BJ’s 2020 Reading Journal
1. The Day the World Came to Town by Jay DeFede This was a great way to start the reading year off right. Such a wonderful book to read. This is the true story of the day of the 9/11 attack when the US airspace was shut down. The planes that were flying toward the US had to land somewhere, and many landed in the small town Gander, NewFoundland. The residents of Gander took in the stranded passengers for a week, opened their homes and their hearts and assisted these strangers until they figured out when they’d ever be allowed to travel home again. A standout read for January, and such an inspiration.
2. I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney In the beginning Aimee’s husband goes missing. But then she gets blamed for his murder. How is it possible he’s been murdered when she sees him across the crowded room at a party? She knows she’s getting set up, but by whom and why? The answer to that was not what I was expecting at all, and in fact it was pretty messed up.
3. The Valedictorian of Being Dead by Heather Armstrong I’ve read her blog for years and had no idea she suffered from depression so badly to the point where she’d engage in an experimental treatment where on 10 different occasions the doctor would put her into a drug induced coma and eliminate all brain activity for a few minutes in an effort to reboot her brain. She comes out of it well, better than she was before, with a new lease on life and doesn’t contemplate suicide anymore. A fascinating read.
4. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple I was not a fan of this one. The main character, Eleanor, is… I don’t know what she is. She’s a mom with a successful career behind her, she’s trying to figure out why her husband isn’t at work when he says he is, and her relationship with her once close sister is estranged. This story follows one day of her life when she’s trying to figure all of this out. There were some funny moments, but overall I didn’t like her character. And the way the narrator did her young son’s voice was whiny and annoying. Not a fan.
5. My Sister’s Lies by S.D. Robertson Hannah and her twin sister Diane have spectacularly fallen out years ago. In the beginning we don’t know why. But then one day Diane and her teenage daughter show up at Hannah’s door, Diane needs her to take care of the daughter for a few days while she goes off to sort out her life. She leaves no clue as to what needs sorting out. Then a few days later Diane commits suicide, but before she does she tells Hannah’s husband who the father of her daughter is, and completely tortures him with the truth. Pretty messed up story.
6. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James I was completely obsessed with this one and it was a standout read for January. Fiona is a reporter in a small town in Vermont, the same small town where her sister was murdered when she and her sister were teenagers. The sister’s body was dumped at an abandoned boarding school on the outskirts of town. When Fiona learns that the school is going to be re-opened and she visits the school to cover the story when a body is recovered from the well. She learns that the body has been there since the 1950s, and she investigates the murder of one of the students at the all girl’s boarding school. As she is uncovering the truth about the body, she learns about who her sister’s killer was. An amazing read.
7. Moonshadow by Joy Lynn Goddard Another one I was obsessed with. In this story Lauren, a college student, heads back to her grandparents’ cottage by the lake to care for her ailing grandfather. He tells her about his lost love from when he was a teenager. She races against the clock to find his lost love before her grandfather dies, and uncovers some very dark secrets about her family in the process. A very good read, well researched and well thought out. A standout for January.
And that’s January, I read 7 books and a total of 2,190 pages
8. The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda Leah is a journalist from Boston who needs to start her life over, she moves to a rural Pennsylvania town and into a rental house with a roommate she had back in Boston 8 years ago. She gets a job as a teacher, and is getting harassed by another teacher. Then one day a woman in town gets beaten nearly to death, and then her roommate goes missing. She is caught up in the investigation, as she is a former journalist and she’s trying to learn the truth about her roommate, and it goes beyond what she ever thought would be possible.
9. The Address by Fiona Davis This story is told from 2 perspectives 100 years apart. In 1886 it’s from the perspective of Sarah, a British woman who moves to NYC to work at the famous new apartment building The Dakota. The other perspective is in 1986 from Bailey’s perspective. Bailey’s cousin lives in the Dakota. Sarah’s perspective talks about an affair with the building’s architect, while Bailey has lived in the shadow of her wealthy cousin Melinda. Bailey, newly out of rehab, is trying to figure out how to live sober, while Sarah is trying to figure out her place in America as the mistress of a wealthy architect.
10. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides I did not see the ending coming on this one. Theo is a psychotherapist who starts work at a new hospital drawn to working with a famous patient, Alicia. Alicia was an artist who shot her husband and has since stopped talking—she did not participate in her own defense and hasn’t spoken for years. It’s Theo’s mission to get her to talk again. But when she does talk will she tell the truth about what happened the night her husband was killed. A standout read for February
11. Educated by Tara Westover This was a memoir by a women who grew up with survivalist parents in Idaho. She didn’t go to school, she didn’t even have a birth certificate until she turned 9. She describes her life growing up without going to school, working in her father’s very dangerous junkyard and trying to figure out how to get out and get on with her life and get educated. Fascinating read.
12. Fate is a Hunter by Susan Wuthrich this was a standout read for February. Lydia comes home one day to find her husband and her children were gone-closets cleaned out, like gone gone. She embarks on a trip to South Africa, where her husband is from to try to track them down. While on the hunt she realizes that her husband isn’t at all who he said he is, and that complicates the search for her missing children. A standout read for February
13. My Love Story by Tina Turner I was never such a big Tina Turner fan, but her story is beyond fascinating. Like did you know she didn’t ever get remarried until she was in her 70s? Even if you aren’t a fan of her music, her story is worth the read.
14. Inside Out by Demi Moore This is the memoir of actress Demi Moore. Basically she had a very shitty childhood, she had a few marriages that started out well and then crashed and burned, as Hollywood marriages often do. I think the big theme in this book is that she’s an actress who is constantly taking on other personas and she hadn’t really developed her own until later on in life.
And that’s it for February. 14 books and a total of 4.491 pages.
15. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager I am learning that you really cannot go wrong with Riley Sager. In this one Emma was attending a summer camp when all three of her cabin mates went missing. It’s haunted her for her entire adult life. It’s also haunted Theo, the man she accused at the time of having something to do with it. Fifteen years later she is invited to be an art teacher at the same camp, and she decides to go for the summer so that she can get closure and learn the truth about what really happened to those girls. And then it happens all over again, and her teenage cabin mates all go missing all over again. This one kept me wondering until the end.
16. Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza Janey’s business partner at their couture wedding gown company exercises a clause in their business contact. To keep up appearances Jane has to lose 30 pounds or vanquish her seat as CEO at the company. Jane sets out to lose the 30 pounds and goes on a different sort of journey. She tries some crack pot exercise classes in an effort to lose the weight when she gets into a bit of self discovery. Does her best friend really have her best interests at heart, and what is the deal with that insane tea that the hottest fitness instructor has everyone drink before the class. Overall a hilarious story.
17. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo This is the story of a teenage transgender girl. She starts a new school where everyone never knew her as a boy. But because the school is in the deep south, for obvious reasons she keeps her secret to herself. This book was a fascinating insight into the world of transgender people. It gave me a glimpse into what it’s like to be trans, and how it all works. An awesome read and a standout for March.
18. Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higganbottom This one was very well researched about the biggest nuclear catastrophe in history. But it real almost like a manual and was very technical. Sure, it was interesting, but very dense.
19. Final Girls by Riley Sager Another awesome one by Riley Sager. I am learning you can’t go wrong with Sager. This book is the story of Quincy Carpenter, the sole survivor of a massacre. Her whole life is defined by being a survivor, and the name given to the girl who survives is “Final Girl.” She knows of two other final girls, Lisa and Sam. Sam ends up dead from suicide, and Sam reaches out to Quincy to comfort her. But is there more to Sam than we think? A standout for March.
20. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty A masterpiece by Moriarty! She juggled 9 characters throughout this story of 9 strangers who met at a 2 week wellness resort retreat. Something goes incredibly haywire at the retreat and Moriarty takes us on a wild ride. A standout read for March for sure.
And that’s a total of 7,003 pages and a total of 20 books.
21. Wildflower by Drew Barrymore This is the memoir of actress Drew Barrymore. And it was OK. I think her wild child teen years are pretty well documented so she felt the need to talk about other aspects of her life. I admit I skipped the chapters where she talks about how much being a Mom changed her.
22. Know My Name by Chanel Miller Whoa, this one was intense. This is the memoir of the once anonymous woman who was assaulted by Brock Turner. Remember that guy? He was the one who only got 6 months for felony sexual assault and only served half his sentence. His sentence was so light because they didn’t want to tarnish the potential of a champion swimmer and Stamford student. This book will engage and enrage you. It will literally piss you off when you read all that Miller had to go through to prove she was assaulted, even with two eye witnesses. There were 2 eye witnesses to the crime and he still got off so lightly. It is infuriating and unfortunately all too common.
23. The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel This was the true story about the wives of the original US astronauts… Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. It was super interesting to hear about how their husbands’ careers in the riskiest job in the world at the time impacted these women—and also how they benefited in their position as astronaut wives.
And that’s it for April. I feel like April was pretty light compared to other months. I feel like I started a lot of books and didn’t finish them, and I only journal about the ones I’ve read all the way through. I am at 7,979 pages and 23 books.
24. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood This was the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and I loved it. I always felt that the Handmaid’s Tale never really ended. The show on Hulu, while hard to watch, is incredibly well done in that it has extended the story beyond the original book. And man, did I love this book. It’s given me the closure I’ve been wanting in such an unexpected way. Brava, Ms. Atwood. A standout read for May
25. Sex Object by Jessica Valenti This is the memoir of Jessica Valenti. She’s one of the loudest feminist voices out there right now and in this book she talks about tracing the sexist objectification in her own life after women in her life had also been assaulted.
26. Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners This is the story of Violet Baumgartner trying to achieve and maintain suburban perfection, while her husband and daughter are anything but perfect. Her husband retires from his ho hum career as a medical researcher, her daughter is a lesbian, and at the fancy retirement party that Violet arranged it comes out that Violet’s daughter and partner are expecting a baby. This isn’t how Violet planned it, she can kind of accept that her daughter is gay, but it’s just so unconventional to the white picket perfection she is striving for. Can she hang?
And that’s it for May. 9023 pages and 26. I definitely had a lot of did not finishes in May.
27. Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler This one was super interesting. It’s about a woman named Cate who is researching the Berachah Industrial Home for Girls in Texas, which in the early 20th century took in women who were unwed and pregnant, considered “ruined” to give them a place to stay while they had their babies and got back on their feet. This is a real thing that existed, and Cate follows the stories of two women who lived at the home. In the present tense we learn why Cate emancipated herself from her parents and why she has never bothered to look for love. A fascinating look into the real life existence of this home for women.
28. North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person I started this one on a Thursday and finished it on Saturday. Give me a memoir about someone’s messed up childhood and say goodbye for me for 2 days. Cea Person describes her childhood growing up off grid in the Canadian wilderness. But that’s not the weird part. Her family believes in free love, her mom is constantly high, and all she wants is a normal life. But the problem is Mom jumps from guy to guy, and let’s just say these guys aren’t exactly upstanding citizens. A fascinating read. A standout read for June
29. You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley This one was not what I was expecting. Mia and her husband Harrison moved to a smaller town, she’s pregnant, and she’s been having very intense dreams about a man she’s never met. Then one day in town she meets the man she’s been having dreams about. She’d never met him before. It turns out he’s the brother of one of her husband’s patients, and over dinner one night this man confesses that he too had been having dreams about Mia. They struggle with what it could possibly mean that they’d been dreaming about each other, and realize that there were opportunities where they could have met in the past. Are they supposed to be together?
30. By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster Penny is an actuary who spent her adult life very focused on her job. Her children are grown and are a hot mess, she’s divorced and her very spoiled youngest insisted on having her wedding at Penny’s house. Penny has been trying to sell the house and downsize, but her family won’t let her. Two of her kids moved back in, her parents moved in, her ex husband suffered an injury and moved back in. She can’t seem to get her own empty nest life off the ground with everyone insisting that everything stay the same.
31. The Best of Enemies by Jen Lancaster Jen Lancaster made her name writing her memoirs, and they were funny memoirs. I am not so crazy about her fiction, and I kinda feel like her overuse of women’s stereotypes makes her come off as hating women. This story was pretty good, it’s the story of three women, Sarabeth is in the middle and Jack and Kitty loathe each other. Then Sarabeth ends up in a bit of trouble and Jack and Kitty have to come together to help her out of it.
And that’s it for June. I have read 31 books for a total of 10,749 pages.
32. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead This one was a standout for July. I loved this book. It’s s fictional account of a reform school for boys that was in Florida. The school in the book and the “students” of this school in the book are fiction, but this kind of school did exist. It was horribly abusive to the black students of the school, when years after it closed down bodies of former students were found on the grounds. These students had “escaped” at the time, when actually they were murdered by the guards at the school.
33. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson Cussy is a mobile librarian in the Applachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky in 1936. It’s a time when this part of the country is still reeling from the Great Depression. While she faces extreme poverty on a daily basis she also faces discrimination as she has a genetic abnormality that has caused her skin to turn blue. The story follows her on her route to her stops to different houses in her town where she gets to know her patrons while trying to eek out a living as a librarian who brings books to their homes on the back of a mule. It’s based on true events—there actually was a family living there with blue skin, and there actually were mobile librarians wandering the hills bringing books to homes and reading to those who couldn’t read. Historically interesting. A standout read for July.
34. My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams Whoah. This one is the memoir of a friend of Anna Delvey. If you remember Anna Delvey was recently in the news for getting busted for fraud. She posed as a German heiress and lived the life of a socialite in New York City. She stayed in the finest hotels and rarely paid. It all came crashing down when Anna invited Rachel and a few others to vacation with her in Marakesh. When Anna’s credit card didn’t work Rachel footed the bill for tens of thousands of dollars. She strung along Rachel for months with promises of repayment, and never paid. That was when Anna’s ruse came crashing down, and Rachel was the key in unraveling Anna’s complicated web of deception. I was obsessed with this one. A standout read for July.
35. Dirty Rocker Boys by Bobbie Brown This was the memoir of the girl who was in the Cherry Pie video, and she was engaged to Tommy Lee from Motley Crue before he ghosted her and married Pamela Anderson. Meh.
36. The Knockoff by Jo Piazza and Lucy Sykes This one was a lot of fun. Imogen is a wildly successful fashion magazine editor in chief, when she has to step away from the job for 6 months to recover form breast cancer treatment. When she returns she finds that her former assistant is trying to take over the magazine and turn it into an app. Imogen, though in her early 40s, struggles with feeling like a dinosaur as technology takes over her magazine. And that’s what bugged me a bit about this book, that she wasn’t even that old, and they made her seem like she was in her 70s and couldn’t figure out social media. She’s in her 40s, not old at all. Still a funny book, and I listened to this one while I was on my July 2020 vacation.
37. Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren Hazel and Josh knew each other in college. But Hazel didn’t know that Josh was the brother of her best friend Emily. Hazel and Josh become reacquainted and quickly become the best of friends. Instead of trying to date each other they decide to try to set each other up with other people that they know. Each date is a colossal failure as each of them realize that they’d rather be with each other than anyone else. Hilarious. I read this while on my July 2020 summer vacation.
38. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes When the book starts out Evvie is preparing to leave her husband. She’s been unhappy in a marriage to a man who from the outside looks like Mr. Perfect. Really he is verbally abusive and borders on the physical. The day that she is leaving, she has the car packed she learns that he died in an accident. She struggles with grieving when she’s not actually really grieving, just trying to figure out who she is in a small town when everyone expects her to behave a certain way. When he best friend sets her up with a friend of his who needs to rent the apartment attached to her house she starts to heal. I loved the witty conversation between the characters. Though the premise of the book is sad and heavy, the characters were actually super funny. I read this on my July 2020 vacation.
39. The Mother in Law by Sally Hepworth Lucy has never gotten along with her mother in law. Her mother in law was often a cold fish who never seemed to warm to anyone. When the mother in law is found murdered, naturally the finger points at Lucy, who had gotten so frustrated with her in the past that she assaulted her. But Lucy doesn’t know why her mother in law acts the way that she does. The reader of course knows as the narrator changes from Lucy to Diana. But if Lucy didn’t kill her, then who did? I read this on my July 2020 vacation.
40. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson This was not exactly a vacation read but extremely eye opening. Bryan Stevenson is a young attorney who founded the Equal Justice Initiative after visiting a death row inmate in Alabama who was wrongfully convicted. He makes it his life’s work to help those who have been wrongfully convicted to get off of death row. The inmate who inspired him to start on this mission was Walter McMillian. The evidence against Walter was largely fabricated and flat out absurd and Bryan Stevenson managed to get him a retrain and off of death row. An incredibly insightful read, and I read it on my July 2020 vacation.
And that’s it for July, now on to August. So far I have read 40 books, and 13,557 pages.
41. Forever Interrupted I am a Taylor Jenkins Reid fan. I have loved everything I have read by her, including this one. Elsie was only married to Ben for about 2 weeks when he dies in a car accident. They only dated for about 6 months prior to getting married. But the love they had was intense and real. But the problem is she’s never met Ben’s mother, and she meets her the night of the accident at the hospital. Elsie struggles with grieving her new husband as well as enduring a mother in law who won’t seem to accept the marriage.
42. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid Emma is married to her high school sweetheart Jesse, when he goes missing in a helicopter accident and is presumed dead. A few years later she, after moving back home to Massachusetts, she meets up with an old crush. They fall in love and get engaged. But that’s when Jesse is rescued after three years of being marooned. Emma then has to decide whether she wants to reacquaint herself with her husband and pick up where she left off or move on to her future with fiancé Sam. The period of grief was beautifully written, Taylor perfectly captured the anguish that Emma felt. Solid read. This was a standout for August.
43. Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown Alice and Nate move into an older house in the suburbs. Alice “quit her job” to stay home and write a novel, but she didn’t actually get fired and it’s not the only secret she’s keeping from Nate. Her neighbor found a pile of letters that Nellie, a prior resident of the house, had written to her mother, and Alice suspects that Nellie had some secrets of her own. The story varies from Nellie to Alice as they both descend into their secrets. A fascinating read.
44. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant This one was OK. It’s the story of an old woman recounting her life to her grandchild. So it takes place from the 1910s to current. I didn’t think this one had anything special to it.
45. The Man She Married by Cathy Lamb The story opens with Natalie and Zack, a couple, in a fight. He tells her that he can’t tell her that nature of what he’s saying, but says that their lives are in danger. She leaves the house and drives to work when she’s in a car accident where the driver of the other car intentionally hit her. While she’s in a coma she’s trying to piece together what exactly is going on and why she was intentionally targeted. The rest of the story as she’s recovering she’s trying to remember what happened the morning of the accident and what really is going on with her husband. Interesting concept and a standout for August.
46. After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid Definitely not my favorite book by TJR. It’s the story of Lauren and Ryan. They are married and fighting all the time so they decide that they’ll separate for a year and see if that makes them want to stay married. I feel like it just dragged too much.
And that’s it for August. I’ve read 46 books and a total of 15,614 pages.
47. The Grace Year by Kim Leggett I was obsessed with this one, this was a standout read for September. Imagine Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies. In the county all the 16 year old girls are rounded up every year and sent off to a camp to live on their own in the middle of nowhere for a year to rid themselves of their magic an purify themselves to get ready for marriage. Nobody talks about the Grace Year, what happens in Grace Year stays in Grace Year, and not all the girls make it back in one piece—if they make it back at all. Tierney goes on her Grace Year and learns the truth about what goes on during the Grace Year, will she get home and convince the county to make changes?
48. Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens Boady is 15, a son of a single mom in a rural Missouri town in 1976. He confronts the school bully who is about to pull a racist prank and then the story unfolds into a racist plot surrounding a missing woman in this little town. A black family moves in across the street and he befriends the 15 year old boy and Boady figures out what it means to fight racism in his small town. Awesome read and a standout for September.
49. Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump Mary Trump is the niece of Donald Trump and she’s a clinical psychologist. She analyzes Donald Trump’s childhood to explain how her family produced the shit show that is Donald Trump. Fasincating read.
50. Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner This one followed the stories of sisters Jo and Bethie. They grow up with a single mother in Detroit through the 50s-70s. Both of them inhabit lives that they never imagined for themselves. Jo is a lesbian who is married to a man, has children and is a suburban housewife in Connecticut. Where Bethie, who was supposed to be the suburban housewife ends up being a wild child who drifts all over the world. The story shows how they convince each other to be their authentic selves. Great read but a bit long.
51. Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper This is the memoir of a woman who was born and raised in the Westboro Baptist Church, and granddaughter of the founder of the church. While it was pretty interesting, I felt it kind of dragged on.
52. The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James The town of Fell New York has had a spate of missing women in the 70s and 80s. Viv was one of them. Carly is Viv’s niece and she wants to find out what happened to her aunt, who had gone missing and presumed dead before she was even born. Carly takes a job as a night clerk at the Sundown Motel just like her aunt did and sets about finding out what happened to her aunt. The story goes back and forth between Viv and Carly, as Viv discovers that things just aren’t right at the hotel and tries to figure out what’s up.
53. The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward I read this one while recovering from my concussion. Charlotte Perkins has 3 grown children, and to shake things up she decided to enter a contest to win a European cruise. She invites her grown children to join her on her trip. But what she doesn’t know is that her children have their share of problems that they are keeping from her and from each other. Lee is a struggling actress who is failing, Cord is closeted Gay and Regan is in a terribly unhappy marriage. Ultimately they have to decide whether they are all going to come out to each other, and how well will they be able to support each other in their problems. A standout for September.
54. Peachtree Road by Anne Rivers Siddons I also read this one while recovering from my concussion, and this book was incredibly long. Like I wonder how they ever got it published it was so damn long. It easily could have been 300 pages. It follows the story of Shep and his cousin Lucy. He’s always the one that is there for her, even though she is batshit crazy and treats people and herself terribly. Honestly, I didn’t really like this book very much.
And that’s it for September. I read 54 books so far this year and 18,878 pages
55. Sunburn by Laura Lippman Meh. I listened to this one and I kinda feel like I didn’t always know what was going on. In this story Polly leaves her husband and toddler daughter while on vacation. Just up and leaves, she starts a new life in a new town. She meets a man but doesn’t realize that the man she’d met was a PI sent to find her by an associate of her first husband. I felt like this one went too slow.
56. We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez Whoah! Total standout read for October. It’s the story told by Pulga and Pequena, two Guatemalan teens who make the journey from Guatemala to the US, they travel the length of Mexico aboard La Bestia. La Bestia is a network of freight trains that migrants climb on top of to make the journey more efficiently up the length of Mexico The train is also called El Tren de Muerte because many migrants have been killed or disfigured by this train. The story is enlightening, fascinating, and gave me whole new perspective of what it means to come to the US in search of a better life. And I already have a perspective on that because my parents are immigrants. After I read it I googled pictures of La Bestia and sat with my mouth hanging open looking at the pictures of these people clinging to the top of the train cars as it speeds across the harsh desert landscape. Truly amazing read.
57. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary Tify needs a new place to live, but she doesn’t have a lot of money. She’s just out of a relationship and she needs to get out fast. She responds to a flatshare ad but the catch is it’s a 1 bedroom apartment. The idea is that she will sleep in the bed at night and Leon will use it during the day because he works nights. It sounds like a perfect arrangement, they’ll never meet because he’ll stay with his girlfriend on the weekends. They start to write notes to each other, but months go by and they’ve never laid eyes on each other. But then they learn about each others’ lives through the notes and they become friends. Is it possible they could become more than friends? Loved this one, such a unique read and I made it a standout for October.
58. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel Kind of a weird book. It’s the story about the world after a global pandemic event that wiped out most of the people very quickly and spread like wildfire. It’s the story of Kirsten, who is a member of a traveling theatre troupe walking from town to town in a post pandemic world. It’s the story of Javeen, who stayed with his handicapped brother and survived with him for 40 something days. The book goes back ad forth between before and decades after the pandemic event. It talks about how some survived and some didn’t. Fascinating read.
59. High Achiever by Tiffany Jenkins This is a memoir and is the story of a woman who was addicted to pills. We follow her time in jail, and she alludes to what she actually did to land in jail. Being addicted isn’t illegal, but she did illegal things to get her pills. I like that she doesn’t say upfront what she actually did to land in jail, but you know that she just feels terrible about it. Eventually you learn about what she did and how her heart is so incredibly broken by her own actions. Then we follow her through her recovery and time adjusting to sobriety after prison. Awesome read and a standout for October.
And that’s it for October, 59 books and a total of 20,618 pages.
60. Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding Frances meets Kate at her son’s snooty private school and is happy to have a friend who isn’t one of the over achiever judgy moms. But then Frances learns a terrible secret about Kate’s past and she struggles with what to do about it. Her autistic son is best friends with Kate’s son, and that friendship has been so beneficial for her son. But what about Kate’s incredibly scary past?
61. Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain In 1940 Anna Dale won a nationwide contest by the treasure department (which was a real thing) to paint a mural to display in the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Anna faces discrimination as the local portrait artist is incredibly bitter about having lost the contest. As Anna familiarizes herself with the town she befriends a local high school student who is a very talented artist. However he’s black and a black man and a white woman hanging out together of course causes drama in the town. As she’s painting the mural something happens in her life that causes her to go crazy. In present day Morgan is released from prison and gets a job restoring Anna’s mural some 70 years later. Morgan is trying to solve the mystery of Anna while learning how to restore this painting under a deadline. Who was Anna and what happened to her? Will Morgan get over her guilt about what caused her to go to prison?
62. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center This one was heartbreaking, funny and inspirational. Salty and sweet, if you will. Margaret is terrified of flying. Her boyfriend is learning to be a pilot and takes her up in a plane to propose to her. Everything is going great until they are about to land, when the weather suddenly changes causing the plane to somersault off the runway. Margaret’s legs are pinned inside the plane but the boyfriend walks out without a scratch. She is left to recover from her injuries—severe burns to her face and neck and paralysis from the knees down. Her family has its dysfunction. Her sister was estranged from the family, but ended up coming back to Margaret’s bedside. Ultimately her family heals and Margaret figures out how to move on without the boyfriend, without the dream job. The thing about this story that inspired me the most was the sentiment that was one of the things that Margaret’s physical therapist tells her. “When you don’t know what to do for yourself, do something for somebody else.” It’s just what I needed to hear in a time during a pandemic when I am so focused inward. A standout read for November.
63. In Five Years by Rebecca Serle Dannie got asked in the interview for her dream job where she saw herself in five years, the same old question we all get asked in every interview. That night she and her boyfriend get engaged, and she has a very vivid dream about a strange apartment with a strange man, and in the dream its five years from then. The dream is more premonition than dream. Later on she meets the man in the dream, and it turns out he’s her best friend’s new boyfriend. Is she on the track to the inevitable, that night in the strange apartment with this man? Can she change course so she won’t break her fiance’s and best friend’s hearts? An interesting concept for sure and a standout for November.
64. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell This one was brutal and raw. Vanessa was 15 when she had a fling with her English teacher at her boarding school. She is obsessed with him, to the point where once the affair is discovered she takes the fall for him and gets expelled from the school to keep him out of jail. But it doesn’t end for her there. She remains entirely besotted with him, to the point where she doesn’t even think of dating anyone else. When it comes out that the teacher has had dalliances with other girls, and as she grows older she senses she is less attractive to him because she is getting older and he’s only attracted young teen girls. The affair has stunted her for sure, she deals with alcohol abuse and a lack of direction in her life as in adult. When the new accusations come out in 2017 she has a choice as to whether she should stand up and say Me Too or should she stand by her man. This was a standout read for November.
65. When I am Through With You by Stephane Kuehn I don’t think I liked this one. It’s about a high school boy named Ben who suffered some trauma when he was young. He and a teacher organize a camping trip to a remote location, and all of the kids have suffered some trauma. It was just too much, honestly, to have all these kids have these messed up things happen to them and then over the course of the trip the kids decide to raid another group of campers because they think they are bank robbers who stole a bunch of money. Then the story just gets crazy and violent.
That’s it for November. 65 books and 22,714 pages
66. Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner I loved this one. Daphne and Drue were best friends growing up. But being friends with Drue always came with conditions. Drue was the rich mean popular girl and Daphne was dying to be friends with her. When they have a falling out Daphne is empowered to become an online plus size influencer. She develops a large following when one day Drue asks her to be her maid of honor. The night before the wedding Drue is found face down in the hot tub at their rental house. The wedding weekend turns into a murder mystery at which everyone in a suspect. A standout for December.
67. The Fifth of July by Kelly Simmons This one was so so. It’s the story of the perfect Warner family. They are going to their Nantucket home for the 4th of July holiday as they always do. But this time it’s different. The children are adults, the dad is suffering from early dementia, and the mom is in a feud with the neighbor. This one was OK, I kind of feel like it didn’t really end.
68. The One by John Marrs This was a standout read for December. Imagine if a dating site like match or eharmony matched love connections using DNA. This story is about several different characters who were matched with other people based on DNA and in all cases the person they were matched with weren’t what they were expected. Like one man, who was engaged to a woman, learned he was matched to a man. Another woman, who is a detective, was matched to a man who is actually the serial killer she’s tracking. This book was super interesting and well worth the read.
69. The Half Sister by Sandie Jones This one was OK. Kate and Lauren are sisters, visiting their widow mom for Sunday dinner when a woman comes to the door claiming to be their half sister. Both of the sisters are trying to figure out whether this woman is who she says she is, and other family secrets are revealed along the way.
70. Fast Girls by Elise Hooper I loved this one. It’s a novel based upon the actual first women to run in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics. A fascinating read, and I love that Elise Hooper did a “where are they now” bit at the end. An awesome read. A standout for December.
71. Open Book by Jessica Simpson In her memoir she was incredibly honest about her rise to fame, her insecurity, her alcoholism, and her life in and out of the spotlight.
That’s 71 books for the year and 25,146 pages.
added on 01.13.21