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What I’ve Read Lately

Whew, it’s been a minute since I did one of these [see that one here]. Honestly, reading took a bit of a backseat for me last year. With all the stress of everything in the world, by the end of the day, I barely had the energy to sit through a show while scrolling on my phone, let alone read a book. And that’s ok! This year, I want to be better about it, and hopefully will. But let’s dive in because there were a few good, different reads in this bunch.

THE GLASS HOUSE

Synopsis: In 1912 in Scotland, Antonia McCulloch’s life hasn’t gone the way she planned. Her husband, career, and self-image have all not gone as planned. But at least she will always have Balmarra, her family’s grand Scottish estate, and its exquisite glass house, filled with exotic plants that can take her far away. When her estranged brother’s wife, Cicely Pick, arrives unannounced, with her young daughter and enough trunks to last the summer, Antonia is instantly suspicious. Do they want the inheritance? Is that why they’ve come from India? Quickly, Cicely introduces excitement and intrigue into Antonia’s life, and, as they get to know one another, Antonia realizes that Cicely has her own burdens to bear. Slowly, a fragile friendship grows between them. Their secrets eventually come out and alter the course of their lives and family.

Would I Recommend It: This fell a bit flat for me. While the writing was compelling in that I was able to vividly picture the estate, the characters, and the glass house, the story was a tad slow. The relationship between the women was interesting, but very slow to build. It was definitely a different read for me, but it wasn’t my favorite.

THE SECRET WOMEN

Synopsis: Elise Armstrong, Carmen Bradshaw, and DeeDee Davis meet in a yoga class in Cincinnati. Despite them being of different ages and life stages, they realize that all their mothers have recently passed away. Becoming fast friends, the trio make a pact to help each other sort through the belongings their mothers’ left behind. But when they find old letters and diaries, Elise, Carmen, and DeeDee are astonished to learn that each of their mothers hid secrets—secrets that will transform their own lives. As they grow closer, Elise, Carmen, and DeeDee gain not only a better understanding of the women their mothers were, but of themselves. They also come to realize they have what their mothers needed most but did not have during difficult times—other women they could trust.

Would I Recommend It: This was my book club’s pick for January and we all had some differing opinions. The author is local which is really cool and it was fun to read about Cincinnati landmarks throughout. I actually enjoyed this for a quick read that had some depth and twists and turns. The one part I wish was that each women’s story got equal attention. I feel like one woman’s story went into deep detail, while the other two rushed through. If this had been a tad longer with a bit more detail, it would’ve been a real winner for me. Still, I definitely enjoy it and it’s a great portrayal of women’s lives and the things we endure along the way.

THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES

Synopsis: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church’s double standards and their own needs and passions. You meet Jael, Lyra, Caroletta’ and others who are all exploring their hidden desires, and not-so-hidden relationships. With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.

Would I Recommend It: This was my book club’s pick for December and I loved this! It was juicy, heartfelt, sad, happy, and inspiring. While some stories were better than others, all of them definitely brought out an equal set of emotions. The writing was gripping but approachable and there were some good lessons to be learned in here, too. I would definitely give this a go.

IF I HAD YOUR FACE

Synopsis: If I Had Your Face follows 4 women and their lives and experiences with facial reconstruction in Korea. Kyuri is a beautiful woman with a job at a Seoul “room salon,” an exclusive underground bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake threatens her livelihood. Kyuri’s roommate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the heir to one of the country’s biggest conglomerates. Down the hall in their building lives Ara, a hairstylist whose two preoccupations sustain her: an obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that she hopes will change her life. And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to have a baby that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise in Korea’s brutal economy. Together, their stories tell a gripping tale at once unfamiliar and unmistakably universal, in which their tentative friendships may turn out to be the thing that ultimately saves them.

Would I Recommend It: Wow. I had no idea about any of this before reading this book. This was November’s book club pick and it made for some real deep discussion. The story of these women are all so different and each more interesting than the last. I loved the writing in this and it was a book I’ve thought alot about since.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Synopsis: Shay Miller is a 30-something living in Manhattan who wants the job, the love, and the social life, but seems to have none of it. After witnessing a brutal event at the Subway station, her live seems to unravel even more, until Shay meets the Moore sisters. Cassandra and Jane live a life of glamorous perfection, and always get what they desire. When they invite Shay into their circle, everything seems to get better. Shay would die for them to like her. She may have to.

Would I Recommend It: I COULD NOT put this book down! These are the same authors as The Wife Between Us, so I knew I was in for a wild ride. I can’t talk too much without spoiling anything, so I’ll just say that if you’re in the market for a new thriller, make this one it.

These books definitely ran the gamut in terms of themes, characters, and writing styles, and each one brought something different to the table. Here’s to a page-turning 2021!

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