131: The Friend Zone

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

There are so many great debuts out this summer … maybe it’s like that every summer, but two debuts in two days that were both fantastic! What a week.

The Friend Zone started out as a cheesy romance novel, but got super serious, super quick about two-thirds of the way through. Maybe that’s why I finished it before bed (started it at 7, finished before midnight).

It’s one of the first books about infertility that I’ve read that felt real and true to life. Abby says she based Kristen’s experience on her friend’s, so maybe that’s why. Josh is a delight … just the kind of guy I’m looking for – he’s just wanted to be a dad his whole life and he’s not afraid of messiness. All that ‘girl stuff’ doesn’t bother him … which is refreshing!

This isn’t a PG book, and there’s also some language – so FYI. Their story is so good though, if you can get through a couple of scenes, it really ends well.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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130: Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved

Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler

I’ve wanted to read this for a while so when I saw it on my SIL’s bookshelf I had to ask, “Can I borrow this?” She said, “Yes, you’ll love it.”

I started it before I left on this week’s work trip and was just one chapter in when I wanted to cancel the trip so I could just read the book. And since I try to avoid crying on airplanes, I left it at home. I read from chapter 2 to the end today and it’s so good.

I love the commentary on the prosperity gospel, the truths of Christianity, and her writing style. Kate has been going through hell for a while and the truth is that there’s no reason for it. She didn’t do anything wrong, she’s avoiding the right thing, it’s not because she didn’t have a positive attitude, it’s not God punishing her for her sins or those of her family, and it just plain sucks.

That’s the truth in the midst of suffering. It’s hard. It’s not “happening for a reason” but it can be used for a purpose now that it’s happening. I believe that prayer changes things, I’ve always believe this – however, there aren’t a certain number of Hail Mary’s to say when you get cancer to get rid of it. It’s all trusting that God’s still there.

At the end she walks through a lot of these platitudes that we find ourselves saying because we don’t know what to say. If we don’t know what to say, then we should just quietly give a nice hug. Maybe all that works is “I’m here for you friend, this sucks, and I’m here for you.”

That’s what I want to hear when I talk about my struggles as a single person. I know being single is not that same has having cancer, being sick, or going through any number of other sufferings in this world. It’s the least terrible, to be honest – but that doesn’t mean it’s not still my suffering right now. The platitudes don’t work. Things like “well everyone who wants to get married eventually does” and “there’s someone out there for everyone” and “just wait, he’s going to be even better than you can imagine” are all just fluff.

I’m sorry for all the times when I thought empathy began with “well at least…” looking for some silver lining. As my friend Brenè Brown says, “Empathy doesn’t begin with at least.”

Empathy is climbing down into the hole and saying, “I’m here for you. This is a rough situation, and I’m here for you.”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

129: Beyond the Point

Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson

Beyond the Point is Claire Gibson’s debut, unbelievable! It was such a great discussion on female friendship, service to your country, and how we come together through grief and loss. (The first chapter almost spoils the end … but was still a surprise to me.)

Avery, Hannah, and Dani all come to the women’s basketball team at West Point from different places and bond over the crazy women who recruited them. Without that wacky coach though, they never would have met and that would be the big tragedy of their life.

I got this from Book of the Month and we’re reading it for book club this month, so lots of discussion time. No one gets the Happily Ever After they were looking for, their lives end up very different than they imagined, but yet – exactly as they should be. This was a good reminder for this 30-something single woman who has wanted to be a mom since she could name her baby dolls and play house. Life doesn’t turn out how you want – but it turns out just as should!

Something that A Single Serving Podcast advocates for and I think every time I host or attend a bridal or baby shower came up in this book. It’s such a great idea!! “Shouldn’t girls have an I’m single but I still want to cook registry? Or an I may never get married so someone buy me sheets shower? Avery thought so.” (Pg. 175 – Katie thinks so too!)

And this, which I’ll leave with no comment (check out my next book for more thoughts on platitudes like this!):

“When God closes a door, he opens a window!”

But that line of thinking wasn’t logical, let alone biblical. Who was to say any room only had one door? And how did you know it was even a room? What if the room you were supposedly stuck in was really just a prison of your own making? Dani wasn’t about to sit around waiting for some theoretical window to open in her life. She as going to pick up a hammer and make her own way out.” (Pg 204)

Claire gets all ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for an amazing book of friendship, love, and loss!

128: Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

I fell in love with Joshilyn Jackson’s books via audio. She narrates her own as well as others, and she is absolutely fantastic. When her new one appeared on Anne Bogel’s Summer Reading List this summer I put it on hold immediately. It finally got to me a few weeks ago and made it to the top of my library book pile this week.

It’s a slow start. I didn’t really get why the ‘thing’ was a thing at all until page 202 when I uttered an aloud “holy shit” to myself. The stakes got high, and they didn’t let up.

Never Have I Ever is a departure from the other books I’ve read by Joshilyn, but she pulls off this new thing beautifully. It’s a deep look into suburban America. Also a reminder that things aren’t always what they seem! We need to dig a little deeper.

She earned all ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

127: Well Met

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

This is the first Book of the Month Club book that I opened and immediately began reading. I started last night, continued on the plane, and finished after work here at the most delightful B and B.

Y’all know I love a good love story and that’s exactly what this debut is. I’ve never been to the Renaissance Festival, but might need to check it out after this love story between Emma the Wench and her Pirate. Maybe the Faire is just what’s been missing from my life.

Be warned this isn’t a closed door romance, not all scenes are PG-13 – but the characters are pretty well developed. There were a few times when I wanted to shout at Emily to “just tell him what you’re thinking already … it’s a misunderstanding!” But such is life when you have an omniscient view of the world.

Thoroughly enjoyed!! Jen gets all five stares for her first novel!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

126: Hope Never Dies

Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer

Was this book cheesy? Sure was. Did it play on every single Obama/Biden meme ever created? Absolutely. It was a fun read – not the most amazing mystery I’ve ever read, but not the worst.

Will I read the sequel that just released? Um, probably not. It wasn’t that good.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ because the beginning was better than the end!

125: Smart Girl

Smart Girl by Rachel Hollis

The 3rd installment of Rachel Hollis’ fiction was quite a delight. It followed Milko and her infatuation with Liam turned love story.

I appreciated how Rachel wrote about this relationship consumed Milko in a way that isolated her friends, family, and co-workers. She was consumed by the little bit that Liam would give to her and blind to anyone else’s assessment of the situation.

It felt real to life. Milko knew who she was before Liam ever came into her life and she abandoned much of that because of his attention to her. A nice wrap up of the series.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️