Happy Friday book lovers!
Who’s ready for the weekend? As a stay at home mom, now that my 3 sons are out of school, every day feels like the weekend. They are simply adorable and I love spending time with them. But it’s been a challenge to keep them entertained and productively busy, already we are losing track of what day it is.
With more hours spent at the pool during the day and the kids wearing me out so I am literally showered and in pajamas by dinnertime, I’m hoping the summer allows me more reading time. My friend Sue hosts the Big Book Summer Reading Challenge and she got me hooked on reading big, chunky books in the summer so I can take the season to get lost in an epic story.
June Travel the World in Books: Read Big Books
So for our June Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge, I thought it would be fun to join forces with Sue again this year and read big books that help us explore other countries, cultures and histories throughout the world.
Basically, the challenge is this:
- Pick a book that is 400+ pages long and takes place in a country other than where you live
- Read it
- Repeat if you can
- Talk about it if you like (reply to this email, leave me a blog comment or chat in our Goodreads group)
Pretty simple, right?
Now what to read?
My goals are pretty simple: read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and finish Outlander, that I started during last year’s challenge but never finished….gasp! I know!
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Big Book Recommendations
We all love book lists, so I thought I’d share some of my recommendations on big books worth reading to travel the world in books. Grab one and let’s go!
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – France
Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.
As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.
Why It’s Worth Reading:
This is the book I’m starting off reading this month. Kristin Hannah is one of those authors whose stories you get so wrapped up in, it encompasses your heart and mind while your read. The stories are captivating and the characters real and conflicted. What usually evolves is a book you can’t put down and an experience you won’t soon forget.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – Afghanistan, France & Greece
In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.
Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.
Why It’s Worth Reading:
And the Mountains Echoed* is a moving story about an Afghan family and the trials and tribulations they endure to survive. Hosseini’s writing is like beautiful poetry, I found myself hanging on each word and the images he etched into my mind. Of course, I love that this story takes us from the stark landscape of Afghanistan to the charm of Paris and the breathtaking beauty of Greece as the story progresses.
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton – Australia and England
A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book; a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, “Nell” sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. A spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery, The Forgotten Garden will take hold of your imagination and never let go.
Why It’s Worth Reading:
We read The Forgotten Garden* for a Travel the World in Books Readalong two years ago and it is STILL one of my favorite books of all time. Yes, Morton’s writing is gorgeous and lyrical but I love the way she wove fairy tales and mystery into this story. It was the fastest I’ve ever read a 500 page book and I remember being torn at the end because I wanted to know so badly what happened but I really did not want it to end. As a result, Kate Morton is a must read author for me and I’ve bought The Lake House, The Secret Keeper, The Distant Hours and A House at Riverton since then. That’s how incredible I thought The Forgotten Garden was.
You can grab some discussion questions I created here and here during the readalong and see what others thought of the book too when you’re done reading those parts (warning: might contain spoilers). You can get The Forgotten Garden for FREE with an Audible Trial* now.
Check out Kate Morton’s other books*, most of her books, including her newest The Lake House, are all 400+ pages and take place typically in England so any of them would be great for our challenge.
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – Spain
Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.
Why It’s Worth Reading:
The Shadow of the Wind* is my favorite book of all-time, in fact I’ve read it twice (and I don’t re-read books) AND I bought it in Spanish when we went to Spain (it might be the motivation I need to FINALLY learn Spanish). I was hooked from the start when Daniel’s father, a bookstore owner, takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and chooses a book he’s sworn to protect. This book is dark, mysterious, romantic and magical. Who doesn’t love a story about murder, madness and doomed love? The English translation of The Shadow of the Wind is so beautiful, I can only imagine how I’ll love the original Spanish version, if only I would learn Spanish! Daniel swore to protect The Shadow of the Wind and now here I am too.
You can grab some discussion questions I created for The Shadow of the Wind here and see what we talked about during our challenge readalong of this book (warning: might contain spoilers).
Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Goertner – France
Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.
Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.
Why It’s Worth Reading:
At 402 pages, I am sooo glad that Mademoiselle Chanel eeked it’s way into the big books category. Mademoiselle Chanel* is one of my favorite historical fiction novels. I loved Coco Chanel’s fiery and rebellious nature. The way her attitude propelled her to break glass ceilings and become the fashion legend we know today. Goertner weaved together fact and fiction so seamlessly that I wanted to learn more about Coco and what was fact and what gaps he fictionalized. You can read my full review of Mademoiselle Chanel here.
You can get Mademoiselle Chanel for FREE with an Audible Trial* now too.
Honorable Mentions and Big Books on my TBR
Here are a few more books you can check out that qualify for our Big Book Summer and Travel the World in Books Reading Challenges:
In The Woods by Tana French – Ireland
Outlander series* by Diana Gabaldon – Scotland
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson- Sweden
Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney – Australia
China Dolls* by Lisa See – China
Those are just a few of my personal big book recommendations. What do you recommend?
GIVEAWAY GOING ON NOW!
There’s a giveaway of Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank going on now. This novel follows two married couples and their 20+ year friendship through heartache and joys, tragedy and triumphs. Set on the beaches of South Carolina and Corfu, Greece, this book will have you wanting to head to the beach with your best friends! Read my review and enter the giveaway here and download the book club discussion questions from the Exclusive Subscriber library here.
More Bookish Goodies for Subscribers
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What are you reading this month? Will you join us for the Travel the World in Books reading challenge as we tackle big books? Comment below and let me know!
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