What’s On Your Nightstand Series | Book Recommendations & More | Sarah

Poppin' Bubbles

Happy Friday! I hope you had a great week. I am excited about (hopefully) having a low key weekend after this being a fairly hectic work week due to the kids being on school vacation next week. We don’t have any big plans for vacation but we are hoping to get outside as much as possible and hopefully meet up with some friends for a couple of play dates. I am also hoping to catch up on some reading, blogging, and sharing as I have felt a little behind the last couple of weeks.

I am excited to introduce you to my friend Sarah today! Sarah and I met in an online pregnancy message board/group when I was pregnant with our second child and she was pregnant with her first. At the time she as living on the west coast but had been married in Vermont and was photographed by the same wedding photographer as we were (the same connection I have with my friend Kristy) which felt like such a fun coincidence.

We connected again when she moved to Vermont just a couple of years ago and now are friends in real life too. Sarah and her family are amazing skiers and she juggles a  challenging career while also doing so many amazing outside adventures which is so inspiring to me! At our last get together we drank coffee and walked around Target discussing books and podcasts, I mean how much better could it get?!

I hope you enjoy learning more about Sarah today. ❤


Introduction:

Hello! My name is Sarah. I live in northern Vermont with my husband, our two children (ages 6 and 4), and our two elderly labrador retrievers, Summit and Ellie. I am an emergency room physician, but in my off-time, I love to ski, hike, bike and, of course, read!

When I was growing up, I was always that kid with her nose in a book. And I was a true child of the 80s – my favorites were Sweet Valley Twins, The Babysitters Club, R.L Stine, and Christopher Pike. High school kept me pretty busy, and I found myself reading less, and even less so when I went off to college, medical school, and residency. When I finally finished my training and felt like I could join the land of the living, my husband and I started a family. So here I find myself staring down the barrel of middle age and finally catching up on lost time! My nightstand might reflect this ambition — haha!

What is on your nightstand for books?

SO MANY BOOKS. Usually, I don’t have this many books all stacked up, but we are preparing to go away for winter break, so I have a few extra set out that I may pack for our trip. I’m currently trying to make up my mind between The Wife Between Us, The Woman in Cabin 10, Sometimes I Lie, and This Is How It Always Is. I love fast, suspenseful reads that I can’t put down, especially on vacation.

The main book I am currently reading is The Devil in the White City (I told you I was catching up on lost time!). I am enjoying the parallel storylines, though admittedly some parts of this book have been so disturbing, I have been tempted to just put it away for good! So many friends have recommended it, so I’m keeping it for now. I am also slowly making my through Duct Tape Parenting, which was recommended to me by my hairstylist (who also, I like to joke, serves as my life coach). It really helps remind me to stop meddling and let my kids be independent and start taking responsibility in the home.

Other books that have found their way to my nightstand include The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors!), Weekend in Paris (looks like a fun, quick read), The Emperor of All Maladies (the size of this one intimidates me, but I do enjoy medical non-fiction). I also have Mom’s Five-Second Memory Journal (this is also a favorite of mine to include in baby shower gifts), How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (recommended to me by my son’s preschool teacher), and Fodor’s New England (we recently moved back to Vermont from the west coast, so I’m always looking for inspiration for mini vacations and day trips!).

What is on your Kindle? 

I’m a bit of an old school reader on this one. My husband has a Kindle, but I’m still reading regular old books. This is partly because one of my favorite things to do is find and collect good books to read from consignment shops and used book stores. I have amassed quite a collection, and I don’t think I’ll ever run out!

What are you listening to? 

I love to listen to podcasts on my commute to work or when out for a run. I am not much of an audiobook reader, but my favorite podcasts are EM-RAP (Emergency Medicine Reviews and Perspectives – nerd alert, haha!), Unladylike, On Point, Forever 35, This American Life, and The Longest Shortest Time.

What else is on your nightstand?

My nightstand also holds a few extra sundry items. One is Palmer’s cocoa butter, which I use on my lips before bed. The texture is smooth like lip balm, and the smell is heavenly! I also love to use Badger Lavender & Bergamot Sleep Balm on my face and neck before bed. It smells wonderful. Additionally, I have a small lavender-scented candle from Pelindaba Lavender, based out in our former hometown of Seattle, which I like to burn sometimes before bed. And finally, I have a small hand-painted tile I bought on our honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, which I use as a coaster.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Gen!! xo


Thank you so much for sharing today, Sarah!

Juliet’s School of Possibilities | Laura Vanderkam | Penguin Group Portfolio| Book Review

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“A charming, life-changing fable that will help you rethink your whole approach to time, priorities, and possibilities.

Riley Jenkins is in trouble. An ambitious, hardworking consultant in her late twenties, she’s used to a lifetime of nearly perfect evaluations – until she gets a terrible performance review from her boss. How is that possible when Riley does everything her clients want – including answering emails 24/7 – faster than they expect it?

That’s precisely the problem: she’s spread too thin. Despite her insane hours and attention to detail, Riley can’t produce the thoughtful work her clients expect. Now she’s been given thirty days to close a major deal, or she’s out. Meanwhile, her personal life is also on the edge of disaster, with her boyfriend and close friends losing patience with her chronic unavailability.

The last thing Riley wants, at a stressful time like this, is to attend a women’s leadership retreat with some of her colleagues. But she can’t get out of her commitment: a weekend in New Jersey at some silly-sounding place called Juliet’s School of Possibilities.

Yet before long, Riley is surprised to find herself intrigued by Juliet, the lifestyle maven who hosts the conference. How does a single mother of two run a successful business while acting as if she has all the time in the world? The answer may lie in one of Juliet’s Zen-like comments: “Expectations are infinite. Time is finite. You are always choosing. Choose well.”

By the end of this story, you’ll join Riley in rethinking the balance between your present and your future, between the things you have to do and the things you want to do. Like Riley, you can free yourself from feeling overwhelmed and pursue your highest possibilities.”


I have been looking forward to Juliet’s School of Possibilities since I first heard Laura Vanderkam mention it on the Best of Both Worlds Podcast last year. I love Vanderkam’s books about time management and this is her first novella. She incorporates her knowledge and expertise into a short fable about a woman named Riley who is spread too thin. ⁣⁣⁣
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In a society where “busy” reigns supreme, Vanderkam’s books are a wonderful reminder about how we get to choose how we spend our time and energy and this book is such a fun spin-off. We meet Juliet who shares wisdom and helps Riley rethink this balance. “Expectations are infinite. Time is infinite. You are always choosing. Choose well.”

A big thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Portfolio for a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

2019 Beach Reads | Upcoming Book Releases

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Are there any authors that just scream summer to you? I always associate summer beginning with the release of Elin Hilderbrand’s books because they come out in mid-June. I know it feels far away but it will be here before we know it. I try not to wish away the seasons and we have plenty of winter weather left here in Vermont but I do get excited about all the summer book releases!

It is also currently the time of year where parents are figuring out their summer childcare plans and we are too. We do a mix of the summer swim team, a part-time babysitter and trading the kids on and off with each other so we can both get our work obligations completed. That means it is a bit of a whirlwind but it also means there is some time sitting by the pool with the kids. I love beach books for this because my attention to details can’t be that great since it is often very interrupted reading but they are still super engaging and enjoyable! Here is my list of summer books that I am looking forward to in 2019…

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

Releasing June 18th, 2019

“Four siblings experience the drama, intrigue, and upheaval of a summer when everything changed, in New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand’s first historical novel

Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century. It’s 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother’s historic home in downtown Nantucket. But like so much else in America, nothing is the same: Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests and determined to be independent, takes a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard. Only-son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother and her worried mother, each of them hiding a troubling secret. As the summer heats up, Ted Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, man flies to the moon, and Jessie and her family experience their own dramatic upheavals along with the rest of the country.

In her first historical novel, rich with the details of an era that shaped both a nation and an island thirty miles out to sea, Elin Hilderbrand once again earns her title as queen of the summer novel.”


The Friend We Keep by Jane Green

Releasing June 4th, 2019

“The Friends We Keep is the heartwarming and unforgettable new novel from Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author of The Sunshine Sisters and The Beach House.

Evvie, Maggie, and Topher have known one another since college. Their friendship was something they swore would last forever. Now years have passed, the friends have drifted apart, and they never found the lives they wanted—the lives they dreamed of when they were young and everything seemed possible.

Evvie starved herself to become a supermodel but derailed her career by sleeping with a married man.

Maggie married Ben, the boy she fell in love with in college, never imagining the heartbreak his drinking would cause.

Topher became a successful actor, but the shame of a childhood secret shut him off from real intimacy.

By their thirtieth reunion, these old friends have lost touch with one another and with the people they dreamed of becoming. Together again, they have a second chance at happiness . . . until a dark secret is revealed that changes everything.

The Friends We Keep is about how despite disappointments we’ve had or mistakes we’ve made, it’s never too late to find a place to call home.”


The Summer Guests by Mary Alice Monroe

Releasing June 11th, 2019

“From the New York Times bestselling author of the Beach House series comes a heartwarming and evocative novel about the bonds and new beginnings that are born from natural disasters and how, even during the worst of circumstances—or perhaps because of them—we discover what is most important in life. 

Late August is a beautiful time on the Southern coast—the peach trees are ripe, the ocean is warm, and the sweet tea is icy. A perfect time to enjoy the rocking chairs on the porch. But beneath the calm surface bubbles a threat: it’s also peak hurricane season.

When a hurricane threatens the coasts of Florida and South Carolina, an eclectic group of evacuees flees for the farm of their friends Grace and Charles Phillips in North Carolina: the Phillips’s daughter Moira and her rescue dogs, famed equestrian Javier Angel de la Cruz, makeup artist Hannah McLain, horse breeder Gerda Klug and her daughter Elise, and island resident Cara Rutledge. They bring with them only the few treasured possessions they can fit in their vehicles. Strangers to all but the Phillips, they must ride out the storm together.

During the course of one of the most challenging weeks of their lives, relationships are put to the test as the evacuees are forced to confront the unresolved issues they have with themselves and with each other. But as the storm passes, they realize that what really matters isn’t what they brought with them to the mountains. Rather, it’s what they’ll take with them once they leave.

With Mary Alice Monroe’s “usual resplendent storytelling” (Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author), The Summer Guests is a poignant and compelling story of self-discovery, love, and redemption.”


Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

Releasing August 6th, 2019

“From the New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck with That comes a new novel about a blue-blood grandmother and her black-sheep granddaughter who discover they are truly two sides of the same coin.

Emma London never thought she had anything in common with her grandmother Genevieve London. The regal old woman came from wealthy and bluest-blood New England stock, but that didn’t protect her from life’s cruelest blows: the disappearance of Genevieve’s young son, followed by the premature death of her husband. But Genevieve rose from those ashes of grief and built a fashion empire that was respected the world over, even when it meant neglecting her other son.

When Emma’s own mother died, her father abandoned her on his mother’s doorstep. Genevieve took Emma in and reluctantly raised her–until Emma got pregnant her senior year of high school. Genevieve kicked her out with nothing but the clothes on her back…but Emma took with her the most important London possession: the strength not just to survive but to thrive. And indeed, Emma has built a wonderful life for herself and her teenage daughter, Riley.

So what is Emma to do when Genevieve does the one thing Emma never expected of her and, after not speaking to her for nearly two decades, calls and asks for help?”


Mrs. Everything by Jane Green

Releasing June 11th, 2019

“From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world. Mrs. Everything is an ambitious, richly textured journey through history—and herstory—as these two sisters navigate a changing America over the course of their lives.”


What Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

Releasing October 8th, 2019

“Secret lives and new loves emerge in the bright Caribbean sunlight, in the follow-up to national bestseller Winter in Paradise
A year ago, Irene Steele had the shock of her life: her loving husband, father to their grown sons and successful businessman, was killed in a plane crash. But that wasn’t Irene’s only shattering news: he’d also been leading a double life on the island of St. John, where another woman loved him, too.

Now Irene and her sons are back on St. John, determined to learn the truth about the mysterious life -and death – of a man they thought they knew. Along the way, they’re about to learn some surprising truths about their own lives, and their futures.

Lush with the tropical details, romance, and drama that made Winter in Paradise a national bestseller, What Happens in Paradise is another immensely satisfying page-turner from one of American’s most beloved and engaging storytellers.”


 

 

A Stranger On The Beach | Michele Campbell | St. Martin’s Press | Book Review

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“From the bestselling author of It’s Always the Husband comes a novel about a love triangle that begins on a fateful night…

There is a stranger outside Caroline’s house.

Her spectacular new beach house, built for hosting expensive parties and vacationing with the family she thought she’d have. But her husband is lying to her and everything in her life is upside down, so when the stranger, Aidan, shows up as a bartender at the same party where Caroline and her husband have a very public fight, it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.

As her marriage collapses around her and the lavish lifestyle she’s built for herself starts to crumble, Caroline turns to Aidan for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aidan’s obsession with Caroline, her family, and her house grows more and more disturbing. And when Caroline’s husband goes missing, her life descends into a nightmare that leaves her accused of her own husband’s murder.

A Stranger on the Beach is Strangers on a Train meets Fatal Attraction in Michele Campbell’s edge-of your-seat story of passion and intrigue.”


A Stranger on the Beach is my second Michele Campbell book. If you are looking for a domestic/psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end, this is it! This novel is written from multiple points of views, each sharing their own narratives of what ‘happened’. Campbell is able to build suspense while the twists keep coming and I didn’t know who to trust as I progressed through the pages.

This was one of those books where I just needed to know what happened. This book is dark and manipulative and I didn’t care for any of the characters, which I think was Campbell’s intention. There are many issues that are covered, including marriage, infidelity, class, money, greed, fraud, betrayal and more. If you are looking for a dark mystery that will keep you on your toes, I think you will really enjoy this newest book by Michele Campbell. A big thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a copy of this e-book. All opinions are my own.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren | Gallery Books | Book Review

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“Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion . . . she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.

Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.

Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head for Maui. After all, ten days of bliss is worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is . . . Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.

With Christina Lauren’s “uniquely hilarious and touching voice” (Entertainment Weekly), The Unhoneymooners is a romance for anyone who has ever felt unlucky in love.”


I was so excited to start this newest book, The Unhoneymooners, by the talented duo Christina Lauren. I wouldn’t call myself a huge lover of the romance genre but their books are so much more than that. They have the Rom-Com feeling but they have imperfect characters and not everything always goes as planned which I think makes these books so much more powerful and enjoyable.

The Unhoneymooners was another wonderful addition to their growing collection. I enjoyed the laugh out loud wedding drama and the tumultuous rollercoaster rider of a relationship between Ethan and Olive. It has plenty of emotions and misunderstandings as well as some steamy moments which you can always count on with these authors.

I also loved learning more about Olive’s tight-knit Mexican family. You could see how her close relationship with her twin sister Ami, caused her to second guess herself and ultimately have to decide what was more important, keeping her happy or the truth.

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane | Scriber Books | Book Review

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“A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are two NYPD rookies assigned to the same Bronx precinct in 1973. They aren’t close friends on the job but end up living next door to each other outside the city. What goes on behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the stunning events to come.

Ask Again, Yes by award-winning author Mary Beth Keane, is a beautifully moving exploration of the friendship and love that blossoms between Francis’s youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter, who are born six months apart. In the spring of Kate and Peter’s eighth-grade year a violent event divides the neighbors, the Stanhopes are forced to move away, and the children are forbidden to have any further contact.

But Kate and Peter find a way back to each other, and their relationship is tested by the echoes from their past. Ask Again, Yes reveals how the events of childhood look different when reexamined from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.”


Ask Again, Yes was my first book by Mary Beth Keane. It was a wonderful introduction to her amazing writing and storytelling abilities. This book would best be described as a family sage and is told over multiple decades. Two families meet and their lives will never be the same. Many themes are introduced as Gleeson presents the lives of the Stanhope and Gleeson families and how they both intersect and collide over the years.

This was not an easy book to read and it may be triggering for some as there are many painful issues that are part of this powerful story. Friendship, loss, marriage, mental illness, alcoholism are all strong themes of this book and are exposed as the lives of these two families unfold. The past and how it affects how we move forward today, forgiveness and what makes a family were strong themes of this novel. The most powerful part of this book was the writing itself which was just amazingly done and very thought-provoking. Her character development was spot on and I felt immersed in the lives in these families while reading. I look forward to reading more of Keane’s work in the future.

A big thank you to NetGalley and Scribner Books for providing me with a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Vacation Reading | Book Recommendations

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Are you heading away to escape from the cold anytime soon? Or maybe you are like me and are just looking for something engaging to cozy up with on a February weekend afternoon…either way, you are in the right place.

One of the most frequent questions I get is “what should I bring to read on vacation?!” For me, reading on vacation should be enjoyable but there is a fine balance between an easy read and a cheesy one. I love “pleasure” reading but it needs to strike the right balance. All of these books were super engaging and easy to get lost in, but also made me think…


All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

This book was timely and I flew through it. I really enjoy that Giffin is starting to take on more “serious” topics in her writing while also still keeping them somewhat light-hearted and predictable.

“Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. 

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.”


Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win was one of my top books of 2018. It was the perfect balance of women’s issues, double standards for women in the workforce and political world, marriage, parenthood and more…all in a super engaging read that was hard to put down. The characters were imperfect which I think made this book even more relatable and powerful.  We are discussing this one soon in our book club and I can’t wait!

“From Jo Piazza, the bestselling author of The Knock Off, How to Be Married, and Fitness Junkie, comes an exciting, insightful novel about what happens when a woman wants it all—political power, a happy marriage, and happiness—but isn’t sure just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it.

Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.

Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.

A searing, suspenseful story of political ambition, marriage, class, sexual politics, and infidelity, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is an insightful portrait of what it takes for a woman to run for national office in America today. In a dramatic political moment like no other with more women running for office than ever before, Jo Piazza’s novel is timely, engrossing, and perfect for readers on both sides of the aisle.”


The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain can do no wrong in my mind but this is one of my very favorites of hers. She is able to engage her reader with all different kinds of topics and characters with such ease and I was drawn into this one so quickly.  I love to read Chamberlain’s books on vacation because they truly are the perfect balance of in-depth characters, real issues mixed with a little mystery and intrigue.

“It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes Hickory, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess knows she is needed and defies Henry’s wishes to begin working at there. Through this work, she begins to find purpose and meaning. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle the truth behind her husband’s mysterious behavior and find the love―and the life―she was meant to have?”


Winter In Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand 

Hilderbrand is what many would call “the perfect beach book author”. I have read so many of her books while on vacation and I would agree! Welcome to Paradise is the first book in her new Paradise trilogy and it takes place on St. John USVI. I loved meeting a new cast of characters and I am excited to see where she takes us with these books…which is also her first series based in a tropical location.

“Irene Steele shares her idyllic life in a beautiful Iowa City Victorian house with a husband who loves her to sky-writing, sentimental extremes. But as she rings in the new year one cold and snowy night, everything she thought she knew falls to pieces with a shocking phone call: her beloved husband, away on business, has been killed in a plane crash. Before Irene can even process the news, she must first confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death on the distant Caribbean island of St. John.

After Irene and her sons arrive at this faraway paradise, they make yet another shocking discovery: her husband had been living a secret life. As Irene untangles a web of intrigue and deceit, and as she and her sons find themselves drawn into the vibrant island culture, they have to face the truth about their family, and about their own futures. 

Rich with the lush beauty of the tropics and the drama, romance, and intrigue only Elin Hilderbrand can deliver, Winter in Paradise is a truly transporting novel, and the exciting start to a new series.”


Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain 

Necessary Lies is another favorite of mine by Chamberlain.

“Bestselling author Diane Chamberlain delivers a breakout book about a small southern town fifty years ago, and the darkest—and most hopeful—places in the human heart

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm. As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.
When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed. She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients’ lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband. But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed. Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong. 
Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy. Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?”


Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge 

Castle of Water is one of those underrated books that I am surprised more people aren’t talking about. Huckelbridge’s writing was extraordinarily beautiful and it is so much more than just a “castaway” story.

“Two very different people, one very small island.

For Sophie Ducel, her honeymoon in French Polynesia was intended as a celebration of life. The proud owner of a thriving Parisian architecture firm, co-founded with her brilliant new husband, Sophie had much to look forward to―including a visit to the island home of her favorite singer, Jacques Brel.

For Barry Bleecker, the same trip was meant to mark a new beginning. Turning away from his dreary existence in Manhattan finance, Barry had set his sights on fine art, seeking creative inspiration on the other side of the world―just like his idol, Paul Gauguin.

But when their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive. Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, on an island the size of a large city block, the two castaways must reconcile their differences and learn to draw on one another’s strengths if they are to have any hope of making it home.

Told in mesmerizing prose, with charm and rhythm entirely its own, Dane Huckelbridge’s Castle of Water is more than just a reimagining of the classic castaway story. It is a stirring reflection on love’s restorative potential, as well as a poignant reminder that home―be it a flat in Paris, a New York apartment, or a desolate atoll a world away―is where the heart is.”


The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

I read every book that Hilderbrand writes but wasn’t blown away by her releases from the last few years. The Perfect Couple changed this streak for me and I enjoy this one so much! It was the perfect mix of mystery/thriller/contemporary fiction and it kept me guessing until the very end.

“It’s Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer-the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom’s wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate.

But it’s going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom’s famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect. Featuring beloved characters from The Castaways, Beautiful Day, and A Summer Affair, The Perfect Couple proves once again that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer beach read.”


You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart

You Were Always Mine was my first Nicole Baart and it won’t be my last. I was hooked from the beginning and it was completely engrossing. I love that it focused on the issue of adoption but it was so much more than that. I loved the mystery about Jessica’s husband and it kept me guessing until the very end.

The characters were incredibly detailed and I felt like I could totally connect with what they were going through on this journey of what makes a family and who the people around you really are…

“Jessica Chamberlain, newly separated and living with her two sons in a small Iowa town, can’t believe that a tragedy in another state could have anything to do with her. But when her phone rings one quiet morning, her world is shattered. As she tries to pick up the pieces and make sense of what went wrong, Jess begins to realize that a tragic death is just the beginning. Soon she is caught in a web of lies and half-truths—and she’s horrified to learn that everything leads back to her seven-year-old adopted son, Gabriel.

Years ago, Gabe’s birth mother requested a closed adoption and Jessica was more than happy to comply. But when her house is broken into and she discovers a clue that suggests her estranged husband was in close contact with Gabe’s biological mother, she vows to uncover the truth at any cost. A harrowing story of tenacious love and heartbreaking betrayal, You Were Always Mine is about the wars we wage to keep the ones we love close, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult.”


The Lake House by Kate Morton

I adore Morton’s writing but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a lot of her books for vacation reading because the writing is so rich and detailed. The Lake House is a hefty one too but it was super captivating and I raced through this one. This was a complex mystery that left me hanging on her every word.

“Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories.

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. He is never found, and the family is torn apart, the house abandoned.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as a novelist. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old Edevane estate—now crumbling and covered with vines. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies from a masterful storyteller, The Lake House is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.”


 The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo 

I got lost in this book and connected so deeply with the characters. It was a surprise hit for me as I wouldn’t classify myself as a big fan of “romance” novels but this was so much more.

“Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story–their story–at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated–perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.”


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book took me by surprise with not only with its depth but also how much I was reeled into this story of perseverance and success, survival and love.

“In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.”


On The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

I read this book years ago but it still sticks with me now. Graves words flow so easily and I always feel so connected to her characters because of her amazing ability to draw you in from the first few pages of her books.

“Sixteen-year-old T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. With his cancer in remission, all he wants is to get back to his normal life. But his parents insist that he spend the summer catching up on the school he missed while he was sick.

Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher who has been worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that’s going nowhere. To break up the monotony of everyday life, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring T.J.

Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahans’ summer home, but as they fly over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens: their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover they’re stranded on an uninhabited island.

At first, their only thought is survival. But as the days turn to weeks, and then months, and as birthdays pass, the castaways must brave violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the worst threat of all—the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. With only each other for love and support, these two lost souls must come to terms with their situation and find companionship in one another in the moments they need it most.


Do you have any vacation reading recommendations? I would love to add them to my list! ❤