What Jessica A read over the holidays

It’s rare I get a long stretch of quality reading time but, for the first time in ages, I managed to successfully disconnect myself from email and work and even Facebook (for the most part), and got in some great reading.

First up was The Prophet by Michael Koryta. I’d read Those Who Wish Me Dead, another book of Koryta’s, over the summer and really enjoyed it, and saw this older work of his in the library and decided to give it a whirl. While I enjoyed the Prophet, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It’s a suspense story about how two brothers whose sister was murdered long ago now become entwined in the murder of another girl in their town. There’s also a lot about football, and, well, football bores me. I’d expected to skim a bit over the football bits, but the suspense plot wasn’t as riveting as it was in Those Who Wish Me Dead. I wanted higher stakes throughout the novel. It was good, just not as great as my summer Koryta read.

Second was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I have to admit, this was the first Jojo Moyes book I’ve read. Kim is a big fan of hers so this, too, I snagged at the library when I saw it was available. As someone who recently had the experience of caring for someone stuck in a wheelchair, I was able to easily connect to this story about a young woman who gets a job caring for a man who has recently become a quadriplegic and now wants to end his life through assisted suicide. I couldn’t put the book down and I was completely emotionally invested in the characters. I was a sobbing mess as I read the last few heart-wrenching chapters.

Third was After You by Jojo Moyes. After reading Me Before You, I needed to read the sequel. I don’t want to reveal too much for those who haven’t yet read the first book, so I’m going to skip over the plot of this one. While I was eager to find out what happened to the characters from Me Before You, After You didn’t pack the emotional punch of the first book. It was funny and engaging and I breezed through the book in a few hours, but I didn’t love it quite as much as I did Me Before You.

Fourth was a book on my holiday wishlist, Asking For It by Lilah Pace. It was one of Publishers Weekly’s top six romance picks for 2015 and I can see why. As you might guess from the title, this book comes with a host of trigger warnings involving rape and rape fantasies, but it’s deeply emotional and erotic and reminded me a bit of Megan Hart, one of my other favorite erotic writers. Pace has a fantastic voice and her characters are complicated and flawed, but sympathetic. As with Me Before You, Pace left me dying for more so I had to go out immediately to purchase the sequel, Begging For It. 

Fifth was Dietland by Sarai Walker. This was another book on my holiday wishlist that received a lot of critical acclaim—it was a Kirkus Best Fiction of 2015 book, an Amazon Top 100 Editors’ Pick of the Year, one of Entertainment Weekly’s 10 Best Books of 2015, had it as one of 10 Titles to Pick Up Now, and so on. It’s a hard book to sum up succinctly, so I’ll refer to the review Sara Nelson wrote when she named it an Amazon Best Book of May 2015: “Warning: this debut novel from a onetime writer for Seventeen and Mademoiselle is not what it might at first seem to be: a funny send-up of the beauty industry and the media that support it. Well, ok, it is that, at least for the first 50 pages or so, but it soon becomes one of the more intelligent, and not a little subversive, depictions of women in our society. Oh, drat: that makes it sound brainy and Feminism 101-y, which is not right, either. So… trying again. Read Dietland, the tale of a young, overweight woman who hides behind a skinny-girl persona to write an advice column for a women’s magazine – and is soon drawn into an underground community of women who forthrightly and fabulously reject that culture. Read it not only because it’s smart and timely (and shocking: it explicitly takes on the adult film culture as well), but because it’s heartbreaking and tragic and very very comic (as long as you like your laughs dark) and because it will guarantee that you never look at a lipstick or a pair of stilettos or a bathroom scale the same way again. Sarai Walker is some kind of twisted sister. And of course I mean that as the highest possible compliment.” I’m honestly not sure what my opinion of Dietland is. While I ultimately enjoyed it, I had to force myself to keep reading at points. It wasn’t exactly what I expected and, on some level, I was disappointed that it wasn’t what I thought it would be. But it’s clever and satirical and entertaining and weird and fantastical. It’s the kind of book that made me want to talk to someone else about it—if only to help me clarify my thoughts on the book.

Sixth was Begging For It by Lilah Pace. The first book in the series was my fourth read of the break and perhaps my favorite romance read of the year. It followed the same couple from Asking For It and really pretty much started where the first book left off. I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as I did the first book, but that’s because it was a continuation of their romance and didn’t show the characters getting to know each other and falling in love—those are the things I primarily look for in romance. Still, I really enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone who read Asking For It and liked it.

Seventh was Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik. This was on Publishers Weekly’s list of top ten mysteries and thrillers for 2015. As a former boarding school brat, I’m drawn to prep school stories, and I couldn’t resist picking up this one. When her sister is murdered at their ritzy boarding school the heroine tries to solve the murder even as her life is unraveling. It’s full of twists and turns and compelling characters, and I couldn’t put it down.

Category: AlvarezBlog

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3 comments

  1. There is so much goodness and wisdom in novels. It’s a great way to leave a legacy knowledge and insight after we are gone…..and pass the time in a productive, healthy way while we are alive.

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