September 2017 Books

Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin: Zevin is a ridiculously talented writer. Her books are so varied, and they’re always interesting and well-written. I wasn’t wildly interested in Young Jane Young based on the synopsis – a young political intern has an affair with the much-older, married congressman she’s working for, a la Monica Lewinsky. And yet I couldn’t put the book down. Zevin tells the story in five distinct sections from different points of view – the intern’s mother, the intern herself (years later and having changed her name), the intern’s daughter as she discovers her mother’s past, the congressman’s wife (who stayed with him through the affair’s aftermath), and then, finally, the intern herself as she goes through the affair, in a unique choose-your-own-adventure section. Zevin’s insightful commentary on slut-shaming, feminism, and the challenges of being a woman are spot-on and never preachy, just an intrinsic part of the story she’s telling. VGR

Daisy in Chains, by Sharon Bolton: Excellent psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the end. Hamish Wolfe is locked up for life for the abduction and murder of three young women. He is hoping to convince Maggie Rose, a reclusive lawyer and true-crime author, to take up his appeal. VGR

 

I’ll Meet You There, by Heather Demetrios: Good YA Contemporary. Skylar is desperate to escape her stifling small town, Creek View, and is headed to college with an art scholarship. Josh, a Marine, is back in Creek View after losing his leg in Afghanistan. Despite their differences, they form an unlikely friendship (and more). Well written and a nice break from so many of the YA Contemporaries that feature upper middle-class teens.

On Turpentine Lane, by Elinor Lipman: Lipman never disappoints. This might not be her strongest novel, but it was still very enjoyable. Faith works in a development at a private school. She has a close-knit family and a loser fiancé who has decided to walk across the country in a bit of a mid-life crisis. Her boss is an idiot, her father is a philanderer, and she has just bought a sweet little house on Turpentine Lane in which several murders may have been committed.

The Reluctant Queen, by Sarah Beth Durst: I feel like this series is not getting the attention it deserves. This book was even stronger than the first, with a highly unusual heroine for the fantasy genre – a middle-aged mother. Daleina is dying and doesn’t have an heir in place. Naelin, a mother and wife in a remote village in the woods, has incredibly strong powers that she doesn’t know how to use or control. Ven, the Queen’s Champion, finds Naelin and tries to coax her into training to be the queen’s heir. Great characters, great story, can’t wait for the next book in the series! VGR

Wonder Woman: Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo: Alia Keralis, a Greek/African-American teenager, is drowning when Diana saves her life. Diana ends up leaving her island with Alia to try to save her from her fate as a Warbringer, someone whose existence inspires war and terror all over the world. Fabulous story focusing on the power of friendship, with strong doses of humor and emotion, and great characters. VGR

The Enchanted, by Rene Denfeld: This book was not what I expected, and I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read it in the middle of moving. A moving story of death-row inmates and some of the people who inhabit their lives, narrated by an inmate in a haunting, lyrical style.

 

The Last Magician, by Lisa Maxwell: A dark story of alchemy and magic that mostly takes place in the early 1900s in New York City. Esta has the ability to move through time, and her mentor has been sending her all over the 20th century to gather various magical objects. There was a lot going on in the plot, and the time travel got really twisty, but it was an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next book. VGR

Sourdough, by Robin Sloan: Lois is a software engineer at a tech firm in San Francisco that makes robotic arms. Her life is nothing but coding and drudgery until one day she orders dinner from a hole-in-the-wall operation run by two brothers. She starts ordering from them every night until they suddenly have to leave the country. They leave her with their sourdough starter, and Lois learns to make bread with it, opening up her entire life to change. A fun read! VGR

Wild Bird, by Wendelin Van Draanen: Terrific YA from Van Draanen about 14-year-old Wren, who is wrested from her bed in the middle of the night as her parents turn her over to a tough-love wilderness therapy program in Utah. Wren has been drinking, doing drugs, stealing, and basically ruining her life, and what I loved about this story was that there wasn’t some big, dark reason for her mess of a life. It started with her being unhappy and making the wrong friend, and grew from there as I think things so often do for teens. VGR

How to Find love in a Bookshop, by Veronica Henry: Sweet Cotswald romance about a young woman, Emilia, who takes over her father’s bookshop when he dies. Like Jill Mansell’s novels, the story has a main heroine but several nice side stories going on.

 

The Names They Gave Us, by Emery Lord: Another good offering from Lord. A pastor’s daughter is questioning her faith when her mother’s cancer recurs. She goes to work at a camp for troubled children and makes new friends and goes through a lot of personal changes and growth.

August 2017 Books

Standard Deviation, by Katherine Heiny: This book was both funny and a little heartbreaking at the same time. Graham’s second wife, Audra, is the complete opposite of his first wife, Elspeth. Audra is outgoing, charming, and full of chaotic energy, and Graham adores her despite their messy life and the challenges brought by their son, who has Asperger’s. It’s hard to describe this book, because in the end it feels like nothing has really happened, but it was an interesting examination of marriage and relationships.  Continue reading “August 2017 Books”

April 2017 Reading Wrap-up

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi: This slim memoir is written by a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in his 30s, while he was in his last year of residency. Although his love of literature and language shines through, I actually found the afterword by his wife to be the best writing in the book. That being said, this is still a moving and contemplative look at death from a man who was clearly both brilliant and a caring doctor. VGR Continue reading “April 2017 Reading Wrap-up”

March 2017 Reading Wrap-up

March was a great reading month! I thoroughly enjoyed almost every book I read.

The Dark Days Pact, by Alison Goodman: Even better than the first book in the trilogy! Goodman has infused these novels with so much historical accuracy (England in the early 19th century), and yet it never feels heavy-handed. Lady Helen is coming into her Reclaimer powers, learning to dress and act as a man, fighting her feelings for Lord Carlston, and still dealing with the Duke of Selburn’s attentions. Great detail, great characters, great action, and an ending that packed an incredible emotional punch. I need the next book! VGR Continue reading “March 2017 Reading Wrap-up”

February 2017 Reading Wrap-up

Disclosure: each cover is an Amazon affiliate link. This will be the extent of any advertising or monetization on this blog.

Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson: This was an enjoyable sci-fi novel with fascinating science, a great premise, and excellent world-building. Intelligent beings have put the earth inside a type of bubble, making time pass on earth much more slowly than outside the planet. The main characters are twins Diane and Jason, and their childhood best friend Tyler, who is a little boring as the narrator. But the story rises above that and was a real page-turner. VGR Continue reading “February 2017 Reading Wrap-up”

2016: Very Good Reads

Of 200 books read in 2016, here are my VGRs:

Crooked Heart, by Lissa Evans: This was an excellent book set during WWII in London. Noel, aged 10, has been living with his godmother Mattie, a former suffragette with an unconventional lifestyle. When she dies, Noel is evacuated to the suburbs and is taken in by Vera, a woman in her mid-30s with a very messy life. Together, they come up with an unscrupulous scheme to get money and form an unlikely and lovely friendship. Continue reading “2016: Very Good Reads”