Reading Roundup 2016: Fiction


And here’s the last of it.  Fiction.  The biggest category of them all.  (Check out memoirs, nonfiction, and fiction series.)

I’ll attempt to go from favorites on down.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette has just about everything I’m looking for in a novel.  Interesting characters, great writing, compelling plot, some mystery.  I like the shifting character viewpoints.

From the description, “Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.  Then Bernadette disappears.”

I like that this feels like a book of substance without being too heavy.  Real, but still fun.

The One-in-a-Million Boy is one of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s top picks for 2016, and I can completely understand why.  This does deal with the weighty topic of loss of a child, but the whole thing is beautiful.  The book tracks people coming together in unexpected ways after the loss.  The feisty 104-year-old Ona Vitkus is a fantastic character.

Are they making a movie about A Man Called Ove?  (Checks Google.  Looks like they did in Sweden.)  If they hadn’t, they totally should.  It has all the good cinematic stuff.  A grouchy curmudgeon.  Crazy neighbors.  He is going to save them, but everyone ends up saving each other, etc.  Even though this seems like it could be cheesy, it isn’t.

The Precious One I loved, and it reminds me that I’d like to read Marisa de los Santos’s other works.  This is a story about a complicated family.  The story is told from the perspective of two sisters who live in very different worlds.  This is another book that feels of substance, but not heavy.

Truly Madly Guilty is another unputdownable Liane Moriarty.  Even though the subject matter is a little cringy (something happening to a kid, marriage problems), I raced through this one and it wasn’t so bad in the end.  The book turns on the events of one barbecue that seems to have ruined everyone’s lives.  You spend half the book finding out what happened (mystery!) and the other half seeing what happens next.

Similarly, The Forgotten Garden is another unputdownable Kate Morton.  I didn’t love it quite as much as The Secret Keeper, but it is a page turner with great characters, mystery, and a historical backdrop.

My feelings about Don’t Breathe a Word are complicated.  I raced through this book (staying up way past my bedtime) and then HATED the end.  And then I made my book club read it so I could dissect the whole book.  The book flips back and forth between present day and 15 years earlier when one of the character’s sister, Lisa, disappeared.  Lisa had been trying to contact the fairies in her backyard; was she successful?  Don’t be scared just because I mentioned fairies.  This isn’t a fantasy book, and one of the best parts is figuring out what’s real and what really happened.  And if you read it, let’s please discuss the ending.

One More Thing I wrote more about here.  Yay for B.J. Novak and weird short stories!

All the Bright Places was difficult to read.  It reminded me of the youths in Eleanor & Park, but things get a lot more serious.  I was left feeling kind of unresolved, which is probably the point.

I think I’m going to have to make a new rule for myself.  Any time a book is called the next Gone Girl, I should probably avoid it.  I really didn’t like The Girl on the Train.  Similarly, I was meh on The Widow.  The book has four stars on Amazon so some people clearly like it.  I just wouldn’t call it an “electrifying thriller.”

I was going to make a separate historical fiction post, but I didn’t read as much this year.  I was a bit disappointed with the two I did read.  The Nightingale was set up for failure because I kept comparing it to All the Light We Cannot See, which is a truly extraordinary book.  The Nightingale is gripping and tells a compelling story, but it is just SO depressing.  I know that WWII is depressing, but this book really pulls no punches.  You see families ripped to shreds in a very personal way.  I finished it.  But this one was hard.

The Shoemaker’s Wife seems like it has all the ingredients of a great book, but it just didn’t grab me.  It’s kind of like When Harry Met Sally set on two continents around the time of WWII.  I liked hearing about the Italy stuff.  I liked the idea.  It just seemed a little hollow somehow.

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