Happy Monday, friends!
I am going to do On My Nightstand posts differently this year and round books up for you on a monthly basis. I think this will be an easier system for both you and me—and hopefully keep me more honest about reaching my goal of reading 62 books this year. I’ve also been sharing what I am reading in real time on my Instagram Stories and, as always, on Goodreads, in case you’re looking for more ideas on what to read!
The first book I finished reading this year was Michelle Obama’s Becoming—it’s not included below as I wrote about it in the last OMN post. Spoiler alert though—I loved it, and regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on, I think you’d find it an enjoyable read. Of all the stories Michelle told, my favorite ones included her mother, Marian. Not only does she sound like an absolute boss (I mean, denying Secret Service protection and then casually walking to CVS whenever she wanted?!), I teared up when Michelle Obama talks about Marian’s selfless love for her and Craig, and how every hour she spent on them was an hour she didn’t spend on herself. It reminded me so much of my own mom!
In January, I read so many good books—there’s not a single one on the list that I wouldn’t recommend! People often ask me how I am able to read so many books, and I think there are a few factors at play.. For one, I am pretty fast reader and know when I can skim things without losing understanding. For another, I make time to read almost everyday—it’s a huge part of my bedtime routine and a great way to step out of my world at the end of the day. And thirdly, I know what kind of genres I like to read, and I typically don’t stray too far from those. (For instance, I don’t like fantasy and typically avoid psychological thrillers.) I’m sure I could be better about pushing myself outside of my reading comfort zone, but there are so many things that are challenging about life, I choose to give myself a pass when it comes to reading and read what I love.
Please drop me a note to let you know what you’ve been reading—I always love your suggestions!
CHARLOTTE WALSH LIKES TO WIN // JO PIAZZA
Silicon Valley executive Charlotte Walsh decides to run for Senate in her home state of Pennsylvania. She moves her husband Max and their three daughters to the rust belt town where she grew up. She hires brilliant campaign strategist, Josh, to run her campaign—and he agrees, so long as she never lies to him and she always picks up his calls. As the campaign gets underway, her opponent is relentless and begins to play extremely dirty. Meanwhile, her family is feeling the pressure that a political campaign often brings, and her relationship with her husband starts to fray. Then, the media uncovers a secret that could ruin her marriage and her career, and Charlotte must decide whether she’ll win the election at all costs. I really enjoyed this story—I thought it showed how all-encompassing a campaign trail can be, not only for the candidate, but for their family. I also thought it did a great job exploring the double standard women face when running for office. Regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on, I think you’ll find Charlotte a likable protagonist—and her story was a page-turner.
Would I recommend it? Jo Piazza is one of my favorite authors, and this is my favorite book of hers!
THE SECRET WIFE // GILL PAUL
Recommended to me by my friend Diana, The Secret Wife has become one of my all-time favorite books. The story follows Tatiana Romanov, who falls in love with a Russian soldier during WWI as she nurses him back to health. Her father’s popularity rapidly declines, and eventually, the Romanov family is moved to the Ipatiev House, where they are brutally murdered in 1918. Only, in the novel, Tatiana isn’t murdered that night. A mere 24 hours before the murder, Dmitri, who had followed the family to the town where they were held captive, devised a plan where Tatiana would trade places with a housekeeper so she could help Dmitri lobby a businessman for her family’s freedom. Yet, while she is out of the Ipatiev House, she’s kidnapped and Dmitri loses her yet again. Fast forward to 2016, when Kitty escapes from her separated husband to her great-grandfather’s rural cabin in America. There she finds a jeweled Fabergé pendant that prompts her to go looking into her family’s history.
If you’re worried this novel would make light of the Romanov family’s brutal murder, I can assure you it does not romanticize their deaths in any way. This novel is so well-well researched and well-written that it’s sensitive to history—I enjoyed the story, but also learned a lot about the Romanov family and the Russian Revolution.
Would I recommend it? 10000%! I absolutely loved this book. Definitely pick this one up if you’re interested in the Romanov family like me.
THE LOST DAUGHTER // GILL PAUL
Once I finished The Secret Wife, Diana said I had to read The Lost Daughter next, and I happily obliged. This historical fiction begins in a similar way as The Secret Wife, with the Romanov family under threat from the Revolution. While in the Ipatiev House, Maria captures the attention of two guards—one who sneaks her a birthday cake, and one who assaults her. A few days later, her family is marched to the basement where they are executed at point-blank range. The family is then thrown in the back of a truck to be taken to a mass grave. Flash forward 55 years, and Val’s father in Australia’s final words are, “I didn’t want to kill her.” Val then puts her detective hat discover her father’s past in Soviet Russia.
In her author’s note, Gill Paul writes that the Romanov girls could have grown old and had families and had careers and had passions, but life robbed them of those opportunities. Her books try to give them those opportunities, and I think that really speaks to the power of these historical fictions. These two books have humanized the Romanovs to me more than any other work I’ve interacted with before.
Would I recommend it? Yes! I liked The Secret Wife more, but The Lost Daughter is still a must-read in my opinion. It’s well-written, based in so much historical research, and a great look at the tragedies that befell Russia during and after the communist revolution.
ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW // NICOLE CHUNG
This memoir has been getting a ton of buzz and I see why—not only was it well written, it was such an informative read for me about living as a minority, the savior complex many adoptive parents often have, and the impacts adoption can have on childhood and adulthood. Nicole was born premature in the 1980s, and placed up for adoption by her Korean parents. She was adopted and raised by a white family in rural Oregon, where she seldom saw another Asian person. Though her adoptive parents were loving, she grew up with a feeling of otherness that left her questioning her identity and her worth. When she becomes pregnant with her first child, she decides she wants to find her Korean family—and was successful. Only what she finds isn’t quite the family she imagined as a child.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely—I’ve always been curious about what it would be like to be adopted and adoption in general. Nicole’s story is beautifully written and dives into the complexities of adoption that are often romanticized by the media and pop culture. I’d recommend this memoir to anyone.
ROOMIES // CHRISTINA LAUREN
I loved Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, so I was so excited when it was my turn to read this one from the library. The story follows Holland, who for months, has gone to the subway station to listen to a cute Irish musician play. One day, she works up the nerve to ask him his name—and he introduces himself as Calvin. After their interaction, she’s mugged in the subway station and ends up on the train tracks. Calvin saves her, but doesn’t stick around to serve as witness to the authorities. When her uncle, who’s a Broadway musical director, is in desperate need of talent, Holland brings him to the station to see Calvin play. Her uncle is blown away and Calvin lands the role. The only kicker? He’s in the country illegally. So that he can star in the show and she can help her uncle out, Holland offers to marry Calvin—and he agrees and moves in. They then begin the process of getting to know each other so they can convince immigration their marriage is real—and Holland begins to wonder, will the lines between pretend and reality become blurred?
Would I recommend it? Definitely—this was such a cute chick lit read, and despite it being predictable, I couldn’t put it down.
EVIDENCE OF THE AFFAIR // TAYLOR JENKINS REID
This short story is currently free on Amazon with Prime or Kindle Unlimited, and I can’t recommend it enough. Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors, and it’s been a while since she published a new novel, so I was excited to discover this one randomly. Written as a series of letters between Carrie and David in 1976 as they discover the details of the affair between their spouses. They write to each other about their lives, their marriages, and how they ended up in the club no one wants to belong to. I can’t say much more without giving the plot away—but the ending was so good!
Would I recommend it? Yes! Such a short read that gave me the TJR fix I so desperately needed.