Last year I didn’t read a lot, or at least not as much as I wanted to. I finished 32 books, out of my original goal of 50. But then, this year, I joined the local library and have been on a rampage ever since. With the first quarter of 2018 past us, I’ve already read 20 books, some great, many good and some almost awful.
THE POWER by Naomi Alderman – ★★★★★
This is hands-down, absolutely, without a doubt the best thing I’ve read this year. It starts with a world that looks familiar and then something changes. Suddenly, teenage girls have a physical power, like an electric charge, that they can harness to hurt and destroy property and people. From there, everything changes. This book wins because it made me feel things, it made me think about the world we live in today and about the alternative worlds that could be waiting for us and it made me want to force it on all my lady friends so I have someone to discuss it with.
THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah – ★★★★★
I listed Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale as one of my favorite historical fiction books and I was really, really excited for her latest release. The story begins in the 1970s when thirteen-year-old Leni moves with her mother, Cora, and her father, Ernt, to the wilds of Alaska. Ernt was held captive during Vietnam and comes home from the war a vastly changed man. Alaska is his idea, a solution that appears perfect when he receives notice he’s inherited land from a fallen brother. At first, things are great, but winter nights are long in Alaska and there’s as much to fear inside the house as there is out of it. At its core, this book is about survival, both from the wilds of the wilderness and the wilds of humanity.
SWAMPLANDIA by Karen Russell – ★★★★★
This book was named one of the top books of 2011 by the New York Times. It’s been sitting on my Kindle for years. I didn’t really know what this book was about when I started reading it and it took some time for me get into it. On the most basic level, it’s about a fallen empire of alligator wrestling, but it’s also about family. It’s about searching for the things you’ve lost, too, and while the book trends toward the terrible in its later chapters, there’s also a bit of comedy sprinkled throughout.
THE ALICE NETWORK by Kate Quinn – ★★★★★
This is another one that tops my historical fiction list. It tells the story of two badass babes, one who has a spy during WWI and the other who has found herself pregnant and missing her cousin in the aftermath of WWII. They team up to hunt their demons and look for the missing cousin and what unfolds is an incredible story of female friendship. It also prompted me to look into the female spies of WWI, whose stories are largely unknown.
GIRL AT WAR by Sara Nović – ★★★★★
This book is about a 10-year-old Croatian girl from Zagreb growing up in the midst of a civil war that battered an entire region. It sat on my Kindle for way too long and I wish I’d read it a decade ago, when I was deployed to the Balkans. This book is beautiful written and heartbreaking. The essay in the back, “What it is like to be a deaf novelist,” also gave me perspective on a topic I’d never considered.
THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid – ★★★★
I thought this would be a nice palate cleanser in between a few heavy books. I was wrong. It tells the story of Evelyn Hugo, a 79-year-old Hollywood legend. After a lifetime of glamour and scandal, she’s finally ready to tell the truth about her life. She picks a relatively unknown journalist, Monique, to tell her story. She starts in the beginning, with her very humble upbringing, goes through the sometimes traumatic and painful details of her marriages, talks about the only person she ever loved and admits her biggest and darkest secret.
THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Karin Slaughter – ★★★★
I love a good thriller and have struggled to find one that kept me motivated to turn the page. This one popped up on a random list and I picked it up from the library hoping for something halfway decent and was immediately obsessed. Sisters Charlotte and Samantha Quinn lived through a horrendous attack in their family farmhouse when they were kids. Their mother died and both suffered at the hands of her killers. Years later, a school shooting rocks their small community and brings both women back together to uncover the truth about both their own pasts and the story of the alleged school shooter.
AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones – ★★★★
Celestial, an artist, and Roy, an executive, are newlyweds when Roy is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. He’s arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Five years later his conviction is overturned and he returns to his life which is very, very different. This book felt exceptionally timely, with race in America at the forefront of the story. More than that though, is the realness I felt in reading this book. It felt like real life, with human emotions and struggles and complex, well-developed characters.
ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman – ★★★★
Full disclosure: I did not love this book in the beginning, It took around 150 pages before I changed my mind. Eleanor Oliphant is not very likable in the beginning. She’s socially awkward, seems to care little for the others and is abrasive, at best. Things start to change when she and a coworker, Raymond, help save Sammy, who has fallen on the sidewalk with a full bag of groceries. From there, you get to know Eleanor, learn more about her background and why she is the way she is and slowly she starts to seem much less awful, and much more human.
ALSO READ THIS QUARTER
- My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella – ★★★★ – easy & light palate cleanser.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – ★★★★ – good, but not as great as everyone said it was.
- The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close – ★★★ – politically-focused & sad.
- Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi – ★★★★ – delightfully weird.
- Arcadia by Lauren Groff – ★★★★ – great writing & great character development, even with a literal village.
- American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse – ★★★★ – true crime in rural Virginia.
- Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan – ★★★★ – sweet & mysterious. also made me cry.
- The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – ★★★ – it was impossible for me to care about anyone in this book.
- The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin – ★★★ – includes a really hilarious 3-year-old.
- The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen – ★★★ – really good until everything changed.
- Into the Water by Paula Hawkins – ★★ – filled with awful, shitty people.