Recently Read Vol. 6

I just returned from vacation where I had terrible wi-fi for about 10 minutes every three days. I’d like to say this was freeing and wonderful but I actually missed the internet. A lot. But I read a lot, something else I enjoy and don’t do enough of.

Looking for a summer reading recommendation? This post is for you.

Recently Read Vol. 6

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gundenkauf

The Weight of Silence by Heather GudenkaufI bought this book years ago at Goodwill for 25 cents and it has sat on my shelf since then. That is basically a crime. This is the kind of book that hooks you from the very beginning and you don’t put it down until you’re done. I read the last 200 pages in one sitting.

The Weight of Silence is about the disappearance of two young girls, best friends and neighbors. Both are gone from their beds in the middle of the night with very few clues about what happened. Were they together? Were they taken? Did they go by choice? The story is written from the perspective of nearly every character, with each chapter changing perspective. I was absolutely riveted. While the plots are very different, if you liked Gone Girl, you might like this.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin HannahFirst, let me start by saying that this book has 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 4890 reviews. That’s like unheard of. So I knew going into it that there was a good chance I’d like it. I’ve also read a lot of WWII fiction. Historical fiction from this time period is probably my favorite. I’ve also read a lot of Kristin Hannah’s novels. This was not like anything else she’s written.

The Nightingale follows two young French sisters in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. We learn quickly that Vivian is married and her husband is at war. She is left at home to care for their young daughter. Her younger sister Isabelle has an adventurous spirit and is willing to take big risks to keep France from falling to Hitler.

I found that the novel moved a bit slower than I expected, though it always held my attention. The ending was satisfying and I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Sarah’s Key or Those Who Save Us (reviews on those two books and others like them here).

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go BernadetteI’d heard that this book was good and that was true. I read the entire thing in one sitting. The story is written from the perspective of Bee, a young teen who is trying to figure out what happened to her Mom (Bernadette), who has gone missing.

I absolutely loved how the story is told via emails, documents, letters, faxes, and Bee’s commentary. I’ve never read a book with a format like this and it keeps you from ever getting bored. Though it sounds from the descriptions I read that it is a mystery, it’s actually quite a funny read and you’re on the edge of your seat but not the way you are with a traditional mystery/thriller. It’s a genre all to itself.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the TrainI read this book because I’d heard it was a great read if you liked Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

After Gone Girl, I read Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places and Sharp Objects and was a bit let down by both so was hoping that this book would satisfy my craving for a mildly disturbing, addicting thriller. I liked it, but not better than Gone Girl. It is similar to Gillian Flynn novels in that almost all of the characters are completely unlikable.

The main character, Rachel, is an alcoholic whose husband divorced her after he got his mistress pregnant. The three of them now live in the home Rachel used to live in, which Rachel rides by every day on the train. Ouch. It alternates perspectives between Rachel and a woman named Megan. What unfolds is a gripping thriller, and though I kept reading, I had a hard time believing that any real person would make many of the decisions that Rachel makes.

To fans of Gone Girl, rest assured that this has a more satisfying ending.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for AlaskaAfter reading (and loving) The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns (review here), I knew I had to read something else by John Green. Looking for Alaska did not disappoint. From the very beginning, you know something is going to happen and you know when, because there is a black page in the middle that says “after” on it. It’s impossible to not flip to that page when you first pick up the book, so you know something happens. Because it feels like you know when the climax of the book is coming, I felt in a rush to read it. I didn’t have to get to the end, I just needed to get to that dark page.

This book follows a teenager named Miles as he goes (by choice) to boarding school in Alabama in search of “the great perhaps”. What Miles wants is to lead a less boring life. He craves adventure. What follows is a lot of typical teenage stuff, some adventures, and a lot of real life.

I wish I had read this book as a teenage girl because I feel like I would have understood guys better. And not just the buff, jock, jerk guys. The regular guys. The guys who actually deserved my attention. This book would be great for teenagers (probably 15+ due to some subject matter) and adults.

Now excuse me, I’ve got to open another tab so I can order my next John Green novel.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan TrainOrphan Train alternates perspective between two orphans – Molly, a Penobscot Indian who is now in the foster system, and Vivian, a woman now in her 90s. Molly is close to aging out of the foster system and after a bit of a mess up, needs to do 50 hours of community service. Vivian’s story starts out in Ireland, takes her through Ellis Island and to New York, and later on the “orphan train” from New York to the midwest. Her story was the one I found most gripping but I really loved how the two stories intertwined as Molly helped Vivian clean out her attic.

The Orphan Trains are definitely a piece of American history that I didn’t know about and, after working so closely with social workers in my real life, it was shocking to see how social issues were handled way back when. I got to a point where I absolutely couldn’t put this book down. I read it in a day.

What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman

What She Left BehindThis book was recommended to me by Amazon, which, by they way, I feel like NAILS their recommendations. I shouldn’t have read it back to back with Orphan train, because both have similar protagonists (the two teenage girls, both in the foster system) and I kept getting their back stories mixed up.

What She Left Behind alternates between 1930’s Clara, the 19 year-old daughter of a wealthy couple who is secretly a flapper with an Italian lover, and Izzy. Izzy’s story is set in present day (maybe the 90s?). After Izzy’s mother shoots her father, Izzy is put in to foster care where she bounces around a lot before winding up with a nice couple, just months before she turns 18. A smart girl who has few plans for her own future, she begins helping her foster Mother on a project for the museum she works for. The task? Looking through the suitcases of patients at Willard State Insane asylum.

It was horrifying to hear how easy it was to be locked away in a asylum for things like postpartum depression, adultery, or even just because your husband or father wanted you there. Women were far more likely to wind up in insane asylums than men in this time. Treatment was rarely humane and many of the treatments were shocking to read about (insulin shock therapy, for instance), especially from the perspective of a sane woman.

I enjoyed this book very much and appreciated the tidy ending.

Now tell me, what should I read next? Please leave your book recommendations below!

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