I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
September 28, 2018
I’m excited to share this particular list with you, because I’ve read some really great books lately!
Where the Crawdads Sing is my favorite book OF THE YEAR so far — I really, really loved it and didn’t want it to end. So many tears cried over this one. I believe Reese Witherspoon just chose this book for her book club, so I’m glad to know I’m not alone in my adoration.
The rest is a combination of new/hot and old/ obscure. I like both kinds of books a lot and I like sharing the older ones with you in particular because you may not see them reviewed anywhere else.
Check out my latest reads below and let me now what you’ve read and loved lately in the comments! And if you want to keep up with what I’m reading in real time, follow me on Goodreads.
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens (5/5 stars)
I had heard this novel was good, so I requested and received an ARC from NetGalley. I was not expecting it to be one of the best books I’ve read in a long time! I can’t recommend this one enough.
Where the Crawdads Sing is a romance. A murder mystery. A coming-of-age tale. A paean to the low country marshes of North Carolina. It drew me in from the very first page, captured my senses with its lyrical, spot-on descriptions of the boggy swamp and marshland (I swear, I could even smell the salt in the air as I read), created a deep connection with the book’s main character, a girl abandoned in the swamps by her family, by those she loved, and by her town, and held my rapt attention until the book’s end, which left me in tears — always the sign of a great book. I would compare Delia Owens to Pat Conroy; if you liked his books, you will definitely love Where the Crawdads Sing. It’s a perfect beach read.
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng (5/5 stars)
Ng’s Everything I Never Told You was a big favorite of mine a few years ago and her latest is definitely going to be one of my top books of 2018.
Artist Mia Warren and her teenage daughter Pearl rent a home from the Richardsons, a well-to-do family in the Cleveland suburbs, and they proceed to turn Elena Richardson and her four children’s lives upside down. We know this from the beginning, as the Richardson’s house burns to the ground. We spend the rest of the novel finding out exactly what happened, and why.
Little Fires Everywhere is filled with unexpected twists and turns, but what really makes it special is Ng’s beautiful writing about topics to which many of us can relate, like motherhood, family, friendship, passion, and the deadening quality of the ‘safe’ suburban life. I loved it. I think you’ll like it, too.
Bird Box, Josh Malerman (4/5 stars)
Something is out there, and if you look at it, you die in spectacularly gory fashion. That’s the premise of Bird Box and it’s a decent one, delivering an early Walking Dead appeal in book form.
Malorie and her two young children are the only ones left alive in their neighborhood, and they can’t stay in their house any longer — This becomes immediately apparent at the book’s open and we spend the rest of the novel learning how they got to that point. While Bird Boxwas mostly fast-paced and filled with tension, I didn’t find the story to be as riveting as it could have been. It was a ‘light horror’ read for me and enough questions were left unanswered at the end of the book that it wasn’t altogether satisfying.
Recommended for horror fans, but don’t expect perfection.
The Last Time I Lied, Riley Sager (3.5/5 stars)
This campy camp thriller was over the top, filled with twists, and a very fun summer read. I read it while on vacation at a cabin in the woods, which made it all the more enjoyable.
Emma Davis returns to summer sleepaway camp 15 years after her cabin mates went missing — Their disappearance has haunted her ever since and she’s hoping her return, this time as an instructor, will bring closure, as well as some answers. She soon learns that there was far more to her friends’ mysterious vanishing than she ever realized. *cue ominous music*
What I liked most about this book was that it played out like a guilty pleasure, made-for-tv teen suspense movie, with melodrama and unexpected developments at every turn. I read that it has been optioned as an Amazon series and that seems entirely appropriate — It definitely has that Lifetime drama quality about it.
On the downside, if you like your thrillers to be somewhat plausible, this is probably not the book for you. The plotline veered very far into the realm of impossible, particularly toward the end, and since that’s a minor pet peeve of mine, I’m giving this book 3.5 stars instead of four.
Read this book if you’re looking for a light, fast-paced thriller and you’re a sucker for a summer camp setting.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley.
Tom’s Midnight Garden, Philippa Pierce (5/5 stars)
While this book got off to a slow start for me, I’m so glad I soldiered on; it had a slow, thoughtful build and an ending that left me in tears.
Young Tom is forced to spend part of his summer with a childless aunt and uncle after his brother comes down with the measles. The aunt and uncle live in an old house that’s been converted into flats. It contains a mysterious grandfather clock in the foyer that’s original to the house and strikes a thirteenth hour each night, much to the annoyance of the house’s residents.
Tom soon discovers that during that 13th hour, he’s able to open the back door and travel backward 100 years to a time when a little girl named Hatty lived in the house. The two becomes friends and many adventures ensue.
What makes this book stand out to me is the thought Philippa Pearce put into the mechanics of time travel. While a more pedestrian children’s book wouldn’t focus on how and why Tom could travel back in time, you can tell Pearce really spent a long time thinking about it and making the logistics plausible. This made it a far more compelling read for me as an adult.
Pearce also has created a layered story containing deeper themes of growing up and of friendship that withstands the test of time. I became so invested in the characters of Tom and Hatty that by the time the book came to a close, I didn’t want it to end.
Tom’s Midnight Garden is the kind of book that would make an amazing animated short or Studio Ghibli film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that ends up happening one day. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it in particular to fans of Frances Hodgson Burnett and E. Nesbit.
The Chilbury Ladies Choir, Jennifer Ryan (5/5 stars)
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! When World War II comes to the small village of Chilbury and the vicar decides to shut down the choir while the men are at war, the women of Chilbury decide they don’t need men to keep the music going. The choir ends up being the catalyst that brings women from all walks of life together, convincing them that they can do more than they ever thought possible and support one another in the process.
We follow the war’s progression and its impact on the village of Chilsbury through letters and diaries written by several of the Chilbury women. Although the plot is a bit frothy, Jennifer Ryan has a real gift for description and dialect and I could clearly hear and see each woman in my mind as I read her words. Reading the book was a lot like watching a very satisfying BBC miniseries on Masterpiece Theatre — If you’ve loved Call the Midwife and The Durrells in Corfu on PBS, I can promise you that you will also love this book! I’m hoping a movie or series based on the book is next.
Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, Cornelia Otis Skinner & Emily Kimbrough (4/5 stars)
This was a fun, light read about two young women touring Europe in the 1920s. These kinds of old, often hard-to-find memoirs are my favorite way to learn about history — and this was a two-for-one delight. I enjoyed reading about what life was like for two well-to-do girls traveling alone in the ‘Roaring 20s,’ and I also got a feel for the 1940s, when the book was written and became a great success. Knowing the authors are looking back on a golden time that soon would be followed by the Depression and World War II makes it all the more poignant and fascinating.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid (4/5 stars)
This book has been recommended to me several times as a fantastic beach read, and I wholeheartedly agree. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is sexy, fast-paced, and engaging, and it contains a couple of plot twists I definitely didn’t see coming. Evelyn Hugo is an reclusive aging screen star who’s finally ready to tell her life story, and she’s telling it to obscure journalist Monique Grant. Why? You’ll find out when you read the book!
You will especially enjoy Evelyn Hugo if you like reading about the lives of screen stars from the 1950s and 60s. This was my first Taylor Jenkins Reid novel, but it definitely won’t be my last.
Anne of the Island, L.M. Montgomery (4/5 stars)
It’s always a pleasure reading an Anne book, but Anne of the Island was my least favorite of the three I’ve read. The reason is that Montgomery chose to cover Anne’s entire college experience in one book, so we got a few vignettes from each school year rather than getting an in-depth immersion in Anne’s world. As a result, I felt a little like I was reading a highlights reel of Anne’s college years.
That said, I enjoyed it! The vast majority of modern-day books I read now are so heavy that I NEED the Anne and Little House series-es (seri?) to remind me that sometimes, happy endings are indeed possible!
Troublemaker, Leah Remini (3/5 stars)
I didn’t know much about Scientology before I listened to this audiobook, so from that perspective at least, Troublemaker was not a waste of time. I feel like I have a better understanding now of Scientology and why some people are attracted to the religion. But while this aspect of the book — as well as the lurid insider’s glimpse into Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s wedding– was definitely interesting, Leah Remini herself came off as annoying and self-absorbed. She tended to portray herself as the victim when things went wrong in her life and career, and she threw quite a few of her enemies under the bus in the telling of her story, including people who are not public figures and probably don’t deserve to have their names dragged through the mud just because they chose their religion over Remini. Her bad-mouthing ultimately made her look worse than the people who crossed her. Troublemaker also gets bogged down at times by the many technical explanations of the rules of Scientology, which has got to be the most mind-numbingly boring cult in existence — No alcohol? No orgies? No sister wives? Where’s the fun here?
While it won’t win any awards, Troublemaker is a decent audiobook if you’re interested in learning more about those oh-so-secretive Scientologists — or if you want some dirt on Tom ‘Crazy’ Cruise.
The Egg and I, Betty MacDonald (4/5 stars)
I loved Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series when I was a kid and learned only recently that she was equally famous for her memoirs, most notably The Egg and I. Written about her years as a young bride living on a Washington state chicken farm that had neither electricity nor running water, the book definitely takes you back to a time and place that no longer exists in America, and I found it fascinating.
Although the book was a huge hit when it came out in the late 1940s, it was later criticized for its anti-Native American sentiment, and it’s true MacDonald pulled no punches when it came to her negative feelings about the Native American population living around her. However, I believe it’s important that books like this one remain in print because it really showcases how different things were at the time she published the book — The fact that millions of readers wholly embraced this book shows me how far we’ve come as a culture, just in the time span of a few generations. Since I read these kinds of memoirs specifically for their very personal takes on history, I find value in learning about the negative aspects of the times as well as the positive ones.
Read this book if you’re a fan of American history via personal memoir, particularly from a woman’s perspective. It’s very entertaining, although the amount of labor she had to endure every single day made me tired each time I read the book!
The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder (4/5 stars)
Once again, I am astounded that the Ingalls family survived their time on the prairie. The Long Winter details the months they spent enduring one of the worst winters on record, when a dizzying number of blizzards shut down the trains for the winter and much of spring and essentially cut their small town of 75 people off from the rest of the world for a months-long span. It truly is a miracle that no one died before the blizzards ran their course.