Family Life, Me Time, Uncategorized

Joyful Reads with Joy July 2023

Hello! I’m Joy, and I love to read. I consider it my greatest talent and favorite hobby. Another one of my preferred pastimes is recommending reads to anyone who is the least bit curious. Seriously. I am always volunteering book recs to people near me, whether they ask or not. I thought it would be fun to bring this passion to Baton Rouge Parents Magazine. I will share with you every book I read month by month and what I think about them. Let’s get started! You can also follow me on Instagram at @joyfulreadswithjoy!

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz
Andrea Bartz creates a tense and suspenseful psychological thriller in We Were Never Here, a twisted tale of toxic friendship and dangerous travel. Although a bit silly at times, this thriller had me glued to my kindle for two days. Bartz writes an addictive exploration of codependent friendship and trauma. A first person POV that verges on unreliable narration merges with exotic locales and psychological twists to keep you guessing. Who do we trust? Who do we believe? What really happened?

Summary: Best friends since college, Kristin and Emily share an exotic vacation every year. They explore unexpected corners of the world and experience adventure until a fateful trip in Cambodia that ends in disaster when they accidentally kill an attacker. Emily spends the next year suffering from PTSD and depression, but finally starts to heal in time for their next trip to Chile, where, inconceivably, a similar death happens. The two Midwestern 30 year olds find themselves at fault for two deaths in two years. As Emily deals with the guilt and paranoia, Kristin intensifies and increases her control and possession of Emily. Their friendship devolves into gaslighting and manipulation as Emily tries to figure out who her best friend really is.

Personally, I found this so engaging because I take an annual trip with my best friend (no murders) and I know like 72 Kristins (spelling variations) and Emilies. I also love that Bartz is a travel writer and describes excellent settings. If you’re looking for a twisty page-turner, this is the right escape for you!

Warning: sexual assault, graphic violence, gaslighting, suicide, parent loss

The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer
What a beautiful novel! I want to hug this book and Mikki Brammer for this hopeful and compassionate story. Brammer creates a memorable and beloved protagonist in Clover and surrounds her with a precious supporting ensemble. I recommend this for anyone dealing with grief or feeling stuck in their lives.

Summary: Clover Brooks is a death doula in NYC. She spends her days and nights comforting people in their last moments. Clover keeps a record of people’s regrets, confessions, and advice before they die. She understands the process of death, but she is barely living her own life. Isolated and introverted, Clover is stuck in a pattern of self-protection when she encounters a life-changing client named Claudia. Inspired by Claudia’s independence and passion, Clover begins to take chances and indulge her curiosity. To bring closure to Claudia in her final moments, Clover goes on a journey for love and finds her courage.

The Collected Regrets of Clover is a gorgeous meditation on grief, love, friendship, bravery, personal growth, and taking risks. Composed with wisdom, this story captivated my heart. It’s sweet and funny and thought provoking. Though death is a major theme, it’s handled in such a way that celebrates life.

Dark Corners by Megan Goldin
Summer Thriller Alert! Dark Corners is a feast of mystery, psychological suspense, and social commentary. I don’t read many books of this genre, but this was an obsessive delight. This is my second read by Megan Goldin, and her second Rachel Krall novel. Set in the true crime podcasting world, Dark Corners is a perfect escape into an investigative journalist’s search for truth.

Summary: Rachel Krall is the fierce reporter behind Guilty or Not Guilty, a popular true crime podcast. When a suspected serial killer is about to be released from prison, the FBI ropes Rachel into visiting him to find out information about a missing influencer who visited him before she disappeared. To discover what’s going on, Rachel joins Buzz Con, an obnoxious influencer convention in Daytona Beach. As the body count rises, and a mysterious tattoo ties together all the victims, Rachel and FBI detective Joe Martinez must put together the gruesome pieces to find the real killer and locate missing vlogger Maddison. The heat intensifies in the case and between Joe and Rachel. Twists and turns ensue!

I devoured this beachy thriller! I am such a fan of the protagonist, Rachel, and clever detective Martinez. They made a great sleuthy team on the rough streets and beaches of Daytona. This thriller has everything: nuanced characters, plot twists, a detestable villain, tough women, intriguing backstories, Bones-like investigations, multiple POV, and a likable ensemble. High praise for Megan Goldin! Dark Corners is delectable suspense for smart and fun readers.

Warning: abduction, drug use, violence

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
Stellar. Breathtaking. Stunning. Hello Beautiful has made my list of favorite novels about families. Ann Napolitano has crafted a lovely portrait of a family of women, the two men who love them, and the depth of connection. There are sentences in this book that completely captivated me. I loved the characters, the intricacies, the vulnerability, the beauty. Thirty years. Five main characters. So many feelings.

Summary: William Waters grows up in Boston alone and unloved. Basketball is his refuge. The sport takes him to Northwestern in Chicago, where he meets and falls for a beautiful Italian girl named Julia Padavano. He is enveloped into her bustling family of four girls, similar to the heroines of Little Women. After he marries the oldest daughter, Julia, multiple events upend the family and shape them into different people. The sisters grow and change as struggles shape the family. William’s deep depression leads to a crisis that segments the family into two pieces. The sisters and their children learn to live their passions and love despite separation.

Hello Beautiful is the kind of family saga that transcends category or summary. It’s full of human conflict, truths about life, deep relationships, philosophical contemplation, emotional vulnerability, lush dialogue, and poetic prose. It’s so gorgeous I want to read it again. Multiple POV, multiple decades, and multiple swoons intrigued me from start to finish. A few things I loved: the library obsession, the Walt Whitman references, the basketball details, the sisters, the daughters, and the love of books.

Warning: parental negligence, parent death, attempted suicide, family estrangement

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