reading recs and reviews

Read with Us!

Follow along with the SWR community as we make our way through our personal reading lists and share thoughts with each other.

Turtles All the Way Down

From books like The Fault in Our Stars to Looking for Alaska, John Greene has a way with words that never fails to make me laugh hard and cry harder. I’m happy (and sad) to say that Turtles All The Way Down was no different. The book revolves around Aza Holmes, a 16 year old girl who struggles with crippling anxiety and OCD. She has a hard time coping with “regular” life and tries to distract herself with her best friend, Daisy. Now, in the beginning, this wasn’t the easiest read. Speaking from experience, it’s hard to understand what’s going on in the mind of someone who doesn’t completely understand their thoughts themself. I could relate deeply to this story due to my own experiences with anxiety and mental spiraling. There is a nice balance of the plot, and the premise that mental health can sometimes feel as if it will never be “cured.” I really enjoyed reading TATWD because it felt like a different side of Greene, who has openly discussed his own mental health journey.

I definitely recommend this novel, but would warn that this story doesn’t have your typical, cookie-cutter ending.

Alana’s Rating – 9/10

Relationship Goals

One word, REAL. This is a book that I desperately needed right now. We all know our twenties are a time of self-discovery, but at the same time we’re navigating our careers and relationships. If you’re trying to dive deeper into the “relationship” part of your life, then this book is for you… especially my single ladies and men! Pastor Mike Todd is the pastor of Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and this book was actually a sermon series he did at his church (that I still need to watch.) The book guides you through a more thought-out, meaningful approach to relationships and takes you through topics from singleness to marriage. Throughout the book, pastor Mike drops numerous gems and completely changes your mindset on attaining and maintaining healthy relationships. After reading, I felt the need to seriously reflect on the way I’ve been going about my relationships and how I view “relationship goals.”

Alana’s Rating – 10/10

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

I am a hugeeeeee Kiera Cass fan, so obviously when I found out she was writing a duo-logy (two book series) I was immediately adding it to my Amazon cart. She did not disappoint! The book is about a young girl named, Hollis, who has the opportunity to be the future queen, if she plays her cards right. Hollis has been raised at the palace knowing that one day she would either win over the king, or be married off to another wealthy family. So, obviously, when it seems that she has won him over, Hollis is thrilled! Or at least, she should be right? She starts to wonder if this is really what she wants, or if there is another path to her happy ending. We follow along with Hollis through her roller coaster of journey, and there is definitely a plot twist I was not emotionally ready for. This book is for those who are fans of young adult fiction filled with romance and adventure. I cannot wait for book two to come out!

Alana’s Rating – 10/10

The Defining Decade by Meg Jay

I’m not sure what possessed me to pick up The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, but I’m really glad I did! Jay’s book is full of insightful stories about twenty-somethings working through very relatable baggage. The chapters of TDD unpack 11 key insights that Jay often sees her twenty-something clients struggle with. She does a great job of keeping the book light-hearted while managing to make some serious points about prioritizing your twenties. As any anxious person can tell you, ignorance is *not* always bliss, so getting a professional’s perspective on this “defining decade” was actually very freeing for me. I truly think anyone can take some insightful points away from what Jay is putting down here.

Samra’s Rating – 7/10

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor conveys that the formula we’ve been taught about achieving happiness is broken. He teaches us about the field of happiness psychology and explains that happiness fuels success, not the other way around. During his time at Harvard and through many case studies, Achor discovers how true happiness is achieved. Achor explains how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work. Specifically, he breaks down seven practical, actionable principles to improve our performance and maximize our potential. Personally, this book was great for me because it taught me how to reframe how I view happiness and how to find happiness in the workplace. As a young professional, it can be intimidating first starting out because you think that you have to hit the ground running and be on your game at all times. This book helped me to see that getting ahead is not all work is about, but that you have to evaluate your happiness as well to achieve the success you desire. 

Alana’s Rating – 8/10

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

A year after adding Kiley Reid’s debut novel to my Goodreads “to-read” shelf, I finally spotted it at the library and excitedly dove in. All of the hype surrounding this book is 100% deserved. I truly could not put it down. No lie, I finished this book in about 8 hours, only stopping to sleep. I laughed and I gasped and I did not want it to end. Such a Fun Age gets heavy right off the bat as the young Black female protagonist is accused of kidnapping the white child she is with at the grocery store. The remaining story addresses privilege and race with a natural and addictive prose. An extremely relevant read after the year of social awakening that was 2020. 

Georgie’s Rating – 9/10

All I Ever Wanted: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir by Kathy Valentine

At 21 years old, Kathy Valentine met a girl in a music venue bathroom and was asked to join what would be a trailblazing rock ‘n’ roll band called The Go-Go’s. This memoir, her first writing adventure not set to music, begins by giving us a glimpse of her childhood, teen years, and her decision to pursue music full time. A decision that ultimately became the driving force for the rest of her life: music. This book is a really great insight into one of the most beloved bands of the early 80’s, despite their rise and fall both happening in only 4 years. With tons of backstage stories and crumbs of the music industry sprinkled without, this is a refreshing rock ‘n’ roll autobiography that doesn’t leave a horrible taste in your mouth.  

Georgie’s Rating – 8/10

Mill Town by Kerri Arsenault

Wow! This journalistic narrative about a little town in Maine and how the story of the paper mill is interwoven with the authors own life. She writes about her father and his work and the mill. She interviews others who have worked there and their family members. While reading this book you will learn about her family, the economics of this town, the health of the people that live there and the dilemma of the trade offs of corporate greed and the health of a community. This book explores:

*environmental toxins in our water, fish, cattle, and dairy products

*why Trump was attractive to blue collar workers

*government and corporation coverups

*the overdose epidemic


*small town worldview

*Nestlé Corporation

Karina’s Rating – 8/10

Frankenstein or the Modern  Prometheus by Mary Shelley

**spoiler alert** I really wanted to like this book more than I did in high school, but I didn’t. The monster speaks very intelligently by simply observing the cottagers. Even though this book is science fiction, I just didn’t believe the oratory skills of the monster to be that grand.

However, I did appreciate the theme of friendship and loneliness in the book. Friendship is key to happiness- if we don’t have friends, we can easily become jealous of those that do, and the loneliness can lead to horrible actions.

Another lesson from the book is to not judge others. The monster became a monster because others treated him as such. He wasn’t loved, so he destroyed love.

The ending was soo abrupt, and personally, I didn’t enjoy that.

Karina’s Rating – 6/10

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsberg

This book is a collection of some of RBG’s speeches and dissents, as well as her husband’s speech in her honor. Fun fact: there is an opera named after her and justice Antonin Scalia! And part of it is heard in the audio book- that was really cool to hear. However, since the original audio is used, some sections are hard to hear. One speech is given at a dinner, so I heard the clinks of dishes and a cell phone went off during one speech. This is one of those audiobooks that you want to read along with!

Highly recommend this book – we can learn a lot from RBG on how to have deep friendships with people we disagree with, and even have a sense of humor about it all.

Karina’s Rating – 8/10

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Masterful. Don’t let the length dissuade you from reading this book for it is truly an adventure! Revenge. Forgiveness. Waiting. Hoping.

My only recommendation while reading this book is to make notes of who everyone is and their relations because it was a little difficult to keep track. There are resources online- but as I found them, I also came along spoilers.

Karina’s Rating – 10/10

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Based on true events, this is a beautiful story of how a family survived WWII. This book is different from other books that I have read during this time period because it shows what life was like for Jews in Poland under both the Nazis and Stalin. It also gives a glimpse of what it would have been like to be a refugee, tortured, and to be used as cheap labor. The stories in the book will not be soon forgotten.

Karina’s Rating – 9/10

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