Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads – March 2024

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“Wait, WHO is this? And they have magic to do WHAT now? And how is that other person dead? What on Earth did I miss??”

I had more than a few of these moments of utter confusion this past month while trying to get through some audiobooks that seemed like they would be right up my alley, but ended up not being a fit.

Unfortunately, it took me longer to realize I was doing this than I would have liked. When I go into a book certain I’m going to love it, my optimism continues for far too long and I get stuck, even when all signs point to failure.

All this to say, I had a much slower reading month than usual and only made it through a few books. I still count it as a win, though, because Kristin Hannah’s new book has been a highlight of the year so far. I have a number of good books about the Vietnam War to share, if you also loved it, so there’s more to come on that soon.

For now, here are the books I read this past month:

Print and E-Books

The Women by Kristin Hannah

The Women

Author: Kristin Hannah
Source: Book of the Month Club
Publish Date: 2024
Genres: Historical Fiction

After years of hearing about the heroic men in her family who served their country, Frankie McGrath decides to take the same step: she joins the Army Nurse Corps to serve in Vietnam. With almost no nursing experience, she is thrown into the fire and learns on the job, facing the worst traumas imaginable. Through two tours, she gives everything she has trying to save the soldiers and the Vietnamese she treats–only to be roundly rejected when she returns to the U.S. Even after the war is over, Frankie’s personal war has just begun.

Hannah has topped her previous winners with this novel: it’s sure to be on my best of the year list. The Vietnam War has long been one of my favorite historical fiction topics and I was thrilled when this book was announced. The stories of the soldiers, medical staff, and Vietnamese deserve to be told. This one happens to tell the stories of the women who served, who were invisible to many of the people there (I chatted with a veteran neighbor about this book and he confirmed that he never saw a Western woman in Vietnam–which meant he was lucky, because he wasn’t injured). Highly recommended.

The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer

The Collected Regrets of Clover

Author: Mikki Brammer
Publish Date: August 8, 2023
Source: St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Clover is a death doula who spends more time with the dying than the living. After her beloved grandfather died alone, she finds purpose in ensuring that people have someone by their side when they pass. She keeps notes on the regrets, advice, and confessions they share–recognizing they are valuable insights, but rarely making changes in her own lonely life. When a client shares a story about a long-lost love, Clover sets off on a journey to see if the two can be reunited–a journey that could finally be the catalyst for change in her own life, if she lets it.

This was a charming read that had a lot to say about living without regret, and about how easy it can be to become isolated when you’re struggling with something. I wasn’t a fan of the relationship with her client’s son, but otherwise I liked Clover and the various friendships that helped to draw her out. A good choice for anyone who likes feel-good reads about unlikely friendships.

Audiobooks

This American Ex-Wife by Lyz Lenz

This American Ex-Wife

Author: Lyz Lenz
Publish Date: February 20, 2024
Source: Library
Genres: Nonfiction

In this memoir, Lyz Lenz proudly claims her status as an ex-wife. She starts with the tipping point, when she finally realized her marriage was over. On the surface, it seemed like a normal mess at home, an annoyance and an inconvenience. But it was emblematic of the thousands of small tasks and messes that fell to her, and of the way she was taken for granted and lost her identity within the marriage and family.

But this is less about the end of her marriage than about the start of her life as a single woman. Lenz describes the freedom she feels in her home, as a parent, and as a woman. Between her personal reflections, she examines marriage as an institution, as well as divorce. While not encouraging divorce for women in healthy marriages, she instead reframes it as a viable and positive step for the women who need it to feel ownership over their own lives. Not for everyone, but well worth the read for many women.

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What have you been reading lately? How do you convince yourself to move on from books that aren’t working for you (especially ones you really wanted to love)?


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Books to Read: March '24 Reviews

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