2020 Book Reviews

This year, I am starting off on the right foot. I am going to write when I finish a book, instead of compiling a list at the end of the year. I think this will help me with the take aways too. Guys, I made it to 50 books! I totally impressed myself last year with my 52 books read/listened too. I figured it would become my average of almost a book a week. This year was hard though. In October, I was pretty far from 50 books still.  I spent more time helping my kids with school than ever before this year. My schedule changed, many times over, with when and where I was offering classes. We had family reading nite that for months consisted of Jack interrupting me every 2 minutes with what a word was, so I didn’t get much reading done at all. (That paid off big time, though, as he is a reading machine now). I usually listen to more books on runs, and while I’m home alone. This year, I listened to music more to get my speed up while running. And well, I wasn’t really ever home alone to listen to an audiobook. I’m going to take my 50 books as a huge win. I didn’t have a goal this year, just the expectation that if I hit 52 without trying last year, 52 would be easy this year. Guys, expectations only disappoint you, set goals. 

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. This is a true mystery. It was recommended within the app as a book I may like. I can honestly say, I never saw all the twists and turns coming. I did this with an audio book, and at one point I couldn’t believe how much time was left. And then the plot took another twist.

Brave Love by Lisa Leonard. I had not heard or Lisa or her jewelry company before I picked up her memoir. The beginning of the book was great story telling of her early married life. The book’s subtitle is Making Space for You to Be You, and Leonard really goes into how she lost herself. It was only in losing herself that she was able to find herself again. The book was a heart warming reminder to love yourself first, so that you can love others better.

Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell. Audible recommenced this book, based on others I have heard. I have yet to read Outliers, which is his New York Times #1 best seller. In the audio version, I was able to hear interviews and re-enactments of court cases. I felt it really added to the experience for me. Gladwell explains, through actual historical events, what happens when we don’t know how to talk to strangers. He covers a wide range of people like Amanda Knox, Adolf Hitler, Bernie Madoff, Sandra Bland, and Sylvia Platt. Gladwell goes into how our assumptions about people can be so wrong when we don’t know how to talk to strangers. I highly recommend you listen to or read this book if you want to better understand where people not like you are coming from.

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. I am pretty sure I read Tuesday’s With Morrie back in high school, and I know it made me cry. Albom has such a touching way to talk about life and death, that makes it both beautiful and heart breaking. The premise behind Have a Little Faith, Albom is approached by his childhood rabbi to write his obituary. Albom tells the story of the next several years. He goes into his interviews with the rabbi, as well as weaves the story of the life of a Detroit pastor. The similarities between a New Jersey rabbi and a Detroit pastor are incredibly inspiring, especially after taking in How to Talk to Strangers.

Hamilton the Revolution by Lin-Mauel Miranda. I wasn’t sure if this book would be the script or the story of the musical. It is the story of the musical and I was pleasantly surprised. It takes us through from Miranda coming up with the idea, to workshops where parts were worked out, to performing some of the songs for the first time. It is narrated by Mariska Hargitay, whom I adore. As I was listening, I really wanted to see the musical again, I feel that I will understand at a deeper, how it was developed level. Lucky me, news has come out that the movie is coming October 2021.

The Waiting Room by Emily Bleeker. I think I have read all of her books. She happens to be a Grayslake resident that I met at the pool when the kids were babies. Her books all have a romantic portion of the storyline. This one was a little different. I found myself reading longer because it took so many thriller twists. I was trying to guess what was happening, and I was always wrong. The waiting room is a therapists office, and there were several layers of emotional health to the story line. One of her older books is being made into a tv special, and I could really see this one being picked up as well. I strongly recommend it for a suspenseful, quick read. 

You Ought to Know by Adam Wade I grabbed this was on audio. I have to admit, it didn’t keep my attention. I ended up not finishing the book. That doesn’t happen too often. Wade is a comedian from New York, so maybe it was just too much after the Albom book. Or maybe I am memiored out for a bit. I may give it another listen later this year.

A Girl Like You by Michelle Cox. Michelle is a friend of mine. When I first found out she was a published author, I was super impressed. Then I discovered she wrote 1930’s historical Chicago fiction, and won several awards, so I knew I had to read them. While I was reading this book, she revealed the book cover for the 5th in the series, so you will see lots of Michelle Cox this year! As expected, the novel takes place in 1930’s Chicago and drew me in right away. It is a bit of a murder mystery, bit of a love story, and a lot of what Chicago was like in the 1930s for many people. I finished this book on a Saturday nite and was saddened that I need to wait until Tuesday for the book store to open for the second book in the series.

Home Work A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews with Emma Walton Hamilton was so interesting. The kids bought me this book for my birthday this year. I love to read and the Sound of Music is one of my all time favorite musicals, so it was a great gift. She has two memiors, as the title suggests, this one covers her years in Hollywood. I had no idea anything about her life history, adopting kids and living all over the place. It was interesting to imagine living back then. At least, as a famous actress. Her way of life is so different from anything I could have dreamed of living. Including the amount of time she spent away from her children. I feel I have a new appreciation for Julie Andrews and an interest to see more of her work. 

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. This book has been made into a movie with George Clooney. I loved Clooney back in his ER days, and somehow, never heard of the movie. The book was great. Gave you a taste of life in Hawaii, where life isn’t just sunshine and rainbows. The story revolves around Matt King, an attorney, who happens to be the sole trustee of a family trust with 25,00 acres of land on Kauai. While dealing with two daughters, a sick wife, and family who have squandered their inheritance, Matt King must decide what happens to the land.

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich. Don’t think I ever realized I’d be an adult who reads so much Youth Adult genre books, but here I am. This was a great book. I opted for the audio version, knowing it was a musical also. I was a little disappointed with the lack of singing, but maybe that is better for the rest of you. Evan Hansen is a teen with social anxiety, and his therapist suggests he writes letters to himself. The story weaves itself as Evan inserts himself in the midst of a tragedy at the school. He gets deeper and deeper in, all the while looking for his out. I found the book to be an intriguing look into teen life today, as it is so different from just a generation or two ago.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore A Novel by Robin Sloan was sent via audible to me from a woman who works at the local bookstore. It was such a fun little book. A mix of old school books with new technology, I enjoyed it over a couple weeks of running. I would not have picked it myself, so I am glad it was recommended to me. I don’t think I have ever read a book about a bookstore before. I plan on seeking some out though. Used bookstores hold great mystery, with such a history behind the books within them. While the bookstore belongs to Mr. Penumbra, the main character is a teen boy who works the overnight shift. He follows Mr. Penumbra’s interesting rules, until he breaks one, and it sends him on a quest to solve an equation and then to save the store. 

Know My Name by Chanel Miller was a must listen. Chanel Miller, who was long known only as the girl raped by the Stanford swimmer, wrote a book about her. Who she is, how what happened to her has affected her and her whole family. It gives great perspective to what life is like when someone upends yours. I found empathy for her in her plight, in a new light. The adage that we cannot control the wind, but we can direct the sail. Chanel is by no means at fault for what happened to her that fateful night. She has taken responsibility for how she has moved through life and remained a positive force in life.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett was recommended within Audible, based on my other selections. I also had a client tell me I’d probably really like it. It did not disappoint, between Tom Hanks narrating and the descriptive writing, I found myself in the Dutch house myself. The book is written from Danny’s perspective, and he was born in 1949. Patchett writes with such compassion that you can’t but help have compassion for the characters. You can emphasize with Danny and with Maeve, even Celeste. In the story, Danny tells of a memory, in which he and Maeve reminisce of another memory. It is so seemless, that you follow right along the story line. I had read that The Dutch House was like a fairy tale, with motherless children. I have to say, I found it a little more relatable than a traditional fairy tale, yet it tells great lessons like a fairy tale.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. This book is added to the list of must read for everyone. It helped me to see where I still have some old, bad habits. I would have liked a more tangible take away. I am going to read other books in search of that. I also recognize that a black man wrote this book, and therefore, I may not find the takeaways as a white woman. I also chose to do this book on audio. Kendi narrates himself. As I’ve mentioned before, there is something so powerful when you hear an author in their own voice read you their baby, their material.

The Other Family by Loretta Nyhan was a free book from Amazon prime. It was a quick five hour read. I really enjoyed it. I had not hear of Nyhan before, even though she is a best selling author. The story is about adoption, lost family, and found family. We have a lot of that in my own family, so I found great connection to the story line. People respond to seeking for lost family in their own way, much like grief, all of them are right. Ally Anderson is the main character in the book, and her own daughter struggles with autoimmune disease. I found it compelling to see all that she did to try and help her daughter. As a person who struggles with autoimmune issues myself, I relate to the doing anything to help get to the root cause, as opposed to treating symptoms. 

A Ring of Truth by Michelle Cox is the second book in Cox’s series. I found it a great read. The books take place in 1930s Chicago, but the majority of the book takes place in the northern suburbs. Having come from the south side and south suburbs, I really enjoyed the stark contrast of Henrietta’s life in Chicago compared to the Howard’s luxurious life on the North Shore. This book gives us a little more insight into Clive’s family and past, and we see how Henrietta is a great chameleon. I was hoping to support our local bookstore with more purchases of this book, but with everything shut down, I just may need to order it on Amazon so I can start it quicker than May.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle. This book was AMAZING! I loved every second of everything she had to say. It was a good read in these shelter in place times, as I have been able to take the time and digest all I was reading. I am ever going to do a book club with some friends and re-read all her goodness. The way she talks about her approach to life, to parenting, to marriage, to everything just gives you pause. Are you really living in alignment with yourself?

Get Out of Your Own Way by Dave Hollis. I am a huge fan of Rachel Hollis and I picked this book on Audible without much expectation of loving it. Dave is the skeptic of the pair and I resonate more with Rachel’s way of teaching. I did really enjoy hearing his background and how he has come to truly be her supporter in life, and in business. While he talks about ways to get out of your way, the thing I picked up from the book was how I can better approach Mike when it comes to our life. Pretty sure him and Dave are cut from the same cloth. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. This book was out of my wheel house of normal reads and was adapted to movie with Tim Burton. Jacob is 16 when he is sent off the coast of Wales to live on an island where Miss Peregrine’s home once stood. The home in ruins, Jacob goes on a fantasy fueled quest to learn about the peculiar children who lived there. Jacob realizes these possibly dangerous children may even still be alive, and the search for knowledge about them continues. If you like fantasy, you will probably find it more enjoyable. I am going to largely stick to my historical fiction, memoir, and self help books.

Across the Winding River by Aimie K. Runyan. Historical fiction is my jam and this one did not disappoint. Runyan weaves three stories together covering World War II Germany and present day Southern California. The chapters alternate between the characters point of view, as well as present day and WWII ear. The first is Max, a Jewish American dentist, who served as a doctor in Germany and present day is 90 years old in a nursing home. His daughter, Beth, is another POV character who realizes there is more to her father’s history. The third is Johanna, who is a female, German test pilot during WWII. The story is more about love and mystery than battles of the war. I did find myself needing to read to the end of a chapter, so that I remembered who I was reading about the next time I picked up the book. Not in a confusing way, but not a book I read along side others at the same time.

The Lending Library By Aliza Fogelson. This book was a fun read. Not too deep, more like an escape. It is funny that I have read several books about libraries, librarians, and book stores lately. I guess that happens when you read a lot. Dodie is an art teacher in a small town. She followed her best friend from New York City. The novel reminds me of a Lifetime Christmas movie, some predictable yet complicated story lines weaving together to form Dodie’s life. 

If You Tell by Gregg Olsen. This book was disturbing for that fact that it is a true story. It was inspiring in how the sisters overcame their mother’s abusive behavior and escaped with their lives. Olsen shares about sisters who were not just abused, but tortured by their own mother. Nine years after their babysitter mysteriously disappears, the older two sisters go to the police with their suspicions. You would think this was a horror book and not a true story. The resiliency of the girls is amazing, yet the lack of community or school involvement is horrifying. 

In the Shadow of the Valley by Bobi Conn. This one reminded me of Educated. It really gives you a different perspective and shows just how big our world really is. Bobi Conn grew up at the same time as I need, just a few states away. Yet, to compare her opportunity to mine, it might as well be a different stratosphere. She was raised in a holler in Kentucky. Her father was abusive and an alcoholic. Getting away from that kind of life, the odds are stacked against you. Nevermind overcoming all the emotional and physical tolls the abuse causes. Conn shares the hardship when your family doesn’t like who you’ve become, and your new peers are not as accepting because of where you came from. 

A Promise Given by Michelle Cox. I really think that am reading each of these books faster and faster, even though they are getting longer. The wedding is finally here, but of course there is mystery and intrigue with some who done it instances. There is also the love stories falling apart and together of family and close acquaintances of Henrietta. The couple honeymoon in England, with relatives, where they find themselves proving the innocence of Clive’s cousin Wallace.

A Veil Removed by Michelle Cox. Clive and Henrietta cut their honeymoon short when Alcott unexpectedly dies. Clive works to uncover the truth about his affairs and how his death does not appear to be an accident. Henrietta joins Clive, officially, on the case to get to the bottom of Alcott’s death. Meanwhile, Elsie takes Henrietta’s advice and begins taking classes at a women’s college. Where she meets a German custodian, who challenges her and her thinking, and of course has secrets of his own for her to uncover.

A Child Lost by Michelle Cox. The final (currently?) book in the inspector and Henrietta series. Henrietta is blue and so Clive convinces a Sergeant to give them an open and shut case. Henrietta starts to believe the ramblings of the spiritualist, the case takes some dangerous turns, and her gut was not wrong in listening to the woman. Elsie begs of their help with her new friend, Gunther, the German custodian, as he searches for a woman that brings them to the Dunning Asylum. While I had heard of Mundelein College, I live by the Seminary, and I have been to the north shore and areas where Henrietta’s family came from, I had never heard of this Asylum. After reading the book, I was intrigued to dig in more to the story there. I am glad that we have come a long way in mental health, but we have so much further to go. 

Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zerarsky. This book was full of take aways. Things to try to make time in our day, our week, and even lives. It was written in a way that makes you want to create that time and space. I have done a lot of life hacks for time management and productivity. Even things I haven’t done before, that I intend to try, like shutting even more off my phone for a week, seemed manageable as they spoke. I really appreciated the two approaches too. When John was like I do this, and Jake would be like and I do this instead. 

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. This book was hot on the Netflix scene. So of course, I went to Cloud Library and got the audio of the book instead. Stevenson narrates the book himself. This book came on the heals of DiAngelo’s in my reading. It really got to me that way. Stevenson talks about the people he has helped through Equal Justice Initiative, and even the people he was unsuccessful with helping. Hearing the back stories, seeing plain as day how broken our justice system truly is resonated. I feel this the book should stir me to some kind of equal justice initiative, but I’m still searching for that outlet. 

More Myself by Alicia Keys. I listened to this book. Not only was it a compelling and inspiring story of Keys life, she sang and played piano between chapters. I appreciated the actual voices of family and friends at different points in the book, not only for the perspective they shared of her life, but to feel connected because it was really them speaking. Alicia takes us on a journey of her life thus far. While we all know of her success and her incredible ability, she dove into her troubled relationship with her father, her inability early on to be her true self in her music and even her life. I loved how intimately she shared her journey to self discovery and not just self worth but identity. How she has felt pulled to explore more and therefore become more true to who she is. 

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. This book is my number one must read of the year. I know I’m only halfway through the year, but it doesn’t matter. I mentioned when I read Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist that I didn’t find the take aways I’d of liked, from such an informative book. Well, DiAngelo laid out some solutions in the end of her book, but the way it read, I found takeaways from the problems list. The subtitle is Why It Is So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism. DiAngelo is white, and a sociologist and for 20 years has given talks and workshops on diversity-training and cultural-competency. I have seen how uncomfortable some white people are with the state of the nation today. Many want everything to be happy, or they make light of the situation. Really, we need to become aware of our shortcomings and work on being better. Just because it has always been this way, doesn’t make it right.  

Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker. I love Hatmaker and her podcast and basically every book of hers that I have read so far. This book was different. It still had her humor, but more subtle. You read bits about her life, but in the context of making yours better. At this point, I’m not sure I would read a self help book and determine it a must read, largely because it isn’t catching me at a low point. If this was your first intro to Hatmaker, it might come off different. I feel I know her in the way she has chosen to live so much of her life out loud and public, so this book was more like hearing from an old friend. 

Reverie by Zee Lacson. Young adult fiction is not usually high on my read list, although I loved The Hate U Give and On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. Zee happens to be a friend of mine, so I had to give it a read no matter the topic. The story is about a girl named London, who dreams of a mystical place with a troubled boy named Ethan. Since it isn’t my normal read, it took me a little to get into the transitions of London’s daily life and dream life. At some point, I just started to enjoy the story all the more. I appreciated that London is mature as a teen. I was drawn into how her dream life affected her daily life. The lessons learned, coupled with the adventures taken really made this a surprising favorite of mine. I will have to make a point to seek out some more books in this genre now.

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer. Another historical fiction from the war. This book combines Nazi-occupied Poland with present day California. I found it interesting enough to hold my attention, over the difficulty in keeping the characters straight. Rimmer weaves the stories of two women together, sharing how silence damages our truth. I enjoy historical fiction because I learn about another period in time, where I may not have any personal connection. While the story ending seemed a little far fetched, it didn’t distract from my enjoyment of the learning. 

If You Must Know by Jamie Beck. This was one of my Amazon first books, which I love because sometimes I pick a book far from my normal. Beck is a well known and read romance author, but this book is fiction. Beck writes about two sisters, Amanda and Erin, who can’t be more different. I felt connection because my sister and I have our similarities but have very different lives and life experience in the same breath. The girls deal with the grief of losing their father as differently as they chose to live their lives. When Amanda finds herself in crisis, she turns to Erin. The women need to mend their relationship to build the trust needed to help Amanda, and in turn help Erin. This was a quick, fun read for me. The story was believable characters, who were well developed, and the pages just turned quickly.

Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor. Another historical fiction book written covering 2 periods of time. Present day, the storyline is about Libby, a wedding photographer, who has been hired by Elaine Carter to record the renovation of the Woodmont estate. The 1940s storyline centers on Olivia Carter (Elaine’s grandmother) and her driver, Sadie Thompson. There has been a lot of unrest when it comes to race relations in the US currently, and I feel like the inequalities of race and socio-economic classes is a giant focus of my mind as I read this. Seeing how far we have come as a nation, without really coming far at all. I really enjoyed hearing Sadie’s story. I almost wish there was more from her at the start, instead of starting with Libby. I do enjoy historical fiction, especially historical fiction that has a present day storyline. I found this storyline enjoyable, almost predictable.

All Adults Here by Emma Straub. I believe this is probably one of the first domestic fiction books I have read. The story begins with Astrid witnessing an accident where her nemesis is hit by a bus. This causes her to realize life is short and that she may have not been the great mother that she thought, to her now grown 3 children. I found the accident an interesting catalyst to this because she is already widowed. Straub covers a lot of issues/problems within the lives of the family. Almost to the point of unbelievable, but it is so well written that it didn’t seem too much. I think I connected with the book because if I shared stories about things my family members have gone through, we would seem just like the Stick family, how does all that happen within the dynamic of one family.  

This Secret Thing by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen. When I hit up a genre, I can’t just read one, right? My next domestic fiction book was Whalen’s 5th book. Norah Ramsey seems to be your average suburban mom, until she is arrested for being a madam. Everyone in the book seems to be dealing with their own scandal. I’m finding that to me, it will always seem to teeter on the too much side of the scale with domestic fiction. From Norah’s mom, to the detective, to Norah’s best friend, they all are running from their own secrets, in a way that makes Norah’s story seem all that more believable. 

Every Last Secret by A.R. Torre. This book was my November pick from Amazon prime. The story line was mostly predictable and none of the characters were likable. However, I couldn’t put the book down. I just needed to make sure I was right. The book had a few twists, but I’m not even sure that is what drew me in. Torre has a way in her writing to make me invested in the lives of Cat and Neena, even though I didn’t find myself rooting for either one of them. The book starts with Dr Neena being interviewed in the attempted murder of her husband. The story then leads up to that point. Cat and William have the live dreams are made of in terms of wealth. William hires Neena at their company. Neena obsesses over William, moving in next door, texting him all the time, inserting herself as Cat’s best friend. Jealous women, cheaters, envy, and desperation are often found in books, this story somehow makes you want to know, how far did it go?

The Boy Between by Amanda Prowse and Josiah Hartley. This book should be a must read for families today. I immediately recommended it to a couple of friends when I finished. Amanda Prowse is Josiah Hartley’s mom. They live in the UK. The story is a memoir, told in alternating chapters. Hartley struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. As a memoir, this book does not have concrete takeaway answers for handling teenage depression. It does help to see the parent’s side, along side the child’s side. If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone, and that is important to remember. If you don’t have this situation, it is good to read about it, so that you can be a better advocate and ally to someone who is in Hartley or Prowse’s situation. 

The Miracle Equation by Hal Elrod. Pretty much we all know that I am a firm believer in the miracle morning practice. I first started to follow Elrod in 2014, maybe 2015. I started with just his podcast. Then his book and miracle morning practice. I have even been an advanced reader on a couple of his books. While he does go over the SAVERS principles of the miracle morning in the book, it is so much more. He covers emotional invincibility, developing your mission, your miracle mantra, unwavering faith, and extraordinary effort. He gives action steps to take through out the book, so there was many times I stopped to complete a task. I found so much motivation to get back to the things that I know I should be doing, and there would be nothing worse that getting motivated and not taking action. A great read for anyone looking to level up in their performance and goals. 

This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. I am not even sure how I came across this book. I am glad that I did though. Rosie and Penn have 5 boys, their youngest is Claude. Claude wants to be a girl when he grows up. While parts of this book are far-fetched from reality, it was still informative and entertaining. Woven into the storyline is family and acceptance, and what happens when you try to keep a secret. The truth always wins, but every family must come to terms with how to live that truth. 

Blink by Malcom Gladwell. I listened to Talking to Strangers by Gladwell and really enjoyed how he mixes research and story telling. In Blink, Gladwell covers how we make decisions in the blink of an eye are not really quickly made at all. He shares about a relationship therapist and a tennis coach, among others, making split decisions on what will happen. There is a lot of psychology within the book, but Gladwell writes in a way in which I not only understood but enjoyed. I will forever be changed in how I think about split decisions I make after finishing this one. 

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh. This was a book club read. The story drew me in. I am not sure if it is because I married before the ghosting culture came about or if it was that I didn’t see some of the twists and turns coming. I was trying to keep to the schedule, and the beginning was definitely a slow start for me. There are some letters placed in the beginning of chapters, and I was struggling to figure out who they were written from/to. Once the twists started being revealed, like I said,  I was pulled in. I wanted to keep reading until I figured everything out. The ending is pretty controversial, as I saw in my book club. Not sure it is how I would of chosen to end such a spinning tail of a story. 

Stop Doin That Sh*t: End Self Sabotage and Demand Your Life Back by Gary John Bishop. This book is really a sequel, however, I never read the first one. I still found this book super valuable. I don’t feel that I myself self-sabotage. This was really more of a, what can I learn to share with clients and friends who come to me in the midst of self-sabotaging. Clearly from the title, Bishop is going to be in your face in his writing style. If you’re trying to better yourself, you need to stop reaching out to those who coddle, or worse enable, you to stay on a bad path. He explains the cycle, the downward spiral, people find themselves on. He then shares ways to break the cycle. While he does not share anything ground breaking or new, if you need to take control and responsibility for your own life, he does give reason to pause and examine what you do and why. If you’re a self- sabotager and looking for someone to give you the magic pill to make your life better, you won’t find that here. If you are playing victim to what has happened to you, not yet ready to actually change how you respond in life, this book is not for you. If you want a quick read to boost yourself into breaking a negative cycle and to make some better choices in your life, it will fill your needs. 

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. A girlfriend had mentioned this book and then the Libby app put it in the suggested for me section. As a lover of food, and having worked in the restaurant industry for a long time, this was a great read. I found myself reminiscing over my upbringing in the restaurant world. I started as a 16 year old kid and didn’t quit until I was 30 years old a pregnant with Grace. I am not sure how someone unfamiliar to the industry would feel reading it. Some of the shock of what happens in a kitchen, it just wasn’t shocking to me. I loved seeing how even though he seemed like a self righteous jerk, he did manage to show a softer side when it came to him sharing admiration for those who gave him a chance. Reading about the unknowns who shaped him along the way. I also think it gave a peek, for me, to how he tragically ended his own life. People don’t choose addiction, and they don’t choose suicide. 

Lying Next to Me by Gregg Olsen. This book was a quick read for me. I like suspense, even when I see the twists coming. However, the characters were a little too far-fetched for me. I don’t need to like the characters, but I need to believe in some world, it could really happen. I feel if I talk too much about the story, it will give too much away. The premise is that a family of three is on vacation, when the mother is abducted in broad daylight. As they go through the who did it scenario, secrets are shared and lives are woven together. I wouldn’t say I won’t read another book by Gregg Olsen, but I’m not sure I’d recommend this one to someone unfamiliar with the genre.

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. I really enjoyed Gladwell’s other books, and recently a podcast suggested this one. I decided to give it a go. He weaves his theory of success with real life examples. While I enjoyed Talking to Strangers, I wouldn’t put this book as high on my list. His theory is that it is opportunity and 10,000 hours of practice to be successful. While I wouldn’t argue that, I don’t feel it needed so much of a book. As many people have pointed out as well, he studies men and only men. I was surprised by this, having read Talking to Strangers first. Brene Brown will remain my go to for personal development with a story teller author. 

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman. How appropriate that I end the year with another book about a book store. I feel that maybe in another life, I may have been a book store worker or even librarian. Nina Hill is 30 and lives with just her cat. On the surface, I cannot relate to her at all. As Waxman develops her though, I found myself rooting for Nina and even relating to her. She grew up mostly in the company of a good book. As an adult, she loves running a kids book club and winning trivia nights with friends. She meets a guy through the trivia and she learns how big her family actually is, which is a lot at once for an anxious person like Nina. The story is feel good and I am grateful that it was on my list this year.

Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch. Since joining Jen Hatmaker’s Book Club, I have enjoyed every book she picks. While none of them are totally out of my genre, they are not always books I’d pick up off the shelf myself. I was having a debate with myself if I was going to continue with her book club. I could totally follow Reese Witherspoon’s suggestions and have a similar enjoyment. The book club comes with other perks, however, so I am going to continue with my membership. OOPS, back to Scotch. Cleo is a lifelong politician who has her eyes on the White House. A childhood friend rips her in an op-ed and she goes on damage control. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a book about politics after the whole year of 2020, but there wasn’t a ton of actual politics in the book. Cleo goes about addressing some regrets about her life. It was a book about regrets and a politician, but dare I say it was a light hearted, easy read. 

Here’s to more reading in 2021! What books did you read this year? What is on your list for 2021? I’m always down for suggestions of others. And clearly, genre doesn’t matter. Suggest them all!