Book Review – Spring 2020
I've really ramped up my reading. For the first time since as long as I can remember I'm at home. We all are. Quarantine has been good, in a sense, for my reading habits.
Here's what I've read this Spring listed in order from best to worst. I've read a lot of great books lately and thought I'd share my take with you.
If you're looking for more to read, check out my favorite travel books.
Pictured is the gorgeous interior of Trinity College's library where you can also see the famous Book of Kells in Dublin, Ireland. This is the “Long Room” where books are ordered by length and weight with over 200,000 books inside!
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
I was hooked from the opening line of the novel down to the very last sentence. Set in WWII the book focuses on three very different lives. Caroline, in New York, who is a socialite with a heart of gold, helping at the French Consulate. Herta is a German doctor who gets sent to work at a concentration camp, Ravensbruck. And Kasia is a teenager in Poland sent to the camp in Germany where Herta works. At times, the book was painful to read. Listening to the awful conditions at the camp and the mind-numbing atrocities they undergo. Dubbed the “Rabbits” after brutal Nazi experiments are performed on their legs, they are left to quite literally hop around the camp.
Although this is written as a fiction book, the story is based on truth. It spans a 20 year period from 1939-1959 focusing on their intertwining stories. Not only was the book masterfully written, Kelly did an exceptional job of researching. Having lived in Germany I think she did a fabulous job of describing Germans and illustrating what the camp grounds looked like. The book is a compelling read and gives testament to the durability of the human spirit and the kindness of mankind.
Especially living in uncertain times, Lilac Girls puts things into perspective and reminds us that we can face challenges and confront our fears.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This was a surprising page turner for me. I picked it up on “Audible Escape” since it was a free book and I've read Reid's other works from her (actually I read two of her books in this post alone!) including One True Loves. I really enjoy her writing style and the way she develops her characters. Hannah Martin is unsure of what direction to go with her life. She's lived all over the US and has hopped from job to job. She decides to move back “home” to LA and stay with her best friend Gabby. She gets in touch with her high school boyfriend, Ethan, and sparks fly. At the night of her home-coming party she needs to make a decision: stay with Ethan or go home with Gabby. From here, the book breaks into concurrent story lines that parallel each other but are drastically different. Making one decision can change her life.
Towards the end of the book I was having trouble keeping up with which story line was which but the story of both Hannah's was so interesting I kept wanting to read.
We read a new book every month and discuss it! It's a collective book club where we vote on the book. Join my book club right here!
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Writing dripping with meaning, this was a lovely book to read. Casey Peabody waits tables and rents a tiny room where she writes on a novel she's been working on for six years. While all her other friends have moved on to a more normal life, she's struggling to hold on to a creative one. She enjoys her job as a waitress, though it's a stressful one, because it helps her not to think about her mother's death, her debt, and the man who broke her heart the previous summer.
I love that, despite her mistakes, her grief, and what society tells us we should do next, she continues to hold on to her dreams. This is not a light, easy read and it can be slow moving. But the writing itself is so beautiful I kept wanting to read. If you are the creative or literary type, I think you'll like this book. As someone who is wanting to write a book, this felt right up my alley.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
I actually read this for a second time! I remember loving the book and felt like it was such a beautiful escape, especially since I'm dreaming of travel during quarantine. I read it when I had first moved to Germany and had yet to venture to Mallorca. After visiting twice in 2019 I wanted to revisit the island, if only through a book. This is a fast paced, fun read, with well developed, likeable characters. Set on the island of Mallorca a family of four, a husband and wife with their older son and teenage daughter, and a couple close friends rent a house in Mallorca. The perils of and stress of life still seem to creep up on them, even in paradise. The husband has recently cheated, the couple is trying to adopt a baby, the son is in massive debt, and the daughter is trying to figure out just who she is. Can they work through it? I loved the backdrop of Mallorca and felt like I could identify with many of the characters.
A Postcard from Italy by Alex Brown
This is a light, easy read, for anyone who loves dreaming of Italy. The book takes place in both England and Italy. Grace lives in England and works at a storage company and every other waking moment she's taking care of her bedridden mother. When they find an exquisite art collection along with diaries in one of the storage boxes, Grace goes on a hunt to find the owner while learning about the owner's life. This takes her to a powder pink villa in the Italian Riviera where she finds her own story of love and family secrets that unfurl.
Sometimes I wanted to smack Grace and tell her to “get over it,” and to “move on” with her life. I also listened to this on Audible and couldn't stand the narrator's voice when she portrays Ellis, a man from New York who goes with Grace to Italy. But other than that, I found that it's a fun read that I enjoyed!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
It seems I'm a fan of Reid. Although, this is not my favorite of the three books I've read from her. The novel is a fictional tale of one of America’s most famous “old Hollywood” movie stars, Evelyn Hugo. She is very secretive and suddenly decides to reveal all her secrets to an up and coming reporter. But why? Initially, the story hooked me, and I felt compelled to keep reading and finding out the true story of Hugo. But then it just kept going on and on. Each husband is essentially the same or doesn’t give much interest to the story.
I enjoyed Hugo and the narrator Monique, but I didn't care about them, which is often why I keep reading. To me, the story fell flat and felt a bit one dimensional.
Verity by Colleen Hoover
I love a good psychological thriller but 9 out of 10 times I'm disappointment. This was no exception to the rule. I wanted to like this book, but I found the story highly unbelievable and pretty off putting. Lowen is a struggling writer who accepts an interesting job offer: finish Verity Crawford's remaining book series. To do so, she goes to stay at the house where Verity lives with her husband, Jeremy and son. What Lowen finds is a Verity in a vegeatable-like state and, what looks like, a true manuscript of the hidden, sick life of Verity.
I felt the majority of the book was gratuitous, the characters extremely unlikable, and the story line just wasn't plausible. I might be alone here, seeing that the book has nearly 6,000 positive reviews on Amazon.
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