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This year has been tough. Between the pandemic, murder hornets, riots, and the impending TikTok ban, the lighthearted fun of Tiger King seems like it was eons ago and there’s really no end in sight.
I, personally, am heading into learning how to help my first grader with distance learning while keeping my three year old from destroying the house. I’ve mainly read thrillers, suspense, and some horror over the last few years, but lately, I’ve been gravitating toward more chick lit in an effort to escape from the heaviness of reality. I’ve read a few romances, but I don’t really want to JUST read romance. So I set out on a quest to find more feel-good books to dig into and settled on ten.
This list includes romance of all varieties, fantasy, a memoir, a motivational book, a graphic novel, and a Murderbot. All ten have been added to my Goodreads TBR, but as I have not yet read any of them, I will give a short blurb of each and my personal thoughts.
- The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
400 pages; Published April 2019
Goodreads rating: 4.13 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Blurb: Tiffy and Leon both need a flat. Tiffy works days; Leon works nights. Somehow, they end up occupying the same flat – and sleeping in the same bed – but at opposite times, so they’ve never met.
My thoughts: How?? How did they even learn the other person existed, much less know the other needed a roommate? If they have mutual friends, why didn’t the friends introduce them first? They obviously have to communicate in order to coordinate bills, possible schedule changes, flatmate complaints, etc. So do they leave notes? Do they text or talk on the phone? I need all of the answers.
Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/3kpHG1C
2. Beach Read by Emily Henry
361 pages; Published May 2020
Goodreads rating: 4.11 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Blurb: Augustus and January are both authors, but that’s where the similarities end. Augustus is an acclaimed literary fiction writer, while January is a bestselling romance author. The writers end up living next to each other for three months, both struggling with writer’s block. And so, they decide to challenge each other. Augustus will spend the summer creating chick lit, while January will try her hand at gloom and doom. Oh, and supposedly, no one falls in love.
My thoughts: This is obviously going to end up being a romance…right? They’re going to be spending time together, exchanging advice, helping each other learn a different writing style, bonding over a shared passion. It’s a recipe for strangers-to-friends-to-lovers. But what if the blurb is telling the truth and they just form an awesome friendship? I’m here for that, too! I’m also REALLY interested to see how their new books turn out.
Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/3a9ZNnM
3. How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior
368 pages; Published March 2020
Goodreads rating: 4.19 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Blurb: Wealthy, 85 year old Veronica knows she’s nearing the end of her life, but she’s estranged from her family and doesn’t know what will happen to her wealth when she dies. She sees a documentary about a team of scientists studying penguins in Antarctica and decides to go there. Soon after arriving, she’s able to convince the team of scientists to rescue an orphaned baby penguin, which results in her starting to let down the wall she has built around her heart. Veronica’s grandson, Patrick, decides to visit his grandmother in Antarctica in one final, last-ditch effort to forge a relationship between them, and together they begin a journey of love and acceptance.
My thoughts: For some reason, I feel a connection to Veronica just from reading the blurb. A story about a lonely woman going on an impromptu trip to Antarctica to help rescue baby penguins is absolutely a story I want to read. I am super interested in the specific events that lead up to the trip and in seeing what kind of dynamic exists between Veronica and the team of scientists. As far as the grandson, the cynic in me wonders if he makes this effort in order to gain his grandmother’s fortune. That part of me hopes he doesn’t receive it…but maybe I’m wrong. I look forward to finding out.
Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/2XICxIu
4. Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen
432 pages; Published June 2018
Goodreads rating: 4.18 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Blurb: When 34-year-old Harry Crane loses his wife in a tragic accident, he decides to travel to Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains and lose himself in the woods there. In the woods, he encounters young Oriana, who has lost her father. She believes Harry is meant to help her find her way back to her father, so Harry agrees to help. The life-changing adventure waiting for Harry and Oriana includes a tree house, a wolf, a librarian, and a book called The Grum’s Ledger.
My thoughts: This book is recommended for fans of A Man Called Ove and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I haven’t read either of those, but the plot of Harry’s Trees alone was enough to make me add all three to my Goodreads TBR. Reviews describe Harry’s Trees as being full of humor and magic, which sounds like a perfect reprieve from our current, very somber, reality. I’m curious if Oriana’s father has died or if she’s physically lost in the woods. If he has passed, how does she think Harry can help her? One theory that occurred to me is that maybe Harry’s wife suffered a miscarriage and Oriana is the spirit of that child. This book is definitely on my radar to be one of the next I dive into.
Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/3gHI9dw
5. Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
421 pages; Published May 2019
Goodreads rating: 4.24 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Blurb: Alex Claremont-Diaz is the smart, handsome, charismatic son of The President of the United States – his mother. Alex becomes the American equivalent of royalty. However, Alex harbors a strong disdain for Prince Henry of Wales and ends up in an altercation with the Prince – which, of course, ends up all over the tabloids. In a desperate effort for damage control, the families hatch a plan for Alex and Henry to fake an Instagram-worthy friendship in order to salvage the families’ reputations. Alex and Henry soon discover their feelings for one another run much deeper than a social media stunt and the two find themselves in a dangerous secret relationship.
My thoughts: Yes, please! This sounds like it has all the elements of an easy, therapeutic read. Humor, romance, secrets, family drama. OK, so it’s chick lit, but an interesting spin on the “Romeo and Juliet” story line. Why does Alex hate Henry so much? What causes the altercation that ended up changing their lives? How do they keep their relationship alive…and secret… when they live across the world from each other? So many questions, so many answers awaiting me in this highly, highly recommended novel.
Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/2Pz81MD
6. All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
144 pages; Published May 2017
Goodreads rating: 4.15 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Blurb: All Systems Red is a novella and is the first in a series of six “Murderbot” stories. Murderbot is a self-aware A.I. that was originally intended to be a Security Unit. It eventually manages to override its governor and gain independence as it struggles to understand the world around it, listens to space opera, and expresses its disdain for humans.
My thoughts: I am NOT a sci-fi reader. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever completed any book resembling science fiction. I remember seeing one of my favorite YouTube book vloggers, Merphy Napier, review this book and thinking it actually didn’t sound terrible. Even so, I was beyond surprised when it kept turning up in searches for feel-good books and I realized I WANT to read it. The blurb didn’t really grab me, but the reviews did. Murderbot is described as sarcastic, witty, cynical, and downright hilarious. And, as previously mentioned, it enjoys space opera. I am excited to try this book because I want to meet Murderbot and get to know it; I’m also nervous because I have never been interested in sci-fi and as a result, have had trouble in the past even following the story, but reviews say it’s a great starting point for the novice sci-fi reader. I’m interested to see how a book that sounds so dark to me is regarded as “feel-good” to so many fans. We shall see, and soon.
Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/31z9DLZ
7. I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart & Neil Strauss
378 pages; Published June 2017
Goodreads rating: 4.11 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Blurb: Beloved comedian and actor, Kevin Hart, was born in Philadelphia to a drug addict father and an abusive mother. This is the story of how he used hard work, determination, talent, and a unique perspective on life to overcome the hand he was dealt and rise to worldwide fame and overwhelming success.
My thoughts: I love memoirs. I’ve only read a couple, but I adore them. To be honest, I haven’t paid too much attention to Kevin Hart over the years, but I know I’m in the minority. When I first saw this book online, I almost passed it over, but then I saw the puppies. I can’t ignore puppies. So then I researched it a bit more and sifted through some reviews, and now I’m all-out excited to read about Kevin Hart. A quote from the book caught my eye: “Not only do you get to choose how you interpret each chapter, but your interpretation writes the next chapter. So why not choose the interpretation that serves your life the best?” I now feel I have grossly underestimated this man as a person and am really looking forward to learning more about him and his perspective on life.
Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/31zURVn
8. The Princess Affair (Princess Affair #1) by Nell Stark
264 pages; Published March 2013
Goodreads rating: 3.9 ⭐⭐⭐
Blurb: New York native, Kerry Donovan, is a scholar who moves to Oxford, England to study at the famous Oxford University. Princess Sasha is the sassy, sexy heir to the British throne. When the two meet by chance in a nightclub, the attraction between them is immediate and intense. Soon, they find themselves in a whirlwind romance as Kerry tries to keep her priorities straight and Sasha struggles under the weight of the crown. Will their connection be strong enough to keep them together despite everything that threatens to tear them apart?
My thoughts: I’m just going to say it. I’ve never read a lesbian romance. That alone is enough to intrigue me to give this book a try. The story line sounds a little bit cookie cutter and predictable, but sometimes predictable is comforting when the world is in a state of chaos. I do enjoy stories where characters learn about different walks of life from each other, so this rich princess/poor college student dynamic appeals to me a lot. I’m also interested to see if Sasha really is the hot mess the tabloids make her out to be, because my Spidey senses tell me that’s probably not the case. At just over 250 pages, this one will be a quick read.
Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/3fCBXSz
9. Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu (Artist)
256 pages; Published October 2019
Goodreads rating: 3.86 ⭐⭐⭐
Blurb: In this graphic novel, Nova Huang is a teenage witch who works at her grandmother’s bookshop. In addition to her bookish duties, she also helps investigate local supernatural occurrences. One night, while following reports of a white wolf, she goes into the woods and unexpectedly finds werewolf, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon. Tam is Nova’s longtime crush, but lives a nomadic lifestyle as he tries to escape the demons who are hell-bent on capturing the magic of werewolves. Tam turns to Nova for help winning the war against the demons and they soon find themselves on a spectacular journey of witchcraft, magic, occult rituals, and family ties.
My thoughts: This book sounds like a LOT of fun and I’m pretty much a newbie to fantasy/supernatural stories. I want to know what life is like as a teen witch who hunts down the supernatural. I want to know what the dynamic is like between a witch and a werewolf. I want to know what a horse demon is and why the demons have chosen Tam as the object of their pursuit. Also, based on the book’s cover, I really want to see the rest of the art. Super excited for this one!
Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/33EUjQo
10. #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE: The Fat Girl’s Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini by Nicole Byer & Kim Newmoney (Photographer)
192 pages; Published June 2020
Goodreads rating: 4.26 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Blurb: “If you’ve ever seen a fat person post a bikini shot on social media, you already know that they are #verybrave, because apparently existing in a fat body in public is #brave. I, Nicole Byer, wrote this book to 1. share my impressive bikini collection and my hot body with the world and 2. help other people feel #brave by embracing their body as it is. In this book, I share my journey to becoming #brave, give you my hot tips and tricks — on how to find the perfect bikini, how to find your own #bravery, and how to handle haters — and serve you over 100 bikini looks.”
My thoughts: As a bigger girl, this book called out to me the first time I saw the cover photo and read the title. Nicole is #onpoint with her assessment of how larger people, not even just women, are viewed on social media. If a fit, trim person and a fat person each share a photo of themselves in swimwear or a video of the same exact dance, the comments are stunningly different. This is a short book at fewer than 200 pages, but I’m betting it packs a whole lot of punch.
Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/3kqSV9Z
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? Leave (spoiler free) reviews below!