Archive | January, 2020

Starting Off with a Bang

20 Jan

I don’t know what it is about a new year that makes reading so good, maybe the cold weather or the early darkness? This is the second or third year in a row that has started off incredibly strong for me. Of these first seven 2020 books, I’d guess that two or maybe even three will end up on my Best Litpicks of the Year list.

Two of these I know for sure are already out, the others are coming shortly. Except for Hamnet, which doesn’t come until the summer but it was so amazing I wanted to mention it now.

Five-Star reads first. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, out in the summer, amazing historical fiction about Agnes Hathaway. Don’t know who she is? You do, you probably just don’t know her name. Regardless of her famous husband, Agnes is a character you will LOVE. I rank this right up there with Song of Achilles and The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine Bonaparte. Amazing. Put your holds on it now! 5 (hundred) stars.

American Dirt has been the buzziest book of the season so far, and for good reason. It’s timely and also just a really compelling story. The story is about a Mexican woman named Lydia, living the good life with her journalist husband and young son. She owns a bookstore (so obviously I loved her) and was only slightly surprised when the cartel killed 16 members of her family. On the run with her son, her story becomes a migrant story. She’s trying to make it to Denver, undocumented, and through her we get the story of so many other migrants. Timely and good. 4.5 stars

It always feels like book magic when I pick up a book I’ve never heard of and wind up loving it SO much. That’s what happened with When Time Stopped. Shocking also because it’s a memoir and that’s not usually my jam. But listen to this crazy story: Arianna Neumann grew up in Caracas, the only daughter of a second marriage. When her father died, she had been living in Italy but flew home for the services and to clear out his things. His study, once crammed full of a lifetime of correspondence and papers, had been cleared out and all that remained was a single box. Inside, she found a German ID with her father’s picture and someone else’s name, along with a ton of other German documents.  Of course she started investigating and holy moly the story she uncovered! It’s a WWII story, obviously, but it reads like a novel. Her thorough research and her insane success in tracking down survivors who knew her father and grandparents….this story! It could be a movie. 5 stars! definitely on my Best Of list. On sale 2/4/2020.

The other four were good. The Bear is kind of a weird post-apocalyptic novel about the last two people on earth. Lots of nature and survival, solid 3 stars. The Great Pretender was the selection for a book club I just joined, non-fiction about a study done that had 8 people check themselves into a mental institution and document their treatment. The woman who wrote it wrote the book Brain on Fire so she has an interesting perspective. 3 stars. I love Louise Erdrich and The Night Watchman was very much in line with her other things. Very good story, loosely based on her grandfather’s life. 4 stars. I ended the last year with one of the most talked about thrillers of 2019, The Silent Patient. It was good, fast, thrilling…all you could want from a thriller! I sort of suspected the twist but it was still good. 3.5 stars