Book Reviews

October (+A Few More) Book Review

I hope you had the very best Halloween weekend with your families and friends! We had so much fun between finishing out Jackson’s soccer season with a little end of the party, our school’s trunk or treat (2nd prize winner over here!), and spending hours scouring our neighborhood with friends trick or treating. And since Jackson attends a Catholic school, he didn’t have school on Monday for All Saint’s Day. We got a little extra time to lay low, watch a Christmas movie together, talk about our Saints, and just simply not rush our Monday.

But today we are back at it. And I’m finally back at something I’ve missed doing for MONTHS now….BOOK REVIEW DAY!!

You know just when the One Room Challenge started for me because suddenly, my opportunity to read was completely overtaken by my laundry room makeover. All the nights that I’d head up to bed and read for 30-45 minutes each night was used up by that project so my reading simply just tanked after that. Then last few months? I just couldn’t seem to get back into the routine again. Have you ever had that happen to you? You love something and feel so wonderful doing it, but you fall out of rhythm and it simply doesn’t happen for you anymore. That was me and my nightly read. I found myself getting on social media or being a zombie in front of the TV for way too late.

Getting back to reading every night has been a gift I’ve given myself. It’s so good to be back!

These last few months, I’ve read NINE books. Two have good potential to be in my top three of the year, some were a complete swing and a miss, and some were so hyped that I feel so disappointed and let down by. Let’s get to it!

All Adults Here

I saw this first advertised as a Read with Jenna book club pick and was intrigued by the complicated family dynamics that it promised. It follows a family of characters as they reflect on their lives, find themselves, and realize some things from their past might not have been what they had imagined. It’s a lot about growing older, dealing with aging parents, and looking back at your life and knowing it’s never too late to make amends.

I will say that YES, it definitely had COMPLICATED dynamics within the story lines, but it came across as almost trying to be too politically correct, too socially aware, too much. Every single character was facing a massive social change that it almost came across as far fetched, reaching, and too intentional. I was so disappointed by this read. I enjoyed looking from each character’s perspective, but Emma Straub never dug in deep enough to each character to really get to know them, to like them. It was very surface level and a little too trying. It’s an easy read, but not one that I found much enjoyment out of.

Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

“Don’t ever think of yourself as being something less than the person you are because of your eyes, Sam. If you do, people will take advantage of it, and you’ll find yourself doing things you don’t want to do.”

Oh, this book had me in tears sometimes, laughing others, and constantly saying “just one more chapter…” I LOVED this story.

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is an inspiring story of a boy born with ocular albinism, which makes his eyes appear red. His mom, a devout Catholic, forces his way right into the local Catholic school where he quickly gains the nickname “Devil Boy” from his peers. The story follows his life as he makes his way through school, through friends, through bullies, through girlfriends, and into his adulthood. His eyes are his trait that people see first, that judge him based on, and treat him because of.

It’s a story of self-acceptance, family, redemption, courage, and an inspirational story in the way that Sam Hell lives his life. I just adored this story and I loved everything about Sam. I saw characteristics of each of my children in him, as I’m sure many of you could, as well. He’s a loveable character, you become invested in his life, and Dugoni does an amazing job of telling his life story in a quick, concise, heartwarming way that locks you in and makes you want to keep reading to see just how Sam Hell ends up.

Whisper Network

This is a #metoo movement book that sucked me in and had me guessing until the very end! After the current CEO passes away, the mourning company promotes a so-called “Bad Man’s Club” member to take over. He’s mistreated, mishandled, and pushed himself upon far too many women in the company and now his secrets are starting to quickly get around the company. Four friends/co-workers are determined to make things right, especially as they see him go after the new girl in the office. Reporting his behavior can make detrimental changes to the office, to their careers, and to one another. Do you report or do you remain silent?

I had a lot of fears prior to reading this book. I worried it would become more of a “man-bashing” type book. Or one that portrayed all women in the office as victims of some sort. I firmly stand against both of those. Not all men are bad and not all women in the workplace, in the home, or in any facet of life are victims. Couldn’t have been further from the truth! I was hooked to the characters, to the plots, to the secrets, to all the surprises and cliffhangers. I was sucked into this story and truly was guessing all the way to the end of this book. A great beach read or one to gobble up during your holiday breaks!

The Last Flight

Whoa! I feel like I actually broke a sweat while reading this one because I had so much anxiety. What a FABULOUS book! If this isn’t in my top 3 favorites of the year, I would be completely shocked.

Claire Cook lives a lavish life in a Manhattan apartment. Gorgeous husband, beautiful clothes, perfect body, a staff of ten. The list goes on and on. Her life is something that so many long for. However, behind closed doors, her husband has a temper, “expectations,” and has her life perfectly coordinated so her staff know her every move. She needs out and after months of planning her escape, is finally going to do it.

But when she makes it to the airport, another woman that seems to be running from her own life, changes her plans for her. Now they will switch plane tickets, switch locations, switch identities, and be able to fully restart their lives as one another. It seems like a seamless plan…until one of the plane crashes.

Even as I’m typing out the description, I’m on pins and needles. It was so well-written, so thought-out, so intriguing. I was locked in from the start and it never dipped, it never faltered. I love this book from beginning to the very end!

Big Summer

Such hype for this book! So many people ranted and raved online, on social media, and on television on this one. I was really excited to dive in and liked it for how it started…and then quickly lost interest.

There was just so much covered in this book that I felt like it all was too surface level. One character is a plus-size influencer, one character is a beautiful, thin influencer who steals away the lead of the newest dating reality show (just like The Bachelor). That in itself could be a book, right? Okay, now add in the conflict and family dynamics of the two girls. Another book. Then there was the fact that one gets murdered on her wedding day. Okay, now that. There was so much to unpack and I think I would’ve liked it more if there was just SOME of that instead of ALL of that. I don’t know if I’ve ever really loved any of Jennifer Weiner’s books before, but this one was all hype and not enough follow-through.

Malibu Rising

Another one that had so much hype and everyone seemed to be talking about it…and made me so disappointed at the end. I was hooked through most of the book, trying to get to the end to figure out what was going to happen, and then finished it and thought, “eh.” I ended it wanting more but it just fell flat for me.

The book toggles between the love story of dad, a famous musician (reminded me of Frank Sinatra from the description) and the mom, who gave up everything to stand behind his hot-mess self, and the four kids they raised together. It flashes back and forth between the twenty-ish years between their marriage and their grown kids currently.

There was so much heartbreak and sadness in this story. I felt bad for each and every character throughout this story, and even in the “good” that they did, there was a selfish motive. I don’t think there was a single character that I actually enjoyed.

I won’t give up on Taylor Jenkins Reid just yet because I’ve heard great things about Daisy Jones and the Six and her book One True Loves. I just hope they have a little more than this one gave.

Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

What a strange and beautiful and weird and addicting concept this book had. A girl at her wits end, praying to the gods of the day but never getting help, goes to the gods of the night to finally pray away her situation. The Darkness answers her prays by giving her just what she asked for…sort of. She is promised to live forever, but no one will ever remember her. Not her parents, not her dear friends, not a stranger after he turns away from her. She is simply erased from their memory. She can no longer leave a mark on the world because she is simply forgotten moments later.

She lives for centuries in this way, across countries and world events, until present day when she meets a boy that suddenly remembers her.

I liked this book, but I didn’t love this book. Such a fascinating premise and the story line was interesting…until you got to page 300 and you just needed it to get somewhere. Addie lived through world wars, technology innovations, social changes, and all were barely spoken about. Could you imagine living through them ALL? The stories that could have been weaved in here, V.E. Schwab. Instead, it was a constant back and forth between the past and the present…over and over and OVER again before anything of real quality and conflict occurred.

I also was a little bothered by the loopholes that I found within the story. Too many interactions occurred where people remembered her for longer than they should have been able to…or times that she spent with strangers where they went the whole day together. Wait…they never turned away from you that whole time?!

I found this book to be so intriguing but it could have been about 150-200 pages shorter the way it was written to really keep me more invested in it.

The Paper Palace

Wow, what an intense storyline! A happily married mother of three is spending the summer at their family lake house, endearingly called The Paper Palace. One night while they are spending time with her childhood friend and his wife, she slips off and has a little rendezvous with him while their spouses are right in the other room. Yikes, right?

These two have a scarred past that brought them close and yet pushed them apart because of the tragedies. The story flips between their past and their current lives and follows her thoughts as she determines which life she is meant to live: with her husband or one that she always thought would be with her childhood friend, Jonas.

The Paper Palace is most certainly an R-rated book. Not only from the scenes between the two friends and their spouses, but the stories from Elle’s past are almost too intense and upsetting to read through. There is stories of rape and incest that are gruesome.

Now after all of that, it’s almost hard to say that I liked this book. It was well-written and it kept me insanely interested in what happens at the end, but so much of that story line was a lot to stomach. I would recommend this book, but with a big warning label on it that it isn’t the easiest to get through some of the parts.


Whoa, whoa, whoa! This book may very well be number one of the year for me! This was dark, it was twisted, and I could not get enough of it. This book was actually one that I was reading while my kids were playing, in the car pool line, during naptimes when I normally am working on Growing Up Kemper. Really any time I could get my hands on this book, I was grabbing for it!

Another very dark and twisted story, guys. Another R-rated one for the relationship between Verity and her husband. The warning is there!

Lowen is an author that hasn’t quite found her big break yet, nor is she actively seeking it out. Weeks after losing her mother, she gets a call from her agent that she is being requested at a very secretive meeting. She’s being asked to finish the insanely popular book series written by Verity Crawford after Verity has suffered injuries from a car accident. After meeting with Verity’s husband, she agrees to go live at their house with them for a few weeks to gather notes from her office and get into the mind of Verity before taking on the task of writing the final three books.

During her time, she uncovers a morbid memoir Verity has written among her files, and uncovers disturbing secrets about the family, their two daughters that have recently passed away, and about the “car accident” that Verity was in.

Oh my word. This is the pinnacle of edge of your seat books and I loved every single minute of it!!

I’m going to take a break from the very intense, morbid stories to deep dive into holiday reads this month. That way, when my book review comes out at the end of November, you’ll have plenty to choose from leading up into the Christmas season!

Happy Reading, everyone!

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