Reading List

Do you have any book recommendations? If so, leave them below! 

1. Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

My sister recommended Chevy Stevens’ books after her fellow summer camp counsellors got her hooked. I started off with this particular novel. It’s a story about three sisters living with their abusive father on a ranch, who are forced to escape one night. Unfortunately their escape leads them to an even worse situation. Fast forward to adulthood, they have to revisit their horrific past. One part was particularly disturbing and I almost gave up reading the book entirely, but I pushed myself through. It’s like watching a train wreck; it’s horrible, but you can’t look away. It’s a pretty quick read and I finished it within a day and a half.

Do I recommend? Yes

2. Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

After finishing Those Girls I was like bring on the next Chevy Stevens novel! This story is about a realtor who is abducted during an open house and spends the next year captive in a cabin. Through sessions with her psychiatrist, she retells her story. Investigators slowly piece together clues about her disappearance and she tries to mend her relationships with her boyfriend, friend, and family. I would say that this book isn’t as well written as Those Girls, but it’s a very intense and fast-paced mystery with lots of twists and turns. I somehow found the disturbing passages easier to read in this book compared to the previous book, perhaps because I was prepared.

Do I recommend? Yes

3. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

This story is based on the author’s grandmother, who lived an incredible, adventurous life ranching and teaching in the Southwestern United States. This woman was so tough, sassy, and resourceful, which helped her face ranch life, natural disasters, heartbreak, prejudice, and the Great Depression. There were several things that I really about the book. First of all, the main character has such a strong personality, which shines through. I also liked how the book contained a lot of interesting information about the geology and history of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, and the forgotten world of old-school ranching. I also really enjoyed the writing style. Instead of chapters, the book contains to-the-point “snippets” about a memorable life event, which are woven together to form the story.

Do I recommend? YES

4. The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

This is one of my favorite novels of all time, partly because it’s so nostalgic. Almost every summer growing up, my family would take a trip to Vermont which always involved a stop at a bookstore in Waitsfield. This book is the result of one of those trips. The story follows a linguistics professor, whose wife dies in a strange accident. The professor desperately tries to figure out exactly what happened by searching for clues around the house and recounting moments in his relationship. Since their dog was the only witness to his wife’s death, he decides to teach the dog to speak and slowly slips deeper into insanity. Although this story is a mystery, I wouldn’t classify it as a thriller. It’s thoughtful and emotional, exploring grief, romance, and mental illness.

Do I recommend? Yes

5. That Night by Chevy Stevens

Within the first chapter of this book, I knew I wasn't going to like it. It's about a woman named Toni who was falsely convicted of killing her sister and had to serve 15 years for the crime. It flips back and forth between Toni's life as a teenager, fighting with her parents, sister, and girls at schools, and then her life during and after prison, where she tries to figure out who killed her sister. The first half was a mix between an angsty teen novel by Sarah Dessen and a book about prison culture. Eventually things got interesting, but this was over halfway through the story. Despite Toni being innocent, I didn't find her character all that likeable and the failure of the justice system was too unbelievable.

Do I recommend? NO

6. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle is a book about extraordinary life of author Jeannette Walls, who wrote about her grandmother's life in Half Broke Horses (see #3). Walls faced a rough upbringing due to her neglectful, abusive, mentally-ill parents with incredible resilience, akin to her grandmother's. It's impossible to read this book and not gain respect for Wall's strength and determination. The book has been turned into a movie starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, and Naomi Watts. It looks good, but it's a "lighter" version of the book in which the parents seem to be painted as kooky and dysfunctional rather than severely abusive.

Do I recommend? Yes

7. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Sarah Grimke is the headstrong daughter of a well-to-do lawyer and plantation owner in 19th century Charleston, who receives a young slave, Handful, as a gift on her 11th birthday. The story follows the intertwined lives of the girls from childhood to middle-age. Each chapter alternates between the perspective of Sarah and Handful, as Sarah witnesses the horrors of slavery and Handful experiences it. At some points I found the very old-fashioned, Southern language a little too over the top and I thought that some parts lacked depth, considering the subject matter. That being said, I think it's an important story to read.

Do I recommend? Yes

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