Merry Christmas Eve eve, y’all! Today officially marks the start of my holiday vacation which means I have roughly 4 trillion things to do before tomorrow. One of those things is running last minute Christmas errands, which is a bit terrifying because the stores are crazy. Just thinking about heading out makes me want to stay snuggled up on the sofa with a book and the dogs. I read quite a bit this month, far more than I would have thought possible with all the holiday craziness.
The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen “Bucolic Newport Cove, where spontaneous block parties occur on balmy nights and all of the streets are named for flowers, is proud of its distinction of being named one the top twenty safest neighborhoods in the US. It’s also one of the most secret-filled.”
I’m on a suburban thriller kick lately and this one was another one. The multiple intersecting plots and narrators keep the story moving, making this a legit page-turner. The neighborhood email listserv at the beginning of each chapter were definitely my favorite part; they reminded me so much of my neighborhood’s Facebook group. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending; it left me a little unsatisfied. It was a fast enjoyable read, but I don’t know that’d I recommend it.
Lost Along the Way by Erin Duffy “All through childhood and adolescence, Jane, Cara, and Meg swore their friendship would stand the test of time. Nothing would come between them, they pledged. But once they hit their twenties, life got more complicated and the BFFs began to grow distant. When Jane eloped with her slick, wealthy new boyfriend and didn’t invite her oldest friends to the ceremony, the small cracks and fissures in their once rock-solid relationship became a chasm that tore them apart.”
This one hit close to home: who hasn’t drifted away from friends over time? But other than the little bit of a reality check, I didn’t love this one. It took way too long for the reader to learn which crisis each woman was facing and for them to begin talking again. Then everything was all wrapped up very neatly and way too quickly. Yes, everyone ended up happy, but it felt a bit forced. I’d skip this one.
The Singles Games by Laura Weisberger “When America’s sweetheart, Charlotte “Charlie” Silver, makes a pact with the devil—the infamously brutal tennis coach Todd Feltner—she finds herself catapulted into a world of celebrity stylists, private parties, charity matches aboard mega-yachts, and secret dates with Hollywood royalty. Under Todd’s new ruthless regime, Charlie the good girl is out. Todd wants “Warrior Princess” Charlie all the way. After all, no one ever wins big by playing nice.”
I mentioned on Wednesday that I’m obsessed with the Hallmark Channel Christmas romantic comedies. They’re short, pretty formulaic and everyone ends up getting exactly what they deserve. This book is essentially the novel version of those movies. You can tell from the very beginning how things will end, but you’re ok with that. I admit that I found Charlie a little annoying in the middle of the book, but I was happy that she got her act together by the end. If you’re looking for a Hallmark movie as a book, you’ve found your winner.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney “Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.”
I’m not sure I’ve ever hated book characters more than I hated the Plumb siblings. They were all spoiled, selfish and kind of awful. I couldn’t muster up an ounce of caring for any of them, although I did find myself rooting for Melody’s children. Skip this one.
The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner “Spanning nearly a century, through secrets and mysteries, trials and sacrifice, this beautiful and haunting novel follows the lives of the Esposito family and the other islanders who live and love on Castellamare: a cruel count and his bewitching wife, a priest who loves scandal, a prisoner of war turned poet, an outcast girl who becomes a pillar of strength, a wounded English soldier who emerges from the sea. The people of Castellamare are transformed by two world wars and a great recession, by the threat of fascism and their deep bonds of passion and friendship, and by bitter rivalries and the power of forgiveness.”
I did not like this book when I started it. In fact, I almost stopped reading it entirely, but that goes against my nature. I can’t leave a book half-read so I kept going and I’m really glad I did! The story really picked up about a quarter of the way through and I quickly got lost in the story. It was fascinating to read how the island was (relatively) unaffected by WWII, something the rest of the world can’t really say. I loved the complexity of the characters and would definitely recommend this one!
Arrowood by Laura McHugh “Arrowood is the most ornate and grand of the historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa. But the house has a mystery it has never revealed: It’s where Arden Arrowood’s younger twin sisters vanished on her watch twenty years ago—never to be seen again. After the twins’ disappearance, Arden’s parents divorced and the Arrowoods left the big house that had been in their family for generations. And Arden’s own life has fallen apart: She can’t finish her master’s thesis, and a misguided love affair has ended badly. She has held on to the hope that her sisters are still alive, and it seems she can’t move forward until she finds them. When her father dies and she inherits Arrowood, Arden returns to her childhood home determined to discover what really happened to her sisters that traumatic summer.”
I legitimately read this in one sitting. It was so good and the mystery kept the story moving quickly. I could not have predicted the ending if you’d given me 100 guesses, which is refreshing. There is an implied twist that left me surprised and more than a little horrified, but it was tempered a bit with having Arden’s life work out.
What books did you read this month?