Book Blog: August 2022
August was a fun month because I hit my yearly reading goal of 100 books!
“But Sarah,” you might rightly ask, “If you hit your annual goal in August, why not set a bigger goal?”
So this highlights my underlying anxiety, but, probably more accurately, that it’s better to underpromise and over-deliver than the opposite.
Anyway, here are my favorites of the twelve books I read this year, all fiction save one!
The Plot (Jean Hanff Korelitz): I COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN. It hit all of the right nerdy notes for me — books within books, literary jokes, mystery and twists and turns — and I couldn’t put it down (I had to read a few chapters of Jane Austen’s Persuasion to settle down enough to sleep)!
This book is the story of a book whose plot is stolen from a now-dead author. Jacob Finch Bonner had an early book hit, a second book flop, and now is barely making ends meet. When he hears the plot idea of one of his students, he believe it is fantastic, and puts it out of his mind until he later learns this student has died. So he seizes the opportunity to steal the plot and writes (legitimately) his own novel, which rockets to the top of the bestseller charts, gets optioned for a movie, etc.
Great, right? Until he receives an email that says “You are a thief.” And it all goes sideways from there.
Crossings (Alex Landragin): I didn’t know how I’d rate this book until the last few pages, TBH, because it was a bit confusing at times and kept me guessing. I was initially interested in Crossings because of what some people might consider a gimmick — that you can read it straight through, or in an alternate “crossing” way (the Baroness’ way) where you read across three separate “books” that the narrator is binding together. I love books that play with genre and, in this case, reading itself, but if there isn’t enough in the story then it falls flat.
I do think these three stories play well together, though in reading it in a crossing format one does have to reorient with each jump for a moment. The book itself is about a process called crossing, where trained people can stare deeply into the eyes of another and exchange bodies; there are different types of crossings such that both parties might be aware or one party might be unaware.
This is certainly a different sort of book (it felt a bit like Cloud Atlas, really) so the bifurcation of ratings doesn’t surprise me. If you are up for it and can be open-minded, I’d try this book.
Sad Cypress (Agatha Christie): This was such a fantastic Poirot mystery! A young woman is found dead in the living room of who appears to be her rival, and now Elinor has not only lost her aunt and her fiance, but stands accused of murder. I’m not sure how Christie does it, but Elinor seems to be both reliable and unreliable in her interviews, so it kept me guessing as to what had actually happened until the end. On top of it, I found the case was clever without being unbelievable, a hard balance to strike!
Bloomsbury Girls (Natalie Jenner): It was about 50 pages into the book that I really got hooked, and part of the hook was the realization that this book connected to Jenner’s previous novel, the Jane Austen Society. In Bloomsbury Girls, former servant Evie is the connection point; now through university, she takes a job at Bloomsbury books, a male-owned and run bookstore. Two other women are key characters in the book — moody and ambitious Vivien and steady but sad Grace. The book geek references were pretty cool to me and I wanted to be in that bookstore with the characters. Jenner has a nice blend of plot and character, though sometimes it felt like she was trying to show off her London research with too many place descriptions that didn’t add to the story. There was at least one plotline that didn’t satisfactorily end, in my opinion, making me wonder (hope?) that there will be another book in this “world.”
The Final Girl Support Group (Grady Hendrix): Wow, this book was a racket and impossible to put down (and, for the weak-of-stomach, pretty dang gory). This thriller is the story of Lynette and other serial killer survivors, all of whom outlasted, outsmarted, or even killed their attackers. But suddenly they are under attack without any sense of who is after them. How do they escape more attempts on their lives? This is a little bit trashy, a lot of fun, and pretty twisted. I did not read before bedtime :)
Non-Fiction — Not much this time!
Calypso (David Sedaris): Despite trying I have never really connected with anything that Sedaris has written before this book (I started but never finished) yet I felt that this book resonated with me in a way that the others hadn’t. Much of these essays and reflections are about the experiences he has in different physical places — he and his partner’s home in England, his childhood home, his home in France, and his new vacation home — hilariously named the Sea Section — on the Carolina coast. Sedaris is witty and funny and his observations about people and interpersonal dynamics made me chuckle.
Can’t wait to share more great books with you next month!