June 2019 Book Reviews

Good morning!

I can’t believe another month has come and gone. How is it already July!? Summer is absolutely flying by and I have mixed feelings about it. One the one hand, we get to meet baby at the end of summer! On the other hand, I don’t want to wish away any of this amazing warm weather. This week Justin, LJ, and I are vacationing with Justin’s family in Virginia so I’m just going to post my book reviews and get back to enjoying our week!

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All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

The premise of this book was very intriguing to me: ten years ago, a girl went missing in a small town in North Carolina and she was never found. In present day, another girl goes missing and all the same suspects from ten years ago are still around. The story takes place over the course of two weeks, but the kicker is: it is told in reverse. We start at Day 15 and work backwards to Day 1.  I think I liked the concept of reverse story-telling better in theory than in reality. Typically, as things are revealed to characters, they are also revealed to readers; in this scenario, I knew that there was a lot of information that the characters obviously knew on Day 15 that was being withheld. It actually ended up making the first half of the story seem very slow and a little confusing. Around Day 7, I felt like more and more relevant information was being revealed and my interest level grew, although there were things that happened in “earlier” days that almost confused me further because nothing in the “later” days hinted that they had happened. It just wasn’t really my kind of storytelling, and I ended the book feeling like I needed to reread the story to really understand all the things I missed (but I honestly just didn’t even care enough to do that this time). That being said, there were some twists and turns that I did not at all see coming, so if you like unique storytelling you might want to give this one a shot.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

The Forgotten Room by [White, Karen, Williams, Beatriz, Willig, Lauren]

I love Beatriz Williams and have re-capped several of her books before, so I was excited to learn that she had co-authored a book with two other authors. This story centers around the Pratt Mansion, a glamorous house built in Manhattan in the late 1800’s and follows three women and their experiences in the house throughout history. In particular, each woman has unique encounters in a very special and mostly unknown attic room. So what was interesting about this story is that through the alternating stories of Olive (1890’s), Lucy (1920’s), and Kate (1940’s), you almost immediately start to form conclusions about how these women are connected. Even though their connections to one another weren’t very surprising, there were aspects of what exactly happened to each woman and her relationships and connections (with men in particular) that kept me guessing until the end. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as a great historical fiction but I will say that it left me a little heartbroken. These characters all became so real to me and I knew that they couldn’t all necessarily have happy endings; the story I connected with the most was not one that ended how I hoped. Nevertheless, I did really like the book and would recommend it to my fellow historical fiction lovers!

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

A man is found dead in the middle of nowhere in the Australian Outback. No one knows how he ended up stranded in the unforgiving, and ultimately deadly, heat with no shelter except a small gravestone. There are virtually no clues and only a bunch of questions. As his family tries to process his death and find an explanation, we find that things aren’t always as they initially appear. I took this book along with me on our Bahamian Babymoon, but since I dove into The Clockmaker’s Daughter first, Justin ended up reading it before I did. I thought it’d be fun to have him share his take on it before I give my thoughts. So here he is with his blogging debut! 😉

“Overall The Lost Man was a fun vacation read for me.  It kept me wanting more because the story began with little to no background and the death was revealed very early with again, little to no information or leads.  The author is apparently, so Sarah tells me, known for incorporating the environment/mother nature as a key element in her stories.  As someone who has never personally experienced the Australian Outback, I found her details quite exciting.  Anyway, as the story goes on, you are given more and more present time clues as well as important historical information about the atypical family and their atypical relationships. The book had a good pace and unlike a lot of other reads does not wait until the last 20 pages to drop bombs of the most exciting of details. Of course it has its ending that you wouldn’t have expected, but it wouldn’t have been a publishable story without that…am I right?  Thanks for having me on your blog today Sarah.  I’m sure this is just a one hit wonder type deal (or more like one and done, no hit or wonder about this…)”

Ha! Thanks babe! I honestly don’t have much to add. As with her other novels, Harper uses the environment like an actual character. It made me want to constantly have water next to me while reading because the hot, dry landscape just seemed so real and so very desolate. Throughout the story I formed a bunch of different thoughts about what happened, but I was still very surprised by the ending of the story. I was hooked from start to finish!

It’s Always the Husband by Michelle Campbell

I saw this book for sale in Costco several months ago and, after reading the synopsis inside, made a mental note to add it to my reading list. I recently saw it pop up on another blog’s book review and it inspired me to finally snag a copy from the library. IN this story three girls meet as roommates in college and become best friends/frenemies with complicated relationships. Twenty years later, one of them ends up dead under strange circumstances and their love/hate relationships with one another through the years may or may not have played a part in this death. I’ll be honest, this book was kind of disappointing for me. It had elements of psychological thriller, mystery, murder – all things that I normally am interested in reading about and I wanted to love it. I think my disappointment came down to one major hitch: I hated all the characters. To her credit, Campbell wrote each of the characters to be complex individuals with redeeming qualities and serious flaws. I just didn’t connect with or particularly like any of them. And without at least one person to root for, I kind of just wanted the book to be over.  I kept at it though because the actual death did intrigue me and I wanted to know whodunit – the last 20 pages were honestly my favorite. This book kept me guessing until the very end! So overall, I’d peg it as a middle-of-the-road murder mystery.

What have you been reading lately?

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May 2019 Book Reviews

It’s book review day! Whoo hoo!

Because May was so chaotic with selling our house, packing, moving, and traveling, I only got through three books this month but I feel like that’s pretty good all things considered. Plus I had a good mix of genres so overall I was happy with this month’s choices. Let’s get to it, shall we?

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The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

Kate Morton is my all-time favorite author so I saved this book for a vacation read and took it along with me to the Bahamas. The plot all centers around a unique house in the English countryside that captivates everyone who encounters it. We follow along with several different characters and their experiences in and around the house from summer 1862, where a mysterious murder takes place, to 2017 London, where an archivist stumbles across some items linked to the house and that very summer. There are several characters and major events happening in between the two time periods and we jump back and forth between perspectives and see how some stories even overlap.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Kate Morton is my favorite. She writes historical fiction in an absolutely mesmerizing way and each book always hooks me in and then blows me away with reveals I never saw coming. There is always a moment where I’m reading and have a “OH MY GOSH” moment that forces me to go back and reread. Justin even joked after I finished this book that I was doing the “classic Sarah re-read” because about 20 minutes after finishing the book and processing the ending, I had to go back and start at the beginning and flip through to piece together things I missed the first time around. Have I sold her enough? I love, love LOVE Kate Morton. That being said, this book left me feeling unsettled. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just say that I was really hoping for a little more with the way everything got wrapped up and was loving the book until the last 40 or so pages (and the book clocks in at just under 500 pages, so that was a lot of enjoyable reading). It’s always disappointing to love a book and then be let down by the ending but I still remain loyal to Kate Morton and even still recommend this book because her writing is just so spellbinding. Just maybe use your imagination and change the ending a bit, or read one of her other books such as The Lake House or The Secret Keeper!

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Saints for All Occasions

I’ve read a couple others books by this author in the past (my favorite was probably The Engagements) and when I saw this on another recommendation list I added it to my stack. This book follows two Irish Catholic sisters, Nora and Theresa, who immigrate to the United States from Ireland in the 1950s. While they initially have a very close bond, circumstances happen and choices are made that ultimately affect their relationship and lives. The plot is broken up into a few different time frames, beginning with their travels from Ireland to the US and ending in 2009, where Theresa now lives as a nun and Nora has four grown children. To be honest, after about 70 pages, I was pretty bored and wanted to quit. I pushed through a little bit longer and I’m glad I did, as the book picked up once it jumped to the present time frame and introduced Nora’s children. I enjoyed how the author wove together each story and unique perspective and while there were really no shocking plot twists, there were enough things happening to keep me engaged the rest of the way through.  I will say that while there was some closure at the end of the book, I wanted more. I finished it with a slightly dissatisfied feeling and wish there had been one more chapter at the end. Overall, this book fell in the “okay” range for me: not highly recommended but a solid read.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming

I’ve tried to incorporate a little more nonfiction into my life and I really enjoyed this memoir (thankfully, because I was on the wait list for a long time). Every single life on this earth looks different and as a white girl raised on a farm in rural Ohio, it was fascinating to me to read about the experiences of someone whose childhood looked starkly different. I gained a lot of respect and admiration for Michelle and all she has accomplished in her lifetime so far. As for the political aspect, I do not engage in political discussions online but will say this: I enjoyed this book purely as a compelling look at the intricacies of one woman’s life. Politics is obviously a huge part of her life, but I felt like she spoke of all her experiences in an honest, relatable way.  The book is a pretty long and hefty read but I was interested and it kept my attention the whole way through! If you enjoy memoirs I definitely recommend adding this one to your list.

I feel like now that we’re really digging into summer, I need some great summer recommendations to add to my reading list. Let me know if you have any good ones!

 

April 2019 Book Reviews

It’s time for my favorite post of the month: BOOK REVIEW DAY!

This month I read three books and they were all very different from one another, but I enjoyed them all! If you’ve read any of them, I’d love to hear what your thoughts are so be sure to comment at the end. I think they are all goods ones for discussion!

April Book Reviews - Simplify The Chaos Blog

One Day in December by Josie Silver

With “December” in the title, this may seem like an odd choice to read in April, but it wasn’t! The story isn’t focused on Christmas at all and is enjoyable at any time of year. Laurie is riding the bus home from work one day in December (get it?) and at a bus stop, her eyes lock with a man waiting outside. She instantly feels an intense connection to him, but alas, he doesn’t get on the bus and they aren’t able to meet. She is certain she’s  fallen in love with this mystery man and spends the entire next year searching all over London hoping to run into him again. She does get to finally meet him the following December . . . when he is introduced to her as Jack, her best friend Sarah’s new boyfriend. The book follows both Jack and Laurie’s perspectives over the next decade as they navigate friendship, missed chances, new opportunities, and choices made along the way. Now that I’m finished, I can say I really loved this book, but there were a few points where I was worried I would end up highly dissatisfied. I don’t want to give too much away, but there were times when I really wanted the story to go one way or another and the end result I hoped for kept changing! This kept things interesting though; I wasn’t necessarily always rooting for one specific scenario and instead just hoped that however it wrapped up made sense to me. I did really enjoy this story and think it would make a great beach read this summer!

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Back in December, I reviewed The War that Saved My Life and loved it so I was excited to read that the author had written a sequel. This young adult story picks up more or less where the first leaves off with Ada undergoing surgery to fix her clubfoot. After the surgery, Ada struggles to reconcile all the ways in which her life has changed since she first left London to seek refuge in the country. World War II is now in full swing and she moves to a new cottage with her brother Jamie, her guardian Susan, and surprise of surprises, Lady Thornton herself. What none of them realize is they are about to get another house guest who won’t be very welcome. This story once again was incredibly well-written and so poignant. Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones, but it made me feel all. the. feels. and I teared up several times throughout. You get so invested in the characters and their relationships: their struggles become your struggles and their triumphs become yours too. I really enjoyed this story and highly recommend it to both 5th graders and 50-year-olds. It is a story for all ages!

The Possible World by Liesle O’Halloran Schwarz

My friend Kaitlin read this book as part of her book club and she asked me to read it too to discuss my thoughts. I wasn’t sure what to expect so I dove in without much context and was immediately sucked in. This story follows three characters and alternates between their perspectives: Clare, a woman about to turn 100 years old in a nursing home and is reflecting on her life, Ben, a six-year-old boy who has just experienced an unimaginable trauma, and Lucy, the ER nurse who tends to Ben when he is brought to the hospital. As their stories unfurl, it becomes evident that their stories are inexplicably connected to one another. I don’t want to give too much away, so I will just say that a few chapters in I knew this would be a book that once I finished, I would need to go back and re-read parts of to see what clues I missed the first time around. I was right – I did do exactly that! I will also say that I thought one of the character’s backstory/current life wasn’t really necessary to include so much of. I felt like there was a lot of extra information in those chapters that didn’t really pertain to the rest of the story and could have been left out. I also wish the ending had a little more to it; I felt like it wrapped up really quickly and felt a little abrupt. All that being said, overall I did enjoy this read! It’s a unique premise and enchanting story.

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know what you thought or what you read this month. I’m always looking for great recommendations so be sure to share if you have any good ones!

 

 

March 2019 Book Reviews

It’s time for my favorite post of the month – my book reviews!

I read four books this month and they’re kind of all over the place. Two non-fiction and two fiction. One memoir and one self-help-ish. One about a plane crash and one that crashed in other ways for me. It was a fun mix of reads! Let’s dive in!

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Outer Order Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

It’s no secret that I love Gretchen Rubin so I’ve been anxiously awaiting her new book for months. It finally came out in March and I snapped up a copy (you know I’m excited when I actually buy the book instead of check out from the library) and flew through it.  This is a very quick read chuck full of inspiration for making small choices and changes towards clearing clutter to make more room in your life for order, calm, and happiness. In other words, pretty much all my favorite things in one place. 🙂  I started off underlining little nuggets of wisdom that particularly spoke to me, but I quickly realized that I would be underlining most of the book so I had to stop. It was just full of tips, tricks, and smart little hacks. I’ll stop gushing now because I think my inner nerd is showing  (ha!), but I really loved this book and will likely incorporate it into a full blog post at some point in the future. I highly recommend it if you need a little push in the right direction to make changes, big or small, towards a less cluttered life.

The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore

I happened to see this book on the shelf as I was checking out at the library and it peaked my interest but I had a lot of books already so I didn’t check it out. Then on another trip, I saw it again on a different shelf and took that as a sign I should read it. I’ll be honest, this book did not meet my expectations. It really seemed like it was going to be my jam: historical fiction, WWII Europe, family secrets and mysteries, what’s not to love? The Amazon blub even raves that it is “perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Beatriz Williams” and I adore both authors. So I was pretty disappointed when about 70 pages in I kind of just wanted to quit reading. This story just fell flat for me. There are SO many characters and plotlines and it feels really soap opera-y and hard to keep track of. I did find out afterwards that it’s part of a series, so maybe it wouldn’t have seemed so overwhelming and confusing if I had read the other books too? I don’t know. I kept reading because one storyline did interest me and I wanted to see how that particular one turned out. Overall, I felt like this book was just okay, but I really don’t have any interest in reading the rest of the series.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

I started this book because it was the first chosen book of the Happier Podcast book club and I was instantly intrigued. The author takes a DNA test without thinking much about it and is rocked to her core to find out that the father who raised her was not actually her biological father. Since both of her parents are deceased, she begins a journey of research and discovery to find out as much as she can about the truth of her origin. Her memoir is poignant and thought-provoking and touches on the deeply held beliefs we hold about ourselves. I could not stop talking to Justin about it as I was reading, and I’ve brought it up in several other conversations with other people since. It was just absolutely fascinating and I think it would make an excellent book club read! Highly recommend!

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I wouldn’t say I have a fear of flying but I definitely have increased anxiety on planes so a book about a plane crash is not exactly my normal pick. I enjoyed this one though! The plane crash actually happens very early on in the book and the rest of the story jumps back and forth between the lives of the victims before the crash and the present day where a team of agents try to unravel the mystery of why the plane crashed. A media circus forms around the two survivors of the crash: a four-year-old boy who is now worth millions and a man who swam them both to safety. Controversies and theories form about the man who was an unexpected passenger in the first place and he alternates between victim and suspect throughout. This book is part mystery, part thriller and I got really into it! There are some characters you root for, some you despise, and there were enough surprises to keep me guessing until the end. Overall, this was a good read!

That’s a wrap on my March reads. What is on your reading list this month?

February 2019 Book Review

Today it’s time for one of my favorite posts each month: book review day!

I’m reviewing three books this month even though only two are pictured because the third book I read while on vacation in Florida. Overall, I enjoyed all three books so I’m excited to dive on in to the reviews!

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The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

You know the game “if you could have dinner with any five people, dead or alive, who would you choose?” Well this book is a story of that actually happening. Sabrina thinks she is going to her birthday dinner with her longtime friend but when she shows up, it turns out the rest of her “list” of people are there too even though some of them are dead (oh hi, Audrey Hepburn). The plot jumps between the actual dinner and various times in Sabrina’s past that explain her connections to each person and why they are on her list. I was pretty intrigued by the premise and since this is the book I took on vacation to Florida, I flew through it in the hotel during LJ’s naps. There were sweet parts, surprising parts, sad parts, and downright shocking parts. While I did enjoy this book, to be honest, I got frustrated a few times due to some of the dynamics between the main characters. The more I thought about it though, I think that’s pretty indicative of life, right? Sometimes people are amazing, sometimes they are jerks. We all have our moments of triumph and weakness. This book gave me a lot to think about – it’s one that I can’t discuss too much more here for fear of spoilers, but I would love to discuss in person with someone who has read it because I have a lot of thoughts I’d like to work through!

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Since I finished The Dinner List so quickly and still had a lot of vacation downtime left, I borrowed this book from my friend Kaitlin’s bookshelf to read poolside while in Florida. Christopher is a bright 15-year-old boy and though the book never explicitly states this, it’s pretty obvious that he has autism. One night he is walking through his neighborhood and discovers that his neighbor’s dog Wellington has been killed in her yard. He decides to become a detective and figure out who killed Wellington and his search leads him to a trail of discoveries and adventures. I loved that the whole story was told through Christopher’s point of view, which I felt the author did very well, particularly with his experiences of sensory overload. I enjoyed getting to know Christopher and all his quirks and preferences. I also enjoyed the little touches the author gave, like numbering the chapters in prime numbers, because this was very much something Christopher would have done. That being said, I did find the book to be fairly predictable. There are a couple “twists” in the story but I saw them coming, though this is because I can read between the lines where Christopher takes things literally. (Perhaps the author meant for it to be this way, showing the difference between the way the mind of the reader works and the way Christopher’s logical train of thought works? Hmm…)  I also got a little tired of all the unimportant/irrelevant details that Christopher gives and started to skim a lot in the second half of the book. Overall, I thought this was a good choice for an interesting, quirky, pretty easy read on vacation.

 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Oh my gosh. This book! I had been on the library wait list for months and finally got my hands on a copy and it was worth the wait! Kya, known by locals as “The Marsh Girl,” has lived most of her life in solitude in the North Carolina marsh. She is remarkably in tune with nature and rarely interacts with the locals in the nearby town. One day, a murder occurs and suspicion is thrown to Kya. I don’t want to give away more of the plot so I’ll just say that while it took me a chapter or two to really get into the story, once I did I was absolutely swept away. This book is just beautiful and incredibly well written, a captivating tale of love, heartbreak, prejudice, and survival. The descriptions of the marsh life are vivid and enchanting. And the characters are expertly crafted and human, with flaws, mistakes, regrets. And Kya’s strength and resiliency despite the rejections of her life is remarkable and makes her endearing to the reader. As the book works its way towards solving the murder, my heart was pounding and I was just flying through chapters. I highly recommend this one!

 

I’ve got a lot of other books that just came off the library wait list so I’m extra excited for what’s coming up in March. What have you been loving reading lately?

January 2019 Book Reviews

My first book review of 2019 is finally here!

I have been so excited for this post because this month, I picked four absolute winners. We’ve got historical fiction, some lighter, fun reads, and one captivating survival story.  I really enjoyed each book this go round and I’m so eager to share them with you, so let’s do this!january 2019 book reviews

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy following Shay’s blog Mix and Match Mama and I particularly like following her book reviews. I feel like we have pretty similar taste in what we enjoy reading so I often add a few of her suggestions to my To Be Read list. When she named this book as her very favorite book of 2018, I immediately put it on my list and it did not disappoint! It follows Ella, an American Rhodes scholar traveling to England to study literature at Oxford despite having a promising political career opportunity back home. While there, she takes missteps, develops friendships, and meets a handsome man. I don’t want to spoil to much, but this was such an enjoyable read! I loved the characters and got emotionally invested in the plot. It was the perfect blend of lighthearted fun and serious depth and made me want to ride around on a bike exploring all the charming, quaint little nooks around Oxford.

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

This was also a top read of 2018 for Shay so I put it on my list as well and OH. MY. GOSH. This book amazed me. Two strangers survive a plane crash on a remote, virtually unknown island in the South Pacific and have to work together to survive. I wasn’t really sure what all to expect here, but I absolutely loved how the author wove this story together. The story mostly centered on their life on the island but there were also chapters that included what I can only call “extra” information from other time periods that helped tie everything together. I thought this story was beautiful, heartbreaking, uplifting, complex, and captivating – I could not put it down and it gave me a week-long book hangover (you know, when you can’t even think about starting another book because the last one you read still weighs so heavily on your mind). I loved it!

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a book from cover to cover in one day, but I did it with this one. This book follows Rill Foss, a 12-year-old “river rat” living on a houseboat in the 1930s, and Avery Stafford, a well-connected lawyer with possible political ambitions in present day. These two women have seemingly nothing in common but as their individual stories unfold, connections are made and their stories begin to weave together in ways neither would have imagined. I had this book sitting on my couch one day when my mom was visiting and after reading the insert summary she promptly declared “I could never read this book!” While I personally loved it, it can be a very heavy read, as the fiction story is based off of a disturbing real-life scandal in Memphis from the 1920s to the 1950s (one I had previously known nothing about). There were times where it made my mama heart just break into pieces; however, despite the tragic and distressing events of the past, the author spun an emotional and moving tale of  family, identity, and belonging. I couldn’t put it down and flew through it.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

In October, I read Crazy Rich Asians and really enjoyed it, then in December I read China Rich Girlfriend and thought it was just okay. This month, I finished the trilogy with Rich People Problems and oh my gosh I LOVED it! I think it helped that there was one really big central story line and just a few side plots that tied together. In this story, Nick Young’s incredibly wealthy grandmother is dying and all his wacky relatives are gathering together in her mansion in Singapore to pay their last respects (and make sure they’re in her will). I loved the characters, I loved the downright zany situations they find themselves in, I loved the way everything from the previous two books came together in just a perfect way. I was really satisfied with how this wrapped up the trilogy and didn’t leave any loose ends. This was definitely my favorite book in the series, but you really do need to read the whole series in order because the plot lines build off one another.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

October 2018 Book Review {Part Two}

Good morning friends!

Today I’m wrapping up the reviews for the books I read in October – if you missed Part One be sure to check it out here.

October 2018 Part Two

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network

Charlie St. Clair is a college girl in search of her cousin who went missing in France in WWII. Her search leads her to Eve Gardiner, a former WWI spy harboring bitterness and regret over long ago happenings within the spy organization known as The Alice Network. Charlie and Eve (along with Eve’s hired helper, a Scottish man named Finn) set off to France to try to discover the truth of what really happened to those they’ve known. The more information they learn, the more entwined their two separate stories and searches become.

So first off, I am a historical fiction junkie. Give me historical fiction about an obscure female heroine from WWI and I am ALL over it. I absolutely loved reading about The Alice Network and devoured information about the real Louise de Bettignies and her story on Wikipedia after finishing this novel. I enjoyed the dynamic between Charlie, Eve, and Finn and thought the characters came to life throughout. That being said, the stories alternated between Eve’s WWI experience and Charlie’s post-WWII quest and I often found myself hoping perspectives would shift so things picked up. Some parts went too slowly for me and the book seemed a bit long. I kept wanting to find out more information and the slow reveals and little hints were just tantalizing. Eve’s chapters were fascinating but I wasn’t as into Charlie’s stories. I found her equations (a strange mental game she plays) unnecessary and boring and her backstory wasn’t as interesting to me. However, I was eager to find out how Eve and Charlie’s stories were connected and as truths came to light I became very invested in how things would turn out. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it, but it probably could have been a little condensed.

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

The Summer Wives

In general, I love Beatriz Williams and I really enjoy her Schuyler family stories. Sometimes they connect with one another and have overlapping characters, but this book 100% stands on it’s own. This novel is set on Winthrop Island, a small New England island where the community is comprised of the wealthy summer Families and the working-class Portuguese population who live there year-round. The plot is divided into three different time periods (1930, 1951, and 1969) and events that happened over the course of the summers in each of those years. While the narrators and time periods change, I didn’t find it hard to keep the story lines straight and understand events and how everything connected. (In fact, I followed it almost too well and figured out where the plot was going around page 150, which was a little disappointing because I like to be surprised). I loved the characters, the setting, and most of the plot line, although I will say that there was a lot of unnecessary rated-R content that took away from the story for me. There were also a few times, particularly with the 1969 timeline, where I felt like the story dragged a little but for the most part I was drawn in and intrigued by how the individual stories were woven together. Overall, I thought this was a great read!

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
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Back in May, I read The Dry and was told that Harper had another book following the same main character so I immediately added it to my reading list. In this novel, Aaron Falk is working on a big money laundering case when his key contact within the company, Alice Russell, goes missing on a corporate retreat in the isolated Australian wilderness. The four other women she was in the woods with all return together and each remembers things that happened slightly differently. The story is told through Falk’s present investigations/the search for Alice and flashbacks alternating points of views from the women in the wilderness. One thing that Harper does really well in her books is to describe the scenery so well that it becomes like an actual character in her stories. I could feel the claustrophobia of being surrounded by thick bushland, I could imagine how turned around and scared I would have become had I been lost in this vast wilderness. I felt the paranoia of the women in the woods as their panic levels rose and feral instincts kicked in. As the story twisted and turned, Harper dropped enough small tidbits that I formed various ideas of how things might play out but I was still surprised by the final turn of events. I do wish the author would dive a little more into Falk’s personal life, because I love reading about his character and she doesn’t spend a lot of time on it; nonetheless, it was an exciting thriller without being too creepy and I flew through it. I recommend it, but I suggest reading The Dry first because there are a few tiny mentions of that plot in this story (plus it is just a fantastic read)!

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?