96: Start With Me

Start With Me by Kara Isaac

Earlier this quarantine I decided to re-read Kara’s first five books. When I posted the final one I learned that she had a sixth coming out this summer … and now it’s this summer. I ordered the paperback on release day and it came yesterday. I was so excited to read it, I read it all on one evening!

Lacie gets her own story with Victor. I loved how Lacie dealt with things at work, how she struggled for a promotion, and how she succeeded. She’s got amazing friends which we know from all of the other books: Anna, Rachel, and Emelia. I loved seeing how all the stories from the other books intertwined and continued.

Then there’s Victor, a man who was a hot mess 3 years ago when he almost ruined his brother’s life. He spent time in rehab and is actively striving to become a better man. I appreciated how Kara gave him time to do that, and didn’t expect us to think he changed a week after leaving rehab. He’s a good man, trying to do the right thing. Definitely a story I can get behind!

So is Anna’s story next Kara? Whatever is next, I can’t wait!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

95: The Dutch House

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

This is our July book club so I purchased the hardcover a while ago, but then listened to the audiobook from the library. Why? Because Tom Hanks read it.

So I hung out with Tom while walking, eating, doing dishes, cooking, and even falling asleep – it was such a delight.

Based on the cover I thought the book was about a woman, and maybe it was – but the main narrator of the book is Danny, the younger son. The story is about their live in and out and in of the Dutch House. While Danny and his sister are the drivers of the story, it’s really about how the house plays a role in their lives.

While I loved it on audio, it does bounce around in time, which could be hard when I listened in 5 or 6 minute spurts, so a long walk was a better way to dive into the story.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

94: Gold

Gold by Chris Cleave

I’ve read a few other books by Chris Cleave that were excellent (Little Bee and Everyone Brave is Forgiven) so when I heard Will (Anne Bogel’s husband) mention that this is one of his favorite books, I had to try it.

The story takes place over the course of a week with a lot of flashbacks in between. The main characters are: Tom (the coach), Kate (a racer), Jack (her husband, also a racer), Zoe (a racer), and Sophie (their daughter). It’s a book about love and sacrifice and what happens when you don’t deal with grief. It’s also about a mother’s love and what makes a woman a mother (hint: not always childbirth).

There’s a lot happening in this book and it’s quite emotionally. Warning for a trigger about kids with cancer and also childhood trauma that takes over adulthood. It’s beautifully written although the structure is a little weird. It’s 320 pages and six chapters … so there’s no “finishing this chapter then I’ll go to bed.” If you’re missing the Olympics this summer though, this is a great reminder of what it takes to get there!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

93: The Grace of Enough

The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart

I purchased this book when it came out over a year ago, maybe even longer than that, but just picked it up a few weeks ago as a friend and I’s next buddy read. They say a book comes to you at just the right time – that is true for this book. I don’t think I was in the same place when I purchased it as I am now when I read it.

Her connections between faith, the throwaway culture, and the Holy Father’s letter Laudato Si are beautiful. Valuing people above things and success is the main crux of rejecting the throwaway culture. Focusing on community, family, truth, goodness, and beauty are the marks of a great Catholic lifestyle.

Can’t wait to discuss this with the friend I originally decided to buddy read with and the other friend who said, “I’ve had that book for ages and haven’t started it yet either.” We need more conversations about faith in general, we need to talk through how the faith illuminates the world we find ourselves living in – otherwise we can get caught up in activism that leaves Jesus and His love behind. We need to bring His love with us into everything we do.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

92: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

I have no idea how I put this book on my TBR, but it showed up as “ready” from the library last week. It’s a middle grade novel that is basically a retelling of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but set in a Library. What a dream!

Mr. Lemoncello is an eccentric who invents games, all the games! He’s from a small town that lost its library 12 years ago. So he creates a contest where all of the 12 year olds in town compete to be one of 12 students to come to the library before it opens to the public. They spend the night and then the games begin!

It’s a sweet read, definitely meant for 4th to 6th graders, maybe even younger. It’s got all the players of a Liane Moriety book: the guy who doesn’t care in the beginning, the team player, the shy girl, the popular one, the arrogant guy, and the people who have better things to do so they opt out.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

91: Party of Two

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory

It was either on Anne Bogel’s annual reading challenge or is just a favorite blog post of mine that I first heard this phrase: “A book you can read in one day.” I love books like that, they remind me of movies and all the things I love about watching a movie. This is a book I can read in one day, most of Jasmine’s are.

About 50 pages in all I could think of is “I wish I was voting for a guy like Senator Maxwell Powell in November.” This is a romance novel, it’s not really about politics at all, but the male lead’s platform is one we really need right now. There are some steamy parts of this, just as a heads up. The rest of the story is fire. Max is amazing and someone I’d love to go on a coffee date with; Olivia is awesome and someone I’d love to be. It’s great when characters are people you want to know in real life.

This is the 5th Jasmine Guillory book, the other four aren’t necessary reads to get this one, but they provide some delightful throwbacks. Also I love when I can say I’ve read an author’s entire canon!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

90: The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I’ve been saying for a while how books give us a window into another life, another person’s experience – all in a way that’s not quite as possible in real life, even by listening to other people’s stories. We can listen, but reading it on the page is different because we hear their thoughts. We see what’s going on inside, not just what happened.

This story is about two light skinned Black girls who choose two different paths. They leave home together at 14, live in New Orleans, and then choose two different lives. Desiree falls in love with a very dark skinned Black man, has a child, leaves him and moves back home to Mallard. Stella falls in love with a white man, leaves her past behind, and returns only once to Mallard, after it’s not actually Mallard any more.

Their daughters end up finding each other and while the story is about their mothers, it’s told from the eyes of their daughters. They couldn’t look more different: one blond hair, blue eyed and the other a dark-skinned beauty. They both seek to know their history, but only one of them knows the truth of the past. This fact seems to be what drives them each in very different directions.

This book is a window into an experience I’ll never know, and I’m deeply grateful to be able to read it. Brit Bennett is such a talented storyteller; which feels like an understatement, but it’s still true. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

89: Big Summer

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

If you can’t go to Cape Cod for the weekend because it’s coronavirus time, then why not read a book about a crazy wedding turned murder set there? There were a lot of thought-provoking things about the internet, social media, influencer culture, fat shaming, and body positivity in this book.

That’s why I’m giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. Also I had no idea who the murderer was because there was no indication whatsoever until when Daphne finally figures it out. If you read this and guess who did it, please let me know. I’d like to know the clues you followed!

87: The Glass Hotel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I called Station Eleven my favorite book of 2019, and then I re-read it again back in February because I made my book club read it – as we were entering a global pandemic. So I was excited about her newest release. I’m so glad I waited until the library was loaning out physical books before reading this. It was a delight.

The underlying story is about a Ponzi scheme. The story revolved around how each of the investors (victims) first got involved. The main character, I think, was Vincent. Vincent was a young woman who lost her mother at 13. After this she pretty much wander through life. Then she got a job as a bartender at a very remote hotel. This ended up changing her entire life, but also got her involve in the scheme.

One of my favorite lines was what Jonathan told his people the day before his arrest, “We all knew what we were doing here.” It might not have been stated explicitly, but they all knew what was happening.

I think that line is appropriate for so many things going on in the world, I’ll let your imagination run wild.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

P.s. As I was finishing this last night, I got a phone call with about 10 pages left, so I put my bookmark in and took the call. While on the phone I proceeded to clean up the living room, gather the things that needed to go upstairs, took the picture of the book that opens this post, put this book in the “books that need returned to the library bag,” went upstairs, and then proceeded to mark it as 5 stars in my journal. Only then realizing that I had actually not finished it at all!