With the Fire on High

Book Review: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

I’ll be honest. I picked up With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo because it fit the “a book set in a restaurant” 2021 PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt. But I am so very glad I chose it!

This was an audiobook for me, and listening to the story really brought the characters, the recipes, and the conflicts to life for me. I cheered for Emoni throughout her journey as a senior in high school as she navigated some big life decisions while being a mom to the adorable Emma and granddaughter to her spitfire abuela. Emoni is a realistic character with heart and pride and lots of pressures, and that’s what made the book so special. I loved seeing her blossom as a person and as a chef!

A definite 4⭐️ book for me!

Magic Hour

Book Review: Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah

I love Kristin Hannah. There, I said it. She has a way of storytelling that engulfs you with emotions and embeds you in the characters’ lives.

So, it’s no wonder that I enjoyed Magic Hour. This is the oldest book of hers that I’ve read, and it felt much different than The Nightingale, The Great Alone, and The Four Winds, all of which I loved. The sister relationship between Julia and Ellie was a wonderful journey, but even more importantly, I loved Alice’s heartbreaking story. This child’s voice felt real, making the terror that she faced even more powerful.

While I won’t say this was my favorite Hannah read, I did really like it and cried like a baby. A solid 4⭐️ read.

The Desperate Wives of Texas

Book Review: The Hunting Wives by May Cobb

When Sophie moved with her husband and child from Chicago to Mapleton, a small town in east Texas, she was looking for a quieter life. Days filled with gardening, craft projects, and creating her blog. But soon, she feels restless and envious of those around her. What happens next is a wild romp of housewives gone wild, with lots of wine, personal entanglements, and even murder.

I really enjoyed this book! I’m not a thriller reader by nature, but The Hunting Wives hit the perfect balance of back story, character development, and tension. I read it in just a few sittings and found it to be a great escape from the real-world stressors of life over the past week. Pick this one up if you’re ready to dig into sordid happenings amongst housewives and what happens when you push boundaries.

Finding Anna K

Anna Karenina is one of those big books that I carry around and say I will read, some day. The story intrigues me, but I’m not committed to it yet. However, when I found out that Anna K is a retelling of the story, set amongst the opulence of over-privileged high school kids in New York City, I was hooked. And the book did not disappoint!

Written by Jenny Lee, Anna K is the story of our titular character’s status as the best of the best in her wide circle of friends between NYC and Greenwich. But it all crumbles as Anna becomes enthralled with Alexia – Count V to his friends. The teenage infatuation is over the top and filled with secrets, danger, and a question of status over true love. And I am here for all of it. The characters were like a great combination of Gossip Girl, Korean cultural expectations, and a 1% attitude, but they also had depth and showed an evolution throughout the book.

I’m excited to read Anna K Away soon, as I can’t wait to learn how Anna’s story continues.

The Beautiful Novel of Mina Lee

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

This book was a beautiful read! Nancy Jooyoun Kim crafted a gorgeous story about family, loss, language, and tragedy. I loved the dual timelines that told the story of Mina Lee and her daughter, Margot. With differences in culture, understanding, and desires, this mother-daughter relationship is complex but realistic, and I felt empathy for both characters. The book shares the immigrant experience in a vulnerable, often brutal way, while honoring the stories of each character. As her debut novel, Ms. Kim has set the bar high and I can’t wait to read more from her.

Broken: A (Funny) Tale of Mental Illness

Book Review: Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson writes with honesty, vulnerability, and power. She brings truth to the page as she explains what it’s like to be in the dark hole of depression and anxiety while you lose shards of your soul. She brings levity to the story as she shares her wild experiences at the dentist, in Puerto Rico, and in her backyard. Her love of taxidermy — including Allie McGraw the alligator and Daenerys Targaryen the prairie dog/squirrel — as well as her late night Twitter sessions and her insistence that her missing phone is in the floorboards (really in her pocket) are just a few of the laugh-out-loud instances from Broken.

But it’s so much more than that. Jenny is helping to end the stigma of mental illness. She is open about her dark days and shares what of feels like to walk into the light — to be unsettled when you have good days because you’re not sure when the dark will come again. There’s a reason I used up nearly all my sticky tabs and almost an entire highlighter while reading this book. Because it’s that good. And because it’s that real.

Finlay Donovan: Murderess for Hire

Book Review: Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

If you’re looking for a wild romp of a novel that puts a woman who’s life is falling apart against her ex-husband’s fiancé, then Finlay Donovan is Killing It should be your next read.

This book was funny and fresh with a touch of murder-for-hire thrown in. Finlay is a nuanced protagonist who makes a lot of bad decisions but remains plucky and endearing at the same time. I enjoyed this one at lot more than anticipated, so it was a pleasantly surprising read. My only complaint was I wanted more backstory for Vero, Finlay’s nanny /accountant / accomplice. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel – Finlay Donovan Knocks Em Dead – when it drops in February 2022.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

Book Review: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

I know there have been comparisons to Daisy Jones & the Six, but The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton goes so far beyond the story of a journalism-style review of a 1970s rock group. This book, oh my goodness.

Walton addresses racism and bigotry in the U.S., weaving a story that shows that we really haven’t done that far since the 1970s.

She illustrates how women’s voices – especially those voices of BIPOC women – were silenced then and now.

She brings together music and fashion to demonstrate how art can take so many forms for so many people.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev that spans 40 years but is timely for this day. I highly recommend it!

The Death of Vivek Oji

Book Review: The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi is a beautiful novel about love, loss, and finding your true self. Set in Nigeria, the story focuses on Vivek, his life and mysterious death, and his family, especially his cousin Osita. While alive, Vivek struggles to express both his personhood and his love for others. While his mother, Kavita, and father, Chika, want Vivek to fit the mold of a young Nigerian man, that is not his destiny. The story takes us back and forth in time to weave together Vivek’s life with those around him.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s heartbreaking and the characters show a deep sense of vulnerability, which made them feel even more real. Akwaeke Emezi is a wonderful writer.