Everything I’ve Read So Far in 2021

It’s no secret that I’m a bookworm. That’s why book reviews have always been a feature I’ve tried to keep up with on the blog. Since January, though, I’ve been breezing through books and keeping note of titles, but haven’t taken the time to sit back and talk about them.

I recently did a poll on Instagram about whether I should just do a “bulk” post reviewing all the books I’ve read in 2021—and everyone that voted said yes!

That poll also brought up another question: should I host a book club? People have been telling me to do so for years, but I’ve truthfully always just smiled politely (or sent a smiley face, depending on the platform) and moved along. 

It felt like a lot of work, I wasn’t sure how to go about it, I didn’t think anyone would join…the excuses went on and on. This time, though, when my sister-in-law suggested it again, I gave it a try and asked my followers if they’d be interested. Way more people than I expected said they were!

So, drumroll please…

My first book club meeting (I’m calling it “Colorful Reads”) will be on Wednesday, May 12th at 7:30 pm via Instagram Live. You can find me @haleyslifeincolor or just click on the Instagram carousel to the right if you’re reading this on a desktop right now. We’ll be reading Verity by Colleen Hoover. Come with thoughts, questions, funny anecdotes, favorite quotes, or just yourself! You’ll be able to comment on the Live, join in with me on screen, or just sit back and enjoy. Now let’s hope the people that said they were interested actually are! Hope to see you there, fellow readers.

Now, onto my bulk book review by genre!

Colorfully Yours,

Haley 

Thriller/Mystery

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac, 3.5/5

You know from my previous book reviews by now that I love a good disappearance. In this one, a young lawyer goes missing in D.C., and a frazzled TV station news producer takes it upon herself to find the truth—regardless of her bosses and interviewees trying to steer her away.

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole, 2.5/5

This one tackles gentrification in historically black communities—in this case, Brooklyn, NY. I thought those parts of it were well-written and very informative. What wasn’t my cup of tea here was that instead of a true mystery, this one features more of a conspiracy…one that gets prettyyy far-fetched. 

Multiple Viewpoints

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, 5/5

A must read…and a must-have-tissues-nearby kind of read. It follows multiple characters throughout a thirty-year timespan. What do they all have in common? They experienced the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1980s Chicago. An absolutely beautiful tragedy.

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday, 3/5 

Sectioned into three novellas, the overarching theme is imbalance—of power, money, age, gender, race, and more. The author is clearly an intellectual and talented writer…but I had to go back to remember the stories before writing this review, so I wouldn’t say my emotional connection was very strong.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, 3.5/5

This one got a lot of press, so I admittedly had high expectations. It’s told from the viewpoints of both a young black nanny and the wealthy white mother she works for. I was pleasantly surprised that a seemingly “fluffy” novel tackled race issues, making for a good mix of easy reading and important perspective. It did feel like it was wrapped up too quickly or haphazardly, though.

Young Adult

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir, 5/5

Hello, Mormon reality show meets teen drama! I loved this one, perhaps because it’s a subject that’s rarely tackled in the books I read, but also because it addresses more relatable topics, too—like the effect that reality shows and the worshipping (no pun intended) of their casts have on our country.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, 2.5/5

In this novel, the protagonist lives the same day—the day of her death—over and over again. And yes, it’s pretty much as frustrating as it sounds. I did appreciate that it made me think about how I live my life and what, if anything, I could do differently.

Five Feet Apart by Mikki Daughtry, Rachael Lippincott, and Tobias Iaconis, 4/5 

Yes, this is the book that inspired the movie with one of the Sprouse twins. But it’s sweet and heartbreaking and easy to read! While the writing certainly skews young, it’s an emotional and important message for readers of any age. You’ll probably want tissues for this one, too.

Beach Reads

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan, 5/5

Kevin Kwan can do no wrong. If you’ve read the other books in his Crazy Rich Asians series, then you know it’s full of over-the-top wealth, ridiculously narcissistic characters, and wanderlust-inducing jet trips around the world. My kind of read.

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger, 4/5

To call this a sequel to The Devil Wears Prada seems a little fraudulent to me, but I digress. You can (and should!) read it even if you’ve never read the first one…but unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably at least seen the movie. This one takes place in ritzy Greenwich, CT. Housewives too dependent on wine, philandering husbands, plenty of scandals…the usual.

The Jetsetters by Amanda Ward, 4.5/5 

The definition of a beach read. It chronicles the ups and, mostly, downs of a dysfunctional family going on vacation together as grown adults. It’s shocking to me that it got such poor reviews on Good Reads, because I think as long as you appreciate it for what it is—a breezy book meant to be read with a pina colada in hand—you’ll really enjoy it.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, 3/5 

The only reasons this is in the “beach reads” category: 1. It didn’t fit in any other sections, either and 2. A lot of people have seen the show first. I, for one, had not, so I went into it completely blind. It focuses on a well-to-do suburb and all of the secrets kept within the proverbial gates. I didn’t necessarily get the hype, but I didn’t dislike it, either. Do with that what you will. 

Political Fiction

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuistion, 4.5/5

So many friends had raved about this one, so I had to read it. I was not disappointed! It’s super cheesy—and could easily fit into the beach reads category—but it’s everything you want in a light read. Meet-cutes, clandestine kisses, an unrealistic ending…the whole nine yards. Read it and smile.

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close, 4/5

The protagonist hates D.C. Her husband wants to run it. A recipe for success, huh? This reminded me of a slightly darker, more serious version of Campaign Widows. As you would expect, political connivery bleeds into the characters’ personal lives—but the best part is, they’re fictional and can’t actually ruin our country!

Non-Fiction

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, 4/5

I had heard about this for years, but never knew it was non-fiction until I picked it up! Once I started reading, I still had to do a double take to make sure it was real. It dives into the drama surrounding the creation of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair—and the murderer that quietly terrorized hundreds in the same city at the same time.

The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown, 5/5

I did a full review on this one here, but I’ll reiterate that this is the most thorough history of Princess Diana—both her life and death—that I have read or watched. Whether you think you’re “into” the royals or not, this book will leave you invested. 

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, 3/5 

It took me years to finally sit down and commit to this one. Self help books scare me a little, honestly. I have so much anxiety that they sometimes make me feel worse! But this one didn’t. While it didn’t necessarily change my life, it did reassure me that there are steps I can take to make my life one I love living. 

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