In March, I finally got back on track with my reading, and read 10 books. I’ve really enjoyed carving out more time for reading, and I was happy that I included a few nonfiction books instead of all light escapist novels (even though I still love those). Looking forward to keeping up with these posts more regularly going forward!
The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward, by Daniel H. Pink: In researching this book, Daniel Pink conducted the “World Regret Survey”, capturing more than 16,000 regrets from people of all nationalities; using that data, he categorizes the different types of regrets and explains how you can minimize your regrets and/or use them for good. I found this book really interesting and easy to read, and loved the positive message that regrets can be a good thing and it’s better not to have “no regrets”. Although I see how people might feel the book was repetitive, I thought Pink did a good job of using new examples to drive home the key points so they really stick, so I didn’t feel like it was too long. At the end of the book, I love how Pink provides guidance on avoiding logical fallacies that shape your decisionmaking and minimize regrets (often at the expense of better decisions). Overall, this was both interesting and practical, with a great summary at the end full of tactical tips – highly recommended!
Sadie on a Plate, by Amanda Elliot: WOW, this might be my favorite rom com novel of all time – and it seems to be a debut novel! This book takes you behind the scenes of Top Chef, with the protagonist (Sadie) as a Seattle-based female chef who’s trying to win one for women after working with far too many chauvinists in the kitchen. This book was so fabulous that I read it in one day, and I loved every bit of it. I loved getting to see Sadie’s very realistic inner thoughts (even if she had a BIT too much self-doubt at times and I wanted to jump in and encourage her), and it was so fun seeing how the cooking competition played out. Meanwhile, the romance was a fun plotline, but the author didn’t make it the main focus of the book, and I appreciated that. I think the only thing that could have made this book better was if there were recipes at the end… but Sadie’s cooking was so elevated (a deep fried sage leaf garnish!) that they probably wouldn’t have been recipes I’d attempt to make anyway 🙂 Highly recommend this to all my girlfriends, and can’t wait for her next book!
November 9, by Colleen Hoover: Ben, an aspiring novelist, meets Fallon, a rising actress, the day before Fallon moves across the country. They spend the entire day and night together, and agree to meet again every year on November 9th for five years, with no contact on the days in between. This love story has a really unique (if a bit contrived) initial premise, but it was fun to see the characters only one day a year; the author does a great job filling in the backstory of what happened in between November 9ths in a natural way. I loved the meta references to romance books, and definitely swooned over Ben myself a few times. Great, fun sweet read – with some unexpected surprises along the way!
Dava Shastri’s Last Day, by Kirthana Ramisetti: It’s the year 2043 (not sure why this is set in the future; perhaps just to get away from having to reference COVID?), and Dava Shastri, a self-made billionaire and philanthropist, is dying of cancer. Dava decides she would prefer to die on her own terms: with a physician-assisted suicide at her Hamptons estate, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, and the day after a leaked announcement of her death so she can see how the world will reacts (which is not how she expects). Although the book takes place over just a weekend, there are a lot of flashbacks to other periods of Dava’s life, which do a great job fleshing out why she is who she is. The middle of the book dragged quite a bit, to the point that I almost abandoned the book altogether, but I was really glad I kept reading. The final third was so excellent as to make me strongly recommend the book overall: lots of compelling plot points, plus some very smart commentary on relationships, money, power, happiness, and the different legacies men and women leave behind. Get through the middle; it’s well worth it for the life lessons at the end!
Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change, by April Rinne: The world is in a constant state of flux, now more so than ever – so futurist April Rinne proposes that we need a mindset that treats change and uncertainty as a positive thing rather than something to adjust to and dread. She describes eight flux superpowers (run slower; see what’s invisible; get lost; start with trust; know your enough; create your portfolio career; be all the more human and serve others; and let go of the future), and uses research to back up her points on why these superpowers are important to cultivate. I found some chapters more engaging than others, but enjoyed a few so much that I recommended them to friends. My favorites were “run slower”, “get lost”, “know your enough”, and “create your portfolio career”. I appreciated that there were thought-provoking questions in each chapter to provide a bit of a workbook approach, but it was still written in a style where you could read through the whole thing.
Watch Out for Her, by Samantha M. Bailey: After a mysteriously bad experience with her nanny, Holly, Sarah is delighted to move across Canada and start over – but when she finds hidden cameras in her rental house, she wonders if she actually got away. The action splits between present day and the events leading up to Sarah’s move, and the past story starts out pretty rosy. When Holly is hired by Sarah, not only is she delighted by the job, but the two seem to be fast friends. It definitely makes you eager to find out what went wrong, particularly since it was enough to precipitate a cross-country move. There were a lot of twists that kept me guessing, but I did successfully figure out two of the characters who were not what they seemed. Overall, this was a bit creepy, but not too scary; however, Sarah and Holly were a bit hard to connect with because of their tendency to ridiculously overreact to some things (though oddly underreact to others).
One Night on the Island, by Josie Silver: Cleo writes a magazine column about her (so far unsuccessful) dating life; as her 30th birthday approaches, her editor convinces her to go to an isolated island in Scotland to “marry herself” for a story. Unfortunately, when she arrives, there’s been a mixup and she finds herself sharing her AirBnB with a big brooding Bostonian, Mack, on his own retreat. It’s a cute premise, but I hated how stubborn and petulant Cleo was throughout the book – refusing to make the best of a bad situation and generally coming off as a brat. I didn’t love the romance between the two main characters (um, he’s married?!), but I did love the characters on Salvation Island – I wish the book had been more about them.
As Seen On TV, by Meredith Schorr: I was really excited about this rom com, and wanted so badly to like it, but the main character was just so immature, I couldn’t believe anyone could possibly be that dumb. Adina is a young journalist from New York who adores Hallmark movies and is convinced that all small towns are like Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls; she pitches a story to go stay in a small town in Westchester and write about how it’s just like small towns are portrayed in Hollywood. Although Adina did no research beforehand, she hangs her career on this piece, so she finds herself stuck when the town is nothing like she envisioned. Rather than admitting to her editor that her idea didn’t work, she casts around for other story ideas, even trying to manufacture them herself (e.g., trying to convince the local brewery to organize an Oktoberfest). This plot reminded me of a Sophie Kinsella book, where the heroine gets caught in a lie and tells bigger and bigger lies to try to cover it up, but while Kinsella’s main characters are covering up their insecurities, Adina seems to have a huge head and is convinced her way is always the right way. I did read through till the end, getting more annoyed with Adina as the book went on, but overall, I was disappointed in this one – it felt like a young adult novel targeting much younger / immature readers.
Welcome to the School by the Sea, by Jenny Colgan: I always love Jenny Colgan’s books, but this one was so different, I found that I kept going back to the cover to see if I was mistaken and it wasn’t a Jenny Colgan book! I learned only from going on Goodreads that this was something she had written earlier years ago under a pen name, but now was republishing under her real name. I wish the original title, “Class”, was kept, as retitling it “Welcome to the School by the Sea” made me think it was going to be similar to her other books – a sad woman goes to a lonely, isolated town and learns to become part of the community. While there were some elements of that in this plot, it was much more of an “ensemble cast” book, and unfortunately, that didn’t totally work for me. I mostly enjoyed following Maggie (new Scottish schoolteacher who fits the typical Jenny Colgan heroine profile) and Simone (overweight scholarship student who can’t seem to fit in), but had mixed feelings on Fliss (new student who hates boarding school and tries to make everyone else miserable too), and couldn’t be bothered with Veronica (headmistress who has no depth until a storyline at the end that’s supposed to be shocking, but at that point, I didn’t care about her). In general, the characters all seemed a bit pathetic, not doing much to help themselves. I had never heard of or read Malory Towers, so perhaps I would have enjoyed this more if I had been a longtime fan of this genre, but it wasn’t for me.
The Astronaut and the Star, by Jen Comfort: Type-A NASA astronaut Reggie Hayes wants to be chosen for a mission to the moon, but her lack of people skills may hold her back. To address this, she volunteers for a high-profile assignment: training a Hollywood movie star, Jon Leo, to realistically play an astronaut in his next movie. While the premise was interesting, the execution was terrible. Both Reggie and Jon were extremely unlikable caricatures, and the writing was made even worse by the constant graphic sex scenes. (I don’t mind a sex scene in a book, but these were over the top explicit and needlessly long.) I forced myself to finish reading, even though the ending was of course predictable, and was unfortunately rewarded with an incredibly preposterous kidnapping scene that was resolved in just a few pages… especially ironic given that the novel as a whole is at least three times longer than it needs to be. All in all pretty terrible, and I wish I hadn’t wasted my time reading.
Any book recommendations for me? Follow me here on Goodreads to keep up with what I’m reading in real time.