M.B. Henry’s Reading Round Up!
As you may know from my top ten post of 2021 (click here for a refresher), I love reading. I consume books like a hungry, hungry hippo from the board game back in the day. And as it happens, I’ve had lots of extra time for reading lately.
One reason was being on vacation. An absolutely fabulous vacation with ample time sitting on the beach. Needless to say my Kindle got a work out. After all, it’s pretty much my dream vacation to just sit on a beach or by a warm pool and read books – only taking breaks when I want to drop in the water for a dip. Or look for seashells and shark teeth (both of which I found ample).
The other reason for extra reading is not so nice – after running and running for two years, Covid-19 finally found me. Thanks to being up to date on vaccines, my case was on the mild side. But I must say, even a mild case quite literally knocked the wind out of me and left me with so little energy I had nothing to do but read books. And I’d like to take a moment here to warn people about how important it is to get tested multiple times. I took two at-home tests that both came up negative. So I thought I was in the clear. But when I lost my taste and smell I went right to the clinic where I got that long-dreaded pink positive line. So test, test, test until you are absolutely sure!
But let’s get back to the books, because that’s really what you’re here for. I thought it might be fun to check in with everyone periodically about what you’ve all been reading, and share what I’ve been reading. Because let’s face it, in this day and age, most of my book recommendations come from online. Either from Instagram, or from some of the fabulous book blogs right here on WordPress. And since I just admitted to eating books like a meal up above, I’ve gotten through a good many already this year. Some of them contenders for my top ten, others…. Well, you can’t win them all.
CLOUD CUCKOO LAND
Anthony Doerr’s latest, and a read I looked forward to with great anticipation after the wild success of his earlier work, All the Light We Cannot See. Quite different from the World War II setting of his previous book, this novel is set partially in the modern day, partially in ancient Rome, and partially in a distant future aboard a spacecraft bound for a new civilization. All three timelines, and the main characters therein, tie together through the story of an ancient legend about a paradise in the sky, with a head scratcher of an ending that I’m still thinking about even months after reading it. A somewhat lengthy read but well worth your time and the work-out it gives your brain. But I must confess I like All the Light We Cannot See a bit better.
THESE SILENT WOODS
I don’t often pick up suspense novels but this one had a catchy premise and a cover that caught my attention. It follows Army veteran Cooper, and his eight-year-old daughter Finch, who fled civilization when Cooper’s wife died and chose an isolated life deep in the forest. They have only their somewhat creepy and overly religious neighbor to keep them company. Along with a dear friend of Cooper’s who lets them live in his cabin, and even brings them supplies once a year. But this year, Cooper’s friend doesn’t show when expected, leaving Finch wanting to see the world, and Cooper struggling to keep his questionable past under wraps. Just when things can’t get more intense, a strange girl wonders into Cooper’s woods and goes missing, and suddenly, all bets are off. A book that will keep you turning the pages and waiting to see what happens next – the very definition of suspense.
THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY
Amor Towles’ book “a Gentleman in Moscow” made my top ten the year it came out, and it’s a book I’ve thought of often ever since. So when this book dropped late last year, I was very excited to get my hands on a copy. “The Lincoln Highway,” set in the 1950s, follows the chaotic road trip of three boys who have escaped from a juvenile correction facility, and who now carve a path across American on one of its forgotten historic highways. While one of the boys just wants a new life for himself and his younger brother, the other two have different plans, and everyone’s lives are upended as a result. While lacking the beautiful, poetic prose that I loved about “Gentleman in Moscow,” “the Lincoln Highway” is still an excellent read that will keep you engaged and interested.
A title outside my usual genres of interest, but it seemed fitting for a beach vacation where I was looking for more positive and upbeat material. The novel follows Augustus Emerett, an acclaimed writer of intense, tragic fiction novels, and January Andrews, an acclaimed writer of drippy romance stories. Two next door neighbors who couldn’t be more different. And when January’s romantic, sappy world gets upended by her boyfriend leaving, along with her father’s death and his secret mistress, she struggles to meet the deadline on her newest romance novel – until swoony, mysterious “Gus” places a bet with her. If she writes a non-romantic fiction story, he will try his hand at a romance. The first person to sell their book is the winner, and the loser must help them promote it. An arrangement that leads to comical writing mishaps, several research “dates,” and of course – romance. A nice bit of cheese that pairs well with a glass of wine, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this book.
One of my favorite reads so far this year, “Black Buck” tells the story of Darren, a twenty-two-year-old Starbucks employee who lives with his mother, loves his girlfriend, and refuses to unlock his potential. But then Rhett Daniels, the wildly successful CEO of a strange company called Sumwum, taps Darren to be a part of his company, and suddenly, everything changes. Being the only black person at Sumwum comes with extreme challenges, especially when drugs, partying, and corruption are thrown into the mix. And when a tragedy at home upends Darren’s world, things spiral completely out of control… until Darren comes up with a plan to change the game. A wild ride of a story that left me biting my nails, hoping for the best, and also laughing out loud. I highly recommend this book.
I am a total sucker for a good, meaty family drama, and this book certainly fit the bill. It opens with the near-drowning of the two youngest members of the Alvarado family. And by the time the book finishes, they aren’t the only Alvarados to have a close brush with death. This book pulled me in hard to its web of divorces, scandals, family secrets, and memories of my own time in Los Angeles weathering the terrible drought there. A family drama that was indeed hard to turn away from. While I felt the writing needed a bit of work in places (although that could be due to translation issues), the story was still good enough to keep me hooked.
THE TITANIC SISTERS
One of my few historical-fiction reads so far this year. Naughty for a historical-fiction writer! I actually had never heard of this book before happening upon it at the library. Since I’m drawn to the Titanic as well as any history buff, I decided to give it a whirl. The story actually deals very little with the Titanic itself, instead following two sisters who were both aboard the ill-fated ship, and who both thought their sister had perished in the disaster. It shows them picking up the pieces of their lives after the tragedy, while getting into countless scrapes in the New World and pining for home and a life that could have been. I wish there would have been more time dedicated to the actual Titanic. But it was still a good enough story for me to see it through to the end.
What about you? What books have you been reading? Which ones would you recommend to others (i.e… ME! 😊) Let me know in the comments below!
And if you need some further reading – my own historical fiction and debut novel comes out in LESS THAN A WEEK! This is not a drill – it’s happening! Click Here for more information on “All the Lights Above Us,” coming VERY soon to a bookstore near you!