The first book of 2020 was one chosen by the office book club. Based on the book summary, I would have thought that Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, would be written differently than it was. I anticipated following along the story as it happened, the events unfolding as they would have in real life. Because this book is, of course, based on real life.
But I was thrown a bit when it read more like a mystery novel. Flashing back from present day to the 1930’s, we swapped points of view between Avery, who is uncovering the mystery of her grandmother’s past bit by bit and Rill, who is living an unimaginable life.
To find out the truth of the past, Avery’s telling of the story is maddeningly slow in the most riveting way. Avery is caught up in her family’s politics, being groomed for a Senate seat while at the same time planning a wedding with her fiance. A chance encounter with a woman at a nursing home during a public appearance has her off on a wild goose chase to connect the dots between this stranger and her grandmother, who happen to have similar photographs in their rooms of the same people.
You realize that Avery is on the brink of discovery, but hits a snag as she encounters a stubborn realtor who has sworn to keep her family’s secret – and yet, she finds herself falling in love with him.
Meanwhile, the reader is transported back a few generations to follow the story of a family on a river.
Be warned: I’m going to give away some spoilers in this review. If you want to read this book and don’t want the ending ruined, I suggest you stop now. Continue reading
This was supposed to be one of the “best books of 2018” and it was on lists for the O Magazine and Newsweek. I say “supposed to be” because I was just not a fan.
Maybe I missed something. I found Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver to be tedious and slow and disconnected. It was boring. I kept waiting for the plot to thicken, for something interesting to actually happen. But the only thing that happened was the house kept falling apart and no one, in either time period, was able to actually fix it.
Maybe I missed some deeper meaning. Maybe there were parallels I was supposed to draw, metaphors to decipher, or allegories to interpret. But I didn’t catch them. Maybe because I would read two pages before drifting off, so it took me weeks longer than usual to finish the book.
If I missed the point of this book, then so be it. I don’t have to like everything. Continue reading
A summary of this book in one phrase: a tragic historical romance with an unexpected twist.
Next Year in Havana, by Chanel Cleeton, was part of our office book club, and I must say that it exceeded my expectations. It was a story of two women from different generations, who end up going through some surprisingly similar events. Cuban-American, Marisol, wants to fulfill her deceased grandmother’s wish to have her remains scattered in her beloved Havana, Cuba. So now that Marisol is able to travel (somewhat) safely to Cuba, she visits her grandmother’s old family friends, falls in love, and uncovers some hidden family secrets along the way.
The story is told from both perspectives of Marisol, as well as her grandmother Elisa. Switching back and forth between past and present, we get a full picture of Havana, then and now – how so much has changed, and yet, so much hasn’t. Continue reading
I was took a mini vacation to Florida this past week and needed a good mystery book to keep me occupied by the pool. I finished Watch Me Disappear, by Janelle Brown, in less than five days.
When I first started the book, I thought it would feel like a template: interesting and captivating, but not particularly new or unexpected. And I was okay with that. But things definitely got a little twisted at the end, so I give this one five stars. Continue reading
The next book I read for book club was one I would never pick up myself. Those always turn out to be the best kinds of books though, don’t they? It’s not that I would have had anything against this book. I just would have gone for other ones first. Maybe stayed on more familiar territory.
This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel, is about a family whose fifth and youngest child is transgender. There may be some unavoidable spoilers in this post, just to warn you now.
This book was so terrifically written that there wasn’t a single copy available in the entire county. The wait list was a couple weeks long, though I got notified a copy was ready for me earlier than I expected, maybe because like me, people couldn’t put it down and finished it in just a few days. Continue reading
Once again, I love reading about a futuristic world that could plausibly and theoretically come to fruition.
I am late to the game, but I honestly don’t know much about The Handmaid’s Tale phenomenon that is on Hulu. I don’t have Hulu. Pretty much all I know about it is Peggy Olson wears a red dress.
When I picked up this book, I actually anticipated reading historical fiction.
Funny, how Margaret Atwood takes us to a place in the future where we’ve actually reverted to the past, implemented archaic politics and policies and cultural norms, surrounded by the desire for power and control. Is that not where we’re at today?
We’re detaining children and separating them from their immigrant parents. We’re controlling women by controlling their access to birth control and prenatal care and, if they want it, their right to their bodies through abortions? We’re allowing gun rights advocates and activists to keep the laws unchanged that are allowing firearms into the wrong hands, the hands that shoot up children’s schools, places of worship, sporting events, and supermarkets. I could go on.
Instead, I’ll turn to the book. Continue reading
What would you do if your baby was kidnapped while you were at a party next door? How would you react? In The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena, Anne and Marco’s babysitter cancels last minute, so they decide to leave the baby at home while they go to a party, promising to check on her every half hour. They have a monitor with them and every time they check, the baby is fine. And yet. They get home after the party and the baby is missing. Continue reading
This book was fascinating.
I had Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on my list to read after seeing it recommended by a blogger I follow. It was insightful and eye-opening and poignant. It was also educational, but not in a condescending way.
This book follows the life of Ifemelu, who is from Nigeria. In the beginning of the book, and at various moments throughout, we get a peek into her present life: she is getting her hair braided at a new salon (in the U.S.) before she moves back to Nigeria. We don’t know much more than that at first, but the book slowly unravels her life, starting with the family and home where she grew up. In high school, in Nigeria, she fell in love with a boy, Obinze. They had a beautiful and frantic relationship, as most teenagers do, and then Ifemelu moves to America.
In America, she struggles to find her place. She struggles to find a job, to make friends, to meet good people. She never feels like she truly fits in to any group, but when she speaks to her parents, she no longer feels that she is a part of their Nigerian world either. Continue reading
I read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood, as part of my office book club.
In Greenwood’s novel, she explores flawed characters, dysfunctional families, inappropriate relationships, sex, drugs, child abuse, murder, friendship, and love. It sounds like there are more ugly things than wonderful things, in my opinion. Continue reading
I don’t play video games, I don’t watch many movies, and I don’t know a thing about the 80’s. But I loved this book.
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (now a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, which I have not yet seen), was a book that didn’t depend on your knowledge of literally anything in the book. Sure, maybe it would have been more relatable had I ever played the game Joust. Maybe it would have been more impactful had I ever seen the movie War Games. Maybe if I knew more of Star Trek than just the name.
But I don’t know those things, and yet, I found this book impossible to put down because the structure of it, the framework, the plot, and the characters were so real. That was the only thing that mattered.
They could have been playing completely made up games, just like the OASIS is made up. They could have been watching movies that never existed. It didn’t matter. Continue reading