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.
- 15 Books I Recently Read and Loved (February 2020)
- 12 Books I Recently Read and Loved (September 2020)
- 10 Books I Recently Read and Loved (February 2019)
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. I 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!
Also, just a friendly reminder that I try to keep my Peanut Butter Fingers Amazon Store constantly updated with my favorite finds and you may find all of these books and my past favorites in the Books section!
Books I’ve Recently Read and Loved
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
The Girl with the Louding Voice is, without a doubt, one of the best novels I’ve read this year if not the very best. The story is heartbreaking and captivating and I know it’s a novel I’ll think about in the weeks, months and years to come. The book is told from the perspective of Adunni, a brave and resilient 14-year-old Nigerian girl who has lost her mother and, going against the promise he made to his wife, is sold by her father to a local man in the village to become the third wife in his household. Before she passed, Adunni’s mother encouraged her sharp mind and told her the key to having control over her future and making a difference in the world is education which would give her a “louding voice.”
Adunni knows the path her life is currently on will make getting an education impossible and despite the strong desire she has within her heart to learn and become a teacher, she isn’t sure how to make this happen. As the story unfolds and Adunni suddenly finds herself fleeing her marriage and everything she’s ever known, she ends up in Lagos, the most populous city in Nigeria, where she works as a slave to a wealthy family. Though still desperate for an education, Adunni once again finds herself under the control of powerful people who insist that she is and always will be nothing. Her strong resolve refuses to accept this and, thanks to the kindness of a woman who sees her and believes in her, chases after her dreams and the “louding voice” that has always existed within her heart.
THE GOWN: A NOVEL OF THE ROYAL WEDDING BY JENNIFER ROBSON
The Gown was such an interesting read. I looked forward to curling up in bed with this novel every night and was honestly bummed when I was done reading it. For my fellow historical fiction lovers out there, please immediately add this one to your must-read list! A brief synopsis: The Gown follows the lives of three different women who are all connected by the wedding gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding nearly 70 years ago. Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin are embroiders at the fashion house of Norman Hartnell, the designer chosen to create the then-princesses’ wedding gown. As the women work together, they become close and learn about each other and face struggles from their past and present. Nearly 70 years later, Heather Mackenzie discovers the stunning embroidered flowers left to her following the death of her grandmother and realizes they’re nearly identical to the embroidery on Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding down. Her Nan never spoke of any involvement in the royal wedding and Heather quickly becomes determined to uncover her grandmother’s secrets as she sets off to London for answers.
THE ANTIDOTE FOR EVERYTHING BY KIMMERY MARTIN
Last year I read Kimmery Martin’s debut novel, The Queen of Hearts and it quickly became one of my favorite reads of 2019. I was incredibly excited to dive into her latest novel, The Antidote for Everything, and it proved to be another winner. (I would still absolutely recommend The Queen of Hearts over it though, so if you’re going to read one, start with that novel!) The author is a former emergency room doctor and weaves her medical knowledge into her novels which I find fascinating. (Think Grey’s Anatomy-style drama but with more wit, intelligence and interesting twists.) The Antidote for Everything follows Georgia, a urologist who works at the same clinic as her best friend, Jonah, a fellow doctor recently fired for treating transgender patients. As Jonah and Georgia come together to try to make the situation right and salvage Jonah’s job, secrets are revealed, terrible decisions are made and lives are changed forever.
THE OVERDUE LIFE OF AMY BYLER BY KELLY HARMS
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is a funny, charming, creative and fun-to-read novel about an exhausted and overworked librarian whose husband returns after abandoning her and her two children for three years. When Amy sees John at a local convenience store, she doesn’t know what to think. When he tells her he wants to spend a week with the teenage children he’s abandoned while she can take a week “off” from work and motherhood, she’s even more confused… but very intrigued.
Amy soon finds herself saying goodbye to her children as she heads off to New York City for a librarian conference that morphs into a journey of self-discovery, adventure and, most surprising to Amy, love. One week away turns into a summer off and Amy begins to love the person she’s becoming and her new life. Amy soon find herself struggling with the idea of returning to a life where she was merely existing rather than thriving, though not returning is not an option for a mother who loves her kids so deeply.
OPEN BOOK BY JESSICA SIMPSON
I’ve been a Jessica Simpson fan for years and when I saw she was coming out with a memoir, I pre-ordered Open Book immediately and couldn’t wait to read it. Her memoir was an interesting read, especially for a fan familiar with the rollercoaster she’s been on in the public eye throughout the years. She shares deeply personal stories and gives insight into her past relationships, childhood and faith. It’s obvious she poured her heart into her memoir and the book gave me a glimpse into the real person behind all of the glitz and glamour.
BEACH READ BY EMILY HENRY
Beach Read came recommended to me by my friend Kaitlyn and I enjoyed it from the minute I began reading. It felt like a summery escape but with a little more depth… and a little steaminess. Haha! The book follows January Andrews, a women’s fiction author, as she struggles to deal with the heartbreak surrounding her father’s passing (complete with the revelation of his secret life she never knew about), recent breakup and the inheritance of a beach house he owned with his mistress. She’s broke and struggling with major writer’s block despite pressure from her publisher and ends up moving into her dad’s secret beach house, located next door to fellow writer and former college rival, Augustus “Gus” Everett. The two end up reconnecting and challenge each other to write a book in the other’s style — January must write the next “Great American Novel” and cynical Gus must write a rom-com with a happy ending he’s not sure he even believes is possible in real life. As they begin to write their novels and help each other with their research, the two become closer and more secrets are revealed about their pasts that may alter their futures.
THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS OF SHIPWRECK LANE BY KELLY HARMS
I greatly enjoyed The Overdue Life of Amy Byler written by Kelly Harms (see above!) so I had high hopes for The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane by the same author. This novel was really interesting to me for a myriad of reasons. At first, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t really into it. But this is the kind of book that gets better with each page. The quirky characters become more interesting as the story unfolds and the plot is unique.
The premise of the book centers around two women with the same name who both believe they won a dream house in Maine. Janine “Janey” Brown was entered into the competition by her spunky Aunt Midge with the plan to coerce her grief-stricken niece into a fresh start in a home with an unbelievable kitchen, a temptation she believes will be too good to resist for Janey whose passion for cooking is unparalleled. The “other” Janine Brown, “Nean” also believes she won the competition and high-tails it to Maine as the perfect escape from an abusive relationship and one bad job after the next. When Janey and Aunt Midge arrive to find Nean in “their” home, a witty and heartfelt story of love, loss and self-discovery unfolds.
This is a book recommendation that is going to come along with a slew of caveats. I typically gravitate toward fiction but really enjoy reading the occasional memoir or autobiography. (Some memoirs I’ve really enjoyed include Educated by Tara Westover and Open Book by Jessica Simpson and I loved Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open.) I cannot remember the last time I read a biography so when I talk about the biography I recently read about Kick Kennedy, some of my feelings may relate to how I might feel about biographies in general, but I just haven’t read enough to know for sure.
Kick: The True Story of JFK’s Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth popped up as a recommended read for me through Amazon and I was instantly intrigued because I had never heard of JFK’s younger sister and her life seemed very interesting. When I initially began reading the book, it feel so factual and straightforward and almost like the text you’d read in a school book. It took me a moment to adjust to the writing style in this biography but once I did, I was incredibly interested in Kick’s story and the Kennedy family. I admittedly don’t know a ton about the Kennedys beyond JFK as a former president and the fact that tragedy and scandal seemed to follow them around. As I read more about Kick, it was impossible not to like her and root for her and though her story ends tragically, I found her short life fascinating.
THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM BY MARIE BENEDICT
Thank you to blog reader Jennifer who informed me that there is, in fact, a name for the subset of historical fiction I found myself loving so much over the course of the past year. Apparently the genre I adore where an author provides a fictional account of a contemporary or historical person’s life is called biographical fiction and my latest book recommendation falls within this genre yet again.
Having read and loved Carnegie’s Maid by the same author, I had high hopes for The Only Woman in the Room. The book tells the story of Hedy Lamarr, a famous Austrian-born actress who made a name for herself in Hollywood after fleeing from her marriage to an Austrian arms dealer with ties to Hitler. Hedy is not just a gorgeous movie star. She’s immensely intelligent and used her time with her first husband to learn everything she could about the Third Reich’s plans and areas of weakness. Once she makes her plan for escape, the scientist living within her comes to life when she’s not filming movies. She pours her heart into an invention she believes could help the fight against Hitler but getting someone to listen to her and take her seriously may be her biggest challenge yet.
I admittedly knew very little about Hedy Lamarr going into this novel so everything I read about her life was eye-opening to me. I was impressed by her bravery and her mind and found her story compelling. My only complaint about this book is that I felt like it ended rather abruptly. I finished this novel with a bunch of questions and wish the author would’ve spent more time detailing the later years of Hedy’s life, as I was very curious to know how her life unfolded. While I liked this book enough to recommend it, I wanted more from it as I feel like there was likely a lot more to Hedy and her story that could’ve been included.
THE OTHER EINSTEIN BY MARIE BENEDICT
I thoroughly enjoyed Carnegie’s Maid and The Only Other Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict (see above!) so I had high hopes for The Other Einstein by the same author. I’m happy to report that it ended up being my favorite book by Marie Benedict yet! Marie Benedict does a wonderful job creating compelling fictional stories about the lives of real people with a lot of interesting historical information sprinkled in the mix. The Other Einstein focuses on the life of Mileva Maric, the brilliant physicist whose determination and intelligence helped her find her way out of Serbia and into all-male university classrooms in Switzerland. Though her presence at the university was met with skepticism and even disdain, she caught the eye of fellow student Albert Einstein and despite Mileva’s initial reluctance, a relationship formed based on a passion for knowledge, mathematics and physics and “bohemian” ways. Today there’s debate in the world of physics over Mileva’s contribution to her husband’s work, specifically the formation of the theory of special relativity, begging the question, was Mileva more than a sounding board for her husband?
Question of the Day
- What is the best book you recently read?
Viloshni Govender says
Hi Julie, hope you’re doing well! These are some of my absolute favourite posts of yours 🙂 Have added some of these books to my Kindle wish list 🙂
I just finished reading “My sister, the serial killer” by Oyinkan Brathwaite and I really enjoyed it. She is also a Nigerian author and the book is set in Nigeria.
Another book that I’ve been hearing loads of rave reviews about is ” I am not your baby mother” by Candice Brathwaite.
If you enjoyed Beach Read, you should check out Jasmine Guillory’s books- they are what I like to call my guilty pleasure reads. The wedding date is the first book in her series
Have a wonderful week!
thank you for the recommendations!! and yes, beach read was definitely a pleasure read. steamyyyy! haha!!
Julie if you liked Kick, you might also enjoy “Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter” by Kate Clifford Larson. Rosemary had some sort of mental disability but the family hid that as much as possible, despite their status. It was so interesting to hear about how the family dealt with someone with mental disabilities during a time where the understanding was lacking. Some parts are sad since now we know some of the treatments don’t work but it’s a great read!
I was surprised to learn a little bit more about Rosemary as I read Kick, though, much like you said in your comment, it seemed very private and hidden. Thank you for sharing this recommendation.
Jennifer Maynard says
Another good biographical fiction that I read lately is The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Woods. I knew nothing about these sweet babies until I read it 🙂
And if you haven’t read The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes yet, it is a must read. It is not anything like her other books and is about the traveling library in Kentucky back in the early 1900’s. Again, knew nothing about this part of American history.
Sarah Fickes says
I agree- I just read The Quintland Sisters and it was so interesting and eye opening! I had never heard of them before!
I found out about The Antidote to Everything through your blog and agree that it’s not as good as the Queen of Hearts (still haven’t finished it and I read through the Queen of Hearts quickly).
My favorite fun, you want to finish it in one sitting author is Emily Giffin. Her newest book is disappointing, but all of her others: Something Borrowed, the Heart of the matter
Also I rarely comment, but I’ve been reading your blog since I was in college (maybe 2010ish) and now I’m 30 and recently got married.
Agreed, love emily griffin!! her books are one of the rare pieces of chick lit that are actually well written! they aren’t cringey
Chelsea Brislin says
I LOVED the Great Alone by Hannah Kristin. It is probably my favorite book of 2020 so far! Circe (Madeline Miller), the Storied Life of AJ Fikry (Gabrielle Zevin), The Henna Artist (Alka Joshi), and the Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek (Kim Richardson) were other favorites! The last one is similar to Jojo Meyers book, but was written by a Kentucky author who researched for years and years before writing it–soo good!
Mollie K says
I second The Great Alone!! I was so emotionally invested and didn’t want it to end. Also, A Woman Is No Man by by Etaf Rum is FANTASTIC!! Highly, highly recommend both.
Bethany @ Accidental Intentions says
Oh my gosh!!!!!! I know Emily Henry!! I went to school with her! I must’ve totally missed her name when you posted about the book a few weeks ago. I saw it today and was like, “Maybe there are other Emily Henrys in this world…?” but I clicked through to Amazon and yep! That’s her! WOW! I had no idea she had published novels! I’ll have to check her books out. Crazy!
LOVE your book reviews!! Have you read “In Five Years”?! It wasn’t what I was expecting and would love to hear your thoughts… also currently reading “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” – it’s a great read so far and very eye-opening.
I definitely look forward to your book reviews and immediately add them all to my must-read list, if they aren’t already! Thanks for always sharing your finds! I just read “Where the Crawdads Sing,” and it was VERY good! 🙂
Cori R. says
Love that you share books on your blog! We have similar taste in books. Which one of Marie Benedict’s books would you recommend if I could only read 1?
I *just* finished The Other Einstein this morning! How funny that it popped up on your post the same day. ?
Hi Julie. I love that you share these book recommendations…we have the same taste in books. Quick question…you read so much, so often, do you read on a Kindle? If so, what version do you have? If not, what do you do with all the books when you’re done reading them?!? Ok, more like three questions ha!
Sara Reafsnyder says
Hi Julie, I love your book recommendations! I am reading a book right now I think you might enjoy called The Dressmakers Gift by Fiona Valpy. It most takes place in 1941-1942 when the Germans were invading Paris and how a few young dressmakers join the resistance against Germans. Thank you for the great recommendations!
Kelly R says
Awesome roundup of books!
Something i did notice (and I say this only because I’m noticing this a lot in my own choice of books and am trying to diversify my choices) is that 9/10 of the books are written by white women.
It seems like you like fiction as much as I do and Cupcakes and Cashmere provided a great roundup of 11 fiction books written by Black women here: https://cupcakesandcashmere.com/lifestyle/11-fiction-books-written-by-black-women-to-diversify-your-bookshelf
Goodreads has also had some great lists too!
Thank you for sharing Julie! I tend to like any book you recommend, and this came just in time to add some new titles to my summer reading list. I really enjoyed The Gown, and look forward to diving into the rest on your list!
I just finished Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore – it was very timely with current the social justice movement. I would also recommend Pretty Things by Janelle Brown – a suspense filled thoughtful fiction.
Thanks again for a great list!
I love all these recommendations and will be adding them to my list! Thank you for doing these posts. My favorites this year have been because of you! Daisy Jones and the Six, Where The Crawdads Sing. Just finished The Silent Patient and currently reading The Giver of Stars. Keep these posts coming!
Hi Julie – Like you, I enjoy historical fiction. I just finished reading The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester, and I really enjoyed it! I had read a few World War II based historical fiction books that give you a view of the war from Europe, but this one takes place in the U.S. It is about a woman who flees to the U.S. from Paris, discovers some mysteries about her family, tries to start her own clothing line, and falls in love. It flashes between the 1940s and present day, with a focus on her granddaughter. It was a great book and based on some of these other books you posted about that you’ve enjoyed, you might enjoy that one, too.
Thanks for the book post!! I just finished The Other Einstein per your recommendation!
I recently read a historical fiction book that I really enjoyed and thought you would like! It’s called The Indigo Girl about a young woman who runs her family’s plantation in South Carolina in the 1740s.
Jessie R says
I enjoyed Beach Read after reading a few more intense books :). You would like Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid a great read!
Julie, I love your book recommendation posts! Thank you for sharing!
I’ve loved getting into reading recently and love your recommendations and Reese’s book club.
My hubby wants to get into reading but doesn’t really know where to start. Any recommendations from Ryan or another blogger list??