It is very rare that I buy a book without looking at a bunch of reviews beforehand, but everyone once in awhile a random book will catch my attention and I will buy it just based on the blurb/cover alone. I have found a lot of amazing and less talked about books this way. I have also found a few duds but that is a topic for another post! It is something that I want to start doing more often!
I thought it might be fun to share a few such books with you all! I would love to know if you ever do this, and if yes, what was the best book that you discovered this way?
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
I have talked about Swimming Lessons a few times now, but it is worth talking about again! I walked in to the bookstore with a gift card and I had a different book in mind, but I saw this cover and the title and I had to give it a chance. It is one of those books that did not have much of a plot but still had a large impact. Books were important to the story, which of course I appreciated!
In this spine-tingling tale Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but she never sends them. Instead she hides them within the thousands of books her husband has collected. After she writes her final letter, Ingrid disappears.
Twelve years later, her adult daughter, Flora comes home to look after her injured father. Secretly, Flora has never believed her mother is dead, and she starts asking questions, without realizing that the answers she’s looking for are hidden in the books that surround her.
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
If you have been following my blog for awhile you may know that I love WWII fiction. I saw this book and bought it simply because I saw WWII mentioned on the back. I am so glad that I did because it focused on an aspect of the war that I have never read about before. It also takes place over multiple generations which is something that I have come to enjoy reading about. It is set in Germany, Cuba, and America, and was a heartbreaking and harrowing read.
Before everything changed, young Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. But now, in 1939, the streets of Berlin are draped with red, white, and black flags; her family’s fine possessions are hauled away; and they are no longer welcome in the places that once felt like home. Hannah and her best friend, Leo Martin, make a pact: whatever the future has in store for them, they’ll meet it together.
Hope appears in the form of the SS St. Louis, a transatlantic liner offering Jews safe passage out of Germany. After a frantic search to obtain visas, the Rosenthals and the Martins depart on the luxurious ship bound for Havana. Life on board the St. Louis is like a surreal holiday for the refugees, with masquerade balls, exquisite meals, and polite, respectful service. But soon ominous rumors from Cuba undermine the passengers’ fragile sense of safety. From one day to the next, impossible choices are offered, unthinkable sacrifices are made, and the ship that once was their salvation seems likely to become their doom.
Seven decades later in New York City, on her twelfth birthday, Anna Rosen receives a strange package from an unknown relative in Cuba, her great-aunt Hannah. Its contents will inspire Anna and her mother to travel to Havana to learn the truth about their family’s mysterious and tragic past, a quest that will help Anna understand her place and her purpose in the world.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Thirteenth Tale seems to be pretty popular, but when I bought it a few years ago, I had heard nothing about it. I think it is pretty obvious why I was drawn to it- look at that cover! It is truly a book that is made for book lovers. I have seen it describe as a love letter to reading, and that is so accurate. I loved the mystery element as well. It kept me reading all night long!
All children mythologize their birth…So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter’s collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.
The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself — all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter’s story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.
As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.
Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida’s storytelling but remains suspicious of the author’s sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
I read The Glass Castle a few years ago, and it really got me hooked on memoirs. I picked this book up because it was a memoir, had a gorgeous cover, and is about a Canadian. I had not heard about the horrifying ordeal that Amanda went through and it was very difficult to read about. She is such a strong, resilient woman, and I am so happy that she was able to share her story. It was a gripping read that has stayed with me for many years.
As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. At the age of nineteen, working as a cocktail waitress in Calgary, Alberta, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each adventure, went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia—“the most dangerous place on earth.” On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.
Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda converts to Islam as a survival tactic, receives “wife lessons” from one of her captors, and risks a daring escape. Moved between a series of abandoned houses in the desert, she survives on memory—every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity—and on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark, being tortured.
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
This is definitely one of those books that I picked up based on the blurb alone. I am sure I was drawn to the cover but reading the back made me realize that I just had to read it. I have not read a lot of historical fiction set in France and I loved that art and culture were such a big part of the story. It is a really interesting look at society in France during the late 1800s.
Paris. 1878. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without his wages, and with the small amount their laundress mother earns disappearing into the absinthe bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work — and the love of a dangerous young man — as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.
Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends lower and lower in society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde—that is, unless her love affair derails her completely.
Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural and societal change, The Painted Girls is a tale of two remarkable sisters rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of “civilized society.”
Have you read any of these books? I would love to know what you thought! There are so many other books that I picked up on a whim so I might make a part two of this in the future. I also want to talk about books I picked up in this way and did not end up enjoying as much. It definitely is risky so that is why I do not do it as often as I would like!