Last year for Leslie’s Bookcase’s very first official book review I read All the Missing Girls: A Novel by Megan Miranda.
You may remember that I loved the book and recommended you clear your schedule and read this book immediately!
This year I had the opportunity – thanks to NetGalley – to download Miranda’s latest novel, The Perfect Stranger, in exchange for another honest review.
In this mystery/thriller, a failed journalist, Leah (though her failing is one a reader can sympathize with), runs into an old friend “Emmy” and decides to move away with her for a fresh start. When “Emmy” disappears soon after their move, Leah realizes that — on paper or the world wide web — the Emmy she knows doesn’t even exist. Leah’s credibility is once again at stake and she even becomes a suspect in Emmy’s disappearance. Thus Leah must work to uncover the truth herself.
I read once that (paraphrase here from my memory) it is impossible to hate someone if you know his or her story.
At first, I didn’t really like Ove, a grumpy and routine-based elderly man featured in A Man Called Ove: A Novel though I did find him an amusing character. Here’s a sampling of Ove:
“Ove is the sort of man who checks the status of all things by giving them a good kick.”
“Ove doubts whether someone who can’t park a car properly should even be allowed to vote.”
Likewise, I knew Ove would not be a fan of me, exampled by this:
“How can anyone be incapable of reversing with a trailer? he asks himself. How? How difficult is it to establish the basics of right and left and then do the opposite? How do these people make their way through life at all?”
However, as Ove’s “story” was revealed to me, I started liking him. And I felt that his character would eventually become tolerant of me as well…though I am 99% sure I’ll never learn to back-up a trailer, also a disappointment to my husband!
Recently I discovered a book by Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey. His book Belgravia is set a century before the Grantham family, so many of the themes of class are even more stringent.
Fellowes begins by noting that regardless of time period, similarities exist:
“Ambition, envy, rage, greed, kindness, selflessness, and above all, love have always been as powerful in motivating choices as they are today.”
For me, this book was completely engrossing. Like Downton Abbey, the plot moves around the themes quoted above plus new money vs. old money and upstairs (aristocracy) and the downstairs (their service help). Like in Downton Abbey, I loved most of the characters and hated a couple.
I used to read one book at a time. I thought I owed it to each book to give it my undivided attention, and I wasn’t sure I could concentrate on multiple books at a time.
I’ve since discovered that reading multiple books simultaneously (what I am going to call “multi-booking”) makes me a more efficient and even a more thoughtful reader.
How can this be?
As 2016 winds down, I wanted to reflect on my first year of running Leslie’s Bookcase.
I started my new website and blog on June 1, 2016. I planned to read and write about the books already sitting in my own bookcase. Well, as it turns out, 1) many of those books had been sitting there so long for a reason – because I wasn’t too excited about reading them; and 2) thanks to my new status as a “book blogger” I received access to some pre-releases. Well, this access resulted in my being super excited about reading new books (instead of the ones sitting in my bookcase), so I continued through 2016 reading mostly new releases.
To wrap up 2016, I decided to rank my favorite books published in the past year. Disclaimers: I have not read even close to all of the books that should be considered for such a list; I have not even made it through my fall-winter reading list yet. If my full-time job was to read books I would probably have a much different list! But, I read what I read, making a good effort to keep up with the buzz and what books most interested me.
To narrow to my five favorites, I imagined all of the new books I’ve read on a shelf, and if I was allowing myself to only keep five, what would they be? Which books would I be most confident handing to someone else and saying, “Here, read this”? With that said, here are my favorites from 2016:
Eligible: A Novel is “A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice.”
This does not – as I initially assumed – mean it will remind you of Pride and Prejudice like the way The Tea Planters Wife reminded me of Rebecca (at first anyway); the characters and plot of this new book are literally modeled after Pride and Prejudice.
This book is part of the Austen Project, which pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works.
RELATED POST: Emma and my love of the Norton Critical Edition
In this modern retelling, set in Cincinnati, Mrs. Bennet remains overbearing and super annoying about wanting all of her daughters, especially the older two, married yesterday. Bingley is a doctor who recently appeared on a reality dating show called Eligible, which is obviously modeled after the Bachelor (a super fun plot for me because I admit I am a fan!).
And instead of obsessing over handwritten letters as everybody figures everything out, this modern version, of course, uses text messages.
So does it work?
Literary cameos in HBO’s “The Night Of”
“Survival in here is all about your alliances….Those husky dogs knew that.” – Freddy from HBO’s popular new series “The Night Of” in reference to Jack London’s Call of the Wild
I get really excited when I see references to literature (or intertextuality) usefully inserted into an already great story line – it makes me pause, rewind, quote, and blog. So here goes:
If you are not watching HBO’s new drama “The Night Of” I STRONGLY recommend it (no serious spoilers here).
I want to reflect on a scene from episode 4 that offers some fascinating literary cameos when Naz, a soft-spoken university student who is in prison awaiting a trial for murder, meets with Freddy, a smooth, smart, and powerful longtime inmate who is essentially running the prison.
First, Freddie “educates” Naz on the “two most popular books in the prison library.”
I can count on one hand the number of books that gripped me the way All the Missing Girls just did. I read this mystery/thriller over three evenings/late nights, wishing I could clear my schedule to finish it sooner. So, consider this a warning to plan accordingly.
First I should address the structure. After an introduction to set the scene, the story line is presented backwards. Each day for two weeks is presented as a chapter labeled as “the day before.” As the days unfold, or fold?, the details are filled in. This structure may seem gimmicky or confusing, but I can assure you it works well and provides a reading experience rarely equaled.
“If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he re-reads.” – Francois Mauriac
Lately I have been reading books I feel like I SHOULD read. Granted I have enjoyed parts of them, am glad I am reading them, BUT are they books that draw me back towards them every hour of the day until I finish the last page? Are they books I will want to read again someday? Unfortunately, NO.
With this in mind, yesterday I wondered longingly over to my bookcases and pulled out these seven books that I not only enjoyed and could not put down, but that I would love to (or already have) re-read: