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Thanks to the state of the world, I read more in 2020 than I had in my adult life. I was a fervent reader as a child, thanks to the combination of having a mamaw that was a retired librarian and being an enneagram three that wanted to win all all of the ribbons for reading the most books in elementary school. When I moved to Nashville, I packed a ton of books because I thought I’d be lonely and have no friends and would need to entertain myself. Thankfully, that was not the case. But I was glad I packed them when the world shut down and I was confined to my apartment.
2021 kicked off my year of saving money like it’s my job. And thanks to the Libby app and a couple of books I got for Christmas – reading is free! Reading each night before bed is also my treat to myself after I do homework.
I’m aware that most of the authors on my list are white authors. I’m working on this! I read mostly through Libby, so I read what becomes available on my holds shelf as it becomes available. I can tell you with confidence that February will be more diverse, as I’m currently working through a couple of books by BIPOC authors.
One more thing to add – I’m new to this. If it’s in italics, it’s a summary from Amazon. If it’s not, I wrote it. Sometimes I combine their writing and mine, but anything I pull verbatim will stay in italics. (I’m new to reviewing books! Next month will be better.)
“Looking to earn some easy cash, Jessica Farris agrees to be a test subject in a psychological study about ethics and morality. But as the study moves from the exam room to the real world, the line between what is real and what is one of Dr. Shields’s experiments blurs. Dr. Shields seems to know what Jess is thinking… and what she’s hiding. Jessica’s behavior will not only be monitored, but manipulated. Caught in a web of attraction, deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.”
2020 was the year of the thriller for me, and it has definitely carried over into 2021. This is the third book I’ve read by this set of authors, and it wasn’t my favorite from them. I would recommend The Wife Between Us instead, it feels a lot less predictable.
This is the story of two women who couldn’t seem more different, but had more in common than they realized. Claire Cook has what appears to be a charmed life, but is such a nightmare behind the scenes that she meticulously creates a plan to vanish.
A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets―Claire taking Eva’s flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. They believe the swap will give each of them the head start they need to begin again somewhere far away. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it’s no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva’s identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden.
As noted above, I hate predicatable thrillers. This one kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I got into the really bad habit of staying up past my bedtime to read this one, but I could not put it down. Usually I get to the seventy-five percent point of a thriller and I can either tell you Clue style the ending – Mrs Peacock in the library with a candlestick – or have no idea. This one was the latter. It’s my favorite of the seven books I’ve read this month.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (Michelle McNamara)
“The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case—which was solved in April 2018.”
This was a really bad idea with my anxiety, and a lot of women have told me they had a similar experience. To be honest, I wish I would have left this one alone. Increased anxiety aside, the ending will really piss you off. If you do choose to read this one, I think audiobook is the way to go.
Bea Schulman is a popular plus-size fashion blogger with an amazing life and a broken heart. After calling out Main Squeeze, a Bachelor-esque reality show, on its lack of body diversity, the show offers her the leading role for the next season. Bea agrees, but makes it very clear that she’s “not in it for the right reasons.”
But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men—and herself—for a chance to live happily ever after.
I started reading this during the summer, but hit a wall with reading and never finished. When it was finally my turn to read it again via the Libby app, I finished it in a few days. It’s beautifully written, another one of those books you stay up past your bedtime to read.
Personally, I enjoyed that I could watch my own little dating show unfold as quickly as I could read it. No more waiting a full season to see who a contestant will pick and having to watch cringe-worthy moments like pants sniffing, all to see my contestant not get selected in the end.
“An inspiring and entertaining testament to the power of society’s most underappreciated relationship, Big Friendship will invite you to think about how your own bonds are formed, challenged, and preserved. It is a call to value your friendships in all of their complexity. Actively choose them. And, sometimes, fight for them.”
I waited a really long time for this book on the Libby app, so I had high hopes. However, I went in with no knowledge of the authors, and I think that’s why I didn’t enjoy it. The authors have a podcast together, something I learned through the book. (Had I listened to it before reading the book, I may be writing a completely different review.) I also expected a book with more of an academic feel – studies, psychology facts, etc. – but those were few and far between, sprinkled in between lots of anecdotes. There was also a lot of overexplaining, which is one of my biggest pet peeves as a reader.
I think I may have enjoyed this book much more right after graduating college, before I was truly aware of just how complex female friendship can be and how they evolve over time. I will say, I truly enjoyed the chapter that discussed race in friendships. It was, by far, the highlight of the book for me.
Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics is a landmark celebration of the remarkable life and career of a country music and pop culture legend.
As told by Dolly Parton in her own inimitable words, explore the songs that have defined her journey. Illustrated throughout with previously unpublished images from Dolly Parton’s personal and business archives. Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics reveals the stories and memories that have made Dolly a beloved icon across generations, genders, and social and international boundaries.
I’m from East Tennessee, so please know that in my eyes, Dolly Parton can do no wrong. She is our patron saint and our pride and joy. I love that this book provided insight into what the different phases of her life looked like. Having visited the Dolly Parton museum at Dollywood practically every year of my life since I was teeny-tiny, I was surprised by how much I learned through this book. Listen to this one as an audiobook, it’s read by Dolly herself.
Carey Duncan has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.
James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.
While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together.
I had been reading so much for school that I just wanted something short and easy to listen to on my drive home, and this chick-lit read checked both of those boxes. The plot moved way too fast for my liking and didn’t feel realistic in that aspect. However, I really liked the characters and their development.
What have you read this month? Anything I should request on the Libby app?