Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether I recommend them.
I know August isn’t over yet, but it feels like the right time to discuss what I’ve been reading lately.
My kids are back in school, so my life has flipped back from stay-at-home mom who reads a lot to work-at-home mom … who also reads a lot. Let’s be honest, I read a lot no matter what scenario I am in, but it just feels different to me.
Anyways, I’m excited to recap the last of my summer reading list. My patience was a little low this month, so I did not finish more books than usual, and probably ought to have DNF’d a few more.
Surprisingly, I did finish a 26-hour audiobook biography this month. Between a Colorado road trip and painting my new office, I was able to finish the book before my library hold expired. Admittedly, I did speed it up to 2x for most of the book.
As always, let me know what you’ve been reading lately. I could always use more book recommendations!
August Reading List
Not a Happy Family
The night after having Easter dinner with their three grown children, a wealthy couple is murdered. Of course, the Merton children are devastated. Or are they? They stand to inherit millions and Daddy dearest wasn’t exactly the nicest guy. Was it a random act of violence or was the perpetrator someone much closer to home? But if one of your siblings was a murderer, you would know … wouldn’t you? Despite its less than original premise, Lapena’s latest domestic thriller is a fast-paced fun thriller to read that will keep you guessing whodunit.
The Night She Disappeared
One night in 2017, a teen mom has her mother watch her baby boy so she can attend a party in the nearby woods, only to disappear without a trace. Two years later, mystery novelist Sophie is wandering the woods near her new house when she finds a note attached to a tree saying, “Dig Here.” Lisa Jewell’s dark thrillers are always my favorites, displaying the harrowing lengths to which humans can descend. The Night She Disappeared is a slow-burn mystery that is intriguing enough to grab your attention but not an edge-of-your-seat read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Atria through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
After being happily married for twenty years, Flora is shocked when she stumbles across evidence that her husband Julian had an affair a decade ago. With their daughter about to leave for college, Flora begins to question everything about their marriage. Meanwhile, Flora’s best friend Margot, a famous actress, begins to question her life decisions as well.
I couldn’t stand Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s previous novel, The Nest, so I wouldn’t have touched this one except it was the Read with Jenna book club pick in April. Good Company hits on all the middle-life crisis issues: marriage, parenthood, adultery, success, and the what-ifs of life, without giving any of the topics proper depth. I thought the story found its groove when discussing the backstories, but, in general, it all felt so unsatisfactory, especially the ending.
Beautiful World, Where Are You
Hitting the upper end of the new adult genre, Sally Rooney’s latest novel follows the lives of four single 30ish Irish protagonists as they try to find their way in life. On a whim, Alice, a novelist, invites Felix, a warehouse worker she just met, to travel to Rome with her. Meanwhile, while recovering from a breakup, Alice’s best friend Eileen begins flirting with Simon, a childhood friend.
Beautiful World, Where Are You alternates between chapters that push the plot forward and letters between Alice and Eileen full of existential musings on life, love, climate change, and sex. If you love Rooney’s distinctive style then you’ll love her September release. If you don’t enjoy reading about millennial angst, then I’d pass on this one.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Declutter Like a Mother
Are you tired of being a “hot mess” mom, spending your days drowning in overwhelm? Forget the stark white empty walls, Casazza teaches a family-oriented approach to minimalism that shows you how to reclaim the joy in motherhood and make your home work for you. Declutter like a Mother does a great job conveying the why of decluttering for families, explaining the benefits to both mothers and children. The actual decluttering techniques are similar to basically every decluttering book. Also, be aware that she gets a little annoying with the self-promotion of her online courses.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
These Silent Woods
Kimi Cunningham Grant
Ever since she was a baby, eight-year-old Finch and her father Cooper have lived in isolation in the remote Appalachian mountains. Cooper is in hiding from his past, and other than a mysterious neighbor, their only visitor is Jacob, who brings them supplies once a year. When Jacob fails to show, Cooper must break their isolation, with disastrous results.
Almost nothing actually happens in the glacially slow plot of These Silent Woods. Although the mystery has a bit of suspense, it takes over half of the book for the action to even begin. With a religious spin and endless descriptions of nature, the book is definitely more contemporary fiction than thriller.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Mitchell James Kaplan
One evening in 1924, Kay Swift witnesses George Gershwin playing “Rhapsody in Blue” at a concert. Thus begins a love affair between a society wife who longs for her own musical career and a young brilliant musician. Kaplan’s novel details the tangled bond between the two composers through the ups and downs of their careers, her loyalty to her husband, and his eventual death from brain cancer.
Rhapsody was so crammed full of celebrity name-dropping and pointless details that I quickly gave up on Kaplan’s historical novel. Maybe if I enjoyed music more I would have persevered, but to me, the writing felt more belabored than lyrical.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
In 1974, Kate Mularkey becomes best friends with the cool new girl at school, Tully Hart. As Tully becomes a celebrity news anchor and Kate chooses to be a stay-at-home mom, their friendship full of love, jealousy, anger, and laughter will shape their lives over the next three decades. I loved the dynamics of the relationship between Kate and Tully, watching them renegotiate their friendship and struggle with their codependency as they each grew in different directions. If you are looking for a great book club book to discuss with your girlfriends, Firefly Lane would be an excellent choice.
We Were the Lucky Ones
Georgia Hunter dives into her family history with the epic true story of the Kurc family. During World War 2, almost all of the Polish Jews were killed, but somehow the Kurc family were the lucky ones who all managed to survive. Hunter follows Nechuma and Sol Kurc and their five grown children as they are separated by war, facing unimaginable atrocities, and yet eventually reuniting together. It took me a while to really get into the story, but once I was hooked, I found this true story to be extremely moving.
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell
Born with red eyes, Sam Hill has been called the “Devil Boy” all his life. Reflecting on his life, Sam realizes that his childhood friendship with two other misfits – Ernie Cantwell, the only African American boy at his school, and Mickie Kennedy, a firestorm in the form of a girl – has defined and shaped his extraordinary life. Dugoni’s touching coming-of-age tale was captivating from the first page with its story of friendship and acceptance of what life throws at us.
The Man. The Myth. The Legend. No one held more of a mystique than Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. The iPod, iPhone, and Mac have revolutionized how we think of personal devices with innovative design and an almost cult-like following. Although revered for his innovation, Steve Jobs was a notoriously difficult person to work with. In this exclusive biography, Walter Issacson holds nothing back as he looks at Jobs’s full life through the juxtaposition of Job’s ability to change the world and his problematic personality.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Raising questions about privacy, medical research, and ethics, Rebecca Skloot spent more than a decade researching the history of Henrietta Lacks and her immortal cells. Just before her death from cervical cancer, Henrietta Lack’s cells were taken without her permission and scientists figured out how to keep them alive indefinitely. The created cell line was then used for countless medical research. Interspersing the history of Henrietta’s family, who can’t even afford medical insurance, with the medical use of her cells which created a billion-dollar industry, Skloot has penned a memorable work.
Moonwalking with Einstein
After covering the US memory championships, journalist Joshua Foer decided to embark on a quest to see if he could also become a memory specialist. Drawing on cutting-edge research and expert knowledge, Foer learned all the memory tips and tricks to become the US Memory Champion. Foer bounces between his training, the history of memory, the science of how our brains work, and the techniques used to retain massive amounts of information quickly.
After my husband’s review, I expected to like Moonwalking with Einstein more than I did. Although parts of the book were fascinating, I found some sections to be rather tedious. Still a great book to read if you are interested in memory techniques.
I will mention that while reading this, I gained a greater appreciation of Lisa Genova’s Remember, which I now realize gave me a solid understanding of how memory works, even if it was a little dry.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Kim Michele Richardson
During the Great Depression, the Pack Horse Library Project in rural Kentucky brought books to rural Kentuckians through horseback-writing librarians. Nineteen-year-old Cussy Carter, the last remaining member of the rare blue-skinned Appalachian people, must overcome the suspicions of the locals and win their friendship to fulfill her mission of delivering books. After only a few chapters, I gave up on this one because I hated the writing style, feeling the story was too contrived and rather dull. Maybe I’ll try again someday, but I’m tabling this story for now.
In the preface, a Parisian bookbinder explains that Crossings is a manuscript of three stories bound together: a letter from a poet, a World War II romance, and the autobiography of a deathless enchantress. In a choose your own adventure style, you can read the book straight through and enjoy three interconnected stories. Or you can use the alternative method, skipping around in a predetermined sequence to get one cohesive novel.
Although I thought it was interesting how Landragin constructed the novel in multiple ways, the core story lacked interest to me. Too many descriptors and not enough action made this star-crossed lovers tale drag horribly, and I finally gave up at about 80% through.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Measure What Matters
John Doerr, the venture capitalist who invested in Google as a startup, preaches the “gospel” of OKRs ( Objectives and Key Results) to anyone who will listen. He claims it’s the system that transformed Google, the Bill Gates Foundation, and even helped Bono. Although I believe in the power of OKRs, having come across the concept of plenty of other business books, John Doerr, unfortunately, is a terrible writer. Not only was the book peppered with lame managerial jargon but also it meandered between short case studies that felt more like name drops than applicable anecdotes.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.
Be sure to come back in September to see which ones I read.
Which Books Did You Read in August?
What books did you love this month? Which books did you hate? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Book Lists to Enjoy:
Deanna Neil says
A few years ago we read “Yellow Crocus” for book club (my choice). Since I had a month free for Kindle Unlimited, I had the pleasure of reading the other 2 books in the series, which I just finished yesterday.
“Nantucket Neighbors (Nantucket Beach Plum Cove #2) by Pamela Kelley
“The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman
“Mustard Seed (Freedman/Johnson #2) by Laila Ibrahim
“Golden Poppies (Freedman/Johnson #3) by Laila Ibrahim
6 hours left on audiobook of “The Scarlett Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I love your short honest reviews. Very helpful when choosing books.
Kris VanEarwage says
I read the extraordinary life of Sam hell when it first came out and absolutely loved. I never understood why it didn’t get more notice. Im starting to see it everywhere now and that makes to happy. Glad you enjoyed it!! Happy reading.
DNF Moonwalking with Einstein, & that’s DNF more than once! Least I remember that fact.
I was disturbed by the ethics of the medicos & scientists after reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Frightful to contemplate lack of medical care for this woman.
Thank you for your summaries especially for non-fiction reading.
Love your recommendations and reviews.
My August reads, in order of my favorites
Unfinished Business, Jance
Miracle Creek, Kim
A Psalm for the Wild Built, Chambers
The House in Cerulean Sea, Kline
The Time Machine, Wells
Come Fly The World, DNF
My August reads:
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (finally! I had this book on hold for over 6 months.)
A Promised Land by Barack Obama (long book, so only three books finished this month so far.)
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
I have read 56 books this year so far, but they don’t all fit the neat categories of the challenge. But I thank you, Rachael, for inspiring me to accomplish my goal of reading 26 books this year (!) and to read outside my comfort zone.
Yay! That’s exactly what I wanted from the reading challenge: inspiration not perfection.
Terra W says
August for me…
-By a Nobel Peace Prize Winner – “As I lay Dying” by William Faulkner – pretty sure I still had this one kicking around since high school? College? So I thought I would give it another go. None of it seemed familiar to me tho – so maybe I hadn’t originally read it at all?? Lol
– About an Immigrant – “The Devils Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea
– Time Travel Novel – “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells (I have the whole scholastic classics collection that we had bought for my stepdaughter when she was in junior high. She had never read them so I am glad to put them to use with this challenge – as I had never read any of them!)
– An Author you Love – I had changed this one to be “A Book with a Bird on the Cover” to read “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd
– Childhood Favorite – I had changed this one to me “50 states List” as I had acquired “Marley & Me” by John Grogan
Oh, “a book with a bird on the cover” is a great category! I think I’m going to use that on future reading challenges!
First off, I have been following a lot of your 5 star recommendations and others and now completely trust you with your reviews. Which leads me to recommend to you Long Bright River by Liz Moore. I think you’re going to find it a 5 star book! It’s really amazing, try to put it on your monthly read soon.
Oh, Long Bright River is a great book! I rather enjoy a character-study mystery. You should try Tana French’s The Searcher, it has a similar feel.