Again, this was not my best reading month. I got sucked into a rewatch of The X-Files and couldn’t stop watching episodes long enough to really do a lot of reading. I also started a few different books and had to pause them because I just couldn’t get into them. Right now, my brain is struggling to deal with deep stories – I just don’t have a great focus or attention span right now (hence the TV binges). I’m sure it’ll come back eventually, but for now, I’m just reading what I enjoy!
We’re Speaking by Hitha Palepu
Hitha is one of my favorite Instagram follows, so of course I was excited to read her newest book! It blends stories and anecdotes about Kamala Harris’s life with life lessons that apply to all of us. I love the way that Hitha blends stories about her own life with stories about Kamala’s, and also the “pearls of wisdom” that she inscribes in images of pearl necklaces as a nod to Kamala’s jewelry of choice. It’s a great read about owning your own power, in whatever way is important to you.
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Honestly, I’m kind of meh on this book. I had really high hopes for it – it’s a mystery of sorts, and jumps back and forth between Nella, an apothecary who creates potions/poisons for women to get vengeance on men who hurt them in some way, and Caroline, a woman in present day who found out her husband was cheating on her and sets off on their anniversary trip to London alone so she can think. Caroline finds a jar in the river that has a strange symbol on it and decides to do more research to find out about the apothecary, and Nella, and what happened to her. But Caroline’s husband shows up in London too, and something goes wrong (I don’t want to spoil it). The premise was interesting but the plot got really predictable – I think I wish the book would have followed only one woman’s story rather than both.
Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan
(TW: abuse) It’s kind of hard for me to classify this book – I guess I’d call it a sleepy thriller? It follows a suburban neighborhood and it’s cliquey, “Mean Girl” dynamics after a sinkhole opens up and a girl living in the neighborhood disappears inside. One of the fathers is accused of being involved, and a mob mentality sets in with the neighbors. The chapters are interspersed with news reports and book excerpts set in the future that look back on the dynamics at play that let the situation unfold as it did. Little by little we learn more and more about what’s really going on with each of the families and what really happened to the girl. I think it’s a story that’ll stick with me for a while, even if I wasn’t immediately sucked in when I was reading it.
(TW: shooting, violence, rape) This was a great “spooky season” read, as are Zoje’s last two books, Baby Teeth and Wonderland. It was less psychological than her other books and more straight up thriller. Imogen and Beck are sisters, and were childhood best friends with Tilda, but the trio have grown apart after a falling out. Imogen has recently survived a tragedy, and Beck thinks that bringing the trio back together for a hike through the Grand Canyon is just the thing to repair the friendship. Things start to go wrong, though, and they learn that they’re not alone on their hike. This is a page-turner, for sure, but also has real depth to it.
The writing in this novel was beautiful – it’s so detailed and specific, it really feels like you’re inhabiting the character’s life. It’s set in The Hague, and follows an unnamed main character who works as a translator. This is a slower moving book, and doesn’t really have a strong plot at all… it’s definitely character driven. It follows the main character through her work and personal relationships – her “intimacies” – and how they impact her life. It was interesting, but I think that I prefer books with a little bit of a stronger plot.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
(TW: school shooting, ableism, rape) This book was super hyped, because it’s going to be turned into a Netflix movie, and I’m not sure that it quite lived up to it for me. The story follows Ani, but flips between the super-successful Ani of now and the Ani of the past, when she was in high school. High school Ani goes from being a cool girl to being an outcast, and her life spirals after that. She spends her adult life still haunted by traumatic high school events, and revisits her past, figuratively and literally, when she agrees to take part in a documentary about what went on. I understand what the book was saying about women who seemingly have it all, but some of it was a bit much for me. There was also a part at the end where Ani talks about, basically, being better than someone else because they’re stuck in a wheelchair, and I did not love reading that! (It was brief but really stuck with me.)
The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis
This book doesn’t come out until January, but I got an ARC through NetGalley. It’s by the same author as The Lions of Fifth Avenue, and the books are similar in that they’re both historical mysteries of sorts. The plot flips back and forth between two points of view – Lillian/Angelica in 1919, an artist’s model who takes a job as a private secretary for Helen Frick after her mother dies, and Veronica, a British model from the 1960s/70s who is in New York City for a photo shoot at the Frick mansion. Helen creates a series of clues – a scavenger hunt of sorts – for her “beau” that Lillian is supposed to help him solve, but the hunt remains only half finished when Veronica stumbles on the clues decades later. She decides to follow them to see what’s hidden, and eventually, characters and storylines merge. It took me a little bit to get into Lillian’s story, but I ended up loving the book. I also really enjoyed reading about the Fricks – the Frick mansion here in Pittsburgh is one of my favorite places, so I loved the connection!
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I, too, was very meh on The Lost Apothecary. I really liked Nella’s storyline and wish the whole book had revolved around her — I think that would have made for much better reading.