I recently grabbed a copy of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin because I thought it might be a good fit for my long-distance book club. It sat, neglected on my Kindle app, until a few nights ago when I found myself the only awake in the house at 9pm. I had a lot on my mind, so I wasn’t ready for sleep, but it was cold enough that I wanted to get into bed. Enter the phone (generally my least-preferred method of reading a book), which allowed me to read under the covers without any extra light. I read until late into the night and ended up finishing the book the next morning after breakfast. What I still can’t decide is whether I loved the book or just liked it enough to keep reading once I’d begun. Continue reading
We got stuck in a fall malaise last week. No one was sick enough to warrant plague status, but we all had our turn with a couple days of lethargy and achiness. When it was my turn to hide in bed for an afternoon, I found the pile of books on my nightstand lacking. I find reading while sick to be a delicate affair and none of the books I had waiting walked the right balance between light and compelling. I didn’t even feel like a trip to the library, so I started sorting through what was available right that minute on the OverDrive app. Even digital libraries can save the day, it seems, because I found just the right sickbed read in The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen. Continue reading
Okay. I think I am ready to write this review. I read The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Steadman over the course of two days, but it’s taken me the three weeks since to be ready to write about it. The story follows Tom, a lighthouse keeper on an isolated island carrying weighty memories from the first world war and his wife, Isabel. Isabel is his light and joy, but a series of miscarriages and still births leave her drowning in her own grief. When a boat washes ashore with a dead man and a living baby, Tom and Isabel are faced with a difficult choice: report the death immediately or claim the baby as their own? Tom wants to report the death and search for any family that might be looking for the baby. Isabel wants to raise the baby themselves. They both fall in love with her, and the further they get from the event, the more complicated things become. Continue reading
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is the first in an old-fashioned mystery series set in 1950s England. Flavia de Luce, the protagonist and sleuth, is 11 years old. Despite her age, the main focus of the story is the mystery, not the experience of being 11. Adults in the story will use words or reference events that she does not understand but you, as the reader, will. That is not to say that she is an annoyingly childish narrator; Flavia is delightfully clever and ambitious. I’m starting to think about what I want to read this spring break, and this series keeps coming to mind. It strikes a perfect balance between a likable narrator and enough mystery to keep me interested in the plot while traveling.
Before I read A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, I was careful to avoid all but the briefest of summaries and reviews. Had I known anything about it, I might not have been so surprised when the narration jumped from present to past to future and back again, sometimes all within the same paragraph. Once I got my bearings, however, I couldn’t put the book down. A God in Ruins isn’t a page-turner necessarily, though there are a few mysteries hanging over the story until the end. I found myself sneaking chapters in the middle of the day because of the characters and the language itself. While I digested my own thoughts after finishing the novel, I finally read the reviews I’d been avoiding. Of everything I read, the one line that I wished I had come up with on my own came from the Kirkus review: “a humane vision of people in all their complicated splendor.” Ultimately, this is a book about the beauty and sadness of the characters and their lives. Continue reading