The Books I Read In 2018

10-01-2019 23:01

You all know by now that I’m a pretty avid bookworm, so I decided to do a round up of my 2018 reads! These books are in order of when I read them with a rating system below 🙂 Did you read any of these? What were your favorite books of 2018? Leave a comment and let’s chat!

5 stars: Had a SERIOUS book hangover after finishing. Cannot get the characters or the storyline out of my head. Will definitely read again.  
4 stars: Amazing! Would highly recommend and could not put it down. 
3 stars: Good, not great. Didn’t hate it and don’t regret reading it, but probably wouldn’t again. 
2 stars: Meh. Wouldn’t recommend and was a waste of time. 
1 star: No. Just…no. 
  1. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

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On a foggy night, 11 people (10 privileged, one a struggling painter), depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet heading to New York. 16 minutes later, the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs (the struggling painter) and a four-year-old boy. As the survivors recover, the mystery behind the accident evolves. Did the accident happen by chance, or was there something more evil at work? 

While it was an interesting plot, this book draaaagged on and I found myself wandering off mid-chapter. It started great, had me somewhat interested halfway through, then went completely downhill. It became more of a character study of the adult characters rather than the mystery I was hoping for.

2. Firefly Lane – Kristin Hannah

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In the summer of 1987, Kate Mularkey has accepted that she’ll never be the “cool kid” in her eight grade class. Until the coolest girl in school, Tully Hart, moves across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully’s got it all: beauty, brains, ambition. Polar opposites, yet destined to be forever friends. So, they make a pact. Friends forever. So begins this amazing novel, sprawling across three decades to tell the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices.

THIS BOOK. Wow. Kristin Hannah never fails to amaze me. Firefly Lane made my heart sing and made my heart ache. It made me laugh and it made me cry. Like all of Hannah’s books, the characters are super compelling. I also love books told through multiple decades that make you feel transported to a certain time. I finished this book with a face full of tears. Kristin Hannah, you really know how to reach your readers!

3. Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler

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Twenty-two year old Tess lands a job as a backwaiter at a famous restaurant in New York City (fun fact: it’s Union Square Café). This book is about her education in the restaurant industry. From cocaine and lust to dive bars and dining rooms, Tess learns to navigate her new chaotic life and the fragility of being young and living in New York. 

This was one of those “I really wanted to love this” type of books. The subject was intriguing to me – I live in NYC and I used to work in a fancy steak restaurant. But after a hundred pages or so, I got frustrated, and while I was enjoying Tess’s foray in the restaurant world, I kept waiting for, well…A PLOT. I didn’t really understand Tess (or even like her, for that matter) and felt like she was just following people around the whole time. In fact, most of the characters were pretty unlikeable. Overall, entertaining subject matter especially given my personal interest but wouldn’t recommend.

4. The Wellness Project – Phoebe Lapine

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I wrote a whole blog post about this one HERE.

5.  The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena

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Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all —  a loving relationship, a beautiful home, and a precious baby girl, Cora. But one night when they’re at a dinner party, their baby goes missing. What follows is a deceptive tale of deception and unfaithfulness. 

I read this book by the pool in one sitting next to my friend (hi Kelsey) and she can attest to the fact that I literally was LAUGHING at how bad this book was. Okay, at first it was captivating. Then it becomes SO convoluted and predictable and not to mention the horrrrrrible writing. Thank you, next.

6. A Stranger In the House – Shari Lapena

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Newlyweds Karen and Tom Krump seem to be happy, until one day, Tom gets home and Karen has vanished. The police take Tom to the hospital, where he finds his wife who has been in a car accident that leaves her with no recollection of what she was doing…and the police won’t stop asking questions. 

I know, I know. WHY would I read another book by Shari Lapena if The Couple Next Door was soooo bad? Because I was sitting by the pool and didn’t have another option. The premise of this one is actually decent, but again with the terrible writing!! Sentences like “Tom felt sad” and “Karen was nervous” read like a children’s book. The characters were so boring that I had to finish the book by breezing through the short sentences to the end. MBL is annoyed. The end.

7. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

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In Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb, everything is perfectly planned and structured, making this the perfect community for Elena Richardson who always plays by the rules. Then Mia Warren, kooky artist and single mother, shows up with her teenage daughter Pearl and rents a house from the Richardsons. But Mia carries a disregard for the rules that threatens the order of this structured community. When the Richardsons’ friend attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town, putting Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia’s motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets of Mia’s past…but her obsession comes with a devastating cost. 

It had been a long time since I’d read a book that challenged my mind and problem solving skills. This book was so incredibly well-crafted and examines whether or not we can really measure “good” and “bad” in black and white terms. At the core, this story examines the notion that being a mother doesn’t mean being perfect; it comes down to love, sacrifice, and sheer will. Through a cast of captivating characters, Celeste Ng showcases how each and every one of us is full of cracks and flaws, no matter how we try to cover it up. That’s what makes this story so good – there is no black and white, despite the obviously drawn lines between the different characters.

8. Heart of the Matter – Emily Giffin

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Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned plastic surgeon who has recently given up her career to to pursue domestic happiness. Valerie Anderson is an attorney and a single mother to a six year old son who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance and even some friendships, believing that it is always safer not to expect too much. Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, they don’t have much in common besides having children…until one night when a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined. 

Emily Giffin is to my go-to author when I’m looking for a mindless, chick-lit novel. Her books fly at a surprisingly fast pace and she reallllly knows how to pull you into a novel! But the characters in this particular book were SO frustrating. The female characters were pretty weak, but I liked the fact that no one had a “perfect” relationship and that Emily Giffin didn’t write the token happy ending. She tackles the topic of adultery from both parties (the betrayed woman and the woman who portrays), which was definitely an interesting POV!

9. The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

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If you knew the date of your death, would it change the way you live your life? It’s 1969 in NYC’s Upper East Side and word has spread of the arrival of a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they’ll die. The Gold children sneak out to hear their fortunes. Each of the four siblings has segment dedicated to their life story. How will they each decide to live their lives? By throwing caution to the wind, living every moment like it counts, or will they become a slave to the fortune teller’s predictions? 

This was my very first book club read, and it was definitely a good one for discussion. It’s an interesting concept with some magical elements, but overall this is a family saga that’s a little bit heavy and mournful, but not necessarily bleak. I’m glad I read it, as it covers a lot of philosophical subjects about life and death, faith, destiny, our susceptibility to suggestion, just to name a few. However, I did have some problems with the execution and each character’s story is a little too brief to allow for attachment. It was enjoyable, but definitely missing something.

10. Goodbye Vitamin – Rachel Khong

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Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life is really not going the way she’s planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves home, and heads to her parents house…only to find a situation that she really wasn’t expecting. Her father is losing his memory. Her mother is completely erratic. However, Ruth uses humor to cope with the love, loss, and absurdity of finding one’s footing in life. 

Okay, don’t get me wrong, there were some moments of brilliance in here. Real, gentle, but comforting insights into what it is to lose yourself in your own mind, and what it means to watch it happen to someone you love. On the whole though, I really didn’t enjoy this book. At all. I felt like Rachel Khong didn’t really know what she wanted this book to be. Funny? Sarcastic? Dark? I think some of the really good stuff got lost between the humor and the seriousness. This novel was cluttered and felt cold and detached, the characters felt underdeveloped, and the writing was just…off.

11. Only Child – Rhiannon Navin

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Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor hears gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen live and changing the fabric of this close knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, blaming them for their son’s actions, little Zach retreats into his secret hideout and loses himself in books and art. The adults are all trying to cope in their own ways, but what they don’t see is that Zach is there listening to everything they say and do. 

Wow. What a POWERFUL and remarkable novel. It’s heartbreaking but one of those books that will stay in my heart and mind for a long time. It’s a beautiful story of a child’s resilience and and his desire to make things right. With Zach as the narrator, I was instantly engrossed by the way he describes his feelings and I quickly fell in love with this six-year-old’s huge heart. While the subject matter was a bit difficult to read, the characters are as real as a book can get and the writing is impeccable. It’s fascinating and perhaps even valuable to understand this serious subject matter from the mind of a child.

12. Educated – Tara Westover

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Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she spent her days preparing for the end of the world. In the winter she canned peaches, in the summer she stewed herbs. Her father forbade her family from going to hospitals or school. Her family was so isolated from modern day society that there was no one to give them a proper education, so Tara begin to educate herself. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her to Harvard and Cambridge. 

Difficult to read, impossible to put down. I don’t often read memoirs, but this one realllllly stuck with me. Tara’s story is one of both hope and horror. I grew up with my nose perpetually in a book, so the concept of not being able to go to school hit me pretty hard. Parts of this book are definitely cringeworthy, but I liked that this book didn’t sugarcoat things. Tara was able to rise above her beginnings and be able to thrive despite the attempts of people trying to hold her back.

13. The Lonely Hearts Hotel – Heather O’Neill

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Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Pierrot becomes a piano prodigy and Rose lights up the room with her dancing and comedy. Before long, they decide to travel around the city performing their own joint routine, eventually following in love with each other and dreaming up a plan for the best circus show the world has ever seen. However, they get separated as teenagers, both dabbling in sex, drugs, and crime in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite after years of searching for each other, they go to extreme lengths to make their dream of creating the world’s greatest circus come true. 

This book is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t like vulgarity of any kind, then don’t read this. There is beauty and pain and slight redemption in these pages, but it comes with a heavy dose of depravity and sex. I, however, am weird and enjoy dark and gritty books and this had the promise of being edgy and dark and romantic. Heather O’Neill has a really interesting style of writing. On one hand, it was lyrical and filled with lovely metaphors, but on the other hand it was pretty choppy and consistently depressing. As I write this, I realize how torn I am about this book. It’s most certainly crass, vulgar, and dark, but it does still have some magical elements. I just wish there was more magic and less of the other stuff.

14. The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah

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Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he decides to move his family to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. Thirteen-year-old Leni is caught in the riptide of her parent’s passionate yet stormy relationship, and hopes that moving to Alaska will lead to a better future for her family. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to her prayers. But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, the family beings to fracture and Ernt’s mental state deteriorates. Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: in the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves. 

Kristin Hannah, YOU HAVE DONE IT AGAIN. This book was simply epic. It’s an unforgettable portrait of human frailty, resilience, love, loss, and the fight for survival. I stayed up SO late reading this. It was all-consuming and I couldn’t think of anything else but this story. I really don’t think I have felt so many different emotions from reading a book in quite some time. It’s really hard for me to put a finger on the magic that Hannah has created here, so you’re just gonna have to read this one for yourself 🙂

15. Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty

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Nine people gather at a wellness resort. Some are there to lose weight, some are there for a reboot on life, and some are there for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. They know the next ten days will take some work, but none of them can imagine just how challenging the next ten days will be. Could the director of the health resort really have all the answers? Or should the guests run while they can? 

I read everything Liane Moriarty writes. Her novels are complete page turners, so I knew I had to pick this one up. However, this one fell a little flat for me. It was just SO WEIRD. There definitely were some interesting characters to follow with fascinating stories, but the constant shifting of narration made it difficult to keep any sort of rhythm. Honestly the whole situation with the director of the health resort and her decision to take things into her own hands was kind of laughable and sooooo hard to believe. I did like the way she tied things up with some of her characters and this was definitely a page-turner, but not my favorite!

16. Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis

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Each chapter of Girl, Wash Your Face begins with a lie that Rachel Hollis once believe that left her feeling overwhelmed, unworthy, or ready to give up. As a working mother, a former foster parent, and a women who has dealt with insecurities about her body and relationships, she speaks with the insight and kindness of a BFF, helping women unpack the limiting mindsets that destroy their self-confidence and keep them from moving forward. 

I’m not big on self help books. I prefer to read novels rather than have someone preach at me. But for some reason I decided to pick this one up and BOY, was it worth it. Each chapter is about a lie we’re told and why that lie isn’t actually true. “I’ll start tomorrow.” “I’m not good enough.” “I should be further along by now.” It’s such a motivating read that made me want to go out and conquer the world (or at least my own life). Rachel’s truth is poignant, it’s devastating, and it is healing. Her Christian outlook on honesty is admirable. She’s doesn’t sugar coat it, she doesn’t tell you that it’s going to be easy nor does she tell you that change will happen overnight. What she does tell you is that you are worth it – worth the fight, the struggle, battles, and the pain. You are worth the hard work, the tears, the rejection, and the exhaustion. Because life isn’t meant to be merely survived – it’s meant to be lived.

17. Marriage Vacation – Pauline Turner Brooks

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By all appearances, Kate Carmichael had the perfect life: two adorable daughters, a town house on the Upper East Side, and a successful husband. But when Kate attends one of her friend’s weddings, she suddenly sees her life in a different light and decides to make a drastic change. She uproots her life and flies halfway around the world so she can clear her head, but she ends up feeling more trapped than ever. 

I wanted to read this because I love the TV show Younger. But UGH. The main character is so unlikeable. She ditches her family (her CHILDREN) for an entire year to find herself. And that is the entire story. She seems like a giant whiny baby and I really couldn’t stand her. It reallly pushes the boundaries of believability and I am someone who LOVES Younger!!

18. Woman No. 17 – Edan Lepucki

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Writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son. So, she turns to Craiglist, where she finds S, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back. S is supposed to take care of Lady’s youngest son, Devin, while keeping an eye on her other teenage son, Seth. But in the heat of the summer, S becomes intrigued by Seth, leading Lady to believe S has other motivations behind her babysitting job. 

SIGH. I’m a little torn about this one. The storytelling and writing was really good and I didn’t want to put the book down. I enjoyed the complexity of the characters but I wanted to slap Lady and S sometimes. They’re both pretty selfish. Another problem for me was the PLOT (or, lack thereof). I kept waiting for more to happen! The book alternates between S and Lady’s POVs and I found myself getting confused and a little distracted at times. I also found Lady and S’s relationship to be quite….strange. This book has a super high weird factor, but also has an abundance of sex, secrets, and lies that kept me turning the pages.

19. Doctor Sleep (The Shining, #2) – Stephen King

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The now middle-aged Dan Torrance (boy protagonist of The Shining), has been drifting for decades, haunted by the inhabitants of The Overlook Hotel where he spent one traumatizing childhood year. Finally, he settles in a small town, joins AA, and finds a job at a nursing home where he’s able to use his remnant “shining” power to provide final comfort to the dying. He becomes “Doctor Sleep.” Then Dan meets Abra Stone, a special 12-year-old girl that he must save from The True Knot, a tribe of murderous paranormals who live off the “steam” that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death. Abra’s spectacular gift summons Dan to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. 

I LOVE STEPHEN KING. Seriously, I am so transfixed by everything I’ve read by him, especially The Shining, so naturally I had to pick this up. King is a master of characterization, and that shows with many of the characters in this book. While this takes off from where The Shining left off and then goes on to tell its own story, this explores a lot of the same themes that makes King one of the best writers. Themes of family, life and death, extra sensory perceptions, and the demons that haunts us (paranormal and mundane). You will read several points of view and everyone has their own distinctive voice. We get an insight into the lives of the characters that makes them seem real, believable, and entirely relatable. King’s capability to write in such small details in a certain way will make you feel like the characters are alive and with you in this very room. His writing is smooth as silk and I was hooked the entire time.

20. We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

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Meet the Sinclairs, a wealthy seemingly perfect family who spends every summer gathered on their private island. When Cadence, granddaughter of the wealthy Harris Sinclair, suffers a traumatic head accident in Summer Fifteen, she loses most of her memory from that summer. Two years later, Cadence returns to the island, only to find that much has changed…and finally remembers what happened that Summer Fifteen. 

I had heard so many good things about this book so I’m pretty sad to give it two stars. It’s a very clever and sophisticated book for a YA book. But the writing was choppy and somewhat boring. Sure, the ending was a total surprise, but this book could have done with a little more plot. There were some good moments, but sadly the story never grabbed me.

21. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

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Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say EXACTLY what she’s thinking. Her life is perfectly structured. Eleanor spends her days working her mundane job, avoiding social interactions, drinking vodka and having phone chats with her mysterious Mommy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bubbly IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three becomes the kind of friends who rescue each other from lives of isolation. 

Oh, this book. I loved every single second of it. I laughed, I cried, I cringed. Eleanor is damaged and quirky, but she’s oh so special. On the surface level, this is a very funny book about a socially inept 29 year old woman. Her attempts to become “normal” and integrate into society by having waxes and manicures are sources of hilarity. But it is ultimately very sad to see when her coworkers are talking about her and Eleanor is oblivious to their scorn. It’s sad how alone in life she is. But that’s also why I fell in love with Ralph, who appreciate Eleanor for who she is and welcomes her with open arms. This isn’t a romantic book and for that, I’m glad. Instead, Eleanor falls in love with herself, gaining well-deserved happiness and self-worth 🙂

22. Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

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When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore visiting her boyfriend’s family, she expects a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she hopes to marry one day. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s home is basically a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than private cars, and that she’s dating one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors. Kevin Kwan shows us a funny, but real, insider’s look at old money vs. new money, between Overseas and Mainland Chinese, and what it means to young, in love, and gloriously rich. 

I had very high expectations for this book. I did like it, but didn’t love it and didn’t really understand the raving reviews. It was a really fun and fast read, with some literal LOL moments. The fact that the book took place in Singapore was cool and allowed Kwan to (briefly) touch on deeper issues of prejudice and toxic social norms within the rich Singapore community. However, the story got repetitive pretttty quickly. Kwan’s descriptions of luxury don’t differ very much (how many times can we read “the most luxurious blah blah blah…” Also, the ending was kind of jarring, and while it left me on my toes, I don’t feel incentivized to read #2 in this series. But, I will definitely be seeing the movie!

23. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy

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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on a story of many years – starting from the cramped neighborhoods of New Delhi into the burgeoning metropolis and beyond, to the Valley of Kashmir and the forest of Central India, where war is peace and peace is war. Anjum, who used to be Aftab, unrolls a threadbare carpet in a city graveyard that she calls home. A baby appears quite suddenly on the street in a crib of litter. The enigmatic S. Tilottama is as much of a presence as she is an absence in the lives of the three men who love her. The one thing they have in common: they are all heroes who have been broken by the world they live in and have been mended by love. 

This book was DENSE, slow, and hard to follow. It took me a couple hundred pages to see what was happening here…there is no story. At all. It essentially follows 2 main characters through South Asia, but there is such a mess of characters introduced throughout the book and I couldn’t remember anybody’s names nor what they were even DOING. Not only are the characters unforgettable, but it zips back and forth between past and present, third and first person, with almost ZERO dialogue to separate the massive paragraphs of dense descriptions. Sure, the writing was beautiful. But a book without a plot is just not the book for me.

24. The Stand – Stephen King

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This is the way the world ends. With a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death. And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of 108-year-old Mother Abigail and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the Dark Man. 

Hands down the best book I read in 2018 (or, ever). I devoured every. single. word of this 1,348 page marvel. It’s incredible, riveting, and entirely unforgettable. The plot is divided into three books and follow the survivors before, during and after the catastrophe. It’s dark. It’s intense. It’s TERRIFYING. It’s uplifting. There’s hope, love, faith, fear, religion, sex, hate, fear, fate, and redemption. It’s a suspenseful and emotional buildup to the inevitable final face-off of good vs. evil. There’s a MEANING to everything that happens in the story — the dreams, the betrayals, the deaths, the births. But what really stuck with me was the deep characterization. Complex and REAL characters that jump off the pages and will stay with me for a very, very long time. Stu Redman, a quiet, moral and unassuming character that inspires people to fight the good fight. Tom Cullen, an innocent soul with the biggest heart who in my opinion, might just be the star of the show. King portrayed good and bad characters in such a human way. There were no perfect protagonists and no flat antagonists who were easy to hate. The characters are real people, and I connected with them all in their own little way. Finishing this book felt like saying goodbye to a good friend, and I’m still not over it 2 months later. Bravo, Stephen King, BRAVO.

25. All We Ever Wanted – Emily Giffin

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Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. Her husband made a fortune selling his business and their adored son has been accepted into Princeton. Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla, who gets a scholarship to Nashville’s most prestigious private school. Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. At the heart of the lies and scandal, Nina, Tom, and Lyla are forced together, questioning relationships and who they really are. 

This was definitely different from other Emily Giffin books I’ve read. She took an ambitious step away from her love story narratives and attempted to tackle relevant topics surrounding social media, privilege, racism, and self-worth, and more. I’m just not so sure it worked. There was a lack of emotionality and there were TOO many issues going on. Entertaining for sure, yet all too forgettable in the grand scheme of things. While Giffin introduces these big topics, she doesn’t jump into the deep end, leaving readers with only a shallow examination of these issues, equally unexplored depth to her characters and an ending that was tied up too easily. Overall, this was still a page-turner that was a good escapist read.

27. Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan

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Anna Kerrigan, nearly 12 years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she guesses, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that were once held by men. One night, she meets Dexter Styles at a nightclub and begins to understand the reason why her father might have vanished.

For me, the book started off really well for about 25%, then I honestly don’t know what happened. It all seemed a bit underdeveloped. There were parts that were really good and well written. Egan does a great job of transporting the reader to the 1940s and she beautifully captures the atmosphere of Manhattan Beach. Unfortunately, there were parts where Egan loses herself in her lengthy descriptions and the text gets a little lengthy. Ultimately I didn’t find a sustainable rhythm.

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