Happy Monday, friends! I hope everyone had a great weekend! I spent mine in Clemson, SC visiting my youngest sister, Lindsey, at school. It was great to see her school and explore downtown Greenville a little bit. I’ll be sure to share a recap of our trip soon, but spoiler alert—I loved it!
Since I’ve had a lot of quality time on airplanes and in the terminal lately, I’ve been able to read more books over the last month than I typically do. I’ve also found myself immersed in some amazing books, and as a result, stayed up long past my bedtime to see what happens next. Definitely let me know if the comments below if you’ve read anything great lately—I always get such good book recommendations from you all!
As always, you can follow along with what I am reading in real time over on Goodreads—which, low key, may be my favorite social media.
HELLO, SUNSHINE // LAURA DAVE
Written by the author of Eight Hundred Grapes, Hello, Sunshine is the story of the demise of Sunshine Mackenzie, a culinary star who’s made her career on YouTube and is known for her authenticity. Then, her Twitter gets hacked and it is revealed she is a sham. As a result of this disaster, she loses her husband, her future TV show, her fans, her apartment, and her identity. With nowhere else left to go, she returns home to Montauk, where she isn’t given the warmest welcome by her estranged sister. The rest of the story follows how she rebuilds her life and her self-worth.
I thought this book was a particularly smart analysis of what it means to be an online influencer and at how we construct identities online that don’t always represent the truth.
Would I recommend it? If you’re in the mood for a cute beach read, definitely pick this one up!
DARING GREATLY // BRENE BROWN
I became familiar with Brené Brown and her work on shame, living wholeheartedly, and daring greatly through Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast. I couldn’t get enough of her two-part episode, and immediately went and bought Daring Greatly on Amazon. In this piece, Brené talks about how we must be vulnerable and deal with difficult emotions like shame, grief, fear, and disappointment if we want to fully experience joy, love, belonging, and acceptance.
I got so much out of this book that I annotated it. There were many times Brené described a situation and I went, “I thought I was the only one!” or “She is speaking right to me!” It make me think about how I need to be more comfortable with being vulnerable and showing vulnerability to others. There are lots of practical action items you can take and implement from this book, especially if you lead teams at work or parent. I will definitely be adding more of Brené’s books to my reading list.
Would I recommend it? 100%—no matter who you are, definitely add this one to your nightstand!
LIES & OTHER ACTS OF LOVE // KRISTY WOODSON HARVEY
This story flips between the perspective of Lovey, matriarch of the family, and her granddaughter, Annabelle. Lovey is dealing with the fact her husband is very ill and doesn’t have his wits about him anymore, whereas Annabelle broke off her engagement to a stable, handsome, well-monied man for a musician she met in a bar one night. Needless to say, both ladies are a crossroads in their lives. The story follows their family dynamics and explores whether or not lying to your loved ones is ever the right thing when it will protect them.
Would I recommend it? Definitely! There were a few twists in this novel I didn’t see coming and I had a hard time putting it down.
DEAR CAROLINA // KRISTY WOODSON HARVEY
Since I have been on a big Kristy Woodson Harvey kick, I decided I would read this one, too. This story follows Khaki and her husband Graham as they adopt nineteen-year-old Jodi’s baby, Carolina. Khaki, a respected interior decorator, has it all together, while Jodi, who is fresh out of rehab, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and is struggling to find her way in the world. Written for Carolina, the story alternates between Khaki’s and Jodi’s point-of-view, and really explores the relationship between mother and child and what it means to love unconditionally.
I like this story, but didn’t connect to it as much as I had some of Kristy’s other novels. However, one line that was repeated at the end of many chapters really made an impact on me: “Whenever you feel like the cards are stacked against you, remember that you can never have too many people that love you.”
THE GIRL WITH SEVEN NAMES // HYEONSEO LEE
If you’ve been reading What’s On My Nightstand posts for a while, you know that I am fascinated by, and make a point to read, North Korean defectors’ memoirs. Their stories of escape from the toughest regime on earth are always full of hope, and I always put down the book remembering that we as humans have much more in common than we think.
Hyeonseo was born in an industrial town near the Yalu River, which borders China. During the Great Famine, her family fared okay, but a month before her 18th birthday, she decided she wanted to cross the border into China as one final youthful rebellion. This turned out to be a costly mistake, as North Korea decided to do a census the day after she left—and her mother and her brother were left behind to suffer for her actions. She spends the next ten years in China, before she is able to make her way to South Korea as an asylum-seeker. She eventually is able to rescue her mother and brother, and gave a TED Talk on her escape. I could not put this one down!
Would I recommend it? YES! Everyone should read this book because not only does it shine light on the plight of the North Korean people, it shows the resilience of the human spirit is and how much we all have in common.