Friday, November 6, 2020

Five Star Friday: October 2020



On the first Friday of each month, I will share my five-star reads from the previous month. Fingers crossed, I have lots of books to tell you about.

I conquered 39 books in October. Alas, there were 6 DNFs, BUT there were also 6 5-star rated books. 
Love & Gelato meets Don’t Date Rosa Santos in this charming, heartfelt story following a Miami girl who unexpectedly finds love—and herself—in a small English town.

For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panaderĂ­a, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.

Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.

A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.

This book was a treat for me, from beginning to end. I loved getting to go to England, and I was so happy Lila was able to deal with her grief and figure out what she really wanted for her future. There was lots of cooking, baking, friends, and fun, which left me with a really warm heart.  

Man Down

Kate Meader
I’ve been texting the wife I lost, the woman I loved beyond measure ... Now someone else has answered back.

Gunnar Bond is broken.

Three years ago, he lived through the car crash that took his wife and twins away from him—though “lived” barely describes his current state. Giving up professional hockey, going off grid, and drinking himself into oblivion are his coping mechanisms. Another is texting his dead wife about his days without her. Therapeutic? Doubtful. Crazy? Definitely. But those messages into the ether are virtually the only thing stopping him from spiraling to even darker places.

Until someone texts back …

Sadie Yates is losing it.

Suddenly guardian to a little sister she doesn’t know and a misbehaving hound she’d rather not know at all, she’s had to upend her (sort of) glamorous life in LA and move back to Chicago. The nanny has quit, the money’s running out, and her job is on the line. The last thing she needs is her sister’s hockey camp counselor, a judgmental Viking type, telling her she sucks at this parenting lark. Thank the goddess for her sweet, sensitive, and—fingers crossed—sexy text buddy who always knows the right thing to say. In the same city at last, they can finally see if their online chemistry is mirrored in real life. She just needs to set up a meeting …

A ruined man who claims to have used up all his love is surely a bad bet, but Sadie’s never been afraid of a challenge … even one that might shatter her heart into a million pieces.

I totally felt Gunner's pain as I read this book, and I really felt like Meader did a beautiful job telling his story. I never tire of romances, where the characters fall in love before they meet, so I was very much a fan of how this all played out between the hero and heroine. Lots of emotional stuff, but humor, hockey, and bromance too.  

Beartown

Fredrik Backman
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

I am officially trash for Backman's storytelling. He has this quiet approach, that builds until you are socked in the feels, and I LOVE IT! The most memorable and impactful part of this story, for me was towards the end, where he tells us about these character in ten years. I was really overwhelmed with emotions as he gave me that peek at each character's future. Simply wonderful book!   

An authentic novel about growing up in a migrant Asian family with a mother who is suffering from a debilitating mental illness.

Anna Chiu has her hands full. When she's not looking after her brother and sister or helping out at her father's restaurant, she's taking care of her mother, whose debilitating mental illness keeps her in bed most days. Her father's new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren't right at home, she's starting to feel like she could be a normal teen.

But when her mother finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as her mother's condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling is a heart-wrenching, true-to-life exploration through the often neglected crevices of culture, mental illness, and family. Its strong themes are balanced by a beautiful romance making it a feel-good, yet important read.

This was such an honest look at how a loved one's mental illness affects their family. It can get messy and there are many steps backwards as well as forwards, but there is always love. I liked that Chim wove in a bit of a romance, as well as a character who also suffered from mental illness. I liked the juxtaposition of the attitudes towards mental illness, which can have such a big impact in one's life. Chim went for realistic with this story, but it was also hopeful. 

Us Against You

Fredrik Backman
After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

I never fail to shed tears as I read a Backman book. He writes these beautiful stories and makes me fall in love with these people. I am so glad we got a second Beartown book, because I wanted to see this town make their comeback. Times were still tough for the people of this town, but their spirit and their heart never faded. Another wonderful and touching story from this author who has won my heart. Thanks for the feels, Fredrik Backman.

One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.

When her flailing department lands on the university's chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.

Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.

Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she's finally living again.

I expected a full on rom-com with this book, and there were so many laugh-out-loud moments, but I liked that Williams tackled abusive relationships too. She blended the two so well, and the result was a very empowering story for me. Definitely looking forward to reading more from Williams.  







Did you have any five-star reads last month? 
Let us know in the comments!

30 comments:

  1. Wow, congrats on so many 5-star reads in October! I've never read a Backman book - I feel like I should!

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    1. I got my first Backman book at BEA (Britt-Marie) and wanted to read more, and Ove and the Beartown books were even better than Britt-Marie. His books are wonderful

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  2. I still haven’t read anything by Meader (gah!) but I’ve had my eye on Man Down ever since I read the synopsis. I love seeing that you gave it five stars! It makes me even more determined to pick it up and finally introduce myself to Meader.

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    1. I am enjoying the series in general, but Man Down and the book 2 were standouts for me.

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  3. I love seeing Beartown on this list. I still need to read Us Against You.

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  4. what a fun way to share. i might start doing this with you...
    sherry @ fundinmental

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    1. I don't do a real monthly wrap up, so I do this in its place.

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  5. I bought Man Down, now I just need to make time to listen. Beartown is on my TBR as well. You had a nice amount of 5 star reads!

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    1. Not as many 5-stars as the last two, but still a good month. Yeah! I hope you enjoy both Man Down and Beartown when you get to them.

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  6. Congrats on conquering so many books! I liked Beartown too. I still need to read the sequel.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. It was such a great continuation of the Beartown story. I hope you get to it.

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  7. Fredrik Backman is incredible! These are my favorites and I am so happy you love them too!

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    1. He really is something special. I have a million week wait for his next book at the library, but I am excited about it.

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    1. Thanks, Heather. The power of audiobooks, right?

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  9. Man Down sounds awesome but I almost cried just at the blurb! I don't know how I'd handle the actual book, lol.

    Well done on your October tally! As always, an amazing amount of books. :)

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    1. Meader did such a great job with Man Down too. At first, I gave it 4.5, but while I was crying writing my review days later, I bumped it up. As with all her books, the heavy is interspersed with lighter moments. It never felt too heavy for extended periods of time, but it is an emotional story for sure

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  10. So glad to see that you loved The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling - I knew you were excited for that so I was really hoping you'd love it! It's such a fantastic book, one of my favorites this year. I've just started Beartown, and I can't wait to be impressed.

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    1. Yes, Dumpling was wonderful. It was a great portrayal of mental illness, and I liked the way the family came together. I hope you love Beartown. You have read books by him, right? It builds in way similar to Ove. Can't wait to hear what you think.

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  11. 39 books. That is more books than DAYS, Sam! Glad that 6 were winners at least! The covers for most of these are lovely too. I really need to read some of the Beartown author's books- I have his most recent on my wishlist as it sounds AMAZING. How To Fail at Flirting sounds like my memoir, tbh hah.

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    1. There's a quiet beauty in Backman's books. I have now read 5, and I really enjoyed them all. They are about connection and humanity. No, How to Fail at Flirting in MY memoir. LOL

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  12. Oooh the dumpling book! I meant to read that one but it slipped from my mind.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. It was so good. I hope you get to it at some point.

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  13. A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow sounds like such a lovely read. I had been eyeing that one because of the Love & Gelato comparison and now you have me sold on it. Love seeing Backman on your list too. :)

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    1. It was super cute and sweet, and I was on board with the themes it covered.

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  14. I am going to have to keep Meader in mind the next time I am in the mood for a good hockey romance.

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    1. I have read several of her series and wasn't sure about this spin-off, because I loved the original so much. But, this series has been getting better and better with each book. I am loving the Rookies.

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