Recently Read! (Catching Up)

As I continue to catch up on sharing my 2021 reads, here are a few more of my recently read books from late-summer!

Have you read any of these? I’d love to hear what you thought!

The Key To Happily Ever After (Tif Marcelo)
This was a cute read that follows the de la Rosa sisters, Mari, Jane, and Pearl. They each have unique, strong personalities that come together to create a really charming and relatable story line. After their mother steps back from the family wedding planning business, the sisters assume greater responsibility and roles as they step up to maintain their family legacy. This doesn’t come easily and is accompanied by old feelings being brought to the surface and animosity between the siblings. The business itself almost seems like an additional family member and is the vehicle that has the potential to bring them all together despite often pushing them apart. It also brings new people into their lives, who effect changes that have been a long time coming!

The Chicken Sisters (K.J. Dell’Antonia)
I really enjoyed this book! It revolves around two competing chicken restaurants in Kansas. Chicken Frannie’s is run by Amanda and her mother-in-law, while nearby, Chicken Mimi’s belongs to Amanda’s mother. Amanda enters the restaurants in Food Wars, a television reality show, and surprisingly they’re selected to compete. The competition is fraught with family secrets, misunderstandings, a meddling producer, a heated rivalry, and plenty of unexpressed and unprocessed emotions that almost ruin both businesses. When an important bit of family history comes to light, it changes everything! I didn’t want to put it down and loved how the characters grew and changed over the course of the story. This is a great comedic and sentimental family rivalry to get lost in all while feeling like you’re getting a sneak peek behind the scenes of a Food Network show!

People We Meet On Vacation (Emily Henry)
Poppy and Alex were the very best of friends, until two years ago when their relationship fell apart. Time continued to pass without either working to make amends and clear the air, and as miscommunications and misunderstandings grew, so too did the distance between them. Before everything fell apart, one of the things they’d most look forward to was their annual vacation together. Poppy decides to reach out and try to convince Alex to go away again. He agrees and together they endure mishap after mishap, pushing them to face both the reality that is the disaster of their trip and their attitude towards one another. The book goes back and forth between trips they’d taken in the past and the one they are currently on, and it’s so interesting to see who they were at one point and the dynamic of the friendship compared to the present timeline.

How To Be Fine (Jolenta Greenberg & Kristen Meinz)
I hadn’t heard of the How to Be Fine podcast prior to reading this book. If you have, you may already be familiar with the author’s voices, so to speak, and their style. Having come to it without previous knowledge of them, it was fun to really get a feel for their different opinions and perspectives through their reviews and respective approaches to each self-help concept. Overall, I really loved this premise! There are so, so many self-help books out there that navigating the variety available is overwhelming to say the least. To be able to read their perspective and opinion on 50 different texts was enlightening and oftentimes hilarious. They are unfailingly honest in their reviews and their vulnerability in sharing personal stories, in relation to different books or schools of thought, was refreshing. After living by each self-help book for a period of time to determine how helpful the guidance provided really is, this book is divided into what worked for them and what didn’t. I think it’s important to keep in mind that this is their opinion and to take it all with a grain of salt. If something works for you and didn’t for them, it doesn’t mean anything negative about you (or vice versa!). They are very clear in this as well and often address differing opinions, through letters written to them, throughout the book. I found that their respectful approach to differing opinions as well as their leaving room for differences, for the most part, made it even more helpful. If you’re overwhelmed by the selection of self-help books available or want a little more detail before diving into one, this is a great read! 

The Secret Path (Karen Swan)
Last summer, I read my first Karen Swan novel and then proceeded to read five more! I was so excited for this release and it did not disappoint! Tara has worked hard to make a name for herself, independent of her affluent family, and she’s done just that by entering the medical field and doing what she can to help others. Just before she’s set to go to Costa Rica for a dedication ceremony for an endeavor her father has had in the making for years, she loses a patient. This shadows everything from the moment she leaves. When she comes across a desperately ill child on the island, she sets out to do absolutely whatever she can to help him, regardless of how dangerous the trek. There is danger and suspense, romance, and the return of a past relationship that scarred her deeply. It’s a great read filled with adventure, as Tara comes to terms with the past, present, and future!

The Four Winds (Kristin Hannah)
This was one of the hardest, saddest books I’ve ever read. It is a very heavy and long read. At one point, I stopped and just could not get over how these characters just could NOT catch a break! Admittedly, I knew very little about the Dust Bowl era, the drought and full effect of the Great Depression on the south. Kristin’s writing is startling in the sense that you can almost taste the dust as you read of the many storms the characters face. The grief on each page is almost tangible. After a traumatic childhood, Elsa does whatever she can to manage her way through the storms and help her in-laws maintain their home. She ultimately takes her children and makes the trek to California in hopes of a better life, and at the very least, cleaner air. Her daughter, Loreda, grows up much faster than she should have had to, and reading of her childhood essentially going up in dust, adds another traumatic element to the story line. As with her other novels, Kristin’s ability to shape a hero out of such dark times is remarkable. The same can be said for this story and Elsa’s strength and perseverance, and subsequently Loreda’s as well.

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