Like most writers, I love reading, and I fill pretty much every spare minute of my day that way. I read before I go to sleep, when I eat (but only if I’m eating alone—manners count!), when I need a break from writing, and when I just need to retreat from the stress of whatever might be bothering me that day.
Here, in no particular order, is what I’ve been reading lately. These aren’t reviews as much as brief impressions. Maybe you’ll find something you’d like to try, too.
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
When the Hulu TV series debuted and everybody started talking about this book, I realized it was something I should have read a long time ago but never did. So, I set out to correct that.
Of course, as many people already know, the book is brilliantly written and utterly devastating. In the current political environment, it’s all too easy to imagine an America in which Constitutional protections no longer exist, freedoms are a thing of the past, and women are treated as chattel. It’s just so frighteningly plausible.
It’s always nice when brilliant literature is also compulsively readable, and this book was. I could barely put it down.
Wifey, by Judy Blume
I remember when this book came out, back in 1978. I was ten years old, and I knew Judy Blume for her children’s books, like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Blubber. I remember the hushed rumors in the school hallways that Judy Blume—yes, that Judy Blume—had written a dirty book.
And it is a fairly dirty book, though not by today’s Fifty Shades of Grey standards. It’s also a flawed book. But it’s funny, clever, and surprisingly poignant in its message about the difficulty of finding fulfillment within a marriage to a man who feels it’s a woman’s duty to cook pot roast every Wednesday and look good at The Club to impress the Joneses. The book’s a little dated—thankfully, marriage doesn’t usually look like this in twenty-first-century America—but the main character’s frustration comes through loud and clear despite the changing times.
Golden Prey, by John Sandford
Dang, I love me some Lucas Davenport. John Sandford’s Minneapolis police detective never gets old for me, even after twenty-seven books. Somehow, John Sandford keeps the dialogue fresh, the plot exciting, and the bad guys three-dimensional book after book. Some of my favorite series detective novels lost their zing as the series continued (I’m not mentioning any names), but Sandford’s Prey series delivers every time.
It’s one of the few series I’ll pay full price for, even in hardcover. I love Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series just as much. The books are gritty and the crimes are vicious, but somehow it all still comes off as a lot of good fun.
End of Watch, by Stephen King
Stephen King’s a master. He just is. End of Watch, the third book in the Bill Hodges Trilogy, doesn’t disappoint.
I did find it kind of odd, though, that the first two books in the series were mostly straight detective novels, but the third veers off into the paranormal territory we’re more used to seeing with King. I might have enjoyed End of Watch more if King had stuck with the premise that the trilogy would be old-school crime novels without the paranormal pyrotechnics.
But in the end, King’s writing makes it all worthwhile, as it always does. I particularly enjoyed the flawed character of Bill Hodges. He’s fully realized, and seems to come to life on the page.
House Rules, by Jodi Picoult
This book, about a young man with Asperger Syndrome who’s accused of committing a murder, started off really well, but then …
This is the second Jodi Picoult novel I’ve read—the first was My Sister’s Keeper. Both books gave me a similar experience. In both cases, it went something like this:
This is good. This is very good. Wow. I can’t put this book down. This is great. Okay, now, that seems unlikely. Why is he/she doing that? Okay, but it’s all going to work out, I’m sure … Huh. Well, that’s odd. I wonder what … ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THIS ENDING?!!
The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
There’s this family, and a dispute over an inheritance …
The setup might seem like we’ve seen it before, but this book was so full of interesting characters and family dysfunction that it all seemed new and fresh. The author avoids the trap of cliches to take things in a few directions I didn’t anticipate.
The character of Leo Plumb, whose charm and favorite-child status seem to help him land on his feet no matter how badly he’s screwed up, was a lot of fun. The family dynamics will be familiar to anyone who’s ever had a dispute with an adult sibling.