6/29/17

June Book Reviews: Favorite Page Turners

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This month, in place of doing my normal monthly book review I decided to go through all of the books I've read this year to see which ones really stand out at as being my favorites so far. If you're like me and have a little more time to read in the summer, hopefully this gives you a quick and convenient list to choose from rather than browsing through all of the book review posts. If the book was reviewed in a previous post I copied the previous review here for convenience with a few relevant updates, but there are also some new reviews here from books I read this month and haven't discussed yet on the blog. (In fact my entire last section all came from this month!) I've broken the books into a few different categories as well for easier selection since I know sometimes I'm in the mood for one type of book vs. another!

Chick-Lit (ish):
These books all have an element of romance, a contemporary setting, some gossipy vibes, and don't deal as much with sad or heavy themes. There may be elements of those issues in some characters lives, but it's not the primary focus of the book.
Swear on this Life by Renée Carlino
I chose this book in part because it takes place in San Diego, and I enjoy reading books where I'm familiar with the setting. Although now that I've read the book, I can tell you that most of it is about the childhood of the main characters, which did not take place in San Diego! Regardless of the location, the story was about a girl who starts a reading a book only to discover that the book is about her own childhood, and it's written from her POV. But it was actually written by her childhood friend/love interest. The book forces her to analyze various parts of her life and she has to decide whether to reconnect with the author. The story was fun, entertaining and held my interest.

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen
If you like Liane Moriarty books, you should enjoy this. Similar suburban family life/drama themes. Not as funny as Liane's writing style, but good storylines and characters that make for a quicky, soapy read.

Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino
I guess two Renée Carlino books made it onto my list this year, and this one is actually my favorite of the two. No real reason, just personal preference I guess! The story opens with a man who has a successful career but an unhappy personal life (recently divorced and he has to work with his ex and her new husband). One day as he's waiting for the subway, he just misses the train and happens to lock eyes with a woman who just got on...and it's a woman that he used to know very well. We learn their history/love story and how they try to re-connect after this chance sighting. If you're in the mood for a quick, easy, chick-lit read this is perfect.


Thought Provoking with more Depth:
These are not at all "light and fluffy" like the previous books and they may delve a little deeper into some very sad and/or upsetting topics. But they storylines were strong, the character development was engaging, and I couldn't put them down!
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
In this story, a girl has a very rough family life (to put it mildly) and has to fend for herself beginning at a young age. As a child, she happens to help save a man's life, and he in turn develops a soft spot for her. He quickly learns that there are no adults taking proper care of this child and feels compelled to step in. As they take care of each other, things get complicated due to the age difference. Likewise, my thoughts and feelings on this are complicated! I loved most of it. The characters were well developed, the story was very interesting and drew me in immediately. It's also the, "make you think" type of story where you question your beliefs of right and wrong. But...there were parts I did not like at all! I wasn't as crazy about the direction of the story in Part Three, yet I don't know how else I really think the story should have gone! I guess it was realistic? Ultimately it was 100% worth reading and still something I'd recommend because the good outweighed the bad.

Night Road by Kristin Hannah
This book is by the same author as The Nightingale (which I loved and highly recommend), and once again, she very carefully developed the characters and created an engaging, well-detailed story. It is quite sad and I cried a lot, so reader beware. It's the story of three teenagers, a tragic accident, and the lifelong impact this accident had on their lives and their families. In writing that synopsis I can't even believe I wanted to read something like this at all, but it really was engrossing and a good story if not exactly uplifting.

 The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
This book could almost go in the Suspense/Thriller category because it really does keep you guessing. But since it also deals with deeper themes beyond that I'm putting it here. This is a story about a college student who sets out to write a biography of a dying man in a retirement home as part of a school assignment. He finds out the man he is assigned to profile is a convicted murderer, but there is so much more to his story and there are plenty of holes in the original murder case. I really enjoyed the character development in this and the "whodunit" factor.

Suspense/Thriller:
This category is for people who enjoyed books like Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, and The Couple Next Door! I personally enjoyed all of those books and liked each of these just as much if not more. 
The Girl Before by JP Delaney
This book is about a rental house with a very unique architectural design, and the owner requires the tenants to meet some very strict lifestyle requirements in order to live there. It was especially interesting for me to read this on the heels of my Spring Cleaning and house de-cluttering because the tenants of the house have to be very committed to minimalist living and there's a lot of discussion of de-cluttering and the impact on your life. On top of that, there are also interesting romantic relationship dynamics and murder mystery elements to keep you in suspense and turning the pages. Actually, I would say the relationship/murder stuff is more central to the plot of the book than the house itself, but the house is a big part of what makes the story unique.

Mean Streak by Sandra Brown
Oh this was sooooo good. Kristen recommended this book and classified it as, "couldn't put it down." I am 100% in agreement! A woman in a troubled marriage goes out for a trail run in the mountains. She is knocked unconscious on her run and when she wakes up, she's being held captive in a cabin by a mysterious man. (I have to say, all through the story this man was giving me Dexter vibes. If you watched that show and would like to imagine an alternate ending for Dexter...read this book with him in mind!) She has to figure out how she ended up there (she can't remember anything prior to setting out on her run) and how to escape...but there's so much more to her situation than she knows.

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
I loved this book! If you're into fast-paced suspense novels I highly recommend this one. I also have to give it bonus points because it was funny! It wasn't slapstick or Bridget Jones type of humor, but clever, witty humor that made me smile and giggle, which is pretty rare for a suspense novel. (In fact, I honestly can't think of a single thriller I've read that I would say was funny at all.) It doesn't sound like it would work, but it did and made me love this book. In this story the main character (Tanya...at first) is on the run because her husband recently passed away and she's afraid she looks guilty of killing him, even though she claims she didn't.  The realities of trying to earn a living but stay in hiding were entertaining, and that's just the tip of the iceberg with this book. It was really quite an adventure and had some surprising twists at the end. I didn't see them coming at all, but I also didn't know to look for them, so sometimes that changes how I read the book. (Sorry, now I've ruined that for you!) Regardless, it was a great read, so big thanks to Tracy for this recommendation!

Non-Fiction: Audiobooks
Earlier this year, I had the life-changing realization that if I could listen to books on my phone throughout the day (when I'm driving, folding laundry, doing my makeup, etc.) I would magically have more time to read more books! And now I'm hooked! I have the Audible App (from Amazon) on my phone and am on the two books/month plan. This month I ended up purchasing extra credits because I had a lot of long drives and wanted to use that time to "read." You can sign up to Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks for yourself to see if they're a good fit for you! (And P.S there's a big deal going on with Audible Memberships today only so don't miss out!) 


You are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero
The original You are a Badass book is one of my favorite self-improvement, positive-vibe-encouraging books. I posted about the original book here and still recommend it to just about anyone. When I found out Jen Sincero had a second book, I didn't waste time on making the purchase! And I'm happy to report that I liked this book just as much as the first book. Jen Sincero's writing makes her seem very positive, funny, smart, and like the kind of person I want to hang out with in real life. This is loaded with good ideas and a lot of "stop making excuses" talk, which is something I always need to hear. Do I think I will instantly start making more money thanks to reading the book? No, because you can't just read it. You have to take action! Do I think I could make more money if I acted on even half of the suggestions in the book and the ideas it inspired? Probably. I don't think I was in a "change" mindset when I started this book and even though I still loved it, I think I need to re-read it again when I am in that mindset to get inspired to take action. (Although if you read my post on Monday...maybe I'm getting there!) If you liked her first book, regardless of whether you want to make more money (although really...is there anyone who doesn't want to make more money?) I think you'll enjoy this too. That said, this isn't a sequel by any means so you don't have to read the first one to read this one. (But you should!)

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
This book was so fascinating! Malcolm Gladwell has a gift for breaking down conventional wisdom and finding hidden data that explains any number of things from why Bill Gates is so successful to why airplanes crash. This was a great one for me to read as a parent because it's given me some good insight on how I may want to guide and support my children in certain activities (or not). The subtitle of this book is "The Story of Success" and it really was most insightful on that topic (how and why certain people success whereas others don't...and it's not what we usually think). Thanks to Rachelle for the recommendation!

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
I normally choose books of the self-improvement, personal-enlightenment genre for my audiobooks, but in the end this fell in that in that category for me even if that wasn't the author's intention. I am not a Gilmore Girls super-fan (I haven't even watched the Reunion episodes), but I did watch and enjoy the series and find Lauren interesting since she's a little atypical in Hollywood. (Successful, but you don't see her in tons of paparazzi photos or constantly hear all the juicy details of her personal life and what not.) It was inspiring to hear her tell her own story of how hard she had to work to get where she is. I also felt like there were a lot of parallels between making it Hollywood and making it as a blogger, e.g. there's always someone younger and prettier coming along, always someone willing to bare more/do more to than you to gain attention/get ahead, always projects you wanted that went to someone else, and always someone ready to criticize what you do. So her resilience was inspiring and encouraging. I'm very glad I chose the audiobook version of this because Lauren's voice and narration really made it a lot of fun. I had long commutes on the week I read this and the time just flew. The only drawback of the audio version was that she referred to a lot of personal photos that were included in the print version, so I missed a lot of the visuals that I'm sure would have been entertaining.


* * *
In my head this was going to be a short and sweet (mostly) recap post of the best books I've read so far in 2016! Somehow it ended up lengthy, but hopefully it gives you a few options for your summer reading list!


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9 comments:

  1. I love your book reviews and I want to get you are a badass at making money. I think I'm in the right mindset for that lol.

    xo
    Pinksole

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  2. I love your book recaps! And I love that you loved The Passenger. I am about due for my own book recap and will be doing this soon

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  3. OK, I am adding a few of these to my bookshelf. A few month ago I plugged into Overdrive because I just do not have the time to stop and read, but I can certainly listen to books and do my thing. It actually motivates me to be more productive so I can listen.

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  4. Ahhh so many of these Ill be adding to my list. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Your recaps always have me wanting to read the book! The Girl Before always seems to be checked out at the library but the others I need to add to my list!

    Jill
    Doused In Pink

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  6. I agree with Rachelle! Definitely getting jen's second book. I love her too and definitely want people like her in my life!

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  7. I am an Audible JUNKIE!! I have a pretty busy Etsy shop which is my full-time job so I need my hands free to work but I also need to be entertained. I have around 300 books in my Audible library right now and I've listened to almost all of the at least twice. I've been meaning to get the Lauren Graham book! I adored Gilmore Girls and loved her on Parenthood as well. I'll have to remember to get it with my next credit. :)

    That Inspired Chick

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  8. I have a few of these on my waitlist at the library and I think I will be adding a few more! I can't wait to read the one by Kristin Hannah!

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