I wanted to start 2020 on a good note and read a variety of books. I ended up reading four books this month and listening to one on Audible. A thriller, contemporary romance, science-fiction, a family story and a series of short stories with a common character and theme. They all had aspects I enjoyed and each had characters that drew me in.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
My first book of 2020 was entitled “The Turn of the Key.” Ruth Ware writes mysteries that are easy reads but are full of twists and suspense. I’ve read all her other books and I always head to the library when she has a new book out. This story follows a girl who responds to a live in nanny ad for a smart home in Scotland. The ad and family seem too good to be true. Shortly after moving into the house, mysterious and haunting things begin happening. A child ends up dead, she is on trial for murder but she maintains her innocence. Written from the main character’s perspective through letters to her lawyer, the reader learns all about the Heatherbrae House and the mysteries surrounding it.
I had a hard time putting down The Turn of the Key, I was able to guess parts of the twists and turns but I will admit I was shocked by some of the surprises Ware threw in. I found myself empathizing with the main character and wondered how I would feel if I was left in a huge house nannying children who seemed out to get me. This wasn’t my favorite Ruth Ware novel, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys thrillers and mysteries. It’s a quick read and Ware’s creative storytelling keeps you engaged from beginning to end.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
I downloaded the The Kiss Quotient on Audible after seeing it on some lists of great debuts, great romances and in the “too good to miss!” section at my local library. I fell in love with Stella and Michael. I couldn’t stop listening to their story. The book wasn’t what I expected but the story was adorable, a little predictable and super endearing. The main character is named Stella. Stella is a thirty year old economist who loves logic, math and numbers. She is diagnosed with Aspergers and her experience in dating is limited at best. She decides the way to get better at dating is to practice, so she hires an escort, Michael.
Michael is the first person to really get to know Stella, and soon their arrangement turns into something more. Their partnership teaches Stella how to let go of her routines and to live life a little more freely. It is an original, sexy and fun story. However, some of their more intimate scenes are a little rated R! If you’re listening to it on Audiobook, do so in the privacy of your car or headphones. I made the mistake of listening to it in our kitchen, Josh came upstairs and quickly did a double take towards the phone asking “What the hell are you listening to!?” If you can get past the few sex scenes, that at times are rather unrealistic, you will find yourself wanting to know how Stella and Michael can make their relationship work in real-life. I loved the audiobook and I was sad when the story was over. The author Hoang has Aspergers in real life and she does a good job of writing about Stella’s experience so it is genuine and believable. The book reminded me a little bit of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, another adorable love story if you’re looking for something after The Kiss Quotient. Hope you’re able to fall in love with Stella like I did.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
This book asks the question, what would happen if women all the sudden possessed a fierce new power? All over the world, women and girls now have the ability to cause terrible pain and at times even death with a flick of their fingers. Suddenly, in all places the power dynamic changes. The story follows four different characters and how the power impacts their lives, a young girl from the UK from an intense family, a Nigerian boy wanting more from his life, an American politician and a foster girl whose religious foster parents have caused her to want to escape her life. The power causes the four stories to come together throughout ten years. Each part of the book is leading up to a big event. The parts are titled “Ten years to go,” ” Six years to go,” etc. You don’t know what it’s leading up to until the last section.
The book came out in 2016 and was the winner of the “Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction”, was on numerous best of the year lists and it even made Obama’s cut for his favorite books of the year. One reviewer stated that “The Power is our era’s The Handmaid’s Tale.” –Ron Charles, Washington Post. I agree that this book makes you think twice about how power influences people and what would happen if power dynamics suddenly shifted. Also, it examines what happens to people when they gain more power and who uses the power for evil or for good. This book was recommended to me from a friend and I highly recommend it to others. There are parts that are rather dark, but Alderman does an amazing job of creating a world that is believable and scary. If you enjoy science fiction and dystopian type stories, this will certainly entice you.
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
I decided to buy and read Red at the Bone after seeing it on multiple best seller lists, it was on the New York Time’s Best Books of the Year, Oprah’s best books and NPR listed it as one of the best books of 2019. It’s a short book, about 200 pages and each chapter is written almost like poetry. It’s a family saga covering a whole range of issues from race, class, sexuality, teen pregnancy, family relationships, education and how our choices impact our lives. The book opens on Melody’s coming of age party, she’s turning 16 and her grandparents are throwing a party that Melody’s mother, Iris, was unable to have since she had just given birth to Melody. The chapters are from various perspectives, Iris (the mom), Melody (her daughter), Aubrey (the father), and the grandparents.
Iris has Melody at a young age and she isn’t quite ready to be a mother. From a young age, Melody even calls Iris by her first name instead of Mom. Their relationship is unique and Melody leans more on her grandparents and her father. It was interesting how Woodson explores the relationships in a family and a community. I really liked how the book switched from character to character. It also jumps around time, going forward and backwards in their lives. It explores the familial history and how choices people make at a young age can impact their whole lives even though they don’t quite know who or what they want to be. Although this book wasn’t my favorite, I did find myself putting myself into the character’s shoes trying to decide how I would handle the hardships and challenges they face. I liked Woodson’s writing style and I loved the way the chapters flowed. Since it is a shorter book, it’s a good one to read if you need something that will make you think and if you want something that explores families legacies.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Olive Kitteridge is a book that I have heard a lot about, it won the Pulitzer Prize and it’s on numerous best book lists. HBO even did a mini-series in 2014 from the book starring Francis McDormand. The novel came out in 2008 and Elizabeth Strout just released Olive, Again this year as a sequel. The sequel is what actually drew me to pick up Olive Kitteridge. The sequel was on some best book lists of 2019 so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The novel is thirteen short stories all taking place in the town of Crosby, Maine. Each story is bound together by the character of Olive Kitteridge. She is a retired school teacher who has impacted more lives than she realizes. I really enjoyed how Strout was able to tie in Olive’s character into each short story. Some short stories focus on Olive more than others. There are a few chapters in which she is mentioned only once.
Most of the stories in the book focus on some sort of human drama– sadness, jealousy, love, hope and desire. I didn’t love the book as much as I wanted to. It took me awhile to get through. I would read a chapter then put it down for a few days. I think since each chapter was a different short story I never found myself getting too attached to any one character. I cared about Olive and her husband Henry but at times Strout makes her rather unlikable. I think it picks up in the second half and I did enjoy the stories that Olive was the true focus of. I still feel like I will read the sequel and see what Strout has Olive up to. I think Strout is a creative writer and her stories are beautifully written. All in all it wasn’t my favorite January book, but I did like the ending.
I just picked up a stack of books from the library and started a new one on Audible! Let me know if you have read any of the books I mentioned! What did you think? Did any sound interesting? Happy reading