Recent Reads

I’ll be back soon with a health update, but suffice it to say that despite my best laid plans, 2020 hasn’t been the best year, disease-wise, for me. And that’s not pandemic related, thankfully. Just my regular uncontrolled chronic illness nonsense. But, like many other high-risk folks in this community, I have been self-isolating at home since March.

Which means that I’ve been reading. A lot. Every cloud has a silver lining, right? 🙂 With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few recent reviews across some different genres. They’re also posted, along with a number of others (and all of my reads) on my GoodReads profile. If reading is also your jam, I’d love to connect with you there and swap book recommendations!

Regardless of how you are spending your time during the pandemic, I hope you and yours are doing as well as you can, and finding some peace in these difficult times. xo

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins (pub 2020)

“Ballad” takes us back to Panem, and centers us on two events: the early adulthood of Coriolanus Snow, and the early years of the Hunger Games. Through Snow’s eyes, we learn more about the brutal reign of the Capitol leaders in Panem following the war, and the origins of many of the Games’ most torturous elements.

But, because this prequel mainly centers its narrative on Snow – the ruthless dictator in the original series – it’s hard to feel fully invested in the story. My best analogy is that we’re watching the slow unraveling of Anakin Skywalker, who we already know to be Darth Vader, in the Star Wars prequels. We feel curious, but we also instinctively know that it’s important to keep our emotional distance. Still, for fans of this world, “Ballad” offers a compelling history of the early Games, and allows us to see how their structure evolved to what we see when we meet Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games”. GR Stars: 3

Nothing To See Here – Kevin Wilson (pub 2019)

I picked up this slim novel for two reasons. First, it was in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide, and I trust Anne Bogel’s taste (even if I don’t love the book, it’ll challenge me in some way). Second, the premise was too interesting not to check out. The themes of class, wealth, power, and what makes a good parent are not new. But exploring them through kids that spontaneously combust??? That was unique.

Since I finished, I’ve been reflecting on this one. The thing is that, at first, I thought (especially) Madison and even Lillian, to a degree, were a bit one-dimensional overall. Not enough of a journey for either, and neither was super likeable. But upon reflection, I realized that their characters were written in a fairly realistic way, regardless of whether I liked them or thought they grew enough by the end. And I just adored the kids, particularly Bessie and Roland. They made the story for me. If you’re looking for familiar story themes, told in an original way with realistic adult characters, I’d recommend trying this one. GR Stars: 4

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier (pub 1938)

“I could fight the living, but I could not fight the dead.” I’m a huge fan of both mystery and gothic literature, so it’s inexcusable that I’ve missed this classic in the genre for so many years. It’s the story of a very young (second) Mrs. de Winter – we never learn her name – moving to her new husband’s grand estate, and living in the shadow of his late first wife, Rebecca. Manderley itself is a main character, looming large over the entire story, from the famous first line to the end. And every character in the story is flawed. Through their actions, du Maurier explores themes of loneliness, power/gender roles, revenge, insecurity, and morality. The author brilliantly keeps you on your toes, manipulating your emotions and making you question what you thought you knew (about the story and yourself!) from one page to the next. And Mrs. Danvers…chills!

“Rebecca” is brilliantly done, and despite its original release in 1938, it feels very modern. In fact, it’s easy to see du Maurier’s influence on so many of today’s thrillers. I read this on Kindle, and listened to the Audible version with Anna Massey’s narration, which was excellent. Hitchcock’s first American film was an adaption of “Rebecca” in 1940, which won the “Best Picture” Oscar. A new adaptation with Lily James and Armie Hammer comes out next month (see the trailer here). You can bet I’ll be watching both in the weeks to come! It’s the perfect season to find your way to this classic, in whatever form makes you happiest. GR Stars: 5