There’s been a lot of conversation around Spare by Prince Harry. I chose to listen to it, which was lovely since he reads it himself. However, I must say, while I am all about the royals and all the intrigue involved, most of this narrative was downright boring. I had to push myself to listen at all opportunities since it is SO long. Am I glad I pushed through? Yes. But, I am not sure I can recommend it unless you really want to know what all the hype is about.

The House of Eve

The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson was a Reese Witherspoon pick and a great read. I loved the back and forth chapters of the different characters and loved how things came together in the end. Amazon: “1950s Philadelphia: fifteen-year-old Ruby Pearsall is on track to becoming the first in her family to attend college, in spite of having a mother more interested in keeping a man than raising a daughter. But a taboo love affair threatens to pull her back down into the poverty and desperation that has been passed on to her like a birthright. Eleanor Quarles arrives in Washington, DC, with ambition and secrets. When she meets the handsome William Pride at Howard University, they fall madly in love. But William hails from one of DC’s elite wealthy Black families, and his par­ents don’t let just anyone into their fold. Eleanor hopes that a baby will make her finally feel at home in William’s family and grant her the life she’s been searching for. But having a baby—and fitting in—is easier said than done. With their stories colliding in the most unexpected of ways, Ruby and Eleanor will both make decisions that shape the trajectory of their lives.” Great story based on historical truths.

Eat and Flourish: How Food Supports Emotional Well-Being 

Two five star books in one day? Crazy! Eat and Flourish was written by a friend, Mary Beth Albright, who works at the Washington Post. I was excited to read the book and captivated by the ideas therein when I heard her speak about the book at Politics and Prose. I immediately began adding kombucha and greek yogurt to my daily regimen. I finally got around to actually reading the book and, no surprise, it was a wonderful read. Amazon: “Food has power to nourish your mind, supporting emotional wellness through both nutrients and pleasure. In this groundbreaking book, journalist Mary Beth Albright draws on cutting-edge research to explain the food/mood connection. She redefines “emotional eating” based on the science, revealing how eating triggers biological responses that affect humans’ emotional states both immediately and long-term. Albright’s accessible voice and ability to interpret complex studies from the new field of nutritional psychology, combined with straightforward suggestions for what to eat and how to eat it, make this an indispensable guide. Listeners will come away knowing how certain foods help reduce the inflammation that can harm mental health, the critical relationship between the microbiome and the brain, which vitamins help restore the body during intensely emotional times, and how to develop a healthful eating pattern for life—with 30-day kickoff plan included. Eat and Flourish is the entertaining, inspiring book for today’s world.” While the whole book was wonderful, easy to read, filled with interesting and digestible (ha!) information, it also just spoke through the author’s voice. My favorite part was the parentheticals where I could just hear Mary Beth. A true delight. I can’t wait to try the recipes!!

Those Precious Days

I love Ann Patchett. While I wouldn’t normally pick up a book of essays, I won Those Precious Days in a book giveaway and have been trying to clear the bookshelf (as usual), so I picked it up. It’s really a memoir, just told in short essay chapters that don’t connect. And, I wasn’t disappointed. “‘Any story that starts will also end.’ As a writer, Ann Patchett knows what the outcome of her fiction will be. Life, however, often takes turns we do not see coming. Patchett ponders this truth in these wise essays that afford a fresh and intimate look into her mind and heart. At the center of These Precious Days is the title essay, a surprising and moving meditation on an unexpected friendship that explores “what it means to be seen, to find someone with whom you can be your best and most complete self.” When Patchett chose an early galley of actor and producer Tom Hanks’ short story collection to read one night before bed, she had no idea that this single choice would be life changing. It would introduce her to a remarkable woman—Tom’s brilliant assistant Sooki—with whom she would form a profound bond that held monumental consequences for them both. A literary alchemist, Patchett plumbs the depths of her experiences to create gold: engaging and moving pieces that are both self-portrait and landscape, each vibrant with emotion and rich in insight. Turning her writer’s eye on her own experiences, she transforms the private into the universal, providing us all a way to look at our own worlds anew, and reminds how fleeting and enigmatic life can be. From the enchantments of Kate DiCamillo’s children’s books (author of The Beatryce Prophecy) to youthful memories of Paris; the cherished life gifts given by her three fathers to the unexpected influence of Charles Schultz’s Snoopy; the expansive vision of Eudora Welty to the importance of knitting, Patchett connects life and art as she illuminates what matters most. Infused with the author’s grace, wit, and warmth, the pieces in These Precious Days resonate deep in the soul, leaving an indelible mark—and demonstrate why Ann Patchett is one of the most celebrated writers of our time.” (Amazon) While I didn’t love all the essays, overall, it was a great read that only reinforced my love of Patchett and her work. Best two chapters were “Reading Kate DiCamillo” and “These Precious Days.”

A Single Rose

I was loaned A Single Rose by Muriel Barbery (author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I have tried to read multiple times) and I read it in an evening. It’s a lovely, spare book, but ultimately, I didn’t love it. It, somehow, seemed like it was trying too hard. And, it was too flowery for me. Amazon: “Rose is called to Kyoto for the reading of her estranged father’s will. Once there, she encounters acquaintances of her father—including a potter and poet, an old lady friend, his housekeeper and chauffeur, and Paul, her guide through Kyoto. As the reading of the will gets closer, through her encounters and peregrinations in Kyoto, Rose reaches a poignant understanding of her father’s love and an acceptance of loss.” I think it could have easily been a short story. I think, if you are really into botany, this might float your boat, but, for me, it wasn’t a favorite.

We All Want Impossible Things

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman was a sad, sad book. Amazon: “Edith and Ashley have been best friends for over forty-two years. They’ve shared the mundane and the momentous together: trick or treating and binge drinking; Gilligan’s Island reruns and REM concerts; hickeys and heartbreak; surprise Scottish wakes; marriages, infertility, and children. As Ash says, ‘Edi’s memory is like the back-up hard drive for mine.’ But now the unthinkable has happened. Edi is dying of ovarian cancer and spending her last days at a hospice near Ash, who stumbles into heartbreak surrounded by her daughters, ex(ish) husband, dear friends, a poorly chosen lover (or two), and a rotating cast of beautifully, fleetingly human hospice characters. As The Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack blasts all day long from the room next door, Edi and Ash reminisce, hold on, and try to let go. Meanwhile, Ash struggles with being an imperfect friend, wife, and parent—with life, in other words, distilled to its heartbreaking, joyful, and comedic essence. For anyone who’s ever lost a friend or had one. Get ready to laugh through your tears.” While I really enjoyed this read, it was quite, quite sad.

The Cloisters

I’ve had The Cloisters by Katy Hays on my list for a while. It was a good read, but it could have been better. While the mystery aspect and thriller quality was good, it wasn’t great. It simmered, but, for whatever reason, wasn’t fully developed enough for me and felt too much like other books of this type that I have read. “When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination. Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.” (Amazon) A good read, but not stunning.

Our Missing Hearts

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng had a strong start and a good ending, but left me cold in the middle. If I wasn’t reading it for a book group, I might not have finished. However, I am glad I did, since it did get better in the end. Amazon: “Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. His mother Margaret, a Chinese American poet, left without a trace when he was nine years old. He doesn’t know what happened to her—only that her books have been banned—and he resents that she cared more about her work than about him. Then one day, Bird receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, and soon he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of heroic librarians, and finally to New York City, where he will finally learn the truth about what happened to his mother, and what the future holds for them both.” While this wasn’t a favorite, it was an OK read.

Maybe Now

Another day, another Colleen Hoover book. I thought I was getting close to having read all of them, but there are about nine more, it seems. Fortunately, they are quick reads. Maybe Now is the third in the series about Ridge and Sydney. I read that you didn’t have to read the second one to appreciate the third and they came in the wrong order from the library, so I went with it. “Ridge and Sydney are thrilled to finally be together guilt-free. But as the two of them navigate this freedom, Warren and Bridgette’s relationship is as tumultuous as ever, and Maggie grapples with her illness. When she comes across an old list of things she wanted to do “maybe one of these days,” Maggie decides to live life to the fullest and accomplish these dreams. Maggie keeps Ridge updated on her adventures, but he can’t help but worry, even as Sydney grows more and more suspicious about their friendship. But if she’s going to move past this jealousy, she’ll need to reconcile how she and Ridge came together with the fact that Maggie will always be in their lives somehow…or end up walking away from the man she loves so much.” (Amazon) This was a satisfying, if not terribly exciting read and a good wrap up to the series.

Too Late

I grabbed Too Late at the library when looking for other Colleen Hoover books and was almost afraid to read it with all the disclaimers. However, while dark and difficult, it certainly wasn’t any worse than The Last Housewife. Strange to have read them back-to-back. Amazon: “Sloan will go through hell and back for those she loves. And she does, every single day. After finding herself stuck in a relationship with the dangerous and morally corrupt Asa Jackson, Sloan will do whatever it takes to get by until she’s able to find a way out. Nothing will get in her way. Nothing except Carter. Sloan is the best thing to ever happen to Asa. And if you ask Asa, he’d say he’s the best thing to ever happen to Sloan. Despite Sloan’s disapproval of Asa’s sinister lifestyle, he does exactly what he needs to do in order to stay a step ahead in his business. He also does exactly what he needs to do in order to stay a step ahead of Sloan. Nothing will get in his way. Nothing except Carter. This book was originally written as a side project by the author. Please note that the content of this book is more graphic than the content of other books written by this author, hence the distinction between the names. This title is recommended for mature audiences only due to extreme graphic content.” It was fine, not one of her best, but certainly an interesting premise.