What I’m Reading: September 2017 Book Recommendations

Here are some of my recent fiction book recommendations, whether you're looking for suspense novels or historical fiction that sweeps you away.

Since my last book post was in June, I have a slew of good book recommendations to share today. It always feels like I read more fiction during the summer, and this year was no exception. I read some fantastic suspense novels that were perfect for the beach.

What I’ve Been Reading

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This novel set in WWII Europe has been on my TBR list for umm… years. I actually checked it out from the library a few times and simply didn’t get into it. Finally I got over the hump and then I was hooked. Marie Laure is a teenage blind girl in German-occupied France. Werner is an orphaned German boy whose gift for engineering takes him to a prestigious school that trains Nazi soldiers. The story is unique and opened my eyes to elements of WWII that I had never really considered. The writing is beautiful, and the story is compelling. I highly recommend it.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

On the heels of All the Light We Cannot See, I launched into another WWII novel, although the two are very different. This novel takes place in France and details the plight of two sisters during the war. Each has her own personal struggles, and in turn, fights back against the enemy in her own way. I was struck by the description of life under German occupation. In the past when I thought about those who suffered during WWII, I mostly thought of the concentration camps. I didn’t often think about how others were affected, but The Nightingale helped me see that there were so many types of suffering. It’s an emotional story, but inspires perseverance and heroism under the worst circumstances.

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Zoe Walker, a middle-aged mom in London, is shocked and unnerved when she discovers a picture of herself accompanying an ad for a chat line in the daily paper. Soon after, she sees another picture advertising the same chat line and recalls the woman’s face from a recent article about victims of theft. Zoe is mostly able to call it coincidence until she sees a news report about a murder and realizes the murdered woman’s picture was recently featured in the same chat line advertisement. Together with police officer Kelly Swift, Zoe attempts to determine who is behind these mysterious ads and whether she might actually be in danger. Ruth Ware (author of The Woman in Cabin 10) describes it perfectly as “a deliciously creepy tale of urban paranoia.”

The Dry by Jane Harper

Aaron Falk returns to his small Australian hometown to attend the funeral of one his best childhood friends. In a seemingly open and shut case, Luke killed himself after killing his wife and young son. While Aaron has been out of touch with Luke for some time, something about the situation doesn’t quite add up. Apart from facing the possibility that Luke did in fact kill his own family, Aaron must come to terms with the mysterious death that drove him and his father from town many years before. While I enjoyed the suspense, I felt like the conclusion was a stretch. It’s a good story showing how tension and suffering can lend bias to a situation, but I wasn’t sold on the ending.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

I was on a suspense kick this summer and this one didn’t disappoint in the heebie jeebie category. There’s a lot going on in this novel. Alice Lake is a mother of three in a small town on the coast of England. She discovers a man suffering from amnesia on the beach one day, and inexplicably takes him in. Meanwhile, Lily Monrose is back in London, searching for her missing husband, Carl. It seems simple enough, but Jewell also weaves in flashbacks of a teenage sister and brother, Kirsty and Gray, who encounter a strange young man named Mark while vacationing on the coast with their parents. The author does a good job of tying the pieces together, only revealing bits and pieces at a time, until you’re left dying to know how it will turn out.

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

This thriller was one of my favorites this summer and kept me guessing until the very end. Kit and Laura are eclipse chasers, traveling the world to experience the path of totality. (Coincidentally, I read He Said/She Said just before the recent solar eclipse. I think it added to the creepiness factor.) During an eclipse festival, Kit and Laura interrupt what they believe to be a crime in progress. The ensuing consequences of their involvement continue to plague them, no matter the distance they put between themselves and the others involved. This is a story about perception and the ripple effect of lies, even those told with the best intentions. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy psychological thrillers.

What have you been reading??

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What I’m Reading: June 2017 Book Recommendations & Reading Challenge Update

Before I get into what I’m reading right now, I thought I’d share a little update on the 2017 Reading Challenge. You can check out all my selections for the challenge here and you can read about the challenge itself at Modern Mrs. Darcy. Prepare to be amazed by my diligence.

Need a good book for the summer? Here are some great options to check out.

Books I’ve Read for the 2017 Reading Challenge

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Category: A book of any genre that addresses current events. You can read my thoughts on Hillbilly Elegy here.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Category: A book with a reputation for being un-put-downable. It was definitely a page-turner! Read my recommendation here.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Category: A juicy memoir. If you love Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal, you’ll enjoy all the witty monologues from the creator. Take a look at my review here.

I know. Three whole books checked off my 18-book list. I’ve been working my way through A Year in Provence, which I’m enjoying, but not rushing through. It reads more like a book of interconnected essays than a continuous story so I don’t feel I’ve lost anything by reading it a snippet at a time. I started The Handmaid’s Tale, but despite all the buzz surrounding the Hulu series, I’m struggling to get into it. I’m curious, but not desperate to find out the story. Maybe that will change as I get further into it. I also just cracked open All the Light We Cannot See, which I found at a used bookstore for five bucks. So far, the writing is beautiful and I expect it to be worthy of the positive reviews.

What I’m Reading Now

Tender at the Bone By Ruth Reichl

I loved this food memoir, written by the former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and New York Times restaurant critic. Reichl shares hilarious and fascinating anecdotes that shaped her love of cooking from childhood into her adult life. Sprinkled amidst stories detailing her appreciation for all manner of foods are recipes from the various sources of her culinary education. I found the writing to be honest and inspiring, and I look forward to reading more from Reichl in the future.

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

After taking a break from Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series for a few months, diving back into the Three Pines mysteries felt like visiting old friends. After reading so many of the books in rapid succession, it was good to have a break, but reconnecting with the familiar character of Inspector Gamache and the quirky inhabitants of Three Pines was so much fun. This was one of my favorite novels in the series so far. I’ve read reviews saying that you don’t need to read this series in order, but personally I think you would miss so much by not starting at the beginning. You can read my thoughts on the series here.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

I’m not sure why it took me so long to warm up to Rainbow Rowell because as it turns out, I love her writing. Eleanor and Park is the story of an unlikely teenage romance intertwined with a girl’s struggle to break free of a dysfunctional family situation. Rowell captures the naive, yet powerful feelings that encapsulate a serious teenage relationship without drifting into fairytale territory. I followed this novel with another of Rowell’s called Landline. Although a far less realistic storyline, Landline still manages to hit on basic human emotional struggles.

What’s on my nightstand

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This one has been on my list for a long time and now that I’m starting into it, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. The writing is beautiful, and I’m so curious to see how the story of a blind French girl and German boy during WWII is woven together.

The Dry by Jane Harper

I’ve heard this title come up in numerous podcasts and lists of must-read summer fiction. Based on its popularity, I wasn’t expecting to get my hands on The Dry anytime soon, but I happened to find a copy at the thrift store next to my kids’ karate studio. The best part: it was $2. For a hardcover. In perfect condition. Yes, please! I’m very much looking forward to getting into this suspense story about small-town secrets.

What are you reading this month??

 

*Please note that this post contains affiliate links. See my full disclosure here

{Linking to Modern Mrs. Darcy}

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What I’m Reading: March 2017 Book Recommendations

One of my favorite podcasts is What Should I Read Next with Anne Bogel, the blogger behind Modern Mrs. Darcy. I’ve gotten so many wonderful book recommendations from Anne’s blog and her podcast does not disappoint. The only problem now is the length of my to-be-read list, but in my opinion, that’s a good problem to have 🙂

Four great book recommendations.

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawlon

In 1930, New York Supreme Court Judge Joseph Crater disappeared, never to be seen again. Each year on the anniversary of his disappearance, his widow, Stella, would raise a toast to him at a bar he frequented. Lawlon drew from the facts surrounding true events to create a fictionalized account of Crater’s mysterious disappearance. The story centers around the involvement of three women in Judge Crater’s life: his wife, Stella; their maid, Maria; and Crater’s showgirl mistress, Ritzy. Lawlon’s version of the events seem completely plausible and keep the reader guessing until the end about which of these women was actually involved in Crater’s disappearance. It moves at just the right speed, and I recommend it if you’re looking for a good who-dun-it.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

On the same night that famed actor Arthur Leander dies on stage, a flu pandemic begins to sweep through the world with terrifying speed. Twenty years later, a small group known as the Traveling Symphony moves from one small town to the next, performing Shakespeare and classical music for those who remain after the collapse of civilization. The story jumps around through time, weaving together the stories of several characters and providing glimpses of life before, during and after the pandemic. It’s a bit like the movie Crash meets The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Incidentally, I didn’t really enjoy either of those, but I liked this book. While the premise is unnerving, the narrative is hopeful rather than bleak and far more realistic than many other novels in the post-apocalypse genre.

On my nightstand

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I grabbed this book at a used bookstore, and I’m slowly wading through it. It’s been some time since a work of fiction challenged me as much as this one. Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, and has just one job to perform: to provide children for the Commander to whom she has been assigned. Women are no longer allowed to read, to dress as they choose or to veer from the specific role which they have been given. Offred remembers her old life, her marriage, her child and the way it used to be. Atwood’s writing style is unique, and while I’m not far enough along to be completely gripped by the narrative, I’m so curious to learn more about how this extreme cultural shift took place.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

If you’ve read Where’d You Go, Bernadette, then you’re familiar with Semple’s wry sense of humor. I’ve laughed out loud multiple times since starting this book. The story follows Eleanor Flood, who vows that today will be the day she ceases to be such a hot mess. Her plan of action includes simple steps like showering, dressing nicely, and not swearing. But real life intervenes, as it always does amidst our best-laid plans. Hilariously honest and self-deprecating, Eleanor is a character that is simultaneously relatable and horrifying. I definitely recommend this one so far.

What are you reading this month?

*This post contains affiliate links. You can find my full disclosure statement here.

{Linking to Modern Mrs. Darcy}

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Fantastic Chapter Book Series for Kids

I’ve been reading to my kids since they were born. Literally. I would read to them in the NICU just so they could hear the sound of my voice. I’ve always loved to read so it only made sense to instill that same love in my own children. We’ve read many of my favorite children’s books and discovered some wonderful new titles along the way. Now that they’re a little older, we’ve moved up to chapter books.

Great chapter book series for kids. These are great for kids to read on their own or for reading aloud together.

For reference, my daughter is in third grade but has a fourth-seventh grade reading level so some of the books on this list are more challenging. She’s a bona fide book worm just like her mama so she enjoys the higher level books, but we’re careful to stick to books with content appropriate for her age. My kindergartener is a beginning reader so it’s only within the last year that we’ve been reading chapter books together. Here are some of our favorite series so far.

The Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborne

Two children stumble upon a treehouse filled with books that magically transport them to other times and places where they have amazing adventures. Each book focuses on a different historical period or geographical location, such as ancient Egypt or the Amazon River. These are great stories for reading together, but also good for a young reader gaining confidence in their independent reading. Plus there are over 50 to choose from! Although my daughter is no longer interested in this series, my son adores them.

The Doll People by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin

The Doll People was recommended to me by a Barnes & Noble employee, and my daughter and I have loved these books! Annabelle Doll is over 100 years old and is part of a set of dolls that has been passed down through several generations. What their owners don’t know is that The Dolls come to life whenever the humans aren’t around. Each book finds The Doll Family on a new adventure as they protect the secret world of dolls from their owners. You might recognize Ann M. Martin as the author of the incredibly popular Babysitter’s Club series. A little suspense and a lot of creativity make this a wonderful series.

Classic Starts Series

We’ve read several of the Classic Starts  novels, including Anne of Green GablesThe Secret Garden and A Little Princess. They’re great for readers who are interested in these beloved stories, but not quite ready to tackle the original version. I like that they introduce younger readers to classic novels that might otherwise be too challenging due to difficult language or vocabulary.

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I read the Harry Potter series when it first debuted and instantly loved these stories of magic and adventure. Last year we read the first and second books together as a family, but halfway through book three, my son decided it was too scary. Since then I’ve continued reading with my daughter and we’re now in the middle of book four. I highly recommend that kids read the books before seeing the movies because it gives them a chance to imagine the magical world on their own. The movies are much more intense than the books though. Our daughter has seen the first three films, but our son has only watched the first, and we’ll probably wait a while before our daughter sees the other films since the content does become darker and more mature.

The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I loved the Little House series as a child, and enjoyed sharing these classics with my daughter. We read the first five books and then needed a break from the adventures of the Ingalls family. Little House in the Big Woods is still my favorite and was the most fun to reread. I appreciate the glimpse into pioneer life from an educational standpoint, and it’s hard to beat books that read like fiction, but tell a true story. Occasionally the content can be a bit mature, but for the most part these books are quite tame.

What chapter books have you enjoyed with your kiddos?

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What I’m Reading: February 2017 Book Recommendations

In January I started some books, which I shared here, and while I’m enjoying them, I was craving some fast-moving fiction. Sometimes tearing through a couple great narratives helps renew my desire to read in general. It gets me back in the habit of reading regularly and ignites that interest in discovering a good story. Here’s what I’ve been reading and what’s on my nightstand.

Are you looking for a great book? Here's a list of what I've been reading and what's on my nightstand.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

My sister lent me Eligible at Christmas, and once I started reading it last week, it took me all of a few days to finish. Admittedly I was a little turned off by this “modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice” at first. I didn’t expect the parallels to Jane Austen’s classic to be so strong, but once I got invested in the modern versions of the characters, I started to really enjoy the story. Sittenfeld manages to stay true to the original plot, while adding in contemporary issues to give it a new feel. Even though I knew the outcome of Pride & Prejudice, I was still anxious to find out how the story would end. Eligible is a fun, quick read that would be a perfect vacation read.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

I chose this book for the 2017 Reading Challenge category “a book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able.” It did not disappoint! Lo Blacklock is a travel journalist assigned to a press trip on a brand-new luxury yacht. On her first night on the cruise, she hears something or someone thrown overboard and then comes to realize the passenger in the room next door has vanished without a trace. Her quest to find the truth is filled with twists, and I finished the book in a day. This would also be a great choice if you’re looking for a story with an unreliable narrator.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

This isn’t exactly a page-turner in the same way as the previous two books, but I’ve found it very interesting. My book club selected Hillbilly Elegy last month, and since it was also one of my selections for the 2017 Reading Challenge, I jumped at the chance to pick it up. Vance’s memoir of growing up in the Rust Belt, amidst a poor, white, working-class community is a powerful glimpse into a culture that many of us don’t understand. Vance’s strength is offering factual information woven through raw personal anecdotes about the colorful family in which he grow up. I highly recommend it if you’re seeking to understand America on a broader scale.

On my nightstand

The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawlon

I just started this mystery novel based on the actual disappearance of a supreme court judge in 1930s New York City. I’ve heard several good recommendations so I’m hopeful. I’m not far enough in to determine yet if I love it.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

You can read my last post here where I mentioned Peter Mayle’s memoir about moving to Provence. I’m about three chapters into this one. While I find the story interesting, it’s not compelling enough to keep me dying to read more. It’s a good book to work through a little at a time though because each time I pick it up, I don’t feel like I need a refresher on the plot.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I just heard about Station Eleven in episode 63 of the What Should I Read Next podcast and it sounded like a book I would like. I was intrigued by the description because the story bounces between the world both before and after a devastating flu changes the world as we know it. Another in a long line of post-apocalyptic novels, I’m curious to see what this one brings to the table.

What are you reading this month?

*This post contains affiliate links. You can find my full disclosure here.

{Linking to Modern Mrs. Darcy}

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