Since I have a fictional page goal this year, I thought it might be fun to do a monthly roundup of the books I’ve read as a way of checking in. Some books – as in anything by Rainbow Rowell – may get separate review posts, but this method will ensure I at least mention them all for memory’s sake.
Eight books and nearly 3,000 pages in January was not the plan, but I’m not complaining! I never thought I would say this – you know, since I’ve admitted in the past to actually smelling book pages – but I think my Kindle encourages me to read more. It’s incredibly convenient to be able to order books from the library and download them immediately when they come in. It’s also pretty cost-effective to download them from Amazon. I still love my hard covers and paperbacks – I’m reading a “real” copy of Cress as we speak – but am coming around to the idea that digital does have its perks. I think Bobby and our bookshelves are both pretty happy about that.
Anyway. Back to those January reads.
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.
We chose this book for our last meeting of Reading Between the Wines, and I’m looking forward to its sequel when it comes out later this year. I loved that it took place in the Roaring 20s – Libba Bray did a fantastic job of making the era come to life through the settings, the culture and the language. I really want to bring back the phrase, “it’s the berries” now (especially after hearing it again on Downton Abbey last week).
That said, this book definitely has its creepy moments – after all, it’s primarily about a murderer who is haunting New York. It also has a lot of paranormal and fantasy elements to it being that Evie and several other characters have supernatural powers. It’s not a book I would normally seek out (mainly because reading any sort of crime story before bed keeps me awake!) but it quickly reeled me in. I’ll be very curious to see where Libba Bray goes with the storyline.
One of my favorite quotes:
“There is no greater power on this earth than story…People think boundaries and borders build nations. Nonsense – words do. Beliefs, declarations, constitutions – words.”
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.
Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.
If you love historical fiction and WWII-era books in particular, you will adore everything about Guernsey. The novel is written as a series of letters between the main character, Juliet Ashton – who is witty, hilarious and lovable from page one – and the people who live on the island of Guernsey, as well as her friends and colleagues on the mainland. I was skeptical at first about how a story could possibly unfold from letters, but this book taught me not to get too attached to traditional dialogue. There can be so many thoughts and emotions conveyed in correspondence – although sometimes, it’s even more important to pick up on what isn’t said.
The plot was charming and the characters were engaging. Every single person on the island had a unique story to tell, and because Juliet develops a relationship with each of them, the reader really gets a feel for what life was like on Guernsey before, during and after the German occupation.
One of my favorite quotes:
“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Once again, the book’s summary does not do it justice. I read this book in a day because there was just no way I was putting it down. The words are beautiful, the characters equally so and yes, you will most likely find yourself sobbing at various points throughout. At the same time, you may also find yourself laughing hysterically at some of the witty remarks and commentary from Hazel and Augustus. Their personalities come to life on the page, and there are a lot of memorable scenes that make me all the more excited for it to become a movie. I’ve watched the trailer at least a half dozen times, and it really does seem to do the book justice (at least so far).
One of my favorite quotes:
“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.”
Other books I read in January:
- Eleanor & Park, Fangirl and Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (still eager for her next book)
- Just One Day by Gayle Forman (review coming after next book club)
- The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio
Although I enjoyed The Last Camellia, it wasn’t my favorite from Sarah Jio. I loved Blackberry Winter and Violets of March, but this one felt a bit more predictable for me. I’d definitely still recommend picking it up if you’ve read her books before, though – it has the same past/present style with a mysterious interlocking twist that’s found in her other novels.
As I mentioned, I’m currently reading Cress by Marissa Meyer. I’ve been waiting for this book to come out ever since I finished Scarlet last spring, and was even more excited after meeting Marissa last fall. So far, so great!
What have you been reading lately?