all photos from Goodreads
My recent reading selections have been all over the map, thanks to my strategy of placing holds on a bunch of books all at once. I thought I was pretty clever until they all started rolling in within a few days of one another, six months after the fact...I've done a lot of reading lately. And I'm still under the gun. Luckily, my sources for recommendations have been spot on, so allow me to pass along the best of the best from the last couple of months.
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn - One of those blow-your-mind can't-read-it-fast-enough treasures. GG tells the roundabout, twisty tale of the disappearance of Amy Dunne, who vanishes on her fifth wedding anniversary. The chapters alternate between Amy's diary entries, which sketch in the early days of her marriage, and her husband Nick's point of view, during the ongoing investigation (he's a prime suspect). I first heard about GG on Morning Edition (listen here) and I was sold. Block out a few days of your life to be sucked in, it's a tome.
Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead - This slice of life novel about a shotgun wedding is set on a small, exclusive island in New England. Winn van Meter, the family patriarch, serves as a guide through the hectic, drunken weekend that ensues - illicit sex, rooftop romps, and a combustible whale are just a few of the highlights. BigBang Studio described the writing as Cheeveresque, and I completely agree.
Broken Harbor, by Tana French - French has long been a favorite, ever since I read Into the Woods. BH didn't disappoint, although it was similarly disturbing. Mike Kennedy is your classic detective - hard with a soft spot, tough talking and cocky. Naturally, he has a tragic past tied closely to the location of his latest case: Broken Harbor, which was developed into faux-fancy homes since abandoned, thanks to the recession. In one of those homes, a family is slaughtered, the wife in critical condition in intensive care. If you can fall into a groove with the Irish slang, French blends the story of the Spain family mystery and Kennedy's own tragedy so they become expertly entangled.
Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter - This story begins in the early 60s, on a remote Italian town, and crawls all the way through to present day Hollywood, including stopovers on the set of Cleopatra, the depths of Scotland, and the woods of Idaho. It's a grand one, to be sure. There's lots of sex, and love, and name dropping (Dick and Liz, anyone?) and I appreciated the weaving of the fictional Italian innkeeper, the long lost siren of the silver screen, the modern disinterested producer's assistant, etc. Despite that, in this particular group of books, Beautiful Ruins felt a bit flat (love that cover font, though).
Dare Me, by Megan Abbott - Is there anything more ripe for scandal than high school cheerleading? This book is angsty, dark, sexy, and baaaad. It's got levels - levels of glittery, sinister, backstabbing mean girls of all ages brandishing pom poms, flasks of Smirnoff, and major chips on their angular, food-deprived shoulders. It gets inside your head, recycling every anxiety and fear associated with those thick-as-thieves girl relationships that spat your self esteem and secrets all over the locker room walls. It's almost too much to take, but it's so, so good (think sriracha slathered on macaroni and cheese).