Wednesday, April 5, 2023

January-March in Books

  I've finished 23 books so far this year. I've started listening to more audiobooks this year, and not only have I enjoyed them tremendously on my daily walks, but they are adding to my monthly totals, for sure. Here are comments on several of January's books.

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan. 4 stars. This thriller not only kept me on the edge of my seat, but the last quarter was also satisfying —something I find to be rare in thrillers.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. 5 stars. This is an incredible novel about the fatal shooting of Kahlil, a Black teenager by a white police officer, told from the POV of Starr, the teenaged girl —the Witness—who was with Kahlil. Highly recommended novel about racism, injustice, balancing worlds, friendship, and finding your voice. Actress Bahni Turpin read this audio version, and she is phenomenal.

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura. 3.5 stars. The narrator is an observer of intimacies and a passive participant in her own moments of intimacy. She watches small dramas play out without jumping in. As an interpreter at The Hague, she has to carefully translate details of horrific war crimes while remaining stoic. I liked this novel—the prose is lovely and concise—but it left me feeling somewhat cold, all the while hoping that the unnamed narrator finds the warmth she seeks.

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden. 3 stars. Psychological thriller that’s perfect for in between heavy reads. A rich psychotic family, a hot Italian groundskeeper, and an ex con. What more could you want?

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (audio). 4 stars. Phew. So sad, so beautiful. Hard to listen to because it’s so sad.

The It Girl by Ruth Ware. 4 stars. Good mystery!

Bittersweet by Susan Cain. 3 stars. An interesting study of the importance of embracing loss and sorrow rather than putting on a brave face all the time. As someone who is completely comfortable with and aware of the bittersweetness of life (I mean, I write poetry!), I did not find this revelatory, but it was affirming, which is always a plus.

With — finally finished. Unremarkable.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. So good! A story of Klara, an artificial friend, and her girl, Josie. This one stayed with me for a long time, and I still think about it now and then.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry. Very cute. I love Emily Henry.

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow. Audio book. Outstanding. Some difficult parts but so excellent. Three generations of women growing up in Memphis. Four stars.

February and March were excellent reading months. I may never recover from Demon Copperhead. I can't imagine that anything else could possible take over its Number One spot in 2023!

A few comments...
1. Demon Copperhead YES YES YES. Five hundreds stars. Totally lives up to all the hype and more. I recommend watching the limited series Dopesick (8 mesmerizing episodes) on Hulu and then reading Kingsolver's novel. Wow.

2. Ugly Love is my first Colleen Hoover book, and may be my last. I needed to know what the buzz is about Colleen Hoover. This was a very fast read. Most of the characters were pretty flat, the plot was fairly predictable, and it all tied up happily. I think Emily Henry and Taylor Jenkins Reid are infinitely better writers with much more original and interesting stories. 

3. The School for Good Mothers is an excellent book to pair with Celeste Ng’s Our Missing Hearts. In this one, a newly single mom has a single bad afternoon that leads to her being arrested and sentenced to a year at mother-training school. So good. And scary.

4. The Candy House: I really liked this Egan's novel; however, this is the kind of book that should be read in a few long sessions rather than over the course of a week or two, 15 minutes at a time, like I did. It’s also probably better read in hard copy rather than on an e-reader There are so many characters in this nonlinear book, and they are all connected in various ways. I would forget from night to night who a particular character is that was mentioned 80 pages beforehand, and I’m too lazy to flip back through my Kindle to find out who this person is. Really intriguing book but would have been greatly enhanced and appreciated if I’d read it in a few sittings.

5. Five Little Indians: A painful book. The topic is so important and the story needs to be told, but the prose was choppy and stilted. This seemed like a first draft and needed the help of a good editor. Again, this is an important story and worth reading on a humanitarian level, but I wanted the storytelling itself to be so much better.

6. Other Birds: A sweet, happy book that I obviously needed after all the heavy reading. Lovely.

7. Audiobooks: Clearly I was on a Lisa Jewell kick, and I don't regret the many miles walking with her mysteries. She's mesmerizing. Also listened to the classic Virginia Woolf To the Lighthouse, which is of course, well, amazing and unforgettable. It's better to read in print so you can underline everything, but however you consume it, consume it.

And there we have January-March in books.

What are you reading that I should add to my never-ending TBR list?

Also please explain the Colleen Hoover craze. No judgment if she's your thing; I'm just trying to figure out why there is so much hype about her books!