I read some really great books in the second quarter of 2023 and had a hard time narrowing down to my favorites listed below. Some of these books are stories that will stay with me a long time.
I’ve included one of my favorites from my Booking It Through History: First Ladies project where I’m reading at least two books (one nonfiction, one fiction) each month about a First Lady. It has been a really fun and educational project!
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Favorite Historical Fiction
After Anne: A Novel of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Life by Logan Steiner
L.M. Montgomery is one of my favorite writers of all time. I grew up devouring her books about Anne and love her whimsy and imagination. I eagerly read this wonderful novel about her life, which was sad and the opposite of the lightness of her own novels. It made me appreciate Montgomery’s work even more and is a must-read for any Montgomery fan. Review can be found here.
A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay
I was blown away by this Cold War spy story involving two women, Ingrid and Anya. The power of love throughout the generations is a thread through their stories, and I love how Reay brings Russia behind the Iron Curtain to life. Read my review on Austenprose here.
An American Beauty by Shana Abé
This book introduced me to someone I’d never heard of before, Arabella Huntingon, a self-made woman who became one of the richest people in the Gilded Age. With her story beginning here in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, I was especially drawn to this novel that tells her remarkable life story with detail and grace. Read my review on Austenprose here.
Crow Mary by Kathleen Grissom
Grissom is one of my favorite historical fiction writers for a reason. She always captures the heart of the characters in a way that leaves you amazed and hopeful. This story about a Native American young woman who personifies bravery in the face of horrific circumstances is one I’ll remember. Review can be found here.
The Sunset Crowd by Karin Tanabe
This sun-drenched book about the glitz and grit of 1970s Hollywood was my most anticipated book of the year, and it did not disappoint! I love Tanabe’s crisp, smart writing full of descriptions about life among the stars in such a hedonistic time. It’s the perfect summer read! Read my review here.
The Castle Keepers by Aimie K. Runyan, J’nell Ciesielski, and Rachel McMillan
I loved this book about three women linked to a crumbling English castle. It gave me Downton Abbey vibes through the generations and was a lovely read full of important historical details new to me. Read my review on Austenprose here.
Starring Adele Astaire by Eliza Knight
I love anything to do with dancing, so I knew this book about Fred Astaire’s sister/dancing partner would be perfect for me! This book takes you inside the world of sequins and stage, showing the underbelly of fame as the roaring 1920s gives way to the Great Depression and world war. I loved it! Read my review on Austenprose here.
The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone by Audrey Burges
While not technically historical fiction, this book has a 1940s storyline that serves as the basis for the rest of the plot. I love the touches of magical realism and felt the emotions of the characters as they try to piece together how a tiny mansion and a real home are linked. Read my review here.
Favorite History Nonfiction
If you grew up in the textile mill belt like I did, this is a must-read. It contains a wealth of information about the world in which my ancestors lived with long days spent in the noisy environs of a textile mill. This book provided me with great information for my current work-in-progress.
Favorite Book about the First Ladies
Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas
This book reads like a fiction book with all of the amazing things that happened to Louisa Catherine Adams, wife of our sixth president, John Quincy Adams. From her flight across Europe with her young son to the heartache she endured with each pregnancy, Louisa was a fierce and accomplished woman that we all should know more about! Read my review here.
Favorite Contemporary Fiction
A Shoe Story by Jane L. Rosen
I adored this novel about family and friendship amidst loss and grief. Set in New York City, the city itself is a character, and I love how Rosen weaves in the protagonist’s love of shoes to represent different parts of her life. Quirky and heartfelt, this book will make you smile!
The Society of Shame by Jane Roper
This on-the-nose book hit me at the right time of life. The protagonist is a forty-something mom who goes through many different public scandals and embarrassments all while dealing with the usual complexities of life. It was hilarious yet poignant, funny while also packing an emotional punch.
All in all, a great three months of reading! What was your favorite book read from April – June?