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December Reads & 2018 Book Recap

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Happy happy 2019! I hope you had a great NYE and enjoyed the time off these past few days. Going back to work after a week and a half away is going to be a challenge for sure (anyone else feel the same?), but the short week will help as we ease back into things!

I thought I would start off this year’s blog posts with a fave topic of mine…reading! This year, I read 55 books that are all recapped on the blog (click on where it says “texts” at the top of this post to see all of my reviews from this year and years past). I definitely did the bulk of my reading in the summer and had some very slow-for-me months where I read maybe two books because I was too busy with work/life to sit down and focus, but I’m hoping to keep reading even more in 2019, largely because it’s so much fun to share my thoughts on the blog!

Taking a cue from Grace’s big end of year book post, I thought I would do a similar categorization of everything I read this past year (although I’m not going to rank every book from best to worst like Grace did, because that takes DEDICATION).

In no particular order, here is each book I read by genre (I like how Grace did this categorization because if you’re only interested in, say, thrillers, you don’t need to read through the entire post to find some recommendations to add to your list). As I said up top, all of these are reviewed at length on the blog, so just search a title if you want to see my thoughts!

  • Fictional Thrillers: I have tons of other thrillers on my shelf that I still need to tackle, but I got through 10 this year (it honestly feels like I read way more, but it’s probably because I’ve been hooked on these over the past couple of years). 

Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell

The Ex Wife, by Jess Ryder

The Girl Before, by JP Delaney

Pretty Baby, by Mary Kubica

The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda

The Woman in the Window, by AJ Finn

The Last Mrs. Parrish, by Liv Constantine

Gone Without a Trace, by Mary Torjussen

My Husband’s Wife, by Jane Corry

The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

  • Nonfiction: I read 15 that fall into this category. Love a good memoir/thought-provoking analysis! 

From the Corner of the Oval, by Beck Dorey-Stein

Educated, by Tara Westover

Sisters First, by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

The Financial Diet, by Chelsea Fagan

The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work at the White House, by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Bachelor Nation, by Amy Kaufman

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson

Dear Madam President, by Jennifer Palmieri

In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It, by Lauren Graham

Unbelievable, by Katy Tur

Text Me When You Get Home, by Kayleen Schaefer

You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero

The Yoga Store Murder: The Shocking True Account of the Lululemon Athletic Killing, by Dan Morse

Murder in the Yoga Store, by Peter Ross Range

  • Buzz-Worthy Fiction: I read 4 that fall into this category, but it’s kind of a subjective one. 

All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin

The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn

Eleanor Olephant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

  • Light-Hearted Fiction: I read 26 that fall into this category. 

The Good Luck Charm, by Helena Hunting

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, by Jo Piazza

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, by Christina Lauren

The Intermission, by Elissa Friedland

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han

Matchmaking for Beginners, by Maddie Dawson

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories, by Celeste Fletcher McHale

The Queen of Hearts, by Kimmery Martin

Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan

Tell Me Lies, by Carola Lovering

The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

Marriage Vacation, by Pauline Brooks (aka Jo Piazza!)

Playing with Matches, by Hannah Orenstein

When Life Gives You Lululemons, by Lauren Weisberger

Limelight, by Amy Poeppel

When Katie Met Cassidy, by Camille Perri

Surprise Me, by Sophie Kinsella

The Wedding Date, by Jasmine Guillory

A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out, by Sally Franson

Hey Ladies, by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss

Romancing the Throne, by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Fitness Junkie, by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

Still Me, by Jojo Moyes

Your Perfect Life, by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Schooled, by Anisha Lakhani

Fight or Flight, by Samantha Young

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  • In no particular order, these were my 5 favorites of the year:

Tell Me Lies: I continue to be obsessed with this book and will talk your ear off about it if I see you in real life, sorry in advance!

The Alice Network: If you’re looking for a meaningful piece of historic fiction that will keep you hooked, this is it.

From the Corner of the Oval: One of my favorite reads simply because I loved the narrator’s writing style and how she lived a few blocks away from where I am now…oh, and because she had the coolest job ever.

Educated: This is such an important book and is a good followup to Hillbilly Elegy, if you liked that one!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: Sometimes you need to dive into a good YA book to get back into the swing of reading.

  • Favorite new-to-me authors from 2018: 

-Christina Lauren (this is actually a pseudonym for this writing duo!) and Jasmine Guillory (need to read her latest, The Proposal!) are my new go-tos for “rom com” type reads.

-Lisa Jewell is a great author for thrillers, and I have another one of hers on my shelf waiting to be read.

  • And, in no particular order, these are the ones you can skip (sometimes I think this type of distinction is helpful because there are truly SO many books out there and not enough time to dig through them all!): 

Hey Ladies, by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss: I did NOT like this book and thought the characters were all annoying, out of touch, and hard to follow. I know that’s a harsh review, but it just didn’t jibe with me!

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories: This one was a quick read but just not that interesting to me. There are other lighthearted books on this list that are a lot better if you’re looking for a cute beach read.

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  • Now, lastly, here’s my December recap: 

Your Perfect Life, by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: I brought this one with me to Florida and it was a light read but pretty predictable. At their 20th high school reunion, two best friends accidentally switch lives a la Freaky Friday and do their best to adapt to their new surroundings while having to make important life decisions for each other along the way. In the end, each learns something new about their values and priorities and appreciates what they do have upon switching back.

The Yoga Store Murder: The Shocking True Account of the Lululemon Athletic Killing, by Dan Morse: Given that I grew up just minutes away from the Lululemon store in Bethesda and have been back living in the area for several years, I was surprised that I wasn’t previously aware that a book (multiple books!) existed about this horrifying case (I found out about this author in another blog post). I actually read this book first and then went back and read Murder in the Yoga Store, by Peter Ross Range, because I was so fascinated by the case and wanted to learn more (though both books essentially featured the same information and background, and Morse’s was more comprehensive and better presented, so pick that one up and you’ll learn everything you need to know). I remember pretty specifically when this murder happened because I was home for my college spring break in 2011 just a week or so after the attack occurred. At the time, the community still believed that masked men were to blame (when in reality, one of the workers murdered another and fabricated a story about two men coming into the store and attacking them), and white ribbons were hanging on local stores in support of the victims. Just a week or so later, it became clear what really happened and the entire community was in shock, as were many others. While this book is definitely graphic and gruesome, it is truly eye-opening and particularly fascinating to read as a longtime resident of the community.

Schooled, by Anisha Lakhani: I hadn’t heard of this book but picked it up in my favorite used bookstore in New York a few months ago and knew it looked good. The story centers around a new teacher, Anna, who has just graduated from Columbia with a job at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious, wealthy private schools. Anna learns that the teachers are making thousands of dollars on the side tutoring students (or essentially doing their assignments in full), and gets sucked into the allure of designer bags and luxury apartments before realizing that she ultimately isn’t satisfied with her life path. While the story is fictional, I’m sure it was based on the author’s own experience teaching at the prestigious Dalton School in NYC. I was hooked right away (especially since I worked at a private school in the DC area) and definitely felt like I was back in the city while reading about Anna’s life as a young postgrad!

Fight or Flight, by Samantha Young: This book is a must read if you like Christina Lauren and other rom com authors. Flight or Flight follows a guy and a girl who meet on a plane, immediately hate each other, and then essentially end up dating after they realize they’re both in the same city, all the while dealing with some major life issues and sadnesses (this book definitely isn’t pure fluff, promise!). While the book is somewhat predictable, I thought that parts of it were very real and loved every page. It’s the perfect book to bring on a long flight (ha!) since it’s on the longer side but doesn’t feel slow at all.

-You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero: This book was a re-read for me, but it felt like an appropriate pre-New Years read and was also one I wanted to pick back up since I’m seeing the author speak at Sixth and I later this month! I always feel motivated when reading self-help books like this one because they aren’t cheesy and are very current and empowering. I’m excited to hear Jen soon and need to pick up her other books!

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June Reads

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This month got off to a fast start reading-wise, but things kind of slowed down halfway through. I have my 16-hour round trip train ride to Boston to thank for allowing me to finish several of these! I’m heading to Florida for a few days to spend some time with family for the 4th and have packed a TON of books–I always read a lot down there and am bringing a mix of beach reads and thrillers. July should be a good recap, for sure!

Here’s what I read in June:

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work at the White House, by Alyssa Mastromonaco: This was a great book to read relatively soon after finishing Katy Tur’s Unbelievable a few months ago (you can read my review about it here). This comedic memoir tells the story of Alyssa’s experience working for Barack Obama and is punctuated by her own stories of embarrassment and self-discovery. I always love reading about how people slightly older than I am got started in their field and finished the book feeling inspired by Alyssa and totally missing Barry O. Definitely read it if you love a good liberal political memoir but also have a sense of humor (there are lots of weird stories about not being able to find bathrooms, and the like!).

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng: Ok, I wasn’t sure if I would like this book or not, but I’m SO glad that I read it. I’d been on the waitlist at the library for months, finally got a copy, and decided to crack it open on a long train ride home from Boston (funnily enough, the girl next to me was sitting there reading it too, and we ended up talking about it for a bit!). While we both had been a little worried that the book would be “boring,” I was honestly so enthralled the entire time. The book tells the story of the Richardson family, living in Shaker Heights, Ohio (which is right near where my mom spent her middle school years!), as well as their tenants, Mia Warren and her teenage daughter, Pearl. After a local family brings an abandoned baby into their home, the town is divided on whether she should be returned to her birth mother or raised in her new family–and Mia is personally connected to the issue in more ways than one. Meanwhile, the teenage children of the book are making their own decisions about what family means to them and how they wish to shape their lives. Without giving too much away, the book prompts the reader to consider how they define family and the complicated decisions we each make as a result of our own familial bonds. The book was a thought-provoking read without pinpointing a “right” or a “wrong” side, and it really encouraged the reader to consider his or her own values and moral obligations. I could see it being read and discussed in a college class (#sociologymajor) across many disciplines and keep thinking about the many issues it raised.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson: This is another book I had been meaning to read for ages. It’s a quick self help read that I think raises tons of relevant issues. When should we care about things, and when should we just move on? There was one quote I really liked (I took a picture of the page, because I had to return the book to the library!). It said, “We should pick our battles carefully, while simultaneously attempting to empathize a bit with the so-called enemy….We should prioritize values of being honest, fostering transparency, and welcoming doubt over the values of being right feeling good, and getting revenge.”

When Life Gives You Lululemons, by Lauren Weisberger: Hear me out, but I remember reading The Devil Wears Prada WAY back when during the summer after my freshman year of high school (I know, I feel old!) and just not loving the writing–I did love the movie, though, and reference it all the time. I was super excited for Lauren Weisberger’s new book to come out (which I hadn’t realized was technically about Andy Sachs’ friend and coworker, Emily) and was even more thrilled when Simon and Schuster included it in a little summer reading package that they sent to me at the end of last month. As soon as I started the book, I was hooked, and I genuinely looked forward to reading it each day because I found it so amusing (and terrifying!). The book follows Miranda’s former assistant Emily (in her new life doing publicity for stars), her friend Miriam, who has quit her high-powered law firm job to raise her children in Greenwich, and Miriam’s friend Karolina, the wife of a senator, who lives in Bethesda and finds herself in trouble when she’s presumed to be driving under the influence. The book celebrates female friendship, the struggles women face, and brings to light the crazy, complicated lives of Greenwich’s elite (you’ll laugh and shudder). Highly recommend it for the beach this summer!

Limelight, by Amy Poeppel: This was another book that I’d been curious about but went into a bit skeptical because I didn’t like the author’s previous work. I thought I’d love Small Admissions, which everyone had been raving about last year (I especially thought I’d enjoy it working at a private K-12 school!), and just could NOT get into it at all. I did keep the book, though, so maybe I’ll give it another chance. However, Limelight totally captured my attention–I loved it! I snagged a copy at my favorite used bookstore in NYC, and the woman working at the register told me that she had just finished the book and loved it. The story follows Allison Brinkley and her husband, teenage daughters, and elementary school-aged son, who have just relocated from Dallas to NYC. Unfamiliar with the city, Allison struggles to find a job and her bearings, but one day ends up with an unexpected gig, serving as the PA for a teen popstar. You can guess that undoubtably tons of ups and downs follow, and all the while, Allison is trying to balance her own family life with basically raising someone else’s kid. I found the book funny and engaging and would totally recommend it for the beach or summer travel.

When Katie Met Cassidy, by Camille Perri: I had loved Camille Perri’s first book, The Assistants, and was excited to read more from her. This book tells the story of Katie, a newly single, traditional girl from Kentucky who is working as a lawyer in New York City, when one day in the office she meets a lesbian woman named Cassidy…and has all kinds of questions. Despite their differences, the two women form a bond which leads to more, shocking Katie and changing her outlook about herself and her relationships. I thought this was a very sweet read that broke the mold but also raised important questions and issues.

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The Big Book Recap

You know when you just feel so behind on something that you keep putting it off because it no longer seems relevant? That’s how I’ve felt with this book post. I’ve been reading a lot more these past few months than I had been in the fall, and my book roundups are always a favorite, but I’ve been so bad about logging everything on here.

Right after I moved, I was also in the middle of a job search, trying to get to know my new neighborhood, and the like, and reading fell on the back burner–I found that I was much happier watching a Grey’s Anatomy episode on Netflix than curling up with a book! My old job was also much more reading/writing intensive, so I didn’t always want to come home and sit down with a book or even craft a blog post.

BUT here we are! I’ve finally taken the time to crank out a monster book roundup for you guys and will try to be more consistent with these going forward. I personally like publishing monthly reading lists on here because it helps me keep track of everything I’ve read in a given year. Note that in some cases, I haven’t thought about a book for months, so the Amazon description may do better justice than anything I could write at this point. (So admittedly, this is more of a list than a full-blown recap!).

In no particular order, here’s what I’ve read:

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The Last Mrs. Parrish – How come thriller characters are always so likable at the beginning and then become INSANE by the end? This is another example of that! I was hooked and absolutely thrown for a loop when I realized what the other characters knew by the end.

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Unbelievable – An amazing depiction of the craziness of the 2016 election and what exactly it was like being a part of the Trump campaign as a reporter. You don’t have to be any kind of political junkie to enjoy this read–I honestly felt like I was there with Katy through every interview, trip, and meltdown.

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Gone Without a Trace – A woman picks up the pieces after she realizes her boyfriend has left their shared home and taken everything with him…but is someone watching her, and is it him? The ending will shock you!

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My Husband’s Wife – Complete with multiple stories in one that all tie back together, this is a great read for thriller-lovers. Again, betrayal is a common theme here…

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Fitness Junkie – This was a fun parody about what it’s like living in a fitness, green juice-obsessed world. It’s the perfect rom-com type of book that will leave you nodding along and laughing. The overall premise about the main character needing to lose weight is a bit ridiculous, but that’s part of the absurdity of the book.

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Still Me – Ugh, such a good read. I love all of Jojo Moyes’ books but especially the Me Before You series, and this was the perfect ending to Louisa’s adventures (plus, this time she’s in NYC, which made it extra fun to read!).

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Text Me When You Get Home – This was a Girls Night In book club read, although I couldn’t end up going to the actual discussion. It’s an insightful read on female friendships and how much we matter to one another–it’s heartwarming for sure!

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Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman – This is a Girls Night in book club read from forever ago. I loved it–but I also love Anne Helen Petersen–so I knew I was in for a treat before I even cracked it open. Each chapter is focused on a famous woman (ranging from Melissa McCarthy to Kim Kardashian) who has been deemed “too” something. Petersen discusses the implications of these labels and stereotypes; the discussion we had as a book club was super gripping!

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The Wife Between Us – I’m putting this on here even though I’m only halfway through it right now, but I’m already enjoying it. Like a lot of thrillers, it switches back and forth between two narrators who share a current/former husband and each have a secret they’re hiding.

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Hello Sunshine – This was a rom-com like read about the difficulty that ensues when a famous chef’s life falls apart after she’s proven to not be as talented as everyone thinks. I loved it when I picked it up but became a little less interested over time.

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Unstuffed – This is a self help book that several people had recommended on Instagram, so I was curious and picked it up. I ended up mostly skimming through because it was hard for me to stay interested in every chapter. It also had a lot of religious messaging that didn’t really resonate with me, but overall some of the tips about managing stress and clutter were useful.

My favorite? I’d have to say The Last Mrs. Parrish. Unbelievable and Still Me were close seconds (and as I’m writing this, I’m realizing I’m really skipping around across genres!). The Last Mrs. Parrish was such a good classic thriller that kept me up late into the night. Unbelievable is a must for anyone fascinated by the outcome of the 2016 election, and Katy Tur is a likable narrator. Still Me = sob city but so good, as are all of Jojo Moyes’ books.

What have been your favorite reads lately?

 

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On My Playlist…

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If it was 2006, I’d call this post “On my iPod,” but let’s be real, who listens to an iPod anymore? I listen to all of my music either on my iPhone or on Pandora at work (#TeamPandora for life…never going to switch to Spotify because I’m stuck in my habits and like all my stations!).

I love sharing music recommendations with friends (actually, that’s kind of a lie…I used to hate it because I feel like music can be so personal! When someone would look through my iPod in college, I’d literally flinch and hope they only saw the “good” stuff…aka whatever was in at the moment. When people would take turns plugging their phones in to DJ newspaper production nights, I always hoped and prayed that no one would ever ask me!). Anyway…weirdness aside. I’ve now gotten over the fear of people “judging” me based on my music choices and do enjoy sharing playlists — especially workout playlists — with friends. I’ve shared some of my latest (and longtime) faves below (leaving out the ones that I only like for weird personal reasons and most people probably won’t like, haha #dontjudge), so write ’em down and download away! I’ve linked to YouTube videos here if you want to try before you…buy (does anyone actually buy music these days?).

Something Just Like This – The Chainsmokers & Coldplay (Who isn’t listening to the Chainsmokers right now?!)

Bright Lights – Matchbox 20 (ALL the feels)

Growing Up – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (So. good. I think I texted my group chat about how much I liked this song when I first heard it. #notsorry).

The Greatest – Sia (Wooooo)

Somewhere On A Beach – Dierks Bentley (Because…country)

Next to Me – Kendrick Lamar Remix (I’ve officially been obsessed with this one ever since I heard it two years ago in a Forever 21…yep.

Countdown – Beyonce (Another one that never gets old and always puts me in a good mood. So many memories of listening to this during a chaotic junior fall!)

Chained to the Rhythm – Katy Perry (She’s at it again…and it’s kinda deep. Yes, I did see the Katy Perry documentary during one of my magazine jobs, so Katy and I are basically BFFs.).

Send me your music recs, please! Are you a Pandora or Spotify gal?

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