Review: Over the Top, Jonathan Van Ness

It’s been a hot minute since I watched Queer Eye, but I adored JVN. His personality, his super pro body positivity, and overall poise made him my favorite.

When I started this audiobook, I got several messages from people saying they loved this book. Now I see why.

Jonathan was so incredibly raw and honest on every page. He made me giggle and snort laugh but also made me stop and think. His storytelling pulled me into his world.

Review: The Rural Diaries, Hilarie Burton Morgan

This book is what I call a palate cleanser. The perfect book to pull me out of a rut and leave me smiling.

It’s kinda like a warm chocolate chip cookie on a fall day. Comforting. Nostalgic.

in Rural Diaries, Hilarie is honest and raw. She shares the good and the bad. I found her voice to be relatable and warm. I loved learning more about Hilarie and Jeffrey and their life on Mischief Farm.

Review: What’s Yours and Mine, Naima Coster

This isn’t the kind of book you devour in one sitting. It’s one you read slowly and digest.

What’s Yours and Mine follows two families, the Venturas and Gilberts. The two families are deeply connect but neither seem to be aware of their tragically linked past.

The story bounces between 2002 and present day and covers hard topics, but I felt it barely scratched the surface of some of those issues. There were few consequences for those who were in the wrong.

If you love books with a few characters that are super easy to hate, you’ll enjoy hating a few folks in this one.

Review: A Summer to Remember, Erika Montgomery

(thank you to @stmartinspress for the free book)

You know when you’re reading a book and you’re 1000% sure you’ve figured out the plot twist so you read slower and get all “meh”?

Um, yeah … this book smacked that smugness right off my face. I was wrong. So wrong.

I’m a sucker for Hollywood themed books. I’m a dreamer, what can I say. A Summer to Remember was the perfect Hollywood, but not Hollywood, book. I fell in love with Frankie immediately. I wanted to hug Frankie and thank her for her earnestness. She felt so real.

I think I could read a whole book with Frankie, Gabe, Louise and Russ.

Review: That Summer, Jennifer Weiner

(thank you to Atria for the free book)

I’m fairly certain that I will read anything Jennifer Weiner writes and love it. Her characters just feel so real and relatable. She weaves timely and import messages into her stories. She doesn’t shy away from the difficult or the heartbreaking.

That Summer was no exception. Daisy and Diana were complex and strong women who chose when and how they were ready to face their truths.

Review: People We Meet on Vacation, Emily Henry

This book was pure perfection. Seriously. Everything about it was exactly what I wanted and needed.

I loved Poppy and Alex. I loved their banter. I loved their summer trips. I loved their commitment to who they were and the way they embraced each other’s quirks.

While this was definitely a slow-burn friends to lovers romance, it definitely didn’t feel that way. Henry took us on a long, winding journey of friendship and life while also allowing us to globetrot during a pandemic. All of which made this book a winner for me.

I want—no, I need—more Alex and Poppy.

Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin

Can I give this book 10,000 stars? I don’t even know how to write a review that even begins to touch the pure magic that lives inside this book.

When I first started reading A.J. Fikry, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. But I quickly warmed up to this curious and cranky man and his bookstore.

Each page provided a surprising plot shift that made me fall more in love with A.J.

Have you read this one?

Review: Little Pieces of Me, Alison Hammer

(thank you to William Morrow for the free copy)

I absolutely LOVED Alison Hammer’s first novel, You and Me and Us. So, I had insanely high expectations for Little Pieces of Me.

And it did not disappoint.

I felt every single emotion on this roller coaster of a book. I felt both anger and sympathy towards Betsy/Elizabeth. My heart broke for Paige as she grieved her father and learned the truth.

I absolutely loved Paige and her story. And Jeff, such a swoony boyfriend.

Adding Alison Hammer to my MUST buy list.

Review: The Memory Collectors, Kim Neville

(thank you @atriabooks for the free book)

This book was so incredibly immersive!

I loved how the entire story was woven together and how the characters developed over the course of the book. I’m not sure I’ve read anything like this book before.

Evelyn and Harriet both carried their secrets and pain while also carrying the strong emotions of others. The bright objects and stains give them a way to hide from their painful histories.

It did take me a bit to get into the story but once I did, I was hooked.

Change

Change is hard. Change is necessary. Change is (sometimes) scary.

I’ve never been one to dive headfirst into the water. I’m more of a dip my toe in, test it out, make a to-do list (first one toe, then two, then maybe a foot … you get the idea), and then, and only then, will I consider diving in headfirst.

I’ve often joked that as the product of a hippie mother and an ultra-conservative father, I fall smack dab in the middle of practical and impulsive. I dream of the freedom and fun that comes from being bold and impulsive, but I crave the stability of planning and routines. It’s a fun place to live.

This past year has been filled with all the cliches of personal growth. I spent a lot of time soul searching, even more time trying to unblur the lines between work and home, and a LOT of time juggling dirty diapers with Teams meetings and to-do lists. I wish I could tell you that I’ve come out of that phase of life with a renewed sense of clarity and purpose, but that would be a beautiful lie.

If anything, I am more confused than ever. Well, I suppose I could claim to have a confused sense of clarity. The things I want and need are clearer, but the path to get there has gotten a bit rockier than I’d anticipated.

I won’t regale you with all the gory details of the bumps and potholes that have littered that path, but I will say this … they’ve forced me to sit and think. I’ve spent countless hours the past few weeks meditating and thinking and contemplating what my next steps in life are.

The only certainties I’ve found are that my passion continues to lie within words and stories and humanity. I find solace in a good book. Writing is my therapy. I will always, always be a loud advocate for and a student of human rights. There are the three strongest pillars of who I am at the core of myself.

With all of this soul searching, I’ve also found that there are situations I cannot and will not tolerate. It is with this newfound knowledge and appreciation for my mental health and well-being that I am embarking on the next phase of my life and career. I am opening myself to the possibilities that lie ahead … with a teensy bit of fear and trepidation, but head and heart first.