It’s Been a Cruel Summer

  • What: The Proposal
  • Who: Jasmine Guillory
  • Pages: 325, soft cover
  • Genres: Contemporary fiction and chick lit
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flame

Sometimes you need a pick-me-up. In July and August, I read some great books (see here, here, and here), but there was a lot of death and sadness. It was prime-time summer reading mode, so why was I depressing myself before Labor Day? I desperately needed and wanted something fun, fast, and maybe even a little sexy (not too different from what our main characters in this review desire).

Insert The Proposal: the perfect remedy for summertime blues.

Yes, it’s classic chick lit: Boy meets girl; they have a fun fling; and you fly through their whirlwind romance with many laughs.

But Jasmine Guillory also gives us realistic sex scenes, some very tasty meals (I was craving tacos for days), cultural awareness and diversity, and zero eye-rolling over clichés. This is more than your typical summer beach read. To put it simply, it’s a really good book, of which I thoroughly enjoyed every page. Sometimes that’s all you need in a recommendation, especially in the steamy months of summer.

(And don’t read too much into this title; I have so many ideas now that T.Swift has new music.)

The Proposal

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You’ve Got a Friend in Me

Have you ever wished you could talk to your pet? I mean, you spend so much time with the little fur balls, why wouldn’t you? They can sense when you’re sad, and they comfort you with their cuddles and love. They greet you when you come home and wag their tails to communicate their excitement. It seems entirely unfair that they can’t whisper they love you and that everything’s going to be OK and that we can’t reciprocate how much they mean to us too.

Speaking with our pets is the main conduit through which author Carolyn Parkhurst tells a heartbreaking story in The Dogs of Babel. In the beginning, you think it’s just about a man trying to communicate with his dog. It seems a little crazy, but is it really the worst idea? Soon a story about grief, loneliness, mental health, and internal struggle unfolds. Just like our pets, sometimes words evade us, and it’s impossible to convey how we really feel.

The Dogs of Babel

With special guests Lucky (left) and Snowy.

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All By Myself

I’m writing this review the morning after my best friend’s wedding. It was an evening filled with love, laughter, and anything but loneliness, which makes reminiscing on my latest read a little difficult. How is it possible, after witnessing such happiness between two people and among so many family and friends, for sadness and desolation to exist in the world?

The part of me not living on cloud nine after a beautiful wedding knows the reality. And that reality is what Richard Roper captures in his debut novel, How Not to Die Alone. It’s a lighthearted story of how fantasy can never match the real deal and how it’s never too late to get the life you’ve always wanted even if that’s outside your comfort zone. Although the title may sound like 2019’s most depressing book of the year, Roper succeeds in making it an absolute treat to read — laughs, loneliness, and all.

How Not to Die Alone

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No, You Can’t Disguise

  • What: Tell Me Lies
  • Who: Carola Lovering
  • Pages: 384 pages, hard cover
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

C’mon, this book takes its title from a Fleetwood Mac song. How could I not be drawn to this?

Most women have that one guy in their past. You know the one. Most likely, but not always, a cliché bad boy. Someone who drove you crazy in both good and bad ways. The one who took a long time to get over. The one who still pops up in your memory every now and then.

Well, that drama, of which we all have a relatable anecdote, is the subject of Carola Lovering’s debut novel. Because it’s a story we all know, it’s a story that can be challenging to tell. How can you write this dilemma in a way that feels fresh yet relatable? Lovering sort of accomplishes this in her sexy book, but the ways that make it feel new are also the ways that make it incredibly frustrating.

Tell Me Lies

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Heaven Can’t Help Me Now

  • What: The Great Alone
  • Who: Kristin Hannah
  • Pages: 438 pages, hard cover
  • Genres: Contemporary fiction and historical fiction
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

I’m a sucker for scenery. It’s true. As much as I love stories about human interaction and purpose, there’s something so refreshing about reading poetic lines that perfectly depict the alluring lost corners of this world and how people connect with them.

I also crave new storylines. Don’t get me wrong: I will never scoff at boy-meets-girl and happily-ever-after plots. But my mind desires something different too. Something that allows me to explore topics and places I never thought about before or personally experienced.

For these reasons, I’ve been intrigued by Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone since it was published in early 2018. In short, it’s a story about a family that moves to Alaska to live off the land. Check out my library, and you won’t see many titles with similar summaries. I couldn’t wait to get lost in it on my trip to Africa (now that was a solid 10 flames); unfortunately, I didn’t willingly escape to another world. Instead, I couldn’t find my way out of a book that dragged on, had random and too many plot twists, and dramatized to the nth degree.

The Great Alone

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A Secret to Hide

I try to title every review after a pop culture reference — usually song lyrics — some of which are more obvious than others. The minute I finished Where the Crawdads Sing I knew I’d be choosing a song by one of two badass women: Martina McBride or Carrie Underwood. Both women are known for singing songs about wronged women who are often misunderstood and who take control of their destiny. Main character Kya Clark, aka the “Marsh Girl,” would be the perfect muse for a McBride or Underwood hit.

The Marsh Girl is the epitome of what happens when judgment innate in humans runs rampant. Author Delia Owens captures this societal flaw beautifully in her story that is still sitting pretty on the New York Times best seller list. That’s 38 weeks, people. Not too shabby. It’s easy to understand why when you read the lyrical ways Owens describes nature, specifically the marsh; the plight of a young girl who only ever yearned for some company; and how our judgments really could ruin someone’s life. Owens captures it all in this coming-of-age meets whodunit tale.

Where the Crawdads Sing

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Say You Won’t Let Go

  • What: Border Child
  • Who: Michel Stone
  • Pages: 250, hard cover
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction
  • Published: 2017
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

I received Border Child from a publisher sometime in 2018. I delayed reading it though because it seemed too real and too close to real-world problems. Books are powerful in that they call attention to immoral circumstances in our everyday lives; they’re also powerful because they can be an escape from that reality. With our current tumultuous landscape and with the U.S. border such a fiery topic, I strayed from this novel. I didn’t think my heart could take it.

I knew its purpose likely had meaning and influence and hoped it was a book that would change people’s minds, give them that “ah ha” moment that sadly this growing nationalist world needs. But I couldn’t bring the nastiness of the world into my literary one, not yet anyways.

Until I finally did — and was disappointed. Border Child has foundational power for issues that are often ignored when talking about immigration reform; however, it lacks strong storytelling to really bring these problems and challenges to the forefront of conversation. It didn’t captivate me like I had wanted, and it doesn’t do the real-life people and problems that inspired it much justice.

Border Child

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