I read a lot in April—mostly because I found an amazing new-to-me author and crushed three of her books: Renee Carlino. If you love Taylor Jenkins Reid, Christina Lauren, or any other author who writes smart, engaging chick lit, I can’t recommend her books enough. I’m excited to read more of her titles as we move through the year! I have a feeling my reader in May will be a bit slower as my travel schedule picks up this month, but I am on track to meet my goal of reading 75 books this year and hoping I get there!
As is custom on these posts, I wanted to call out that I’m part of a program where Random House will send me some of their new titles each month. I’m under no obligation to post about any titles I receive, so I really can tell you my own opinion (good or bad!) about them. I’ve starred the books Random House sent me for free below. I’m so lucky to be sent books and that’s not lost on me.
Without further ado—here’s a recap of the eight books I read last month:
THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY // MATT HAIG
Nora is 35 and decides that she doesn’t want to live anymore. When she crosses over, she doesn’t find death, but a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one with a different version of what her life could have looked like if she made a different choice. Guided by Mrs. Elm, the librarian, she gets to try on different lives she could have had—undoing old breakups, following a different career, realizing old dreams. But she can only stay in each life if she’s truly happy. As she travels through each of the volumes in the Midnight Library, she must figure out for herself what makes life worth living.
Would I recommend it? I wanted to love this book because so many people I know do—and it was the 2020 Goodreads Readers’ Choice book—but I just couldn’t get into it. I love the message; I took away that we’re all where we are supposed to be in life and all the regrets (or paths not taken) would have their own unique set of challenges. But overall, I was pretty meh on this one.
WITHOUT MERIT // COLLEEN HOOVER
The Voss family is anything but normal, and 16-year-old Merit hates it. The family lives in an old church, complete with stain glass and Biblical statues. Merit’s mother, a cancer survivor, lives in the basement. Her father is now married to her mother’s cancer nurse, and they live on the main floor with Merit, her two siblings, Honor and Utah, and her younger half-brother.
On top of all the embarrassment Merit’s family causes her, she falls for a boy who is unavailable—and who she thinks is in love with her twin sister, Honor. One night, in a drunken stupor, Merit decides to write a letter to her family, exposing family secrets she’s held onto for years. But the letter backfires, and together the Voss family must put the pieces back together.
Would I recommend it? I will read anything that Colleen Hoover writes, but this one wasn’t my favorite—it did grow on me by the end, but I’d recommend other titles by her first.
DELICIOUS! // RUTH REICHL
Billie takes a job at Delicious!, an iconic magazine in the food world. One day, Billie and the rest of the staff is informed by the publisher that they’re shuttering the title. Billie is allowed to stay at the magazine’s deserted downtown office, a historic mansion, to uphold the “Delicious Guarantee” that the publication has, which basically promises readers that they can get refunded if they make a Delicious recipe and it doesn’t turn out well.
While at the empty offices, Billie discovers a hidden room in the magazine’s famed library. It’s there she discovers letters from a 12-year-old-girl named Lulu Swann written to James Beard during the height of WWII. As she discovers more letters, it becomes a race against time to uncover how Lulu’s story ends.
Would I recommend it? I really wanted to like this one, because Ruth’s memoir, Save Me the Plums, is one of my all-time favorite reads. I did get more into this book by the end, but it felt a little long at times—there are definitely better books out there.
A PROMISED LAND // BARACK OBAMA*
President Obama is a great writer and it was awesome to get a behind the scenes look at his time in the White House. I especially loved his stories about his working relationship with Putin, meeting the Queen, and when he and Reggie Love coached Sasha and Maisy Biden’s basketball team. I also loved the inside look at his family life inside the White House with Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and Marian. This volume ends with the capture of Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011. I can’t believe it’s been ten years since that happened!
Would I recommend it? This book is DENSE and LONG. It is 700 pages! It is heavy enough to be used as a hand weight! I am a fast reader, but it took me about two months to chip away at this one. (If audio books are more your thing, I’ve heard this is a good one—but fair warning, it’s 29 hours.) That being said, I really enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the second volume.
BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS // RENEE CARLINO
Grace and Matty meet as college kids at NYU and have a whirlwind romance. The book opens fifteen years later when the two are in their mid-30s. Matty is going through a terrible divorce; his ex-wife is pregnant and now married to their mutual coworker. One day, Matty sees Grace on a subway car that departs before he can get to her. He decides to put up a Craigslist ‘Missed Connections’ post to find her. The book then flashes back in time to tell the story of how they fell in love—and where it all fell apart.
Would I recommend it? OMG—I could not put this book down and stayed up way too late reading it! I can’t recommend this one enough.
SWEAR ON THIS LIFE // RENEE CARLINO
J. Colby writes a best selling novel about growing up impoverished in small town Ohio and it becomes an overnight best seller. Emilene’s best friend has been convincing her to read it—and after reluctantly picking it up, she quickly realizes the book is based on her own dark childhood. And that means that J. Colby is actually Jase—her best friend and first love who she hasn’t seen in 12 years. Only problem? He wrote the book from her perspective and took some creative liberties—which makes Emilene absolutely furious. When she realizes he has a book tour stop in San Diego, where she’s currently living, she decides to confront him—and her dark past.\
Would I recommend it? I had to pick up another Renee Carlino book after finishing Before We Were Strangers, and I really enjoyed this one, too! I still think I like Before We Were Strangers better, but I would recommend this one, too.
WISH YOU WERE HERE // RENEE CARLINO
After a night of partying, Charlotte runs into a guy named Adam, an artist, and they have instant chemistry. He invites her out for a nightcap, and they end up having an amazing night together. But the next morning, Adam treats Charlotte super rudely and she doesn’t hear from him again—but she just can’t get him out of her mind. Fast forward a few months later and she stumbles on a huge mural of her. The only artist that could have done it? Adam. So she decides to find him and figure out what happened—and when she does, she gets some unexpected answers.
Would I recommend it? Can you tell I was on a Renee Carlino kick? This was probably my least favorite one I picked up, but I still really enjoyed it—if you’re looking for beach reads this summer, stock your beach bag full of Renee Carlino reads!
WRITERS & LOVERS // LILY KING
Set in 1997, Casey is a former child golf prodigy who now finds herself waiting tables in Boston. She’s in debt, her mother recently died, she’s dating two very different men (which leaves her even more confused), and the novel she’s been working on for six years still isn’t finished. Unlike most of her other friends who have given up the dream of a creative life in order to pay the bills, Casey is determined to make it happen for herself, even as life seems to be collapsing around her.
Would I recommend it? Another book that I was pretty meh on—it was beautifully written, but I didn’t love the plot or find Casey particularly easier to root for. I’d probably pass on this one.