Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab

4 stars

The cover of Set Boundaries, Find Peace displayed on an e-reader.
Set Boundaries, Find Peace offers practical advice to help readers learn to set healthy boundaries.

I discovered Nedra Glover Tawwab, a licensed counselor, through Instagram, and was inspired by the helpful advice she offered on setting boundaries on her feed. 

As helpful as her posts are, I felt like I needed more depth than the collection of quotes and lists on her feed provided to truly apply her advice to my life. 

Her book “Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself” introduced me to the definitions, practical advice, and examples I needed to be able to set healthier boundaries in my personal and professional life. 

She makes a strong case that boundaries are critical to healthy relationships and to personal peace. Her assertion that boundaries are the root of self-care was a powerful insight for me. 

Tawwab also offers practical tips, exercises, and quizzes that empower readers to assess whether they have porous, rigid, or healthy boundaries and feel more assured in setting healthy ones.

I appreciated that the book discussed a variety of settings (social media, work, friendships, dealing with toxic people) where boundaries can be applied, although it was a little repetitive at times. And, like most expert advice books, some parts resonated with me and my circumstances, and parts weren’t really relevant at all.

Recovering people-pleasers or individuals who frequently feel overwhelmed and resentful but aren’t sure why will find this book helpful. This guidebook will be most useful to those who need a foundational understanding of what boundaries are, but even expert-level boundary-setters stand to pick up a tip or two.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

4 stars

I think I’m the last person on earth to read this book. I have seen it all over Bookstagram, the Twitter Reading Community, and my Goodreads feed. I am happy to report that it mostly lived up to the hype. 

A paperback copy of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Tara Jenkins Reid on a black slate background surrounded by pearls and gold earrings.

I knew from reading Malibu Rising a few months ago that Reid is an excellent storyteller. The pages of Evelyn Hugo ooze the same intoxicating readability as Malibu Rising. Again, I encountered characters who are flawed and complex and weirdly relatable given that I don’t have anything in common with their glamorous, star-powered lifestyles.

I liked the Old Hollywood setting of this novel. Reid succeeds in making the reader feel like an insider to the real story behind the lives of these (fictional) movie stars. Evelyn’s confidence and shrewdness combined with her vulnerability made her an interesting character. While there were moments in the book where I both loved and hated her, I was never bored by Evelyn.

In my opinion, Monique was an underrated character. She doesn’t get mentioned in the title and only a few of the chapters are told from her perspective but she’s more central to the plot than a couple of Evelyn’s husbands. Her life is also impacted more by Evelyn’s choices than are several of the other people in the novel. I loved how Monique grew through the small glimpses we got of her life.

A lot of readers and reviewers have commented positively on the gossip columns and news clips that were interspersed throughout the book. Personally, I didn’t feel like they added a lot of authenticity to the story since much of the plot already felt like it was ripped right out of a People magazine story.

Although I gave this book the same star rating as Malibu Rising, I’d give a slight edge to Evelyn Hugo. And, after reading and liking both, I’m looking forward to reading my third TJR book, Daisy Jones and the Six, which is waiting impatiently on my overflowing TBR shelf.

My review of Malibu Rising is linked here.

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

4 stars

In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, Adam and Amelia Wright go on a free weekend getaway to a renovated chapel in a remote area of Scotland. Shortly after the Wrights arrive, strange things start happening at the cottage. 

This atmospheric thriller with touches of horror is my first Alice Feeney read. I quite enjoyed her writing style. Short chapters – alternating mostly between Adam and Amelia’s points of view and interspersed with anniversary letters written to Adam – really keep the story moving.

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

Although the book paints a depressing portrait of marriage, it is cleverly written and has several funny quips. One of Adam’s lines that made me laugh was, “There are forests less shady than my wife.”

The story focused on a small set of characters, and I appreciate it when an author can keep a story interesting with fewer than a handful of characters. As a word lover, I also enjoyed that she included a word of the year, many of which were new to me. 

I did guess many of the twists in the book, but for the most part, I didn’t guess them until a few pages before the author was ready to reveal them to the reader.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys: twisty thrillers, stories where the setting can be considered its own character, or books where some of the main characters are writers.

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

4 out of 5 stars

A paperback of The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish on a gray blanket with silver stars. A cloth tapestry bookmark is placed in the book.
The Other Passenger by
Louise Candlish

James “Jamie” Buckby and Clare, his wealthy partner of 10 years, start hanging out with a younger couple Kit Roper and his girlfriend, Melia. Kit and Jamie commute back and forth from work together on the ferry, and Clare and Melia know each other from working at the same real estate firm. 

On one of their last commutes home before the Christmas holiday, Jamie and Kit get in a heated argument. Kit doesn’t make it on the boat the next day. Police question Jamie as the last person who saw Kit before his disappearance, suggesting that an anonymous passenger tipped them off about the fight. 

Set in London, this commuter thriller starts slowly, takes several turns round the bend, and picks up speed as we reach our final destination. Although there were some expected tropes in this character driven crime drama, there were a few twists that I didn’t see coming. Generational divides and economic differences play an interesting role in the conflict. Envy over youth and money shape the choices that the characters make.

The writing is compelling and features the atmospheric language I’ve come to associate with Candlish. I like how Candlish subtly used song titles and bits of lyrics to help set the mood, and in some cases, foreshadow events to come. 

The book also weaves in some commentary on technology, noting that “privacy [is] a setting now, not a human right.” Jamie also makes an astute observation about smart phones: “What power these things have, as if words lit on a screen are more significant than those produced by the human voice.”

Overall, I thought The Other Passenger was worth the read. I will be adding Candlish to my list of must read authors.

My review of Louise Candlish’s newest book, The Heights, can be found here.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

3 out of 5 stars

After hearing all of the hype about this bestseller that’s been turned into a Netflix series, this novel was a bit of a disappointment for me. While it had funny moments and a few interesting observations about human nature, the storytelling style was a bit disjointed. It seemed to switch randomly from moments in the lives of some of the characters to the hostage situation to interspersing transcripts from the police interviews.

The cover of Anxious People displayed on an e-reader being held in someone's right hand.

The characters were a bit too quirky for my tastes. I understand that the author gave many of the characters exaggerated quirks for a purpose, but it resulted in me finding it difficult to connect to any of them. For the most part, many of the men and women involved in the hostage situation could have been better described as Annoying People rather than Anxious People. I have a hard time enjoying a book when there isn’t a character that I can relate to or root for to succeed.

While the plot was a tad absurd, I did appreciate some of the themes in the book. Anxious People reminds us of the life-changing effects of having compassion for each other. The interactions between the characters also highlight the fact that none of us ever really knows what someone is going through. 

“Some people accept that they will never be free of their anxiety, they just learn to carry it.” 

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

I also thought the author wove in some thoughtful observations about anxiety and depression. One of the lines that resonated most with me was “Some people accept that they will never be free of their anxiety, they just learn to carry it.” 

Another powerful observation was about the way people tend to hide their depression, even from the ones they love most. Backman writes, “A person who’s drowning doesn’t look like they’re drowning…Your family can be standing on the beach waving cheerfully to you, completely unaware that you’re dying.”

Even though this wasn’t my favorite book, I do think I will give Backman another try to see if I connect better with a different one of his stories.