Books read for March 2019 #QuickLitRead More
Quick Lit | January 2019
There’s something about clearing the decks at the start of a new year. I ended 2018 by reading 102 books- obliterating my original goal of 65. For 2019, I changed my goal to 85. I think it’s achievable but not outrageous- reading 100 books is a lot and toward the end, when I realized how close I was to that “magic” number, reading started to feel like work.
But- I do have quite a few good books to recommend to you. I genuinely enjoyed all of the titles below!
Waiting for Eden proves that you don't need a lot of text to tell a powerful story. Eden is a soldier who has been grievously injured in Iraq. He's badly burned, immobile, and hanging on by a thread. His story is narrated by his friend and fellow soldier, who died in the accident that injured Eden. Eden regains consciousness and the reader finds out what happened to him and his family and the events that led him to the hospital bed. This book will gut you, but it's such a well told, human story. It's not to be missed- I ended up naming it as one of my favorites for 2018.
This book is a straight up internet-friends-made-me-do-it pick for me, and I'm so glad I tracked it down. I've never read a Colleen Hoover book before. I gather that this was departure from her usual love stories but I'm not new to psychological thrillers- and this was pure entertainment. It's not high literature, to be sure, but there’s nothing wrong with reading to be entertained. The main characters were one dimensional and started to annoy me, and there's lots of incredibly horrifying stuff that happens- but I couldn't put it down. There's a love it or hate it kind of ending, but I'm happy that it's not quite straightforward. If you like suspense and want to try something that isn't formulaic, this might be for you.
This was a slow-burn. Clara’s boyfriend Luke disappears and she races to find out what happened to him. I initially had trouble connecting with the two diverging story lines, but I was propelled to keep reading because I wanted to see how the two groups of characters would intersect. (And happily- they did in a very satisfying way). Pay attention to the clues- the author does give the reader some hints, but there are some well disguised red herrings thrown in as well. Full review here.
This is a classic in the horror genre. Paul Sheldon is a best selling author. After finishing his latest book he goes out to celebrate- and wrecks his car during a snowstorm in rural Colorado. Luckily, his number one fan Annie Wilkes was there to save his life. Unluckily for him, she’s disturbed. I thought this was excellent and I found Annie Wilkes to be one the best villains ever- she's complex yet terrifying and I couldn't wait to see how it all ended. This might be a good pick for those of you who want to read Stephen King but are intimidated by the length of his books- this one's *only* 420 pages.
This just took over as my favorite Ruth Ware Novel. It is a slow moving suspense novel that’s more dark and moody than thrilling, but once all of the pieces were falling into place I couldn’t put it down. Hal is a down on her luck tarot reader who is desperately trying to hang on after the sudden death of her mother. A letter in the mail arrives, asking her to come and claim her inheritance from the death of her grandmother, Mrs. Westaway. Problem is, she doesn’t have a grandmother named Mrs. Westaway. She uses her ability to cold read people to suss out information about the family... And finds herself deeper than she ever imagined. If you’re willing to wait until about 60% of the novel for things to really get going, then the payoff is definitely worth it.
Book 1 of 2019! This was a perfect story to begin a new year: it's set on the last day of 1984 and it's the story of 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish's life. On New Year's Eve, after eating too many Oreos "those vile black and white sandwiches", she sets to walk them off. On the way, she runs into new people and things that remind her of the life she once had. She was the highest paid woman in advertising, a mother, a poet, a wife, a divorcee, and an all around independent woman during a time when women were expected to become homemakers and no more. I loved it. I thought the writing was excellent- Lillian has a voice so clear she came across as someone I know. The book reminded me of a quieter mashup of Eleanor Olephant is Completely Fine, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and The Secret Life of Violet Grant.
This is an incredibly thoughtful and detailed account of the events that took place on April 20th, 1999. Cullen did a lot of research for this (10 years worth), and it shows. The stories of the victims, families, and perpetrators were all shared with compassion and with a sincere attempt at understanding. I was especially interested to read about all of the misinformation that came about as a result of the media and mishandling by law enforcement, as well as the aftermath of the victims and their families. This was a hard, but necessary and sadly still relevant, book to read. It broke my heart a hundred times over.
Looker was a slim little novel at 192 pages, but it really packed a punch. It’s part thriller, part character study, and fully haunting. Our unnamed narrator is separated from her husband and becomes fixated on a famous actress that lives in her neighborhood. She’s spiraling and struggling to face reality, and believes things would be better if she could just get closer to the woman. The entire story is told from a monologue and I was continually questioning what was real and what was imaginary. I was uncomfortable but somehow underneath it all, I still felt empathy for her. I really loved the authors tone and would love to read what she writes next.
This was a fictional account of the friendship between two women in post WWII England who are the embroiderers who helped create Queen (then Princess) Elizabeth’s wedding dress. In an alternate story line, a woman has passed away and gifted an heirloom to her granddaughter. Her granddaughter sets off on a quest to uncover details of how her grandmother came into possession of the item and the details surrounding her early life. It is a book about the Royals, but moreso about the bonds of female friendship.
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Quick Lit | November 2018
Another reading month down! I cannot believe it’s November. Thanksgiving is next week! I had the best reading month- really, I can see reasons to recommend all of them. I’ve also been working on Nonfiction November, so I was able to get 2 Nonfictions down and I’ve just started Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming. I can already tell that will be a 5 star read. Here’s what else I’ve been reading!
When I first read that November Road was a cat and mouse crime novel set against the backdrop of the JFK assassination, I was in. I enjoyed this not for its JFK connection, but because of the story itself. Really, the inciting incident could have been anything (but I recently found out that mobster Carlos Marcello is a real guy! LOL thanks Sarah @sarahsbookshelves). Instead, we get to read the story of Frank Guidry, who until very recently, was Marcello's go-to guy. It seems his luck has run out though, so our boy Frank skips town. He's constantly trying to stay one step ahead and on the way meets Charlotte, her two daughters, and their epileptic dog. They're headed to California, Charlotte with the hope of eking out a living of her own instead of waiting for her drunken husband to get his life together, Frank just trying to stay alive. I thought the pacing was excellent and really liked the leads, Frank and Charlotte. Fans of Laura Lippman’s Sunburn might enjoy this one. 4/5.
I was such a big fan of the All Souls Trilogy, so when I saw that Deborah Harkness had written a book largely centering on Matthew's son Marcus, I was all in. Marcus has chosen a mate, Phoebe, who makes the decision to change into a vampire. The story flashes back to Marcus's transition during the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, to me, this story lacked the magic (heh) we got from Witches. Marcus is telling Diana his story, and the whole thing feels strangely detached. The big love story did nothing for me; even their reunion was lackluster. I really did not care to read about Diana's and Matthew's twins and there wasn't a satisfying ending. I'm still glad I read it because it was nice to see some of my favorites back in action, but this isn't a story that will stick with me. I found it to be about 3/5 (and it's the nostalgia for the characters that has me rating it this high).
This took me awhile to get into, but this ended up being one of my favorites of 2018. The book opens with Yale and his boyfriend Charlie attending the funeral of their good friend Nico, who has died of AIDS. It's 1980s Chicago and people are just starting to understand the disease. Their community lives in fear of contracting it, as do so many communities across the world. The other story line features present day with Fiona, Nico's sister. She's on her way to Paris to reunite with her daughter, who doesn't know she's coming. I thought the characters were flawed and realistic. The story was a hair too long and certain points were a little too tangential, but overall it's a gorgeous story about friendship, family that you’re born with and family that you make, and acceptance. I'd be happy to read more by this author (and I'm always a sucker for books set in Chicago). 4.5/5
This has overtaken Pet Semetary as the scariest book I’ve ever read. Its the story of a young girl who has something absolutely terrifying happen to her. It might be schizophrenia or it might be demons- we’re not really sure. All we know is that her family has agreed to go on a reality TV show to share the exorcism they’ve elected to put her through. This book absolutely captivated me, but you definitely need to have a high tolerance for horror to enjoy it. 5/5
This book made me miss my train stop- I don’t often get to say that! I have had this on my shelves for years and am so glad I finally made my way through it. Between the World and Me is a short book, but it’s impactful. Coates wrote this for his son and he talks about what it’s like to be a black person in America. A must read for everyone, really. 5/5
I loved Bad Blood. It's the incredible true story of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos. The company alleged that it was able to perform over 200 blood tests from just a finger prick- but- the technology never worked. John Carreyrou did a fantastic job investigating the story and integrating all of the information into an incredible narration. If you're at all interested in true crime (or just unbelievable true stories)- definitely read this one! 5 stars.
Well, Tana French remains one of my favorite authors but this one didn’t end up on my favorites list. Toby is a young man who has had an easy go in life, until one day he gets jumped in his own apartment and suffers a traumatic brain injury. He goes to the family home to take care of an ailing uncle, and something incredibly disturbing is found on the grounds, sending things into a tailspin. This was a quiet book and that was tense and atmospheric, but there wasn’t a ton of plot. The writing is superb, but I kept wishing for things to move forward more quickly. I also think it was too long by about 100 pages. If you go in thinking it’s more of a family drama than suspense/ thriller, you might like it more. 3/5
This is one of my new favorites! I’m a huge thriller/suspense lover (as you’ve probably gathered) and I’ve run into a lot of prolific authors whose books can by hit or miss. Lisa Jewell is an author that’s always consistent to me. A murder takes place in a neighborhood full of voyeurs and everyone’s a suspect. There was a twist or two along the way that got me and I loved the way the story was told. It opens with a police officer coming upon the scene, and then the story unfolds from the viewpoints of several neighbors. There are police interviews interspersed in the narrative, which I thought that was a fun addition. This struck me as a read alike for Big Little Lies. I’m giving it a 5!
Pieces of Her is Karin Slaughter's latest standalone. It took me longer than usual to get into it, but in the end I did find it to be entertaining. I really liked the mother in the story- the titular Her- but I could barely get past my hatred for her daughter, Andy. This reminded me of The Nix in many ways. This one wasn't as brutal as some of her others have been- but it has its moments. It’s more suspense and drama than anything else. 3/5.
I fully recommend The Great Believers, A Head Full of Ghosts, Bad Blood, Between the World and Me, and Watching You.
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Well October has been a month so far, hasn’t it? Theres so much going on in the world; I sometimes struggle to find ways I can make a difference. I want to be educated and I want to inform others. One of the things I’ve been working on this year is tracking my reading. I want to make sure I’m reading authors from a variety of backgrounds, especially stories from women and people of color. I love that this space allows me to connect with other readers from around the world and I want to be sure that I’m sharing books from all kinds of authors. I read widely to broaden my horizons, listen to the stories from people from all backgrounds, and to get inspired to facilitate change.
Here’s what I’ve read over the past month.
This was a slim book that knocked my socks off. Set in Nigeria, it’s a story about two very unique sisters. Ayoola is the beautiful younger sister with a nasty habit of killing off her boyfriends. Korede is the responsible older sister who is always bailing Ayoola out of unfortunate situations. She’s generally happy to save her, but when Ayoola sets her sights on the man that Korede is secretly in love with she starts to unravel. This book is dark and satirical look at family, culture, and obligation. I read this as an ARC from Netgalley- it’s out November 20th. Rating: 3.75/5
This is probably one of the more unique books I’ve read this year. I’ve been a fan of Hank Green for years. He is the younger brother of John Green-of The Fault in Our Stars fame-but he’s a celebrity of his own right. He’s the creator of Sci Show, Vlog Brothers, and a myriad of other internet based endeavors. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing was wonderful. It’s sorta sci-fi, sorta speculative fiction. April May stumbles across the titular Remarkable Thing and has no idea what she’s looking at. As any Gen X’er would, she makes a YouTube video about it, and it immediately goes viral. It’s partly a story about being famous in the digital media age, but I honestly think this one is best gone in knowing little. Rating: 4.5/5.
I've got such mixed feelings about this book! I loved the premise- Fi coms home one day to find that a new family has moved into her beloved multi-million dollar home. She’s estranged from her husband Bram and has no idea who these people are or how they got there. The story is told in a really unique way- we get to hear her size of the situation via The Victim podcast. Bram tells his story through a word document. The beginning sucked me in but the pacing was wrong- I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and it never did. It was also about 100 pages too long. Rating: 2.75/5
This will land on my favorites list for 2018. Never one to shy away from the tough stuff, Jodi Picoult is at it again. The book opens with an active shooter situation at the last standing abortion clinic in Mississippi. There is no easing into this book. It’s told in reverse, so you get plopped straight into the meat of the story. The characters were vivid and my heart was beating the whole time. No matter which side of the debate you fall on, this one will make you think. Full review here. Rating: 4.5/5.
This saying can be over used but when it fits, it fits- Just Mercy is required reading. Bryan Stevenson tells the story of how he came to be the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization dedicated to racial justice and challenging wrongful convictions. This book was heartbreakingly sad, but I couldn’t look away. Stevenson did such a good job infusing facts about the broken criminal justice system and true stories about those incarcerated. He brought humanity to these people and he’s such an inspiration. I can’t overstate how much I loved this book. 5/5
TL;DR- I recommend My Sister the Serial Killer, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, A Spark of Light, and Just Mercy.
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