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Recently Read: November and December

I'm going to include my November and December books in one wrap up this time (mostly because I only read one book in all of November and I didn't even really like it).

December reading, reading wrap-up, every note played, book review, the woman in the window, furiously happy, the seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Last Christmas in Paris

December reading, reading wrap-up, every note played, book review, the woman in the window, furiously happy, the seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Last Christmas in Paris, the rules of magic

This book has fairly high reviews on Goodreads and was one of the picks for Reese Witherspoon's book club, but I didn't really get what the hype was about. The book is a prequel to Practical Magic, and centres around the Owens siblings--Franny, Jet and Vincent, who are witches in New York in the 1960's. They struggled with the family curse that entails any person who falls in love with them is doomed to die. 

Without getting into too much detail, I found the story very slow and a bit all over the place. I didn't find it flowed between characters and the third person narrative made it feel quite disjointed. The siblings all came across as whiny, unmotivated adolescences. It's a marker of a bad book when I can't even remember the story, let alone the details that I disliked. It's unfortunately a forgettable book. 

From one of my most disappointing books to one of my favourites of 2017. Former Hollywood icon and famous reclusive Evelyn Hugo is ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life and enlists the help of the relatively unknown reporter Monique Grant to tell her story. As Hugo's life unfolds, Monique learns the truth behind the actresses marriages and affairs, and how they ultimately intersect with Monique's own life. 

I loved it. I loved this book so much. Some of my favourite booktubers had raved about this book, but I was hesitant to pick it up, despite owning it for months. While the storyline seemed interesting, I thought it would be a light, fluffy novel. But the story of love, loss and fame has more twists than expected and focuses on racial and sexual discrimination and the lack of women's rights in the 50's. The story was so romantic and heartbreaking, while uplifting and funny. I found myself rooting for Hugo even when I hated her actions. Overall, I think this book has a lot more depth than it would appear, and I'd highly recommend it if you haven't read it yet. 

Anna Fox lives alone in her New York City home, unable to venture outside due to her extreme agoraphobia, among other issues. She spends most of her day drinking, watching classic movies and spying on her neighbours. While watching her new neighbours one night, Anna see's what she believes is a murder, but when she reports the crime, her credibility is questioned and everything she believes to be true is flipped upside down. As things become darker for Anna, she must come to grips with her conditions and what she truly believes she witnessed.  

I'm very conflicted about this book. I'm someone who reads a lot of thrillers, so it takes a lot to surprise me at this point. I loved the comparison to Rear Window, one of my favourite Hitchcock movies, but with a more sinister protagonist. The references to classic black and white movies was a great addition and added some colour to the mundane life that Anna lives. But I found the writing style to be a bit abrupt at times and didn't find that the storyline flowed as much as I would have liked. But I think my main critique of the novel would be the overuse of the thriller trope--the mentally ill, self-depreciating, reclusive, alcholic woman who lives alone in a run-down home, incorrectly dosing on her prescriptions making her an unreliable witness. It seems like most modern psychological thrillers have a similar protagonist because it can draw out the story and adds an element of self-doubt and determination. In this case, I find it a bit too long and repetitive. 

And again, I don't know if it's because I read so many thrillers, but I didn't find the ending all that surprising. The culprit was too innocent, in my opinion, and while I didn't see it play out exactly as it did, I still wasn't overly surprised. I think if you don't read a lot of thrillers, and you were a fan of books like Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, then you will likely enjoy this book. But I think if you read a lot of thrillers like me, there's nothing new or intriguing here. 

Accomplished concert pianist Richard is one of the most renowned classical musicians of his time, that was until he developed ALS. Eight months after his diagnosis, his entire right arm is paralyzed and he knows that his left will soon go. His bitter ex-wife Karina refuses to believe that Richard is actually ill, and is only seeking attention with his postponed and cancelled tours. But when Richard is no longer able to live on his own and is unable to pay for long-term care, Karina must make a difficult decision whether she will be his full-time caretaker. As Richard deteriorates, Karina must try to reconcile their past, for herself and daughter, before it's too late. 

I'm a huge Lisa Genova fan--I've read all her books, starting with Still Alice not long after it first came out and have steadily been reading her new releases since. There was something about the beginning of this book that didn't seem like her usual writing style, and I found the book a bit boring at the beginning because of it. But as the novel (and disease) progressed, I found myself flying through the pages. I think where Genova shines as an author is her ability to make complex diseases understandable to anyone, not just those with science backgrounds; she brings awareness in the most compelling ways. In her journey towards transparency on ALS, she can be a little. . . over descriptive at times, as was the case when Richard got locked out of his apartment after being given a laxative. I think if you are a fan of her writing or of complicated family dynamics, this book won't disappoint. 

Furiously Happy is a memoir on Jenny Lawson's life as she deals with severe depression and a host of other conditions while trying to live her life to its fullest. 

I got about half-way through this book before I DNF'ed it. I thought the beginning was very funny and found myself laughing out loud (like a crazy person) on the subway when I first started it. But I think that the book is very repetitive and way too long. Some stories were funny, while others were just very boring. The kind you would tell your friend and you could see their eyes glazing over but wanted to continue on anyway. I think there are much funnier and more poignant memoirs on mental illness.

The book begins in August of 1914 as Will Elliott and Thomas Harding enlist to become soldiers in WW1. Many Brits, including Will's sister Evie, believe the war will be over before Christmas. But as the war draws on and tensions grow high, the unimaginable realities of war become more transparent, and everyone must come to terms with the changing world and find their place in it.

I think I'm officially a Hazel Gaynor addict now. After reading The Cottingley Secret, I knew I wanted to read more of her books. I picked up this just before Christmas and thought it would be a light read over my few days off. The story is told through a series of letters during the first world war, which made it a very quick read. I loved the historical context the book provided, regardless of how accurate it may have been. But what I loved most of all (aside from the enduring love story) was the focus on the role of women during the war and how their contributions were often overlooked. I'm currently reading The Alice Network and loving it, so I'm sensing a theme here. I do think you would have to be a fan of historical fiction to appreciate this book, but if you are, then I'd highly recommend picking it up!

* provided for review 

xoxo K