Recent Reads {March 2015}

I was thinking about it over the weekend, and I realized it’s been a while since I shared what I’ve been reading. I often find my lists of what to read from friends, but I love knowing what other bloggers are reading. I’ve set a goal for 2015 to read 32 books, since I’ll be turning 32 this year (in October). Here’s what I’ve read so far this year.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

From Amazon:

It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.

Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

This is the sequel to If I Stay, which I read last year and loved. Like any sequel, it goes through the story of what happened afterward. I wasn’t as engrossed in this book at the first. While I liked the storyline and learning what happened to the characters, I don’t think it would have hooked me if I hadn’t read the first book. Should you read it? Maybe if you also read the first one and are just curious about them. It isn’t bad, but it’s not gripping like the first was.

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

From Amazon:

Grace Reinhart Sachs is living the only life she ever wanted for herself, devoted to her husband, a pediatric oncologist at a major cancer hospital, their young son, Henry, and the patients she sees in her therapy practice. Grace is also the author of the forthcoming You Should Have Known, a book in which she castigates women for not valuing their intuition and calls upon them to pay attention to their first impressions of men.

But weeks before the book is published, a chasm opens in her own life: a violent death, a missing husband, and, in the place of a man Grace thought she knew, only a chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster, and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself.

Oh, this book. It took me forever to get into it. Obviously, from the title and the synopsis, you know there’s some crazy twist coming, but it takes a while to get to it. Grace is kind of flat as a character until about halfway to ¾ through the book, but then it really gets interesting. The last ¼ to ½ of the book makes the slower part at the beginning worth it. Should you read it? I’d say yes.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

From Amazon:

An irresistible, deftly observed novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s two-week stay in Mallorca.

For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.

This is a story of the sides of ourselves that we choose to show and those we try to conceal, of the ways we tear each other down and build each other up again, and the bonds that ultimately hold us together. With wry humor and tremendous heart, Emma Straub delivers a richly satisfying story of a family in the midst of a maelstrom of change, emerging irrevocably altered yet whole.

The synopsis of this book makes it seem much interesting than it is. To me, it was just your average vacation story. The secrets weren’t all that scandalous to me, and things at the end seemed to wrap up in just the way I expected them to. Should you read it? Well, it’s an easy read, but maybe get it from the library (I did) or borrow from a friend. I wouldn’t buy it, but I didn’t hate it.

 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

From Amazon:

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

Oh, this book. This book starts slow and a little confusing, but it’s worth. So worth it. It’s an absolutely beautiful story. I loved this – the characters, the setting, the realism of the story. Should you read it? Yes, absolutely.

Serena by Ron Rash

From Amazon:

The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton arrive in North Carolina to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any worker, overseeing crews, hunting rattlesnakes, even saving her husband’s life in the wilderness.

Together Serena and George ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of their favor. But when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out on her own to kill the son George had without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons’ intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking finale.

I read this as part of our sorority book club. We were going to see the movie at the end of this month, but it ended up not coming out in theatres…which is probably a good thing. While I do have one friend that really enjoyed this book… I just didn’t. To me, Serena was just a money and power hungry woman who took whatever she wanted. I didn’t like her, feel for her, or relate to her. Should you read it? Eh. I was not a fan.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

From Amazon:

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

People have compared this book to Gone Girl, and for good reason. The thing about that? I HATED Gone Girl, but I LOVED this. It’s a similar sort of story in that you’re trying to figure out what’s going on and don’t until the end. The difference? I actually felt Rachel, the main character, was far more relatable than Amy was in Gone Girl. Is Rachel flawed? Sure, she’s got some problems… but she’s not a crazy psychopath. I actually liked Rachel and was rooting for her. The story has lots of twists and turns and an ending I never saw coming. Should you read it? Yes. I definitely recommend this one!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

From Amazon:

In love we find out who we want to be.

In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France … but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can … completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

A few of you may have seen my Instagram post about this one… and I stand by every word of that. Now, I have always enjoyed Kristin Hannah’s books. This, to my knowledge, is her first dive into historical fiction, and in my opinion, she NAILED it. Honestly, I cannot tell you anything I didn’t like about this book. It’s real, and it’s raw. It’s about sisterhood and family at its core, with World War Two in the background. This is a book I know I’ll reread – it’s that good. Should you read it? YES. Go buy it RIGHT NOW.

What have you been reading lately? Anything you’d recommend?

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About Jess

Jess Beer is a full-time working mom of two girls who writes about motherhood, wellness, easy meals and style.

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8 Responses

  1. What a great list! I just started The Andy Cohen Diaries..hehe definitely a contrast to yours!
    I submitted through passionfruit for a sponsorship. I’d love to get your button on my blog as well! Hope to hear from you soon!

  2. I saw your Instagram post about the Nightingale. I’m not too far into it, and I have to find the time to read it. I’m going to try Girl on the Train because I didn’t like Gone Girl either. Did you see the movie? Crazy! I also have the Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler sitting on my nightstand. No time! Thanks for the recommendations.

    1. I can’t recommend The Nightingale enough – let me know what you think of it! I didn’t see the movie for Gone Girl because I hated the book so much, but Chris wants to see it, so it’s a maybe. Spool of Blue Thread is on my want to read list too!

  3. just finished nightingale…now ive always loved her books, but this book….blown away. Thanks for the rec!!!

I’m Jess! I’m a working mama of two sweet sisters living in the DC area. This is my space to share inspiration, real stories of working motherhood, recipes, style, and more! I can’t start my day without coffee and always try to show the real side of motherhood – the good and the challenging. I’m so glad you’re here – thanks for following along on my journey!

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