I read ten books in August, which definitely helps me catch up on my goal of reading 100 books a year! That puts me at 53 books for the year, which is about two months behind, but it’s getting things back on the right track. I read a lot of lighter stuff this month, but Kara Goldin’s biography / business book was an awesome nonfiction read that was equally compelling to zip through.
Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters, by Kara Goldin: Kara Goldin is a business / tech innovator and the founder of Hint Water. While I wasn’t a huge fan of Hint when I’ve tried it in the past, this book made me go want to go out and buy a case – Kara’s personality is earnest, hard-working, and growth-oriented, and the first-person narrative is relatable, inspiring, engaging, and easy to read while also teaching valuable business lessons about starting a company. I loved Kara and I loved this book!
Once More with Feeling, by Elissa Sussman: As a teenager, Katee Rose was America’s favorite pop princess, made even more popular because she was dating the lead singer of a hot boy band. Then she cheated on him, with another member of his band, Cal, and she gets skewered for it. Now, she’s a (mostly) ordinary woman, but still has extraordinary talent, and is trying to get the lead in a Broadway musical – written by her best friend from summer theater camp as a kid, and directed by Cal. The book is half present tense, half past (with that split between Katee in theater camp and Katee as a pop star) and the slow reveal of the backstory is half the intrigue. As a theater kid myself, I LOVED this book and tore through it in 24 hours. I loved the behind the scenes of a Broadway musical, and while Katee was sometimes unlikable because of her inability to be mature in her interactions with others, I still really enjoyed it. Highly recommended if you’re a theater kid who loves a good rom com.
The True Love Experiment, by Christina Lauren: Fizzy is a bubbly and effervescent romance author who flits from one date to the next but never manages to find the lasting love she writes about; meanwhile, while she’s been incredibly successful in the past, she’s been experiencing writer’s block ever since she was inadvertently the other woman dating a married guy. Connor is a single dad and documentary producer who is forced by his boss to produce a reality dating show – and Fizzy is the lead. The two work together to develop a unique take on the genre, and obviously, sparks fly between the two, though they can’t actually date or they jeopardize the show and risk both of their careers. I loveddddddd this, couldn’t put it down, and would highly recommend it! There were some callbacks to “The Soulmate Equation” (Fizzy was the main character’s BFF in that), though the book completely stands alone; however, I’d recommend reading that first because I loved it as well and this book spoils that one.
The Freedom Clause, by Hannah Sloane: The first chapter of this book was slow and didn’t draw me into the characters, to the point where I considered making it a DNF… but WOW, I am so glad I kept reading – I ended up loving this book so much! Dominic and Daphne met at 18 and were each other’s first loves; when they got married after college, they were happy together, but sad feeling like they missed out on the thrill of dating and spending their 20s free. So at 25, Dominic suggests they enact the “Freedom Clause”: they can sleep with one other person one night each year, no repeats and no talking about it to their friends or each other; they’ll do this for five years, then reevaluate. The book has a different chapter for each of the five years, and the chapters are LONG, but by year 2, I was thoroughly invested in their relationship, how they would navigate the Freedom Clause, and what would come next. While at first I found Daphne a little odd and unlikable, I soon started rooting for her to succeed. I loved the character arcs and the messiness, and I LOVED Daphne’s cooking blog entries where she weaves her personal life into the recipes. (I normally hate cooking blogs where there’s lots of backstory to the recipe, but if this was a real blog, I would totally read it!) I absolutely adored this book, keep thinking about it, and highly recommend it.
Reminders of Him, by Colleen Hoover: Kenna has just been released from prison, where she’s served five years for involuntary manslaughter after killing her boyfriend Scotty in a drunk driving accident. Right after she goes to prison, she realizes she’s pregnant with Scotty’s baby – so after giving birth, the baby goes to Scotty’s parents to raise. Now, she wants to be back in her daughter’s life, but Scotty’s parents blame her for the accident and won’t allow her to even see her daughter… and while Kenna is desperate to see her daughter, she kind of doesn’t blame them and feels she deserves to be punished. This book is an emotional rollercoaster, and the last 10% made me cry – I finished reading it after a full day volunteering in a maximum security prison, so I certainly understand and support wanting to make up for your mistakes and move forward! But Kenna wasn’t a very likable character, and there was a romance plotline that was very insta-love and was hard to root for. And more importantly, the big conflict (will Kenna get to raise, or even see, her daughter?) doesn’t even start coming to a head until about 30 pages from the end – to the point that I wondered if this was part of a series and that question would be resolved in a subsequent book. It was not (everything was just wrapped up VERY quickly), and it was a satisfying ending, but I think the pacing was off and should have been more even throughout rather than a few hundred pages of avoiding the conflict only for a very quick resolution.
Bye, Baby, by Carola Lovering: I couldn’t put this book down, and read it in 48 hours! Cassie and Billie grow up as best friends in upstate New York; now, they live very different lives in NYC. Billie is single and loves her career, while Cassie is married to a wealthy banker and is a stay-at-home-mom and Instagram influencer. Billie still desperately wants to be best friends with Cassie, but Cassie seems to have moved on to a more sophisticated friend group. The opening chapter starts with a bang: Cassie’s baby goes missing, and though she’s been dismissing Billie, she now reaches out to her for support. Although the novel seems like a psychological thriller, it’s more of a drama that has some suspenseful elements – but since I thought it was a thriller, I was waiting for some big twists that never came. The plot is told through alternating points of view between Billie and Cassie, and it also delves into flashbacks to their childhood, but it somehow manages to be extremely cohesive in spite of all the info. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, but loved the rest of the book. I would just suggest not reading the blurb (which gives away too many spoilers) and not expecting a typical thriller.
Part of Your World, by Abby Jimenez: Alexis is a big city ER doctor who’s under a lot of pressure from her parents to continue the family legacy and lead the hospital that bears her name; they’re also pressuring her to get back together with her cheating and emotionally abuse ex-boyfriend, who is also a big shot at the hospital. While driving through a rural small town, Alexis gets a flat tire and gets saved by Daniel, who has a different set of pressures on him – his deadbeat mom is MIA, but he’s trying to save the family house (now a B&B) that his grandparents loved, and also take care of everyone in his small town. This is a very insta-love plot, which isn’t my favorite, and I got really frustrated by Alexis treating Daniel so poorly while she denied her own feelings. But I appreciated the will-they-won’t-they of opposites trying to make it work, and also felt that the topic of emotionally abusive relationships was handled well.
Sideline Confidential, by Brooke Bentley: Blake is fresh out of school and has landed her dream job as a sideline reporter for an NFL team in her hometown, Oklahoma City. She’s hit with double standards and sexism at every turn, and struggles to figure out how to effectively do her job, when being liked is a key piece. This was a really fascinating look behind the scenes of sports journalism, a world I previously knew nothing about. While Blake was a bit naive and immature at times – and made some poor decisions at times that made her less likeable – it was still a fascinating and speedy read that really shed light on how far women still have to come to succeed in male-dominated environments. I REALLY enjoyed this and highly recommend it; my star off is because the author has an odd habit of not using contractions in dialogue (e.g., “I will do that” instead of the much-more-common-in-speech “I’ll do that”), which made the dialogue feel rather stilted.
All Good Things, by Amanda Prowse: The Kelleway family is seemingly a golden family, and matriarch Winnie and patriarch Bernie are celebrating their 40 year “ruby” anniversary with a big dinner at a local Italian restaurant… but that night is where things start to unravel. Each chapter, while told in the third person, is from one of nine POVs (the Kelleways and their neighbors), and in spite of that big cast of characters, they’re each well-developed and easy to keep straight. And the breadth of the characters makes it feel like a really epic family saga, without dragging on! That said, the first few chapters felt slow, and I considered quitting, but I was glad I kept going; it got really good! As another reviewer pointed out, the narrative somehow feels a little bit old fashioned, in spite of the plot being very contemporary and dealing with modern issues, but I still really enjoyed it – and will definitely be diving into Amanda Prowse’s back catalog for more!
Next Job, Best Job: A Headhunter’s 11 Strategies to Get Hired Now, by Rob Barnett: This guide spends the first half focused on finding your “North Star” (exactly what you want to do and what is a perfect fit), then guides you into how to find that North Star job. However, the concept of a North Star feels a bit too idealistic to me. Maybe it’s just my broad skillset as a consultant, but I struggle to focus on just ONE fit, and would rather see what’s out there across a variety of business departments. Rob’s tone is very conversational and easy to read, but some of the advice isn’t quite as actionable as I’d like – for example, there is a lot of detail about how to use social media to build your network, but then there is a vague “work with a recruiter / headhunter” without any help as to how to find the right person to work with. I picked up a few tips in this, but it felt like it tried to cover too much without going deep enough on any one area (e.g., there is one chapter on nailing the interview, which could be a whole book unto itself).
Any book recommendations for me? Follow me here on Goodreads to keep up with what I’m reading in real time.