Book Review: Instamom by Chantel Guertin

4⭐️ Book Review

Buying Instamom was solely a case of #bookstagrammademedoit – and I’m so glad I did.

Kit Kidding is an influencer, a motivational speaker, and a child-free-by-choice woman. Her brand isn’t that she hates kids, but that she’s made the conscious decision to choose a single-girl-in-the-city lifestyle instead of #mommyhood – and it was all been working fine. Until she met Will MacGregror, a single dad who gives Kit all the feels. As she gets to know Addie, Will’s precocious daughter, and spends more time in Will’s life, Kit starts questioning if what she thought she loved is what she really wants.

I really enjoyed this book. Chantel Guertin did an amazing job at depicting what it’s like to be single in your 30s and to take on a stepmom role. When I turned 30, my divorce had just been finalized and I was a single mom to a 13-month-old baby girl. By 33, I was dating again and would soon add being a stepmom to my life. The experiences of the Instamom characters definitely resonated with me and my own journey.

Instamom is much more than a rom-com about a social media influencer. This book covered relationships, parenthood, grief, and the question of having it all – a successful career, a partner, kids, and an identity all your own. I cheered for Kit as she struggled to define her choices, and that made Instamom a great read.

The Happiest Girl in the World

Book Review: The Happiest Girl in the World by Alena Dillon

A 4⭐️ Book Review

In The Happiest Girl in the World, Alena Dillon takes on the U.S gymnastics sandal with poise and empathy in her fictionalization of Larry Nassar’s sadistic abuse, the roles that Bela and Martha Karolyi played, and the question of how much pain is worth Olympic gold. This book was a good, but difficult read, filled with triggers about sexual and emotional abuse. I enjoyed the protagonist, Sera, and thought that her voice was strong as Ms. Dillon showed us what compromises and conflicts Sera made on her own to reach her dreams. I especially liked Charlene, Sera’s mom, as a secondary voice because she added another layer of complexity to the story.

I love gymnastics, and the Nassar scandal is just sickening. Reading much of this book was like reading a recap of what’s happened in the past 5 years, and the fictional characters helped shine a light on the tragedy and injustice as so many young girls were abused under a system that prioritized perfection over humanity.

The Other Black Girl

Book Review: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

A 5⭐️ Book Review

Dear Readers: Please read The Other Black Girl. This book addresses race, feminism, and success in so many different ways. I loved the setting of a publishing house because that’s one of my dream jobs, but this book is so much more than a girl trying to get ahead of the office politics and games. It’s a thriller, a social commentary, and a timely read.

Nella, the protagonist, wants to do more than what she’s given as an editorial assistant at Wagner Books. But as the only Black girl in the office, her efforts are thwarted with microaggressions, apathy, and racism. Then Hazel-May arrives as a new assistant. Bella is cautiously optimistic about what another BIPOC colleague might mean for her. Yet, in just a few months, it all goes terribly wrong.

I loved the characters and all their attributes in this book. Nella and her best friend Malaika are real, empathetic, and endearing characters. I loved their interactions. Hazel-May makes you question your trust level of her on every page. The Wagner employees add layers to the story as well.

The Other Black Girl is being described in publicity materials as Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada. I definitely recognized the truth to these comparisons – especially to Get Out. Like after watching that movie, I’m still thinking about this book.

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.