As indicated by my continually languishing blog, 2019 was not my best year (why is adulting so hard?!), but it was a busy year! I still prefer long form reviews, but I definitely get more engagement on Instagram, so you can often find me there. However, I can’t completely throw in the towel, as I think I still have a handful of readers, so this post is for you!
The River // Peter Heller. Full of elegance and foreboding, Peter Heller has written an outstanding novel that’s part love letter, part warning label for the natural world. From pragmatic Jack to the introspective Wynn to mercurial mother nature, the character development is excellent. As the boys move from the calm lake waters to the swift whitewater of the Maskwa River, the pace of the story moves with them. Heller, a former contributing editor to Outdoor magazine and National Outdoor Book Award Winner, is adept at describing the terrifying beauty of the world around us and, for me, it’s where the novel really shines.
The Institute // Stephen King. Not his best, and not his worst, but I was thankful to return to the comfort and atmosphere of his writing. Set in a medical research lab (in Maine!) that has a habit of kidnapping children, Luke Ellis and his fellow gifted residents must find a way to break free of the institute, or risk never leaving at all.
Marilou is Everywhere // Sarah Elaine Smith. Did you like Twin Peaks? How are My Absolute Darling? Yes and Yes? I have the book for you.
A Prayer for Travelers // Ruchika Tomar. Disorienting and compelling, A Prayer for Travelers has Cale searching for her beautiful friend Penny, who has disappeared from their small desert town. Non-linear and often raising more questions than it answers, Tomar’s book of friendship and a dying town will haunt you.
Ghost Wall // Sarah Moss. An eerie, atmospheric tale of a teenage girl who, along with her parents and several others, attempts to reenact the Iron Age in Northumberland. A complex, disquieting read. This is a book I read and didn’t initially rate highly, but I’ve thought about it so often over the last ten months that I had to include it.
The Choke // Sofie Laguna. I didn’t review this one, but I’m still thinking about it. Kate did a lovely mixtape for it. A beautiful, traumatic read.
The Reckless Oath We Made // Bryn Greenwood. I loved All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, and I had high hopes for this tale of Zee, a woman on a dangerous path, and her knight Gentry. I was not disappointed.
The Nickel Boys // Colson Whitehead. This one is on everyone’s list, and rightfully so. It’s that good.
Fall Back Down When I Die // Joe Wilkins. If you’ve been considering this one, or even if you haven’t, Fall Back Down When I Die by Joe Wilkins is a must read for literary fiction fans. Set in rural Montana, Wendell is a poor ranch hand, barely getting by, but he doesn’t say no to taking care of seven year old Rowdy, the son of his incarcerated cousin. Following the trials of these two, set against the backdrop of the first legal wolf hunt in thirty years, will break your heart. A truly touching, timely novel.
Daisy Jones and the Six // Taylor Jenkins Reid. I started this in book format, but switched to the audio version and it was AMAZING. When a book is told through so many different perspectives, actually hearing the characters is so helpful to me, otherwise their “voices” tend to blend together in my mind (I find myself going back to the beginning of the chapter to find out whose perspective it is). Given the huge amount of coverage this novel has received, there’s no need for me to say anymore than “it’s a good one.”
Here’s to 2020!