Recent Reads


Another interruption in my travel posts, just to mix it up. Also, honestly, trying to delay getting to the end of those. Jordan and I are greatly enjoying a look back through the pictures and places of our trip to England.

The last Recent Reads post I did was back in July! Here's what I've read since then...
*Sorry this graphic is so blurry, but I did a major shortcut that saved me tons of time so I'm just going with it for now.

**Also I had NO idea I had read so many murder mysteries the past few months! I really do love me a good murder mystery.

4.5 stars // The People in the Photo by Helene Gestern

I picked up this book at the library while I was looking for something else solely based on the cover and title. It's the story of two people who discover that they have a family connection after looking at an old black-and-white photograph. The story is told mainly through letters and emails and explores the truths they uncover about their parents' pasts. 

This is a really lovely book. Very simple with only a few characters. It's sweet but also heartbreaking with a touch of mystery. I enjoyed it!

For fans of: mystery, stories told through letters, memories, romance
Should you read it? Yes

4.5 stars // Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver (Amory Ames #1)
4.25 stars // Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver (Amory Ames #2)

I mentioned this book in my currently post last week. It was recommended by a blog friend, and I have read the first two books in this series now and like them a lot! They are clean, fun murder mysteries set in old England with a likable protagonist who is, I will add, totally reliable! ;) 

My only comment is that the books are wrapped up nicely at the end, which I personally don't mind but some people get annoyed about that. I also struggle a bit with what to think about Amory's husband, Milo. I love them together but find their dynamic a bit frustrating at times. Though I suppose that's the point to add interest to the story.

For fans of: murder, girl power, British society, reliable narrators

Should you read it? Definitely yes!

4 stars // In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Nora hasn't seen her best friend Clare in years, but after she suddenly gets an invitation to Clare's bachelorette party, she decides to go. The small party takes place in a house out in the middle of the woods. Things get crazy. Someone gets murdered. You don't know who or why until the end.

I thought this was a suspenseful plot with a creepy setting, a mystery I couldn't quite figure out until the end, and a book that kept me up reading past my bedtime. Note that there is some cursing and also some drug use and drinking. There is an unreliable narrator, if that is the type of thing that bothers you (I know it really bothers some people), but all the characters are a bit crazy, so there's good reason to think any of them could be the murderer. Admittedly I did think the plot was a bit unrealistic, I still liked it.

For fans of: creepiness, murder, a book full of characters you don't exactly like very much, unreliable narrators

Should you read it? Yes

4 stars // The New Strong-Willed Child by James Dobson

This a parenting book about raising a strong-willed child. I don't have one of those, of course, but ASKING FOR A FRIEND. You understand. Jordan and I read this one together, and we were overall encouraged and came away with some good tips. I'll note that if you don't believe in/aren't a fan of spanking then you might be turned off by the entire chapter he devotes to it.

For fans of: parenting books, self-help, encouragement because oh my gosh kids are crazy

Should you read it? We say yes, but I know all parenting styles are different so you can decide if it's for you!

4 stars // The Chillbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

This historical fiction novel takes place during WWII in 1940 in the small, close-knit village of Chillbury. All the men have been called to war, and thus the choir is shutting down. But then! Scandal! The women are going to form a female-only choir. The story follows a few different narrators in diary entries and letters through their struggles and triumphs in wartime England.

As far as a charming, quick read, I really enjoyed this one. I probably would bump this down a bit in my rating if I were to think too hard about the technical aspects. I found the different points of view and the writing style quite lovely. But there wasn't able to be a whole lot of character development, and the overall simple tone of the book made the sad parts not have as much weight because they felt like they happened too fast, so I didn't care about them as much as I wanted to. There were also a few things that seemed either tied up too well or not explained enough or just glossed over. But it was the perfect quick in-between read for me. Please note a trigger warning: One of the characters has a miscarriage.

For fans of: stories told through letters, romance, girl power, WWII, singing, multiple narrators

Should you read it? I think yes as an in-between, simple read. But don't read it expecting anything super deep. 

3.75 stars // Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Georgie has an important work deadline that makes her miss spending Christmas with her husband and daughter. But she has regrets and wonders if this means the end of her marriage. Then she discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past and try to fix what was broken.

I would have given this a higher rating, but there was a weird chapter about a pug giving birth that threw me off big time. I just don't even know why that was there. It felt so out of place. There was also a side plot with Georgie's sister that I did not feel was necessary from an editorial standpoint. This book has been recommended to me by a ton of people, and overall (minus the two aforementioned plots) I really enjoyed it! There's a magical aspect that was unique and fun, and you just had to go with it even though it's obviously unrealistic.

For fans of: magical phones, true love, Christmas, weird side plots that are confusing

Should you read it? Yes

3.5 stars // Us Against You (Beartown #2) by Fredrick Backman

This book picks up where Beartown left off, even though I think collectively no one who read Beartown felt like there needed to be a sequel. But the author didn't ask my opinion clearly. You don't have to read Beartown first since the author does do a bunch of recap-type things, but I think you probably should read it first.

What to say about this one. WHAT TO SAY. 

I read almost exactly half of this book and then skipped alllll the way to the end and read the last 2 chapters, which is totally unlike me. I loved Beartown and was really excited to read this sequel, but I was totally not in the right mood for it, and I felt like there were blocks of sand tied around my feet while I tried to wade through this book. 

Backman is a great writer and can make you have All The Feelings, but he overdid it on this one. So many. Choppy sentences. Short sections. Every line ends on a cliffhanger, and it's almost never as dramatic as he made it sound, which as a reader is just kind of exhausting. But I wanted to know what happened, so I read the end. And I got emotional reading it, which says something since I skipped the entire second half and had mostly no idea what was going on.

For fans of: Fredrik Backman, FEELINGS, more feelings, teenage angst, chapters that always end on a cliffhanger, dramatic moments

Should you read it? Okay, so I'm saying no, but so many people love it that you might give it a try and see? I mean I just really don't know.

3.75 stars // The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

A historical fiction novel that takes place in both 1947 and 1915. In 1947, Charlie St. Clair is searching for her cousin who was lost and presumed dead during WWII. Her journey causes her to enlist the help of Eve Gardiner, who worked as a spy during WWI. 

I thought this was extremely well written and had some memorable characters. Each chapter alternates between two main characters, and it was well done. The author's note goes into more detail about the story, and a lot of these characters and many scenes are taken from real life, which is what I love about historical fiction. 

I recommend with caveats: there is a good amount of cursing in this book; there are also sex scenes. I did feel that they fit the characters and the plot, and while they weren't too terribly graphic, they also weren't exactly tame, and I think the author could have taken some out and not lost anything. Finally, trigger warning: one of the characters has an abortion. But I will say that from an editorial standpoint I felt it fit the story and characters.

For fans of: historical fiction, girl power, spies, romance, suspense

Should you read it? If you are okay with the caveats previously mentioned, then yes. Otherwise, there are tons of awesome historical fiction books out there so don't feel like you are going to be seriously missing out.

3.25 stars // The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is the protagonist in Alan Bradley's series of murder mystery novels, set in 1950 Europe.

This is the first in the series, and I originally heard about this from Anne Bogel's podcastI found this book original and overall enjoyable, but for some reason it felt like a slog to get through, just a bit too long in parts, and I kind of skimmed to the end. There are a LOT of similes and metaphors as part of the writing style, which got tedious. But the main character is fun (if slightly unbelievable to be as smart as she is at 11; just go with it). I think I would like to try another in the series and see if I like it better. I think it just needed to be a bit shorter overall.

For fans of: murders, precocious pre-teenagers, playing tricks on your older siblings, intrigue, suspending disbelief

Should you read it? I want to read another in this series to form a solid opinion about whether I like it or not.

3.25 stars // Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

A true story of Katie Davis, an 18-year-old who leaves her middle-class life in America to be a missionary in Uganda. She has adopted children and started a nonprofit organization to send children to school and still lives in Uganda today.

My friend lent me this one. I liked this okay, but didn't I love it just in terms of the style and how it felt a bit jumpy to me. About halfway through I admit I started skimming, but this was convicting and was really interesting to read. The author definitely has a huge heart and loves the Lord and loves his people, which was neat to see. I feel bad not giving this a glowing report, because I am glad I read it. But it got a bit heavy on the emotional aspect and started to feel repetitive after time.

For fans of: mission work, adoption/foster case, being convicted

Should you read it? I did find her story amazing and inspiring, but I didn't love the book itself. So my answer is maybe.

IS ANYONE STILL WITH ME? Sorry for the longest book review post of all time. This is why I shouldn't wait nearly 4 months to do a review post.

But I wanna know... Have you read any of these? What did you think? Are there any on this list you are interested to read now?
The Girl who Loved to Write said...

A Dark, Dark Wood has been on my list forever and I just haven't read it! But I want to now!

Torrie said...

I was distinctly underwhelmed by Us Against You, too and totally agree with your conclusions (though I didn't skip ahead, I'm thinking maybe I should have...). I likened it to a horror movie where there was SO. MUCH. SUSPENSEFUL. MUSIC. ALL. THE. TIME. that you just got over-riled up and then everything felt anticlimactic because it was never as bad as the music made you feel it was going to be.

Audrey Louise said...

I'm glad you're enjoying the Amory Ames series! I agree that her relationship with Milo is funky (and a little infuriating) at first. By book 5 (I think that's the one I just read) they're a much better couple to read about. The People in the Photo sounds interesting!
The Alice Network is on my tbr list! I even own it. Now I just need to get to it... LOL

Nadine said...

I really enjoyed A Dark, Dark Wood. I liked Beartown, but felt like half of that book could have been cut out and it would have been more enjoyable for me, so I have decided to skip the sequel. Like you, I felt like it wasn't needed. I have the Amory Ames series on my TBR and I think I am going to add the Strong Willed Child to it. For a friend. LOL.

Unknown said...

I love these types of posts! I haven't read Kisses from Katie, but I did read the sequel, which was quite interesting and had some beautiful reflections by the author in it. It sounds fairly similar to Kisses from Katie in the style and content, which makes a lot of sense, so I'm not sure if you'd be a fan of the book. I should read The People in the Photo-that sounds like a great book that I would enjoy quite a bit!

Since you've been on a murder mystery kick, I have to ask-have you read And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie? I just read it and the book is quite excellent-it's about a group of seemingly-random people who are all summoned to this mysterious island by a mysterious stranger, and they begin dying one by one and are trying to figure out who the murderer is. I sped through that book because I just had to see how it turned out!

Jen F. said...

I read them! I love that you read a variety of books and give all the details that you do - I haven't read any of these books this month but I was thinking of reading the Katie book but was thinking it might not be worth it.

The Alice Network book sounds interesting and the one about the bachelorette murder too!

Rach said...

The only book I've read in this list is Kisses from Katie and I have to admit - I loved the book. But maybe it's because I don't mind a really casual writing style. And maybe it's because she's from Nashville and while I don't know her, I know several people who do know her so I feel weirdly more connected to her story. Not to mention that we have a heart for missions and adoption. I read her book while I was pregnant and had ALL THE FEELS.

Still be my friend, but I can't do suspenseful novels. I mean, sometimes on a rare occasion I read one. But only if everyone I know is recommending it and everyone promises that there is a happy ending. I just can't do sad or scary or suspenseful.

Carolann Chambers said...

I haven't read any of these! I have been wanting to get into Ruth Ware for so long. I might have to start with In a Dark, Dark Wood, which I have and have just never picked up. The Ashley Weaver books look really good too. I've never heard of them before so I'm adding to my ever-growing-never-ending list.

Amanda Bumgarner said...

I don't like super suspenseful or scary books. The Ashley Weaver books so far are SO tame, and I love it so much. Everything is tied up in a neat bow at the end, which I love! Murder mysteries can be so gory and creepy sometimes.

Amanda Bumgarner said...

I didn't hate the Katie book at all! I am glad I read it :) I just wished there were a more cohesive narrative of her life story. It felt repetitive at times with the emotions she shares if that makes sense!

Rachel said...

Old England Murder Mysteries? Sign me up! I'll have to keep an eye out for those!