In 2019 it was my goal to read 100 books, to beat my record from the year before when I read 82 books. Here’s everything I read in 2019 and a short summary.

I Like it Like That by Cecily von Ziegesar 209 pages This is book 5 in the Gossip Girl series. I watched the entire series on Netflix a winter ago, and got hooked on it. It was definitely escapist, candy for my brain. And now that I’ve seen the entire series I need to read the books. I did the same thing with Pretty Little Liars too. I have the entire Gossip Girl series in my TBR list, and there are so many of them.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks 430 pages This one was not at all what I expected. In the prologue it sounds like a woman who has just divorced her husband and finds out he’s getting married. It comes off as if she’s going to stalk this woman and make her life a living hell. But then there’s the moment I realized it wasn’t that at all, and I literally said “Oh snap” out loud. This one kind of blew mind and kept me guessing.

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir 336 pages The story opens with a 17 year old pregnant girl who has to hide her pregnancy. That’s not so unusual, many stories that feature 17 year old pregnant girls feature this complication. But her predicament is increasingly complicated as her family is reality show famous. Her father is a televangelist and her unwed pregnancy would bring down her entire family. But once the father of her baby is revealed that would also bring down her entire family’s empire.

The Night Child by Anna Quinn 240 pages Nora is a high school teacher who one day randomly gets a vision of a young girl. The vision keeps coming back and she can’t figure out who she is. But she’s completely disrupted by this vision. Then she goes to a psychiatrist and realizes that the vision is actually her split personality. As you can imagine a split personality completely throws her for a loop and she has a complete breakdown. A terrible secret from her childhood is exposed as a result. I remember back in the 90s being completely obsessed with the notion of split personalities. I read Sybill, and When The Rabbit Howls, which are both true stories. I had completely forgotten that split personalities were a thing until I read the Night Child.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas. 352 pages This one was pretty fascinating. Oliver is a teenage boy who lives with his mom in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. So in the middle of nowhere that the cabin doesn’t have electricity. It can’t have electricity because Oliver is allergic to it. As a newborn he had massive seizures in the hospital and they figure out he was allergic to electricity once they took him completely away from it and he stopped seizing. As a result he can’t have a normal life. He can’t go to school. He can’t even walk to the end of the driveway because of the power lines that are strung over it above. He becomes a pen pal with Moritz in Germany. Moritz was born without eyes, so he develops a hyper sense of echo location. He’s able to go to school and can “see” by his echo location. But the problem is Moritz is bullied at school, and he has to cope with his simultaneous ability and disability. But isn’t it random that the boys write to each other. How would a boy living out in the woods know to write another boy in Germany? It’s because they are connected from birth and we get to figure out why. This one was featured in my January Standout Reads blog.

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold. 319 pages Does the name Klebold sound familiar? Think back 20 years ago to Littleton, Colorado. There was a boy named Dylan Klebold who, with his best friend Eric Harris, brought an arsenal of weapons and bombs and shot up the school. They killed 13 classmates and teachers before turning the guns on themselves. Sue is his mother. And in her memoir she discusses her experience as the mother of a mass murderer. When the tragedy happened we were all like “And where the hell were his parents?” Well, Sue tells us where she was. She was in their home raising their son and doing her best. Sue Klebold got me to think of what Dylan did in a different light. In the end he committed suicide. She copes by thinking of him as a suicide victim and not a mass murderer. And it’s true. She lost her son to suicide. But the problem was he took a bunch of people with him. This is the story of a mother who questions what she did wrong. She blames herself. And this book details her quest to find out why. This one was featured in my January Standout Reads blog.

The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster 464 pages What is it with the suicide books right now? This is not your typical Jen Lancaster book. She’s normally the author of funny memoirs and light fiction. But this one hit me like a ton of bricks. Her town, Lake Forest, Illinois, has seen a spate of teen suicides lately. In The Gatekeepers she fictionalizes the town and follows the story of teens who are driven to excel and succeed to the point where their self worth is entirely dependent on their grades, winning and their parents’ hard won approval. In the book the teens are exploring why a few of their classmates have opted to jump in front of the commuter train that whizzes through their town. This one was featured in my January Standout Reads blog.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis 240 pages She’s a lifestyle blogger who wrote a book about not believing the lies you tell yourself and how to live your best life. It was a quick read, I read most of it on a flight to Florida. The internet has been going crazy over this book and I wanted to see what all the hype was about. And I get why there was hype. She really simplifies the things we tell ourselves about why we’re not good enough. I admit I skipped the chapters about being a mom because I am not one. But I thought it was cool that she ended each chapter with 3 things that she did to change her own perspective on that topic. I liked that approach because it felt like something I could actually implement.

The French Girl by Lexie Elliot 304 pages Kate is a young professional starting her own business, but the vacation she went on with her friends 10 years ago is coming back to haunt her. She and 5 of her friends, including her boyfriends, vacationed in a house in France that belonged to one of her friend’s parents. Severine, the French girl next door, hung out with them. Just after the trip they learned that Severine had gone missing. They were questioned and went back to England. Ten years later Severine’s body was found, and the six of them are under suspicion by the French provincial police. One of them killed Severine. This story kept me guessing until the very end. I wondered if Kate herself had killed Severine, any one of them could have done it. Who was it?

And that’s it for January at 2,984 pages. I am at 9% of my goal for the year. On to February!

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma 336 Pages I am not sure about this one. I found the ending to be confusing. It’s told in 2 perspectives, one is Amber a prisoner in a young women’s juvenile facility. The other is Violet, an up and coming ballet dancer. You sort of think that their timelines are at the same time, but they aren’t. And I found that confusing.

You’re the One That I Want by Cecily von Ziegesar 244 pages this is book 5 of the Gossip Girl series. I was totally into the show and had to read the books. I consider these to be junk food for my brain.

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones 304 pages This one ended up being a standout read for February. Emily meets Adam, they fall in love and are going to get married. The problem is there’s another woman. His mother. And this is not a funny scenario like that J Lo/Jane Fonda movie Monster in Law. Adam’s mother is pretty psycho. But she does it in such a way that only Emily notices how Adam’s mother is digging and picking at Emily to the point where Emily starts to wonder whether she’s going crazy. This one totally kept me up at nights.

Vox by Christina Dalcher 336 pages This one ended up as a standout read in February as well. Imagine a world where women are no longer allowed to speak more than 100 words per day. The government fitted out all the women with word counters that count our words like our FitBits and Garmins count our steps. When she exceeds 100 she is shocked by the device. In this story Jean used to be a doctor and she was researching for a cure to a disease when the President’s brother ends up getting that disease and she is put into a position where she has to decide whether to go back into the lab to continue the research into the cure, under the watchful eye of the government all while struggling with the notion that her daughter will grow up in a world where she’s not allowed to speak more than 100 words per day. This one was absolutely riveting.

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain 384 pages This one takes place during World War II. Tess is studying to be a nurse and her fiancé is a doctor. He leaves their home in Baltimore to work and train in a hospital in Chicago. While he’s gone she’s waiting for him to come back to they can get married. While she’s waiting she goes to DC with her friend Gina for a change of scene for the weekend. There she meets Henry, and in one night she ends up pregnant. Tess is left to figure out what to do next and runs off to North Carolina to marry Henry. Despite his wealth, being married to Henry isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He’s the town’s golden boy, and was supposed to marry the prom queen. She now lives in a town where she is shunned for wrecking Henry’s perfect life. But the thing is, Henry has a secret of his own. She has to figure out who she is in this loveless marriage, and who her husband is too.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah 448 pages This one is on my standout reads from February. I read this one while I was sick and blew through it in a weekend. In 1974 Leni is 13 when she and her parents move off the grid to Alaska. She and her mom hope that the change of scene will be good for her dad, who is a mess after returning as a POW in Viet Nam. The desolation in Alaska provides them with a circle of friends who are very supportive and teach Leni and her family how to prepare for the harsh Alaskan winter. However, that support network isn’t much of a help to her father, who grows more disturbed as the dark winter in Alaska rolls in. He flies into jealous and paranoid rages and mercilessly beats Leni’s mother. Leni and her mother have to figure out what to do to survive being stranded in the desolate Alaskan wilderness.

The Late Bloomers Club by Louise Miller 336 pages Nora is diner owner in a small town in Vermont when she and her sister inherit a house from an elderly woman in town whom she barely knew. She falls into this woman’s secrets and her debts as she takes ownership of her property. The first big secret is that Peggy, the original owner of the house, was in talks to sell her property to a big box store—which would completely uproot the town if the store is built. Nora has to figure out what to do as more of Peggy’s secrets unfold. Over the course of the story Nora learns to bake cakes and take over Peggy’s cake baking business—and this made me want cake in the worst way.

And that was it for February. I am 16% to my goal, and have read 5,372 pages so far this year. And now on to March.

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes 448 pages This is the sequel to her book, You. I loved You. I read it in 1 weekend. I was impressed with how she made a psychopath seem likeable. The story continues. Joe moves to LA to follow a woman who broke his heart and stole from him. He’s there trying to track her down, but he ends up falling in love instead. What made Joe so likeable in the first one made me not like him in Hidden Bodies. I found him constantly negative, and that bugged me after awhile. It wasn’t as good as the first one, unfortunately.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 608 pages I do love me some Kristin Hannah, and this one did not disappoint. This one is about two sisters who lived in France during World War II. Isabelle craves adventure and joins the resistance, while Vianne stays in her village in the Loire Valley taking care of the home front and daughter while her husband is fighting in the army. The story is one of the sisters reflecting on her experience, and you’re not sure which one it is until the very end—one survived the war and one didn’t. Both sisters were tested in unimaginable ways during the war.

Stories I Only Tell my Friends by Rob Lowe 321 pages I listened to this one on audio in one weekend as I had a lot of driving to do that weekend. It was narrated by Rob Lowe himself. I love me a memoir by someone who was famous in the 80s. And this one had its interesting moments. I feel funny saying that somebody’s memoir wasn’t interesting, it makes me feel like I am saying to the person “Your life is not interesting.” I loved how he described the whole process of getting into his first movie, The Outsiders. And now I want to rewatch the movie because while I remember he was in it, I’d forgotten that he played Soda Pop. To me the part about filming The Outsiders was the most interesting part, the rest of it blurred by with the miles under my wheels.

Fixing Boo Boo by Pat Stanford 246 pages I picked this one up out of curiosity and ended up finding it super interesting, to the point where I made it a Standout Read for March. Pat Stanford’s older sister Barb suffered a traumatic brain injury and once Barb’s husband passed, it was up to Pat and her husband Gary to care for Barb. Stanford was super honest about what it’s like to care for someone who has suffered such an injury. Her sister was practically a stranger to her as they were not close. There were adjustments to be made with having someone live with you that A. you barely know and B. has this kind of medical issue along with other medical issues. She dives deep into the frustrations of working with the Medicare system and trying to get Barb the services she needs. She also dives deep into the frustrations of how caring for someone this injured affects all the other areas of life. A must read for anyone caring for a family member.

Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult 384 pages Normally I hate stories that are told in reverse. I find that method of conveying a story to be completely disorienting. But I was willing to overlook it for my girl Jodi. She did a pretty good job of telling the story backward. The story is about a gunman in an abortion clinic in Mississippi, and the patients and providers in the clinic who are dealing with the issue of a man shooting up the clinic. As the story is told backward we learn all about what brought each person to the clinic, from the teenage girl there looking for birth control, to her father who is actually the hostage negotiator outside trying to talk down the gunman, to the nurse, the patients, the doctors. A very good read, even if it’s told backward.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware 384 pages I will admit I found this story very confusing. Hal is the daughter of Margarida, as far as she knows she has no father and no other family. After her mom passes, she gets a letter in the mail about her grandmother’s passing and an inheritance. She goes to the service and meets the family her mother never told her she had. But then she does some digging into the relationship her mother had with her family, and then she’s not sure her mother is who she says she is. I found this one kind of hard to follow and I got frustrated toward the end with the yes or no as to whether Hal’s mother was in the family or not.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris 288 pages This is based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, a survivor of Auschwitz. He was the prisoner in charge of tattooing all the numbers on the arms of all the prisoners held there. He spent 3 years being held, and during that time he met and fell in love with his wife in the camp, and he even found ways to make the lives of other prisoners better. He found ways to sneak food into the camps and distributed that food to as many prisoners as he could. An amazing story, and a standout read for March.

Face the Music by Paul Stanley 485 pages This is Paul Stanley from Kiss’s memoir. I discussed this in my blog entry about Secrets of 80s Rock Stars and while I am not such a big Kiss fan, I found his book to be incredibly interesting. It’s probably the only rock memoir I’ve ever read by an artist who never took drugs. He gets into the detail of how the band was formed, the strained relationships between him and his bandmates, as well as what goes into producing a record or a tour. Great insight into the music industry in the 70s and 80s.

Rocks by Joe Perry 432 pages This is the memoir of the lead guitarist from Aerosmith. He’s a gorgeous writer, but as with many other rock memoirs I am amazed at how detailed his memory is despite all the drugs he’s consumed. An interesting story, though a bit long winded.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah 448 pages This one was a standout read for March, and it was amazing. Meredith and Nina are sisters. Meredith stayed home to run the family business while Nina is a photo journalist who travels to war torn countries to take pictures. They were raised by their Russian mother Anya and American father Evan. When Dad dies, they are left to care for the mother who was often cold and unloving. Over the course of their lives Anya told them a fairy tale that was a disguised story of her life. On his death bed he makes Anya promise to tell the whole story. Turns out Anya is a survivor of the Leningrad siege in World War II. She tells the gut wrenching tale of her life, and Meredith and Nina finally understand the pain that Anya has endured for her entire life. A beautifully done story for sure.

That’s a wrap for March. 27 books read so far 9.416 pages read.

The Widow by Fiona Barton 352 pages A thriller based in London, Jean’s husband was suspected of kidnapping a 2 year old girl from her front yard. Throughout the story we try to understand A. whether he did it, and B. how much Jean actually knew about the crime. When Jean’s husband is killed in an accident, the spotlight is turned on her to tell about what it was like to live with her husband and how much she knew. This one kept me guessing, as it’s hard to know whether or not he kidnapped the girl. Like I kept thinking if he actually did, where did he keep her alive without Jean knowing about it?

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage 320 pages OK, this one was crazy. Suzette is being terrorized by her 7 year old daughter. Absolutely terrorized. Like this kid tries to kill her several times. But the problem is, she’s a perfect angel in front of her dad, to the point where she makes it look like Suzette is going crazy. Will Dad catch on? And what will they do about it? This one was a standout read for April.

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah 448 pages For me Kristin Hannah is hit or miss. She writes these incredibly awesome books like The Nightingale, and then she has a ton of these sappy family story books. Fly Away was the sequel to Firefly Lane. I listened to this one and was shocked to see that it clocked in at 15 hours! She could have easily written 5 novels off of this one book. It was a good story, but the thing that bugged me about this book was that most of it was told in flashback, and was told from the perspective of several characters. It was repetitive in that different characters would revisit the same scene, and she’d tell the story of the scene all over again. It definitely could be shorter. I’ve become more selective when reading Kristin Hannah because I am not as interested in the family drama stories she writes as I am more interested in the historical fiction she does.

People Skills 101 by Kerry O’Hallaron 208 pages This was a standout read in April and should be required reading for all humans. I grabbed this one out of curiosity. See, I work from home full time and I am afraid I am getting weird and feral in my social interactions. Kerry O’Hallaron lays out a skill in each chapter, and covers 21 social skills. It sounds like a lot, but he makes it very accessible. Then at the end he says “OK, pick out 2 skills and master those, and then pick out another one and master that one…” so he takes something that could potentially be overwhelming and makes it easy to attack. Well done.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty 488 pages Alice fell down at the gym and hit her head. When she comes to she tells everyone around her that she’s pregnant with her first child. What she doesn’t realize is that she has 3 children at home. Because she thinks it’s 1998, not 2008. She gets released from the hospital with a huge lapse in her memory, and she’s shocked to learn how she’s changed in the last 10 years. In 1998 she was in love with her husband, but in 2008 she’s divorcing him. She has to figure out what has happened to her life and relationships in the last 10 years ago and come to grips with the idea that maybe she doesn’t like who she’s become. I LOVED this one. Very cool concept, and was a standout read for April.

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty 464 pages This one is about a set of triplet sisters, Gemma, Cat and Lyn. They are celebrating their 34th birthday at a nice restaurant when the three of them erupt into an argument. One of them throws a fork that lands in the pregnant belly of another of the sisters. The story follows these triplets, who are all of course very different people, as they lead up to the moment of the fork throwing. Liane Moriarty does a really great job of weaving in the details of the lives of these women—just enough backstory so you get it, but not so much that you get bogged down.

All Of Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover 320 pages Quinn and Graham meet outside her boyfriend’s apartment. She’s back from a business trip a day early, he followed his girlfriend there. They can both hear what’s happening behind the closed door. They don’t expect that they will fall in love with each other and get married that day. The story follows Quinn and Graham into infertility. Quinn desperately wants a baby to the point where it is absolutely tearing the marriage apart. How can they possibly get back to a normal marriage knowing that the thing she wants most is impossible to achieve.

Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen 240 pages this is a memoir of promiscuity. And I hate to say this about a memoir, but this book annoyed the crap out of me. I finished it, but the Kerry spent her formative years chasing boys and defining herself around their approval rather than defining herself around who she herself is. She knows this now by the end, but the whole time I was reading it I found her behavior irritating.

And that’s it for April. So far I am 35% of the way to my goal 12,256 pages.

Rush by Lisa Patton 416 pages This one wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I did not belong to a sorority when I was in college. I didn’t really get it. It seemed odd that you basically had to go through hell to then pay thousands of dollars to belong to a club. My boyfriend in college belonged to a fraternity and we used to have a lot of debates about how he was basically paying for friends. (that comment used to piss him off like crazy!) What I was expecting was a salacious tale about girls pledging a sorority. I was hoping for a Devil Wears Prada kind of a thing where you have delicious mean girls making pledging hell. Not so. This one was told from a few perspectives: a maid at a sorority house at University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), girls who were pledging the most prestigious sorority, and a mother of one of the girls. The maid tells how she cares for the girls in the house (hundreds of girls in a massive sorority house) and how she wants more—upward mobility, health insurance, etc. Then the story is told from the freshmen girls who are pledging the sorority, and a mom who becomes the rush advisor. The thing that amazed me is how involved the mothers were in the girls’ sorority life, which I found very strange. This one took me by surprise in that it wasn’t really about pledging the sorority, it was more about equality among races. This was a standout read in May.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer 352 pages this was one of my standout reads for May. Edith Hahn was a Jewish woman who passed as Aryan during the war and married a member of the Nazi party. I didn’t even realize that was a thing! Her story was very compelling, basically she had to lie to everyone she knew and live under an assumed name to survive as a Jew in Germany during the war. A fantastic read.

Home Front by Kristin Hannah 432 pages I’ve said before how sometimes Kristin Hannah books are sappy family books, and this one was right on the line of that. Jolene is a helicopter pilot in the National Guard and she gets deployed to Iraq and has to leave her husband and daughters home while she goes off to war. Before she leaves her husband tells her that he doesn’t love her anymore. So, not only is she facing war, she doesn’t really know where she stands with her husband at home. Until she gets shot down and their family is completely changed. Good book, a bit long.

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty 560 pages I love me some Liane Moriarty, and this one did not disappoint. Ellen is a professional hypnotist who falls for widower Patrick. The problem is Patrick has a stalker, his ex girlfriend Saskia. She continues with the relationship though he’s always got his eye on the rear view mirror because Saskia is always in it following them where ever they go. Ellen never manages to see who Saskia is, and then she figures out that Saskia is actually one of her hypnosis clients. Patrick’s past and present collide in an insane manner as a result. How can Patrick move forward with Saskia always around? I liked this one enough to make it a standout read for May—I liked that it tells the story from Saskia’s perspective and from Ellen’s… and you can almost feel sympathetic toward Saskia.

No Walls and the Recurring Dream by Ani DiFranco 320 pages I was a huge Ani DiFranco fan back in the 90s, so I was excited when she wrote this book. I loved getting her story of how she climbed to the top of the folk scene in the 90s. What I didn’t like was how ranty she got during the book. And from having gone to 17 of her shows, she kind of is a ranter. But still a very interesting story if you’re a fan.

That’s it for May. So far I’ve read 39 books this year, 39% of the way to my goal and 14,336 pages read. Now, on to June.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty 400 pages This one was about a family that lives on an island in the middle of a river near Sydney. One of the oldest inhabitants of the island was actually abandoned by her parents and their disappearance is a mystery. The family that resides on the island built a business around the mystery of this family—they run tours, they sell souveniers, etc. The members of the family learn the truth about the mystery each when they turn 40. This one was fascinating.

The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet 304 pages There seems to be a rash of thrillers coming out of the UK these days. This one is about a couple that does a house swap, but then they learn that the person they’re swapping houses with has dug up secrets from the wife’s past affair. We get to learn the catastrophic end to the affair as well as why the mysterious house swapper has destroyed the wife’s face in every picture in the house. Creepy.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker 320 pages I read this one just as my big sailing vacation was starting. It’s the story of a mysterious illness that strikes in the town of Santa Lora, California. People are falling asleep and staying asleep for way too long, like weeks to months of being asleep. The CDC and hospitals cannot figure out why. The story follows a few perspectives of different characters, a college student, a single dad, a young couple with a baby—and all of them have no idea what the symptoms are but are terrified of randomly falling asleep. Super fascinating.

The Status Debt by Edie Baylis 421 pages This is a story that takes place in England in 1989. Tori is forced into an arranged marriage to a horrible man by her horrible mother. And honestly, I don’t think the premise really held up so well. It’s not like it was 1889, it was 1989, and the mother guilts Tori into the arrangement to preserve her late father’s memory—if she doesn’t go through with it a major secret of his will be exposed and will ruin his reputation. To me that isn’t enough of a reason to enter into a marriage with a complete asshole in that era. But I liked other parts of the story. The complete asshole she’s supposed to marry is trying to get a major real estate deal on the table and is dealing with a local biker gang to make it happy enough to sell him their buildings so he can then take advantage of them. Tori gets involved in the deal and realizes that her fiancé isn’t doing right by them—and this is the part where she grows a backbone. I read this one on our sailing vacation in 2019.

Between a Rock and a Heart Place by Pat Benatar. 256 pages I was a fan of Pat Benatar when I was young. I loved her powerhouse voice, I loved how brash she was, and I loved that she had short brown hair because I pretty much always had short brown hair when I was growing up. Her story was her rise to fame in the 70s and 80s and how sexist the rock industry was. I mean, pretty much everywhere was sexist in the 70s and 80s, but her label just wanted her to be sexy to sell. Her label didn’t care to notice that her husband was actually producing the band’s albums and not the fancy producers they’d been hiring. She really was a trailblazer in the industry. We were talking about her on the sailing trip, and Deb said she heard an interview with her that mentioned her drug use—however in her book she tried a few drugs, didn’t like them, and moved on from them. So who knows where the truth is. It was a great read, though. I read this one on our sailing vacation in 2019.

Tangerine by Christine Mangan 317 pages This one takes place in Tangier in 1956. Alice, British, is a recent grad of Bennington, young and married John on a whim and moved to Tangier with her husband. She battles depression and anxiety and pretty much hates Tangier. Her husband enjoys the monthly allowance from her inheritance, and is a man about town. Then one day her Lucy, her old college roommate, randomly shows up in Tangier. How did Lucy find her? The relationship between Alice and Lucy didn’t end well. Lucy was obsessed with Alice, and Mangan alludes to some pivotal event in their relationship that caused the rift. Lucy’s obsession continues in Tangier, and Alice has to figure out how to get Lucy out of her life, but Lucy’s claws are well dug in. I read this one on our sailing vacation in 2019.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick 304 pages this is the memoir of the actress Anna Kendrick, you can see her now in the hotel ads, and in the Pitch Perfect movies. I secretly loved the first movie. I kind of wondered what her memoir could possibly be about as she’s rather young. But it was hilarious. She talks about her awkwardness in growing up, her awkwardness in doing Broadway as a pre-teen, her awkwardness in moving to Hollywood and trying to make a name for herself. Very self deprecating and funny. I read this one on our sailing vacation in 2019.

You Are A Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. 288 pages I read “The Secret” a million years ago, but only because Oprah told me to. “The Secret” was all woo woo, wish for money and you’ll get it. Tell the universe you want money and the universe will provide. “You Are A Badass” did a little of that, but was more like “Yeah, tell the universe you want money, but then make a plan on how to get it. If you focus on your plan you will achieve it.” And this makes more practical sense to me. And this is something I’ve been struggling with in my business as an author—trying to make money off this book that really isn’t selling all that much these days. A fun motivator, and now I really do need to sit down and make that plan. I read this one on our sailing vacation in 2019.

How to be Famous by Caitlin Moran. 352 pages I really liked this one. It takes place in 1994-5 in London. Johanna is a rock journalist named Dolly who lands her first real job writing reviews at age 19. She is navigating mid 90s London and trying to figure a few things out: who is she as a sexual being, who is she as a professional, who is she as a friend. She has a friend who has hit the Britpop scene in a big way and he’s navigating his fame while she’s in love with him. She has another friend who is trying to break out and release her own album to call attention to the sexism that women face. And while all this happens she has an encounter with a famous comedian who video tapes it, and then exposes her through the tape. She is humiliated by the experience and of course angry by it. And the pre Me Too movement is also starting at that time as well. Moran does a great job exposing exactly how sexist the 90s were even though at the time we thought they weren’t so bad. And that’s the problem, we’re settling for “it wasn’t so bad as all that” and that is the point she uncovers in this book. Amazing job. I read this one on our sailing vacation in 2019.

And that’s it for June, 2,962 pages read in June or 17,298 for the year. I am half way through the year and I am just shy of reading half of my goal. Now on to July.

I Invited Her In by Adele Parks 432 pages Melanie and Abi were friends from university. Melanie got pregnant in their first year and quit school. Decades after graduating and losing touch with eachother—single teen moms and successful students don’t have much in common. Melanie has never told anyone the identity of her son’s biological father, claiming it was a one night stand. Abi reaches out to Melanie out of the blue. She’s just separated from her husband, her college boyfriend, and wants to come back to the UK to reconnect. Melanie doesn’t hesitate and invites Abi to stay with her and her family. And then Abi completely blows up the entire family. The identity of her son’s father becomes crucial as Melanie’s family and her friendship with Abi is completely destroyed. A great read, it kept me guessing the entire time. Though I did kind of guess who the father was, but it was super interesting how Parks brought it all together in the end. A great read. I read this one on our sailing vacation in 2019.

The Duff by Kody Keplinger 312 pages this one was made into a movie. I never did see the movie, but this book is the classic teen drama. I was expecting something funny, but it was more dramatic. Bianca has pretty friends, but she doesn’t consider herself conventionally pretty. It is suggested by a jerk boy that she’s the DUFF, the Designated Ugly Fat Friend… the one the pretty girls keep around to make themselves look more attractive in comparison. But the story wasn’t really about Bianca overcoming being the DUFF. It’s more about Bianca getting a lot of heavy shit dumped on her by her parents and her having to cope with all that. I read this one on our sailing vacation in 2019.

Freefall by Jessica Barry 356 pages I was obsessed with this one, I couldn’t put it down. The story begins with Allison climbing out of the wreckage of a crashed plane she was just on. She runs from the wreckage and begins a trek away from the plane knowing that someone is chasing her. Then her mom Maggie in Maine learns of the crash and how Allison is presumed dead. Allison and her mom weren’t on speaking terms for a few years and her mom is trying to figure out what Allison was doing on that plane and tries to retrace her steps despite the fact that they hadn’t really spoken in 2 years. Then a mystery is brewing… who is Allison running from as Maggie pieces together Allison’s story. A great read! I read this one on my summer sailing vacation.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss 144 pages OK, WTF did I just listen to? What a weird book! Sylvie’s dad is obsessed with the Iron Age, so much so that he takes the family on these camping trips where they mimic what it was like to live in the Iron Age. They forage for food, and if she doesn’t find enough or sasses him too much he beats her. It was a pretty fucked up story, honestly.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh 304 pages Meh, I didn’t really enjoy this one so much. And I think it’s because I don’t really understand depressed people because I am not one and I don’t have any seriously depressed people that are close to me. So for me I couldn’t relate to this book at all.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens 379 pages I totally get what all the hype was about. Kya is abandoned by her family in a marsh in North Carolina in the 1950s when she’s about 10. She has no way to know what has happened to them. Her only option is to survive on her own, and she figures out exactly how to do that and then some with very little support of the local community who shuns her. The story culminates in a murder mystery in which she’s implicated and will the town continue to turn its back on her? Great story!

Alice Cooper, Golf Monster by Alice Cooper 288 pages We all know Alice Cooper’s greatest hit “School’s Out.” But my favorite song of his is “Poison.” Anyway, this is his memoir. I am, of course, fascinated by rock memoirs, but this one is different because he talks about recovering from his alcohol addiction with golf. And I have to say, I have zero interest in golf, so I just skimmed those pages. Still a great rock memoir.

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan 400 pages I listened to this one, and I have to say I found it pretty confusing. It’s your classic whodunit, of course, but I think she packed too many people into it. I couldn’t tell the cops apart, there was a murder in the 90s, another one in the present, but why did the guy in the present get murdered and did it have something to do with the one in the 90s? Honestly, I felt this one was kind of a mess.

And that’s it for July. As of the end of July I am 56% of my way to my goal and have read a total of 19,913 pages. Let’s move on to August.

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable 400 pages This one was based on a true story. The main character April Vogt works for Sothebys and is called to Paris to evaluate an apartment that had been abandoned for 70 years. The apartment contains very valuable antiques and artwork that was owned by a woman who was a courtesan back in the turn of the century. She entertained very influential men of Paris at the time. April finds Marthe’s diaries and learns all about Marthe’s life. So the book bounces back and forth between Marthe’s story and April’s story as in the present tense she’s trying to figure out if she wants to stay in her marriage.

This is Me by Chrissy Metz 320 pages this is the memoir of the actress who plays Kate Pearson in This is Us. She talks about her life growing up in poverty with her single mother and her struggle to rise to fame as a plus sized actress. It’s part memoir and part self-help-accept-yourself-as-you-are encouragement book.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen 384 pages This one was a standout read for August. Jessica is a young and starving makeup artist who decides to get into a study on morality by a psychology professor at NYU. The study ends up more than she bargained for as the professor ends of paying Jessica thousands of dollars for a “chance” meeting with her husband. The idea is to see if her husband will cheat again by placing Jessica as bait. Jessica begins to unravel the story of deceit between Dr. Shields and her husband, and she gets caught in the middle. She learns that Dr. Shields will do anything to keep her husband, and more than anything to keep her secrets that Jessica is slowly learning.

The Budapest Artist’s Club by Claire Doyle 139 pages This one wasn’t a favorite of mine. I kind of felt like I was deposited into a room where people I didn’t know were having a conversation about something I didn’t know, and the whole book felt like that to me.

Dispatches from the Edge by Anderson Cooper 240 pages This is Anderson Cooper’s memoir as a foreign correspondent. He’s been in Iraq, Afganistan, Somalia, all those places, and then to New Orleans to report on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He is very honest in his story about his brother’s suicide and how that affected him—it compelled him to report in the world’s most dangerous places. Super interesting.

No Exit by Taylor Adams 352 pages This one was one of my standout reads for August. Darby is driving through a blizzard over some mountains in Colorado when the road becomes impassable. She stops at a rest stop. As she’s walking through the parking lot trying to get signal on her phone to notify her family—her mother is on her death bed and she’s trying to get home to say goodbye—she notices a child locked in a cage in a van. And THAT all happened in the first chapter. This book takes us through how Darby has to A. figure out whose van that is. B. figure out what to do about it while the roads are shut down and there’s no signal and C. avoid getting herself killed by the kidnappers. Well done!

And now we’re on to September. So far I have read 62 books, 62% of my goal and 21,728 pages.

Killer Show by John Barylick 324 pages this one hits close to home, as this fire occurred in the town right next door to where I live. At the time I didn’t know anyone who had gone to the fateful Great White show at The Station nightclub. Years later I made friends with someone who was there and he helped pull people out of the burning building after he’d gotten himself out. This book was written by one of the plaintiff’s attorneys and he talks about the events leading to the fire, and how he worked to get the victims’ families a settlement after the smoke cleared. It haunts me. This was one of my standouts from September.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson 384 pages Meh, this one wasn’t my favorite. I think I just got tired of the self deprecating stories over and over again. Sure some of them were very funny, but I think the whole “I can’t interact with humans like an adult” thing gets old when you read it over and over again. I don’t think that adults are as hopeless as Jenny Lawson makes herself out to be.

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite 240 pages this one was super interesting. It took place in Nigeria, I think, and it’s about a sister who lives in the shadow of her beautiful younger sister. Ayoola, the younger sister, gets men eating out of her hand right and left. But the problem is she tends to kill them, and calls on her older sister the nurse to help her clean up the mess and dispose of the body. Kenobe, the main character, is conflicted. She loves her sister and doesn’t want to see her go down, and knows that she’ll go down with her for her complicity. It’s hard to live a normal life as a nurse in a hospital when she knows that at any minute her sister could kill again.

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward by Mark Lukach 320 pages this is the memoir of a man whose wife lands in the psych ward early on in their marriage. He lays out the struggles of dealing with a broken mental health system as well as the details of his wife’s broken mental health. He conveyed his frustration very well in this book.

The Au Pair by Emma Rous 384 pages This one was a mystery. Seraphine’s father died, her mother died the day she and her twin brother were born. In a photo taken moments before her mother died, her mother was only holding 1 baby. Why is that? Then she was taken into a deep mystery about her family and the au pair who worked for the family leading up to the birth of the twins. The ending was kind of insane, honestly. I am not sure I found the ending to be believable.

Best Seller by Martha Reynolds 378 pages This one was a standout read for September. I loved that the story took place in 1976, I think that adds an interesting dynamic because of the fact that it’s still a relatively modern time period but it lacks social media and smartphones. Robin is 19 and back home in a seaside Rhode Island town for the summer. She got kicked out of Boston University for dealing pot, and everyone knows! She deals with the shame of it while being on the outs with her father. The story follows her for about a year while she deals with the rift in her family, a romantic involvement with her best friend, and the dissolution of her parents’ marriage. And to top it all off, she’s written a novel which she sent to her favorite author hoping to get some help with getting it published—just to find our her favorite author stole her work and published it herself.

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh 352 pages I wasn’t sure about this one first but I am glad I stuck it out. Sarah meets Eddie, and they have an intense whirlwind week long relationship. It’s nothing like she’s ever felt before, and he said the same. But then he went away to Spain for a vacation, and he never replied to her texts, calls, emails, IMs, etc. Where the hell did he go and why the hell wasn’t he replying to her if he was so smitten with her. She knows she should just walk away—after all he’s just another jerk who can’t be bothered to reply after professing his love to her. But it bothers her enough that she persists—until she learns the truth of who he really is and exactly how complicated getting involved with him could get. This one had me saying “Oh snap” under my breath as I read and was a standout read for me for September.

And that’s it for September. I am now up to 69 books, and 69% of my goal—at 24,220 pages. I am getting down to the wire and wondering if I can squeeze in 31 more books by the end of the year.

We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union 272 pages I don’t really know much about Gabrielle Union. I knew that she was in Bring it On, and I knew that she’d been raped when she worked at Payless Shoe Source as the store was being robbed. She brings an interesting perspective of what it’s like to be a black actress, and what it’s like to be a black parent as well. Overall a great read to get a new perspective if you’re a white lady like me.

In Pieces by Sally Field 416 pages this is the memoir of the Academy Award winning actress Sally Field. An overall interesting story of the life of an actress who just like so many professional woman are unsure of themselves and who they are after they have survived abuse as a child.

Fire Your Boss by Jonathan Green 107 pages Yet another one of those books that seduces you with the idea of quitting your day job and coming up with some other way to make money. Yes, you can make a living blogging, writing books, drop shipping blah blah blah.

Connections by Gian Andrea 149 pages OK, WTF did I just read. This was a super interesting book in the way it was put together, but I have no idea what it was about. There was SOMETHING that happened on a train, was it a bomb? Then the bomber kidnapped a transgender person and killed them. Then there was this woman who was in some organization and was she supposed to prevent the event or help the event happen. I have no idea what this was about, but the way it was written was super interesting.

The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt 304 pages I didn’t realize until a few years ago that Anderson Cooper is Gloria Vanderbilt’s son. This book was taken from an email chain between them in which they had some very honest conversations about their upbringing. I never knew how tumultuous her upbringing was, there was a highly publicized court case over who should have custody over her—because back then being a Vanderbilt was being a celebrity. Moderately interesting.

Bread Bags and Bullies by Steven Manchester 208 pages This was a standout read for October. This book is told from the perspective of middle son Herbie in 1984. It covers the week of February vacation where 12 year old Herbie is learning more about the realities of his parents and their near poverty line way of life. At the start of vacation his brother Wally was threatened by a bully as he was getting off the school bus to go home, and the week was spent wondering what would happen when they all got back to school. Would the bully kick Wally’s ass? Would Herbie tell the pretty girl he likes her? Will he escape his family’s just scraping by mentality? An awesome read and I could picture every bit of it from the perspective of 1984.

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton 368 pages This is the story of Beatriz—her very well to do family fled Cuba as Fidel Castro was taking over. They tried to find their place in white high society in West Palm Beach, but weren’t doing so well at fitting in. She starts an affair with a newly elected Senator from Connecticut and is approached by the CIA to help them attempt to take down Castro. An interesting book filled with intrigue.

Maid by Stephanie Land 288 pages This one was super interesting and was a standout read for October. It’s her memoir about being homeless and trying to crawl her way up from the homeless shelter to live as someone with a steady income and a roof over her head, all with a baby. A very interesting look into what it’s like to subsist on assistance, and the humiliation that comes with it, and how to subsist on menial jobs and find childcare and decent housing. She talks about events where people have said “you’re welcome” to her when she’s used her assistance to purchase groceries. She talks about trying to get ahead, but when she does get ahead she loses her benefits and ends up further behind—and about how that hurdle is just about impossible to overcome. A very meaningful read.

And that’s it for October, 77% of the way to my goal, 26,332 pages so far. I wonder how possible it will be to get through 23 more books by the end of the year. Hoping I can read a lot during my Thanksgiving break.

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren 320 pages In this book Jodi just got out of prison where she served 18 years since she was 17. She’s trying to piece her life back together after being in for her entire adult life. When the story opens we have no idea why she was in and why her sentence is that long. We aren’t quite sure why she’s heading to Georgia instead of West Virginia where she’s supposed to go after getting out. She picks up Ricky in Georgia and then meets and falls in love with Miranda. She helps Miranda “kidnap” her sons from their father and get back to West Virginia where she learns that her grandmother’s land, where she was raised, was sold out from under her while she was inside. She still is trying to piece it together though West Virginia is stricken with poverty as well.

Ghostbuster’s Daughter by Violet Ramis Stiel 384 pages This one was moderately interesting. Harold Ramis was the write of greats like Animal House, Caddy Shack, Stripes, but most notably Ghostbusters. This is the memoir of his daughter, and she describes what it’s like to be the daughter of a comic genius. Honestly, it was OK, not an earth shattering story.

Becoming by Michelle Obama 448 pages I miss the Obamas. This book just made me miss their presidency even more than I already do. Mrs. Obama tells us her life story in this book, and I listened to her narrate it. She talks about meeting Barack, falling in love with him, standing beside him as he ran for the presidency and living in the White House with him. She talks about the flack she’s gotten in her role as First Lady (and scandalously showing her shoulders in their official White House portrait! Gasp!), raising children in the White house, as well as the things she loved about her time as the First Lady. A wonderful book and an interesting look into real life inside the White House.

Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen 368 pages This was a standout read for November. This book is told from the perspective of Alice, and is a fictional account of her job as assistant to the world renowned editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown. Helen pushed the boundaries from the very beginning as the editor of the magazine and Alice entered the story just as Helen was taking over as editor. It was a fascinating insight into the history of the magazine, as well as the blatant sexism Helen faced as the editor in a male dominated industry. Of course, Helen took the magazine straight to the top. Haters gonna hate.

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman 352 pages this is the story of a few families that live in suburban Los Angeles, and each couple has its own issues. Honestly, I found this one a bit whiny, as members of the couples were complaining about knowing who they are in their family.&n

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.