Back today with four mini book reviews. I’m catching up on my reading and then I will do extended reviews!
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
5⭐️ This novel has been on my TBR for years. A WWII family drama about two sisters with an emphasis on the women’s war? I knew I’d enjoy this novel, but I kept putting off picking it up.
It’s 1939 and in a quiet French village, Vianne waves farewell to her husband as he leaves for war. She and her daughter remain behind, and though she isn’t convinced the Nazis will come, come they do and one begins living in her home. Isabelle, Vianne’s eighteen-year-old sister, is a rambunctious woman whose spark refuses to extinguish in the face of war.
With one sister dealing with the impossible — living with the enemy and fighting to remain alive, and the other putting her family’s safety at risk by joining the resistance, the two women’s stories are at odds throughout the novel. However, their love for one another and the need to protect each other permeates the novel.
I know I’m late to the game, but if you, like me, have put off picking it up, move it up on the TBR because it’s worth the read! 💛
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
3⭐️ I read The Handmaid’s Tale in high school and really enjoyed it. I rarely read dystopian novels, but my AP English teacher suggested it. Once I started reading, I was horrified by the world of Gilead–a world that, in 2010, felt daunting and unknowable. When Hulu announced they were creating a series based on Atwood’s novel, I was excited. However, there is a disconnect between a series about women’s issues in 2018 and a novel about them published in 1985. For one thing, an exploration of reproductive rights in a totalitarian theocracy at this moment in time feels too … unsettling. Following the release of the show, the author of the novel decides to write the long-awaited sequel and answer the question of what happens after June steps into the light at the end of first novel. Did she die? Did she find safety?
The first thing to note about the follow up novel is that it is just that: a follow up. To call it a sequel does a disservice to the story contained in its pages. The events in this story take place 15 years after the close of the first novel. The story follows three characters: (1) Aunt Lydia, the formidable aunt who rules the handmaids of Gilead with a tenderness and harshness that often leaves women reeling (2) Agnes, a young woman in Gilead and (3) Daisy, a young woman in Canada. The story that unravels feels more like a sequel to the tv show than the first novel. This novel lacked the intricate world-drawing, and it felt as if readers were presumed to know and visualize the world drawn in the show. Baby Nichole is mentioned in early chapters, which threw me. I understand wanting to pay homage to the show, but it took away from the validity of this being a true follow up to the first book. Still, I love Atwood’s writing and I enjoyed this installment in the Handmaid’s universe as just that – an installment, a furtherance of a world. An aspect I found compelling was how hypocritical the Gilead leaders were (something that struck me while reading the first novel) and that even the “ideal/cleansed” society crumbles from within.
Beach Read by Emily Henry (out 5/19 – but get it now through @bookfothemonth) —— 5⭐️
You know that feeling when you read the first five pages of a book and you’re already so invested in the story that it’s basically impossible to put down? Well, I had that feeling with Beach Read. I loved everything about this story. The pacing, the characters, the balance of depth and lightheartedness … ugh, it was just so perfect.
Before I continue gushing, here are some words about the plot: January Andrews is a romance writer who, after her father dies and her ‘perfect’ boyfriend dumps her, is feeling anything but romantic and struggling to finish her fifth book. In an effort to finish it, she moves to the small beach town where her father grew up and moves into the beach house that he left her. January soon discovers that her next-door neighbor is Augustus ‘Gus’ Everett, her college rival and the critically acclaimed author of literary fiction. January’s never forgiven Gus for saying she always gives everyone a happy ending, which she took as an insult indicating she was incapable of penning the Great American Novel. As both writers struggle with writer’s block, they agree to switch roles: Gus will write a romance, and January will write something dark. —
This story is layered and, through conversations about writing, reveals the perspectives people bring to life and how two people can look at a given situation and see it completely differently – positively or negatively, hopeful or an utter disaster. It drops some powerful insight about fear driving out love, feeling unlovable and becoming closed off, and whether we can accept someone we love once we know their darkest faults. I loved the moments where mutual exclusivity of feelings was discussed – can you like someone and still hate their actions? Can you miss someone and be mad at them? Can you acknowledge a positive about someone while cautioning against their faults? —
If you want a romance that is feel good but also has complexity and perspective, I highly recommend this one. A lot of people on Instagram kept saying “it’s exactly what I needed right now!” I agree! 💛💛
The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey
3.75 ⭐️ A ten-year-old girl, Alice, is staying with her cold grandparents while her parents travel. Her mother, Selina, is aware her child misses her, so she begins a scavenger hunt to explain how Alice came to be. Alternating between 1926 and 1936, secrets unfold.
The sixth and final book of my #Q1stack. I am conflicted about the rating of this book. The reason for a lower rating is simply that it took me a long time to get through this, and my ratings often rely on how invested I am. Some books, I’m learning, are about the ending, which reveals the nuance of the journey to get there. This book is interesting because it was a very slow build, which made it difficult for me to focus. Then the end came and I was so mind blown that I appreciated it anew.
This story is beautifully written. I loved the descriptions of family, loss, love, and 1920s/1930s England. I appreciated the exploration of the effects WWI had on the men who returned—and those who didn’t—from a war that ravaged countries and transformed how wars are fought. I loved the glitter and glam of Selina’s portions of the book. The twist was one I did not see coming and I loved (read: cried through) the ending. Selina’s sexual awakening is steamy and I enjoyed the romantic aspects of the books. Superficially, the cover is stunning.
That being said, I felt the pacing was off at times, which was disappointing because I wanted to love this book. The story is meant to unfold slowly and while I appreciated the structure, I struggled to get into it. I was more interested in Selina’s storyline in 1926. Still, I put this down and thought about it over the weekend and the bottom line is that I enjoyed the story and I’m glad I read it.
Something I found surprising was how emotional the end was even though I didn’t feel completely invested. This book’s ending did a number on me, which speaks to how much it sneaks up on you.💛
Have you read any of these titles?