If you’re looking for a good book to read, you’ve come to the right place. This post is part of my monthly “What I Read” series, featuring the books I read in the previous month with lots of recommendations for you! All of these book pair perfectly with donuts, cookies, pasta, or pizza… And always a glass of wine.
Hi, my name is Susie and I am a “book pusher.” I sincerely hope you don’t hate me for it, but I will never stop talking about why I think reading is so important and why everyone should try to find at least a little bit of time for. If you know me, you know that reading has always been a HUGE part of my life and I honestly don’t ever see that changing. OK, so I may not always be able to get through 8 books in a month, but I know that no matter what, I will always make time for reading. I always have a hard time explaining that to people when they ask me how I read so much or tell me they’d love to read, but don’t have time. Most people have at least a little free time in their lives, whether it’s before bed when they’re watching a TV show or during a commute or in a dr. appointment waiting room. It’s how you choose to use that free time that dictates whether or not you’re reading.
I was happy to spot this Inc. article about why reading is so important and about how anyone can find the time to read 50 books in a year (yes, 50!). My favorite fact from the article? A recent Yale study found that those who read books for 30 minutes daily live an average of 23 months longer than nonreaders or magazine readers. Basically, I’m gonna live forever. But seriously, not only does reading improve your vocabulary and thinking skills, but it also affects, “empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence,” something I think all of us could us a little more. Oh, and I think listening to audio books totally counts (so long as you’re fully paying attention). My husband has never really been a crazy reader, but last year, he ended up reading several more books that even I did, in large part because he used his commute time to listen to audio books. Plus? You can listen to audio books when you’re cleaning the house, cooking, getting ready in the morning, etc.
OK, book pushing session over and now I’m on to tell you all about the fabulous books I read in March! (Just an FYI that the links to the books below are affiliate links and my BOTM is an affiliate, as well. Thank you for supporting WANM!).
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal: I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this book and admit I picked it up solely because it was part of Reese Witherspoon’s book club and it had tons of great reviews. I read a few of them before digging in and thought it was hilarious that some people said that listening to the book on audio tape is awkward because there are actually erotic stories in the book. And there are! The book is about Nikki, a 22-year-old girl from a traditional Punjabi family living in London who’s struggling with being independent and dating in a modern world. When Nikki gets a job teaching Punjabi widows to write, the class quickly turns into a time for the widows to share erotic stories born out of their imaginations. In general, once Punjabi women become widows, they are essentially ignored. Society dictates that they are no longer able to find love or romance, so they spend a lot of time with each other. Nikki’s class gives them the power to share their desires and needs in a more formal setting and document them. Each chapter starts with one of their stories and some of them will probably make you blush. But there’s also so much more going on in this book, including a mysterious death that Nikki is intent on learning more about. Don’t write this novel off as being “romance” or “trashy;” it’s truly about the immigrant experience and will give you insight into a culture that doesn’t seem to get a ton of attention.
Love and Ruin by Paula McLain: I read The Paris Wife when it first came out and loved it, so I was psyched to get my hands on an early review copy of Love and Ruin. I absolutely love Ernest Hemingway and will read anything about his life (same goes for his buddy F. Scott Fitzgerald) and lucky for me, there never seems to be a shortage of this type of historical fiction. The newest novel is focused on Hemingway’s third wife, Martha Gellhorn, who has now earned the title of “my favorite wife.” She was incredibly strong, independent, and talented and often overshadowed by her famous husband. The pair met as correspondents in the Spanish Civil War and fell in love. Hemingway ended up leaving his second wife, Pauline, so he could marry Martha (you may also remember McLain’s book The Paris Wife, which was about Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley) and their relationship was filled with lots of passion, both good and bad. I can’t fully compare it to The Paris Wife since I read that so long ago, but Love and Ruin definitely has more adventure as it takes you into the battlegrounds of several wars. We also get to go to Cuba with Martha and Ernest and have the opportunity to imagine what it must have been like to be married to a man like Hemingway… Especially as a strong ambitious woman with lots of life goals. If you’re a Hemingway fiend like me or just like reading historical fiction about that time period, you need to get to know Martha Gellhorn! Love and Ruin’s official pub date is May 20, but you can pre-order it now. (thanks to NetGalley for my advanced copy of this book!)
You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld: I chose this book from NetGalley because I loved Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep and Eligible. I had no idea it was a book of short stories when I picked it up, but I’m actually happy I didn’t because I may not have read it (I’d much rather read a novel than short stories). And I ended up loving it! The stories are all a little bit quirky, but so incredibly real and relevant. Even if you haven’t “been there,” you’ll somehow find yourself able to relate to all of her characters in some way or another. Many of the stories feature main characters/narrators who are incredibly vulnerable and opening themselves up to readers and in many instances, they’re faced with people from their past who have wronged them in some way and now they, as adults, have the chance to get redemption or come to terms with their pasts. My favorites of the collection include, “A Regular Couple” (on her honeymoon, a woman runs into a girl she went to high school with who had been cruel to her), “Bad Latch” (a new mom keeps running into that “perfect mom” who seems to have it all together), and “The Prairie Wife,” (a woman is obsessed with a food blogger celebrity who she went to summer camp with as a teenager and had a fling with). You Think It, I’ll Say It’s official pub date is April 24, but you can pre-order it now. (thanks to NetGalley for my advance copy of this book!)
The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll: You may know Jessica Knoll from her previous novel Luckiest Girl Alive. She’s back with another thriller-type book, this time focused on the women who star in a reality show. I love the premise of the book- one of the five women who star on the reality show “Goal Diggers” (like the Real Housewives, but with single powerful ladies with their own businesses) is murdered and readers are brought back to the beginning of the show to explore what happened and figure out who did it. Awesome, right? My problem with the book is that it wasn’t as much of a “thriller” as I wanted and I didn’t feel totally invested in who killed Brett. I didn’t really like any of the ladies (despite the fact that the show is supposed to be empowering, the women are even cattier than any Real Housewife I’ve ever seen!) and I honestly didn’t care that much how Brett died. That said, I’m glad I kept reading and I thought Knoll did a really good job with the ending. If you love reality television, you’ll probably like this book; just don’t expect too much of a thriller! The Favorite Sister’s official pub date is May 20, but you can pre-order it now. (thanks to NetGalley for my advance copy of this book!)
Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley: Oh man, this was a tear jerker. I simultaneously love and hate novels about dogs. Or more specifically, novels about dogs dying. Lily and the Octopus is about a man and his dog, Lily…. And an octopus. Except the octopus is simply what Ted calls Lily’s brain tumor. Ugh. In many ways, Ted’s relationship with Lily reminds me of mine with my own dog and that made the book so special, but also so difficult to read. However, there is a bit of a “fantasy” aspect to the book, which I think for some reason, made the book a little less emotional for me (probably a good thing). Lily “talks” to Ted, which I can totally get behind since it personifies the dog more (and yes, I imagine Winnie responding to me)… But the “octopus” is also personified and there’s an entire chapter devoted to an at-sea battle with the octopus. The book is semi-autobiographical and I think it really displays how Rowley dealt with the emotional turmoil of losing his own dog and how his imagination helped him through. A tough one, but worth it for dog lovers.
Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser: This was one of my Book of the Month picks in March and I chose it in large part because it was compared to Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. I thought it was an enjoyable read, but I definitely didn’t love it as much as I loved Big Little Lies! I do get the comparison though since it’s about a group of women (most of them moms) who are dealing with a neighborhood mystery in which one of their friends has disappeared. I really liked the characters and enjoyed getting an inside peek at a few of their lives, but I didn’t love that I felt like it was all quite predictable and I didn’t get the big twist I had been waiting for. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say if you go into this book not thinking of it as a true “thriller” or that it’s going to be a Big Little Lies replica, you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more!
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan: This is one of those books that makes me really hate star ratings. It’s a beautifully written book covering very sensitive topics in a stunning manner, but it wasn’t necessarily the book for me. I think my problem is that I always think I’m going to love YA, but I rarely actually do (though I will always have space in my heart for Megan McCafferty and Jenny Han). After Leigh’s mom commits suicide, she returns to Leigh in the form of a beautiful red bird. Leigh is convinced her mom is trying to tell her something and determined to find the bird again, she and her father travel to Taiwan to spend time with the grandparents she’s never met. While she’s in Taiwan, she tries to find the bird, while getting to know her grandparents and flashing back to memories from the past. There is a bit of magic and fantasy to the plot, including the bird and how Leigh sees memories. This threw me a bit, but it was also beautiful, so I’m torn. Pan handles the topic of suicide and depression in an amazingly sensitive and realistic way and I thought the “love” story between Leigh and her friend Axel felt more realistic than love stories in other YA novels. OK, I think this is also the kind of book that I enjoy a lot more after reading it than I do during because now that I’m writing about it, I keep thinking, “man, that was SO good!” You should read it because even if you aren’t obsessed with it at the time, it’s one of those books that will stay with you. (thanks to Amazon Vine for my copy of this book!)
All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin: I will ALWAYS pick up a new book from Emily Giffin just as soon as I can get my hands on it! Her new one doesn’t come out until June, but I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy on NetGalley and now I get to tell you about it months in advance. OK, so it isn’t my favorite Emily Giffin book of all time, but it still managed to suck me in and keep me very entertained. One of my favorite things about Giffin is that her books have grown and evolved with her. While she first became known for her chick lit focused on girls in their early 30s (likelybecause she was that age when she was writing them), her writing has evolved with her and her newest novel is about a mother dealing with issues that many parents of today are also likely dealing with. But before you say, “Aww, I want another “Something Borrowed,'” you should know that you don’t have to be a parent to fall in love with Emily’s new book. She writes in a way that truly connects you to her characters, whether it’s Nina, the wealthy mom of teenager Finch or Tom, the hardworking single dad of teenager Lyla. It’s a timely novel, in part about teens and technology, but really more about family. If you’re looking for a lighter novel that still deals with some serious issues, pre-order this one and sit tight until June! (thanks to NetGalley for my advance copy of this book!)
As you can see, I had an awesome reading month and I’m now super excited about my “to be read” pile. As usual, I want to hear what you’ve been reading! I also want to know when you find the time to read… Is it before bed, during your commute, or some other time throughout the day?
Feel free to also take a look at my other book review posts from so far in 2018: