August Hopefuls

It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down, yet here we are. It’s funny; I’m usually excited for spooky season to begin, but with a baby, I want time to slow down. Let’s keep the summer for a while longer.

Before Nora, I was able to read 6 books a month. Now, I am happy to average 3. So this month, I will aim for 4 books and see how it goes! Here’s what I plan to read this month:

The It Girl by Ruth Ware

I’ve always enjoyed Ruth Ware’s books, so I am looking forward to this one. It does seem a little cliche in the plot, but wondering if I need cliche right now and something easy to read. This one is top of the list for August.

The Winners by Fredrik Backman

I was lucky enough to get an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of The Winners, the last book in Backman’s Beartown series. I cried when I got it, no joke. I anticipate reading this one slowly, so it might make the August list, might not. Regardless, I know it’s going to be heart-wrenching and amazing.

Adult Assembly Required by Abbi Waxman

I really liked this author’s book, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, so I expect this one to be just as cute and quirky.

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare

Here I go. I am starting Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles. I found this website that says to read the first three in The Mortal Instruments and to move on to the others. We shall see.

July Wrap-Up

What a fun month! I continued to navigate working from home, full-time mom-ing, and I also started a fun 365 Days of Movement challenge where I dedicate time to moving every day! We also went to the beach for a week, and Nora crushed her first family vacation!

I read three books in July, and DNFd a fair few. Bleh. Anyways, here is what I read this month!

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

What I liked:

  • This book was pretty darn funny!
  • The inside scoop on reality TV — ‘cuz we know it’s not real.
  • Inclusivity: LGBTQ, diverse characters, neurodiversity, and mental health.

What I didn’t like:

  • Honestly, nothing. I loved it! 🙂

Trigger Warnings: anxiety, panic attacks, depression, conversations about OCD and mental illness, drinking, alcoholism, familial estrangement, homophobia and racism (challenged)

Finlay Donovan is Killing It: A Mystery by Elle Cosimano

What I liked:

  • This book was super quippy and fun!
  • The plot/idea behind the book is wildly entertaining.
  • That this book is a series!

What I didn’t like:

  • The main character is “eh.” She makes a lot of obvious mistakes that can lead her to trouble but she somehow gets away with it? Not very realistic.
  • Some of the book was too detail heavy, and could have benefitted from some editing to focus on plot movements rather than mundane “tell not show” details.

Trigger Warnings: misogyny, rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, cheating, nonconsenual drugging

Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor

What I liked:

  • A different, feminist take on The Great Gatsby.
  • Thoroughly researched, interesting characters.
  • Clean, shifting perspectives.
  • Entertaining book with a killer ending.

What I didn’t like:

  • Some parts were too top heavy with Daisy’s backstory, but other than that, a solid book!

Trigger Warnings: domestic violence, adultery, war, gun violence, sexual assault, homophobia, abuse, alcoholism, death of a family member, death of a parent, car violence, murder

Book Review | Lessons in Chemistry

“Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.”

This line immediately grabbed my attention as I picked up Bonnie Garmus’s debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry. I had recently joined a new book club, a goal I’ve had for some time now, so I was looking forward to reading this book and meeting some new bookworms in my area.

A little about Lessons in Chemistry (from the book jacket): Chemist Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel Prize-nominated grudge holder who falls in love with — of all things — her mind. True chemistry results.

Like science, though, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother but also the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show, “Supper at Six.” Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because, as it turns out, Elizabeth isn’t teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

My review

I read somewhere that it took Garmus 10 years to write this book, and it shows. Her writing is deliberate, quirky, and smart. I loved the matter-of-fact narration and her storytelling. I was instantly hooked and knew I was going to enjoy this book about feminism and motherhood. As a new mom, I was all about it!

Elizabeth Zott is such an interesting and fabulous character. She is brilliant, sharp-tongued, and clearly advanced when it comes to cultural norms. It was frustrating reading this book sometimes. The writer, who sprinkles in free indirect discourse throughout her prose, demonstrates how men perceived Zott. Even more frustrating was the women who did not support her. Some parts were hard to read, especially since we still live in a world where women do not have autonomy over their bodies and their livelihood. There are some other trigger warnings, which I list at the bottom of the post.

One of the novel’s biggest strengths was its side characters. While I was not a Calvin fan, I did enjoy Mad (their daughter), Harriet (the neighbor/nanny/babysitter/stand-in grandmother), and Six-Thirty, the sweet and smart dog. They really made the book special.

OK. Some dislikes.

The book opens with promise talking about Zott on her television show and its success, but then it takes a turn and brings readers through her entire backstory. This includes her education, early career, meeting Calvin, losing Calvin, and getting the television gig. While I appreciate a good backstory and its importance to setting up the plot and character development, it was very convoluted. There wasn’t enough balance and could have benefitted from some cuts. Rowing is cool, I guess? But I wanted more of the present and the television show, which was the real draw of the book.

Another dislike. Does she have to be hot? Like. Can’t she just be a regular woman? Not this stunningly hot, brilliant chemist? Just an average looking working mom would have made it a little more realistic.

Overall, it was an enjoyable book that I zoomed through. But what I liked more was meeting this group of ladies!

Some trigger warnings if you want to read … and I would have appreciated an author’s note at the beginning about these (proceed with caution because there are spoilers):

  • rape
  • sexism
  • suicide
  • homophobia
  • cult
  • death of parents
  • death of loved one
  • assault
  • domestic violence
  • incarcerated parent
  • almost death of pet

January Wrap-Up

What a whirlwind of a month! Our little girl joined us in early February, and let’s just say that I’ve been a little busy!! Now that we’ve established a routine, I am catching up on my blog posts!

I read a good amount of fantasy books in January, as well as a 5-star read! (Haven’t had one of those in a while).

Here are the books:

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War series #2) by R.F. Kuang

The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

I can’t get enough of The Poppy War series! The Dragon Republic was incredible. While The Poppy War felt like a slow burn, this book was very fast-paced and filled with action. I enjoyed every moment.

The Burning God (The Poppy War series #3) by R.F. Kuang

The final book of The Poppy War series doesn’t disappoint. The ending is fantastic. I don’t want to give much away, but you can read more about my thoughts on the series here.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

This novella fell a little flat for me … which was surprising. It was hard to follow and I couldn’t connect with the story. I’m happy to share, however, that I’ve read all of Backman’s work!

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

This book was funny, quirky, romantic, and super entertaining! The characters are lovable and you root for all of them! You can learn more about why I loved this book in my review.

The Drowning Faith (The Poppy War series #2.5) by R.F. Kuang

Nezha is one of my favorite characters in The Poppy War series, so I was so happy when a fellow bookstagrammer let me know that Kuang wrote a collection of short stories from his point of view. Definitely wish it was longer, but I enjoyed hopping back into the series and learning more about his story.

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air series #2) by Holly Black

I am still forming my thoughts on this complicated series that I wanted to love so much, but I will say that the books are short, fast-paced, and interesting enough. I felt like this book dragged a little in terms of plot, and left me wanting more at the end. Luckily there was one more book in the series…

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air Series #3) by Holly Black

…and it fell flat! I plan on writing a full series review, but throughout the books, I always wanted more. I wanted more from the prose, the plot, the characters … it was disappointing! I read them and instantly forgot about them. Not much of an impression.

Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

But thank goodness for this one! One of my first 5-star reads in some time. I absolutely ADORED this book. It’s perfect. The characters, the politics, the romance, the steam. I loved every second of it. More to come, but I can see why this is a reread for so many folks!