Book Reviews: Three Weeks, Three Books

In the first weeks of January, I’m usually so exhausted by the holidays that I need some hibernation time. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve used one whole weekend day to just read, as well as making sure I read a little bit each weekday night to get out of my head a bit. I don’t think this is going to last long, but I’ve been enjoying it and three weekends into the new year, I’ve already finished three books.

After You by Jojo Moyes

Lou is back. After Will’s death, she retreated. She traveled as he gave her instructions to, and now she’s in London. She’s a bit aimless, working in an airport bar, and living in an empty flat. One night, she gets into a freak accident that sets the next chapter of her life in motion, whether she’s ready for it or not. I was waiting for a chunk of time to read this. And I may have annoyed my family a little bit on January 2nd as I literally did not move from my spot on the couch as I read the latter half of this book. But it was well worth it for me. Lou is one of my favorite literary characters and I’m so glad Moyes decided to revisit her story. As always, Moyes writes a great story and draws you in with her writing. 4/5

royal we

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

There isn’t much to explain this book. It’s the story of a regular young woman falling in love with a guy who happens to be the heir to the throne of England and all the complications that ensue when you fall in love with the right guy, but to everyone else, you’re not the right girl. This book is candy, delicious and sweet, perfect chick lit. And it was exactly what I needed last week. I loved it, and it’s actually written well, with a good sense of humor and real emotional moments. 5/5

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

Lyn, Cat, and Gemma are triplets. Each sister has a distinct personality within the group, and they’ve grown up with dutifully fulfilling each role, while silently hoping they can somehow break away from them to grow a little. Lyn is the goody two-shoes, the organized mother, the successful business woman. Cat has a bit of a wild streak, competitive, and a little mean to her sisters, but also fiercely protective. Gemma is floaty, sweet, and a little bit silly, but hoping to ease tension and appease everyone. As they each struggle with big life changes in their early 30s, they delicately balance who they are within their own lives as well as within their sisterhood. This was another enjoyable read from Liane Moriarty. I love books about sisters, and think Moriarty captures all the feelings that come with being a sister so well. I think there’s only one book left of hers that I haven’t read. I’ll be sad when I’m done because I’ve enjoyed them so much. 4/5

I guess it’s easier to read more quickly when you’re enjoying what you’re reading! I still have quite a few books in my queue, so I hope I can keep my reading streak up, even with the next few weeks of craziness. Have you read anything good lately?

2015 Highlights

It wasn’t all bad. Yes, it was clouded by some pretty jarring losses, but it wasn’t all bad. I would hate to think that a year had passed and all I remembered was the bad stuff.

In January, we celebrated a close friend’s wedding and our niece’s seventh birthday party. E also went scuba diving and brought home a big lobster tail for us to share and celebrate his birthday.

In February, we moved to a little place with a yard for Pinto and cut our commutes down to something like a jaunt around the corner.

In March, E moved into a new role at work. And he’s great at it!

jan to march

In April, E’s brother graduated from college (where I also went to school), and we had fun being back in our favorite college town.

In May, we went to Maui! It was such a good trip to relax and recharge and reconnect.

In June, we celebrated three years of marriage. Not only did we celebrate our anniversary, but E’s brother got married, and we had a great time at the wedding with family and friends. And Pinto went to the beach for the first time!

apr to jun

In July, I celebrated Eid with my family and one last time with my dad. And our new niece was born!

In August, I got to hang out with Kate. And buy her wine glasses. It was a travesty that she didn’t have any.

In September, I turned 27.

july to sep

In October, I traveled to Oaxaca on a university alumni trip and we experienced and participated in El Dia de Los Muertos. And it was basically the best thing ever. It would have only been better if E was with me. And Adele released “Hello,” which I haven’t stopped singing at all.


In November, Caitlin, Cassandra and I traveled to the Bay Area to help Caitlin shop for a wedding dress. And I obviously can’t show you the picture, but we had a great weekend! I also helped throw a Harry Potter-themed bridal shower, which was ridiculously fun to plan. Also, another new niece was born! And I started grad school. (The jury is out on whether that’s a highlight or not.) And we ate everything at Thanksgiving.

And here we are in December. Pinto turned three this month. I am getting to see lots of family and friends that I’ve been missing this year. And Disneyland at Christmas exists, which I’ve already experienced twice. My sisters and I took our older nieces and nephews for a family trip and collective Christmas present. Then, I got to go a few days later with my mother-in-law as part of our annual tradition. They were two very different trips, but neither less magical than the other. E and I decorated the tree and are enjoying a month of holiday spirit together after a very long fall with limited together time.

end of year This was such a good exercise. Really. I didn’t know if I would find one good thing in a month, but then I found multiple most months! What were some of your highlights this year?

Books I’m Looking Forward To

So, it might have been a lackluster year for my reading, but I have a big stack of books and a nice long waiting list at the library to get 2016 started off right. Here are some titles I can’t wait to dig into in the new year. Good thing there’s an extra day coming up to read more!

After You by Jojo Moyes

More Jojo Moyes? More Lou? Yes, please!

Sounds Like Me by Sara Bareilles

Sara B. is one of my favorite artists. I have her albums on repeat around my life a lot. Her songs are always written very well, so I expect her book will be great, too.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I bought this book early last year, and I haven’t gotten to it. In the meantime, everyone who has read it has raved. So, this is definitely happening.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This is often recommended if you liked All the Light We Cannot See, and I loved that book, so it made my list. I also got this book earlier this year when Amazon was running it as a Deal of the Day.

Side note: Book Riot has an email alert for what good books are on sale that day. It’s straight to the point and almost always sends a book that is popular or is critically acclaimed.

Do you have any book recommendations for me? I’m looking forward to reading more in the next year!

2015 Review Wrap-Up

Thank you for your kind words regarding my dad since my last post. I’ve fielded a few questions about my blog recently, and I promise I’ve not forgotten that it exists. Truth be told, I was a slow reader the past few months, but I still managed to read 33 books this year, which is actually more than what I read last year. I just can’t say that too many of them have been notable. So, instead of slogging through a majority of mediocre reviews, I’ll give you the highlights.

Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling

I can wax poetic about Mindy Kaling. I have admired her all the way back to her blogging days. Of course, many knew her as Kelly Kapoor on The Office. And now, most people know her as the awesome showrunner and star of The Mindy Project. I loved her first book, and her second book did not disappoint. Her life has changed a bit now that she is famous and her book is mostly about that, but it’s also about what goes into her confidence and how she still has to negotiate and compromise in her life, despite her professional success. My sister-in-law accompanied me to a talk she gave that included a signed copy of her book. It was such a fun night, and definitely gave insight to more of her beyond the book. I can’t say enough good things, except that I loved her first book slightly more. 4/5

Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

This is always on the “Notable Paperbacks” table. McCann tends to do the same thing in his novels, which is weave together different characters’ stories and tie them to a specific event. This story is tied to the day that Philippe Petit walked across a high wire between the World Trade Center buildings in 1974. He is included among the fictional characters, along with an ascetic Irish priest and his brother, two mothers of fallen Vietnam soldiers, and a prostitute. I enjoyed reading this book and seeing the developments between characters. I also liked that everyone’s story was complete. It gave me a sense of satisfaction to find out where everyone. ended up. 4/5

On Gold Mountain by Lisa See

Lisa See has always been a go-to author for me. One of my book clubs was reading this, and I decided to join in. It’s a great undertaking to write your family history, especially when you still have family alive to read it. I think she had to walk on eggshells a bit and include some of her family members here and there. Although this book was about her family, I found it really to be about the history of Los Angeles. Her family was one of the first to settle here, so it was interesting to read about many of the areas I used to frequent when I worked near downtown. As a Los Angeles native, I really enjoyed that aspect. 3/5

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I managed to get my hand on one more Liane Moriarty book. She seemed to be the author of 2015 for me, since I read three other titles by her this year. Alice wakes up on the floor of the gym, but somehow, her memory has put her back ten years. The last ten years have gone and she has no idea what her life is anymore. She only remembers being blissfully happy, newly married and pregnant with her first child. Now, she’s a mother to three, and her marriage is in a bad place. As she tries to put together the last ten years, she wonders what her life has become and how to move forward. Again, I love how Moriarty can take a fluff book and put some serious subject matter in there to elevate the story. I enjoyed this book and it was a bright spot in my fall. 4/5

So, those were my favorites for the later half of the year. What were your favorite books of the summer and fall?

A Reeling Loss

I suppose I tend to take a hiatus every year around my busy travel season. Usually, it’s because I stop being a productive reader in that time and I’m not sitting down long enough to write. This year, I have a different story, unfortunately.

Two months ago, my dad passed away due to complications from cancer. Sometimes, saying that phrase sounds so bland. Of course, cancer kills people, but if you had seen my dad just two months before he passed, it was like he had made a miracle recovery. He was in great shape, his hair had come back, and besides a lighter appetite, there wasn’t much difference. He would go in for routine chemo, lay low for a day or two, and then get back up. In late August, things just got bad quickly. He spiked a high fever that wouldn’t come down, and after entering the hospital, he was put on assisted breathing within a couple of days, and came in and out of consciousness for a few weeks, until it was obvious that he would not be getting better, and we had to make a decision as a family to let him go and be at peace.

Right after my dad died, I did the only thing I could think to do, which was to return to work. I didn’t have to. My boss gave me open time off, but I wanted something else to focus on. Travel season is busy and solitary. It allows one to escape and focus on one thing at a time, which is all I could manage. I retreated. I numbed, and would only allow myself a few highly emotional moments of grief. While a lot of friends reached out, and I appreciated it, there wasn’t much I could say back to them.  I can’t help feeling like I’m missing a part of myself, like a part of my heart is gone. And for everyone who has felt this loss, and is feeling this loss, I’m so sorry. I know that it hurts, and that it hits you at the most random of times, and that hearing a phrase or seeing something particular can just trigger it for you. For me, I don’t know that I can hear Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” without crying ever again. It was his favorite song and one we sang a lot and danced to, often, including at my wedding.

My dad was my champion. He was the best dad a girl could ask for, and I mean that literally, because I think it takes a special kind of man to raise daughters, and he definitely was. He instilled in me my love for reading and my love for learning. He is who I got my talkative nature and people skills from. He loved singing and hearing people sing. And he just loved to call to talk about random things.

In two months, I’ve done a lot: a lot to escape, a lot to reflect, and a lot to grieve. I don’t know if the process is over, but I’m back.

photo by onelove photography

photo by onelove photography

Book Review and Thoughts: MWF Seeking BFF

I heard of MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche a couple of years ago. I thought the premise sounded great and I stuck it into my “Want to Read” list and didn’t think about it much again. Jill of The Strawberry Blonde Life mentioned it the other day (like four months ago, whatevs) and jogged my memory, so I requested it from the library and devoured the whole thing in two days.

Bertsche moved to Chicago with her boyfriend-turned-husband from New York. She not only left her home, but her network of close friends, including her two BFFs. In noticing that she wasn’t spending time with anyone but her husband and mom (both people she loves and likes very much), she decided she needed to make local friends. The kind of local friends who you can call to get pedicures on a Saturday without a lot of lead time. To achieve this goal, Bertsche decides to go on a friend date with one new person a week. What ensue are Bertsche’s successes, failures, insights into friendship, its importance and thoughts on building a network.

I really connected with this book. My besties and I lived pretty close to each other two years ago. We could call each other at the drop of a hat and be at a wine bar or at karaoke in half an hour. It felt very much like our quiet girls’ version of the raging twenties. Now we live two hours away from each other in opposite directions. It’s not easy to plan things, and often, we’re looking at all day/weekend events. It’s just not easy until we’re together. Then, it’s as if no time has passed, and it’s quickly over. It’s so hard to even write this paragraph. I miss them so much. And that’s not even to mention my greater network of girl friends, all of whom are far away. I’m a girl’s girl and need that interaction just as much as I need quiet nights at home with my husband.

personal photo

personal photo

Even though I loved the book, I definitely had moments of wondering how I could be more friendly and make friends. The community we live in is very family-oriented, and I haven’t seen a lot of young, post-college, pre-children people around. But that doesn’t mean they’re not around. I’m putting feelers out there. I am going to try out a few book clubs to see which one works best. There’s one I really want to get into, but I had to fill out an application and haven’t heard back yet! I’m fun and I really like talking about books! Please like me!

Besides giving me impetus to try and make friends, I want to be friends with Bertsche herself. Her blog is pretty fun, even though it hasn’t been updated recently.

In short, I liked this book and I need new friends. 5/5

Book Reviews- Summer Reading

After my spring of YA, I decided to ease back into the world of contemporary fiction. But let’s just jump into these book reviews!

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty’s books have always been on the periphery for me. I see them everywhere and I just never pick them up. The Bee Book Club decided on Big Little Lies for May, and it exceeded all of my expectations! The story is set in an Australian suburban beach town. The three main characters, Madeline, Celeste, and Jane are all mothers to brand new kindergartners. Madeline and Celeste have long been friends, and Jane is new to town as a single mother. Madeline takes Jane under her wing for one more person on her team in the PTA battles of elementary school parents. What begins as a silly fluff book quickly turns into a serious book with heavy subject matter. But the beauty of the book is how Moriarty effortlessly weaves humor and satire about suburban school politics into the overarching story. I was thoroughly surprised by this book, and quickly looked for more by Moriarty. It’s a fun, easy read that still manages to make you think. 4/5

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Not kidding. I literally jumped right into another Moriarty book. This was again set in a suburb of Sydney. Cecilia Fitzpatrick has it all. She juggles and balances and never has a hair loose. Her husband is kind and loving to their three daughters. Tess was just blind-sided by news regarding her marriage, and takes her son to live with her and her mother in Sydney. And then there’s Rachel. She’s living alone, working at the elementary school, and dwelling on her daughter’s murder that occurred twenty years ago. In the span of a week, their lives intertwine and intersect and news comes to light that affects them all. This one was slightly more predictable than Big Little Lies, and had less humor as well. I still enjoyed it, but just a little less than the previous read. 3/5

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Lydia has died in the lake near the Lees’ house. Lydia can’t swim. It makes no sense why she would be out there. Not perfectly lovely Lydia. But it is true, and Lydia’s parents, Marilyn and James Lee are beside themselves in grief and misunderstanding. And it’s not just Marilyn and James. Their older son, Nate, who was very close to Lydia, is grieving and angry. And their younger daughter, Hannah, is just trying to cope, always living in the shadow of her sister, and never being seen or acknowledged. Lydia lived with all the expectations, to be a doctor from her mother’s unfulfilled goals, and to be liked and social, from her father’s own anxieties and worries. Each family member holds secrets, concerns, hopes, and truths from each other, and in Lydia’s passing, everything comes to the surface or at least boils underneath. I loved this book. I found it to be a heartbreaking family saga, and applaud Ng for her writing style. I read this rather quickly, and think it is worth a glance. 4/5

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

This is the companion piece to the wildly popular Life After Life. In Life, we learned about the ins and outs of the many lives Ursula Todd lived throughout the years of the war and beyond. In this companion book, we learn about her beloved brother, Teddy and his life during the war and beyond. Unlike Ursula, Teddy lives only one life. He was an RAF pilot and flew on many bombing raids on Germany. Along with the tales of his life in the war, we learn about his daughter, two grandchildren, and his lifelong love, Nancy. We also get a taste of England post-war and into the twenty-first century. This book was amazing. I liked it more than Life which got a little tedious. It was written wonderfully and I just wanted to swim in the text! I love how literary the characters are and how many references they make to poetry, which was true in the first book, but felt more relevant in this one. I can’t sing its praises enough and do hope you read both books! 5/5

My summer reading has gotten off to a great start. My library queue is not going down at all, so I see lots of good reads in my future! What are you reading this summer?

Book Reviews: YA All Day

And I’m back with even more Young Adult titles! Somehow, there’s been an explosion of good, contemporary realistic fiction, and I’m not sad about it. Some subject matter has been quite heavy, but other books have been like candy. I basically spent the first half of the year reading young adult because my work life is so busy that time of year. I needed to read books that revolved around story, were quick page-turners, and provided some level of comfort. Sometimes, those great big literary novels are draining, and to be frank, if I’m not finishing books, then I’m not reading much.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean lives her life a bit on the periphery. She’s the middle sister of a capable, organized older sister, Margot and the active, affectionate little sister, Kitty. Lara Jean is trying to navigate high school, driving, and maintaining the house in Margot’s absence at college. But life throws her a wrench when letters she has written to the boys she has loved, meant for her eyes only, like diary entries, end up in the mail and out into the hands of those particular boys. What I loved about this story was Lara Jean’s relationship to her sisters, her very teen self, and the realizations she comes to without having much guidance. The sequel P.S. I Still Love You was just released and I’m waiting for the library to let me have my hands on a copy. 4/5

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Jam has been sent to a school for students dealing with issues of mental health and depression. Jam has been dealing with the death of her boyfriend, and has not been able to snap out of her funk. She needs to be away from home where the isolated environment will help her heal. One of her classes is Special Topics in English, an advanced and exclusive class with only five students total. The class is competitive to get into, and students are hand-picked by their teacher. The class is studying The Bell Jar and other works by Sylvia Plath. In their studies and through journals, Jam and her fellow students are able to face their experiences and start to deal with the world around them. Wolitzer has made a name as a popular literary author for adults, but I’ve heard mixed reviews from the people I trust with books. This story was ok, but I couldn’t connect with Jam. It mostly made me want to read The Bell Jar again, and explore more of Plath’s work.  2.5/5

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch is categorized as the school freak. Violet Markey lost her sister in a terrible car accident and doesn’t know how to go on. When they meet at the top of the school bell tower, they both stop each other from demise, without saying much. They end up working together on a year-long assignment for geography class, and go one little adventures throughout Indiana. Finch is out there and is drawing Violet out of her shell, but he is beginning to internalize. This book was lovely and heart-breaking. It portrays mental illness with subtlety and gives you as sense of what it is like to be inside someone’s head when they’re dealing with it. This book brought me to tears, and was an excellent example of the best in Young Adult novels. 4.5/5

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

Paige is a little lost. Her boyfriend died in a freak accident last year, and she has been labeled “The Girl Whose Boyfriend Died,” but she is determined to start living in the now and to come back to reality for this school year. She decides that she is going to pursue Ryan Chase, a popular nice guy who is now available. She also decides she is going to join a club. That club ends up being the Quiz Bowl, and Ryan’s cousin, Max is on the team, back in public school after a stint at the private school in town. He’s sweet and nerdy and likes Tagalongs more than Thin Mints. With the help of her best girl friends and her grandmother, Paige reclaims her year, and maybe even figures out that boy situation. This one tug at my heartstrings. I really identified with Paige. I once was on the Quiz Bowl with a cute, nerdy boy, too, and you can guess how that turned out. 😉 I love her relationship with her grandma, because I also had a very close relationship with mine. I just got her, and loved every second of this book. Plus, I know the author and I can’t resist plugging a fellow Weddingbee, especially one who writes so well. 4/5

Whew! That’s a wrap on my YA book reviews so far. Thanks for hanging with me!

Book Reviews: Just One Day Duet and a Little Something Extra

My coworker saw that I was reading Where She Went, she suggested some other Gayle Forman titles. I was a little hesitant because I didn’t just love the previous two books, but after reading a description, I went for it.

Just One Day

Alison has always been a good girl. She doesn’t stray far from the line. While in Stratford-upon-Avon on a graduation gift European tour, she starts to break her rules. When Willem offers to escort her to Paris for just one day before she goes home, she jumps at the chance. Their day is extraordinary, seeing more than the typical tourist sights, wandering, getting lost and even into a little bit of trouble. But the two never discuss much of their personal lives, not even their last names. In fact, Willem only knows Alison by the nickname he gave her: Lulu. So when the two are separated after their exhilarating day, the door seems closed. Alison heads off to college wondering about so much and feeling stuck, depressed, and unable to move forward with the life she had perfectly planned. With the help of William Shakespeare and some new friends, she re-discovers her sense of adventure and decides to make things happen, whether those things bring her closure or not. I enjoyed this book. There were moments when I was really frustrated with Alison and her attitude, but also moments when I remember how hard that first year of college felt and could relate with her. I also really enjoyed the travel in the story, and the adventure that comes with not having a plan. There is also a sense of mystery in this story that was lacking in the If I Stay series. 3.5/5

Just One Year

Again, Forman writes the second book from the male’s perspective. Willem was escaping something when he got swept away with Lulu. Just postponing one more day would not hurt. But apparently, it hurt quite a lot. Willem returns to Amsterdam, his home. But his home is dramatically altered and has been for two years. He finds his friends again, and tries to resume life. But he just can’t get Lulu out of his mind. A girl has never entranced him like that. He’s never had a problem with the ladies. Willem spends that year looking for his Lulu, no small feat without her real name. Not only is he dealing with the loss of Lulu, but also the shift in his family. When Willem exhausts everything he can think of, he starts to be productive again, with the help of William Shakespeare. Again, I thought this story was better than the first in the duet. Willem is dealing with some very real griefs and hurts. There is also a fair amount of travel in this book, going all the way to India and back. And again, resolution is just so nice, so I have to give more points to the end of the story than the beginning. 4/5

Just One Night

This novella concludes the series, with not just Alison and Willem’s perspectives, but all the other players as well, their friends and family who helped them cope and search for each other. And we also get to find out what they both think they will do now that they have found each other with only just one night left. 4/5


It’s been three years, and it seems to only get better with time.

This year has been another fun ride, but probably the most fun ride so far. We got our dog, whom we both love so much and has brought so much joy to our lives. We had job changes that have been for the better for both of us. We moved (again) and now can be home and having dinner before the sun sets. I imagine quite a few outdoor meals this summer.

We’re having a low-key celebration because we just returned from a perfect vacation in Maui. I imagine there will be a nicer than normal dinner and a good dessert. Thanks for three, my dear. Cheers for all the years to come!