Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads – May 2018
This post may include affiliate links. That means if you click and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Please see Disclosures for more information.
It’s been a while since I could say this, but all of the books on my recent-reads list are winners! And, almost all of them are relatively new releases. There’s quite a variety here, so no matter your tastes (or feelings for long reads), there’s likely something that will appeal.
I’ve spent the last few weeks immersed in two long, very different historical fiction novels. The sudden busyness that is May has kept me from reading as much as I usually do, so I’m still finishing up the latest (Love and Ruin). Once I’m done with it, I’ll definitely be ready to move on to some faster, more recent reads. Check out my May 2018 reading list for more on what I’m reading this month.
Mini Reviews of Recent Reads
Here’s what I’ve been reading:
Rosie Colored Glasses
Rosie is one of those people who makes a room brighter just with her presence. Impulsive and whimsical, she is the polar opposite of Rex, her now ex-husband. Eleven-year-old Willow is enchanted by her mother and only tolerates her days at her rigid father's house, counting down until the next magical adventures. But magic and candy can only go so far, and as her mother falls into exhaustion, addiction, and depression Willow feels her world slowly crumbling in a way she doesn't quite understand. Wolfson masterfully provides the differing perspectives of all the characters in a way that inspires empathy, even as you are frustrated with the flawed Rex and Rosie. Each family member--especially Willow and her brother Asher--will break your heart in a different way.More info →
Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life
Dear Fahrenheit 451 is the blog I would write if I had a little more snark in me--only in book form. I had so much fun reading Annie Spence's letters to the book she loves, the books she's retiring from the stacks (she's a librarian), and the many books that have stayed with her in various ways.
I actually found this hard to put down--it was such a light, funny read, and I looked forward to seeing if she covered any of my favorites. She hit on a few that I've loved, as well as some others that I'd now like to read. But some of the funniest letters were to the surprising finds that she weeds from the stacks (The One Hour Orgasm and Principles of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis, anyone?). If you love books about books, this is one of my favorites.More info →
Then She Was Gone
Ellie Mack has been missing for ten years. At fifteen, beautiful, smart, and full of life and potential, she disappeared without a trace. The police suspect she ran away, but her mother Laurel refuses to believe it. Ten years later, divorced and disconnected from her other children, Laurel is still struggling to accept that Ellie is not coming back. Things start to look up when she meets Floyd and quickly falls into a relationship--falling under his nine-year-old daughter Poppy's spell as much as his. Poppy bears an eerie resemblance to Ellie, and soon Laurel is wondering if the connections between them are more than just coincidence.
This book reads as a mystery, and though it's not hard to figure out from the beginning, I was completely hooked and needed to know how the story played out. It's rare that I rate a thriller with five stars on Goodreads, but this one fit the bill. It doesn't quite fit the criteria for a thriller that isn't a mystery, but it's close. Jewell manages to build suspense but is meticulous in tying up loose ends, making this one of the most satisfying thrillers I've read in a long time.More info →
The Female Persuasion: A Novel
The Female Persuasion was one of my most-anticipated books of 2018 and it lived up to my expectations. Meg Wolitzer perfectly captures that disorienting time in college and early adulthood that so many people experience. The time seems defined by uncertainty about so many things: identity, values and political beliefs, the role of past relationships in future lives, and the relationships and goals we'll pursue.
Greer embodies all of these uncertainties, and feels she's found a foothold after an encounter with Faith Frank, an aging activist in the women's movement. The memory of that encounter drives Greer through college toward a career working with Frank--forever placed on a pedestal and seen as a mentor.
Life is on track for both career and relationships...until suddenly it's not and things aren't working out quite as planned. Greer must reconcile her past mistakes, decide what she's willing to compromise, and move past her youthful idealism to more fully see herself and those she loves and idolizes.More info →
A Column of Fire
This massive tome is the third in the Pillars of the Earth series and is set several hundred years after the previous (there are small references to the previous books, but they don't need to be read to follow this story). These books are what I call "soapy historical fiction." They are epic stories that span decades and are filled with drama, conflict, and romance, as well as history. This story takes us back to the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England, as well as to France, Spain, and Belgium during the time of the Tudors and the Inquisition.
The main conflict is between Catholics and Protestants, and we see the effects of this conflict on everyone from peasants to merchants to royalty. What I love about reading this whole trilogy, spaced hundreds of years apart, is the very strange feeling that comes with realizing that the characters you knew intimately from the previous books have died. All of the events and cares that drove their lives have passed into history and are largely irrelevant to the current story, but they also reverberate through the centuries and shape the lives of future generations. Another book that does this (with a very different story, and in much fewer pages) is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.More info →
What have you been reading lately?
So glad you loved Female Persuasion and Dear Fahrenheit!
And – I thought Love and Ruin was really slow…didn’t even finish it 🙂
Yes, I have fewer than 100 pages left in Love and Ruin and it is dragging. I did enjoy it at first and I hate to abandon when I’m so close. I will be racing through, though, so I can move on.
Dear Fahrenheit 451 is on my list, but this is the first I’ve seen a fellow blogger review it. I’m glad it lives up to expectations! I adore books about books, but they’re not all gems. I can’t wait to get a hold of this one now!
I hope you get to read it–it’s such a fun read for book lovers!
I read The Female Persuasion for the inaugural book club meeting at my local Barnes & Noble. I really enjoyed it, but almost no one at the meeting did. One woman even said she didn’t think neither Greer nor Faith was a feminist. Since I didn’t know the people in the meeting, I didn’t feel comfortable arguing… wish you could have been there!
Oh, I bet that was interesting! I mean, I can see the argument–the book actually made it as well. Faith’s feminism was old school and not inclusive, and some of Greer’s actions didn’t exactly lift up women. But funnily enough, neither does pointing out where others are lacking in their feminism :). I actually liked that aspect of the book, how it acknowledges the ways that people can do better, but also allows for their imperfect efforts.
Their feminism was imperfect for sure, but to say they weren’t feminists at all? That’s what ruffled my feathers. This woman also said that Meg Wolitzer is full of crap… Not sure if I’ll be going back to that book club! 🙂
Oh darn, I loved Love and Ruin! Isn’t Meg Wolitzer wonderful? I don’t think I’ve ever disliked one of her books. I also read Rosie Colored Glasses and while I didn’t love it, I found the characters all sympathetic in their own ways. Somehow I felt particularly bad for Rex. Nice reviews!
Thanks, Susie! I’m not disliking Love and Ruin, exactly, but it’s not moving along for me. I think the time of year (end of school craziness–I’m sure you’re feeling it even more!) and my distaste for Hemingway are contributing. It’s fine, but I’m ready to finish.
I’ve been wanting to read The Female Persuasion. I’ve heard so many positive things about it. I need to move it to the top of my TBR! I loved Dear Fahrenheit 451. I thought it was hilarious. My favorite chapter was her letter to an erotic book she was reading on the beach. Too funny!
So glad you’re having a great reading month! I found Love & Ruin a bit draggy as well, but mostly, I just didn’t care about the Hemingway perspective. I wanted more Martha!
I’ve been enjoying my May reading as well. It’s gone from fabulous, snarky, drama in The Favorite Sister to important but difficult non-fiction in Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. Most recently I read Tin Man and it was exquisite- tender story and beautiful prose.
Yes, more Martha! I got chills when I read more about her in the afterword. I didn’t know much about her before reading Love and Ruin.
Glad you’re having a great reading month! Tin Man sounds amazing–it’s definitely on my must-read list.