Lone Wolf: by Jodi Picoult
(Emily Bestler Books, 2012, 448 pages)
Cara’s family spilt apart and went their separate ways years ago. Her parents divorced after her older brother, Edward, ran away in the middle of the night years ago. Since then her mom has remarried and has twins to take care of and her father is still devoted to his wolves. So when Cara and her father get into a serious car accident, it’s strange to see her family together again and trying to work through their differences. While Cara escaped the car accident with a shoulder injury but their father has a serious head injury and unable to make his own medical decisions. With a looming decision ahead, Cara and Edward both believe they know what their father’s wishes would be and both are willing to do anything to fulfill them.
I always enjoy Jodi Picoult’s books. If I’m ever looking for something that I know will be easy to read but will quickly grab my attention, then I find one of Picoult’s books that I haven’t read before. I’ve recently enjoyed her style change up of moving away from court cases that usually center the last half of her novels so it was strange to move back to her old styling. I could tell she wasn’t fully invested in the court case though as she was focusing more on the emotion and relationships between the characters and glazed over the proceedings of the case. As always, the research she does to make the content authentic is impeccable as this book she covered the behavior of wolves.
Us By: David Nicholls
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2014, 400 pages)
Douglas and Connie’s son is about to leave home to go to college. Douglas was looking forward to this time that him and Connie would have together until his wife wakes him up in the middle of the night to announce she’s leaving him. Desperate to make her stay, he agrees to continue their “Grand Tour” of England with their son, Albie, so Douglas has a chance to win her back and make amends with Albie after years of a strained relationship between the two. While touring with his family, Douglas reflects back on his years with Connie and how they’ve gotten to this point in their relationship.
This was just an OK read for me. David is a peculiar character as he is very set in his ways and doesn’t seem to understand his family at all. And it’s sweet how he tries to win his family back during their vacation. But it’s obvious early on that he is just a very different person from his wife and son and maybe that’s why the read felt so drawn out. That or maybe all the descriptions of the different museums and art galleries that they visited which seemed to only slow down the story.
An Untamed State By: Roxane Gay
(Grove Press, Black Cat, 2014, 370 pages)
Mireille Duval Jameson has a loving husband, a brand new baby son, and a family that she respects. Her parents live in Haiti where her father is extremely successful and warns his family that if they are captured, he will not pay their ransom. So when Mireille is taken in front of her father’s estate by a gang and held captive, she knows her father will not pay the ransom to return Mierille to her family. Her husband battles with her father to get her released while Mierille tries to forget everything that was good about her life in order to survive the violence of The Commander and his men. After thirteen days Mierille is returned to her family a completely different woman who is unsure if she can survive the memories of her days with The Commander.
What an excruciating read. Roxane Gay is quickly becoming one of my favorite present day writers. Between her eye opening essays in Bad Feminist to this raw piece of fiction that captivated me from the very beginning, she is a strong voice that needs to be heard. Mireille is portrayed as a strong-willed woman even before she is captured and it’s heartbreaking to see what these men bring her too while she is captive and beyond when she returns to the United States in pieces. The reader is also exposed to the dangers, beauty, and devastation that is Haiti. I will be eagerly awaiting whatever Gay publishes next.
Winter Street By: Elin Hilderbrand
(Little, Brown and Company, 2014, 256 pages)
Christmas is fast approaching and everyone at the Winter Street Inn is ready until drama descends on every member of the Quinn family. Kelley, the patriarch, walks in on his second wife, Mitzi, having an affair with their Santa Claus, George. While Kelley’s three children from his first marriage are all having troubles in their personal lives. Patrick had to confess to his wife that he might be in some serious legal trouble. Kevin has started seeing the inn’s housekeeper, Isabelle, and soon they will longer be able to keep it a secret. And Ava was hoping for a Christmas proposal from her boyfriend, Nathaniel, but instead he left Nantucket without even saying goodbye. On top of everything, everyone is worried about Bart, the only child between Kelley and Mitzi, who is in Afghanistan for Christmas and when Margaret, Kelly’s first wife, receives troubling news, she throws herself into the drama at Nantucket.
This was a light, holiday story that I listened to in the car. There was a lot of family drama going on that you knew would be resolved by Christmas night, except for one story line that was left severely unfinished. I’m guessing we’ll be hearing from the Quinn family in another installment because it is unusual for Hilderbrand to leave her characters with such unfinished stories. Overall this story was nothing too serious but a good filler to listen to over the holidays.
Friendship By: Emily Gould
(Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 2014 258 pages)
Bev and Amy have been best friends since they started working at the same publishing house. Since then, they’re lives have gone in different directions but they’ve always seemed to stay close. Bev is currently temping after moving to Madison with her boyfriend was a bust so now she’s struggling to get by in New York. Amy was on the verge of social media success before her former boss black balled her so she now works at a small known blog and spending the same amount of money as when she had her last job. Nothing seemed to rattle their friendship until Bev gets pregnant.
This was not my favorite read. I thought I would like the aspect of how major life changes can sometimes affect friendships but I was too distracted by the story as a whole. Gould included a lot of great details that could have led to deeper stories to really show off these characters but instead she just lightly touched on them before letting them go. Amy was clearly a selfish and self-centered person and I wish Gould had really went for it and played up the dynamic of the parent-child relationship Bev and Amy seemed to have. Also the dialogue bugged me with way too many “ha’s” and style changings for my liking.
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
(Random House, 2014, 624 pages)
When Holly was younger, she used to have visits from what she called “the radio people.” After one scary incident with “the radio people” her mom took her to a doctor who magically banished them from Holly’s life. Years later though, they mysteriously return when Holly runs away from home after a fight with her mother. The further away from home Holly goes, stranger events start happening. Through the years after her running away, the people she loves most start to be affected by these “radio people” that cause her life to turn in unexpected ways.
I admit that wasn’t a very good description of this book but it was weirdly wonderful. Each chapter (and the chapters are long) makes a significant jump in time and focuses on someone different in Holly’s life that is affected by these “radio people.” The fantasy element was well done but even without those parts the book would have been interesting and worth the read. I loved how slyly Mitchell connected characters and elements from Holly’s life together. This book is definitely on the top of the best books I’ve read this year.
The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year by Andy Cohen
(Henry Holt and Co., 2014, 352 pages)
Inspired by Andy Worhol’s book of diaries, Andy Cohen published his own diary of a year in his own life. Cohen does not hold anything back between name dropping celebrities to his secret wishes to buy the apartment above him after the elderly tenant passes away. Andy seemed to filter himself a bit when dealing with Housewives drama but also seemed to drop enough hints that readers could figure out who was causing the latest behind the scenes drama. Cohen had a busy year between announcing his new deal with Bravo and his production company and hosting multiple big name guests on his show Watch What Happens Live but the biggest addition to his life was his rescue dog, Wacha.
I really enjoyed Andy’s last book, Most Talkative, so I was happy to hear he was coming out with his own diary over the past year. He started out a tad grumpy but that quickly changes once he hires a trainer and adds Wacha to his life. Andy doesn’t try to make the book more than it’s supposed to be and is honest about all his encounters with friends and random celebrities (good or bad). One of my favorite parts of the book was seeing that he asked his doorman to provide a blurb for the back cover of his book, which just adds to the fact that this is a fun, lighthearted read.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
(Scribner, 2014, 531 pages)
When the seize begins, Marie Laure is alone in her Great Uncle’s house in Saint-Malo. Marie Laure and her father fled there many years ago when the German’s started to take Paris. Marie Laure has been blind since she was a child but she knows the streets of Paris and Saint-Malo because of the model cities her father has constructed for her so she can be independent. When Marie Laure starts to hear the bombs going off and smells the smoke outside, she carefully places one building from the Saint-Malo model in her pocket.
Werner, on the other hand, quickly escapes to the basement of the hotel he has been stationed at. Werner is intelligent and talented, especially when it comes to radios and mathematics, since he was a small orphan trying to distract his younger sister. To escape his current situation, Werner uses his skills to be accepted to a military academy where he is eventually sent out to aid Hitler’s army. When the attack on Saint-Malo begins, Werner believes he will be safe in the basement until the hotel collapses and he is trapped underneath all the rubble.
I love how Doerr had these two separate storylines slowly circle each other and left the reader unsure of if or when they were going to meet. The book jumps back and forth between the present attack on Saint-Malo and the past leading up to the characters’ situations and adding to their dire need. I loved that Doerr spent equal amounts of time developing these two stories and then slowly started adding in a third story from a different perspective. It never felt like there was too much going on and was really well written. This was another National Book Award Nominee and it wasn’t hard to see why it was a finalist.
All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
(Atria Books, 2014, 400 pages)
Allison Weiss’s life wasn’t supposed to be this complicated. Her marriage is starting to strain, her daughter is an extremely sensitive child to everything around her, her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and she has blog posts to write. To cope with these now everyday stresses, Allison starts to take some pills to relax her. But as long as they are prescription medication then she’s completely fine, right? Sure she needs to hide her new habit from everyone she knows and it’s starting to get expensive with the more pills she takes just to get her through the days. She knows she isn’t an addict, it’s not like that. But she’s starting to wonder if it’s even possible for her to stop taking them.
This was an easy book to read, or listen to in my case, and had a storyline that quickly grabbed ahold of me. Allison’s character was interesting in that she firmly believed that she was holding everything and everyone together when it was obvious she was the one spiraling out of control. I liked the idea behind the story because it felt like a modern take on drugs in suburbia. Allison kept repeating herself that she was not like other drug addicts or alcoholics so therefore she must be fine. Like I said, she was an interesting character with a serious case of denial.
You can also check out Gwen’s review of this title.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
(It Books, 2014, 329 pages)
I really like Amy Poehler as an entertainer and she seems like a really cool person to hang out with but she did not want to write this book. Maybe it started out as a really exciting thing for her to do but she quickly and often lets the reader know that writing and finishing this book was a struggle. I think that’s what gave the book kind of a dark cloud attitude. But she tells wonderful stories about her life and how hard she had to work to make it as the successful comedian she is today. I think the shining points of the book are when she talks about her kids, especially the days leading up to her first son’s birth. I thought her writing for that particular story was hilarious and really heartfelt.
I don’t know why but I have more respect for celebrities when they are upfront with their readers and say they are not going to discuss or go into details about certain aspects of their lives. For Poehler it was her recent divorce from Will Arnett. She talked about being sad and that she went through a hard time but never hinted at the cause or any strain in their relationship, pre or post-divorce. I wouldn’t want to share everything about myself so I’m glad she set boundaries for herself.
You can also check out Julia’s review of Yes Please.