might have a new go-to author :)Delete
I read Firefly Lane years ago and loved it. I reread it before watching the Netflix series and still prefer the book over the show. I enjoyed One Day in December and People We Meet on Vacation.ReplyDelete
The book is definitely better! I can't get through the show.Delete
I loved Firefly Lane when I read it. I didn't like Beach Read so I didn't read People We Meet On Vacation, but of course people seem to love it!ReplyDelete
I haven't read Beach Read so I can't compare but I loved this one :)Delete
I thought the same thing about People We Meet on Vacation - good but but Croatia was a let down!ReplyDelete
I know!! I was so disappointed. So much build up for nothingDelete
I have 56 Days and People We Meet on Vacation to still read. I'm glad to see that you really enjoyed them though. :)ReplyDelete
Lauren @ www.shootingstarsmag.net
They're really good! Hope you enjoy.Delete
First time visitor to your blog.ReplyDelete
Wow! What a great month of reading.
Favourites lately for me include:
Caste (4.5/5) - Isabel Wilkerson
When Time Stopped (5/5) - Ariana Neumann
The Picture of Dorian Gray (4/5) - Oscar Wilde
Anne of the Island (5/5) - Lucy Maud Montgomery
Joyful (4/5) - Ingrid Fettell Lee
and my favourite book so far in 2022 has been Notes On An Anxious Planet by Matt Haig (and my LEAST favourite book so far in 2022 was The Midnight Library...by Matt Haig - ironic, I know).
That's so funny about Matt Haig...I really liked Midnight Library (at least parts of it) so I'll have to check out his other. Maybe my preferences will be flipped from yours haha! Thanks so much for stopping by :)Delete
OK, 56 days sounds really good. And I need to read the Amanda Gorman one, too. Loved hearing her speak it but... I think I need it again. :)ReplyDelete
Everytime she comes out with a new poem I fall in love...need more from her!Delete
I started watching Firefly Lane a while back, I remember thinking the relationship between the friends and the husband was weird.... maybe I'll finally finish the series. 56 Days sounds exciting!ReplyDelete
Just an FYI the book is COMPLETELY different than the series! I couldn't finish watching it just threw me off so much.Delete
56 Days was so so good! Such an interesting twist on the whole COVID lockdown thing, and the end I did not see coming.ReplyDelete
It was so great! Really enjoyed it.Delete