Leaving Time

When I was a junior in high school, I hung out in the library A LOT – during study hall if I could get a pass, and always during lunch. My friends and I would sit in the back pretending to do work, but really eating snacks and chatting about anything but school.

In books and movies, librarians are often portrayed as old crotchety women. But my high school librarian was pretty awesome. She’d always set aside books she thought I’d like, and she never kicked us out for eating and snacking in her domain.

She was the one who gave me my very first Jodi Picoult book – The Pact – about a suicide pact that tears two families apart after one of their teens is found dead and the other is on trial for murder. Pretty deep stuff for a sixteen-year-old used to reading the fluffy books of the Sarah Dessen kind. But I was hooked, and since have soaked up every novel penned by Jodi Picoult. I love how well-researched, thoughtful, and tied together they are. I can’t even pick a favorite among all 26 of her novels. The Storyteller? Small Great Things? A Spark of Light? The Pact? Leaving Time? Nineteen Minutes? Honestly, just read them all!

Title: Leaving Time
Author: Jodi Picoult )
Rating: A Shareable Read
Genre: Literary Fiction
Page Count: 416 (15 hours and 11 minutes listening time)
Published: 2014

I’m not one to read books multiple times, so I honestly don’t know why I’ve always desired a Beauty and the Beast library. I love the look and feel of books, but usually, once I’m done, they just take up space on my shelf. I’ll reference personal development books from time-to-time, but most times, fiction is a one-and-done for me. So, when I tell you I’m on my third listen (Audible) of Leaving Time, you know it’s a must-read.

The story revolves around Jenna Metcalf, who has been missing and searching for her mother, Alice, for over a decade. After a tragic accident, she disappeared and Jenna refuses to believe her mother left by choice. The story alternates between authors (which is a style of Picoult’s that I love), including journal entries from Alice Metcalf.

Said journal entries will probably teach you more about elephants than you ever wanted to know. At first, I found them a little off-putting – elephants? One of the children I babysat ages ago loved elephants, and I never understood why; I always thought them to be big and clumsy. Wow, was I ill-informed. Elephants are so wise and clever and majestic animals. I came to love Alice’s journals because I wanted to learn more about elephant behaviors. And since Picoult’s books are so deeply researched, you know you’re getting the real-deal facts.

I can’t say too much about the story line because, as usual, nothing is what it seems, and saying too much would spoil the whole thing. What I can tell you is that it’s a story of sadness, a search for the truth, and the friends who help on the journey. A definite must-read (or listen), and a good book to pass on to someone too. My nanny read this one twice too – it’s just that good.

If you’re looking for a good book that you can read, share, and read again, you hit the jackpot. Jodi Picoult’s books are always a good option if you want a thoughtful, deeply researched, and put-together read. In Leaving Time, you’ll learn a lot about elephants, and a good amount about the love between a mother and child (which is called storage love, in case you ever need a fun fact to share at dinner parties).
Saying too much would give the ending away, much like the crazy twist in a very popular thriller (movie, that is) from the late 90s.

Super Attractor

My first introduction to the Law of Attraction came by way of The Secret, which was published in 2006. Although I can’t confirm the year I read it, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t a teenager. If by some chance you’ve never heard of it (is that even possible?) the basic premise is to be grateful for the things you have and you’ll be given more; if you’re not grateful, the things you have will be taken away. Also, there is plenty (of money, good fortune, etc.) to go around.

About eight years later, a coworker introduced me to the works of Abraham-Hicks and Louise Hay and said they were the “real deal.” That’s how I found out about Gabby Bernstein, Marianne Williamson, and A Course in Miracles. (All of the above are completely worth checking out if this subject speaks to you.)

I’ll admit that stepping away from thrillers and moving on to personal development is a HUGE leap. If it’s just not the right time to be focusing on your internal self, a lot of the content can sound like total bs. I’d take a guess and say most times, we reach for self-help books when we’re at a low point and completely desperate to change whatever it is that’s going wrong in our lives. Fair?

Anyway, whether or not you believe in the Law of Attraction or manifestation, you can at least admit that when a day starts out poorly, it just spirals down into a rabbit hole that’s hard to dig yourself out of. You can probably also admit that when you’re in a good mood, more good things seem to happen. Coincidence? You tell me.

Title: Super Attractor: Methods for Manifesting a Life Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
Author: Gabrielle Bernstein
Rating: A Deep Read
Genre: Personal Development
Page Count: 213
Published: 2019

Non-fiction, especially of the personal development kind, is often hard to read because it forces you to focus on yourself – there’s no escaping into a story. Gabby Bernstein understands that, and her many books teach the reader that it’s okay to struggle with becoming one with yourself and the universe. Whether you believe in God, a spirit, or Mother Nature, you’ll be able to relate to the content in her books.

Super Attractor, Gabby’s latest book, shows you how to become more in tune with your moods and take cues from the Universe to grow into your best self. Small positive shifts can change your life. So can prayer, meditations, and good thoughts.

The book is short, broken up into bite-size chapters that can be read in succession or (my recommendation) daily. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a daily dose of inspiration before you even pick up your phone or start the day. Although I haven’t gotten into meditation yet, I do like to start my mornings with a little personal development, prayer, journaling, and exercise – without that routine, I feel a little out of sorts.

Note: A couple of chapters discuss guardian angels and communicating with souls past. If this is too much for you, you might prefer to skip around and read the chapters you can relate to on whatever spiritual level you’re on.

The Law of Attraction is a powerful tool, one that Gabby Bernstein teaches you how to master in her new book Super Attractor. This is a must-read for those who crave personal development. If you’ve read The Secret, you’ll have a good foundation to dive deeper and get in tune with yourself and the Universe.

Goodnight Beautiful

Misery (Stephen King) and The Woman in the Window (A. J. Finn) fans rejoice – this is your book! If I’m honest, the synopsis for Goodnight Beautiful does not do the book justice. So if you’re someone who glanced at the golden cover, took a peek inside, and decided to go after something more‚Ķcaptivating, go back and grab this book now.

I’ve been sharing a lot of the books I read with my nanny. At first, I was trepidacious because I was sure she wouldn’t want to know the horrors that I read about (I’d never share a Karin Slaughter book with her). After I found out she watched Fifty Shades of Grey, I knew I could broach riskier topics like sex and obsession. We both finished the book in two days, and I can 110% say that it was grandma-approved!

Title: Goodnight Beautiful: A Novel
Author: Aimee Molloy
Rating: A Wild Ride
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Page Count: 304
Published: 2020

The story is about a husband and wife who move to “upstate” New York to be closer to the protagonist’s ailing mother. (I use quotes here because I technically live further north than the town described in the book, and yet would NEVER consider it “upstate.” It’s an age-old debate that will probably never be settled – especially not right now. If you’re from NY, you’ll understand.)

I feel like I cannot, should not, go deeper into the plot for fear of spoiling the experience. There are several good twists and turns that you will not see coming – even for all of you seasoned crime fiction junkies. At one point I had to go back and re-read a few pages just to get clarity. It couldn’t be! Right? No, Oh. My. Gosh. If you’re someone who loves talking about your current read, you’ll definitely want to read this with a friend (or nanny!). It’s so fun to discuss the aha! moments together.

My nanny once asked how I come to find all of these books I “make her read.” There are so many ways – many by recommendation from friends, Audible, BOTM, Goodreads, etc. But I think my absolute favorite books are the hidden gems I pick up at the library or bookstore; the ones I find when I’m not really looking for anything in particular. This was one such book, and what a wild ride!

Nothing is what it seems in this domestic thriller about a couple from NYC who moves to the suburbs. Grab this book and your best friend, cancel all your weekend plans, and start reading Goodnight Beautiful ASAP. You’re in for one wild ride!

The Night Swim

Book of the Month Club (BOTM) describes this read as “a thriller for those who eat, sleep, and breathe true crime.” I have to agree that is an excellent choice of words. I loved how the structure includes first-person narration, letter, and podcast.

Okay, so maybe in my very first blog post I may have said that I wasn’t interested in true crime novels, that they just aren’t for me. Am I allowed to take that back? After reading about true crime podcasts in Megan Goldin’s The Night Swim, I stumbled upon a podcast called Crime Junkie that I just adore. The hosts Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat are super fun and engaging and definitely do their research on all of the cases they cover. I highly recommend checking them out on iTunes (or wherever you listen to podcasts). They can also be found at crimejunkiepodcast.com. You won’t be disappointed!

Title: The Night Swim
Author: Megan Goldin
Rating: An Interesting Read & Format
Genre: Thriller
Page Count: 352
Published: 2020

Rachel Krall is a big-time true crime podcaster. She’s traveled to a small town that’s been rocked by a rape trial involving two higher-profile residents – the granddaughter of the police chief versus an Olympic hopeful swimmer.

Hannah Stills wants justice for her sister who tragically died 25 years ago. Jenny’s death was ruled an accidental drowning, but Hannah believes there’s more to it – her beautiful sister was an excellent swimmer.

The lives of Rachel and Hannah will cross paths in this captive new thriller, and the past and present will converge as information buried is suddenly brought to life.

Will justice in the rape trial be served? And what really happened to Jenny Stills all those years ago? The secrets and lies this town holds spans more than two decades, but the truth always comes out – eventually.

A great read for both true crime and crime fiction lovers alike. The book is broken up by first-person narration, letter, and podcast, which makes for interesting perspectives and characterizations. Overall, it’s clever, interesting, and entertaining. And you might just fall head over heels for a very real true crime podcast. (P.S. check out crimejunkiepodcast.com!)

Anxious People

Contemporary fiction is not really my jam. I’ll read it, but it takes a while; I can’t blow through it like I would say, T.M. Logan’s The Vacation. I thought I’d give Fredrik Blackman’s Anxious People a try because it sounded interesting/funny and received a lot of praise.

About 37 pages in, I started to regret my decision. The storyline couldn’t have been more off base, and honestly, just downright annoying. Who in their right mind would read books like this?

I set it aside for about a week before I decided to pick it up again. And you know what? I’m glad I gave it a second chance because this turned out to be one of the most clever, interesting, funny, and heartwarming books I’ve ever read. I think I might go so far as to call it a favorite.

Title: Anxious People
Author: Fredrik Backman
Rating: Cleverly Crafted
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Page Count: 341
Published: 2019

The story is about a robbery. Or maybe it’s not. It’s about a group of people who are very different. But maybe they’re not. This book is about a lot of things – some trivial, some not. I don’t think you’d fully understand unless you read it from start to finish.

Every line has a purpose, and the sentences weave together a beautiful story about total strangers being forced together and the events that unfold – before, during, and after.

But really, the story begins ten years in the past when a man jumped from a bridge.

It’s maddening, it’s clever, it’s fun, and you’ll want everyone you know to read it. Just so you can talk about it with someone who’ll understand.

Nothing is really what it seems, but every sentence and character has a purpose. It’s clever and fun, but also maddening. You may be tempted to throw the book at a wall around page 37, but give it time. It will all be okay in the end.

The Vacation

Every so often I get a case of reading fatigue – where I literally can’t sit still long enough to read a page. It happened again just last week when I was trying to finish up a couple of books I got from the Book of the Month club (BOTM). Try as I might, I could NOT get more than 50 pages in.

I decided to set them aside for a bit and find something else. So last Saturday, I took a stroll around the library and something new caught my eye. I’ve read one of T. M. Logan’s previous books (Lies), and it was pretty wild, so I decided to give The Vacation a go. It was just the thing I needed to get back in the reading mood. I was a few pages in when I realized I had to finish it the SAME DAY.

People say not to judge a book by its cover, and I know this is usually said in a metaphorical sense, but it’s totally true. Ever notice how book covers are always changing? Instead, I prefer to judge whether or not I’ll like a book by it’s inside flap that includes the synopsis. It usually just takes a brief overview for me to know whether or not I should take it and run or stick it back on the shelf.

Part of The Vacation’s description includes an affair, decades-old friendships, secrets, and a killing. If that doesn’t capture the attention of a crime junkie, what will?

Title: The Vacation
Author: T. M. Logan
Rating: An All-nighter
Genre: Thriller
Page Count: 374
Published: 2019

The story takes place over a week when four life-long best friends meet up at a vacation house in France with their families. Just when you think the story is focused around one thing – Kate trying to figure out which of her “friends” is sleeping with her husband – the plot branches out and spreads like a wildfire. Almost everyone on the trip is keeping secrets – some more perilous than others.

It’s told from multiple viewpoints, which adds to the suspense because the reader finds out some of the juicy secrets before the protagonist and supporting characters.

Above all, it makes you think about how you’d react when faced with the same challenges. Would you lie to protect the ones you love? Or does the truth always set you free?

Nothing is really as it seems. Sometimes even the front flap synopsis is meant to throw you off. Be prepared to stay up all night to finish the book.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Money is such a taboo topic. People rarely talk about it, and when they do, it’s usually to complain about how little they have or how much things cost. It’s rare to have money linked with positivity. It’s more common to hear that “money is the root of all evil,” or that people who have money are “filthy rich.”

My own outlook is pretty simple – I don’t see money as good or evil. It’s a necessary thing, a vehicle for creating experiences. I like to travel and eat good food, and money helps me do those things. Plus, it provides for my basic needs – housing, transportation, meals, etc.

When I was 26, I started working at a local credit union. Prior to that I just had a basic understanding of finances. I know how to balance a checkbook (not needed much anymore), obtain student financing, and had a simple savings and checking account. I also had a 401(k) from a former employer but didn’t quite understand how it worked or how vital it was.

Over the last four years, I built a true understanding of what it meanso maximize your cash, plan for retirement, and finance practically anything – from a 3-year vehicle lease to a 30-year mortgage. Most adults aren’t so lucky; you won’t learn this stuff in school (unless you major in accounting/finance).

Title: I Will Teach You To Be Rich
Author: Ramit Sethi
Rating: A Must Read
Genre: Finance
Page Count: 342
Published: 2019

I stumbled upon Ramit Sethi’s book while doing research for an ebook the credit union produced. He was dubbed “The New Finance Guru” by FORTUNE, and I’d have to agree. I Will Teach You To Be Rich will teach you everything you didn’t know about getting out of debt, paying for expenses, saving for retirement, and so much more.

After reading this book (and leaving my job at the credit union), I moved my 401(k) over to an IRA and immediately invested in a target date fund. This type of account automatically invests in moderately risk asset allocations that become more conservative as you approach your retirement date. That might sound intimidating now, but Sethi does an excellent job of explaining all the intricacies of saving and retirement – even showing his readers what types of accounts he has.

You’ll also find information on choosing the right bank accounts, how to use your credit cards the right way to maximize their benefits, and even how to negotiate a raise at work. The structure is a 6-week program to overhaul your finances, but depending on your unique situation, it could take longer or shorter.

I found the book to be very transparent and easy to understand. It would make a fantastic gift to anyone – especially graduating high school seniors. I know this is one book I wish I had when I was 18. It’s well worth the read and refresher, so I’d recommend keeping one for yourself on your own reference shelf.

Think of your best friend explaining a tough topic, and breaking it down so you just get it. That’s what Ramit Sethi does in I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Even if you’re an absolute beginner, you’ll walk away with a ton of knowledge you’ll want to share. Grab a copy for you, your bff, and that soon-to-be high school graduate you know.

The Book of Two Ways

Warning: This review contains what some may consider spoilers. Read on at your own risk!

I don’t like surprises. That’s why I prefer to read paperbacks; when things get grim, you can flip ahead and read the ending – just to make sure everything turns out okay. That’s not exactly the case with audiobooks, which is how I listened to The Book of Two Ways. I may not be an ebook fan, but audiobooks allow you to soak up all the stories while driving, doing laundry, grocery shopping, or some other mundane adult task.

The first audiobook I can remember listening to was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone back in 5th grade. Of course, that wasn’t as sophisticated as today’s options (I enjoy Audible). Back then it was a physical cassette tape. But I loved listening to the story with different voices and learning how to pronounce the character names properly.

Anyway, this time when I listened to the book, the ending was a surprise – and for me, not a great one. Why? Because it was open-ended, up for the reader’s guess and interpretation. For someone who hates surprises, and just needs to KNOW, that is honestly complete torture.

Title: The Book of Two Ways
Author: Jodi Picoult
Rating: Enjoyable (well, maybe not the ending)
Genre: Literary Fiction
Page Count: 432
Published: 2020

I’ve been a fan of Jodi Picoult’s writing since my high school librarian gave me a copy of The Pact in my junior year. Her writing is very enjoyable and the subjects well-researched. For this particular book, she actually traveled to Egypt to understand more about the topic she was undertaking. Now, that is dedication!

The Book of Two Ways is split into two alternating storylines: Water/Boston and Land/Egypt. I found it to be a bit confusing until the storylines converged towards the end, and I was able to put everything together.

The protagonist, Dawn, has led a very interesting life, first as a budding Egyptologist excavating tombs in the desert in her twenties, then as a death doula, helping her patients transition to the afterlife when she’s close to 40. She had a whirlwind romance with her former colleague and competitor in Egypt, and after her mother’s untimely death, returned home to Boston to care for her younger brother and ended up marrying a “safe” choice.

This book is the story of Dawn, her husband, her lost love, and her daughter. When the two storylines (and partners) converge, she has to make a choice – does she want the lover she let go 15 years ago? Or the husband who’s been her solid ground for over a decade?

Jodi Picoult is a wonderful storyteller. She even went to Egypt to research the subjects in the book. It’s a wonderful story about family drama, the choices we make, and reminiscing about what could have been. There are two story lines that are a little tricky to follow until close to the end when everything converges. The ending is up to the reader’s interpretation – which can either be enjoyable or maddening.

If You Tell

Pre-COVID – that’s pretty much how we talk about things now, isn’t it? The before and the now – I’d walk to the library once or twice a week to get a new haul of books. At the time, it was conveniently located across the parking lot from my job, which made for a nice lunchtime stroll. Of course, back in March, it felt like the world shut down – or at least my world in NYS, where only essential places like grocery stores were open.

I was completely devastated when they shut down the libraries. What? But isn’t reading essential? No, not anything that can be read on a tablet or phone, but the creak of a well-worn spine, the scent of pages hot off the press. There’s just something about holding the physical book that makes it feel right.

To my surprise, my friend and coworker sent me some reading material to help ease my plight. Bless her!

Title: If You Tell
Author: Gregg Olsen
Rating: Great Writing, Sad Tale
Genre: True Crime
Page Count: 428
Published: 2019

This was my very first introduction to Gregg Olsen, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go out and read three more of his books the very same month. There’s just something about his storytelling that’s so honest, raw, and unbelievably captivating. Many times I didn’t want to read more, but I felt like I had to – I got sucked in from the first few pages.

It’s the true tale of three sisters who suffered insurmountable abuse at the hands of their mother – the very person who was supposed to be their protector. If your stomach can withstand all types of child abuse imaginable, murder in cold blood, and just plain (and true) terror, you should give this book a chance. I needed to read more because I needed to know everyone’s fate. I wanted to read more because I wanted to understand how children could suffer so much abuse for so many years without anyone batting an eyelash. What is this world we live in?

If anything, this story of survival showed me that true crime will never be my genre of choice. But please throw me all the crime fiction, suspense, and horror novels there are – there’s comfort in knowing that fiction = fake.

The story is disheartening, and the writing will hook you and drag you into a dark, dark place. Gregg Olsen writes both true crime (which may be a little rough on the stomach) and crime fiction/suspense, which is more palatable. Either way, pick up one of his books, and you won’t be disappointed.