Ahh February, a short month, yet in the world of a teacher, it feels like forever. I still found some time to read though! I read four books and finished one audiobook. My audiobook was suggested to me by my Audible app, it was under titles I might enjoy. Two of the books were recommended through my daily newsletter, “The Skim”. I recently joined “Book of the Month” and was excited to try my first book from there. And the last one was recommended by my sister and was on Obama’s reading list! We generally like similar books so I was excited!
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi was recommended by both my sister, NPR and it made Barack Obama’s annual list of books to read. With such stellar recommendations I figured it was worth a shot. The book takes place at a highly competitive performing arts high school in the 1980s in an American town. It’s clear the book takes place in a city, however, it’s not one of the major spots (LA or NYC) but the city is never named, rumor has it, that it’s Houston. It’s broken into three parts. The first part is the longest, and it tells a story about Sarah and David who fall in love during their freshman year. Their relationship is not as hidden as they want, everyone gets involved, including their acting teacher. It’s told from Sarah’s perspective and it’s hard to tell what is truth and what is exaggerated by her. It focuses on a series of events that eventually changes the make up of their friend group.
In part two, the story is turned upside down. Told from another perspective, and several years later the reader learns more about the relationships in the school and Sarah and David’s love affair. It leaves the reader wondering how much of the story is changed from part one to part two. In part three, more pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. The kids in the book are treated and feel like adults. The responsibilities and decisions they face are well beyond their years. The book definitely can spark conversation about relationships, friendships and loyalty. As a theater kid in high school, I definitely had flashbacks to auditions, plays and the intense emotions that are attached to high school happenings. The book definitely picks up as it continues, it took me a little while to get invested. However, I did like it and I would recommend it to people.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid was recommended by my daily newsletter, it is also a New York Times Bestseller and is part of Reese’s Book Club. The story is about race, privilege and how our intentions that may seem good can be quite harmful. It centers on a young black babysitter, Emira, whose employer, The Chamberlains, asks her at the last minute to watch their toddler late at night. Emira takes the little girl to a local grocery store to help out the parents, while they are wandering the aisles a security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar. The incident is filmed by a bystander, Emira is understandably upset and Alix Chamberlain is determined to make things right.
When the film is released, someone from Alix’s past and Emira’s current life intersect putting the women in a complicated position. The novel looks at relationships between employer/employee and what it means to to be part of someone’s “family”. Emira is wary of Alix’s help, she is dealing with money issues, losing her health insurance and she is unsure of what to do with her life. Alix thinks she knows best and is positive that she can help Emira. The story examines race relations, privilege, and growing up. I really enjoyed this book. I liked the complicated relationship between Alix and Emira and Emira trying to balance work and her life. Emira is trying her best and she gets stuck in a tricky situation. I definitely recommend the book to see how it all plays out.
Conviction by Denise Mina
Conviction by Denise Mina was my audio-book of the month. I generally have a hardcover book I’m reading, a kindle book for my phone and an audiobook that I listen to in the car/walking the dogs. Conviction was on my “titles I might enjoy” list on my Audible app. It was also part of Reese’s Bookclub and I usually enjoy her picks so I was willing to give it a try. It’s called a thriller but really it felt more suspenseful throughout. The main character is named Anna McDonald, she is having a normal day when suddenly her world is turned upside down when her husband makes an announcement that makes her feel entirely alone. To distract herself she turns to a True Crime Podcast about an entire family who was murdered aboard a famous yacht. As she is listening she can’t believe that she knows one of the victims from her past life, a life that she has tried desperately to hide.
Then an unexpected visitor shows up on her front door and her quiet life is done. She goes on the run, trying to escape her past and trying to solve the murder of her friend. With an unexpected partner at her side and her podcast they travel through Europe trying to find the truth. The book really picks up in the second half and I loved how you learn more and more about Anna and why she is on the run. The other characters really add to the story and I loved how the podcast is weaved throughout the novel. I highly suggest the audiobook. The narrator has an amazing Scottish accent and her ability to use voices for the other characters was really intriguing. I was sad when their story was done but satisfied with how the author wrapped it all up. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James is a creepy mystery and ghost story that I wouldn’t suggest reading before bed! The story begins in 1982 with Viv Delaney, the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel. Something isn’t right at the motel and it has a haunting past. Viv disappears one night without a trace. In 2017, her niece Carly returns to upstate New York to try and discover the mystery behind her aunt’s disappearance. As Carly is trying to discover what happened to her aunt she finds herself getting wrapped into the same mysteries that took her aunt away. The book switches between Viv’s perspective in 1982 to Carly in 2017.
The town of Fell is surrounded by mystery and has a history of hauntings and murders. Viv and Carly are determined to connect the murders of the young women of Fell and figure out how it relates to the Sun Down Motel. The novel is creepy and intriguing. Towards the end I started to guess who was responsible for the murders and what might have happened to Viv but I was still surprised by the ending. The book does have ghosts and hauntings that I found hard to believe, I also felt like if I were one of the girls I would have just run away but that takes away from the drama. I didn’t love the ghost aspect but it does add to the mystery and as you go through the story you realize why the ghosts are there. If you like thrillers and mysteries this is definitely a good book for you. I was happy with my first Book of the Month selection and I look forward to my next one!
Followers by Megan Angelo
Followers by Megan Angelo tells the story of a writer who works at a dead end job as a blogger for a fashion site. On a red-carpet event, Orla meets Floss a wannabe influencer who has a plan to launch herself into stardom. Orla and Floss unconventionally make Floss a household name. Some of their methods for followers have major consequences. Thirty-five years later the story follows Marlow who lives in a community called Constellation. The community is government controlled and every aspect of the people and their lives is filmed for American viewers. Marlow is one of the network’s stars, she has 12 million followers but she one day she finds out a big secret about her past. Desperate to find out more, Marlow escapes Constellation in search of answers about her family.
As Marlow searches for answers, the story goes back and forth from Orla and Floss in 2015 to Marlow in 2051. Their stories are connected and it all leads up to a big event that has major consequences for Americans. The book looks at what happens when people blindly follow celebrities, trends and their social media when in reality human-to-human connection is the most important. The life in the 2050s is scary and feels a little post-apocalyptic but also possible if people continue to obsess over technology. I liked the characters and I was eager to find out how all three of the women were connected. This was probably my least favorite book I read this month but I did think it was a creative storyline and had interesting characters. I think some people would enjoy the book but I wouldn’t say it’s the best book I’ve read this year.
Phew, that’s it for February. Have you read any of these novels? Do you think you’ll check one of them out? I’m eager to hear what you read this month! Happy reading!