It’s about that time of year where I pop in and share everything that’s been on my Kindle! Are you ready for some good reads?
This year’s reading started off pretty slow, but I managed to make a (marginal) dent in my reading list for the summer, then check a few more off the list while I was in the Caribbean last week.
Here’s what I’m reading, loving and loathing:
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
I know, I know, this was a bestseller last year, but it finally came out in paperback, so let’s pretend The Paying Guests is still relevant? Set in 1920s London, this period novel chronicles Frances and her mother as they’re forced to take in housemates to their stately old home that’s seen better days after the war and Frances’ father passes away. What evolves is an unlikely kinship between the 26 year old and the wife of her new tenant that takes a few unexpected twists and turns.
Ultimately—or TL;DR, as the kids say—this book is about relationships and, without spoiling anything, addresses an interesting topic (particularly for the time period). However, while well executed at times, I think it could have easily been cut in half and had the same effect; at 600 pages, it took me a month to complete. I do think, should they turn it into a movie—and let’s be honest, when does Hollywood not gobble up a bestseller?—it will translate well to the screen.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5
The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida
Warning! This book is sure to cause stress, suspense and all the uneasy feelings. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me say this: YOU WANT TO READ THIS BOOK.
The underlying theme of this quick 200-page read is how easily one can alter her identity. The book is written in second person—an interesting literary device, I think—and starts with a 30-something woman flying to Morocco for a vacation to get over a recent divorce. Her passport and belongings are stolen the first morning she gets there, and what unfolds in the wake of her trauma is interesting, funny and, at times, a bit heartbreaking. I think everyone should read Diver’s Clothes, male or female, traveler or not—it’s so different than anything else I’ve read in some time. I will say, though, that my mom and I usually have similar opinions on books, and she was not at all happy with how it ended, though personally, I thought it was the perfect way to wrap it up.
My rating: 5 out of 5
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
This was another Entertainment Weekly recommendation that I downloaded on a whim from the library. I immediately was sucked in because it takes place in Wine Country, an area I got to know very well while living in San Francisco. Plus, Dave has a very engaging and easy-to-digest writing style, and this novel cruised right along from the beginning.
It opens with the protagonist, Georgia Ford, a lawyer who flees LA in her wedding dress (why? we don’t know just yet) and coming home to Sebastapol to find her parents’ marriage disintegrating and her father selling the beloved family winery, Last Straw Vineyard. There are multiple story lines within—like a testy relationship between her brothers, a set of twins with very different personalities; a new investor who knows how to push her buttons; a fire that threatens to wipe out the family legacy—but ultimately, this novel left me with a smile on my face, the sign of any good read.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor
I came across this novel, which came out in the summer, on a suggested reading list in a magazine. And sure enough, I started off thinking it was going to be one I highly recommend. Then, the plot developed and I wasn’t really sure which direction it was heading. The basic premise: A husband and a wife have a huge fight, and she disappears the next morning in Gone Girl-style. Parts of it definitely do channel Gillian Flynn’s epic novel—only not done nearly as well. The marriage was quickly unraveling, and many of the chapters flashback to the glory days of when the couple met, got married, had kids, etc. The ending, however, was a bit anticlimactic and just depressing.
Bottom line: Don’t waste your time with this book; you’ll just be disappointed by the end.
My rating: 2 out of 5
The Martian by Andy Weir
Often, the kick in the pants I need to read a book like this one is the movie coming out. After seeing The Martian trailer, I immediately added it to my list, because like I’m going to miss a chance to see Matt Damon on the big screen! I’ll admit: I was hooked on Weir’s writing style from the first page. It’s so pithy and engaging; it’s very rare you meet a scientist with such a quick wit who can dumb down science speak for the masses. That said, the talk of CO2 and nitrogen and all sorts of spacecraft was mind-numbing at times, and I’ll confess that I sometimes skimmed those pages.
But the story itself sucks you in, and once you make it halfway through this read about an astronaut stranded on Mars for four years, you’ll be at cruising altitude. And I also love the idea that this novel started as a blog series, followed by Weir publishing it in a Kindle format, long before there was a book deal or movie options.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Scents & Sensibility by Spencer Quinn
By now, you know what a fan I am of Spencer Quinn’s detective series that follows a PI and his pup, Chet, solve one mystery out of another. There’s rarely been an installment of the eight-book series that I didn’t love—until now.
The most recent adventures of Chet and Bernie have them following the mysterious unearthing of saguaro cacti—a felony in the Southwest, apparently—and the drug ring that is behind it. While I will still continue to read every book that Quinn puts out about this lovable pair, but I found the writing on this one a bit too contrived at times, unfortunately.
My rating: 2 out of 5
Right now, I’m halfway through All the Light We Cannot See, which I started early in the summer but keep putting down as I get emails that library holds have come available. It’s extremely well written but relatively long; at this pace, I’m hoping to finish it by winter! Likewise, I’m midway through Re: Jane, which can’t seem to hold my attention, and should be finished with Her Royal Spyness‘ latest read over the weekend.