11: The Gifted School

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

If you like Liane Moriarty and enjoyed Big Little Lies then you’ll probably appreciate this book. It’s a little less murder oriented, but an elite set of kids vying for a spot in a new school for gifted children. Discussions on what wealth should be able to buy you, what gifted means, who gets to test, should their be a test.

Riveting to read. Also cringe-y a bit. You want to think “this is an exaggeration, there aren’t people like that” then you remember the college admissions scandal, the “rich neighborhood’s” public school, the people (good Catholic, Christian people) who’ve said “I don’t want my kids being influenced by that.” And then suddenly the novel hits home a little more.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

10: The Opposite of Everyone

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

I loved listening to this in the car over the past few weeks. Paula’s mother was quite the woman. She named Paula after an Eastern god that she worshipped and should actually be known as “Callie.” Paula hasn’t seen her mother in more than 20 years because she was given more responsibility than any little girl should have … and she betrayed her mother … then her mother found out about it.

Joshilyn reads her own audio books which is such a delight and the sole reason I picked this one up! And why I’ll gladly get another one!

A great listen!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

9: The Library of Lost and Found

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

It took me 2 days to read the first 75 or so pages because watching old episodes of Bones were just more interesting to me this weekend. I watched way too many, but anyway, back to this book because it really was amazing.

Martha offers to do anything for everyone. Her house is piled up with projects that other people have laid on her and she can hardly move around, let alone sit down anywhere. She lives in her parent’s house which was given to her after she gave up her life 15 years ago to spend time caring for them at the end of hers. After she sacrificed her life, a man she loved, and an opportunity for a new adventure in NYC, she forgot how to ask or do things for herself.

She works as a volunteer at the Library where she’s applied for a full-time position 3 times and was passed over because Clive, the manager, is a jerk. He hires them young and pretty with degrees … not full of experience and perfect for the job.

Martha believes her grandmother died in 1982 until she finds a book that has an inscription written in 1985. The book walks along side her searching for her grandmother, coming into herself at the age of 42, and is just a delight.

There were some aspects of this book that mimic my own life, more than one if I’m being honest. It’s not a thing that’s written about in literature very often, so it was nice to see. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

8: Catholic Hipster: The Next Level

Catholic Hipster: The Next Level by Tommy Tighe

I was so excited to get this book in the mail! Why? Because is the first book I’ve ever received for free from a publisher in exchange for my (honest) review.

I really loved it although I had a hard time getting into it when I got started. I think that’s just because I didn’t set aside time to read in the midst of a lot of other things.

Tommy and his 12 or so contributors talk about all things Catholic. Most of them I had some slight knowledge of, but I always appreciated the prayer and saint portion of the chapter.

The book is broken up into three sections of about 10 or so chapters each. Each chapter has a reflection by one of the contributors, a cool saint related to the topic, a forgotten prayer related to the topic and/or the saint, and a living the faith section where you can put this new thing into action.

It’s a great accompaniment to trying to figure out how being Catholic is different than every other Christian and practically the opposite of the world. It was a great collection of writers that were short, to the point, and able to inspire me to consider a few new things.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

7: Keep Holding On

Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg

I started a new book last night that I’ve had on hold from the library since before it was released. I’ve been excited for months for it. So I started reading and Abandoned it on page 2 … what a disappointment. So I was happy to pick this one up that I read in one evening because it’s so delightful!

This is the 3rd installment in the Walker Family series, focusing on Beckett and his story with Kit. Beckett’s been away from Maple Valley for 6 years, why? Because there’s a warrant out for his arrest because he broke up the police chief’s wedding to his best friend, stole his father’s car, and wrecked it in the middle of downtown … oh and the tree he hit (a historical landmark) was so damaged it had to be cut down.

He comes home, deals with the arrest warrant, and falls in love with Kit (well, he’s always been in love with her, since day 1 when he was 11). They’ve both got reasons why they’re having trouble accepting their true feelings and that who they are is enough. It was a fun read, super quick. You could jump into this series in the middle, BUT the first two are much better than this one, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

6: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

People always say “The book was better” when discussing how the movie was. I even had a bookmark with the phrase “The book was better” while reading this book. But you know what? I don’t think it was.

Even though I’m almost always here for a classics retelling, this one was not great. It was a fast read, maybe should have put it down because the writing wasn’t great and the dialogue was being dropped into a middle school girls sleep over. So. Much. Drama.

Maybe the author was trying to replicate the drama of Pride and Prejudice but she went too far for me. If you want to know this story, then find the Hallmark movie and save yourself some time! The movie was actually better. ⭐️⭐️

P.s. There is a movie with this same name, I’m not sure if it’s based on this book or not.

5: City of Girls

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

I was first introduced to Liz Gilbert when I read Eat, Pray, Love more than a decade ago. That book changed my life, well it was a catalyst for one of the biggest changes in my life … my move to North Carolina. I read the first two sections “Eat, Pray” and skipped out on the last section “Love” until years later. That’s the slowest section with the least amazing food! I then read her follow up about Marriage, and then her life got a little odd for me. That doesn’t sound great, but it’s the truth.

I heard Anne talk about this book on What Should I Read Next soon after it was released and thought, “That book isn’t for me, I’m going to skip it.” And so I did, until it was recommended to me by a dear friend whose taste in books I appreciate.

Overall the writing is delightful. Many aspects of the story are riveting and sweet and super descriptive. The entertainment world of the 1940s in New York City isn’t something I know much about. I also appreciated the conversations surrounding female friendship, a bit of feminism, and in the last few chapters true love.

But there’s a lot of things in the beginning and middle about sex that I just cannot get on board with being okay. People using other people, and even paying for sex being seen as okay and ‘just how it’s done.’ If I didn’t trust my recommender so much I would have abandoned this on page 50 the first night … but instead I’ve been reading it since Sunday (5 entire days). Because the plot and the writing grabbed me, ⭐️⭐️⭐️.