We Are the Brennans

We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange

A 5⭐️ Book Review

I love family-focused novels. Family relationships are so complicated, and a good writer brings those stories to life. Tracey Lange is one of those authors. We Are the Brennans is an amazing novel. On the surface, it’s a story about one daughter’s return home after a self-imposed exile. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a story about secrets and duty and loyalty, striving for more and living in the roles others have placed on you, and finding your family beyond your bloodlines.

I loved the multiple points of view in this novel, especially how Lange shifts the POV by using dialogue from chapter to chapter. The characters are well-formed and nuanced, and I found myself rooting for all of the Brennan siblings.

Finding the Cerulean Sea

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

A 5⭐️ Book

TJ Klune has given us a gift. The House in the Cerulean Sea is a gift of love and color and adventure and magic. It is a book about being comfortable in your own skin, questioning your preconceived notions, and finding where you belong. In short, I believe this is very nearly the most perfect novel ever. Full-stop.

Linus Baker is a caseworker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMY). He lives a grey existence and follows the RULES AND REGULATIONS to the letter as he investigates orphanages housing magical children. He does not sway from his life as an observer.

Until Extremely Upper Management sends him on a month-long Classified Level Four assignment on Marsyas Island. As Linus gets to know – and love – the brood of characters on the island, he shifts from being an observer to an active participant in life.

I loved this story. TJ Klune’s writing is spot-on – both witty and touching, with plenty of bits of wisdom thrown in as we travel through this world. Each character is endearing in a unique way. The cast includes

  • Talia: A young (263 years old, to be exact) gnome who loves gardens and threatening to beat people with shovels
  • Theodore: A wyvern who hasn’t grown into his wings but will love you forever if you give him a button
  • Sal: A quiet, tentative boy with a tragic past and a gift with words, and who happens to be able to shift into a Pomeranian
  • Chauncey: A – well, we’re not exactly sure what his physical being is – but we know his lifelong goal is to be a bellhop
  • Phee: A tiny sprite with magic in her fingers and wings and a deep understanding of roots and trees (she’ll turn you into one!)
  • Lucy: A little devil. Literally, his name is short for Lucifer and his father is Satan. Lucy is a 6-year-old Antichrist,but we don’t use that word on Marsyas Island
  • Zoe: An older sprite who owns Marsyas and is a fierce protector of its inhabitants, including Arthur and the children
  • Arthur: A gentle man with secrets of his own but who knows how to make each of his children feel special, who teaches them and guides them, and who loves deeply

I hope you’ll choose to read this gorgeous book. It gave me hope and joy, and it touched my soul.

A Slow-Burn Spy Novel

Impostor Syndrome, written by Kathy Wang, is a slow-burn novel about career aspirations, privacy, and womanhood. Oh, and espionage!

I think the concept of spies among us is fascinating, so I was eager to read this Book of the Month pick. It did not disappoint!

Julia is Chief Operating Officer at Tangerine, a Google / Facebook / WhatsApp conglomerate with thousands of employees on its 90+ acres of campus in Silicon Valley. She’s hailed as one of the most powerful women in the world and praised for her prowess in the board room, her poise at the podium, and her picturesque life as a new wife and mother. Julia is the example that women point to when they think of having it all.

She’s also a Russian operative, plucked from an institute (orphanage) in her teens to be groomed for her role to support her homeland by working as a spy for the SPB. When Julia’s handler, Leo, orders her to use her power to access data at level that has never been breached before, she starts to question her dual roles. And when Alice, a low-level Tangerine tech support employee, discovers Julia’s actions, the web twists even further.

None of the characters in this book are truly likable. Julia is selfish and condescending. Leo is smug and aloof. Alice is meek and fearful. But yet, it all works. I wanted to know what was going to happen next, and I felt empathy for each of the main characters (Aaron, not so much). Impostor Syndrome tackles women’s issues in the workplace, sexism, technology and privacy, and diversity – all in the uber-rich setting of Silicon Valley with a cat-and-mouse spy game to drive the plot forward. A solid 4⭐️ read!

Instamom

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.