I’ve been reading so much and falling hopelessly behind in my Goodreads reviews, so I’ve put off writing this post for a while despite having sufficient 5-star reads to include here.
I’ve discovered I’m not very good at writing thoughtful reviews that give both my opinions as well as a succinct overview of the story (without any spoilers). I’ve done my best here, but if something sounds interesting I definitely recommend reading the overview on Amazon or Goodreads for a better picture of what you’re getting into before you get into it.
These stories run the gamut, from Greek mythology to intense historical fiction to pure romantic comedy. But you know what they say about variety (and it is definitely true for me and books). I think I’d get bored reading the same kind of book over and over (not to mention that similar books tend to blend together in my mind, making this whole review-writing thing even harder).
(As always, there are some affiliate links in this post, but all opinions are entirely my own).
But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me. – Circe
Goddesses in Greek mythology often get passed over, described as evil witches and etherial goddesses lacking voice or motivation; they are rarely developed beyond their usefulness to the men in their lives. But Circe centers on an oft overlooked character in mythology and transforms her into a multifaceted, deeply flawed and infinitely relatable character, with hopes and dreams and problems just like the rest of us mortals. (Also, if you read and love this book be sure to check out the author’s first novel, The Song of Achilles, which I loved just as much).
‘Every woman who enters the sea carries a coffin on her back,’ she warned the gathering. ‘In this world, in the undersea world, we tow the burdens of a hard life. We are crossing between life and death every day.’ – The Island of Sea Women
The Island of Sea Women
Not an easy read, but an important one, The Island of Sea Women follows the decades-long story of two friends on the Korean island of Jeju. It is a work of fiction, but it’s clear that an incredible amount of historical research that went into telling this story, set during the era of Japanese colonialism in Korea (a piece of history I knew little about). I particularly enjoyed learning about the Haenyeos, or female divers, and the matriarchal family structure of Jeju.
…by some strange twist it was the very meaningless of life that made it all so beautiful and rare and wonderful… That without the darkness one would never notice the stars. – The Clockmaker’s Daughter
The Clockmaker’s Daughter
While I loved The Clockmaker’s Daughter overall, the title of is a bit misleading. Yes, one of the main characters is a clockmaker’s daughter, but the title implies that clocks will be more of a central theme in the novel (I was imagining a Da Vinci code-like mystery with hidden clues in clockworks. Spoiler alert: it’s nothing like that). It follows the story of a group of free-spirited artists summering on a lavish country estate. 150 years later, a young archivist visits that same estate and finds herself in the middle of a centuries-old mystery. Title aside, I really enjoyed this book and still find myself thinking about the characters and their intertwining stories six months later.
I tend to read through these kinds of lighthearted romances without abandon, eschewing my to-do list to sit on the couch and immerse myself in the characters lives. I think I finished Well Met in a little over a day. It’s utterly charming, the unlikely love story between a pretty young tavern wench and a dashing pirate during a small town renaissance faire (and the conflicts they handle in their non-faire personas as well). Also, our heroine works in an amazing bookstore called Read it and Weep (which I totally stole for the title of this post). I wish it was a real store!
It’s weird how easily you can get to know someone from the traces they leave behind when they go. – The Flatshare
Can you fall in love through post-its? Apparently so. While the setup for The Flatshare is a bit ridiculous (a night-shift nurse sublets his flat—and his bed—during the hours when he isn’t there), it quickly turned into a cheeky romance that had me smiling from ear to ear. Cute and quirky and downright delightful!
Daisy Jones & The Six
Daisy Jones & the Six is the story of the rise and fall of the biggest (fictional) rock and roll band of the 1960s and 70s, called, appropriately, Daisy Jones & The Six. Told through the voices of the characters themselves, it’s basically a 300+ page rolling stone interview, and yet I found the story utterly compelling regardless of the slightly unusual format.
Men often think they deserve a sticker for treating women like people. – Daisy Jones & The Six
Other Notable Reads:
Almost 5 stars so felt they were still worth a mention.
Dear Mr. Knightley – I usually dislike books written in letter-form, but this charming novel about a young woman and her mysterious benefactor quickly drew me in. I certainly saw the ‘twist’ coming (so it wasn’t really a twist in that sense), but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this book and devouring it from start to finish.
The Bride Test – The sequel to the Kiss Quotient, and if you loved that book you’ll also love this one. It’s not so much a sequel as a companion, following the story of Michael’s cousin Khai and his… mail order bride? that his mother picked out for him (I promise, it’s much cuter than it sounds lol).
City of Girls follows the story of a young woman in New York City during the 1940s, finding herself and her sexuality among the misfits and outcasts of the NYC theater scene. I loved all the women in this book, in all their flawed and fabulous glory. This almost felt like two separate books in one (Vivian’s time at the Lily Playhouse and then her life after), but I enjoyed both of them immensely.
Stories are the only real magic that exists. A story can breach the impossible distance between individuals, take us out of our own life and into someone else’s, if only for a moment. Our hunger for a story is what makes us human. – The Thousandth Floor
The Thousandth Floor – A fun little futuristic fiction, set in a 1000-story tower in the (not so) far future. Definitely geared towards the young-adult crowd, but still interesting and engaging even for adults.
The Dinner List – If you could have dinner with any 5 people, dead or alive, who would they be and why? And what would you do if this hypothetical dinner actually happened?
The Wolf and the Watchman – One of the most twisted thrillers I’ve read in a long time, this one permeated my brain and refused to leave. Incredibly disturbing and yet, I couldn’t seem to put it down. Set in 18th century Stockholm, it opens with the discovery of a mutilated body and only gets darker from there. I will warn you ahead of time that there are some incredibly gruesome passages here, so don’t read it if you are squeamish (seriously).
The Flight Portfolio – Based on a true story of a normal man who helped get hundreds of influential artists out of France during World War II. I had no idea.
French Exit – A formerly-wealthy widow finds herself in a bit of financial trouble, so rather than facing her problems like a normal person she packs up and moves to Paris with her adult son and their curmudgeonly old cat (whom she believes to be the reincarnation of her dead husband). Witty and charming, this is a great read to lighten things up after you’ve finished The Island of Sea Women or The Wolf and the Watchman (trust me, you’re going to want something lighter after that).
Recursion – I loved Dark Matter. And I liked this one, though the high conceptual sciency stuff really made my head hurt.
Tell me, what are you reading? Finished any exceptionally good books lately? Please share in the comments! I may have 300+ books on my to-read list, but there’s always room for more.