Recent Reads

It took most of the summer, but I finally feel like I’m back in a good groove when it comes to reading. I needed to get some good, fun books under my belt to truly feel back in the reading swing of things, and I think I’ve finally done it. I’ve been so pumped to start (and finish) new books lately, that I somehow managed to finish 5 over the last month! And just like last time, they all ended up being in different genres, which definitely helped me not get bored reading the same type of book over and over again.

A Simple Favor

I REALLY wanted to read this one before the movie came to theaters, and I finished it JUST in time! Which I guess didn’t really matter since I haven’t seen the movie yet… but now I can! I knew this one was supposed to be a thriller and the trailer made the story seem very suspenseful, so I definitely wanted to know the plot and how the story ended before seeing it played out. So I read A Simple Favor. And it was… interesting. Here’s a quick overview:

“It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time. 

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.”

So I’m not going to lie… I expected this to be a little… more intense than it was. Don’t get me wrong, it was still crazy and had some plot twists I didn’t see coming, but also it was just… not as crazy as I expected it to be. Everyone kept comparing it to Gone Girl, so I went into it thinking WHOA THIS IS GOING TO BE NUTS and I had so many possible theories floating around in my head while I was reading. And honestly, I think one of my theories would have made it a bigger “what?!!?” moment at the end, but oh well. I definitely pictured Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick the whole time I was reading which was kind of fun, and overall the story wasn’t terrible. I do really love when a story jumps around with multiple narrators (some being unreliable even) so that made me want to not put the book down! I’ll probably wait and watch the movie once I can get it from a Redbox, though.

It’s Your Ship

It’s Your Ship would not have been a usual book choice for me (in fact I didn’t choose it at all, it was chosen for me) but I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The CEO of my company got this book for all the directors and VPs and managers to read and discuss, and I definitely don’t fall into any of those categories. But the VP of my department thought that this had a lot of good things inside, and that our department might benefit from reading it and having a little book club discussion. But then some scheduling things got in the way and so the big book club ended up being a very small book discussion at my small team meeting led by my manager. But either way, a book about leadership was still pretty interesting, thought-provoking, and wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read! A lot of the things in this were pretty common sense, but it was still good reminders on how to be a good leader, how to work under a good leader, and just how to be a good person, with a lot of good military anecdotes thrown in to get his point across.

The Ensemble

Full disclosure – I chose this book 100% because of the cover. LOOK AT IT! It’s so bright and happy and beautiful! And in no way lets you know what The Ensemble will actually be about! Which it turns out is about a quartet of musicians and the story follows the four of them throughout their lives and their musical careers while they play together! Neat! Here’s a better description for you.

“Jana. Brit. Daniel. Henry. They would never have been friends if they hadn’t needed each other. They would never have found each other except for the art which drew them together. They would never have become family without their love for the music, for each other.

Brit is the second violinist, a beautiful and quiet orphan; on the viola is Henry, a prodigy who’s always had it easy; the cellist is Daniel, the oldest and an angry skeptic who sleeps around; and on first violin is Jana, their flinty, resilient leader. Together, they are the Van Ness Quartet. After the group’s youthful, rocky start, they experience devastating failure and wild success, heartbreak and marriage, triumph and loss, betrayal and enduring loyalty. They are always tied to each other – by career, by the intensity of their art, by the secrets they carry, by choosing each other over and over again.

Following these four unforgettable characters, Aja Gabel’s debut novel gives a riveting look into the high-stakes, cutthroat world of musicians, and of lives made in concert. The story of Brit and Henry and Daniel and Jana, The Ensemble is a heart-skipping portrait of ambition, friendship, and the tenderness of youth.”

This was one of those books where you get to the end and you’ve really enjoyed it but you also have to ask yourself, did anything actually happen? You read and follow the lives of these four people, but like… did anything actually happen? So much stuff happened, yes… but do you know what I mean? I actually really enjoy books like that from time to time, and this one came at a perfect time. Besides liking the characters a lot, I thought that this book was really well written and the way that the author phrased things was absolutely beautiful. Plus, it skipped around between four (and a bonus) narrator, so you know I loved that, too.

How to Walk Away

I just finished How to Walk Away two days ago and I REALLY REALLY REALLY liked it!! Definitely my favorite from this bunch. It wasn’t what I was expecting… and that’s probably because I tend to do this thing where I only really half read the plots for books before deciding that I want to read them, and so when the story went the way that the story went I was NOT expecting it (and it happens in the first few chapters, haha) but this story was just so good! Here’s the description (and maybe you should actually read all of it. Do as I say, not as I do.)

“Margaret Jacobsen is just about to step into the bright future she’s worked for so hard and so long: a new dream job, a fiancé she adores, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in a brief, tumultuous moment.

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Maggie must confront the unthinkable. First there is her fiancé, Chip, who wallows in self-pity while simultaneously expecting to be forgiven. Then, there’s her sister Kit, who shows up after pulling a three-year vanishing act. Finally, there’s Ian, her physical therapist, the one the nurses said was too tough for her. Ian, who won’t let her give in to her pity, and who sees her like no one has seen her before. Sometimes the last thing you want is the one thing you need. Sometimes we all need someone to catch us when we fall. And sometimes love can find us in the least likely place we would ever expect.”

I think the thing I loved most about this story was the characters. I really felt like I was right there in the hospital with Margaret, fighting with my sister, trying to figure out what’s going on with my fiance, realizing I might have a crush on this physical therapist of mine… I was so enthralled by the plot and that made the book go by way too quickly! Plain and simple, this book made me really happy and if you need a quick, light, and fun read that will make you happy too, then I think you should make this the one.

Girl, Wash Your Face

So…. I really wanted to love this book. I liked it, but I really wanted to LOVE it. And I just didn’t. There were a lot of things that I thought it got right. It was encouraging. It was uplifting. It was inspiring. It was funny at times. But there were also a lot of things that I thought it got not-as-right (not totally wrong, just not totally right.) Like I felt that everything she wrote was just kind of common sense. It was a good reminder of being yourself and loving yourself and going after your goals and dreams, but I guess I just kind of expected to read something new, and I didn’t. I felt that for being offered as a Christian book, it didn’t really mention Christ that much. And maybe that was part of what she was going for – make it more accessible to the masses to covertly spread a watered-down gospel message to people who don’t go to church, but like… did she even do that at all? And I don’t know what it was, but something just felt… off to me while reading it. It seemed genuine, it seemed like she was passionate about the words she was writing but something just seemed… off.

So again, I did actually like this book, but I didn’t actually love it. I would still recommend it, just go in knowing that it’s not going to change your life.

Have you read any of these books yet, or are any of them on your list now? Have you seen A Simple Favor yet, and did you like it? I’ve heard mixed reviews, and now that I know the story I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you have any business/leadership books you’ve loved and would recommend? Is there a really great fiction book you’ve loved and think everyone else should read, too? I have all the questions today, apparently! 🙂

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