What I Read This Week: May 22 to 28

Despite massive migraines, it was a pretty good reading week, especially considering that I finished three of my Book of the Month backlist books!

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

I love dystopian fiction, but this book was a miss for me overall. In a world where girls grow up to be married and have children, these women know that they or some of their peers will one day disappear from the village with no grace left behind. One woman opts to escape, choosing to abandon her family rather than be taken from them. Alexis Schaitkin is a talented writer, but Elsewhere fell flat for me.

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

Listening to Killers of a Certain Age, I kept envisioning this book on a movie screen with actresses like Jane Fonda and Candice Bergen as two of the nearly retired assassins who are now being pursued by their own employer. This was a fun audiobook, and I loved how Deanna Raybourn incorporated getting older into the stories of these expert murderers-for-hire.

Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

As a fan of Abby Ramirez’s books, I’ve found a new author to add to my list with this week’s reading of Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn. When Georgie Mulcahy finds herself back in her hometown unexpectedly, she decides to use this break as a chance to fulfill some of her teenage dreams with the hope that she’ll figure out what’s missing for her future. Loner Levi Fanning might be the one to help her most of all. I loved the story of Georgie and Levi! The setting of the book, on the banks of Virginia, and the small-town community got me right in the feels, and I adored Hank the Dog, who would be best friends with my Indy. I’ll be picking up more Kate Clayborn books soon!

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

I started The Maidens by Alex Michaelides as an audiobook but switched to print this weekend and flew through 200 hundred pages in a day. This is a fast-paced thriller set at Cambridge, where Mariana is determined to stop an alluring professor from drawing more young female students into his cultish following, including her niece, before more of them end up dead. I loved this book, from the mentioned Greek tragedies to the characters you meet throughout The Maidens.

12 Books I Want to Read This Summer

It’s nearly June, which means summer is nearly here! With my kids being older and my full-time job, summer doesn’t look much different than the rest of my year, to be honest, but I do love the prospect of warmer temperatures, longer days, and a much-needed vacation in July. And, of course, more books to read! Here are 12 books I want to read this summer.

12 Books on My Summer Reading List

  1. In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune – I have high hopes for this one, my third read by Klune.
  2. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates – I love Coates’s works and voice, and this book has been staring me down for months.
  3. Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey – Part of my goal to clear my Book of the Month (BOTM) Stack of Shame
  4. Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld – Yet another BOTM backlist book.
  5. Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson – What’s that? Yes, you guessed it. A BOTM backlist book.
  6. The Last Russian Doll by Kristen Loesch – Notice a BOTM pattern here?
  7. Us Against You by Fredrik Backman – Beartown was a favorite earlier this year, but I’ve held off on reading the sequel. I’ll get to the finale, The Winners, this fall.
  8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – This one’s been on my shelf for years, and I have a feeling I’m going to love it.
  9. I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai – Another author I love whose book I’ve been holding back on because I have such high expectations.
  10. Maame by Jessica George – This is a book I know very little about, but I know that it has garnered huge hype on Bookstagram and I’m very curious.
  11. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – I think this book has been on my shelf since 2012. Time to read it!
  12. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – A book to fulfill my love for dystopian fiction.

Have you read any of these? Which one should I start with this summer?

What I Read This Week: May 15-22

This was a mixed week of audiobooks and physical books, with some really good reads topping my list!

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

A loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty with so much depth and nuance, I loved this book. Read my full review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust here.

Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan

I loved Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan and am disappointed that I let this one sit on my Book of the Month backlist for so long. This is a contemporary romance about Yasmen and Josiah, who thought their love would never fall apart, but when life gets too hard, the two stopped talking and their marriage ended. Despite that, they still remain dedicated to their children and their thriving restaurant business, and soon both Yas and Si question if there’s still a spark between them. This is a second-chance romance story, with a lot of heart and I loved how Kennedy Ryan wove Black culture, mental health, and friendship into this novel. It looks like this is the first book in a series, and I can’t wait for what comes next.

The Royals Next Door by Karina Halle

I love when a book is more than what I expected it to be. Based on the synopsis and the cover of The Royals Next Door by Karina Halle, I thought this book was going to be a gossipy take on royal neighbors moving into a small town. Yes, it’s that, but the love story between elementary schoolteacher Piper and royal bodyguard Harrison is sweet and lovely, making this a good almost-summer read.

Heard It in a Love Song by Tracy Garvis Graves

Having loved Tracey Garvis Graves’s book The Girl I Used to Know, I was excited for Heard It in a Love Song when it first published, but kept pushing it back on my reading list. This story of Layla, a singer/music teacher, and Josh, an electrician and single dad, is sweet beyond measure, as both leads try to discover what makes them happy after their first marriages end. While the book was predictable, the writing was impeccable.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Like so many people, I consider To Kill a Mockingbird to be a nearly perfect book, but I’d heard mixed reviews about Go Set a Watchman, the 2015 published follow-up that was discovered after Harper Lee’s death. I have many mixed emotions about this book, which I have to believe was the intent of the author. Jean-Louise Finch (Scout) is all grown up and living in New York City, but when she comes home to Macon, Alabama, she discovers that her revered father, Atticus, is not the hero she has believed him to be. This was a hard character shift to understand after thinking of Atticus as one of the greatest fathers in American literature.

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

What I thought would be a ghost story about a creepy location for a writer’s event turned out to be so much more. The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz, her debut novel, has ghosts, lovers, frenemies, and mysteries galore. It is a character-driven novel with so many twists of whodunnit that you’re never sure of who is in control. Alex, the protagonist, is thrilled to receive a last-minute invite to Rosa Vallo’s secluded Blackbriar Estate for the famed author’s exclusive writer’s retreat, but when she finds her former best friend, Wren, amongst the other guests, Alex quickly learns that what is supposed to cure her writer’s block could be much more complicated.

A New Fairy Tale: Girl, Serpent, Thorn

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust; A Five-Star Book Review

I love fairy tales. The magic, the romance, the monsters, the inevitable battle between good and evil… I’m here for all of it. And retellings are just as good in my mind, when they’re done well.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust is a fairy tale loosely based on Sleeping Beauty with folklore from all different cultures woven into this magical story in which the princess isn’t just the lonely girl locked in the tower. She’s also the monster who unwittingly releases chaos on her kingdom. I listened to this YA fantasy novel as an audiobook and was wholly obsessed with the story.

What I Loved about Girl, Serpent, Thorn

The Premise: Golvahar, where Soraya is kept at the top of of her twin brother the Shah’s palace, is a mysterious city because she has yet to discover much of it, being allowed only to watch from the roof where she grows her roses. Her brother and mother travel from palace to palace, but Soraya is cursed and must stay away from everyone because whatever touches her bare skin dies instantly. She forces herself to be content with this life until she learns that her brother will marry and that a mysterious demon is kept in the dungeon, one who might have answers to free her.

The Love Stories: Love is a build-block for much of Themis story, from the love of Soraya’s mother, Tahmineh, for her twin son and daughter to the love that Soraya feels for others throughout the book. It is love that spurs her decisions, both good and bad, and that is the essence of a good fairy tale, in my opinion.

The Creatures and World-Building: From Soraya’s curse to the evil divs (demons) to the pariks (fairy-like creatures), this is a story filled with fantastic characters of all kinds in all shapes and colors, and the world they love in is vivid, both beautiful and dangerous at the same time.

The Resolution: While I will do my best not to spoil the ending of Girl, Serpent, Thorn, I must say how much I loved its resolution. The characters, especially Soraya, found what was necessary. It’s not the traditional fairy tale ending, but it is one for the current times and one that made me smile.

Do you like fairy tales or retellings?

What I Read This Week: May 8-14

After finishing zero books last week, I’m happy to have gotten back into a groove of reading this week. Here are the books I finished, most of which I enjoyed.

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

If you read my book review post of The Measure by Nikki Erlick, you already know that I loved this book. Its premise is that age-old question of would you choose to know when you are going to die, but the story is nuanced with beautiful characters facing their own dilemmas and choices when given the opportunity to learn the length of their lives. This is a gorgeous book, and despite being about death, it is somehow life-affirming.

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

This was an impulse add-on to a Book of the Month order, and it sat on my shelf for a long, long time. I listened to the audiobook because I wasn’t feeling invested in the overall story from the beginning. While I think maps and cartography are fascinating, this wasn’t a book that I enjoyed, mainly because I didn’t connect with the characters. So, The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd rests solely in the “glad-to-have-finished” category for me.

Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes by Alexa Martin

Two best friends decide to move in together after their adult lives diverge from their original plans. Lauren is a single mom to precocious, adorable Adelaide and is dealing with her ex-fiancé’s on-and-off again presence in their lives. Jude is a fitness influencer who lost her money in a bad investment but is still burdened by financing her widowed mother’s lavish lifestyle. Lauren and Jude lean on each other through it all and find happiness in their new lives. Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes by Alexa Martin is a sweet book about friendship, starting over, and finding strength when you think all is lost.

The Measure of Your Life

The Measure by Nikki Erlick – A Five-Star Book Revieve

I finished The Measure by Nikki Erlick early this morning before work and am so excited to tell you why this is a five-star read for me!

  1. The Premise – I think most of us have pondered the question, if you could learn when you were going to die, would you want to know? This book takes that question and shows people’s answers, whether they choose to open the mysterious boxes that arrive at their doorsteps and measure the lengths of string found inside or not. Long- and short-stringers must contend with their fates, whatever they may be.
  2. The characters – I ship several of the duos in this book, particularly Nina and Maura, as they face their strings as individual and partners. Their story was full of emotion, but also tender, without unnecessary drama adding to the emotional toll the strings put on their relationship. With each chapter told from a different point of view, The Measure tells a host of characters’ stories, and I loved finding the Easter eggs of how they intertwined.
  3. The writing – This is Ms. Erlick’s debut novel. Her debut, friends! With such a powerful first book in which every word, sentence, and paragraph is crafted with care and talent, she blew me away.
  4. The ending – I won’t spoil the end of The Measure, but I will say that it was wholly satisfying and worth the journey that Ms. Erlick carried us through for nearly 350 pages.

I hope you’ll read The Measure soon. I’m certain you won’t regret it!