I read significantly less this month than last, due to a busy start to the work month which, luckily, set me up enough for this current crazy time we’re living in. I found myself gravitating more towards watching Stan to drown out the thoughts and everything going on in the world – almost to numb my brain – but it felt good to get more into the groove within the last week of the month and read a few books – two of which were un-put-downable. Make sure to take care of yourself in a time like this, whether that’s with a good book (perhaps one of these or january + february reading!), walks, streaming shows, creativity or talking to a pal.
The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway
The Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin, the boldest of four artistic sisters in a family living in genteel poverty, knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, the boy next door and her first love.
When Charlie proposes instead to a woman from a wealthy family, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up and turns their story into fiction, obsessively rewriting a better ending. Though she works with newfound intensity, literary success eludes her–until she attends a salon hosted in her brother’s writer friend John Hopper’s Fifth Avenue mansion. Among painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under the handsome, enigmatic John’s increasingly romantic attentions.
Just as she and her siblings have become swept up in the society, though, Charlie throws himself back into her path, and Ginny learns that the salon’s bright lights may be obscuring some dark shadows. Torn between two worlds that aren’t quite as she’d imagined them, Ginny will realize how high the stakes are for her family, her writing, and her chance at love.
I am still unsure how I felt about this book. I loved it first because of its title; I mean, New York and artists? My whole dream. I got even further sucked in through the blurb, because I love me a bit of historical fiction. I think the issue was it was such a slow burn; the beginning of the book felt tiresome as all she did was pine after the man who wasn’t going to marry her, and the second half was a surprising sort of thriller-esque take. It touched upon different socioeconomic standings and the importance that held, particularly back then, but you could also parallel it to now and how the wealthy show in different ways; it also shone an interesting light on how often women were looked over, even in the art scene, because they were mostly considered nothing more than house wives.
I do think, though, if you are into historical fiction and are after a relatively light read, this is your go. The second half of the book makes it far more compelling.
The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda
What happens when your best friend becomes your worst nightmare…
Having reached a dead end in Boston, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs a change. When she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who is moving to rural Pennsylvania, Leah decides to join her. But their fresh start is quickly threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.
Determined to find Emmy, Leah helps Detective Kyle Donovan to investigate her friend’s life for clues. But with no friends, family or digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Forced to question her version of reality and to save herself, Leah must uncover the truth – no matter how dark or terrible it may be…
The PROSE!!! Megan Miranda is a beautiful writer, and had me admiring her words even in the midst of a thriller. I stopped myself many times throughout the book because she crafted such riveting prose. Honestly, for that alone, this book is worth the read.
The premise of the story was well worth it, too. I had convinced myself I knew what was going on in the first few chapters, and then I was thrown off; only to be thrown off yet again. You truly did not know who to trust. The back stories gave more light into what was happening in that moment, and in the end, all the threads were woven together. Definitely, highly recommend.
The Boy Who Fell to Earth by Kathy Lette
Meet Merlin. He’s Lucy’s bright, beautiful son – who just happens to be autistic.
Since Merlin’s father left them in the lurch, Lucy has made Merlin the centre of her world. Struggling with the joys and tribulations of raising her adorable yet challenging child (if only Merlin came with operating instructions), Lucy doesn’t have room for any other man in her life.
By the time Merlin turns ten, Lucy is seriously worried that the Pope might start ringing her up for tips on celibacy, so resolves to dip a toe back into the world of dating. Thanks to Merlin’s candour and quirkiness, things don’t go quite to plan… Then, just when Lucy’s resigned to singledom once more, Archie – the most imperfectly perfect man for her and her son – lands on her doorstep. But then, so does Merlin’s father, begging for a second chance. Does Lucy need a real father for Merlin – or a real partner for herself?
I only semi-liked this book. I wasn’t sure if it was because I haven’t experienced a life like hers; single parenting a child on the spectrum, let alone parenting at all. Of course I have no idea how much of a bitter taste I would have in my mouth if my husband left me because of our child. This being said, though, none of that has ever hindered my enjoyment of a book before. Much of the fiction I have enjoyed reading is about women in their 30s and 40s, navigating life, love and their careers.
I ended up disliking too many of the characters, except for Merlin (her son), and Archie – though I disliked Archie for much of it because she made sure to paint him as ultra bogan to a point of disbelief. The protagonist, Lucy, is constantly bitter and angry at the world but never seems to want to take advice to help herself.
I think there were just too many metaphors and bitter one-liners throughout; like, no one is even that witty all of the time, so you could tell the author was banking them up over time and wanted to lay them all out for a laugh. That’s the thing – many were funny, but there were just too many lined up in a row.
In saying this, I cried at the end and felt there was some sort of justice, so perhaps it was just a bumpy ride to get to a lovely destination. I would be interested to know the opinion of this book from anyone who has dealt with divorce, single parenting and parenting a child on the spectrum.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.
AND EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT IT.
In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.
The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
Not an accident – a murder among friends.
!!!! This was truly one of the best suspense/mystery/thrillers I have ever read. I bought it because it was only $0.99 as an ebook – I wasn’t particularly intrigued by the blurb, but it was so worth it and I would pay more just because I enjoyed it that much. I read it all within a day because I didn’t want to put it down. It had me jumping conclusions, playing guessing games to see if I could figure out the ending before I got there, convincing me I had it figured out well before – then throwing another spanner in the works, starting again and doing that tenfold. It even has you assuming it could have been the least suspected person, because there are no limits to the secrets among them.
A PSA: probably don’t eat much while reading if you have a weak stomach; my peanut butter toast was not as thoroughly enjoyed after reading one of the paragraphs about hunting animals.