I’m not going to sugarcoat things: My reading has really taken a nosedive this past year (on the up side, I’m getting more sleep!). I aim to change that in 2018, as my to-read list is a mile, but here are the books I closed out last year with.
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
I’m not sure where I found this one—likely from another blogger’s book report post—but I devoured it in less than two days. From the get-go, you know that Amelia commits suicide (…or did she?) in this somber read, which is tough at times but heavy on suspense as Amelia’s lawyer mother, the protagonist, aims to figure out what led her daughter to this point. There’s really not much more I can say without spoiling the plot, but if Girl on a Train and Gossip Girl had a baby, I figure it would look something like Reconstructing Amelia. I’ll admit to loving anything that highlights the shady underbelly of UES prep school life, even though my upbringing in public school in the South couldn’t have been more different. Highly recommend for those of you who like Mary Kubica-style novels.
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
This came highly recommend by several friends and, thankfully, lived up to the hype. It starts with a plane crash from Martha’s Vineyard en route to JFK—so if you’re terrified of flying, maybe don’t read this book—and chronicles the lives of the two survivors in the aftermath, as well as reconstructs the crash from each victim’s standpoint (and their lives before it), as you the reader are left figuring out who was responsible for the plane going down. I appreciated the way the book jumped back and forth throughout time without losing me at any point, and what I loved most about this book was the eloquent prose and how well-written it was, beyond the narrative alone. I was on a roll this month! Until I wasn’t…
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
It took me nearly three months to get through Spoonbenders, and it was so painful at times, I’d put my Kindle down for weeks; to say it starts off slow is an understatement, and I never had any motivation to read it before bed, so instead I’d turn to the news or YouTube. When I finally did finish it at the beach, I thoroughly enjoyed the last 15 percent or so, but was it worth enduring the first 85? I’m not entirely sure. The novel, set in the 80’s, follows a family with supernatural and psychic abilities, the late matriarch who assisted the government in catching Russian spies during the Cold War. Given the premise, I expected to be sucked in from page one—especially as a lover of fantasy fiction—when the youngest of the clan discovers his ability (to leave his body) early on in the opening chapter. But the mob storyline was just one that didn’t interest me at all, and while many critics hailed Spoonbenders as one of the books of 2017, I wouldn’t advise anyone to prioritize when there are so many other better reads out there.
A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
How I never read this in my Gender Studies classes is beyond me—but I’m glad I have now. This is one of the few books you can read after seeing the series (or movie) and actually feel as if you didn’t backtrack, even though the show pretty much shadows the book exactly. And even though I knew the story already and ultimately what happened at the end, I still found myself on the edge of my seat while reading this dystopian tale about a theocratic society that overthrew the government and enslaved all child-bearing women as concubines to high-ranking male officials. Even if you’ve seen the popular Hulu show, I urge you to read the book, as well. Any Atwood fans out there have other favorite books of hers that I might try out next?
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
I guess I’m on an “as seen on TV” kick as I read Big Little Lies next on the plane last week, also having seen the show. It threw me off a bit with the book being based in Australia, while the show takes place in snooty Monterrey, but I quickly got over that—though I did imagine Reese as Maddie and Nicole as Celeste the entire time. In case you’re the last person in America to see the HBO show, in a nutshell Big Little Lies chronicles the lives of a handful of kindergarten moms and the gossip that links them all together and all leads up to one deadly trivia night—though the author starts from the climax and works her way backward and forward in time by weaving in testimonials given to the police on that fatal night every chapter or two (a literary tool I quite like). I had tried to read another book of Moriarty’s, Truly Madly Guilty, but just couldn’t get into it, so I was pleased this one was
a bit far more engaging.
So that’s it: a whopping five books for you. If you’re the type who speeds through multiple novels a week, I urge you to check out my pal Lindsay’s more frequent book posts. I’m starting Paula Hawkins’ Into the Water on my cross-country flight today, then have Krysten Ritter’s Bonfire queued up next. And knowing there’s a new Andy Weir novel out means hopefully I’ll speed through the aforementioned two so I can tackle Artemis next.