Review: The Good SisterTitle: The Good Sister
Author: Sally Hepworth
Genre(s): Romance, Thriller
Pages: 309 (Hardcover)
Source: Library
For: Book Club
Rating:
Steaminess: 2 Flames

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There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights, and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be ... dangerous.

My Thoughts

I was really excited to read THE GOOD SISTER because my IRL friend Jenny recommended it to our book club and I usually enjoy the same type of thrillers she does. We decided to read it as September’s book and I’m glad we did so I’d read it sooner rather than later.

I loved THE GOOD SISTER. It was a fantastic story that kept me reading until I was done with the book. I saw the big twist coming a mile away; it didn’t ruin the suspense or story for me, though, because I still wanted to know how everything would play out. I wasn’t disappointed.

I really liked the characters in THE GOOD SISTER. I liked that even though I guessed the twist, I still kept wondering if I was right. I also loved that a couple of the main characters were neurodivergent. I have sensory issues, not to the extent Fern does, though. I really connected with that aspect of Fern’s character.

Angry is just a pen name for sad…. In my experience, nine times out of ten if you are kind to the angry person, you will calm them down and find out what is really going on with them.

I would’ve given THE GOOD SISTER 4 stars, except near the end Hepworth perpetuated the stigma that people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are violent psychopaths. BPD’s misunderstood even among the psychological community. Those trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) understand BPD the most. I simply wish she had talked to a DBT-trained psychologist or someone who’s diagnosed with BPD before she used BPD as one of the reasons why the antagonist did what they did.

I don’t think cancelling someone is the right answer, though, because it takes away from what’s important—educating as many people as possible to help break the stigma surrounding BPD and other mental illness. Because of this, I’ll continue to read and, most likely, enjoy Hepworth’s novels.

Have you read THE GOOD SISTER? If so, what did you think?

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for sexual assault, loss of a child, and loss of a parent.

Review: The Midnight LibraryTitle: The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig
Genre(s): Fantasy
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
Source: Library
For: Book Club
Rating:
Steaminess: 0 Flames

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There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices... Would you have done anything different if you had the chance to undo your regrets?

My Thoughts

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY was my IRL book club’s pick for June. I was really excited to read it as I’ve heard a lot of great things. After reading it, I can tell you that I wasn’t disappointed and I hope I can do it justice with my spoiler-free review.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect while reading THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY. It ended up being one of the most profound reading experiences I’ve ever had. It spoke to me like no other book has. I felt seen as someone who has struggled with severe depression, suicidal ideation, and crippling regret for most of my adult life.

But there is no life where you can be in a state of sheer happiness for ever. And imagining there is just breeds more unhappiness in the life you’re in.

I understood Nora, all the emotions she felt, especially the loneliness and despair. I understood her suicidal ideation and urges. AND, even when she didn’t, I knew her depression and loneliness were lying to her–telling her she wasn’t needed, no one wanted her around, she let everyone down, or they’d all be better off without her.

I’m convinced that Nora’s journey through THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY was the only way she could’ve learned what and come to the conclusions she did. After all, one of the lessons the librarian wanted her to realize was, “The only way to learn is to live.”

Haig beautifully illustrates what Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) did in helping me want to build a life worth living. Its message that it’s not too late to start living life is one I think we all need to be reminded of once in a while.

Have you read THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY? If so, what did you think?

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for suicide, suicidal ideation, and loss of a pet.

Review: Dread NationTitle: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
Series: Dread Nation #1
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Horror, YA
Pages: 455 (Hardcover)
Source: Library
For: Book Club
Rating:
Steaminess: 0 Flames

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Goodreads Synopsis

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville--derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities--and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

My Thoughts

DREAD NATION was my IRL book club’s pick for April. I was really excited to read it as I’ve wanted to ever since I first heard about it. A zombie apocalypse during the Civil War? Yes, please. A strong black female character fighting to not only survive the dead, but also for freedom from the oppression during Reconstruction Era America? I say again, yes, please!

DREAD NATION is the first zombie novel I’ve ever read and I loved it. I loved how the “Shamblers” worked and how they changed the outcome of the Civil War and society in general. The Shamblers were so much fun to read about. I especially loved reading the fight scenes with all the different weaponry used against the dead.

There’s nothing white folks hate more than realizing they accidentally treated a Negro like a person.

The thing I liked the most about DREAD NATION, however, was the time period and how Ireland used the setting to discuss the oppression of black people not only during Civil War era United States, but in general. Even though the themes are blunt, DREAD NATION isn’t preachy. Ireland skillfully addresses issues of racism and inequality while delivering a complex, enthralling story.

Reading DREAD NATION was very eye-opening. I know I’ve lived a very sheltered and safe life (and I’m not talking about a life free of Shamblers). I felt like DREAD NATION wonderfully illustrates the perseverance and strength black people have while enduring horrific abuse at the hands of those who see them as lesser.

I’m glad I finally got a chance to read DREAD NATION. It was a powerful, entertaining story. I look forward to reading the sequel DEATHLESS DIVIDE.

Have you read DREAD NATION? If so, what did you think?

Review: Nine Perfect StrangersTitle: Nine Perfect Strangers
Author: Liane Moriarty
Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 458 (Kindle)
Source: Library
For: Book Club
Rating:
Steaminess: 0 Flames

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There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

My Thoughts

I love Liane Moriarty. She’s one of my favorite authors. I was excited when my IRL book club decided to read another of her books. I was a little bit worried about what I’d think of NINE PERFECT STRANGERS, though, because I had seen mixed reviews. While it’s not my favorite book by Moriarty (that title will always go to WHAT ALICE FORGOT), I shouldn’t have worried. I really enjoyed reading NINE PERFECT STRANGERS.

I connected strongly with a few of the characters in terms of their mental health battles. I thought Moriarty did such a great job of writing about depression, suicide, suicidal ideation, psychedelic therapy, and the way we deal with trauma and setbacks in our life. I really appreciated how she explored all these tough subjects. (I especially liked how she flipped the psychedelic therapy on its head. If you’ve read NINE PERFECT STRANGERS, you’ll hopefully understand what I mean.)

She had not realized that grief was so physical.

I did think some of the plot was a little far-fetched, but the story and the characters were so compelling that I didn’t care. Moriarty’s a master at writing character-driven stories, which are my most favorite kind of stories to read. I wanted to keep reading and find out how the book would end, how each of the characters would act and feel after their experiences at Tranquillum House.

Have you read NINE PERFECT STRANGERS? If so, what did you think?

P.S. I personally know people who’ve had success with psychedelic therapy under the care of a psychiatrist. I had even considered it for myself before I found Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for suicide, suicidal ideation, loss of a child, and loss of a sibling.

Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved BeforeTitle: To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance, YA
Pages: 368 (Kindle)
Source: Library
For: Book Club
Rating:
Steaminess: 1 Flames

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There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

Lara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. One for every boy she's ever loved. The letters are for her eyes only. Until the day they are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

My Thoughts

I’ve wanted to read TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE ever since it became a huge phenomenon because of the Netflix movie. Yet, I’m only just reading it now because it’s my IRL book club’s book for February. (I’m excited that I can finally watch the Netflix movie at least! Woot woot! ) There are minor spoilers in this review.

I really liked Lara Jean and her sisters. I also really liked the interaction between Lara Jean and the two main guys, the boy next door and Mister Cocky-Handsome-Everyone-Loves-Me. What I didn’t like is that two main guys meant that there was a love triangle. I despise love triangles. They’re my least favorite YA trope. They’re the main reason I don’t read as much YA romance anymore.

Love is scary: it changes; it can go away. That’s part of the risk.

Even though TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE had a love triangle, I decided to be optimistic. I even told myself, maybe Lara Jean will end up with the boy I want her to. Of course, all kinds of chaos ensued and it was a lot of fun to read and witness. I actually really enjoyed the story, but the ending, or non-ending I should say, almost ruined it all for me!

I like choosing to read the next book in a series because I want to, not because I have to. I understand series have cliffhangers; I’ve just never read one quite like this and in the first book. At this point, I’m not sure I’m going to continue the series. I’ll probably just see if I can get what I need from the Netflix movie(s).

I’ve been trying to decide if I want to rate TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE 3 or 4 stars. I’m settling on 3.5 stars. (I find myself giving out more half-star ratings.)

Have you read TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE? If so, what did you think?

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for loss of a parent.

Review: Keep MovingTitle: Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change
Author: Maggie Smith
Genre(s): Non-Fiction
Pages: 224 (Hardcover)
Source: Library
For: Book Club
Rating:
Steaminess: 0 Flames

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Goodreads Synopsis

When Maggie Smith, the award-winning author of the viral poem Good Bones, started writing daily Twitter posts in the wake of her divorce, they unexpectedly caught fire. In this deeply moving book of quotes and essays, Maggie writes about new beginnings as opportunities for transformation. Like kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics with gold, KEEP MOVING celebrates the beauty and strength on the other side of loss. This is a book for anyone who has gone through a difficult time and is wondering: What comes next?

My Thoughts

KEEP MOVING is my IRL book club’s pick for January. I picked it up from the library yesterday and I read it really quickly, in a few hours, as it’s mostly pages of affirmations.

Don’t wait for your life to magically come together–it’s your work to do. Every day, every moment, you are making your life from scratch. Today, take one step, however small, toward creating a life you can be proud of.

I liked a lot of the affirmations, like the one above, but my favorite parts of the book were the parts where Smith went into more detail, where she talked about her losses from losing her grandmother, two miscarriages, and divorce. Those were the times I felt a kinship toward her. Even if I hadn’t experienced loss quite the same way she had, I could still empathize with her and think of ways to apply her advice to my own life.

I really liked her perspective on things, especially when she talked about serotinous pine cones and how they only open and spread their seeds in the midst of fire. Or, how she likened trauma and loss to kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with gold. The ceramic piece is beautiful because of its brokenness instead of in spite of it.

I wasn’t sure I’d like KEEP MOVING, but I’m glad I read it. I gave KEEP MOVING 3 stars because the ratio between affirmations to the parts I actually wanted to read was too high. Otherwise, I would’ve given it 4 stars.

Have you read KEEP MOVING? If so, what did you think about it?