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It’s been a busy spring and summer isn’t looking much slower. By the time this posts, I’ll be arriving in France. It’s a short girls’ trip all centered around a wedding reception one of my friends really wanted to attend. Over the course of our 11 day trip we’ll be in Paris, Bordeaux, and London. Not enough time in any of those places, but still enough time to have plenty of fun! Paris is my favorite city anywhere and it’s been much too long since I’ve been there, so I’m very excited about that. I’ve never been to the Bordeaux area and am looking forward to exploring…especially the wine!
I probably will get almost no reading done on the trip, but that’s okay. I’ve made up for it with five favorite books of June that I’ve already finished. It seems like this month I either really liked a book or I didn’t like it at all. Very little middle ground. Of course, you’re getting the the ones I most highly recommend.
If you’re interested in knowing what my Favorite Books of 2023 (so far) are, you can follow me on Instagram (@novelvisits) where I’ll be posting that stack sometime this week. Now, for this month’s favorite books! I definitely have a little bit of everything here for you today.
My Thoughts: We all know that a single book can impact the various people who come in contact with it in very different ways. That IS the premise of the connected short stories in 𝗡𝗢 𝗧𝗪𝗢 𝗣𝗘𝗥𝗦𝗢𝗡𝗦 and author Erica Bauermeister did it beautifully. I’ve never been a big fan of connected short stories, but this group of nine truly spoke to me. They so thoughtfully delved into the many ways a book can impact people’s lives and how so many of us often feel when it’s the right book:
- “She’d fallen into stories before. It was why she’d wanted to do this job in the first place, that experience of opening a book and feeling it reach out and grab you.”
- “It’s like eating the best ice-cream cone of your life on a hot day,” she told him. “You want to eat it fast, but have it never end.”
- “For Rowan, getting an advanced copy felt like someone telling you a secret while still holding a finger to their lips. The experience made more exciting by its exclusivity…”
- “He’d worked in a bookstore long enough to know that no matter how good a book is, someone will hate it, and they’ll likely tell you. But as long as that book is only in your head, it is still perfect.”
- “I’m just saying that a character can be as real as a person. Or teach you as much, anyway.”
- “…but that was the beauty of books, wasn’t it? They took you to places you didn’t know you needed to go.”
Bauermeister is definitely a book lover I can relate to. Grade: A-
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for a finished copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
My Thoughts: I went through a phase in my reading life where I’d read SO MANY World War II books that I just became burned out on them. Because of that, for the last five years I’ve had a self-imposed ban on WWII stories. I broke my own rule with 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗣𝗢𝗦𝗧𝗖𝗔𝗥𝗗 by Anne Berest and I’m very glad I did. Hers is not your typical WWII book. The Holocaust is there and it lingers for generations in the background of everything that happens in the lives of the Rabinovitch family. But, surprisingly, very few pages are devoted to the actual war. Instead, we follow the zig-zagging journey of this Russian family to their lives in Paris in the 1930’s and 1940’s, to how those lives were affected by the war, and how more than 70 years later their descendants are still haunted by that most inhumane of wars.
𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘥 is also a history lesson focused on both France and the French people during WWII. It was a country ravaged by war, largely under the control of the Nazis. As we know, many fought back, they hid their neighbors and developed a remarkable Resistance, but what happened is more nuanced than that. Much more. We glimpse a variety of angles in this book. Through Ann Berest’s beautifully written/told story, we get just a glimpse of what it might mean to remember the Holocaust not only as a sad chapter in history, but as the heinous legacy forced on so many Jewish families. This is a book well worth your time. Grade: A-
My Thoughts: Wow! Speculative fiction can be hit or miss for me, but 𝗠𝗬 𝗠𝗨𝗥𝗗𝗘𝗥 by Katie Williams is definitely a hit. This is the story of Lou, or rather a clone of Lou. You see, Lou and four other women were victims of a serial killer and were later brought back as part of a government project. That and cars that drive themselves are the more speculative parts and the rest of the book is a crime story.
Lou is struggling to re-assimilate into her life as a wife and mother, a new role she’d been uncomfortable in even before her murder. At the same time, she’s plagued by the question, “Why me?” She can’t seem to let it go and the more answers she gets the more questions she has. Lou can’t help it. She simply MUST investigate her own murder and with every answer she uncovers, the questions only grow.
I really enjoyed Lou’s (sometimes crazy) journey and was absolutely knocked out by the ending. I can honestly say that I never saw it coming! Of course, the narration by Rebecca Lowman was everything you’d expect it to be. Between her, the futuristic elements, the murder mystery, and that ending this book makes for some excellent summer listening/reading. Grade: B+
Thanks to Riverhead Books and PRH Audio for free copies of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
My Thoughts: Ashley Audrain’s debut 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘶𝘴𝘩 was beloved by many including me. That ending was everything, so expectations were high for her new book, 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗪𝗛𝗜𝗦𝗣𝗘𝗥𝗦. I’ve seen some lukewarm reviews, but you’re not going to find one of those here. This book was very different from her last, not as tense, not as shocking, a little slower, but none of that bothered me.
As the book opens, a 12-year old boy has fallen from his third story bedroom window and is in a coma. We’re immediately left wondering how it happened and his own mother is our chief suspect.
I liked 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘩𝘪𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴 for what it was: a deep dive into a genuinely flawed woman and the people around her who willingly looked the other way. All these people had flaws of their own, adding multiple layers to this story which unfolded from the points of view of four women, all from the same neighborhood. Through them, Audrain explored the darker, often painful sides of motherhood. No one does that like her.
You won’t like all the women in this book and for that matter, you won’t like most of the men, either. But, life is messy. We don’t always get what we want. Terrible, scary, selfish things can happen. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘩𝘪𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴 weaves all that together into novel that has you wondering what actually happened right up until the end. And, just like in 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘶𝘴𝘩, the last sentence will leave you gasping! Grade: B+
Thanks to Pamela Dorman Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
My Thoughts: Let’s start with the good news: it’s all good news! I loved 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗥𝗔𝗖𝗛𝗘𝗟 𝗜𝗡𝗖𝗜𝗗𝗘𝗡𝗧 by Caroline O’Donoghue. It was exactly the right book for my reading taste. Told by Rachel from a vantage point in the future where she’s able to look back on her younger self with grace and forgiveness. At the heart of these memories is James who’s been her best friend from the time they met way back when. As Rachel neared the end of college the two were roommates, confidants, cheerleaders, and more. Theirs was a complex friendship, with lots of knots to untangle, but their devotion to each other was constant.
It’s impossible for me to talk about this book without comparing it to the works of Sally Rooney, especially 𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘞𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘍𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘴, which I adored. Both Irish authors focused on that tender age when mistakes come easily, heartache is never far away, money is always tight, and friends can be lifelines. Both created really beautiful stories that started with friendships and grew into much more.
Oftentimes humorous, always thoughtful, and more than once educational, 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘙𝘢𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘭 𝘐𝘯𝘤𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘵 was a coming-of-age story full of deep friendship, pain, romance and growth. What more could you want? Grade: A
Thanks to Knopf for free copies of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.