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Review: How to be Married by Jo Piazza (nonfiction!)

How to Be Married: What I Learned from Real Women on Five Continents about Building a Happy Marriage by Jo Piazza

Recommended: absolutely
for people who do or do not want to get married, for people who are already married, for people who are interested in people, for good advice on creating healthy and loving long term relationships of any kind, for a really lovely read about love around the world and from different people

Summary

At age thirty-four, Jo Piazza got her romantic-comedy ending when she met the man of her dreams on a boat in the Galapagos Islands and was engaged three months later. But before long, Jo found herself riddled with questions. How do you make a marriage work in a world where you no longer need to be married? How does an independent, strong-willed feminist become someone’s partner–all the time?

In the tradition of writers such as Nora Ephron and Elizabeth Gilbert, award-winning journalist and nationally bestselling author Jo Piazza writes a provocative memoir of a real first year of marriage that will forever change the way we look at matrimony.

A travel editor constantly on the move, Jo journeys to twenty countries on five continents to figure out what modern marriage means. Throughout this stunning, funny, warm, and wise personal narrative, she gleans wisdom from matrilineal tribeswomen, French ladies who lunch, Orthodox Jewish moms, Swedish stay-at-home dads, polygamous warriors, and Dutch prostitutes.

Written with refreshing candor, elegant prose, astute reporting, and hilarious insight into the human psyche, How to Be Married offers an honest portrait of an utterly charming couple. When life throws more at them than they ever expected–a terrifying health diagnosis, sick parents to care for, unemployment–they ultimately create a fresh understanding of what it means to be equal partners during the good and bad times.

Thoughts

For perspective, I don’t want to get married. I’m in a long term relationship and plan to stay with this person, but as for marriage? I’m not interested, and I’d say I’m even somewhat against it (for myself). One of the biggest reasons for that was always a bit hard for me to express properly, but this book put it into simple concise words for me:

There was something appealing about actively choosing your partner again and again.

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2 Second Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Summary

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.
    This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

Note: this is actually a review I wrote wayyy back in 2014 when I read this book, but I wanted to share it because I do remember this being quite a remarkable read for me at the time. Also it’s Christmas and I’m tired but still want to fulfill my goal this month of posting a review a day, so here it is, courtest of past me. Thanks, past me! 👋

The narrative voice of the main character is fantastic! It really captures the mind of someone with autism, and the plot itself was clever and unexpected.

I saw this book in my advisors office on her big shelf of young adult novels. I’ve seen it before, and been intrigued by the name even though I had no idea what it was about. I seem to have been on a kick of reading books that I have no idea what they are about lately. Anyway, I started this one, and I really love it. It’s written from the perspective of a boy with autism, and it’s definitively an interesting read. The language is straightforward in an incredibly refreshing way, and the character is cleverly developed to for the story.

I have to say, this book got me. I did not see the twists coming. The first one wasn’t too surprising; you could kind of infer it from earlier hints and suggestions that the narrator couldn’t figure out because of his difficulty with understanding others’ emotions. But the second one? The resolution of who killed the dog? WHOA! Didn’t see that coming!! So well done. The whole journey to London was intriguing as well, and the ending was perfectly done: it didn’t answer every question, and I had to wonder what would become of the characters. Very good!

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2 Second Review: My Inner Sky by Mari Andrew

My Inner Sky: On Embracing Day, Night, and All the Times in Between by Mari Andrew

Summary

A whole, beautiful life is only made possible by the wide spectrum of feelings that exist between joy and sorrow. In this insightful and warm book, writer and illustrator Mari Andrew explores all the emotions that make up a life, in the process offering insights about trauma and healing, the meaning of home and the challenges of loneliness, finding love in the most unexpected of places–from birds nesting on a sculpture to a ride on the subway–and a resounding case for why sometimes you have to put yourself in the path of magic.

My Inner Sky empowers us to transform everything that’s happened to us into something meaningful, reassurance that even in our darkest times, there’s light and beauty to be found.

Thoughts

Made me feel a lot of feels. Inspired, energetic, depressed, cautious, pessimistic, hopeful, grateful, touched. Possibly my favorite element of this was the beauty of the physical book itself. It’s truly so gorgeous to look at. Since I found Mari Andrew through her art originally, then her writing after, I love seeing that she found a way to incorporate both into a printed version. Even the page numbers change color for each section to match the theme, and it’s touches like that in the printed hardback that I loved. Of course the inside content matched. I feel like this could be useful to have on hand any time I need a dose of determination, or gratitude, or a reminder of the goodness of humanity. This will probably be a purchase soon because I always need good books on hand for the dark days of winter.

The blurb gives a good impression of the emotions and mood of the book, but not the concrete content. Mari talks about her travels and mental health as she is in her young adulthood. She also focuses on her healing journey after a life-changing physical injury, which is the sort of triggering point and framework for a lot of this.

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Review: Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens

Recommended: yep!
For a cute little love story about love, for characters who are mostly lovable and only ocassionally idiots, for a personal tour of the island 🙂

Summary

Laura’s business trip to the Channel Islands isn’t exactly off to a great start. After unceremoniously dumping everything in her bag in front of the most attractive man she’s ever seen in real life, she arrives at her hotel only to realize she’s grabbed the wrong suitcase from the airport. Her only consolation? The irresistibly appealing contents of the case: a copy of her favorite book; piano music; and a rugged, heavy knit fisherman sweater only a Ryan Gosling lookalike could pull off. The owner of this suitcase is Laura’s dream man–she’s sure of it. Now, all she has to do is find him.

The mix-up seems written in the stars. After all, what are the odds that she’d find The One on the same remote island where her mom and dad had first fallen in love, especially as she sets out to write an article about their epic romance? Commissioning surly cab driver Ted to ferry her around seems like her best bet in both tracking down the mystery suitcase owner and retracing her parents’ footsteps. And if beneath Ted’s gruffness lies a wit that makes their cab rides strangely entertaining, so much the better. But as Laura’s long-lost luggage soulmate proves difficult to find–and as she realizes that the love story she’s held on a pedestal all her life might not have been that perfect–she’ll have to rethink her whole outlook on love to discover what she really wants.

Thoughts

It has now been several months since I finished this, and I still am remembering it fondly, which really could be my entire view in one sentence. However, I am verbose, and will add more. 😁

The overall premise and plot of the book are excellently done and play with tropes and expectations in a really fun way. I think fun is honestly the perfect word to sum up this book. With it you get a lot of smiles and silliness, but also maybe some things that could have been done better (which were sacrificed in the same of more fun). Looking back at my highlights, there are a lot that I had highlighted just because they made me smile. In the whip played with the tropes and expectations, I was somehow surprised in little moments along the way but not at the overall turnout. Granted when you read a rom-com, you kind of know what to expect at the ending most of the time.

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Review: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

Summary

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him-at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.

Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl-she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.

Thoughts

This is an unusual book because it’s a romance that is painful and difficult and maybe a little toxic. Despite being love, it forces the characters to take a hard look at how they feel and what they have and recognize that it’s not always good, to be in love the way they are. It’s a love that hurts as much as it elevates. One where the highs feel so good, but the lows are nigh unbearable. The expectations they put on each other and the way they struggle under the weight of them frankly just hurt to read about. This was one where it felt like there was never going to be an easy answer.

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Review: Summertide (Wonder Tales #4) by Charlotte E. English

Summertide by Charlotte E. English

Recommended: YES!
For a world of magic and wonder, for a story that warms your heart, for an intriguing and exciting plot rife with mystery, for extraordinarily unique and lovable characters

Summary

On the edge of the town of Kottow stands the tallest (and oddest) Tree in the land. It’s a staid and solid arbour — until the Tree picks up its mighty old roots and wanders off, taking its resident band of misfits away with it. Whither goes the Tree? Not even the wizard can say.

‘There is something mighty fey about all this, or my name ain’t Diggory Stokey.’

Far away from Kottow, a forest lies lost in the mists of a dream. There’s much to mend in this hoary old wood, for the Summer’s been swept from the glittering skies, and no one’s keeping an eye on the Winter…

‘Enchanted forests,’ Mudleaf spat. ‘Bah. Like it’s been raining magic this long age through.’

The good folk of Kottow aren’t used to so wayward a magic — not even Maut Fey, the one with the sunlight behind her eyes. But magic will have its way with them, whether they will or no.

Summertide’s waiting. Can the folk of the Tree bring it back, or will the wild magic wash them away?

Thoughts

Are you feeling a bit burnt out? Does it feel like there’s endless stress and pain in the world and you just want somewhere to take a break? Are you hoping to find a world of sunshine and compassion that is still exciting and compelling?

Y’all, this book is exactly what I needed and exactly what you might need too. Apparently the author also thought that, because in the notes at the end they mentioned writing it during COVID lockdowns and how they really need something happy and lovely to carry them through. The result is this wonderful gift for us all.

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Review: In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Summary

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

Thoughts

This book is a slow burn. We know from the start exactly how it ends, so it’s the epitome of “it’s about the journey.” While it might sound like it’s about romantic love, it is much more about friendship. It’s also not a light and happy story. This is painful and emotional the whole way through.

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Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Turkish Delight by K.C. McCormick Ciftci

Pride, Prejudice, & Turkish Delight by K.C. McCormick Çiftçi

Recommended: yep!
for a cute story with parallels to a classic lit story, for an adventure story, for a story about taking risks and finding yourself, for lots of teaching pedagogy and moments that teachers will fully resonate with, for career and friendship and romance decisions

Summary

Having led a safe (admittedly boring) life until now, Eliza Britt wasn’t about to turn down the opportunity to work in Antalya, Turkey. With the Mediterranean calling, she was excited to help lead the university’s English department and to finally have a little adventure in her life.

On arrival Eliza soon realizes that her new posting won’t be all cerulean waters and exploring a new culture. Instead she’s faced with Deniz Aydem. Forced to work together, Eliza isn’t sure she will be able to ignore his arrogance or the unexpected attraction she feels for him.

Eliza and Deniz differ in every way. She’s American, he’s Turkish. She embraces her sense of humor, whereas Deniz has a serious disposition. But regardless of all their differences, something is simmering beneath the surface of their interactions. Whether it’s love or just an intense dislike for each other remains to be seen.

Thoughts

The title alone makes it clear that this is meant to be a bit of a parallel to pride and prejudice, but it definitely can stand on its own. There are certainly parallels to Austin’s story, but they are more like little fun bonuses if you know what to look for. For anyone not interested or not familiar with pride and prejudice, this will still be a fun read.

As a former teacher, I enjoyed the realism with which the profession was portrayed. There are so many struggles faced, and I would say that the struggles of from the admin side are not usually the perspective we see. It’s clear for teachers how administration can make daily life harder, but rarely is there a story where the admin making life harder is the protagonist. I appreciated the sensitive insight here and the learning that the main character does in regards of her career and how her decisions affected her teams and teachers and ultimately her students.

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Review: The Upside of Falling by Alex Light

The Upside of Falling by Alex Light
Recommended: not really
for a simple teen fake-dating story, not for much memorable, for vague teenage lessons

Summary

It’s been years since seventeen-year-old Becca Hart believed in true love. But when her former best friend teases her for not having a boyfriend, Becca impulsively pretends she’s been secretly seeing someone.

Brett Wells has it all. Being captain of the football team and one of the most popular guys in school, he should have no problem finding someone to date, but he’s always been more focused on his future than who to bring to prom. When he overhears Becca’s lie, Brett decides to step in and be her mystery guy. It’s the perfect solution: he gets people off his back for not dating and she can keep up the ruse.

Acting like the perfect couple isn’t easy though, especially when you barely know the other person. But with Becca still picking up the pieces from when her world was blown apart years ago and Brett just barely holding his together now, they begin to realize they have more in common than they ever could have imagined. When the line between real and pretend begins to blur, they are forced to answer the question: is this fake romance the realest thing in either of their lives?

Thoughts

Well it’s been almost six months since I finished this in June, which isn’t great as far as review-writing-memory goes. I’ll keep this one short, because I didn’t take great notes and I don’t remember it well. Honestly though, that to me is usually all the review I need: if I don’t remember anything about it six months later, it probably wasn’t that great.

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Review: Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen
Recommended: yes
For a lot of info about handbags and scams, for characters that flip and flop and you don’t know what they’re doing but in the best way

Summary

Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home–she’s built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava’s world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn’t been used in years, and her toddler’s tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point.

Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business–someone who’d never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes once again, Ava is left to face the consequences.

Thoughts

There are two obvious main characters in this, that being Winnie and Ava. Perhaps the third less obvious character is the detective to whom Ava is speaking and narrating her whole story to. We find that out in like chapter 1, and that sets up a whole lot of intrigue because right from the start you know somehow they must get caught since Ava is talking to a detective about all of this. And then commences the mystery.

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