This is my monthly roundup of books that came my way in the last month. I also share an update with you on other things going on in my and my family’s life.
May was a crazy busy month. Isn’t it for everyone that has kids in school?? There are always all the end-of-the-year concerts, award ceremonies, and banquets to attend. I was subbing nearly every day in May. Then the weekends are full of graduation parties. It’s always a fun but full month.
Family and Life Update
Summer has officially started and today, Reagan and I leave for Washington DC and New York City for a week. It’s a school trip so we are traveling on charter buses with nearly 140 others kids and parents. It’s going to be so exhausting and so much fun! Follow me on Instagram to see all the fun we will be having!
May was also full of great memories. Our oldest son and his girlfriend are engaged! He proposed during the Pella Tulip Festival and they are planning a wedding for THIS SUMMER! Aaargh! They are so excited to be married that they don’t want to wait! She will be teaching in the fall and wants to start the school year as Mrs. Gorkow, so let’s get married!
Reagan had her last day of her junior year and I just can’t believe we are on the Senior train again…for the last time. We have a wild summer ahead and she just found out she will be playing the role of Katherine Blake in the musical “Freaky Friday” this fall. We are beyond excited!
I have a whole list of books I want to read, shows I want to watch, places I want to go, and things I want to do this summer. I know that I won’t get to it all, but I’m sure going to give it a good try! School starts again in just 78 days, so I’m going to make the best of them!
Now on to the books!
In May, I read 7 books with 1 of them being for review. Five of these books were on audio which is pretty much only what I had time for this month. I had 3 more books removed from my own to-read shelf as part of my goal of reading 22 books off of my to-read shelf this year. That puts me at 15 total books I’ve moved off of my shelf. Not bad for the first five months of the year. Listening and reading the books from my own shelf has helped me work on the goal of getting some older books off of my shelf. I love adding books to my Libby holds from my own reading shelf. Then when my hold comes in, I grab the physical copy off of my shelf so I can listen when I have time and read when I have time as well. I hope you find something that interests you in the books I’m sharing below.
I also read 16 children’s books last month and shared about them HERE. I’ve started my Summer Read-to-Learn series as well this summer. It’s so important to keep your kids reading all summer long and the best way to keep them interested is to find books that fit their interests. I’ll be sharing books all summer that I think will be great to keep kids interested in reading and learning, HERE.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram, HERE to see snippets of what I’m reading or what’s going on in my daily life.
If you choose to make a purchase through any of the links I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.
Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction
One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life
By: A. J. Jacobs
Published: April 26, 2022
This is my Literati choice for June. I’ve had this book on my list for a few months so I was thrilled this was the Atlas Obscura choice for June. I absolutely love word puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, sudokus, etc. So, of course, I’m excited about this book.
What makes puzzles–jigsaws, mazes, riddles, sudokus–so satisfying? Be it the formation of new cerebral pathways, their close link to insight and humor, or their community-building properties, they’re among the fundamental elements that make us human. Convinced that puzzles have made him a better person, A. J. Jacobs–four-time New York Times bestselling author, master of immersion journalism, and nightly crossworder–set out to determine their myriad benefits. And maybe, in the process, solve the puzzle of our very existence. Well, almost.
In The Puzzler, Jacobs meets the most zealous devotees, enters (sometimes with his family in tow) any puzzle competition that will have him, unpacks the history of the most popular puzzles, and aims to solve the most impossible head-scratchers, from a mutant Rubik’s Cube, to the hardest corn maze in America, to the most sadistic jigsaw. Chock-full of unforgettable adventures and original examples from around the world–including new work by Greg Pliska, one of America’s top puzzle-makers, and a hidden, super-challenging but solvable puzzle that will earn the first reader to crack it a $10,000 prize*–The Puzzler will open readers’ eyes to the power of flexible thinking and concentration. Whether you’re puzzle-obsessed or puzzle hesitant, you’ll walk away with real problem-solving strategies and pathways toward becoming a better thinker and decision maker–for these are certainly puzzling times.
ALL THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life’s Work
By: Hayley Campbell
Published: August 16, 2022
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
I tend to like books about death and am especially fascinated with those who choose to work in the death industry. I used to work in Hospice and I have a cousin who is a mortician. I’m anxious to check this one out.
We are surrounded by death. It is in our news, our nursery rhymes, our true-crime podcasts. Yet from a young age, we are told that death is something to be feared. How are we supposed to know what we’re so afraid of, when we are never given the chance to look?
Fueled by a childhood fascination with death, journalist Hayley Campbell searches for answers in the people who make a living by working with the dead. Along the way, she encounters mass fatality investigators, embalmers, and a former executioner who is responsible for ending sixty-two lives. She meets gravediggers who have already dug their own graves, visits a cryonics facility in Michigan, goes for late-night Chinese with a homicide detective, and questions a man whose job it is to make crime scenes disappear.
Through Campbell’s incisive and candid interviews with these people who see death every day, she asks: Why would someone choose this kind of life? Does it change you as a person? And are we missing something vital by letting death remain hidden? A dazzling work of cultural criticism, All the Living and the Dead weaves together reportage with memoir, history, and philosophy, to offer readers a fascinating look into the psychology of Western death.
WHEN WE BELIEVED IN MERMAIDS
By: Barbara O’Neal
Published: July 16, 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
This is the Jen Hatmaker Book Club choice for June. I’ve heard of this book but didn’t know much about the story until I received a copy. I love sister stories, so I’m glad I get a chance to read this one.
Her sister has been dead for fifteen years when she sees her on the TV news…
Josie Bianci was killed years ago on a train during a terrorist attack. Gone forever. It’s what her sister, Kit, an ER doctor in Santa Cruz, has always believed. Yet all it takes is a few heart-wrenching seconds to upend Kit’s world. Live coverage of a club fire in Auckland has captured the image of a woman stumbling through the smoke and debris. Her resemblance to Josie is unbelievable. And unmistakable. With it comes a flood of emotions—grief, loss, and anger—that Kit finally has a chance to put to rest: by finding the sister who’s been living a lie.
After arriving in New Zealand, Kit begins her journey with the memories of the past: of days spent on the beach with Josie. Of a lost teenage boy who’d become part of their family. And of a trauma that has haunted Kit and Josie their entire lives.
Now, if two sisters are to reunite, it can only be by unearthing long-buried secrets and facing a devastating truth that has kept them apart far too long. To regain their relationship, they may have to lose everything.
THE MOST LIKELY CLUB
By: Elyssa Friedland
Published: September 6, 2022
I read and enjoyed LOVE AND MISS COMMUNICATION and LAST SUMMER AT THE GOLDEN HOTEL by Friedland so I’m anxious to check out her newest novel soon! Friends coming back home for the 25-year high school reunion sounds like a blast!
In 1997, grunge is king, Titanic is a blockbuster (and Blockbuster still exists), and Thursday nights are for Friends. In Bellport, Connecticut, four best friends and high school seniors are ready to light the world on fire. Melissa Levin, Priya Chowdury, Tara Taylor, and Suki Hammer are going places. Their yearbook superlatives confirm it: Most Likely to Win the White House, Cure Cancer, Open a Michelin-Starred Restaurant, and Join the Forbes 400.
Fast forward twenty-five years and nothing has gone according to plan as the women regroup at their dreaded high school reunion. When a forgotten classmate emerges at the reunion with a surprising announcement, the friends dig out the yearbook and rethink their younger selves. Is it too late to make their dreams come true? Fueled by nostalgia and one too many drinks, they form a pact to push through their middle-aged angst to bring their teenage aspirations to fruition, dubbing themselves the “Most Likely Girls.”
Through the ensuing highs and lows, they are reminded of the enduring bonds of friendship, the ways our childhood dreams both sustain and surprise us — and why it’s deeply uncool to peak in high school.
By: Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan
Published: October 4, 2022
Publisher: Ballantine Books
I still have to pinch myself when I get to read and review one of JODI PICOULT’S books! It is unreal. I feel like she publishes her books just for me because they always come out right around my birthday! Even though her books aren’t always the right fit for me, I usually LOVE them, like her most recent, WISH YOU WERE HERE. She is such a powerhouse in the author world and I can’t believe she needs little old me sharing about her books, but I’m thrilled to do it!
Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father’s beekeeping business.
Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.
And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can she trust him completely . . .
Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.
Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves.
THE MANY DAUGHTERS OF AFONG MAY
By: Jamie Ford
Published: August 2, 2022
Publisher: Atria Books
This was such a pleasant surprise to receive this book. I just finished reading LOVE AND OTHER CONSOLATION PRIZES as a buddy read with my cousin. Plus, I also loved HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Ford. I wasn’t even aware he had a new book coming out. It’s quite a different kind of story, but one I am looking forward to.
Dorothy Moy breaks her own heart for a living.
As Washington’s former poet laureate, that’s how she describes channeling her dissociative episodes and mental health struggles into her art. But when her five-year-old daughter exhibits similar behavior and begins remembering things from the lives of their ancestors, Dorothy believes the past has truly come to haunt her. Fearing that her child is predestined to endure the same debilitating depression that has marked her own life, Dorothy seeks radical help.
Through an experimental treatment designed to mitigate inherited trauma, Dorothy intimately connects with past generations of women in her family: Faye Moy, a nurse in China serving with the Flying Tigers; Zoe Moy, a student in England at a famous school with no rules; Lai King Moy, a girl quarantined in San Francisco during a plague epidemic; Greta Moy, a tech executive with a unique dating app; and Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America.
As painful recollections affect her present life, Dorothy discovers that trauma isn’t the only thing she’s inherited. A stranger is searching for her in each time period. A stranger who’s loved her through all of her genetic memories. Dorothy endeavors to break the cycle of pain and abandonment, to finally find peace for her daughter, and gain the love that has long been waiting, knowing she may pay the ultimate price.
IN HER BOOTS
By: KJ Dell’Antonia
Published: July 5, 2022
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
I read THE CHICKEN SISTERS and found it fun and light-hearted. Her newest one sounds like a great summer pick!
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Chicken Sisters comes a delightfully entertaining story about a ruse that goes awry and a chaotic homecoming that proves that confronting your past can sometimes set you free.
Filling these boots is harder than it looks.
Rhett Gallagher’s adventurous life is imploding. Just as she turns the big 4-0, her long-term relationship collapses, and news of a tragedy forces her to return to the family farm. The only silver lining is that Rhett’s inspirational book, The Modern Pioneer Girl—written under a pseudonym—has become a wild success, so much so that in a moment of panic, self-doubting Rhett persuades her best friend Jasmine to step into the limelight as the famed author.
But their prank turns into something more when the controlling mother Rhett hasn’t seen in two decades announces her intent to sell the farm Rhett loves and expected to make her own. To Rhett’s dismay, her mother is far more impressed by the fake author than she’s ever been by Rhett. To save her inheritance—and her identity—Rhett must concoct a scheme that will save the farm, and prove to her mother, and to herself, that she can stand on her own two feet.
By: Zibby Owens
Published: July 1, 2022
Publisher: Little A
If you have Amazon Prime, you can get this as a FREE eBOOK before it actually publishes. Zibby Owens is a well-known podcaster and personality in the book world. Her podcast is called, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books”. But this memoir touches on so much more than her bookish world but also on friendship and loss and finding yourself in the world.
Zibby Owens has become a well-known personality in the publishing world. Her infectious energy, tasteful authenticity, and smart, steadfast support of authors started in childhood, a precedent set by the profound effect books and libraries had on her own family.
But after losing her closest friend on 9/11 and later becoming utterly stressed out and overwhelmed by motherhood, Zibby was forgetting what made her her. She turned to books and writing for help.
Just when things seemed particularly bleak, Zibby unexpectedly fell in love with a tennis pro turned movie producer who showed her the path to happiness: away from type A perfectionism and toward “letting things unfold organically.” What “unfolded” was a meaningful career, a great love, and finally, her voice, now heard by millions of listeners.
An honest and moving story about relationships, love, food issues, the writing life, and finding one’s true calling, Bookends will inspire and uplift.
Children’s Fiction and Non-Fiction
By: Ann Bonwill
Illustrated by: Kayla Harren
Published: June 1, 2022
Publisher: Two Lions
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
If you know a child going through a parents’ divorce, this is the book for them.
I’ve already reviewed this book, HERE.
When a little girl learns about her parents’ divorce on a Thursday, it ruins her favorite day of the week. But her stuffed-unicorn friend steps in to help, taking her on adventures to cheer her up and staying by her side to comfort her when feelings are hard. Then, slowly, the little girl and her unicorn friend awaken to the natural world that surrounds them as life continues to shift and change…until the day that Thursday can become just Thursday again. Told with great sensitivity and beauty, this is a book of healing and hope for children experiencing divorce and a testament to the power of friendship in helping us to overcome life’s biggest obstacles.
PINK IS NOT A COLOR
By: Lindsay Ward
Published: July 1, 2022
Publisher: Two Lions
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
Pink loves her rosy world, from her pink toy dinosaur to her pet flamingo, Phil. But when she sees the Primaries and Secondaries getting ready for the Rainbow Extravaganza, she begins to wonder why she isn’t in the rainbow…and if that means she’s not really a color. Then she meets the Tints, and she’s even more confused. Luckily, a friend shows her the many ways she spreads joy—reminding Pink that she is truly one of a kind, rainbow or not.
Featuring the world of colors introduced in This Book Is Gray—and a few new color concepts—this is a tale about appreciating who you are and realizing that only you can decide what makes you happy.
By: Helena Ku Rhee
Illustrated by: Pascal Campion
Published: June 14, 2022
Publisher: Random House Studio
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
Just reading the synopsis made my heart ache a little bit. I can’t wait to share more of this one with you.
When Jae looks out the window of his new home, he wishes he could still see his old village, his old house, and his old friends. But his new apartment feels empty and nothing outside is familiar. Jae just arrived from South Korea and doesn’t even speak the new language.
Yet, making friends is the same wherever you go and he soon meets a girl with a colorful bird perched on her shoulder. Rosa knows just how Jae feels and the two become fast friends. Not only does Rosa show Jae his new neighborhood but she shows him how his imagination can bring back memories of his old home. Then Rosa leaves unexpectedly one night but leaves her parrot for Jae. He thinks about the song that Rosa would sing: “When I fly away, my heart stays here.” And when Jae meets two other newly arrived kids, he teaches them Rosa’s song and becomes their guide to this new world.
From the creators of the highly acclaimed The Paper Kingdom, comes a new book about the importance of community and demonstrates how a simple act of kindness can be passed along to others.
By: Rosemary Mosco
Published: May 17, 2022
Publisher: National Geographic Kids
Oh my gosh! Kids are going to love reading this one! It’s hilarious!
Get in on the conversation! In Critter Chat, every habitat has a group chat. In the African savanna, a lion (screenname: Just_Lion_Around) declares his territory with a text-based ROAR! Meanwhile, zebra and cheetah send eyeroll emojis. In the North American suburbs, a carpet beetle texts the family dog, reassuring him that his humans will return—eventually.
Among surprising, laugh-out-loud conversations like these, you’ll find tons of parody social media posts from all your favorites in the animal kingdom, including Instagram-style inspirational posts and silly Yelp reviews. An adorable dumbo octopus posts a selfie (#FeelingCute). And a frustrated narwhal reviews an extra-long toothbrush. (It’s still too short—of course!)
Inside, there are also plenty of fascinating nonfiction features that give readers the scoop on actual animal communication (Did you know that white rhinos communicate with poop? It’s true!), and real-life animal influencers who are making waves online and in our hearts. In a conveniently portable size, this handy little treasure can be carried anywhere, for a good laugh anytime!
LITTLE KIDS FIRST NATURE GUIDE: BUGS
By: Alli Brydon
Published: May 3, 2022
Publisher: National Geographic Kids
If you’ve got a young child who likes to explore in your backyard, get them this book.
Young explorers learn where, when, and how to safely and kindly find insects, spiders, and other creepy-crawlies such as worms and pill bugs with this fun and sturdy take-along guide.
CAN’T GET ENOUGH SHARK STUFF
Fun Facts, Awesome Info, Cool Games, Silly Jokes, and More!
By: Andrea Silen and Kelly Hargrave
Published: May 3, 2022
Publisher: National Geographic Kids
All the shark facts and fun your little shark fan could want all in one book. Kelly Hargrave wrote BRAIN CANDY 2 which kids love to pull and read from my book bag at school.
For animal lovers who are absolutely obsessed with everything sharks, this book has it all: tons of mind-blowing facts, exciting games, hands-on activities, hilarious shark jokes, and suspenseful stories from shark experts. It also includes tantalizing tidbits about perplexing prehistoric sharks, the latest info on studying sharks in the wild, and surprising, cutting-edge discoveries about shark behavior.
Which one (or two or three) of these books will you be adding to your list?
To see all the posts featuring new books on my shelves, click HERE.
So many books, so little time!
Posted Under A.J. Jacobs, Alli Brydon, Andrea Silen, Ann Bonwill, Barbara O'Neal, Book Review, Children's books, Elyssa Friedland, fiction, Hayley Campbell, Helena Ku Rhee, historical fiction, Jamie Ford, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Jodi Picoult, Kayla Harren, Kelly Hargrave, kindle, KJ Dell'Antonia, Lindsay Ward, memoir, National Geographic, New on the Stack, non-fiction, Pascal Campion, Rosemary Mosco, Zibby Owens