It’s 2020! And like, FEBRUARY, in 2020! It’s been an odd winter (no snow, bitter temperatures followed by 70 degree days), but here we are! I’m still reading away when I can and have oodles of reviews for you! Want to stay up to date on my book reviews (and everything else that’s photo-worthy) in my life? Follow me on Instagram @theloudlibrarian. And now, onwards!
Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden follows the trials and tribulations of a downtrodden Texas high school and a handful of the teachers therein, but set amidst a new administration, new testing standards, new tee shirts, and new phrases to put on the blackboard every.single.day. It feels absurd, but that’s what makes this satire work – you KNOW there are nuggets of truth in there. For anyone who has every taught high school, you’ll find a lot to laugh about in this one!
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler is a meaty book that covers a lot of ground – and definitely had some twists and an ending I did NOT see coming. Oak Knoll is a tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, so when a “nouveau riche” family moves in and builds a McMansion (and threatens an old oak tree), things get off on the wrong foot quickly… especially when you throw in a romance between the (Caucasian) daughter of the new family and the (biracial) son of their nearest neighbor. This novel explores race, class, appearance, threats, love and loss in a big, huge sweeping way and I was here for it.
Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield was so much fun! Full disclaimer: I’m a complete nerd for anything set in Henry VIII’s court, so when I heard this was a “modern day retelling”, I was IN! Harry Rose is a media mogul, rogue, dashing gent, and husband with six consecutive wives… you get the gist. 😉 I thought this was clever and modern, glamorous and deceitful, dishy and well researched. I was *dying* to see how the author would handle “married beheaded died married beheaded survived”, and she did!
The Better Liar by Tanen Jones gave me kinda mixed feelings about this buzzy “next Gone Girls/Girl on the Train” novel. Leslie arrives a few hours too late to see her sister alive – and able to help her receive a desperately-needed joint inheritance from their father. Instead, she bargains with a virtual stranger to impersonate her sister and split the cash – and you know it’s gonna end badly. 🙂 I *liked* this novel, but I didn’t tear through it like some other suspense novels out there (plus, that cover does nothing for it)!
A Good Man by Ani Katz was hella weird… but in a compulsively readable way. This dark psychological thriller is slim in pages, but full of twists as lead character Thomas unravels from his perfect family, home, and life in one unspeakable act after another (coupled with his weird sisters and mother, his job going sideways, and the occasional psychotic break, etc). I don’t want to give anything away, but if you want a dark, weird, gritty, short novel, this is one to try.
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald turned out not at all as I expected! Well-comparisoned to “The Incident of the Dark in the Night Time”, this is a book about Zelda, a young adult who is high functioning after being born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Zelda lives with her older brother Gert and aspires to be a Viking in all ways. Mostly a coming of age story (with a hopeful ending!), I thought this would be sweet and clean, but instead features strong language, a lot of discussions of sex, violence, drug use and (trigger warning) an attempted rape. I really loved the relationships between all the characters though – just not what I expected!
Inside Out by Demi Moore was an afternoon read for me, chronicling her childhood, Hollywood life, marriages, loves, losses and everything in between – an interesting read about an actress I feel like I grew up with (shout out to St. Elmo’s Fire!). An easy, dishy read…
You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley was such a sweet romance novel, but not in a twee way, just in a lovely way. 🙂 Mia and Harrison have relocated to a small Pennsylvania town and are trying to settle into their next chapter when Mia runs into a stranger – a man she’s been literally dreaming about for years. Chance and fate, marriage and freedom, dreams versus reality… this one has it all, and I really loved it!
Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman (who wrote 2018’s great Something in the Water) is another page-turning suspense novel that kept me reading every spare minute! This novel has dual mysteries – who is “Mr. Nobody” that has washed up on a British beach with no memory, and what lurks in the past of his doctor Emma – and are they connected in some way? I will say… this one dropped the ball on the one yard line for me (the climax not being as satisfying as I hoped) but was definitely full of action and drama. This one definitely pulled me along!
Ice Cold Heart by PJ Tracy is the latest in the “Monkeewrench” series, which I’ve read and loved since the titular novel came out in 2003. We still have our same cast of characters (the Monkeewrench gang and detectives Leo and Gino) in chilly Minnesota, and though the technology and murder-of-the-month has changed, the quest to solve crimes and be digital “white hats” remains the same. Satisfying for fans of the series!
Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness – bless. 🙂 I love a good one-day read, and this memoir from JVN is just that, but don’t get the idea it’s all fluffy kitten and rainbows – it’s not. JVN talks about growing up in the midwest (amidst bullying and the pressure to conform), his path through drugs, addiction, unsafe sexual choices, career and school struggles, and ultimately, his HIV diagnosis and rebirth through Queer Eye and crafting his media career. His *voice* comes through loud and clear, and while there is a lot of humor, cracks, and one-liners, this is ultimately a really arced memoir with definite highs and lows – but a happy ending.
The Wife and the Widow by Christian White was a great ‘palate cleanser’ of a read: fast, absorbing, atmospheric, and with a juicy twist! This novel is told from two perspectives: Kate, who has just discovered her husband has been murdered on the island where their vacation home lies, and Abby, an island local dealing with her husband’s suspicious behavior. I don’t wanna say any more that that! I couldn’t put this one down, and definitely didn’t see that ending coming. Recommended!
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener got tons of pre-release buzz, so I’m gonna be unpopular when I say… I didn’t really get into it. Aspects of her take on the tech industry in SF were interesting, but I couldn’t fully embrace the economics of start ups, the “bro attitude” of the companies, or the fact that Wiener seems like a dispassionate, kinda dry narrator. I guess I wanted more an an arc, more of a spark… *shrugs*
I also read All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenburg (I was underwhelmed)… The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley (Charlotte Lucas! The aftermath!)… From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg (because I *never* read it as a kid)…and Harry Potter (because, Harry Potter)…