I got A LOT of reading in this month! This was partly because we canceled cable, partly because I try to read while I’m nursing Carla May (when she’ll let me), and partly because there were so many page-turners that I simply could not put down! My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise). Have you read any of these? Are any of these books on your TBR list?
All The Ugly and Wonderful Things – Bryn Greenwood
This book was selected as Book of the Month Club‘s book of the year for 2016, which was an award voted on by readers. All The Ugly and Wonderful Things tells the dark story of a relationship that develops between a little girl named Wavy and a big, woolly drug-dealing young man named Kellen. Bryn Greenwood’s writing is masterful, and she weaves the story in such a way that I was rooting for these unlikely characters to end up together. This was an uncomfortable but extremely gratifying read that I have found myself dwelling on often, even three weeks and seven books later.
Grit – Angela Duckworth
Grit was an interesting book about how intelligence and talent are not as strong indicators for success as passion, hard work, and perseverance. My key takeaway for this book was to not compliment our children on being smart or talented, but to compliment kids on effort and persistence: “You must have worked really on that!” rather than “You’re so smart!”
The Vegetarian – Han Kang
The Vegetarian is a quick read translated from Korean that won the Man Booker International Prize last year. This book tells the story of a woman who gives up eating meat in a society that views such an act as rebellion against the social quo. The book is told in three parts, surprisingly none of which are from the point of the view of the main character herself. The Vegetarian was a dark and disturbing read that is also somehow beautiful.
Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinsborough
This was a March Book of the Month Club selection, and I picked it up because I thought it would be a nice page-turner after experiencing two dark and somewhat difficult stories in the last few weeks. Behind Her Eyes tells the story of a seemingly perfect upper middle class couple and the husband’s secretary who get involved in a not-so-classic love triangle. While this story was certainly a page turner, it morphed somewhere in the middle of the book from a psychological thriller to a supernatural-type thriller. The promotional marketing for this book included the hashtag #WTFThatEnding. WTF, indeed. To me, the ending was so unbelievable, it spoiled what could have been a solid book. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear what you thought!
Exit West – Mohsin Hamid
This was another March Book of the Month Club selection, and has been a darling of The New York Times’ Book Review (it has been featured in four articles so far). Hamid’s writing is pure poetry with gorgeous sentences that go on for paragraphs, beautiful descriptions of human emotions, and maybe one line of dialogue over the course of the book’s 240 pages. This is the story of a couple whose relationship begins right before their country goes to war. Mystical doors pop up, transporting those who enter to other countries, creating populations of refugees throughout the world. When I read the premise of this book, I thought it was going to be a commentary on the refugee crisis and conflict in the Middle East, and while the story definitely pulls from those inspirations, this book was more focused on the main characters’ feelings of connection and isolation in their ever-changing worlds and the evolution of their relationship as a result.
Marlena – Julie Buntin
Marlena was my third March Book of the Month Club selection, and it is the author’s first novel. In the opening pages, the reader learns that the narrator, Cat, had a special childhood friend named Marlena who died far too early. Cat, a sheltered young girl, moves to a small town in rural Michigan after her parents’ divorce and immediately becomes entranced by her beautiful, manic, and street-wise next door neighbor Marlena. The story documents the development of their friendship and the hi-jinks they get into. I was not aware that this was a story about addiction when I picked it up, but this issue hits home with me. I am not much of a crier, but this story left me sobbing at the end. Marlena was beautiful and sad, and I feel better for having experienced it.
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale was a re-read that I listened to on audiobook. If you enjoy audiobooks, I highly recommend this one. Actress Claire Danes narrates the Audible version, and her voice perfectly illustrates the creepiness of the story. This is a novel about a dystopian future in which infertility is a major issue. The main character, Offred, is a handmaid who is appointed to a family with one assignment – to get pregnant. Offred remembers a time before the current social structure, in which she had a family of her own. This was a great story the first time I listened to it, and I thoroughly enjoyed the re-listen as well. Hulu is producing a series based on this book that premieres later this month.
Dark Matter – Blake Crouch
Dark Matter was a Book of the Month Club pick from last summer that I am just now getting around to reading. It is a mind-bending, science-y thriller about “multiverses,” or parallel realities. The story is about a professor named Jason who is abducted, knocked unconscious, and wakes up in a world that isn’t his own. This story describes his efforts to get back to his life and the family he loves. This book was a quick and enjoyable read that leaves you thinking about life and the choices you’ve made that have shaped where you are today.
What have you been reading lately? Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.
FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you. If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club(which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in this post, I get a free book. Thank you!