Happy April! I’m back with the books I read in Q1 this year (January, February, March) and there were a lot of good ones that made their way to my nightstand. Over the past several months, I read 22 books. The reading goal I set for myself at the start of the year was 75 books, so unless things go totally awry, I’m pretty on track. (You can view my tips for reading often here.)
Before I recap all the books I read recently, I wanted to remind you of my book rating system:
- Five Stars: an amazing book I could not put down and/or stop thinking about once I finished it; would highly recommend reading it!
- Four Stars: a great book that stands out above your average read that I would highly recommend reading.
- Three Stars: an average book that I generally enjoyed, but if you asked me for a book recommendation, I’d probably recommend another title first.
- Two Stars: a terrible book that was hard to finish; I would not recommend reading it.
- One Star: a book that was among the worst I’ve ever read. You probably won’t see too many of these because I usually DNF (do not finish) these books and don’t count them towards my yearly reading goal.
I keep track of everything I read in real-time over on Goodreads and via my Instagram Stories if you don’t want to wait for these quarterly book roundups.
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 am really grateful for the opportunity to partner with Random House in this way. And, as always, you can follow along with what I am reading in real time over on Goodreads.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
I loved this book and was so sad when I finished it — second chance romance novels are probably my favorite genre.
Eva is a single mother and bestselling author. Shane is a reclusive, award-winning novelist, who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York City. That’s when Eva and Shane find themselves on the same panel at a literary event — and as the sparks fly, everyone around them takes note. But what they don’t know is that 15 years earlier, Eva and Shane spent seven days in June madly in love. And they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books ever since.
Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr
This book was so freaking good — an amazing thriller about art heists, fashion, and World War II? Sign me up!
Jules is a rising young journalist who talks her way onto Dan Mansfield’s legendary investigative journalism team. Only her first assignment is a secret from the newspaper he’s employed by. Dan asks Jules to help him locate a painting stolen from the Nazis more than 75 years earlier. World-famous shoe designer Ellis Baum wants the painting at any cost for highly personal reasons, and has enlisted Dan and his team to help find it. Only they don’t have much time as Ellis is dying. Meanwhile, in Europe, powerful art dealer Margaux de Laurent is also looking for the painting — and Dan and his team know they must get to it first.
Not Drinking Tonight by Amanda E. White
I’ve been trying to drink less and explore my relationship with alcohol this year — Merritt beck recently recommended this book on her podcast, and I was intrigued. It’s a great tool to help you figure out why you drink, set boundaries, and indulge in true self care. The author doesn’t push sobriety, more just helps you address the root issues that are causing you to reach for a drink.
The Man I Never Met by Elle Cook *
I read this one in one sitting on a plane ride and couldn’t get enough of it! Hannah picks up a call from an unknown number and thinks nothing of it. Turns out, it’s an easy-going American named Davey who misdialed her while calling into a job interview. Hannah never expects to hear from him again. Then she gets a text saying he got the job and will be moving to London. Soon their texts turn into calls, and Hannah can’t wait to start a relationship with Davey in earnest when he lands in London. But when Hannah goes to the airport, Davey isn’t there — and the reason why changes both of their lives in an instant.
Holiday Romance by Catherine Walsh
This was the first book I read in 2023 — and made me so glad that I discovered new-to-me author Catherine Walsh as I love her work! Molly and Andrew are trying to get home to Ireland to Christmas when a snowstorm grounds their flight. Nothing romantic has ever happened between them, but once a year, for the last ten years, they have flown home from Chicago together. When the storm hits, Molly is determined to get Andrew home for his favorite holiday with his family — and such begins the hijinks of their wild trip home!
The Rebound by Catherine Walsh
Abby’s fiancé left her and then the company she works at folded, so she’s forced to return back to her childhood home in rural Ireland that she swore she would never return to. She’s feeling unlucky, until a super cute guy named Luke offers her a ride home. She realizes he could be the perfect rebound. It’s a flawless plan. Until the next day, when she realizes Luke isn’t a stranger after all — he’s her childhood neighborhood. And he’s known exactly who she is the entire time.
One Night Only by Catherine Walsh
Sarah is heading off to her best friend’s wedding in Ireland, and when she arrives, she realizes that back in the states, she had a one night stand with the best man, Declan, who is the brother of the groom. Is there anything more mortifying than running into your one night stand halfway around the world, especially when he seems to embarrass you at every turn? Back in New York City, the more Sarah tries to forget Declan, the more she seemingly can’t…
Becoming Free Indeed by Jinger Duggar Vuolo
A fun fact about me is that I was a huge sucker for TLC reality television shows — 19 Kids & Counting, Little People, Big World, and Jon & Kate Plus 8 — I loved them all. So as a longtime follower of the #FreeJinger movement, I had to read this book. It does not present itself as a tell-all and is positioned to be a retrospective on how Jinger untangled her Christian beliefs from those of Bill Gothard.
If you were a fan of the show or interested in the Duggar family, it could be worth a read — but you can definitely get the Spark notes from all the media she did around the book. One thing I had a really hard time squaring was that she talks about Bill Gothard’s beliefs as harmful and causing a lot of turmoil, fear, and unnecessary restriction in her life, but puts none of the blame on her parents in introducing and enforcing a belief system that quite literally put her and her sisters in danger. Likely cognitive dissonance, and easier for me to say as an outsider, but very striking nonetheless.
I am very impressed by her and how far she has come — breaking free from a cult is not easy work. I am glad she is happy, and I am rooting for her.
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
Mila is living in Kyiv with her young son when Hitler invades Russia and life sends her on a different path than the one she expected. She becomes a sniper on the front lines of the war, known as Lady Death. When news of her 300th Nazi kill makes her a national heroine, she is taken off the battlefield and sent on an American goodwill tour to try and convince the United States to join the war. Even in the Nation’s Capitol, however, there’s still a deadly foe lurking in the shadows.
I loved this one! It felt very thriller-like with lots of intrigue and mystery. This is also based on a true story, which made it even more captivating.
Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez
This was such a cute read! Alexis finds her car broken down in a small town when an attractive stranger, Daniel, helps her out in a bind. She initially thinks she will never see him again — he’s a small town carpenter running a bed + breakfast and she’s a high-powered ER doctor. Yet, Alexis keeps finding herself back in his small town — but she knows letting their relationship become anything more than a short-term fling would mean disownment from her family. How can she possibly choose between her world and his?
Spare by Prince Harry *
I have a wide variety of thoughts on Prince Harry’s memoir. For one, unlike some people, I actually found the military stories very interesting — namely how they trained Prince Harry and his fellow troops to withstand torture. That being said, I saw no reason for him to disclose the number of Taliban fighters he killed — to me, it wasn’t additive to the narrative. For another, I found Harry and Meghan more sympathetic in their Netflix documentary series than I did in the book. I have a lot of conflicting opinions on the couple — I do think Meghan is subject to racist, awful critiques from the press and I think Harry is deeply, deeply traumatized from losing his mother at such a young age, in such a public fashion. He was clearly in denial she was dead for a very long time. That being said, for someone who claims they want to reconcile with their family, he said a lot of hurtful things and seems to have an inability to see his own culpability in any situation.
Overall, I think Harry and Meghan are overexposed right now, and if they want to become the beloved figures they so desperately want to be, they need to take a break from the spotlight.
Eight Rules of Love by Jay Shetty
There was a week there where I felt like Jay Shetty was on all my favorite podcasts, so needless to say, I ended up being influenced to buy his latest book. Prior to becoming an inspirational speaker and author, he was a monk for three years. This book has something for everyone — whether you’re looking for love, wanting to make your relationship better, or ready to break up. He has great, actionable advice. My only complaint is that it was a little long — I probably could have cherry-picked the sections I was most interested in better, but I did this via audiobook and the chapters were not well labeled.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
This was a beautifully written story that definitely had me in tears at points — it reminded me of a more raw version of Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane.
Edith and Ashley have been friends for 40+ years — and they’ve been through all of life’s major milestones together. But now, the unthinkable has happened and Edith is dying of ovarian cancer. Ash spends her days at her bedside at hospice — simultaneously trying to hold on and let go.
The Power of Regret by Daniel H. Pink
I did this one as an audiobook, and while I thought it was interesting, I have enjoyed other non-fiction more. This book looks at how regret is a normal and healthy part of being human — it can help us make smarter decisions and bring greater meaning to our lives. It explores the four core types of regrets and how we can use them to change our lives moving forward. =
Runaway Groomsman by Meghan Quinn
Sawyer is a Hollywood screenwriter and he knows a good love story when he sees one — but when it comes to his own love life, he’s a mess. When his ex-girlfriend marries his famous best friend, he walks out mid-ceremony and leaves a PR disaster in his wake. Needing to fly under the radar for a while, he decamps to a small town where he crosses paths with Fallon, who is struggling to renovate her family’s rental cabins while her grandfather suffers from Alzheimer’s. When Sawyer checks in, Fallon is grateful for the income, but figures he’ll be a lazy Hollywood hack — until he proves her wrong at every turn.
Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn
Georgie is a long-time personal assistant who is used to putting everyone first. She unexpectedly finds herself without a job and back in her hometown unsure about what her next move should be. But then, she comes across a diary she wrote as a teenager filled with all the possibilities she once imagined for her life. So she gets started on completing some of the ideas in the diary — only she hits a snag when she finds an unexpected roommate who is also staying in her parents’ house, Levi. He was once the town troublemaker, but offers to help Georgie complete the tasks in the diary. And it turns out, they both might need to let go of the pasts that hold them back.
It’s Okay to Laugh by Nora McInery
I did this one as an audiobook — I heard Nora interviewed on a podcast last year and was so captivated by her story that I wanted to read her memoir. Done as a beautiful series of essays, Nora shares about how her husband, Aaron, and her father both passed away from cancer within a few weeks of each other. After Aaron’s death, Nora has to pick up the pieces as a 32-year-old widow and mother. Definitely have the tissues ready when you read this one!
Finding Jackie by Oline Eaton
This biography chronicles the fashionable First Lady’s life from childhood to JFK’s Presidency and beyond, showcasing Jackie as as an adventurer, a wanderer, a woman, and an idea in whom many Americans and people around the globe deeply, fiercely wanted to believe. In this biography, her story is contextualized alongside the Civil Rights movement, women’s liberation, and the Vietnam War, and despite being a longtime fan of Jackie O, I learned so much from this one.
Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey
I read the first book in this series last year, so I was curious to read the sequel. Candidly, I liked the first book better than the sequel, but would probably pass on this series all together in favor of other reads.
The first book follows Piper, the elder sister, and this book follows, Hannah, the younger sister. Hannah’s back in Westport, a year after she and her sister renovated a bar together and learned all about their biological dad. Hannah’s staying in Fox’s spare bedroom — he’s a notorious ladies man and helps give Hannah tips on how to catch her coworker’s eye. Only as Hannah spends more time with Fox, she realizes she might want him instead.
The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Aramas
Catalina desperately needs a date to her sister’s wedding — especially since her little white lie about her American boyfriend has spiraled out of control. Now everyone she knows, including her ex and his fiancé, will be there. She only has four weeks to find someone willing to go home to Spain with her. Enter: Aaron. Her tall, handsome, condescending colleague. He offers to step in and Catalina, desperately agrees. What could go wrong?
Things We Hide from the Light by Lucy Score
I loved the first book in this series, and while I enjoyed this one, it wasn’t as good as the first. That being said, this series would be great to dive into on a vacation — the characters are all really likable, and the plot is a good mix of romance and action.
This book picks up where the last one left off — Nash, the chief of police is recovering from being shot and he isn’t about to let anyone in his life know he’s struggling. But his new next-door neighbor, Lina, sees his shadows. But Lina’s got secrets of her own, and if Nash finds out the real reason she’s in town, he’ll never forgive her. Besides, she doesn’t do relationships. Ever. A hot, short-term fling with a local cop? Absolutely. Sign her up. A relationship with a man who expects her to plant roots? No freaking way. Once she gets what she’s after, she has no intention of sticking around. But Knockemout has a way of getting under people’s skin. And once Nash decides to make Lina his, he’s not about to be dissuaded — even if it means facing the danger that nearly killed him.
The Science of Stuck by Britt Frank
I added this one to my “to read” list back in Q4, which is always a more dire time in my life given it’s always busy at work. Wen I listened to it, I wasn’t feeling super stuck, so I didn’t relate to it as much as I might have expected. But, if you are feeling super stuck, this one might provide some good advice. The author teaches you about human biology often works against us in the modern world and helps provide strategies to break old patterns and habits, understand past trauma, and take control of your choices. That all being said, I found the audiobook narration of this grating to listen to, and also thought the author was extremely judgmental of anti-anxiety medication, which turned me off to the book overall.