Monday, January 13, 2020

What I've Read Recently | December 2019

Off to a good start in 2020. 
Here it is, not even halfway through January, and I'm putting the finishing touches 
on my list of books from December. {takes a bow} 
It was a lovely month of holiday planning, travel, celebrating, and family. 
I found lots of opportunities to read and I hope you did too. 
May this new year offer you plenty of time for stories!

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon
From Goodreads:
From ​the New York Times bestselling author comes a breathtaking fantasy of a cursed kingdom, warring clans, and unexpected salvation.
What I thought: 8.5/10 (Listened to on Audible)
As soon as I finished listening to Amy Harmon's What the Wind Knows, I chose another novel from her to listen to next. Though a completely different book than the first, The First Girl Child was also amazing! The story is sweeping, the characters so so interesting, and the drama is balanced beautifully by the relationships that are described so richly. Even if Sci-Fi/Fantasy is not your jam, do yourself a solid and give this book a chance. I think there's something for everyone. 

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
From Goodreads:
A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the bond between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.
What I thought: 7.5/10
Parts of this book were very compelling and the character development was excellent; however, I felt like the story dragged at certain points and I had a hard time understanding some of the motivations. Having said that, I think Keane did a great job putting the reader within the messiness of a complicated family drama that deals with some very heavy themes: alcoholism, mental illness, abandonment, and infidelity... This novel demonstrates the ways in which life is complicated and fluid. There is also a lot of forgiveness, love, and tenderness here as well. This one is not a "light read" but if you feel like taking up a sweeping family drama --this is perfect for you!

The Pigman by Paul Zindel
From Goodreads:
In The Pigman, what begins as a teenage prank soon becomes a timeless examination of grief, acceptance, and the transformative power of friendship.
What I thought: 8.5/10
My 7th grader was assigned this book for her Language Arts class. It has been compared to The Outsiders and Catcher in the Rye and the tone feels similar to these two works. The Pigman was written in 1968 and until she told me I needed to order her a copy, I had never heard of it. So when the unassuming little paperback arrived from Amazon, I decided to sit down and read it. With its honest and sparse prose, first-person narrative through the lens of the two main characters, and a plot that is simple yet emotionally challenging, it's no wonder this little novel is considered a "groundbreaking young adult classic." It's hard to say more without giving too much away. If you're interested, this quick read would definitely be worth your time.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
From Goodreads:
Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together.
What I thought: 9.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
This book (on Audible) launched to the top of my "To Read" list when David Sedaris sang its praises and those of Tom Hanks (narrator) when I had the pleasure of hearing him (David) speak in Early December. I just realized that this is only the second book by Ann Patchett that I've read. The first was Bel Canto and if you've been following along, you already know that Bel Canto is one of my all-time favorite books. I'm adding The Dutch House to that small list of perfect books and finally getting the message: I need to treat myself to more of this author. Some reviewers have mentioned they felt The Dutch House was slow at times. I never felt anything less than completely wrapped up in the story --given even the fact that I listened to it in "stop and go" spurts as I ran errands and lived my normal car life. This is a sibling story that is told with incredible warmth, depth, and honesty. The relationship between Danny and Maeve is what you might dream of for your own children. Obviously they're not perfect and perhaps there are other relationships in their individual lives that suffer because of their bond --or perhaps they're destined for challenging relationships because of their childhoods and thank goodness they have one another and their unshakable love (which is how I choose to see it). This book is a gift.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
From Goodreads:
Kevin Wilson’s best book yet—a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with remarkable and disturbing abilities.
What I thought: 9/10 (Listened on Audible)
You guys! This book! I'm telling you... it's SO very good. I don't know how Kevin Wilson was able to write such a heartfelt, (darkly) funny, endearing, and warm (pun intended) novel about a pair of 10 year old twins who occasionally burst into flame --but that is what he has done. I loved this book. Ultimately, I found the story to be about love, acceptance, loyalty, and faith. The fact that the kids caught on fire never distracted from the heart of this story --it became instead, a perfect way to demonstrate what love ought to look like when you've found the people with whom you belong. To top it all off --the narrator was brilliant and I laughed my ass off. (Also, if bad words offend your senses learn to get over that because you're missing out.)

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow
From Goodreads:
In a dramatic account of violence and espionage, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Ronan Farrow exposes serial abusers and a cabal of powerful interests hell-bent on covering up the truth, at any cost.
What I thought: 8/10
Wow. If you think you know about the #metoo movement and what you know absolutely pisses you off --then pick this book up and light your anger on fire! This book was so disturbing. How these men got away with such blatant and disgusting behavior for as long as they did is baffling --and yet not so unbelievable, really. Sadly. The writing and the research are excellent. I think this is an important read no matter who you are --but if your the parent of a daughter, then especially so.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
From Goodreads:
No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen's new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings.
What I thought: 7.5/10
So many good books in December! Don't leave this one off your list. I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I ultimately did. In fact, when I was finished reading it, I kept telling everyone about it because I found it to be unique and entertaining. This page-turner has a few flaws (I'll let you decide for yourself) however, it was captivating and each twist left me trying to re-piece the puzzle. Lock Every Door is the first book by Riley Sager that I've picked up. Several reviews were quite scathing as they compared this work to his other two novels: The Last Time I Lied and Final Girls. Sounds like I'll be adding those to my short list!

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  1. Girl - how the heck did you have time to read all of these books in DECEMBER of all months? Impressive! Just finished Ask Again, Yes for my book club. We meet tomorrow night. Looks like Nothing to See here will be next on my list. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Haha! I was a little shocked to see them tally up to this list too! While December was super busy at the beginning, we traveled all through the holiday and I found myself with a lot of hours to fill on planes (and in the wee hours of morning as my East coast brain buzzed on a West coast pillow)!