For my fellow readers out there, I wanted to share a roundup of books I’ve recently read and loved. To make this list, the book needed to receive a B+ rating or above from my very random book rating method! I’ve also organized them in order of the book I loved the most to the least but every single book on this list is one I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed!
Books I’ve Recently Read And Loved
My rating: A
When my friend Gina described this as a “sweet little cupcake of a book” and rave about it, I borrowed it from my library immediately as I was looking for something light after I finished The Forest of Vanishing Stars. This book is simply a delight. I smiled so much while reading it and while it absolutely falls into the romance/beach read category, it feels like more than that and comes along with humor, a creative plotline, likable but not too predictable characters and dialog that that’s not at all eye-roll inducing. It’s a fantastic summer read and one I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for something light but packed with wit and sweetness that feels a little more special than your average beach read.
The book begins with the filming of The Tea House, a movie created around a script written by Nora Hamilton, the woman behind countless cheesy movies features on The Romance Channel. Only The Tea House is different. It’s a film that bares Nora’s soul and shares the real deal behind the relationship she shared with her ex-husband, Ben, a relationship that was a lot more “take” than “give” on Ben’s part. Leo Vance, the most popular actor in Hollywood, is cast in the film to play the part of Ben and shows up along with the whole crew in to Nora’s home to film the movie in her backyard tea house.
When the movie wraps, everyone leaves… except for Leo. He offers to pay Nora $1,000 a day to let him stay for a week as he’s feeling increasingly lost in the world of glamor. He’s oddly infatuated with simple things — shopping for bananas, her 10-year-old son’s school play — and Nora finds herself agreeing to his offer and making a deal that will change her life.
My rating: A
I listened to the audiobook version of Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez and it felt like such a happy little escape. The dialog between the main characters and one of the main characters and her best friend had me smiling so much and laughing out loud numerous times. It was just a treat and made me genuinely look forward to folding laundry and unloading the dishwasher so I could listen! (I also may or may not have had a “book crush” on Daniel. Haha!) This is the third book I’ve read by this author and it was my favorite of the three.
The narration of Part of Your World flip flops back and forth between Alexis and Daniel, an unlikely pair who meet when Alexis finds herself in a small town in need of a tow after she swerves off the road to avoid hitting a racoon. She’s fresh out of a 7-year relationship with her surgeon boyfriend and no one is more shocked than Alexis when she finds herself making a pre-dawn escape back to her house in the hoodie of the man who saved her, a sexy carpenter named Daniel.
Daniel is a decade younger than Alexis and her complete opposite on paper. Alexis is a successful and very wealthy doctor, tasked with carrying on her family’s 150-year medical legacy, while Daniel is struggling to save the family home-turned-bed-and-breakfast that’s been in his family for years. Despite their differences, they’re drawn to each other with an intense ferocity, both intellectually and physically, even though they both know their relationship can never be more than surface-level. Their lives are too different and their worlds are completely incompatible… so why can neither of them break it off?
My rating: A
I’m going to rope this series into one mention so ACOTAR books don’t dominate this book list! It has been been a hot second since I read a fantasy novel but Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series was recommended by so, so many of you that I had to give it a shot. I was ALL IN on this series. It was imaginative, action-packed, steamy (x10!), creative and intriguing enough that it kept me reading way too late into the night. Books 2 and 3 were my favorite in the series! (Note: Book 4 was the biggest disappointment and felt like a “filler” book to me so it wouldn’t make this list on its own.) If you’re looking for a series that will rope you in and make you want to talk about the books with anyone and everyone, I cannot recommend it enough.
My rating: A
Fourth Wing was recommended to me by many, many of you when you heard how much I loved the ACOTAR fantasy series. I was going through serious withdrawals when I finished the fifth and final book in that series and immediately put Fourth Wing on hold at my local library. It took nearly two months to become available but it was worth the wait. It’s another action-packed book with interesting characters, twisty plotlines, some steaminess and plenty of adventure. Fourth Wing hooked me from the very beginning and I felt like I was speed-reading my way through it because so much action was happening at all times! The second book in this mini series is coming out next month and I cannot wait!
Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.
But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away…because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.
With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.
She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.
Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.
Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.
My rating: A-
A couple of months ago, while sharing a VRBO and cheering on our husbands as they completed a Half IronMan together, my friend Merri and I began chatting about books. We swapped recommendations and she highly encouraged me to read Before We Were Yours, explaining that while the book is heartbreaking, it is also an incredible story. (Note: I typically avoid books where horrible thing happen to children and if you’re the same way you may prefer to avoid this one as well.)
Before We Were Yours ripped my heart right open. It’s based on the true horrors surrounding the Tennessee Children’s Society, a Memphis-based adoption organization that kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country in the first half of the twentieth century. While this book is historical fiction and the characters are not real, it’s horrific to read about because it’s so strongly based on the atrocities behind this organization.
That being said, the book is a really, really good book. The writer is very talented and I especially loved the chapters that followed Rill, an incredibly brave 12-year-old girl, whom I found myself fiercely rooting for throughout the novel. Rill’s life changes when her mother goes into labor and is rushed to the hospital by her father, leaving Rill in charge of her four siblings on a shantyboat in the Mississippi River. When Rill and her siblings are discovered and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Society under the pretense of reuniting with their parents, Rill is terrified, devastated and more determined than ever to keep her siblings close and her family in tact.
The book flip-flops back and forth between 1939 through Rill’s story and Avery’s story in the present day. Avery is a successful lawyer poised to continue her family’s political legacy as her father, a prominent senator, is struggling with his health. When she comes into contact with an elderly woman at an assisted living facility who recognizes the dragonfly bracelet she’s wearing on her wrist, a treasured gift from her Grandma Judy, Avery is flooded with questions about her grandmother and her family’s history… and her future. As Avery begins to dig, she learns more about the Tennessee Children’s Society and her curiosity has her wondering if what she uncovers could change everything she’s ever known about her family and flip her sure-thing future upside down.
My rating: A-
It’s official: Abby Jimenez is the queen of witty, realistic and laugh-out-loud dialog. I adore her books and Yours Truly was another winner. It’s the semi-sequel to Part of Your World and while I preferred Part of Your World to this one, both books have the perfect amount of depth while also remaining light and easy to read. This book also has a main character with anxiety and it’s a topic that is approached in way that’s thoughtful (and, honestly, at least for me, educational which I thoroughly appreciated) and only served to add to the appeal of this book. Abby Jimenez has a gift for writing developed characters who are likable, interesting and often hilarious and there’s a reason I find myself reaching for her books again and again.
Yours Truly begins when a new doctor is hired at the hospital where Dr. Briana Ortiz has worked for years. Dr. Jacob Maddox quickly earns the name “Doctor Death” after losing several patients on his first day and after a rocky first meeting involving a broken cell phone, Bri isn’t sure she wants Jacob to stick around.
And then he apologizes… with a letter. A sincere, funny and interesting letter that directly combats all of Bri’s preconceived notions about Jacob. She decides to write him back and the two become office pen pals of sorts until things take a turn and Bri learns it is Jacob who anonymously volunteered to donate a kidney to her brother, Benny. Bri is determined to show her appreciation, agreeing to help Jacob in the most unorthodox way, and their friendship slowly starts to change in a way neither of them ever saw coming.
My rating: A-
The fact that I stayed up waaay too late reading The Book of Lost Names and finished it in two nights should speak volumes to this book. It’s a page-turner, full of suspense and intrigue and characters you find yourself fiercely rooting for throughout the book. As a huge fan of historical fiction, I love when novels in this genre teach me something and this book provided a little insight into the life of a forger during WWII which I found particularly interesting. I wish the romance between two of the main characters would’ve been developed a little deeper (while I rooted for them, I didn’t deeply feel their connection) but it was easy enough to get wrapped up in the plot and lean into their developing love story, too. (For what it’s worth, The Winemaker’s Wife is still my favorite novel by this author but I liked this one more than The Forest of Vanishing Stars.)
Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books when her eyes lock on a photograph in the New York Times. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in more than sixty years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.
The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer, but does she have the strength to revisit old memories?
As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris and find refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, where she began forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.
My rating: A-
This was just a delight of a book! I listened to this book and read it simultaneously (thanks to double availability through my library + the Libby app!) and I must admit this is one I almost enjoyed listening to more than reading. The narration is great and something about listening to the audiobook of this one made me feel like I was escaping to listen to some kind of a Netflix/Bridgerton show… and I mean that in the best way. It’s fluffy and fun but not so cheesy that I found myself rolling my eyes. It was simply an enjoyable read and a great little escape novel!
The book follows Kitty Talbot, a young woman determined to save her four sisters from ruin. She has a plan: She will find a husband… a very wealthy husband. The only problem is Kitty isn’t exactly “high society” so the chances of her running into someone of stature is slim. She decides to take her destiny into her own hands and, together with her sister Cecily, moves to London to stay with her aunt and find her way into London society. Kitty soon sets her eyes on Archie, a young man set to inherit his family’s fortune. Kitty believes the only thing standing in her way is her past until she comes face-to-face with Archie’s older brother, Lord Radcliffe, a handsome man who immediately sees through the clever ruse Kitty has built around her. Kitty fears her future is in jeopardy but her intellect and quick thinking work together to take her on an unexpected route to amass the fortune she desires so deeply.
My rating: A-
I adore this author. Annabel Monaghan’s Nora Goes Off Script was one of the best books I’ve read this year so I had high hopes for Same Time Next Summer. I’m happy to say it delivered. While Nora Goes Off Script remains my favorite for its witty dialog and creative and surprising storyline, Same Times Next Summer was another gem of a book. Though a little predictable and not as compelling as Nora Goes Off Script, Same Time Next Summer held its own and did a wonderful job capturing the magic and intensity of the feelings that come along with falling in love for the first time.
Sam is a 30-year-old woman who is engaged to a doctor and lives her life by the book. After having her heart broken by her first love more than a decade ago, she finds comfort in routines and predictability and is looking forward to married life. Sam and her fiancé return to the beach town Sam visited every summer with her family to look at a wedding venue only to find Wyatt, Sam’s first boyfriend (and her everything), visiting at the same time. Sam is forced to face her past and reexamine her future as unanswered questions surface and the connection that was so palpable between teenage Sam and Wyatt is still there and as undeniable as ever.
My rating: B+
While I was on the waitlist for The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel I opted to dive into The Forest of Vanishing Stars by the same author since it was immediately available. I previously loved The Winemaker’s Wife by the same author so my hopes were high.
The Forest of Vanishing Stars is interesting and intense and… just a lot. While most WWII historical fiction is hard to read because of the atrocities surrounding the Holocaust, this one was particularly difficult. Plus, the plotline of this book stressed me the heck out! If you’re looking for a page-turner this book certainly fits the bill and I was stressed out enough by it to finish it in two nights. (I was up past 1 a.m. reading because I had to know what happened.) Did I like the book? Yes. Did it turn me into a giant ball of anxiety? Also yes.
After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.
My rating: B+
I’ve read a handful of B.A. Paris novels and The Breakdown was one of my favorites. It was the kind of mystery that has you suspecting everyone and I especially liked the ending and the main character’s approach to unraveling everything. It’s a quick, entertaining read!
The book begins when Cass finds herself on a rural road in the middle of a horrendous storm. She notices a car on the side of the road and a woman sitting inside and pulls over, waiting for a sign from the woman that she might need help. When she doesn’t do anything, Cass continues home and never could’ve imagined the news she’d receive the following morning. The woman was brutally murdered soon after Cass passed her and Cass quickly comes to realize she knew the woman. The murder of Cass’ new friend sends her into a tailspin of guilt and despair that is only amplified when Cass begins forgetting things, something she fears may be genetic as her mother suffered from early Alzheimer’s. When mysterious phone calls begin, fear begins to join Cass’ whirlwind of emotions and she’s not sure who she can trust… even herself.
My rating: B+
I just adore Elin Hilderbrand’s Winter Street series so much! The characters are interesting and different and the family has their issues and drama but somehow you root for every single one of them. (If this interests you, start with book one, Winter Street, or you’ll likely be a little lost!) Winter Storms was the third book in the series and just as enjoyable as the first two.
I don’t want to reveal too much as it could ruin the first books if you haven’t read this series yet so here is the summary from Amazon if you’re looking for more info:
Some of the stormy weather of the past few seasons seems to have finally lifted for the Quinns. After a year apart, and an ill-fated affair with the Winter Street Inn’s old Santa Claus, Mitzi has returned to rule the roost; Patrick is about to be released from prison; Kevin has a successful new business and is finally ready to tie the knot with Isabelle; and best of all, there’s hopeful news about Bart, who has been captured by enemy forces in Afghanistan.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few dark clouds on the horizon. Kelley has recently survived a health scare; Jennifer can’t quite shake her addiction to the drugs she used as a crutch while Patrick was in jail; and Ava still can’t decide between the two lovers that she’s been juggling with limited success. However, if there’s one holiday that brings the Quinn family together to give thanks for the good times, it’s Christmas. And this year promises to be a celebration unlike any other as the Quinns prepare to host Kevin and Isabelle’s wedding at the inn. But as the special day approaches, a historic once-in-a-century blizzard bears down on Nantucket, threatening to keep the Quinns away from the place–and the people–they love most. Before the snow clears, the Quinns will have to survive enough upheavals to send anyone running for the spiked eggnog, in this touching novel that proves that when the holidays roll around, you can always go home again.
My rating: B+
The Rules of Magic is one of the more unique books I’ve read this year. It’s creative and interesting and explores sibling relationships with magic sprinkled in throughout the novel. The book is filled with emotion — sadness, longing and love — and the feelings that come along with complicated relationships, both within the family dynamic and within romantic relationships. The book was a nice change of pace from the the typical novels I read but lacked a little of the page-turning intrigue that makes me want to fly through a novel.
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.
Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.
From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Yet, the children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the memorable aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.
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Question of the Day
What is the best book you’ve recently read? Any cannot-put-it-down page turners out there to share?