books

5 of my favorite books in 2018

The second I finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, I took to Facebook, Instagram, text and even talking to random people to share how much I loved the book. I’ll be the first to admit that I get a little evangelical when I read something great.

My Facebook post prompted a few friends to ask what other books I would highly recommend, and while I posted this on my personal timeline a few days ago, I wanted to create a post to live on my blog with my favorites of 2018, as of early October. Be sure to read to the bottom to see what I didn’t love (but thought I would), and what I’m excited to read.

where the crawdads sing by delia owensWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I loved everything about this book. The distinctly low-country town without feeling overly “Southern fiction-y,” the resiliency and gumption of the main character, Kya, and the way this book sucked you in slowly and then all at once.

I can’t wait to see what this debut author weaves together for her next title. I also can’t stop loaning this title out to my friends… which I guess isn’t a bad problem to have.the hate u give by angie thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I listened to this book and couldn’t get it to go fast enough to devour it as quickly as I wanted to. I feel like this book should be required reading for all young adults, especially in this day and age. One of my friends teaches at a private boarding school in a very affluent area, that also has many scholarship kids that attend and live on campus who come from disadvantaged areas. She mentioned to me that their school book club was reading this book, and I wished I could be a fly on the wall to hear what kids from all different walks of life had to say.

I wanted to hug each and every character in this book by the time I was done with it, and I really feel like this movie has the potential to live up to the expectations of the book.

Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman | deniseadelek.comThe Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

I’ll be the first to admit that I came across this book based on the cute cover. What really drew me in, however, was that this was so much more than what you’d usually get from “contemporary women’s fiction.” This was such a sweet story about beginning again, gardening, but also dealt with some complex grief and guilt. This book and Ghosted by Rosie Walsh both pleasantly surprised me in how the characters lived through their grief.

This book also led me to be really productive, resulting in a backyard herb garden that yielded approximately 9,000 basil leaves, and enough cilantro for 2.5 tacos.


how to walk away by katherine center | deniseadelek.wordpress.comHow to Walk Away by Katherine Center
This book is the quintessential “Instagram-made-me-do-it” moment. I was following along with the Booksparks Summer Reading Challenge this summer and it seemed like everyone on my feed was reading this book except me. I am clearly a sucker for influencer marketing, but alas, I LOVED this book.

I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this book in one sitting, and it satisfied like a mid-afternoon cappuccino on a brisk fall day. You can read more from my standalone review here

Circe by Madeleine Miller | www.deniseadelek.comCirce by Madeline Miller
I’ll preface this final title by saying that I do not enjoy mythology. Blame it on being Greek, therefore being expected to like mythology, but my whole life I have avoided mythology like the plague.

I drove six hours from home to visit my best friend in Des Moines, and was in a pinch when my audiobook ended, but I still had the return trip left to go. Over a delicious slice of Casey’s pizza (literally the best pizza- from a GAS STATION), I scrolled through Overdrive for something to download and Circe kept coming up at the top of the search results. I figured it was some sort of sign, and dove right in. This book was incredibly narrated, and brought the story to life in a way that made me a firm believer in Madeline Miller’s retelling skills.

I didn’t love: Clock Dance, The Kiss Quotient, and There There. I feel badly not having enjoyed these as much as everyone else seemed to, especially because The Kiss Quotient and There There were written in “own voices.”

What I’m reading next: Next Year in Havana, since I seem to be the last person on earth to have read this book, and because I know my mom has wanted to talk to me about it for at least three months. I’m also picking up November Road to do a buddy read with some fun bookstagrammers.

What are your top books of 2018? What was a miss for you?

2018 Favorite Books | www.deniseadelek.com

books

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain | www.deniseadelek.comI’ll preface my review with sharing that time travel is not really my cup of tea… Diane Chamberlain, however, IS my cup of tea and I am now convinced that this is the perfect combination. I’ve read most of Diane’s recent works, including one of my all-time favorites, Necessary Lies. I’m thrilled when I hear of a new release, and I was even more excited to get the opportunity to read it in advance thanks to SheSpeaks.

Beginning in 1970, Caroline finds herself pregnant with a daughter that has a fatal heart condition if unaltered. The caveat? She will have to travel through time in order to have the surgery- in New York City in 2001. Assisted by her physicist brother-in-law, Caroline takes the ultimate leap of faith in order to do what is best for her unborn daughter.

Caroline is a Vietnam War widow who feels like she has nothing to lose. She makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the life she is carrying, and jumps forward in time without knowing what to expect or what the world is like.

I loved the juxtaposition of the Vietnam War with the months leading up to 9/11, as well as everywhere in between. I found myself rooting for all of the characters on every single page, just like in every single other one of her books I’ve read. Diane Chamberlain is the master of developing complex characters and emotional storylines.

For: readers with a touch of magical realism, or those who loved the Time Traveler’s Wife.

Pairs well with: something comforting, like a big mug of tea or hot chocolate. Also, a salty breeze, or at least a beachy scented candle.

Rating: 4/5 stars, I think that the time travel aspect detracted from the incredible drama that Chamberlain is usually able to create in her more conventional stories.

I received an advanced copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley, and a beautiful advanced reader copy from SheSpeaks. This book is officially available in stores October 2, 2018.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain | www.deniseadelek.com

books

two books to keep you up at night

If you’re a perpetual seven year-old like me, then you also happen to be afraid of the dark, and easily influenced by the things you read, see and hear right before you go to bed. When my husband was away for work last month, I only read lighthearted books (and the mammoth Chernow Hamilton biography) so I wouldn’t skyrocket our electrical bill by having every single light on in our house.

Spoiler alert- I had all the lights on anyway. Below are two books you should read when you aren’t home alone, or if you’re a real adult (unlike me) that you could read whenever!

the last time i lied by riley sager | deniseadelek.comThe Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

I ordered this as my July Book of the Month, fully knowing that I wouldn’t permit myself to read this until I was well into August. Three girls go missing from a sleepaway camp in upstate New York, with their fourth cabinmate, Emma, being the last person to see them alive.

Fifteen years later, Emma is invited back to the newly reopened camp to teach painting classes to the new batch of girls. Assigned to the same cabin where her life changed forever, someone at the camp is tormenting Emma and keeping her from getting the closure she desperately seeks.

I loved the seemingly endless twists and turns in this book, even though they had me drawing the curtains.

The Breakdown by B.A. Paristhe breakdown by ba paris | deniseadelek.com

After listening to Behind Closed Doors as an audiobook at 2x speed driving home from a trip to Iowa, I knew I had to snag the next book from B.A. Paris and dedicate some supervised time to tearing through The Breakdown.

Cass drives home in a rain storm and detours down a country road where a woman is stopped on the side of the road. The next day, she finds out that the woman has been killed, and she may have been the last person to see her alive.

Consumed with guilt, and beginning to forget everything but that fateful night, Cass can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. I finished this and wanted to start right back over again. Full disclosure- I did NOT like the most recent title from B.A. Paris, Bring Me Back.

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What books kept you up at night? I need to backload my “read while supervised” list since Brendan is home for the next two months straight! Thanks for reading!

 

books

the masterpiece by fiona davis | book review

I don’t know where to begin when describing how much I loved The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis! I received this book earlier this summer as an advanced reader copy, and my only regret is that I didn’t start reading it sooner! I really loved how this story reminded me of the intrigue and vivid detail of The Girl You Left Behind, while still feeling fresh and new.

the masterpiece by fiona davis book review

The Masterpiece is a juxtaposition of two women’s stories, one in the late 1920s and one in the mid 1970s, both during difficult financial times in New York City. The earlier story features a female illustrator, Clara, who is teaching at an art school nestled in the top floors of the illustrious Grand Central Station. Fast forward more than fifty years to Virginia, who has not been dealt the best cards following her divorce, and is working at the information desk in a now decrepit Grand Central Station.

I loved how this story shed a light on how challenging it was to be a female artist in the beginning of the twentieth century, as well as the challenges faced by working women in the 1970s. Both characters were women you wanted to rally behind and cheer for, no matter what happened to them.

the masterpiece fiona davis book review | deniseadelek.wordpress.com

Another thing I really loved about this book is that you could enjoy being a fan of art, without having to be an expert to catch on to what Davis was writing about. I like to be able to focus on books without having my phone near me when I read, and I didn’t feel like I had to google such-and-such painting by xyz artist to fully get the plot- which I loved!

Having recently stayed at the Hyatt Grand (which has an entrance that feeds directly into the Grand Concourse, read more about NYC here and here) earlier this summer, I loved reading about one of my favorite historical landmarks in New York City. Fiona Davis really brought the location and the time periods to life, and I could picture myself exactly where the characters were standing.

The Masterpiece is out in just two short weeks (August 7, 2018) and you won’t want to miss a great read that everyone will be talking about!

For: lovers of historical fiction juxtaposed with more modern times, readers who love to root for the main characters, and love some accuracy to their fiction, especially when it comes to art or architecture.

Pairs well with: a trip to New York City, either scheduled or something to think back to. Preferably with a stop at Grand Central, or somewhere else to appreciate art deco design (there are PLENTY of options in NYC).

Rating: 5/5 stars

books

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

For me, I was sold on the cover of The Queen of Hearts before I even cracked the book open, but of course I had to read it too. I’d seen a ton of beautiful Instagram posts about this book, and had heard it buzzed about in many different outlets. I finally tracked a copy down from our library and jumped right in following a disappointing jaunt with an advanced reader copy of a late-summer release.

the queen of hearts by kimmery martin | summer beach read book review | deniseadelek.wordpress.com

The Queen of Hearts is told from the perspective of two female physicians, Emma, a trauma surgeon and Zadie, a pediatric cardiologist. Emma and Zadie are instant best friends from the moment they meet, and their medical schooling is woven together through their residency and fellowship in Louisville, Kentucky. The story alternates between their residency, when a traumatic event happens to the duo, and to present day, when another event threatens to tear apart their years of solid friendship.

queen of hearts

I liked that this story featured two highly-educated, career-driven women who were nowhere near perfect. They juggled children, marriages and female friendship well, but still struggled with challenges at their jobs, with their friends, and being mothers and wives. All too often, I find myself reading about the *perfect* character who seems to have it all together and live an entirely unrealistic life.

The secrets and intrigue in this story make it utterly readable, I tore through this in about a day and a half with no problem. Stick this in your carry-on or beach bag and you’ll be sure to check it off your list.

For: people with a greater-than-average knowledge of medicine, readers who like strong female characters, and those who want to band together over a mutually disliked character.

Pairs well with: a generously poured glass of red wine and a night you can stay up late to finish.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Have you read The Queen of Hearts? Let me know what you thought below!

books

First Friday Book Review: How to Walk Away

As the weather has been getting warmer, it seems like I’ve had a fire lit underneath me to tear through more and more books! I snuck off to the library down the street from my office on lunch last week and picked up How to Walk Away by Katherine Center and a few other titles.

how to walk away by katherine center

By nature of the way the books landed on my passenger seat,  How to Walk Away was the first on the agenda, and I am so glad that to share this sweet story as my first-ever standalone book review on my blog! Stay tuned for more book reviews on the first Friday of every month, in addition to some lists and round-ups throughout the month.

Margaret Jacobsen is a young woman who seems to have it all- she’s fresh out of her MBA program, has an aspiring pilot and overachiever boyfriend, Chip, and has a great new career lined up. Everything changes for her when Chip pushes her out of her comfort zone and forces her to face her fear of flying head on– and crashes their plane.

Her recovery looks bleak, Chip can’t seem to handle the fact that he caused a great harm to Margaret, and to top it off, her physical therapist is completely detached and not sympathetic to her issues. Much of this story takes place inside the hospital walls, and is really enhanced by the dysfunctional-albeit-caring family dynamics.

My favorite part of this story was how real the situation seemed to be, and that the author did not try to sugarcoat what recovering from a spine injury is like. I also got an even greater appreciation for the work that occupational and physical therapists do for patients in and out of the hospital. My uncle suffered from a broken pelvis and traumatic brain injury upon being knocked off his bike in a forest preserve; I remember the incredible work that OT and PT staff at the hospital did to help him learn how to walk, swallow, and talk again, and to live a normal life.

Without giving too much away, I loved that this story had a less-than-perfect, but still happy ending. How to Walk Away was a nice break from the psychological domestic fiction I seem to find myself reading (and also find myself being too scared to get out of bed to go to the bathroom at night) lately.

how to walk away by katherine center | deniseadelek.wordpress.com

For: lovers of Nine Women, One Dress, people who love adorable covers, and fans of Liane Moriarty but could do with slightly less internal turmoil and negligent domestic crimes.

Pairs well with: Hard seltzer and a sunny spot on your back porch.

Rating: 4.75/5 stars (only because I feel like there could have been more misery inflicted on a certain character who deserved it).

Have you read How to Walk Away? Let me know what you thought, and look out for more reviews coming soon!

books

3 must-pack beach reads

Something about April showers and a May that has been slow to bloom has had me tearing through books in the evenings after we wind down for the day.  In 2017, I really struggled to reach my Goodreads goal of 75 books, but this year the app let me know I’m 9 books ahead of schedule with no slowing down in sight. Here are a few recent picks that I loved and am eager to share with you!

the perfect mother by aimee molloy
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
I’ve been really into the “domestic fiction” genre that has emerged as of recently. I love reading about complex characters and diving into a psychological, suspenseful story. A mom’s group in Brooklyn meets with their brand new babies, and a night out turns catastrophic when one of the babies is missing. No one is what they seem, and there’s plenty of intrigue as the story takes you through a humid summer in the city.  Every page reveals a new detail, or a red herring. I couldn’t read this book fast enough, despite having to take Benadryl a few nights before bed, I found myself wanting to stay up later and later to read. When I finished this book, I was ready to start it over again knowing what I know now. Read this one carefully!
summer beach-read books | the great alone by kristin hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
From the author of the poignant and powerful The Nightingale comes The Great Alone, a story about a family who has run away from it all and reached the end of the world in Alaska. Leni and her parents try to homestead in Alaska as her father tries to out run the trauma of being a prisoner of war in Vietnam. While this book did not start off as fast-paced as The Nightingale, I found myself fully invested in this story, and was left with a bit of a book hangover when it was time to be done. I’m glad to own this book, as I plan to pass along between my friends, wanting to share this artfully crafted story.

Forks, Knives and Spoons by Leah DeCesare
I’ll be the first to admit that a good book cover sometimes is enough to lure me in, and Forks, Knives and Spoons was one of those. I belong to a Facebook group led by Jen Cannon of the page In Literary Love, a fun bookstagram account to follow, and it seemed like I was seeing this book all over. The story is set at Syracuse University and New York City in the late 80s & early 90s, and I absolutely loved how the story is helped along by the lack of social media, cell phones and email. The main character’s father has a theory about males that characterizes them as either a fork, knife or spoon, and this silly theory characterizes everything the characters do during their time in school and in the post-grad world. You’ll definitely be thinking about silverware in a new light after this!

Did you read all the way to this part? Good! If you got here, I want to send you an Amazon gift card so that you can get yourself one of these books (or something else on your to-read list). Everyone who leaves a comment below with what their top pick would be of the books listed will be entered to win an Amazon gift card (contest open until Monday, May 28 at 9:00 PM CST).

summer beach-read books | the perfect mother, the great alone and forks, knifes and spoons