1. The Guest List by Lucy Foley 320 pages. There is a wedding on a remote island off the coast of Ireland. It seems like a fancy shindig. But then you realize that the guests each have a major issue with the groom, the bridesmaid has an issue with her sister the bride, the bride has an issue with her father. A storm rolls in off the sea during the wedding and someone turns up dead. Not everyone seems to wish the couple well.

2. The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison 326 pages. Jody and Todd seem to have it all. The affluent lifestyle, the fancy condo in Chicago. But really their marriage is in a very bad place, and Todd’s 20 year old girlfriend turns up pregnant. When he leaves her she realizes she needs to take action before the girlfriend gets everything of his and she’s left with nothing.

3. The Swap by Robyn Harding 336 pages It seems like everyone is obsessed with Freya. She’s new in town and befriends a high school girl who is a student in her pottery studio, she makes a friend in town, and her husband in an infamous NHL player who accidentally killed a man on the ice. Freya plays her two friends against each other after one night where Freya convinces her friend to swap husbands for a night. The swap ends up completely screwing up the friendship and their lives. The two friends resent each other and compete for Freya’s attention until the tension has to release somehow when Freya ends up pregnant and every one suspects it was a result of that one night. This was a standout read for January.

4. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager 400 pages Riley Sager has done it again, he writes a book that I get obsessed with. This one was about a house in Vermont that is haunted. The Holt family moved into it when Maggie was 5, and crazy things happened in this house that were seemingly supernatural. The night the Holt family fled the house, they left all their belongings behind. Maggie’s dad ended up writing a book about it that became wildly successful, to the point where Maggie lived in the shadow of this story that she couldn’t even remember. When Maggie’s father died, she inherits the house, which apparently they still owned. She goes back to renovate it so she can sell it, and the crazy things in the house are still happening. Maggie wants to know whether what her father wrote about is even true, and her life is at stake in that house. This was a standout read for January.

5. Our Little Secret by Roz Nay 272 pages. It starts out with Angela in an interrogation room, her best friend’s wife has gone missing. The best friend was her high school boyfriend, and he met someone else. The story takes us through the romance between her and HP and all that went wrong in the end. But the thing is, the wife is still missing and all the fingers are pointing at her. Did she do something to make the wife disappear?

6. The Arrangement by Robyn Harding 400 pages. Nat is a struggling art student in New York City. She got fired from her job, her roommates are threatening to throw her out. Until one of her classmates fills her in on how she makes money: she’s in a sugar daddy/sugar baby relationship. The book opens with Nat calling her dad. She’s accused of murder, and I spent the entire book not knowing who actually got murdered until close to the end of the book. The peek into the sugar daddy/baby relationship is completely fascinating. IA fascinating book indeed. This was a standout read for January. This was also a standout read for 2021.

7. The Art of Her Deal by Mary Jordan 352 pages This is a biography of Melania Trump. I feel like she’s the kind of person that we all would love to hate. This book was a super interesting look into the life of someone who I think is a pretty terrible person. At first I fell for the narrative that she is “standing by her man” because she feels she has no choice. But she seems to make it clear that she has chosen to stand by her man regardless of the damage he did to our country.

In January I read 7 books for a total of 2,080 pages


8. The Affair by Colette Freedman 338 pages. Meh. This was the story of a married man having an affair. The same story was told from the wife’s perspective, then the husband, then the other woman. This must have been the easiest book to write because it was literally the same story and same dialogue over and over again. Copy… paste.

9. Without Merit by Colleen Hoover 384 pages. Meh. This one wasn’t much to write home about. Merit is a twin and lives in a very quirky family. But are they quirky or are they mean? Her dad cheated on her mom, married the other woman, moved the entire family into a refurbished church where Mom lives in the basement and doesn’t come out for anything or anyone. Her twin sister only dates boys who are terminally ill. She thinks Sagan is her sister’s boyfriend and she has a massive crush on him. The whole family has secrets that ends up making them pretty toxic.

10. Always the Last to Know by Kristan Higgins 400 pages. This one was OK. It was told from a multi perspective of different family members. Barb and John have been married for 50 years, but the marriage is long past stale. She is just about to ask him for a divorce when he suffers a massive stroke and is incapacitated. One daughter knows Dad was having an affair, the other one doesn’t. They’re all trying to figure out what’s next with their family while trying to sort themselves out. Sadie is a starving artist in New York who is figuring out that maybe she doesn’t have what it takes. Juliet is the othhttps://bit.ly/3qjBWM6er sister who is an over achieving famous architect trying to come to grips with the fact that she may be slumping in her career. All while figuring out how to be a family with their parents.

11. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins 400 pages. This is the story of Lydia and Luca. They are Mexicans trying to escape the wrath of the local cartel. The cartel took out their entire family and they survived the attack. They are on the run to the US and have to figure out the complicated ways of Central American migrants on the way to the US. Just like the book I read last year We Are Not From Here they travel on La Bestia to get to America. This book had a great deal of controversy surrounding it as Jeanine Cummins is white and wrote this book about Latino migrants and how she’s not qualified to tell that story because she is not white. I tend to disagree with that sentiment, as I did learn something from this book regardless of the ethnic background of the author. Still a solid story and a standout read for February. This was also a standout read for 2021.

12. 28 Summers by Elin Hildebrand 448 pages I am not sure how I feel about this one. Mallory and Jack are in love. The problem is they have established their lives where they live, Mallory on Nantucket and Jack in Washington DC. They decide that they will spend Labor Day Weekend together every year, no matter what. Even though Jack is married and Mallory has relationships and eventually a child. The thing I didn’t really like about this book is the idea that Jack cheated on his wife every single year for the sake of this great romance with Mallory. I feel like they just put their real lives on hold for no good reason.

13. He Started It by Samantha Downing 400 pages. This story was super weird, but I couldn’t put it down. It’s the story of three siblings who embark on a road trip cross country together with their grandfather’s ashes. The idea is that if they fulfill his wish of them retracing the exact trip that they took with him when they were children, they would inherit his sizable estate. The problem is they all carry huge resentments toward each other, they lie to each other, they steal from each other, they manipulate each other. They did it on the trip with they were kids and they are doing it on the trip as they are adults. Each member of this family was entirely unlikeable, but there are so many little mysteries about them that get uncovered along the way and that’s what kept me reading and that’s what made it a standout read for February.

And that’s it for February. I have read 13 books and a total of 4,666 pages


14. The Dilemma by BA Paris 352 pages. Adam and Livia have two college aged children whom they had very young. It’s Livia’s 40th birthday, and they are throwing the party she’s always dreamed about. On the day of the party Adam learns that Marnie died in a plane crash as she was on her way home to surprise her mother at the party. In the weeks leading up to the party Livia learns something else terrible about Marnie. She never shared her secret with Adam, and the day of the party Adam decides not to share that Marnie had died in the accident because he knows it will absolutely destroy her. He wants her to have one last day where she’s happy before her live completely changes for the worse. But the problem is the secret is eating him up in the worst way.

15. The Party by Robyn Harding 353 pages It’s Hannah’s sweet sixteen birthday party, and she’s finally achieved her dream of falling in with the popular girls at school. At her slumber party a terrible accident happens and one of the girls is horribly maimed. Hannah is left to deal with the aftermath of the accident, of whether to side with bullies when she knows that what they’re doing is wrong, her parents Jeff and Kim are getting sued by the mother of the girl who was maimed. Their “perfect” life is about to be destroyed, and the whole family is dealing with holding on to the life they have while her friend is dealing with being maimed. Not Robyn Harding’s best.

16. The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher 352 pages Maggie is newly married to Nico, a widower who lost his wife the perfect Caitlin. They live next door to Nico’s brother Massimo and across the street from their super critical mother Anna. She’s struggling with living in the shadow of Caitlin and she feels the judgement of her sister in law Lara next door. Meanwhile Lara is going through struggles of her own—she’s so hyper buttoned up because her husband Massimo is incredibly controlling and abusive. The story is told from both perspectives, both of these wives feel like they are not living up to the roles that have been laid out for them. Until Maggie figures out a secret that could completely tear the family shreds. Pretty good.

17. The Last Flight by Julie Clark 320 pages. I was obsessed with this one. Claire is trying to escape her high profile abusive husband. She has a plan in place, but her husband throws a monkey wrench in her plan and she ends up having to fly to Puerto Rico instead. When she’s on the phone at the airport talking to her friend who is trying to help her escape. Eva overhears the conversation. She’s trying to escape her life as well. She offers to trade tickets with Claire. Eva gets on the flight to Puerto Rico, Claire gets on Eva’s flight to Oakland. The flight to Puerto Rico crashes, which offers Claire the perfect cover to start over without her husband knowing. But the problem is what Eva was running from is now running toward Claire, and she has no idea what that is. I couldn’t put this one down, a March standout read.

18. Lie to Me by JT Ellison 366 pages Sutton and Ethan are both famous novelists married and both love and hate each other. When Sutton disappears Ethan is the most logical suspect. The story follows the investigation about what really happened in the death of their baby and what the heck happened to Sutton, and it’s pretty messed up how the two of them end up looking absolutely toxic and terrible for each other.

19. One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London 432 pages Bea is a plus size fashion blogger who is a very strong voice as a plus size influencer. When we posts a blog entry about the show Main Squeeze which is kind of like The Bachelor and how the women on the show are never plus size, and the men are not diverse at all, the show’s producer invites her to be the next contestant on the Main Squeeze. Bea goes onto the reality show to prove to the world that love doesn’t always look a certain way. She doesn’t think she’ll actually fall in love with any of the contestants, and some are downright rude to her when they meet her. Eventually Bea learns that her size isn’t something that should hold her back from actually falling in love with someone who wants her, with all the twists and turns of being on a reality show. This was a standout read for March. This was also a standout read for 2021.

20. The Wives by Tarryn Fisher 336 pages. I read this in one day. It was very well written and kept me engaged. The gist is that Thursday is in a plural marriage, and she’s never met the other two wives that her husband is married to. Then one day she finds a receipt from a doctor with a woman’s name on it in Seth’s pocket, she tracks the woman down and realizes that she’s one of the wives. I thought it started out a really compelling story, that she was part of this alternative lifestyle that she couldn’t really tell anyone about. Then the story changed, and it turns out it was all a delusion on her part. That bugged me. I really wanted her to be right and rise above the husband that was depicted as so in it for himself.

21. Now That You Mention It by Kristin Higgins 416 pages. Nora is a successful doctor in Boston. She has a great career, awesome boyfriend, all the things but then she got hit by a van when crossing the street. When she was under sedation at the ER she heard her ER doctor boyfriend flirting with another doctor and say that he was going to end the relationship with Nora. She decides to move back home to Scupper Island Maine to recuperate at her mother’s house. She hasn’t been back to the island in 15 years, and basically left tire tracks when she left the island. While she’s recovering she’s trying to reacquaint herself with her very stoic mother and with a town of people who basically forgot about her, and acquaint herself with her niece while her sister is serving time in prison. She only planned to stay for a few months when she realizes that this is her home after all. Overall a good book, funny moments even though it was kind of a run of the mill romance.

And that’s it for March. 21 books and 7,593 pages read, and now April.


22. Confess by Colleen Hoover 320 pages The story starts out with Auburn losing her high school sweetheart. A few years later she arrives back in Dallas, where her boyfriend’s parents are from, and trying to start her life over again. She has a child by the deceased boyfriend and she’s trying to build a life for herself and the child so she can re-gain custody of her son. When she walks into an art studio looking for a job she ends up falling for the artist—but he has a history of his own, and will that history risk her ability to get her son back.

23. Never Broken by Jewel 416 pages. This is the memoir of the singer Jewel and her recovery from a downright toxic family. Her mother was her manager and stole Jewel’s fortune, which she then had to rebuild. An interesting story, and I listened to it on audio book. However I did find it annoying that she sang a bunch of songs and her voice isn’t great a capella so I ended up fast forwarding through those bits. I ended up stopping the book about 20 minutes from the end because she got repetitive with the whole “things will work out” message. I felt I got the story even with cutting out 20 minutes before it actually ended.

24. The Housekeeper by Natalie Barelli 266 pages Claire is an adult who has stalled in life. When she was a kid her family was torn apart by the accusation by the nanny, Hannah, who accused Claire’s father of sexual assault. The father had a heart attack and her mother committed suicide as a result, and Claire has never gotten over it. Then she crossed paths with Hanna and it’s on like Donkey Kong. Hannah married a very wealthy man, but feels alone and out of place in her new life with him. Claire insinuates herself into Hannah’s life disguised as a housekeeper and makes an insane effort to expose Hannah’s past accusation—which Claire has no idea is actually true—and discredit her by slowly driving her insane. The problem is somebody else is already trying to drive Hanna crazy.

25. Missing Molly by Natalie Barelli 310 pages Rachael works at a newspaper on the verge of going under. In an effort to save the paper the management decides to record a true crime podcast, the topic of which is to determine what really happened to Molly Foster. At age 12 Molly’s entire family was murdered, and Molly managed to escape and fade off into the woodwork. Nobody knows what’s become of her. The thing is, Rachael is actually Molly Foster, and she’s involved with the podcast at work which is trying to track down Molly, when the real Molly is right under their nose the whole time. She knows that if she’s found the man who murdered her entire family will come after her. She tries to undermine the podcast to save herself, but can she actually keep her co-workers off her trail? I was obsessed with this one. This was a standout read for April. This was also a standout read for 2021.

26. November 9 by Colleen Hoover 320 pages. Fallon was the victim of a massive fire that burned half her face and body. Her successful career as a teen actress came to a screeching halt as a result. Just before she’s due to move cross country to reinvent herself as a Broadway actress she meets Ben. She and Ben decide not to have any contact with each other and meet up every November 9th. Each year they come together and it’s magical, but then they are pulled apart by one thing or another. And then we learn that Ben has a lot more to do with Fallon than we ever thought. Great read.


And now on to May. So far I’ve read 26 books with a total of 9,225 pages

27. Melania and Me by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff 352 pages This is the memoir of Melania Trump’s best friend. Stephanie worked in Melania’s East Wing as her Senior Advisor and confidant, until the First Lady ultimately threw her friend under the bus. Stephane was accused of stealing money from the presidential inaugural committee as she was instrumental in planning the inauguration events for Donald Trump. She exposes quite a lot about the inner workings of the Trump family in the office after she was thrown away like yesterday’s leftovers.

28. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey 430 pages I read this one awhile back and picked it up again. This was that memoir that Oprah backed that turned out not to be completely a memoir and then controversy ensued. It’s the story of James Frey and his stint in rehab while he recovered from a drug addiction and the characters he encountered while in recovery.

29. Beautiful Boy by David Sheff 352 pages. This is the memoir of a father whose son is addicted to meth. I read this at an opportune moment in my life, as a good friend’s brother died of an overdose a few weeks before I read it. It helped me to understand what my friend and her family have gone through in dealing with his addiction. David Sheff was incredibly honest in his depiction of his son’s addiction as well as a very well researched peek at meth and how it has impacted our society. It’s raw, gut wrenching, hopeful and dire all at the same time. Well done. This was a standout read for May.

30. The Glass Hotel by Emily St .John Mandel 320 pages This was kind of a strange book, but I was still pretty into it. It’s the story of Paul and his sister Vincent. At first you think it’s going to be about Paul, but it’s more about Vincent. They end up working at a hotel together when Vincent ends up falling for the very wealthy owner of the hotel, Jonathan. Turns out Jonathan is a very wealthy financier who ends up guilty of running a ponzi scheme, a la Bernie Madoff. This was a standout read for May.

31. The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton 368 pages This is another book about an innocent man on death row in Alabama. Just what in the hell is happening in Alabama that they keep putting innocent men to death? Ray Hinton was on death row for literally 30 years for a murder he was nowhere near committing. The problem was his court appointed attorney did a shitty job, hired a terrible ballistics expert and then Hinton paid the price for it. It’s a terribly frustrating story even when the state is given evidence that shows that Hinton is innocent they still refuse to acknowledge they’d made a mistake. This was a standout read for May. This was also a standout read for 2021.

And that’s it for May. 31 books and 11,047 pages


32. Too Late by Colleen Hoover 395 pages Sloan is a college student who meets Carter in Spanish class. The click right away and flirt, which is a lot of fun for her because her relationship with her controlling and abusive drug dealing boyfriend. That night at home she meets Carter again, and learns that he’s going to go into the business with her boyfriend Asa. What she doesn’t know is that Carter is actually an undercover cop trying to bust Asa’s operation. Sloan has to figure out how to get away from Asa before he really hurts her, but she and Carter have fallen for each other.

33. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey 304 pages. This is the memoir of the actor Mathew McConaughey. Interesting enough, nothing too earth shattering.

34. The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman 384 pages This story is based upon actual events which took place in Canada in the 1950s. The Premier at the time decided that orphanages, where children born to unwed mothers lived, would be declared mental hospitals rather than orphanages as a cost savings measure. This is the story of Maggie who gave birth go a daughter when she was 16. Maggie never knew what became of her child. Then later on there are some chapters told from the child’s perspective. In the “mental hospital” Maggie’s daughter Elodie endured a great deal of abuse and cruelty. It was an all around messed up situation where the children weren’t adopted out, nor were they allowed to return to their birth mothers either. Secretly I am kind of glad that this took place in Canada and it wasn’t yet another messed up thing that happened in America.

35. Dancing with the Octopus by Debora Harding 384 pages. Back in 1978 Debora was kidnapped and raped at knifepoint when she was 14. Of course this event shaped the rest of her life. But what else shaped her life was the emotional and physical abuse carried out by her mother that her father ignored. This is a story about spending her entire life healing from a traumatic event, as well as healing from a traumatic life.

36. The Loyal Wife by Natalie Barelli 270 pages. Tamra is married to Mike who is just starting a run for Governor of North Carolina. Then she learns that Mike is cheating on her and decides to uncover one of his biggest secrets to bring him down. She uncovers the body of a woman he’d had an affair with that she’d hidden in the woods and let things run their course. Problem is, now she’s accused of murdering this woman and the whole thing turns into a huge mess.

37. Just What Kind of Mother Are You by Paula Daly 322 pages Lisa has a friend named Kate who is one of those moms who has her shit together. But then Kate’s daughter gets kidnapped, and it sends the whole town into panic mode as they are all searching for this girl. Lisa feels at fault because the daughter was supposed to be at a sleepover at her house. Lisa cancelled the sleepover but neglected to tell Kate, and then the daughter went missing. Lisa is dealing with her guilt, but something doesn’t feel right about this kidnapping. She starts to figure out what is really going on and learns she’s been made a scapegoat in this girl’s kidnapping.

38. The Chain by Adrian McKinty 368 pages WOW! I was obsessed with this one. One day Rachel gets a phone call, her daughter Kylie has been kidnapped. But then she gets the most insane ransom demand ever. She has to pay money for the ransom, of course, but then she has to kidnap someone else’s kid and get them to pay the ransom in order for Kylie to get returned to her. So, really the people who kidnapped her child also have had their own child kidnapped—so they had to kidnap Kylie to get their kid back. And so it goes, like a chain. If she breaks the chain she and Kylie will be killed as well as the people above her in the chain. You know from the beginning that she is somehow going to bring down the chain, but how? I was riveted to this one. This was a standout read for June. This was also a standout read for 2021.

39. People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd 288 pages Emmy is an instagram influencer mom. She has millions of followers and she’s making bank at being an influencer. This gives you a peek at behind the curtain in the influencer world, and how fake it really is. But someone wants to bring Emmy down and Emmy then has to figure out if curating her family online is really worth it or not, knowing that there is someone out there who wants to hurt her and her children. This was a standout read for June.

That’s 39 books so far and a total of 13,378 pages


40. Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover 336 pages When Tate meets Miles, Miles lives across the hall from Tate’s brother, they fall for each other pretty quick. But Miles swears he’s never going to fall in love again. The first night they meet Miles is black out drunk and he calls Tate “Rachel” and then Tate wonders what the heck happened with Rachel that he’s sorry for. Ultimately we find out what happened with Rachel and how traumatic that ending was. But Miles is kinda jerking Tate around because she knows he feels something for her but doesn’t want to do love again. Basically a classic love/redemption story.

41. Someone Like Me by Julissa Arce 240 pages. This is the memoir of an undocumented Mexican immigrant. Her parents brought her to the US so that she would have better educational opportunities, but warns her “you don’t have a social security number and you need to keep that quiet.” She talks about how much she struggled with her parents being gone all the time working to provide for their family, her abusive drunk father, and her struggle to fit in at school in Texas knowing that she has this massive secret about being undocumented. Super interesting inside look at what it’s like to be undocumented. This was a standout read for July. This was also a standout read for 2021.

42. A Woman Like Her by Sanam Maher 256 pages This is the true story of a controversial Pakistani social media star was a victim of an honor killing by her brother. Honestly this book missed the mark. I felt like the author kept randomly introducing new people, like entire sections in chapters about other social media famous Pakistani people. I really wanted to learn more about the nature of honor killing and how the people who commit it aren’t punished and why that’s bad.

43. Promise Not to Tell by Jennifer McMahon 250 pages I wasn’t crazy about this one. I kind of felt like we learned whodunnit in the last few pages. And the way we find out, the ghost of the murdered girl possesses the old lady with dementia, was ridiculous.

44. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls 272 pages. This is the prequel to her famous memoir The Glass Castle, and is a fictionalized account of her grandmother Lily’s life. Super interesting and covered Lily’s life from the 1910s through the time when Jeannette Walls herself was born in the 60s. The span of the life she covered has everything that’s true, her grandmother was a rancher, a teacher at age 14, and so many other things. She was a badass before we called women badasses. Great story. This was a standout read for July.

45. Girl A by Abigail Dean 352 pages. Super weird but fascinating book. Lex is known as Girl A. When she was 15 her parents took her and her siblings hostage for months they weren’t allowed to leave and were eventually chained to their beds. Lex managed to escape and drew attention to what was going on in the house, and her mother was imprisoned and her siblings were all adopted out to separate families. The trauma is still very much alive in her as an adult, and the story gives us bits and pieces of what happened to her and her family in what is now the “famous” House of Horrors. Awesome read. This was a standout read for July.

46. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls 288 pages. I had listened to this one years ago, and I even watched the movie once. It’s Jeanette Walls’ incredibly traumatic childhood as a daughter of two completely self absorbed and messed up people. Dad is a drunk who is downright delusional, and Mom just goes along with whatever he says. They live hand to mouth, often with no food in the house and no heat in the house. And her parents, though they come from a place of love are really good at guilt and trying to hold her back. So many times I sighed in disgust over some stupid shit her mom would say. I wonder still how much trouble this book caused in her family.

47. The Body Lies by Jo Baker 289 pages. This one was pretty boring, honestly. She moves out of London to accept a creative writing professor job, and her students are all nut jobs. She gets too close to one of them and he starts stalking her. There were samples of the students’ writing in the classes that were included in the book and I kinda wonder why they were there.

And that’s it for July 47 books and 15,661 pages.


48. The Push by Audrey Audrain 317 pages. This one was worth the hype. Blythe wonders what is wrong with her daughter Violet. From day 1 they never really bonded, she feels that something isn’t quite right with her. When Violet learns to speak she says things about wishing mommy would go away forever. Then there’s an incident at the playground where a little boy falls off the top of the playscape, and Blythe wonders if Violet actually pushed him. They have another child, and Blythe manages to bond with her son, and Violet continues to elude her and only shows Blythe odd and dark behaviors that make Blythe wonder whether she’s losing her mind. This was a standout read for August.

49. The Paper Daughters of Chinatown 332 pages. I read this one on my summer vacation. It’s the story of Donaldina Cameron, she was the director of Occidental Mission Home for Girls in the late 1800s-1900s. This home specialized in taking in Chinese women who were sold into sexual slavery during the time. Dolly, with the help of local police, rescues girls from brothels, puts them up in this home and provides English lessons and career lessons so these women can move on and become productive members of society. The book also covers the story of a Chinese woman named Mei Lein who is duped into coming to America just to become a sex slave as well. Of course Dolly and Mei Lein’s paths cross, and it’s a fascinating insight into both sides of the story. An excellent book and a standout read for August. This was also a standout read for 2021.

50. The Divorce Party by Laura Dave 268 pages I read this one on summer vacation. This one was weird, I kinda didn’t like it. Maggie is on her way to meet her fiance’s parents for the first time—at their divorce party. Which, of course, is super awkward and weird, and then she finds out that her fiancé was married before and actually goes to meet the ex wife and pretends she’s someone else. The story goes to Gwyn, the mother, who is planning this divorce party because she knows her husband is messing around on her. She has a surprise reveal at the party, she hired her husband’s girlfriend to cater the event. It was a weird story with an ending that was basically like “Well, family is messed up, but it’s all good.”

51. The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls 304 pages I read this one on my summer vacation. Bean and Liz Holladay are children of a self absorbed single mother. Mom takes off for a bit, so they decide to travel across the country to Mom’s family in Virginia whom they’ve never met. They end up loving life in their Mom’s hometown living with their recluse uncle in the estate that was once the grand home of their family who owned the local mill. Bean and Liz get to know their local family—Bean learns about her father, who was killed before she was even born. Then things take a turn for the worst when they both take jobs working for Mr. Maddox—he stiffs them on their pay and attacks one of them. They go to the police and press charges against that one guy who runs the town. This was a really great dip into the fictional world for Walls, though you can feel her own insane childhood come through in Bean and Liz’s experience. This was a standout read for August.

I read 51 books so far, 16882 pages


52. Landscape of a Marriage by Gail Ward Olmsted 315 pages This is a book about the wife of Frederick Olmsted, the designer of places like Central Park. An inside look at what it must have been like to be Fred Olmsted’s wife. This was a standout for September. This was also a standout read for 2021.

53. A Promised Land by Barack Obama 768 pages. I listened to this one rather than read it, and I am glad I listened to it. I don’t think I could have sat through reading it. It’s a very comprehensive memoir by President Obama packed with a ton of facts that would have been incredibly dry had I read it. I loved listening to it because I miss hearing his voice and I miss him leading my country. I think he is a man who genuinely loves America and gave his presidency his all. He is very open in this book, admits to shortcomings and mistakes. I think there will be another half that will come out and I can’t wait, as this one ended with the capture of Osama Bin Laden.

54. The 80/80 Marriage by Nate Klemp 240 pages, and that was about 230 too long. The basic premise of this book is if you want to have an 80/80 marriage, meaning that both partners put in 80%, then you have to be nice to your spouse and be supportive of them and act like a teammate rather than clinging to your own turf.

55. Brat by Andrew McCarthy 205 pages. This was the memoir by the actor Andrew McCarthy. He was honest with his anxiety and self doubt issues. But the thing that struck me the most was that he never seemed like he was entirely interested in being an actor. He seemed to almost sabotage himself early in his career, and that was due to his anxiety. Overall an OK read, not exactly earth shattering.

56. Playing Nice by JP Delaney 403 pages. This one was a fascinating concept. One day Pete learns that his 2 year old son is not actually his son. He learned from the man, Miles, who has his son. Both boys were in NICU after they were born and somehow they were switched. The two couples start out trying to be amicable about it. They decided to open their lives to each other so that they both can spend time with their birth sons without having to uproot the boys from their homes. But then Miles starts to get pretty demanding and aggressive. And then Miles and Lucy take Pete and Maddie’s son from them and they end up in an insane custody battle. This book was a very interesting concept, with a thriller component to it as well. A standout read for September.

And that’s it for September. 56 books read 18,843 pages


57. The First Husband by Laura Dave 260 pages. Annie is a travel writer, she’s always on the road and never home. So moving to Hollywood with her boyfriend who is in show business wasn’t a big deal, she’s never home anyway. But other things happened while she was on the road. Her boyfriend takes up with another woman and breaks up with Annie. When Annie goes out to a bar to lick her wounds she meets Griffin. They go into a whirlwind romance and she married Griffin in three months and moves with him to Western Massachusetts so he can open his restaurant. When she gets there her life is completely what she doesn’t want. She doesn’t know anyone. When she arrived to the house she learned that Griffin’s brother and his two children were also randomly living there. It basically gets to the point that you cannot force the feeling of home.

58. The Other Sister by Dianne Dixon 402 pages. I kinda feel like the author didn’t really know where she was going with this story. It’s about fraternal twin sisters there’s the beautiful one Ali who has everything and the less beautiful one Morgan who is jealous. It starts off with a Single White Female kind of vibe, where Morgan sabotages little things in Ali’s life. So you think it’s going to go that way. But it doesn’t. Instead it just shows that Ali’s perfect life is very far from perfect, and Morgan has to grow into her own life without constantly being jealous of Ali.

59. The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister 400 pages Martha and Becky are sisters. Becky is the screw up and Martha is the together one. With Martha so focused on building her aid organization to help Syrian refugees in Greece she hires Becky to be a nanny to her infant daughter. The story is told by numerous witnesses who testify in the murder trial of Layla, Martha’s baby, who died while in Becky’s care. Of course the fact that the baby died while the sister was caring for her has completely torn the sisters apart. With all the testimony you are convinced that Becky just lost her shit because the baby was suffering from acid reflux and would not stop crying for hours on end. The testimony against her is pretty damming, and Martha doesn’t know who to believe—the line of witnesses or her sister who says she didn’t smother the baby. This was a standout read for October This was also a standout read for 2021.

60. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng 368 pages I watched the Hulu show of this at the same time I listened to the audiobook and I loved it. It’s the story of a family I the late 90s in the perfect town of Shaker Heights and the family is supposed to be perfect. Only it’s not. And when Mia and Pearl Warren, a black single mother and her daughter, move into town only then does the raw imperfection of this family come out. Yes, Mia has some skeletons in her closet, and Elena—the perfect mom—becomes obsessed with exposing who Mia really is. Problem is at the same time her perfect façade is completely blowing up. It brings up issues of race and mom judgement in an amazing way. This was a standout read for October

And that’s it for October, a totally of 60 books and 20,273 pages On to November.


61. Me by Elton John 400 pages this was the memoir of Elton John. I am not a huge Elton John fan, and I did try to read this book and couldn’t get into it. When I listened to it I found it more interesting. It takes us through his whole life including his strained childhood with his parents, his raging cocaine addiction, being gay in the world of rock. Definitely interesting.

62. Northern Spy by Flynn Berry 288 pages. This is the story of two sisters from Northern Ireland, Tessa sees her sister Marian on the news accused of being a part of the IRA. Of course she’s not in the IRA Tessa thinks. But learns that Marian has actually been a part of the group for years. And Tessa must get herself mixed up in the group in order to get her sister out. Fascinating look at the IRA in northern Ireland the fear that residents in Belfast must live with every day. This was a standout read for November

63. Juvie by Steve Watkins 320 pages OK, I loved this one. It’s the story of a 16 year old girl named Sadie. Between her and her older sister Carla Sadie is the responsible one, the one who has a plan to go to college and envisions herself going places. Then one night Carla talks her into going to a party, and Sadie and Carla meet two guys and get mixed up in a drug deal. Carla already has two strikes and a young child, if she goes to jail she’s going for a long time. Sadie agrees to take the fall for Carla and goes to juvenile detention to serve six months for drug dealing. A fascinating look at the inside of juvie and the inmates that Sadie meets inside. Very good book. This was a standout read for November. This was also a standout read for 2021.

64. Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Suntanto 319 pages. This was an absurd comedy. Meddie is Chinese and has 4 aunts who are thick as thieves. When Meddie thinks she murdered a date that went bad the aunts leap into action to cover it up. The aunts also run a wedding business, and by a crazy mix up the cooler that contains the body ends up going to the wedding venue on an island off the coast of Los Angeles. They have to figure out how to keep the body hidden while they are also trying to perform their job duties at the wedding. This was a standout read for November.

65. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones 321 pages. I didn’t really like this one, I felt like it was too long and we’d randomly go into detail about a minor character. Celestial and Roy are a newlywed black couple. Roy gets mistaken for someone who raped a woman and ends up going to jail for five years despite his innocence. The story follows the couple as they navigate his being imprisoned. The race aspect of it of course is incredibly important, however I felt like it just went on and on.

So far I have read 65 books and a total of 21,921 pages.


66. Yes Please by Amy Poehler 352 pages. I listened to this one on audio and sure it was interesting. I loved how she had other people tell her story as well, like her parents, her friends, etc.

67. Two Truths and a Lie by Meg Mitchell Moore 416 pages. Sherri and Katie just moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts and they’re trying to fit in, but they have to be vague about where they came from. The story Sherri is telling is a terrible divorce and she just moved from Ohio. But of course there’s a lot more to Sherri’s story. Sherri gets into the world of the local Mom Squad, and the gossip and keeping up with the Joneses that happens in town. When Mom Squad daughter Alexa figures out the truth of where Sherri is from the plot thickens. Overall a decent book. This was a standout read for December.

68. The Help by Kathryn Stockett 544 pages This is one of my favorite books. I’ve read it before, I’ve seen the movie, and now I listened to the audio book. The story is about a woman named Skeeter who lives in early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. She was raised in a house that employed a black maid who raised her. But then Skeeter sees the massive disparities between the black maids and the white women who employ them. The maids can get accused of stealing and get fired and ultimately black-listed from every working as a domestic ever again. The maids are paid poorly and live in near poverty while they care for the white wealthy families. The racial tensions in 1960s Mississippi are incredibly high, as black people are beaten for standing up for themselves, and to speak up is to risk everything. Skeeter is an aspiring author who convinces the maids to share their stories and she gets them published in a book and they risk it all to write the book. Fantastic story, great job. This was a standout read for December.

69. Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau 318 pages. Mary Jane is 14 and lives in 1970s Baltimore. She takes a job as a summer nanny for Dr. and Mrs. Cone, a young hip family who lives down the street. Mary Jane comes from an incredibly conservative home, and life in the Cone household is the exact opposite. Dr. Cone is a psychiatrist who takes on the addiction recovery of a famous rock star. Johnny, the rock star, and his wife Sheba move in to the Cones’ household, and this ends up being a transformative summer for Mary Jane. Not only is she in charge of the five year old daughter, she kind of ends of caring for the rest of the family as well and tames their chaotic household into a semi normal environment. But Mary Jane breaks the conservative shell that her parents have imposed upon her, all the while lying to her parents about where she’s at and who she’s becoming. Solid read. This was a standout read for December. This was also a standout read for 2021.

For 2021 I have read 69 books and a total of 23,551 pages

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.