How have I gone nearly ten years of blogging without doing any book reviews?
I've been reading a lot lately - turns out when you work part-time and aren't in grad school anymore, you have a lot of time on your hands. What am I going to do, clean my house? Instead, I've been working my way through what the library here has of the books I've been pinning for years. And just last month I was invited to join a book club made up of three teachers from my school. Except for the last one, I read all of these in the past month or so.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - Of my very recently read books, this one might be my favorite. We read it for my book club this month and I didn't love it right off the bat, but it steadily grew on me and then had a satisfying ending. It's pretty quick too - I read it in about eight or ten hours. It's the story of a murder that happens in a small Australian town at a school trivia night, but for such a heavy topic, it's actually pretty light and funny. You don't find out until near the end not only who did the killing, but also who the victim was.
The Husband's Secret also by Liane Moriarty - We did this one for book club last month and it did give us plenty to talk about. It also centers around a murder in a small Australian town, but this time the murder was twenty years prior to the story. There is still plenty of suspense and some humor, but this one is the darker of the two.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout - Not a book club pick, but I might suggest it because there's a lot to talk about here. It's a novel told in a series of short stories. (It feels like a novel, but since each chapter can also stand alone as a short story, you do get background information included from other chapters that wouldn't otherwise be there in a novel.) It's mostly the stories of several long-term marriages in all their complexity, though there are stories focused on unmarried characters as well. Everyone has their secrets and various levels of success in keeping them, given that they live in a very small town.
The Last Summer (of You & Me) by Ann Brashares - This one would be the best candidate for Beach Read of the bunch. It's by the author of the Traveling Pants books, her first novel for adults. It's the story of two sisters and their male best friend who grew up together spending summers on Fire Island. As adults, one of the sisters and the friend finally admit their let's-be-more-than-friends feelings, which of course changes everything.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell - I have a couple of Rainbow Rowell's young adult novels pinned, but they're always checked out. I wasn't so excited about the premise of this adult novel, but I'm really glad I gave it a shot. It's the story of Georgie, a TV writer stuck working in LA while her husband takes their girls to his parents' in Omaha for Christmas. Their marriage is in trouble and, unable to reach her husband's cell, Georgie calls his parents' home phone from the landline in her childhood bedroom. She reaches her husband (then-boyfriend) fifteen years in the past, when he was in Omaha for Christmas during their near-break up. The whole magic time travel phone thing is kind of gimmicky, yes, but the characters, their relationship and the sacrifices it demands of them make for good reading.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion - I've been meaning to read this one forever and finally got around to it a couple of weeks ago. It's Joan Didion's chronicle of the year following the sudden death of her husband of nearly 40 years and the "magical thinking" she was surprised to find herself indulging in - for instance, realizing that she'd been unable to give away the last of his shoes because when he came back, he'd need shoes. It's beautifully written and while sad, not morbid.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer - This is the story of four friends who met as teenagers at an arts summer camp. Two go on to be wildly successful and very wealthy, while the other two give up on their creative dreams. They remain close friends into adulthood, even as they struggle with their differences and envy. The book is a really complete story of their lives from adolescence to middle age and, as such, is very, very long. Worth it, I think, but lengthy.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki - This one is good, but odd. It's told in alternating chapters by Naoko, a Japanese schoolgirl who is relentlessly bullied and writing a journal as she plans her suicide and Ruth, a blocked novelist who finds Naoko's journal when it washes up on the shore of the small Western Canadian island where she lives. I felt like I learned a lot about Japanese culture and buddhism while being very wrapped up in the story. Toward the end, it takes a turn toward quantum physics, which isn't really my bag, but might appeal to you.
Of course, you don't need me to recommend the Harry Potter series, but I do recommend rereading it if you haven't already. I got the idea from a student who said Snape was always her favorite character and she loved rereading all of the books knowing from the beginning what she knew about him by the end. So I gave it a whirl and it's fascinating to see all of the intricate connections you don't know on first reading will be important later in the series. I also read them so quickly the first time to find out what happened that I missed out on a lot of details in general.
Not Recently Read But I'm Including It Anyway:
Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jennifer Lawson - This is, hands down, the funniest book I've ever read. Do not read this on a plane if you're self-conscious about laughing out loud around a bunch of quiet strangers, because it will happen even if you're generally more of a LQTM (laughing quietly to myself) kind of person. It's mostly a memoir, largely about growing up in West Texas the daughter of an eccentric taxidermist, though my favorite parts are the transcriptions of her conversations with her husband Victor.
Note: I linked to all of these on Amazon, but did you know that you can give donations to charity at no cost to you by doing your shopping at smile.amazon.com? You get to choose your charity. If you're at a loss for which to pick, you could choose Chelsea School in Hyattsville, Maryland. It's the school I used to work at, dedicated to helping students with learning disabilities meet their potential. They are forever taking on too many scholarship students because they hate to turn anyone away on the basis of inability to pay, which means money is forever very tight.
My "books I've pinned" and "books the library has" circles are about to stop overlapping, so if you have any suggestions for what I should read next, please share.