I always start a new year with lofty goals and about mid-week of the first week in January, I usually forfeit those big ideas with a quickness. I’m the kind of person who falls off the horse and finds it WAY too daunting of a task to get back up and keep going. Instead, I abandon said goals and resolve to just “do better”. This year I knew I wanted to do a better job of reading. I LOVE losing myself in between the pages of a good book and would sit down and read for hours a day if I could, but in all honesty?! I’m riddled with guilt when I do…especially when I know there are a million other things that need my attention.
All that to be said, going into the new year I knew I wanted to make it a point to read more (even if that meant neglecting my responsibilities from time to time). I’m SO glad I decided to carve out some time for reading for the purpose of enjoyment because goodness did I love the books I read in January! With a little help from Audible and quiet time in my closet, I was able to squeeze in 6 books. So I thought I’d share those here with a few little book reviews in case you’re looking for a few new things to read this year, too!
The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
There was no rhyme or reason for choosing this novel other than it being the first thing Amazon recommended when I was searching for my first book of the year. This book wasn’t recently released, but that didn’t make the story any less intriguing.
The Silent Sister is a family drama told from the POV of two sisters in two parallel storylines – past & present. Riley is the sister in the present whose voice we hear most throughout the story. She returns back to her childhood home to handle her deceased father’s affairs after his passing and uncovers hidden family secrets in the process. There were a few surprises in the story I was able to figure out before they were presented, but it didn’t take away from the story itself.
This was an incredibly quick read with a few twists and a hint of mystery. I loved the pace of the storytelling, but finished the book hoping for MORE elaboration. This was the first Diane Chamberlain book I’ve read, but definitely won’t be the last. I give this one 4 out of 5 stars.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
“One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. And then, tragically, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.”
With a blurb like that, I couldn’t resist the read. This story is told in alternating timelines – pre & post crash. We watch Edward’s road to recovery after his crash and how he copes with life and public attention & demands in the wake of losing his entire family. We’re also introduced to several characters who were on the flight with Edward & watch how their stories tie into his experience. The characters were all well developed, though I found some of their stories irrelevant to the story as a whole (interesting nonetheless).
Parts of this book were incredibly heartbreaking & tragic, but I didn’t think it was sad. The content could’ve been written much more heavily, but I thought the author told this story in a way that was more thought-provoking and hopeful than depressing. Truly a beautifully written story that stayed with me long after the last page. It did remind me a bit of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (storytelling only, not storyline), so if you enjoyed that book I think you’d enjoy Dear Edward, too. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.
No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert
“I’m aware that I have stepped into a sensitive space. I’m a white girl. I have a black daughter; even so I’ll never truly understand what it’s like to be black in America. I’m aware that there are a plethora of black authors out there writing stories that absolutely need to be read. But the Lord has pressed a hot iron against my heart. He has shown me an injustice I can never unsee, and as I wrestle with what to actually do – there has been a common refrain I hear from many in the Black community: ‘If you want to do something to fight racial injustice, talk to your people about it.” – Katie Ganshert
No One Ever Asked was my favorite book of the month. So incredibly relevant to current events in our nation. I honestly couldn’t put this one down. I found myself reading this book through a lens of humility. It challenged me, made me uncomfortable, and motivated me all in the same breath. This book tackles a range of sensitive issues abundantly present in today’s culture like racism, poverty, adultery, adoption, and abuse…to name a few.
This book is told from the POV of three different women and centers around the issues that arise when a school comprised of mostly brown and black students loses it’s accreditation and a neighboring school of mostly white, affluent students, is designated to accept them as part of their student body. It’s loosely based on real life events that transpired in the St. Louis area in 2013 regarding segregation in modern-American education…a disparity still present in today’s education system.
For me, this book is a big 5 out of 5 stars. It’s definitely one I’ll be reading again. If topics like these make you uncomfortable and defensive, then please do yourself a favor and read it.
From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey Stein
I love a good memoir and this one was as fascinating as it was scandalous. From the Corner of the Oval is the memoir of an accidental White House stenographer who served during the Obama administration. While I was honestly expecting this story to give the readers a peek into the the inner workings of the White House and disclose a few behind the scenes stories and anecdotes of the President and his staff, it was mostly about the author’s (love) life, job, and personal/professional struggles.
I think other people’s lives are fascinating and hers plays out like a movie. I found myself scratching my head at some of the self-sabatoging things she detailed about her personal life and ended up being so incredibly frustrated with her by the end of the book. I know we all make a ton of mistakes in our twenties, but hearing them slowly play out over a period of time & painstakingly watch her repeat the same unhealthy choices over and over again just had me wanting to scream, “Sister!!!! NOT.AGAIN!!!!!!” But such is the chaotic beauty of being a young, single adult trying to figure out your life, right?! All that to be said, once I started, I couldn’t stop.
I listened to this one read by the author on Audible and highly recommend the audiobook version. If you’re a fan of trashy reality TV or enjoy a good coming of age story, I think you’ll really like this one. It’s well written & intriguing as all get out and I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars, faults and all, because the story was really well told (in my opinion)
Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle
I absolutely ADORE Kimberly Belle. The Marriage Lie and Three Days Missing are among two of my favorite books I read over the last couple of years, so when Dear Wife popped up in my “suggested reading”, I couldn’t pass it up. And I’m SO glad I didn’t! I finished this book with a quickness. Just like her other books, the author gets right into the good stuff just a few pages in. I was hooked pretty instantly and kept wanting more even when there was no more left to read!
Fast paced and intense, Dear Wife is told from the POV of three different characters and deals with the complexities of escaping domestic violence. A husband, a wife, and a cop on a mission narrate the story and almost give this book a Gone Girl feel. This isn’t a story short on twists and turns and although I figured out a few surprises early on, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Interesting characters, well written, compelling storyline, riveting twits, and a satisfying ending…this book really checked all the boxes on my suspense/mystery checklist!
I mentioned that this book was giving me some Gone Girl vibes and while bits and pieces are reminiscent of it, Dear Wife is NOTHING like Gone Girl (thank God). However, if you liked Gone Girl, are a fan of Kimberly Belle, or enjoy quick and easy reads filled with a little suspense and a few surprises, I can’t recommend this one enough. I barreled through it in two days and give it an “unputdownable” 5 out of 5 stars!!
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
I finished out the month with an unexpected pick and I’m still thinking about it days later. Long Bright River gives readers a peek into the world of opiod culture and I found myself reading this one with eyes wide open and a spirit of compassion mixed with a little sadness tugging at my heart. This book tenderly deals with the realities of addiction and explores the tumultuous and complicated relationship between two sisters who couldn’t be more different.
There’s an element of mystery mixed in with a bit of procedural suspense in the investigation that takes place throughout the story. It’s not a thriller by any stretch of the means, but the pace of the story reads like one in parts of the book. Just a few pages short of 500, this isn’t a short novel and things progress and develop gradually and somewhat slow (but not too slow…more of a “just right” kind of pace that lends itself to understanding more about the characters and why they make the decisions they do). That said, I was compelled to keep reading because I was really taken in by the characters and their circumstances.
This is a heartbreaking, albeit powerful character driven story I honestly can’t stop thinking about. It’s haunting & I’m sure this one will stick with me for a while. Long Bright River is so incredibly well written and I’d give it 4.2 out of 5 stars. If you don’t mind uncomfortable subject matter and character heavy text, I think you’ll enjoy this one. I definitely did!
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