Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reading, end of the year wrap up

Hope the holidays are going well for all of you! I'll have some pictures to post, but I'm still sorting through my thoughts. I figured I should slip this post in before the New Year. I've still been going heavy with the mysteries, but I at least broke it up a bit this time. I'm splitting it into two sections, so that it's clear which ones are which.


Last Night in Montreal - I expected to love this book immediately, because of Station Eleven, but I have to admit I was irritated with the main character for at least half of it. I hate, hate, hate "quirky" female characters that are mysterious and not quite functional. I plowed through and gradually ended up falling into the writing and getting caught up. I still have issues with it, but I enjoyed it.

The Truth According to Us - A charming little novel set in 1930's small town West Virginia. This is charming, funny and sweet and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only quibble I have with it (is this even a quibble?) is that while it's a period novel it has a very modern sensibility, somehow. I never felt like I was reading something that was actually written in the 30's, but that was okay.

My Brilliant Friend - Another reader recommendation, which was so popular at the library that I had to wait awhile! This is an immersive, detailed exploration of a friendship in 1950's Italy. If you like a saga, you'll love this. There are more in the series and I need to get on the waiting list.

All the Birds, Singing - A haunting, beautiful, little novel about isolation and fear. I was surprised by how much I loved this book. It sucks you right in. Word of warning - there is a lot of animal death, which normally I wouldn't be able to handle but somehow it works right in with the wildness and desolation of the story.

And the mysteries: 

Disclaimer - Touted as the next Gone Girl, which always makes me skeptical. This twisty thriller is absorbing and the plot premise is interesting, if far-fetched. If you're into this genre, I'd say try it but keep your expectations in check.

The Lake of Dead Languages - For some reason (sheer stubbornness? lack of reading material?) I keep trying Carol Goodman's books even though I'm always only half on board. I'm happy to say that this is the best one I've read so far! The plot is dark and creepy, and it plays out well. I feel comfortable recommending this one to anyone who likes this type of book.

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next series) - Bridget recommended this series and it was promptly seconded by a couple of you, so I had to try it. Unsurprisingly, I loved it. I'm not sure how to describe it other than completely odd ball and I love a screwy, comedic, surreal mystery. Time travel? An evil villain bent on destroying a literary masterpiece from within? Sure, I'm in! It probably helps that Jane Eyre is one of my all time favorite books.

The Last Girl, The Stranger You Know, The Kill - Books 3, 4 and 5 in the Maeve Kerrigan series and going strong. I highly recommend this one, if you enjoy detective thrillers.

Let the Dead Lie - The second in the Emmanuel Cooper series set in apartheid South Africa and I didn't love it as much as the first, just because the particular mystery didn't grab me. This is par for the course with mystery series (and very individual!), so I'll still be picking up the next one.

Murphy's Law - A period mystery featuring a young Irish woman who has just arrived in America. This is the first of a series and I can see myself checking out more. It's more cutesy than realistic, but sometimes that's what you want.

X -  I had been on the wait list for Sue Grafton's latest for so many months that I was starting to get antsy. It arrived on Christmas Eve, just like a gift from the library. I continue to be impressed with how this series has held up. This wasn't my absolute favorite, but the writing was good, the plot and side plots were interesting and I still love all the characters.

Burn Out, Locked In, Coming Back, City of Whispers, Looking for Yesterday, The Night Searchers - I've always enjoyed the Sharon McCone series from Marcia Mueller, so I was excited to suddenly discover that I was several books behind. I caught up in a binge over the holidays. I will say that I think this series is going downhill just a little bit (didn't love the premise of Locked In, which also made Coming Back a bit tiresome) but it's still a fun read.


  1. Awesome year in books! I am so happy you read The Truth According to Us -- my favorite this year! I also just finished Where All Light Tends to Go (much darker) but so good and a debut! I recommend it.

    I agree re: Last Night in Montreal but the writing enchanted me! So beautiful. I need to read her others next.

    Definitely going to check out some of these mysteries. Have you read Recipes for Love and Murder? It's a bit like The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency but I really enjoyed it and I guess it's the start of a series. Really good re: food and South Africa and mystery!

    1. Always love getting your recs! Just added Where All the Light Tends to Go to my list.

      For some reason the No. 1 Ladies DA didn't grab me! I tried a couple and just didn't love them. Maybe I should try again?

    2. Thank you!!!

      Agree re: The No. 1 Ladies DA -- not my favorite but I loved Recipes for Love and Murder -- they are a bit similar but RfL&M focuses a lot on food, which reminds me of you!! I would say the most similar thing is the setting.

      Also, one more rec -- my first read of the year was Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins -- it is amazing re: the Mojave desert and California. It reminded me both of Station Eleven and The Handmaid's Tale but so fresh re: the west!

  2. I LOVE your book reviews and always reference them when I'm looking for something new to read.
    Sending love as we enter this new year. (hugs)

  3. I'm so happy you loved the Eyre Affair! Super quirky, for sure.

    Oh! And The Truth According to Us is next for my book club---I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  4. You got me hooked on Jane Casey and the Maeve Kerrigan series! Have you read her first book, The Missing? It is not part of the series, but I found it to be addicting, if a little less polished than the Kerrigan books.

    Thank you for these updates! I have discovered you and I have incredibly similar taste in books, so I love to hear your thoughts. Have a lovely New Years!

  5. Rachel --
    I am rereading/catching up with your blog, and I just want to say that it is my absolute favorite. I have commented along these lines before, and I know nobody's life is perfect, but your blog is so authentic and beautiful and I love the feeling I get when I read it. I wish I could explain it better (and also I hope that doesn't sound creepy!). It sounds like it's been a bittersweet holiday season so I hope this year is full of joy and blessings for you!!

  6. I love your reading posts! I've read many of your recommendations and always look forward to more! Happy New Year!

  7. The Lake of Dead Languages was the first Carol Goodman book I read, and I really liked it. So of course I've been disappointed by everything else she's written. This is a good reminder to me to go back and read that one again ;)

  8. Hi Rachel, I love your book posts, so thank you for always sharing these. I was wondering if you'd ever read any Kate Atkinson? I've just finished Life After Life and it was a beautiful read that's really stuck with me since I put it down. The premise is very smart and her writing is, well, it's like all of her books - so astute. I'd love to know what you think of it.

    1. Yes, I love Kate Atkinson! Life After Life was amazing.

  9. Really appreciate your book posts! We seem to have the same taste in books. I just read Disclaimer and really enjoyed it. I use the website Your Next Read to get book recommendations, and I'm currently reading Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson. It's similar to Disclaimer and although I'm only halfway through, its very good!


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