Book Report: Quick Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading

Book report

I’ve been immersed in all things books lately. For starters, I’ve taken advantage of two of the many author events that Kansas City’s great independent book store, Rainy Day Books, puts on each year.

Last month, Lindsey and I went to hear Jen Lancaster talk about her new book I Regret Nothing (review below) at a RDB event.

Jen Lancaster

Lindsey and Jen

And last week, as an early Father’s Day present for Tom, I took him to hear Joe Posnanski talk about his lastest book, The Secret of Golf: The Story of Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. (By the way, The Secret of Golf would make a great Father’s Day present for the golfer or sports fan in your life. I read the first chapter while waiting for the event to start and I want to read the rest of the book after Tom is done with it.)

Joe Posnanski

Finally, not to leave Grant out, he and I went to the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Libary to hear the author of The Country Club District of Kansas City talk about her book. Grant has an interest in urban planning as a career so he especially wanted to hear this, and I’m happy to go to anything held in a libarary.

I didn’t take any pictures at that talk, but did stop long enough to snap this pic of the Plaza dressed up for the Dragon Boat Festival.

Kansas City Country Club Plaza

It hasn’t been all author talks though; I’ve had my nose in a book (or a Kindle) quite a bit lately too. Here are some short reviews of what I’ve been reading. I’m linking up with Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy, so be sure to check out that post if you’d like to read reviews by other bloggers.

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans

This is Evans’ memoir about a recognizable struggle: being a faith-filled person who has conflicting emotions about organized religion. Evans’ story resonated with me, party because her religious background feels similar to my own: she grew up Evangelical and is now more or less Episcopalian; I grew up Southern Baptist (with a little Methodist thrown in) and then married a Catholic and subsequently converted. What I especially appreciated about this book, which is organized around the sacraments, is that it doesn’t come to a tidy, over-simplified conclusion. I was grateful simply to be let in on someone else’s journey, which in turn shed some light on my own.

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett

All it took for me to know I wanted to read this book was the title. Books? Romance? Jane Austen? I’m in. There are actually two storylines in this book (one part romance/part mystery and the other more historical fiction) that are told in alternating chapters. The modern day storyline is light and felt like chicklit (not a bad thing as far as I’m concerned) and the Jane Austen storyline is touching and interesting, especially if you’re an Austen fan. The alternating chapter style of writing tends to annoy me (just when I’m getting into one story I’m dragged back to the other), but I still found the book enjoyable and sidenote: the cover is beautiful.

I Regret Nothing: A Memoir by Jen Lancaster

Jen’s a humor writer and this, her latest, is her take on bucket lists. I’ve read almost all of Jen’s memoirs, going back to the original Bitter is the New Black, and this is one of my favorites. I feel like we’ve gotten to watch Jen mature a bit through her books. The edge to the humor in her previous memoirs sometimes made me cringe (while simultaneously making me laugh out loud and insist that my family let me read passages to them). Her style now seems softer, while still retaining the snarkiness that she is known for. I like the Jen in I Regret Nothing a lot.

Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel by S.J. Watson

The premise of this book is an enticing one: an amnesiac who can’t form new memories wakes up morning after morning with no idea who or where she is, and quickly senses that something isn’t right. My book club loved this book and so did the reviewers on Amazon. I didn’t. The morning after morning thing felt repetitive to me and the clues to the main character’s life were revealed too slowly. I was curious to see how it would turn out, but I kind of wanted someone to just tell me so I wouldn’t have to keep reading. I seem to be in the minority with my opinion on this one, however.

Belong to Me: A Novel by Marisa de los Santos

This book has been on my shelves for several years. I even started it once before but didn’t get very far for some reason or another. Putting together a to-read shelf, however, inspired me to pick it up again and I’m so glad I did. Here’s the plot summary from the back cover: Cornelia Brown surprised herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to move to the suburbs with her husband. Her mettle is quickly tested by her impeccably dressed, overly judgmental neighbor Piper Truitt—the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she’d find in suburbia. With Lake, another recent arrival, Cornelia shares a love of literature and old movies—as she forms an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman and her perceptive, brilliant young son Dev. It sounds like a light read, right? But the storylines are more compelling and the characters more developed than I expected. You really pull for everyone in this book, too, with the possible exception of Lake, who I didn’t feel that we got to know that well. Nonetheless, I liked Belong to Me as much as any book I’ve read in a while.

One other quick note: Elin Hilderbrand, who’s known as the queen of the beach read, has a new book, The Rumor, out tomorrow. Like all of her books, this one is set on Nantucket, where she lives. I’ve read most (all?) of Elin’s previous books and I have this one on pre-order. The Kindle version is on sale for $8.99.



What are you reading this summer? Anything good? I’d love to hear your recommendations.

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  1. I’ve read two of Elin Hilderbrand’s books and enjoyed them, I’ll keep my eye out for this new one!

    1. Hope you enjoy it, Breanne.

  2. So many people like Marisa de los Santos and Elin Hildebrand- I’m not sure which of their’s to read first. Any suggestions? (I also like religious memoirs and will have to pick up Rachel Held Evans’s. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Anne, for Marisa de los Santos, I would start with Love Walked In, which I think was her first novel. In any event, the main character in that book, Cornelia, is also the main character in Belong to Me, which I didn’t realize. I now want to go back to read Love Walked In, but I’ll be reading them out of order.

      As far as Elin Hilderbrand’s books go, it’s much, much harder to choose one as there are so many. I’ve enjoyed them all!

      Happy reading!

  3. After reading First Impressions, I went back and read the author’s first novel, which I liked a little bit more, surprisingly!
    I liked Before I Go to Sleep, but it definitely wasn’t anything to write home about – like I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone as a “must read.” I am interested to read the author’s second novel, which just came out (and I have, but haven’t read yet). The reviews aren’t great so far, which is disappointing. I will have to decide for myself!
    Yes, Please was the first celebrity memoir-type book that I’ve read, and I might be hooked. That one sounds funny. Very cool that you got to hear her talk about the book! I bet that made it more enjoyable!

    1. Sarah, I’ll have to put The Bookman’s Tale on my to-read list. Good to know you liked it. I’d also like to read Yes, Please. So many books to get to! Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. I agree with you about Before I Go To Sleep. I got the audiobook and it just dragged on and on…I couldn’t keep with it. And I had the nagging feeling I knew how it ended (did the husband actually try to kill her? i should just google the spoiler)

    Also we live just a few blocks away from Rainy Day Books and LOVE it. I’ve never been to an author talk but I should!

    1. Whitney, I’m envious that you live so close to Rainy Day. I’m actually just the opposite of you: I have never been in the store itself, only the author talks, but I’m going to make a point to go soon. I’ve heard it’s wonderful. Hope you find an author talk you can attend soon and glad to know I’m not alone on Before I Go to Sleep.

  5. I just used an Audible credit to buy The Rumor this morning. Your review of First Impressions makes it sound like a title I would really enjoy! I am glad to hear that the Jen L in I Regret Nothing has softened a bit. I have been taking a break from her books because the hard edges were getting to me.

    Happy Reading!

    1. I can understand you taking a break, Megan. I kept reading all her books, but I’ve definitely enjoyed some much more than others. Hope you enjoy The Rumor. I can’t wait to get started on it.

  6. I cannot wait to read I Regret Nothing. I’m a big Jen Lancaster fan also. Totally intrigued by First Impressions, too. I’m going to need to splurge on that one soon!

    1. Hope you like it, Jen.

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