With current times being anything but normal with the virus, lockdown, distance learning, and more, reading books has become my escape from the insane daily reality. If I am not streaming my favorite shows, snuggling up with a good book has been a great comfort to me. So, what better time than now to update with what books I read in March and April 2020, I have been reading and share some of my recent favorites here with you now.
So, how about it? Are you looking for a book to read right now while stuck at home? Then, check out the eight books that I have read in recent times (scroll down) and my thoughts on them now. Plus, feel free to sign up for BOTM (check my April 2020 BOTM YouTube video) for more information below), because many of the books below I was introduced to by them.
What You Wish For, by Katherine Center
Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.
When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.
My take on this book: I had heard about this author, but actually never read her previous novel, How To Walk Away. But now, I think I need to read that one, as well. Why? Because I honestly devoured What You Wish For in about two days. I just couldn’t put it down. See the story of Samantha Casey and Duncan Carpenter was heartwarming and endearing. Without spoiling this for anyone who hasn’t read it just yet, the plot honestly made my heart swell and was such a feel-good read, especially during this current time right now. I just couldn’t help, but root for both of these characters to heal and find happiness. So, thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me an ADR to read.
The Last Train To Key West, by Chanel Cleeton
In 1935 three women are forever changed when one of the most powerful hurricanes in history barrels toward the Florida Keys in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s captivating new novel.
Everyone journeys to Key West searching for something. For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.
The Cuban Revolution of 1933 left Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position. After an arranged wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to the stranger she’s married, her new husband’s illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.
Elizabeth Preston’s trip from New York to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles as a result of the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.
Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.
My take on this book: Having already read Next Year in Havana, but Chanel Cleeton with Reese Witherspoon Book of the Month Club, I jumped at the chance to get an ADR from NetGalley & Berkley Publishing Group. This story is told from three differing prospectives, which includes Helen, who is pregnant and lives with her drunken husband, Tom. The second point of view is that of Mirta, who is Cuban born but is a newlywed to Anthony, a known New York gangster. And the third point of view is Elizabeth, a former rich girl from New York, who came all the way to Florida in search of her long-lost half-brother. The main part of the story takes place on Labor Day weekend with a major storm brewing. Moreover, the main players have their own dramas playing out all during this time, as well as that they all end up crossing each other’s paths during this stormy holiday weekend. I definitely, appreciated how the author interwove the characters and their tales. Plus, the storm or hurricane that ended up becoming central to the plot proved to be a central key to all. Overall, this novel was just as good as Next Year in Havana if not even better than it.
Where the Crawdads Sing, by Della Owens
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.
Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
My take on this book: I bought the audiobook back when this book first was released on the Reese Witherspoon book club list. I barely made it through the first few chapters of the audiobook and gave up. But I kept seeing such rave reviews all over the place about this book. So, flash-forward to this past few weeks of being at home and reading books once again more and more here. I noticed that a digital copy of the book was available from my library. I decided to give this book another try. I am truly glad I did. Because I am pretty sure the digital copy was what was holding me back from being taken in by this story of Kya Clark, aka “The Marsh Girl”. Over the course of two evenings, I was riveted by the character’s tale and plight. By the end, I could see why others fell in love with this book. Plus, I also was more than surprised by the ending of Kya’s story. My final thoughts, read the actual written book and steer clear of the audiobook for this one.
Summer of ‘69, by Elin Hilderbrand
Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century. It’s 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother’s historic home in downtown Nantucket. But like so much else in America, nothing is the same: Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins, and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests and determined to be independent, takes a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard. Only-son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. And thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother and her worried mother, while each of them hides a troubling secret.
As the summer heats up, Ted Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, man flies to the moon, and Jessie and her family experience their own dramatic upheavals along with the rest of the country. In her first historical novel, rich with the details of an era that shaped both a nation and an island thirty miles out to sea, Elin Hilderbrand once again earns her title as queen of the summer novel.
My take on this book: Elin Hilderbrand never disappoints as her books are always such easy reads with their beach town settings and strong female characters that she showcases. When I saw that this Hilderbrand novel was not only set near the beach but was also during the tumultuous 1960s, specifically 1969, I couldn’t resist this one if I tried. Another side note, I originally tried to listen to the audiobook and failed miserably last year. But finally, I found the Kindle version available to read through my library. Guess what? I couldn’t put down the Kindle version and was enthralled. I wanted to see how it turned out for the Levin family, especially Tiger’s fate (I won’t spoil it if you haven’t read). Plus, I thoroughly enjoyed how Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick scandal, as well as the moon landing, was seamlessly woven into the story here. My only complaint was I would have loved to see a bit more into the future how things fared for all the characters with possibly a further epilogue of sorts.
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren—an enigmatic artist and single mother—who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
My take on this book: Well, I recently started watching the Hulu show based upon this book. I decided though that I wanted to read the book before I continued to watch the show. What can I say, but I was hooked by the show initially, but the book definitely took this story to the next level. Therefore, I can see why this novel was on the best sellers list. Because it not only tackled some very weighty issues such as race versus privilege, as well as the bonds of motherhood being biological or by love, but it also interwove together the characters’ stories seamlessly. Now, I also look forward to seeing the Hulu version to compare and contrast it to the book.
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They’re polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
My take on this book: Opposite attract. I have heard this phrase often over the years and this book delves into that phrase with the main characters January and Augustus. As they are as truly opposite in their way of thinking as they come. But the loss of January’s father and finding out upon his death that he had another life that she knew nothing about turns January’s life upside down. Enter Augustus (Gus) her old college nemesis and we are treated to their rivalry at first and then something way more as the book continues. Definitely a lighter romantic read at the heart of it. But worth the read.
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