If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know I can get pretty cranky about my reading and that this year was a rough one for me. Both of which make this monthly recap a bit shocking: December was far and away one of the best month’s I’ve ever had for reading! Seriously, I’m a little bit giddy here. Out of the 17 books I read, 12 got 3.5 stars or higher.
I have no scientific explanation for this delightful December, except…I only read one new release. I wasn’t venturing out to find the best books, I was simply going to the library and picking out the books I’d heard other people rave about. It made for easy reading and a nice break. Now I’m reading to dive back into finding the best new books of 2020 so we can all have a great reading year.
In Riley Sager’s Lock Every Door, Jules is a young woman who’s just been dumped, laid off, and is without a place to live. She answers an ad for an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of the most exclusive buildings in Manhattan. The owner has died recently and the co-op board doesn’t want the apartment left empty while they conduct a rigorous search for a new owner. However, there are some very strict requirements: she can’t ever have guests in the apartment. She can’t tell people where she lives (to protect the privacy of the buildings occupants) nor is she allowed to speak to any of them unless they speak to her first. In return, she’ll be paid twelve thousand dollars for three months of living in an apartment the size of most homes.
Of course, she says yes and, for the most part, things are quiet. Until she meets another apartment sitter who asks her if she notices anything wrong about the place. This young woman soon disappears. Jules’s suspicions escalate even as one of the building’s tenants, an author Jules admires, befriends her. Then, things start going sideways. Sager does a great job at creating a Rosemary’s Baby vibe around the building—residents seldom seen, most of them older and vaguely famous, secrecy, odd noises at night, and a building with a dark history. Where he goes too far is in mimicking the theme of Rosemary’s Baby, which I’ll leave to you to figure out. It turns out to be a false lead and does give way to a truth even more terrifying and real, but it felt unnecessary.
I’ve become a fan of Jodi Picoult after reading Leaving Time and Small Great Things. She parses big, controversial subjects in a way that forces the reader to consider viewpoints they would normally avoid. In Perfect Match she goes for the touchiest of subjects: pedophilia. Even more so: a Catholic priest is the abuser. This is not a spoiler, but I’ll leave the plot at that. Despite a gripping premise this was not a favorite for me. Picoult changes the point-of-view from one paragraph to the next, even with the same character who may be speaking in the first person, but suddenly switches to third. It makes for choppy reading, hampering the novel’s tension and flow. Good but not great.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: Review to follow
Published by Milford House Press
Publication date: August 19, 2019
Eden Waits is historical fiction about the Hiawatha Colony, a product-sharing collective formed in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the late 1800s. Started by a local preacher, but soon funded by a well-known speaker and advocate of populism, the novel traces the community’s founding and growing pains. It’s written in the tone and style of the times, which although it may be accurate gives the novel a very simple, old-fashioned feel. There is a feeling about the theme of populism, as it was mis-used in the election of the current president, but it doesn’t quite translate. What’s left is a story that feels like a local history lesson. A novel that will be of interest to anyone familiar with the area or the subject.
Age of Light by Whitney Scharer: Review to follow
Know My Name by Chanel Miller: A must-read memoir. Review to follow
The Silent Patient by Alex Michealides: My review
My only DNF of the month and I really think it was a case of It’s Not You, It’s Me, which is why I’m giving it a star rating. Refuge is a novel about an Iranian girl who came to America with her mother after her parents divorced. Her father still lives in Iran, working as a dentist and living as a functioning opium addict. The novel revolves around the four times in her life that she has seen her father since living in Iran. The writing is good, but by the midpoint I lost interest.
All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg: Review to follow
The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook: Review to follow
The Gifted School is addictive, page-turning, plot-o-rama reading. The characters are like something right out of central casting—trust fund jock dad who cheats on wife with the au pair and is now floundering; ambitious wife with stay-at-home husband; mother of two highly intelligent but troubled children… it’s not anything you haven’t read before, but it doesn’t matter. The same is true about the plot of parents who go batshit crazy to prove their sweet darling is the next Einstein. The magic is how Holsinger keeps it going for almost 500 pages. Not only that, but he pulls you into the story so thoroughly that, at the end, when it all magnificently explodes, you’re surprised. So much more I could say, but this is one novel you need to discover all on your own. Wicked fun.
How was your December? Did you have time to read? Discover anything great?
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