Under the Harrow

Under the Harrow is Flynn Berry’s first novel, and I’ll be looking to read anything else she publishes. I do not usually talk to people about what I’m reading, but this week I said at least ten times, “I’m reading a book that is really effing with me.”

This book really got into my head. It stuck with me. It took me one week to read, but I could have read it much faster if it hadn’t freaked me out so much. This story is about a young woman named Nora who goes to visit her sister for the weekend. She expects her sister to be in the kitchen of her house in the countryside making dinner, but Nora finds her brutally murdered. Through the book Nora tries to sort out who killed her sister, while telling us about how her sister had been attacked when they were teenagers.

Nora’s search for her sister’s murderer, coupled with her pain keeps this book moving quickly. We get glimpses into Nora’s history with her sister, her current life, and the struggles that every family faces. Nora learns that she does not know every aspect of her sister’s life as she thought she did.

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The Killing Forest

A few months ago I had a realization that there is a vast difference in the books that I read versus the shows that I binge on Netflix. I am Netflix-obsessed with shows that contain an whodunnit component. Give me a show where someone is murdered and we have to figure out what happened over the course of a season, and I am hooked! I love the suspense, and I love trying to sort it all out before the detectives do. If you’re into this, be sure to watch: The Killing and Broadchurch. Actually, I should just give you my Netflix password so you can see the whole list of these.

I had the realization, however, that I have not ever really read a truly suspenseful novel. So, I picked up The Killing Forest by Sara Blaedel. And it sat on my shelf for ages. Until two weeks ago!

I really liked the story of a 15-year-old boy who has gone missing coupled with other mysteries that are revealed as the book moves on. I jumped into this series of Louise Rick novels, and I think that I should have started at the beginning, or at least I should have read a few of the earlier books first. This one had so much hype, though!

While I liked the story and the mystery, I was not impressed with Blaedel’s writing. However, it may have been the translator? If I do read another of her novels I will be looking for one with a different translator, and at the start of a series.

Doomsday Book

I did not finish a single book during the month of February. But, I took my sweet time with Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, and enjoyed each and every page. All 559 of them.

I’m not into sci-fi, not just in books, but in TV and movies, as well. It’s just not usually my thing. I certainly do not have anything against the genre, but I’m just usually not compelled to pick it up, and leave movies saying, “that was alright.”

However, I truly enjoyed Doomsday Book. I would certainly call this sci-fi light. Kivrin, a student, decides she wants to study the middle ages, and will use time travel to fully immerse herself. However, as she arrives, she finds herself extremely ill, throwing off her entire trip. Meanwhile, back in Oxford, the virus Kivrin has is spreading and throwing the country into chaos.

While the virus spreads through Oxford, the historians who are working with Kivrin have to ensure they can set everything up to bring Kivrin home, but they realize quickly that something has gone wrong.

I can see one complaint of this book being that things move slowly, and the characters do a lot of waiting and guessing. I think that Willis used this approach to help the reader understand how the characters feel – just waiting to see what really happened, and how to fix it.

So, even though it took me a long time to get through this book, I would recommend it!

 

Talking as Fast as I Can

Good morning from the warm and melty Upper Peninsula. The past week has been really warm and everything is just a mess from this extreme melt. Really, it’s a great excuse to hibernate and read (you’ll notice I use this excuse often – it’s too hot to go out, it’s too rainy, it’s sub-zero, so I need to read!). Ah well, it works for me.

After giving up on a book last week (The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco), I took a break from my books-to-read-in-your-20s list to read one of the books I got for Christmas – Talking as Fast as I Can by the wonderful Lauren Graham. I am a huge Gilmore Girls fan. I regularly re-watch this show on Netflix, and listen to the Gilmore Guys Podcast. So, I have been excited to read this book to get all of the inside gossip. This book was wonderful. It had a great balance of gossip, insights, lol’ing, and tears. I cried through the entire last chapter of the book where Graham includes some of her journal entries from her time filming A Year in the Life. If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan, I’m sure I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know when I recommend you read this book!

Heartburn

It is freezing here. We got nailed with snow the past few days, and the warmest weather we have had in about a week has been 12 degrees. So, tonight I curled up on the couch and finished Heartburn by Nora Ephron.

This book is about Rachel, a woman who has learned that her husband is having an affair. To make matters more complicated, they have a very young son, and Rachel is seven months pregnant with baby #2. Rachel writes cookbooks, and the book, which is a letter written by her, is littered with the occasional recipe. Rachel is hilarious. Despite the sad events in her life, she drops in these laugh-out-loud moments.

This book pulled in two directions for me. First, it has the gossipy, Real Housewives vibe happening. Rachel gives you the gossip on each of the characters she introduces, and she starts some juicy rumors about the woman whom her husband has been sleeping with. In the other direction is Rachel reflecting on how she got to this point, and what she’s going to do from here. She really has to assess what will make her happy and how she can move forward from this point.

This book read quickly, was funny, and Rachel had a great voice. I really enjoyed this and may have to pick up another Ephron in my future.

The Night Circus

I took a one book break from my books-to-read-in-your-20s list to read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. A friend has been telling me to read it for over a year, and she loaned it to me over the holidays. I cannot be more thankful!

It has been a long time since I devoured a book like I did with The Night Circus. It was so nice to sit down and read 100 pages at a time without realizing. It was so easy to get lost in Morgenstern’s world. If you’ve read any posts of mine before, you know that I love books that change perspective, and this book delivered in this area perfectly.

I don’t have some deep literary interpretations of this book – I can just say it was a lovely read with brilliant imagery inside a fantastical world. I did not expect to be drawn in so intensely. Don’t let the length of this book be intimidating because it was one of the quickest reads I’ve had in my hands in a very long time. If you’re one of the few people out there who has not read this book, bump it up to the top of your TBR!

The Moviegoer

It’s my final day off before I go back to work, so I took some time to finish The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. As with many of the books I have picked up in my books-to-read-in-your-20s challenge, I knew nothing about The Moviegoer or Walker Percy. This book actually won the National Book Award for Fiction.

This book follows a 29-year-old stockbroker named Binx who is living in New Orleans. He is searching for his place in the world, and he tells the reader about that search and how frustrating it is. Other central characters in this novel include Binx’s aunt and cousin, whom he is fond of and “close” to. As close as he can get without yet knowing his own place in the world, at least. Kate, Binx’s cousin, is severely depressed, and Binx is often asked to intervene and try to help pull her out of her episodes.

Binx is very particular and regimented. When describing himself he talks about how organized his wallet is, how he enjoys being a good citizen, and how his armpits never stink. He has a habit of dating his secretaries, and seems to hold most of his relationships at a distance. He loves attending movies, good or bad, and has particular theater employees whom he has developed comradeship with.

I’m 29, so I understand the familial pressures that Binx feels (people asking what you’re doing with your life, asking why you aren’t married, etc.), and it was interesting to see the differences in the way Binx and I live our lives. Ultimately, as Binx turns 30 there are pieces of his life that have come together and other pieces he still isn’t sure of. As 30 continues to loom closer for me, it’s a good reminder that I do not have to have everything aligned – I’ll always be seeking where I fit into the world in some facet.