I hope book after book and hot cups of pumpkin spice tea kept you occupied through this fall. Winters tend to be pretty mild in the southwest, but get just chilly enough for a cashmere cardigan, thank heavens! I purchased a few new titles as a Christmas present to myself that I hope to share with you soon. Do you like to receive books as gifts or choose them yourself? As always, feel free to share your current favorites, or major disappointments, in comments. Until next time, peace, joy and sugar cookies. Happy Holidays, everyone!
The Moviegoer Walker Percy
Whether you are having an existential crisis or not, you will be nodding your head as you read The Moviegoer. Set in 1960s New Orleans we meet Jack Billings, or Binx, our protagonist who denys mundaneness in the everyday. He wants to be somebody somewhere not anyone anywhere. His cousin, Kate says the danger is becoming nobody nowhere.
Originally, I found Binx to be a depressing main character. He could be genial, although annoying at the accident at the gulf coast. Then he explained why and I was empathetic. Emotions are complex. On one hand I can understand his point that things can be monotonous in one’s life. On the other hand however, each day is a gift and there is a freedom in the choice to carpe diem or simply let it go. I agreed more with his mother’s opinion, that not everything has to be something. How’s that for a psychological debate? Since this was on the shorter side of length, ringing up at 240 pages, I thought this would be a quick read. It trailed in and out, to my chagrin, but perhaps it was meant to illustrate the characters days.
After some additional online research, I discovered Binx is meant to be unreliable, which was a helpful tidbit if this goes on readers future book list. Which brings me to my parting words. Exercise patience with this one. The epilogue tied all the pieces of this story together really well. I think this was a beautiful metaphor about balancing the past and future with the present, even if Binx got long winded about his everyday .
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab
This was such a magical, fun read. We meet Adeline in an early eighteenth century french village. To avoid a life she doesn’t want, she makes a Faustian bargain that allows her to live forever. One caveat, no one will be able to remember her. But then, in 2014, she visits a bookstore in New York and a young man remembers her name.
All the reviews, even the book jacket said she travels through centuries and across continents, but this novels main locations were place in France and new York City. The rest was like lukewarm backstory to highlight all that she’s done for 300 years. The history is a little generic and not relevant to the main plot. I definitely stayed up late each night just to read one more page. Addie’s resilience and determination were heartwarming and the twist that allows her to meet another bartered soul truly seemed like fate, even if Luc tried to claim otherwise.
How To Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann
Real life does not usually contain a problem-free happily ever after. Five women come to terms with this fact as they meet for a trauma support group in NYC. Broken into segments that get stranger and scarier, the suspense is kept vivacious right up to this novels twisted end. I loved the wry, relatable characters from page one.
Although, I loved the real Grimm Brothers fairy tales, which almost entirely contained dark endings. Adelmann kept the tales of Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and Rumpelstiltskin accurate but did you know Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off their feet to fit into the glass slipper? Gothel kills Rapunzel? Ariel, in The Little Mermaid written by Hans Christian Andersen, turned into seafoam(a suicide), no prince. Even in Rudyard Kiplings’ The Jungle Book, Mowgli and Baloo set the village on fire! No wonder Disney felt compelled to change all the endings!
I thought Adelmann mix of tabloid headlines interplayed with reality TV was a fresh way to unveil the anti feminism we’re fed by the media. I guess the moral of this tale is we shouldn’t believe everything we see or hear! Now I can’t decide if this was my favorite title this year or if City of Girls still has the spot.
Avalon by Nell Zink
Bran is a young woman trying to find her place in the world, though the odds seemed pretty stacked against her. This novel shows how messy and complicated it can get, though she is brave and resilient. Events were pretty minute but occasionally funny. Like when she went shopping with a friend’s mom, who told her she needs a feminine look that commands respect, to which Bran quipped, “is that even possible?”
I just found it confusing that she kept returning to the farm she grew up on in Southern California. Just when she seems to be having fun and moving on, she’s simultaneously seems to be running from a bad predicament. The farm wasn’t a home, and she expressed as much. Her common law and biological family wasn’t cruel per se, but they weren’t kind to her either. I also did not care for Peter at all, his references were beyond obscure, fueling his pretentious attitude. This is an absurd group of characters and experiences, but was an interesting albeit painful coming of age tale. I’ll have to try another Zink novel to compare and contrast, because apparently she has a knack for making the human condition unimaginable and preposterous.
Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I had some apprehension for Night Circus. It was a booktok pick that I found via Buzzfeed, and you just never know. It’s toted as a romance novel, but this ahistorical tale of de facto family and magic drew me in instantly. Les Cirque des rêves appears seemingly out of thin air, only open from sunset to sunrise. Behind the black and white curtains, a competition of survival is brewing under a binding spell that cannot be broken. Peek behind those velvet curtains to the inner workings of the circus, from acrobats and illusionists, to divination and magic clocks. Poppet and Widget were the cutest characters, but the whole gang has enough eccentricity to keep readers entertained to the end.