The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves is a delightful little novel about Annika (who finds it difficult to navigate social situations) dealing with life and love. It alternates between college in 1991 when Annika is dating Jonathan to 2001 when they have separate lives in Chicago and find each other again. I really enjoyed this quick book – it reminded me a little bit of Jojo Moyes, which, of course, made it appealing. My only annoyance was how frequently Annika was described as beautiful. It was unnecessary and, frankly, a little off-putting. Even so, I’d grab it if you have a chance – it’s good for now or to savor at the beach this summer.
I didn’t much enjoy The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray and had to push myself to finish it from about a third of the way through. I did finish because I had read such good reviews, it was short, and I kept thinking it would pick up, but I can’t say I would do it again. It’s the story of an extended family and how they cope when one couple is jailed for embezzling money. You never really get to the bottom of their rationale and that bothered me as the crime was so central to the story. I’d pass on this one, if I were you.
To me, Maid by Stephanie Land, is the Educated of 2019. I couldn’t put this memoir down and I wanted to know more when I was finished reading. Maid is Stephanie’s story of single motherhood, working as a maid while trying to finish college and stay out of homeless shelters. It began with a reporter’s tone and short, non-complex sentences, but Stephanie grew as a writer as the tale unfolded. I expect there will be a sequel in the works, as there was a long article in the NY Review of Books which covered a lot of the topics I wanted to know more about. She has enough material to keep her audience happy with another book. Grab it – it’s hard not to want to read it all in one sitting.
Grace After Henry by Eithne Shortall was a nice way to spend a gorgeous Saturday, but there wasn’t much to it. It’s ostensibly a love story with an ending I didn’t love. Grace is reeling after her boyfriend Henry’s death. She moves into the house they were about to buy and tries to put her life back together. Nothing is very fleshed out in this story, but it’s a quick and mindless read, which is sometimes nice. I’d grab it if you are looking for something light and Jojo Moyes-like.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides was another decent thriller, thought not as good as some. The story is about Alicia, a famous painter married to a photographer, Gabriel. One evening, Gabriel arrives home late and Alicia shoots him and then goes mute. Her therapist, Theo, attempts to get to the bottom of her story and subsequently to get her to speak again. It’s an interesting story and one that drives you to the surprise ending, but I had inklings along the way of how things were going to turn out, so it was not as suspenseful as it could have been. Overall, though, it was a good and creative story.
As most people who read this blog are aware, I am not a huge fan of middle grade literature. However, I was a Literature Circle Mentor this spring and enjoying reading a wonderful middle grades book with my five Grade 6 students. They loved the book and so did I. Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh is the story of Ahmed, who has escaped Syria with his father, but ends up in Belgium alone. He ends up living in the basement of a home being rented by Max’s family (recently moved from DC). Once Max discovers and befriends Max, we learn more about Syria, resistance, and resilience. Along the way, we learn some true stories of Belgium and resistance during WWII. Katherine Marsh used real moments (and her own experience) to tell the tale, which made it even more interesting and realistic. I really enjoyed these characters and this story.
Freefall by Jessica Barry was a great thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through. It moved quickly and the narrator shift back and forth was enjoyable. Allison’s fiancés private plane crashes in Colorado leaving him dead and her on the run – we are not sure from what. Her mother, living in Maine, is the alternate perspective from which the story is told. It’s creative and unexpected. I’d grab it if you like a good psychological thriller.
I loved The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas (though the cover is so awful that I never would have picked it up) and am so glad a St. Patrick’s parent recommended it to me. While is is dauntingly long, you will be glad you read it, should you take it on. On the surface, the story is about Joan Ashby, famous author, who agrees with her then boyfriend that they never want to have children. And, of course, the inevitable happens, which changes the course of their lives together. It’s a tale of love, loss, redemption, and writing/books. It was my favorite book so far this year (a year sadly absent of five-star reviews).
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer is the story of a Vogue photographer and writer, Lee Miller, who decides that she would rather create art than be the subject of it. Miller has been a footnote in history because of her relationship with Man Ray, but this book brings her to life in a wonderful way and was a great and enjoyable piece of historical fiction.
The Songbird by Marcia Willett reminded me of Maeve Binchy. It takes place in a small village and the main character lives in a cottage. Tim leaves his job and friends to move to a small town to escape his life-threatening illness diagnosis. In the interim, he finds a family and learns to love his life. I loved the cover of this book and, while the story wasn’t scintillating, it moved along and kept me interested.