Monday, June 6, 2022

Books I Read in April and May

 Hello friends! Today I want to share the books I read in April and May. I set a goal to read 40 books this year and I am a little bit behind on that goal 😬 Anyone else behind on their reading goal? I have read several fantastic books, but then it's almost like I need a week or two in between some of them because they are heavier reads. After a sad book, I need a break. I can't just jump right into the next one! Anyone else feel that way too, or is it just me? Anyway, here are the books I read in April and May. I read several really good ones. Most likely some of these will make it onto my "Top Books of 2022" list at the end of this year!

The Things We Cannot Say-- 

"In 1942, Europe remains in the relentless grip of war. Just beyond the tents of the refugee camp she calls home, a young woman speaks her wedding vows. It’s a decision that will alter her destiny…and it’s a lie that will remain buried until the next century.

Since she was nine years old, Alina Dziak knew she would marry her best friend, Tomasz. Now fifteen and engaged, Alina is unconcerned by reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing her neighbors that they pose no real threat, and dreams instead of the day Tomasz returns from college in Warsaw so they can be married. But little by little, injustice by brutal injustice, the Nazi occupation takes hold, and Alina’s tiny rural village, its families, are divided by fear and hate.

Then, as the fabric of their lives is slowly picked apart, Tomasz disappears. Where Alina used to measure time between visits from her beloved, now she measures the spaces between hope and despair, waiting for word from Tomasz and avoiding the attentions of the soldiers who patrol her parents’ farm. But for now, even deafening silence is preferable to grief."

If you have not read this book yet, please do not hesitate to add it to your list. This book was so wonderfully written, you felt like you were right there with the characters. Kelly Rimmer took the time to develop the characters and helped you to connect with each of them. Once I fell in love with each character, I couldn't put the book down. I needed to know how it ended for them! I give this book an A+ and will be shocked if this book doesn't end up on my "top books of 2022" list. 

Barefoot and Balanced-- 

"Today’s kids have adopted sedentary lifestyles filled with television, video games, and computer screens. But more and more, studies show that children need “rough and tumble” outdoor play in order to develop their sensory, motor, and executive functions... So, how can you ensure your child is fully engaging their body, mind, and all of their senses?

Using the same philosophy that lies at the heart of her popular TimberNook program—that nature is the ultimate sensory experience, and that psychological and physical health improves for children when they spend time outside on a regular basis—author Angela Hanscom offers several strategies to help your child thrive, even if you live in an urban environment.

Today it is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, or spinning in circles just for fun. We’ve taken away merry-go-rounds, shortened the length of swings, and done away with teeter-totters to keep children safe. Children have fewer opportunities for unstructured outdoor play than ever before, and recess times at school are shrinking due to demanding educational environments.

With this book, you’ll discover little things you can do anytime, anywhere to help your kids achieve the movement they need to be happy and healthy in mind, body, and spirit."

This book is one I have read a few times already but wanted to re-read. I love it! Like most books, I don't buy into every single thing the author says, but pick and choose what feels right and what works with our family. This is the book I referenced with our 1000 Hours Outside post, and has been a big driving factor in our choice to get our kids outside as much as possible. If you are an educator, an OT, or just a mom interested in getting your kids outside more, I recommend this book! A+ since I clearly loved it so much I've read it multiple times. 😊

The Sanatorium-- 

"Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.

An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin's taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge--there's something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she's the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in."

This one started off very well, but towards the end it got a little too chaotic for me. It felt like the author didn't really know which direction to take the book, so she went in a few different directions at the same time. I also felt like the rationale the antagonists had towards the end of the book was questionable. All that to say, the book still kept my interest and I was curious to see how it all ended. I give it a B+.

Dreams of Joy-- 

"Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, and anger at her mother and aunt for keeping them from her, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the communist regime. 

Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives."

This book had the makeup to be a perfect book for me. Historical fiction? Check. A time period/setting I'm not already familiar with? Check. Well developed, likable characters who you keep rooting for throughout the entire novel? Check. I loved everything about this book and cannot recommend it enough. 

The author told the story of what it was like to be in the People's Republic of China as Mao and the Communist party were taking over, which is unlike anything else I had ever read. The main character, Joy, is a 19 year old Chinese-American citizen who goes off to college and hears a glamorized version of how Communism has saved the PRC. After a fight with her mom and aunt, she leaves California to go find her father in Shanghai. Once she arrives in China she realizes that her pro-communism friends in the US were only telling one side of the story, as she witnesses some of the most tragic parts of China's history. 

 This book is the sequel to Shanghai Girls and you really do need to read Shanghai Girls first in order fully understand the family dynamics of the characters. Shanghai Girls was also a fantastic book, so you can't go wrong by reading both of these. I give this book an A+ and know it will most definitely be on my list of top books! If you love historical fiction, please add this one to your list!!

"Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.

By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.

In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa―like so many of her neighbors―must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family."

I have yet to read a Kristin Hannah book I haven't loved. That being said, if you like happy, cheesy, cheery books... Kristin Hannah is not for you. I loved the strong female lead, the characters' perseverance during challenging times, and reading about how people came together to help one another even though their own lives were difficult too. I will say, this was not my favorite ending, but I loved the first 98% of the book. I give it an A+. This was another book I could not stop talking about after having read it. 

Oh Crap!--  I'll save you from reading the synopsis on this one-- hah! Not sure if this should really count as a book I read, but whatever, I read it so I'm counting it. Last month we potty trained Liam and overall it was pretty easy (thank goodness!). Honestly, the ideas suggested in this book worked like a charm.  We just followed the plan the author recommends, and we have had great success with it. I will say, the author suggests potty training sooner rather than later, but in our case we felt the opposite. Lily Grace struggled a little more than Liam did with potty training, but I think that's because she was significantly younger than he was. If I could do it all over again with LG, I would have given her another 6-9 months before pushing it. In our experience, the closer to 3 years old, the more likely they are to catch on quickly. So if you have a little one at home and are thinking about it, LG had just turned 2 and struggled (not too badly), but Liam was 2 years 9 months and it was a breeze. I give this book an A because it was so helpful! 

One Italian Summer-- 

"When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: to Positano, the magical town where Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue."

I had such mixed feelings about this one. Let me start by saying "chick lit" is not my favorite genre. I am pretty picky when it comes to chick lit and often struggle to find one I really enjoy.. so when it comes to my review on this one, please know I may just be a harsh critic here due to the genre. 

I really struggled to find the main character likable. This book is pretty short, and I think if the author had spent a little more time developing the characters I would have liked it more. I felt like every time I was starting to get to know Katy a little deeper, the author would move onto something else. I also found the storyline very confusing-- is Katy in another time? Or are her mother and all the places she loved about Positano in her youth still there in 2022, untouched? That being said, this book definitely made me want to book a flight to Italy. I settled for a glass of Italian wine instead. 😉 I give this book a B-.

Now I'd love to know what books you've read lately that you loved and would recommend! Most of my book recommendations come from your comments, emails, and those of you who have blogs. 

Today I am linking up with Sarah and Holly. Have a great Monday!


  1. One Italian Summer is requested at my library! I do want to read The Four Winds, but maybe not in the summer? I don't know why? I will re-read the synopsis. I love the Balanced and Barefoot. I am always talking to my high school students about how we are nature deprived - even at that age. I am trying to be barefoot in my yard as much as I can this summer because I truly believe in the healing powers of nature. I would eat every meal outside if I could! I also think that so many things we think are good for kids are needed for adults.

  2. What a great collection! I am adding One Italian Summer to my list-thanks so much for sharing!

  3. I loved Four Winds...and have One Italian Summer on my summer reading list

  4. I loved The Things We Cannot Say and The Four Winds. And you know I agree on One Italian Summer!

  5. Have you ever read Free Range Kids? I thought that was a good book with some good suggestions about outdoor/ rough and tumble play too... because I was totally that mom that let her boys climb UP the slide on the playground (while teaching them to be respectful and take turns for those that wanted to slide down). So many of those motor develop milestones are missing because the quality of our play has changed too-- and I totally get it with schools not wanting to have any injuries and liabilities. I also loved The Things We Cannot Say and The Four Winds and while I enjoyed One Italian Summer it was strictly for the setting. LOL. I'm not a time travel/ fantasy novel kind of person and that's pretty much how I classified that one.

  6. Lisa See is the author of my favorite book, "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" so I'm definitely interested in reading the book "Dreams of Joy".

  7. I own and need to read The Sanatorium. I've heard mixed things though!

    Lauren @

  8. i hate to admit that i read the oh crap potty training when I tried to potty train Austin and dont remember any of it and dont remember it working. I am going to start Anna soon.