Alexa Monroe walked into the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco that Thursday night wearing her favorite red heels, feeling jittery from coffee, and carrying a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne in her purse.
Best romance I’ve read this year. And maybe from the previous year as well, but I’d have to look that up.
And why’s that? Because there’s humans involved, from the main characters to the extras. Because reality gets room in what’s becoming a multi-racial relationship with both participants in busy jobs that don’t just disappear when not needed anymore for creating background. But mostly because the chemistry is just enormous and everything in this story is delicious, even the badder/sadder situations.
If you enjoy romances, you’ll like this one. If you want to give the genre a chance; aim high with this one.
The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory, Penguin Random House 2018
Of course I didn’t like Digby when I first met him.
I never read a Nancy Drew novel (I think), but I’m pretty sure this could be the more reluctant, twenty-first century version of one. Protagonist Zoe mentions it as well, so I’m definitely onto something.
After the divorce of her parents, Zoe moves to a small town where’s she pretty quickly adopted by the town’s outcast, Digby. He wants/needs her for his research regarding missing girls. His lack of metaphorical bed manner doesn’t enthuse Zoe a lot at first, but plenty of shenanigans happen for her to slowly come round to his hypotheses.
He’s a weird but appealing fellow, and it’s not like Zoe is surrounded by new friends and an understanding mother. So instead of a high school story, the reader gets a small town detective with character descriptions that Celeste Ng would appreciate.
It’s a quick, smart read. The only thing I’m still unsure about is the ending; this novel is one of the very few cases in which there could have been a few more chapters to round things up a bit more completely.
Trouble is a Friend of Mine, Stephanie Tromly, Penguin Random House Company 2015
In 1895, two decades after his state moved from the egalitarian innovations of Reconstruction to an oppressive ‘Redemption”, South Carolina congressman Thomas Miller appealed to the state’s constitutional convention: we were eight years in power.
We Were Eight Years
in Power isn’t a beach read. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ previous one
had glimpses of light between all the rubble, but no such thing this time around. This time Coates has his bludgeon ready, and weighed it down with centuries of pain, abuse and inequality.
Because that’s what this book is, a collection of essays and articles in which is shown – again and again – how black people were mistreated by American authorities ever since they set foot on American soil. No, Obama didn’t create a post-racism society; there’s too many centuries of white supremacy and the ignoring of white guilt before his time. And well, just look at who’s in the White House right now.
It’s the kind of history lesson you probably don’t get in school, but if you want to join in on the conversation, you should be reading along.
We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Penguin Random House 2017
It was late winter in Northern Rus’, the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow.
Just like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms an enthralling, easily accessible fantasy novel, with plenty of room for a cool (literally, in this case) female protagonist. Yay!
With my discovery of the CloudLibrary app (I’m not paid for this), I found a new way to more books. These are Express, so you can only borrow them for a week, meaning I just have to read faster. Alas.
As mentioned before, The Bear and the Nightingale is such an easy read, with only 300+ pages as well, that that time limit wasn’t an issue. It’s a (Russian) fairy tale about fairy tale elements being part of daily life. The young protagonist is too wild and strange for her family, and supports the ‘old’ gods and creatures besides Christianity. When the super religious join her house, things start rolling (into chaos).
I’m fond of reading stories set in Russia, and even though this is a romanticised version of history, it still gives an interesting look at early Moscow and its surroundings. But mostly it’s just a tasty morsel of a fairy tale that – even though it already got a sequel – can definitely stand on its own.
The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden, Penguin Random Publishing 2017
Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone round the bend and burned the house down.
Writing this review made me feel like reading the book for the second time, consider me a fan of Celeste Ng’s (you pronounce it as ‘ing’) work.
Again it’s a seemingly lovely, decent family of which the image (they project) slowly starts to show cracks. This time it’s literally and figuratively a small town story, and even though something quite big happens, there’s such a subdued, rosy-tinted tone to everything that even the moment when it all boils over, you don’t feel more like a soft ‘huh’. Because it wasn’t inevitable, but mostly because Ng writes in such a way that you’re swaddled, embedded into these lives and can almost feel the possibilities pass left and right. Maybe Izzy (Isabelle) will find her way sooner than later, maybe Mia and daughter Pearl will air out the secrets between them and for once put roots down somewhere. Maybe Mrs. Richardson can become a person again, instead of a connection between others.
So you wait, and hope while things crash and literally burn, while still ending on a high note. Because Celeste Ng is good like that.
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng, Penguin Publishing 2017
Today I dropped my laptop on the concrete floor of a bar built on the beach.
I honestly don’t know what to make of this, and I finished it two days ago. What’s the genre? How do I feel about it? Would I recommend it, and to whom? Well, at least it’s original (urgh, worst argument)!
Hot Milk is the story of Sofia and Rose. Sofia is the daughter taking care of her mother, who has strange symptoms no-one can diagnose in a successful way. Rose is the mother, the ball and chain of her adult daughter, suffering all kind of mental and physical aches. They end up in Spain for a specialist that might be their last chance.
Sounds pretty straight forward, but the story quickly goes of the rails in an almost fevered matter. The relationship between Rose and Sofia is far from healthy, but Sofia’s relationship with the world outside of Rose is unstable and confusing as well. Then there’s the specialist, whom seems to go for something between mad scientist and rich hermit. It feels a bit like an ugly, depraved version of magic realism, with the heat and discomfort sensible.
So …you could read it, if you don’t mind feeling annoyed and uncomfortable from time to time. It gets under the skin, I just can’t say if you’d like it there.
Hot Milk, Deborah Levy, Penguin Books 2016
Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August, 1960.
There was a book before the film. And yes, this is another one for college. Also another one I prefer over The Catcher in the Rye.
It’s the segregation years of the sixties in the USA. White women are housewives, black women are housemaids. They are expected to do everything, but are rewarded by little to no appreciation and always have being fired hanging over them. The majority of them are little more than paid slaves, which is something that Skeeter also discovers when she comes up with the idea to write the stories of housemaids. It doesn’t land well with a lot of people.
In the book there’s not just Aibileen’s point of view, but also Minny’s, and Skeeter’s. With the first two the reader gets two different minds and views on the same subjects, while Skeeter is the alien out.
The Help is such an easy read that when the uglier subjects pop up and disasters happen, it almost shocks you out of the pale pastels and superficial happiness everyone seems to abide by.
I expect I have to read it for the vocabulary used, I read it to discover if it was less coddling than the film. It was.
The Help, Kathryn Stockett, Penguin Group 2009
I used to love this season.
This is the first of the books I have to read for school. Lies of Silence, Catcher in the Rye, The Help and The Tortilla Curtain will follow.
Looking at that list, and having already read two of those, I know I could have done a lot worse.
Year of Wonders is about the plague. An English village in the 1660s gets hit by the disease and decides to quarantine itself, an element that’s based on a real story. Of course that doesn’t go well with everyone, and doesn’t the plague refrain from laying waste to it.
Main character Anna is not completely inner circle, but not a complete outsider either, giving a(n usually) sensible view to the happenings of small village life. When she loses her control of her emotions, it’s all the more painful and uncomfortable; because if she can’t handle it any more, who else will?
It’s a book on ordinary happiness, family life, small minded judgment, feminism and religion. Maybe I’ll change my mind about appreciating it when I have to write a 2000 word essay on it, but for now; an addition for many to read lists.
Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks, Penguin Books 2002
When news of the murder breaks I’m in Matthew’s, buying chicken necks so my little sister Renee and I can go crabbing.
A collection of stories all involving The Shore, a group of islands near the coast of Virginia. Some characters move through different stories, others only get a few pages. There’s whiffs of magic for some, (post)apocalyptic disaster for others. It’s a collection of island stories, throughout time.
The Shore seems to devour the people that want more, know more, creating a bubble inside the already bubble-like surroundings. Better to keep your mouth shut, your eyes down, your dreams small.
Yet this never makes the stories bitter; the majority seem to be light and fragile like the bubble it plays in. Is this really such a bad life, or just like any of those on the mainland?
The Shore starts strongly, but could have moved the stories around more to keep the appeal up. Now there’s a too clear peak with the feeling of an okay-ish aftermath.
The Shore, Sara Taylor, Penguin Random House 2015
Lightning has struck me all my life.
I don’t particularly feel like going to hunt fossils right now, but I am curious about the small village of Lyme Regis. Tracy Chevalier has a style in this novel that makes you forget you’re reading digital. The pages take on structures, the story adds a physical sensation, like the book shelters touchable details.
Main characters are spinster Elisabeth, wild and poor child Mary, and the beaches, fossils and water of Lyme Regis. In this short story (under 300 pages, which seems to be a common denominator in last books read), the reader goes along for the fossil hunt and discovering skeletons from creatures previously unknown. This is early nineteenth century England, crocodiles are the height of exotic creatures.
It’s a novel for the senses, filled with a variety of female characters. It’s lovely.
Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier, Penguin Books 2010