What I’ve Read Lately

march reading list

We might be halfway through April, but here I am – finally getting around to sharing what I read in March! With the craziness of coronavirus and our new normal of working from home, I was able to do a lot more reading than I typically do, which I was ecstatic about. From stories of hardship and grief to a coming of age story based in New York City, I read a variety of different genres this past month and let me tell you, they all had their positives and negatives!

SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE BY JEAN KWOK

Goodreads Synopsis:

A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women—two sisters and their mother—in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears, and a series of family secrets emerge, from the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation. It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.

Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.

But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.

A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.

My Review: What Happened to Sylvie Lee has been on my TBR list for *months* and I was excited to finally read it but I have to admit, I had a very hard time getting into it. As Amy figures out what happened to her sister, she learns more than she was expecting about culture, her family’s dynamics, identity, and relationships, I often found myself confused and having to re-read sections of the book to fully grasp what was going on. In the end, I did enjoy the story and was surprised by what actually happened, but I definitely did not love it by any means.

My Rating: 3/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

HOW TO STYLE YOUR BRAND BY FIONA HUMBERSTONE

The right brand identity has the power to attract, engage and compel people to do business with you. But for many entrepreneurs, creating an effective brand can be a challenge. Whether you’re a start-up on a lemonade budget, or a seasoned entrepreneur planning on working with a professional, an understanding of the process is essential. In this comprehensive workbook, Fiona Humberstone will walk you through the process of styling your brand. From finding your focus, creating an inspirational vision and unlocking the power of color psychology; Fiona will help you understand the design details that will make your business irresistible. How to Style Your Brand will ensure you get your branding right, first time.

In How to Style Your Brand, Fiona shares with you the secrets behind using color to create an emotive connection; how to use pattern and illustrations to add character and personality and how to carefully select typefaces that add a distinctive and intentional edge to your designs. We’ll examine how to pull all of these elements together to create a remarkable and cohesive design that you can be proud of. I’ll encourage you to think big about your business so that you develop the focus and vision to brief a designer with confidence, or feel able to create your own identity. Once you understand the principles behind styling a brand, there is no reason why you can t create something extraordinary for your business.

Drawing on her experience from developing hundreds of brand identities for companies worldwide, Fiona’s tried and tested framework will give you the clarity, confidence and creative know-how to create a brand identity that wins you work.

My Review: Covering everything from brand colors and font, to voice and website design, How to Style Your Brand is a great introduction to the branding process. Although the book is just skimming the base level of the branding process, Fiona does do a wonderful job explaining the process from start to finish and gives you a few homework assignments along the way, which I loved. If you’re new to branding, this is an excellent read!

My Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. 

My Review: This one has been sitting on my bookshelf for far too long and I was so excited to finally read it! Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give is raw, honest, and completely engrossing. Angie Thomas did an absolutely amazing job addressing the injustice, police brutality, and racial bias that the Black community faces on a daily basis. Starr Carter is one of those characters that is such an inspiration and really shows you how to use your voice and face uncertainty, racism, and adversity. The Carter family dynamics are also very realistic compared to other books I’ve read. A must read!

My Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

books to read asap

THINGS IN JARS BY JESS KIDD

Goodreads Synopsis:

Bridie Devine, female detective extraordinaire, is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, the secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery. Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot-tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.

My Review: Based in Victorian London in the mid-1800s, Things in Jars isn’t a book you would typically find me reaching for but it sounded intriguing and I was excited to read it. The first few chapters weren’t really doing it for me but I stuck with it and around chapter 5/6 I started to really get into it. That didn’t last for long. I found that the story jumped around too much, making it a confusing read and not interesting enough to really pull me in and be committed. I started dreading reading the book but at that point, I was far along in it and didn’t want to give up, hoping it would all come together. It seems like there’s a lot of people that have read this book so far have loved it, so maybe it was just me!

My Rating: 2/5 ⭐️⭐️

THE TWO LIVES ON LYDIA BIRD BY JOSIE SILVER

Goodreads Synopsis:

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible. But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life–and perhaps even love–again. But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened. Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

My Review: I recently read One Day in December by Josie Silver and when I heard she had a new book, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, coming out I couldn’t be more excited. While the book did have some triggers of grief and substance abuse, Josie Silver did a wonderful job telling a story that highlights the struggles of death and grief, moving on, and how that grief is always there. Such a beautifully written book going back in forth between Lydia’s two lives, this was one of the most touching and beautiful books I’ve read as of late!

My Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

perfect tunes by emily gould

PERFECT TUNES BY EMILY GOULD

Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s the early days of the new millennium, and Laura has arrived in New York City’s East Village with the hopes of recording her first album. A songwriter with a one-of-a-kind talent, she’s just beginning to book gigs when she falls hard for Dylan, a troubled but magnetic musician whose star is on the rise. Their time together is stormy and short-lived—Dylan dies a few months into their relationship—but will reverberate for the rest of Laura’s life.

Flash forward fourteen years: Laura’s daughter, Marie, is asking ques­tions about the father she never knew, questions that Laura does not want to answer. Laura has built a quiet life that bears little resemblance to the one she envisioned when she left Ohio all those years ago, and she’s taken pains to close the door on what was and what might have been. But Marie won’t let her, and when she attempts to track down Dylan’s family, both mother and daughter are forced to confront the heartbreak at the root of their relationship.

Funny, wise, and utterly immersive, Perfect Tunes explores the fault lines between parents and children and asks whether dreams deferred can ever be reclaimed.

My Review: I received this one as a free advance readers copy from Avid Reader Press and I couldn’t be more smitten with it! Emily Gould is such an amazing writer and absolutely loved the story of love, ambition, and motherhood. The book starts off with Laura writing a song as a young girl in Ohio and it quickly fast forwards to Laura finding her footing in NYC. As Laura experiences love, loss, and sacrifice, we get a look into how unexpected circumstances can change the course of a woman’s life and the bond between mother and child. I had a very hard time putting this one down and loved the relationships that were portrayed!

My Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

AMERICAN DIRT BY JEANINE CUMMINS

Goodreads Synopsis:

También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

My Review: I devoured this book in less than two days – it was well-written, powerful, and heart-breaking. American Dirt is a story about loss, the immigration process, and a mother’s love for her child. And although it is an excellent book, I do understand the criticisms it received, especially from the LatinX community. With that being said, the journey of Lydia na her son, Luca, after their entire family is killed by a powerful drug cartel is harrowing and will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. Jeanine Cummins did a wonderful job highlighting grief, fear, and uncertainty in a very realistic way. 

What have you been reading?


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17 Comments

  1. 4.22.20
    Rach said:

    Oo yay that you loved reading The Two Lives of Lydia Bird! I really enjoyed it too! I’m for sure going to check out the books you highly rated!

    http://www.rdsobsessions.com

    • 4.23.20
      Rachel said:

      It was so good! I was so excited to read it after you recommended One Day in December!

  2. 4.22.20
    rebecca said:

    I am loving how everyone is reading so much during quarantine! I am always looking to add books to my list and some of these sound great. Thanks for sharing.

    xx rebecca // http://www.rebeccapiersol.me

    • 4.23.20
      Rachel said:

      It’s awesome! I love getting inspiration from everyone and a new book or two to add to my list.

  3. 4.22.20
    Kim said:

    I’m always looking for a new book and Perfect Tunes is now next on my list!

    xoxo,
    Kim

    • 4.23.20
      Rachel said:

      It was such a good book, you’re going to love it!

  4. 4.22.20

    Your reading is always so inspiring to me! I need to read more.

    • 4.23.20
      Rachel said:

      GAH, you’re too sweet, Mariah!

  5. 4.23.20

    This sounds like a great lineup. I need to be doing this more! xoxo, Sarah

    • 4.23.20
      Rachel said:

      So many good books!

  6. 4.23.20
    Laura Leigh said:

    Okay picking up Perfect Tunes stat – that sounds right up my alley! Thanks for sharing this – love your book reviews!

    xo Laura Leigh
    http://louellareese.com

    • 4.23.20
      Rachel said:

      Perfect Tunes was such a good read! You’ll absolutely love it.

  7. 4.23.20
    Stephanie said:

    I’ve been looking forward to The Two Lives of Lydia Bird ever since I read One Day in December. I really love Silver’s writing. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one soon. And Things in Jars sounds right up my alley – so despite your less-than-stellar review, I may still need to check it out. So glad you’ve been enjoying reading so much!

    • 4.23.20
      Rachel said:

      One Day in December was such a good book! I was so excited when I found out Silver wrote another book and was so smitten with The Two Lives of Lydia Bird. I am 100% certain you’ll love Things in Jars! I knew going into it that it wasn’t the typical book I read but was intrigued and wanted to give it a shot anyways.

  8. 4.24.20
    Anna English said:

    I was hoping quarantine life was going to give me more time to read, but it has not sadly!

  9. 4.27.20
    Kristina said:

    My reading list lately has just consisted of baby books, lol!

  10. 4.28.20
    Em said:

    so many great books here! I loved The Hate U Give along with a few others!