Y’all, as I mentioned on Friday, I read Where the Crawdads Sing this month and it was amazing. I am kicking myself for not reading it sooner. I finished it on Friday morning—I tried to stay up Thursday night and finish it, but my eyelids were just too heavy. It was one of those books where you just don’t want it to end—but then, damn, that ending was so good. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, which in my opinion, is the marker of a great book. If you read anything from any of my book recommendations this year—or honestly ever—make it that one. After my full recap below, I promise I’ll shut up about it for a little while.
If you follow me over on Instagram, you know I took advantage of the Prime Day free three-month trial of Kindle Unlimited. For those of you unfamiliar, Kindle Unlimited gives you access to over one million books and audiobooks, for just $9.99/month after your free trial. While there are popular titles in the Kindle Unlimited program, I’ve found they tend to be several years old (aka books I’ve read!). I searched for several books I wanted to read, and none of them were available. As such, once my free trial is over, I’ll probably cancel and stick with borrowing books from the library and buying Kindle books every now and then when they aren’t available. That being said, I do think Kindle Unlimited would be awesome if you’re more open to browsing for books—I tend to like to plan what I read, so I just don’t think it works as well for me.
As is custom on these posts, I wanted to call out that I’m part of a program where Random House will send me some of their new titles each month. I’m under no obligation to post about any titles I receive, so I really can tell you my own opinion (good or bad!) about them. I’ve starred the books Random House sent me for free below. I’m so lucky to be sent books and that’s not lost on me!
If you’ve read anything great lately, please let me know—I love shopping the recommendations you all give me. You can also keep up with what I’m reading in real time on my Goodreads—feel free to friend me.
AFTER THE END // CLARE MACKINTOSH
A fictional story based on real events in the author’s life, After the End examines the worst decision two parents, Max and Pip, have to make. Though their marriage was strong, when their young son becomes terminally ill, they disagree on a treatment plan. Max wants to prolong his life as much as possible, whereas Pip is more concerned about the quality of his life. Eventually, its up to the courts to decide—and the second half of the book alternates between what would happen in each scenario.
Would I recommend it? Eh—this book was just okay to me. I think Jodi Picoult is stronger in this genre.
SURFSIDE SISTERS // NANCY THAYER*
Surfside Sisters is the story of two friends, Keely and Isabelle, who grow up as best friends on Nantucket. They share the same dream of becoming a writer, but over the years, Isabelle’s family money, Keely’s dad’s death, and a high school boyfriend drive a wedge between the two friends. The story is told over the course of about twenty years, and I love how it examines the complexities of female friendships—and how no matter thin you slice it, there are always two sides.
Would I recommend it? Yes! Especially if you loved Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin.
WINDOW ON THE BAY // DEBBIE MACOMBER*
Jenna became a single mother 20 years ago after a messy divorce, but now that her kids are all grown up, her life is at a crossroads. Her best friend, Maureen has been there through it all—and is excited to finally take the trip to Paris they’ve been talking about since high school. Both ladies are also excited, but nervous, to dip their toes in the dating pool. When Jenna’s mom breaks her hip, an elderly doctor saves the day—and catches Jenna’s eye, and eventually, her heart. Only, she soon learns information about him that threatens to derail her chance at happiness. All the while, Maureen has found a new man of her own—one that doesn’t read, but comes into the library every Monday to check out books.
Would I recommend it? This would be an easy beach or plane read, but I think there are better books out there.
HOW COULD SHE? // LAUREN MECHLING
How Could She begins with Geraldine’s terrible breakup, which has left her life in Toronto in shambles. To get away from it all, she heads to NYC to visit her friend, Rachel, who left Toronto years ago, and has since gotten married and has a small child. While in town, she also catches up with her old friend Sunny, who has a glamorous life and a hot husband. Rachel is a writer, Sunny, an artist and columnist. Geraldine, seeing the success her friends have had in the Big Apple, she decides she needs to land a job in New York to be happy—only, she can’t seem to land a job to save her life. Overtime, she realizes it’s not as glamorous as she thought—and neither are the lives of her friends.
Would I recommend it? I SO wanted to like this book, but I just could not get into it. My recommendation would be to save your time and read something else!
A WELL-BEHAVED WOMAN // THERESE ANNE FOWLER
I picked this one up because of my friend Diana’s recommendation and because I felt a connection to Alva Vanderbilt as I visited her summer cottage in Newport last year. This is a historical fiction take on her life, which in many ways, was atypical of the era and family in which she was living. Alva heads to The Greenbrier with the hopes of attracting William Vanderbilt, so she can save her family from financial ruin. While the Vanderbilt’s can offer her money, she can offer them the social status they so desire as “new money,” and a match is made. From there, she finds her way in the Vanderbilt family, as she wins the affection of the Commodore and her father-in-law William Henry Vanderbilt. She convinces the family to construct their famed mansions in NYC, and later oversees the construction of Marble House in Newport, which William gave her as a 40th birthday present. Only throughout it all, she realizes the problems that arrive when you marry for status, and not for love—and when her husband cheats on her with her best friend, she asks for a divorce, and eventually marries the man she’s loved all along—Oliver Belmont.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely, especially if you love historical fiction or the Gilded Age Mansions in Newport, Rhode Island!
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING // DELIA OWENS
In the early 1950s, Kya’s family is living in the marshlands of North Carolina. Her father is an alcoholic, and one day, her mother reaches her limit with his physical and mental abuse, and walks out on the family. One by one, her older siblings leave, until it’s just Kya and her Pa. For a while, things are going well—he quits drinking and teaches Kya the way of the marshland. Only, one day, she finds a letter in the mail from her mom. The catch is that Kya can’t read, so she shows the letter to her Pa, who is sent into a fit of rage, burns most of her mother’s belongings, and starts leaving the house for long periods of time. Eventually, he doesn’t return and Kya presumes he is dead. She is left alone by age 10, and learns to take care of herself, eventually selling seafood to Jumpin’, a black man who owns a gas shop for boats. He and his wife, Mabel, treat Kya like their own over the years.
Though she is well versed in nature, when Kya is 15, she runs into Tate on the marsh, a friend of her older brother Jodie’s she met when she was young. He teaches her how to read and helps revolutionize her life in so many ways. I can’t say much more without giving the plot away—but when Kya is in her early 20s, Chase Andrews, the former high school football star is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya, who they call the Marsh girl. The book begins in the year 1952, when Kya’s mom leaves, and flashes forward to 1969, when the murder happens. The chapters that show the past—starting with 1952 and move through Kya’s childhood and teenage years, eventually catch up to 1969, so you learn more information that adds color to the murder as the book progresses.
Would I recommend it? 1000000000%. This is hands-down the best book I’ve read all year. And probably one of my favorite books ever.