Hello fellow bookworms! I’m coming at you from the beach today with my latest roundup of recommended reads. Back in the beginning of 2019, I began sharing roundups of books I recently read and loved on the blog as a way to highlight some of my favorite recent reads in one place.
While I regularly share books I’m reading in my day-in-the-life posts and my Things I’m Loving Friday roundup of weekly favorites, I know it’s easy to lose track of my latest book recommendations. It’s my hope that periodically highlighting a handful of the books I recently read and enjoyed in one place will make it easier for you to find a decent book to read the next time you’re on the lookout.
Plus, I always love chatting about books with you guys and receive some of my best book recommendations from your comments so please share some of your favorite recent reads with me below!
(Friendly reminder that you may also easily find my past book recommendations in one place in my Amazon shop!)
Books I Recently Read and Loved
Having previously read and loved The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, when The Rose Code popped up as a recommended read for me on Amazon, I was instantly intrigued. Historical fiction, three strong women characters, a bit of royalty and a lot of secret codebreaking work? Sign me up!
The book flashes back and forth between 1940 and 1947 and primarily centers around Bletchley Park, a mysterious estate where some of the smartest men and women in Britain go to secretly try to break German military codes. It’s through assignments at Bletchley Park that Osla, a bright and beautiful debutante (who also caught the interest of Prince Philip of Greece), meets Mab, a strong-willed young woman on a mission to create a better life for herself. When Mab and Osla are billeted at the home of a married couple with a young daughter their age, they find Beth intriguing both for her brilliant mind and shy demeanor and set out on a mission to break her away from her sheltered life. Beth soon finds herself on assignment at Bletchley Park where she quickly becomes one of the brightest cryptanalysts.
Fast forward to 1947 and the three former best friends detest each other, having been torn apart by secrecy, loss, lies and war. After not speaking for years, seemingly out of the blue, Mab and Osla receive an encrypted letter from an psychiatric asylum that they know could only have come from Beth. She’s on a mission to identify the traitor who wrongly had her locked up for years but she needs help from her former friends to get to the bottom of one of the biggest secrets to ever come out of Bletchley Park.
The Vanishing Half is not only beautifully written but the story is captivating and the characters draw you in from the very beginning. The book follows the lives of the identical twins Desire and Stella Vignes, two women who grew up together in a small Black community that largely favored light-skinned Black people. Their lives were deeply connected until, at the age of 16, they ran away together and eventually separated when Stella makes the decision to secretly live her life as a white woman and marries a white man.
Years later, Desire finds her way back home with her Black daughter while Stella lives in a white community with her blonde-haired daughter and her tremendous secret. When the twins’ daughters’ lives intersect, will lies come to the surface and Stella’s truth be discovered?
The Vanishing Half is a thought-provoking novel that kept me engaged the entire time. I couldn’t wait to read it every night before bed and now, weeks later, it still comes to my mind and makes me think more deeply about racial injustice, family expectations, relationships and the importance of the choices we make in our daily lives.
I flew through East Coast Girls in two nights for two reasons. 1.) Rhett’s sleep was awful and I was up in the night A LOT. 2.) The book was so well written and drew me in immediately. You should read it because of reason #2. Ha! The characters in this book are so well developed and I love the way the author expertly explores relationships and friendship between four very different women.
The book centers around four women, Hannah, Maya, Blue and Renee. The foursome grew up together, considering each other more like family than friends until one terrible summer night in Montauk shifted everything and altered their relationships forever. Twelve years later, the women are 30 and return to Montauk — some with excitement, some with trepidation and most with more than a little reluctance. As they come together, the past seems to surface again in new ways, revealing secrets and past traumas that may impact their friendship and lives forever.
The night after I finished reading East Coast Girls, I got a perfectly-timed Instagram DM from one of you highly recommending In Five Years to me. Since I was on the lookout for a new book, I instantly downloaded it and immediately loved the premise. I devoured this book in two sittings because it was that good.
Dannie Kohan is a driven, methodical, type-A woman who has done her best to create a predictable, comfortable life for herself. She nails the interview for her dream job as lawyer at a top firm and then accepts boyfriend’s predictable proposal. And then she falls asleep — for just an hour — but her dream is REAL. She knows it is. And in her dream she’s living her life five years from the present in a very different apartment with a very different man and a very different ring on her fingers. When she awakes and finds herself back in the present she can’t shake her dream and goes on living her life as it is until everything is turned upside down.
I loved so many things about this book from the plot to the twists to the characters. It’s the kind of book that I initially thought was going to be a love story — and it is in some ways — but it’s not at all a traditional one and is filled with thought-provoking moments that stuck with me and left me tossing and turning in bed long after I finished reading.
When I saw Gina refer to this book as a standout book that she would not have chosen on her own but loved thanks to her book club, I was instantly intrigued. I love it when books you might typically look over at the bookstore surprise you and The Lost Apothecary was definitely a winner!
In eighteenth-century London an apothecary named Nella has a secret side-business catering only to women who need her help. She discreetly dispenses poisons to her clientele that leave men dead and has always held fast to her rule that she will never use her talents to harm another woman.
When her most recent customer, a vibrant and hard-working 12-year-old girl named Eliza, shows up at her back-alley shop, a series of unexpected events unfold and Nella’s secret apothecary business finds itself in turmoil.
Fast forward to present-day London and Caroline Parcewell is alone in London on her 10th wedding anniversary, her marriage in turmoil. Once a passionate history student before she gave everything up to work for her parents’ business, Caroline finds herself surprised to feel her former love of history come alive again when she discovers an old apothecary vial near the river Thames. Her discovery leads her on a whirlwind investigation into the previously unsolved “apothecary murders” from London in the 18th century and unveils a connection to Nella and Eliza that may prove dangerous as Caroline becomes determined to find the truth behind the mystery.
Kindred is a novel that I’ve seen on numerous “must read” book lists when I’ve looked for books to read by Black authors. The premise immediately intrigued me as it seemed to blend sci-fi with historical fiction and the reviews were amazing.
Dana is a young Black woman living in the 1970s when she finds herself abruptly transported to the south by Rufus, the young son of a plantation owner who owns many enslaved people. Rufus is drowning and Dana rushes to save the boy and, despite saving his life, her skin color causes her to find herself at the other end of Rufus’ father’s rifle. When she fears for her life, she is transported back to her 1970s home in California. What follows is a series of time travel for Dana back and forth from her present life to the antebellum South whenever Rufus’ life is in danger.
When I began reading Kindred, I knew it would be a hard novel to read as it is a book that highlights the horrors of slavery, sexism and white supremacy. It was challenging to get though in parts when the atrocious behaviors of the plantation owner directly impacts Dana and the enslaved men, women and children on his plantation, and yet reading about slavery in this context felt important. While I wish racism wasn’t a thing we have to worry about anymore, it is and it’s awful. I am a white woman and reading about slavery in this novel made me cry and simultaneously check myself because I knew I was reading about something that I never would’ve experienced and it made me think deeply about how the Black men and women reading this book may have felt. It’s a book I would highly recommend to anyone, as it made me think, cry, question myself, reflect and, perhaps most importantly, listen and read poignant words about about slavery and racism from a Black author.
I first discovered Fiona Davis’ novels thanks to one of your recommendations which lead me to The Lions of Fifth Avenue. I loved the book and have kept the author on my radar ever since. I began reading The Dollhouse last week and it immediately sucked me in. I love the way the author uses real places and incorporates some elements of history in her novels along with her interesting characters and plotlines.
The Dollhouse was another great read and follows two women whose lives are connected by the famous Barbizon Hotel in New York City. In 1952, Darby McLaughlin arrives at the hotel and is enrolled in a secretarial school with hopes to become an independent, career-minded woman. She initially feels out of place when she realized she will share the hotel with models from the Ford Modeling Agency until she befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, who opens her eyes to a different side of the city, complete with jazz clubs, drugs and possibly an intriguing love interest.
Many years later, the Barbizon Hotel is now a condo in the city but some of the women from the hotel remain, due to a rent control agreement. When Rose Lewin, a journalist living in the building, is on the lookout for a story to impress her boss and distract her from a recent breakup, she begins digging into the past of some of the women who share the building, While discovering the death of a former hotel maid is initially intriguing, what she continues to find is shocking and may change not only the lives of the women in the building, but Rose’s life, too.
Another Fiona Davis novel! I love the way Fiona Davis incorporates real places and events into her historical fiction novels and The Masterpiece was another winner. The novel flip flops back and forth between the lives of Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, two women who become connected by Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
Clara Darden is the only woman teacher at the Grand Central School of Art. Driven by a passion for her work and a desire to make it as an artist despite being a woman in 1928, Clara finds herself the highest-paid woman artist for a brief time until the Great Depression hits and she’s left struggling, both professionally and personally.
In 1974, Virginia Clay is recently divorced and employed at the information booth at Grand Central Terminal. Virginia soon discovers the abandoned art school and what she believes is a valuable work of art, possibly painted by famed illustrator Clara Darden. As she sets out to find out who the artist is behind her discovery, she begins receiving threatening letters in the mail and comes to discover the painting means more to her than she thought, as does the dilapidated Grand Central Terminal.
I may be waaay late to the game with this novel (30 years!) but since I’ve never seen the movie and the book was new to me, it felt like a new discovery over here and worth sharing in this space. The Firm caught my eye when I found myself in the mood for a legal thriller and it certainly delivers!
One major caveat to this book recommendation: I rolled my eyes as I read it no less than 100 times. Some of the descriptions of women and the way the characters speak and the things they idolize made me cringe big time. Though I found the plotline of the story really interesting, just know that if you read it and find yourself annoyed and frustrated with the writer and questioning how some aspects of the book made it past editing, I feel ya on that one 100 percent.
The book follows recent Harvard law grad Mitch McDeere as he interviews with top law firms in the country. He selects the Memphis-based firm, Bendini, Lambert & Locke, after partners in the firm promise of extreme wealth complete with a new BMW and boast of the firm’s non-existent turnover rate. When Mitch and his wife Abby move to Memphis, they quickly realize life as a lawyer with Bendini, Lambert & Locke is not what it seems. When Mitch becomes suspicious of the deaths of former lawyers within the firm and an FBI agent seeks him out, he quickly realizes the decisions he makes as a new lawyer within the firm may be the difference between life and death.
This Time Next Year piqued my interest again when Amazon said it was similar to One Day in December, a novel I absolutely loved when I read it two years ago. This Time Next Year reads like a chick flick but without some of the depth I loved from One Day In December. It’s a good one to pick up if you’re looking for a light, breezy beach read.
Here’s the Amazon summary: Minnie Cooper knows two things with certainty: That her New Year’s birthday is unlucky, and that it’s all because of Quinn Hamilton, a man she’s never met. Their mothers gave birth to them at the same hospital just after midnight on New Year’s Day, but Quinn was given the cash prize for being the first baby born in London in 1990–and the name Minnie was meant to have, as well. With luck like that, it’s no wonder each of her birthdays has been more of a disaster than the one before.
When Minnie unexpectedly runs into Quinn at a New Year’s party on their mutual thirtieth birthday, she sees only more evidence that fortune has continued to favor him. The gorgeous, charming business owner truly seems to have it all–while Minnie’s on the brink of losing her pie-making company and her home. But if Quinn and Minnie are from different worlds, why do they keep bumping into each other? And why is it that each fraught encounter leaves them both wanting more?
Question of the Day
Have you read any great books lately?