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!

  • I loved the Girl on The Train! Adding a few of these to my reading list.

  • Where’d You Go Bernadette is the Between the Lines book this month! Come link up with us on Tuesday, if you want to. I loved that book. I knew nothing about it going in, but it was really great. I also love Kristin Hannah and read almost everything from her, so it’s refreshing to hear that Nightingale is completely different for her. That is awesome. I almost bought that book at Target during my big haul, but I decided against it. I also loved The Girl On The Train. Not as intense as Gone Girl, but still pretty good.

    • I’ve read almost all of Kristin Hannah’s books too. This one was much more serious, historical fiction. Like she did a lot of research before writing it. It’s definitely my favorite book of hers (though I loved Firefly Lane).

  • Sweet! I really want to read The Girl on the Train. I’ve been looking for new books to read. I’m trying to get into Wild but it just isn’t happening. Thinking I should maybe watch the movie before proceeding? I’m more of a read-before-I-watch type of person, but I’m just waiting for it reel me in. I just finished ‘Not That Kind of Girl’ by Lena Dunham. I feel like you may have already read that one (avid reader of your blog!) but in case you haven’t, I read the entire thing in one sitting as well! XO

    • Sometimes I think that if you aren’t into a book, just put it down. I usually try to power through but what winds up happening is that I stop reading and then don’t pick up that book or any other book for months. Instead of getting in to a reading rut, I just move on. I read Not that Kind of Girl and absolutely loved it!

    • Kara

      I couldn’t finish Wild (the book) and just watched the movie this weekend; I hated it! It was way to artsy for my taste and didn’t tell the story in chronological order. If you didn’t like the book, skip it!

  • Tina

    I always love your book recommendations! A ton of the books on my library wish list are because of these posts, so these recommendations might have been from you in the first place 🙂 I’ve recently read and loved- The Rosie Project, In the Woods by Tana French, The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, & The Midnight Side by Natasha Mostery,

    • I’ve definitely talked about The Rosie Project (possibly my favorite book I read in 2014) and The Girl You Left Behind. I’ll have to take a look at those other two books you mentioned. Thanks!

  • I’ve been in a horrible book rut, so I’m happ you’ve posted some other options, since apparently I can’t seem to pick anything good for myself lately. I’m definitely going to add The Weight of Silence and What She Left Behind to my to-read lists!

    • The Weight of Silence is a great book to get you out of a reading rut because it’s like constant action and it hooks you early. I read it so quickly because I couldn’t put it down. I recommended it to my best friend and she read it and felt the same way.

  • Amy

    I really loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette & The Girl on The Train. I got so into The Girl on the Train that I read it in 2 days.

    • I read it really quickly as well. I was definitely hooked but I also struggled with some of Rachel’s decisions. It was hard to believe that anyone would be that obsessive.

  • after i read “what she left behind”, i read “the plum tree” by the same author and loved that one, as well.
    i just finished “our endless numbered days” and would read it again in a heartbeat! 🙂

    • I heard that The Plum Tree was good also so it’s definitely on my list! I’ll check out Our Endless Numbered Days also. Thanks so much for the suggestions.

  • i read girl on the train after hearing rave reviews and was not too impressed. i actually agree almost 100% with what you said about the book. after girl on the train, my kindle recommended a book called wreckage by emily bleeker. which i devoured! it’s the closest book i’ve found to the suspense and thrill of gone girl.

    • I was definitely hooked as I was reading Girl on the Train but I just found Rachel’s decisions so silly. I’m sure that some people make terrible decisions but I guess I couldn’t understand hers (at all). In some ways, it reminded me of Mary Higgins Clark books (which I loved when I was a teenager and read all of). I’ll definitely check out Wreckage. I feel like since I read Gone Girl I’m constantly looking for a thriller that is just as suspenseful.

  • thanks for the recommendations! i just added a bunch to my goodreads list. I didn’t LOVE girl on the train. I don’t know why it just struck me as too far fetched.

    • I agree that it was kind of far fetched. I was completely hooked and wanted to keep reading but as Rachel was doing completely idiotic stuff I was just like, no real person would do that. I didn’t understand her obsession but I kept reading because I really wanted to see how it ended. I didn’t see the ending coming at all.

  • Kara

    So excited to dig into these! I have read Where’d You Go, Bernadette (liked it) and Finding Alaska (LOVED it) but the others are new to me! I would love to find some good historical books, so I am looking forward to Orphan Train.

    A co-worked recommended “Before We Met” but Lucie Whitehouse as something similar to Gone Girl, and I just finished it. A slow start, but a surprising ending! Also, I love Liane Moriarty. Her “Husband’s Secret” was awesome and “Big Little Lies” was pretty good too!

  • Moe

    Perfect timing! I just finished Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan and I felt lost for a few days because I didn’t know which book to read next.

  • I love historical fiction too! I think I’d really like “The Nightingale.” I have “The Girl on the Train” in my “to-buy” queue and I can’t wait to start that one. And I, too, read “Orphan Train” in just one day! So good!

  • I read Orphan Train last month and really liked it. It’s def not a light read though

  • Wow! Your reviews actually made me want to read all of these books but “The Weoght of Silence” really caught my attention. Based off of some of your reccomendations I think you might like a book I read a few years ago called “The Patron Saint of Buttedflies” it’s about Children growing up in a cult…very interesting!

  • Oh what a lovely list! I am currently reading The Help, because I loved the movie so much that I just had to see how the book would be and so far its really not disappointing!


  • Kristin Peterson

    I love getting all the new recommendations! Some of my recent faves are The Lost Wife (Alyson Richman); I Am Pilgrim (Terry Hayes); Tell The Wolves I’m Home (Carol Rifka Brunt); After You’d Gone (Maggie O’Farrell); Golden Boy (Abigail Tarttelin); Two Sisters (Mary Hogan); Remember Me Like This (Bret Anthony Johnston); & Still Alice (Lisa Genova).

  • Cool at the moment I am reading Murdoch Mysteries and Inspector Bonaparte Mysteries

  • I had a coworker give me The Nightingale and I want to read it because I love any type of work (movie, book, documentary, etc) set in WWII. Unfortunately I think it’s too big to bring on vacation with me in a few weeks. I ended up getting Outlander on my iPad for like $1.99 and I still need to finish Wild.

  • Orphan train is on my list, I can not wait to get started!

  • I’ve read and enjoyed other Kristin Hannah books but didn’t know about this one! Hearing it be so highly reviewed and about a period of time I enjoy reading through I am exited to put it on my list at the library!

  • Heather H

    I really liked an Abundance of Katherines by John Green…you should make that one your next book by him 🙂 I am reading Rainbow Rowell’s books after reading your last post like this…Eleanor & Park was SO SO good and I couldn’t believe all the feelings I had while I was reading it. I loved Attachments too. I’m on Landline now and not as hooked as the other two, but I’m still liking it so far!

  • I’d been wanting to read Kristen Hannah’s new one – and now I’m convinced. It’s on my Amazon wish list 🙂

  • I’ve got Paper Towns downloaded. I need to remember to add Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I keep hearing great things about it. I’ve read and loved all of Gillian Flynn’s books. The Girl on the Train was good, but didn’t compare to Gone Girl. I wish they’d stop saying that about every new thriller. If you loved Gone Girl, you’ll love this. How about if you loved Gone Girl, this will be close, but not nearly as good. Ha!

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