What do you do when the reading is so good that you just can’t stop? You keep reading, of course. I’ve embraced that philosophy this week as I’ve gulped down one book after another. Who knows when this well will dry up? I might as well enjoy it while it lasts!
The Whispering House by Elizabeth Brooks
I read The Whispering House because it was paired with Northanger Abbey for the Modern Mrs. Darcy bookclub. I was enthusiastic because I’d read an earlier work from this author, The Orphan of Salt Winds, and she has a promising Kate Morton way about her. The Whispering House was good fun: gothic and dark, full of broody artists, hidden rooms, and very questionable choices.
Like many gothic novels, the house itself is a character. Byrne Hall seems to almost trap our main character, Freya, within its walls and just won’t let her go. It’s as though she’s in a spell when she’s there, despite knowing she must escape. I couldn’t help but think that Brooks was using it to show how women can feel trapped in abusive relationships and wanted her to explore that idea some more.
I’m giving it 3 stars because I wish there had been just a little more oomph to the story, which is exactly what I wrote about The Orphan of Salt Winds. I will definitely be reading more by Elizabeth Brooks because I can’t wait to see her grow as an author.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
Can you believe I’ve never read The Great Gatsby? I finally decided to pick it up because there’s a Novel Pairings episode and knew I’d need support from the hosts.
I hated it. I don’t think I’ve missed anything by not reading it all these years. I didn’t like the narrator, I didn’t like any of the characters, I didn’t like the plot, and I didn’t understand the point of any of it. And the love story between Daisy and Jay wasn’t even all that interesting, which I thought was one of the main draws?
I was relieved to listen to the Novel Pairings episode and learn that they seemed to feel the same way. I’m glad I listened to the book on audio and it was relatively short or I would have felt like this one was a waste of precious reading time.
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
“It’s about believing two opposing ideas in your head at the same time: hope and grief.”
My fourth Claire Fuller novel did not disappoint! Like everything else I’ve read by her, Swimming Lessons was full of intrigue and suspense. This one felt especially perfect because Gil’s wife, Ingrid, writes him letters and hides them in his books before her disappearance (!). Those letters give the reader an understanding of Gil and Ingrid’s relationship from its inception, while a present day storyline told by one of their daughters, Flora, leads us through the family’s current predicament: a seriously ill Gil who brings a wily cast of characters back to their seaside home.
The mystery involves the disappearance of Ingrid in the early 90s. One day she didn’t come home from her daily swim in the ocean. Most people believe that the current pulled her out and she drowned, but some still hold out hope that she’s alive and will return to them someday.
One fun thing that Fuller did throughout this novel was use colors to describe smells. Here’s a few examples:
“the house smelled as it always did: old books, damp in the bathroom, fried eggs; home was the colour of toasted fennel seeds – a warm speckled brown.”
“his familiar odour: pepper, dust, and leather – otter brown”
“the only smell that was pure black.”
I find that so cozy! It was as if the smells painted a visual picture of the house, which was a completely new idea to me.
The ending? Well, let’s talk via email.
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
“My mother always said that a lot of men think that having bosoms means you’re a nitwit. She said the cleverest thing is to let them assume you’re an idiot, so you can crack on and prove them all wrong.”
This was my second effort with Dear Mrs. Bird. I wanted to try again because the second book in this series was published last week and they both seem perfectly up my alley. I’m not sure why I abandoned it the first time, but I chose to listen on audio this go round and it made all of the difference. I loved it!
Emmy Lake is ecstatic about her new job, believing that she was hired as a reporter at a local newspaper and dreaming about being a “lady war correspondent.” Imagine her horror when she’s hired at a women’s magazine as an assistant to a stuffy advice columnist. There’s a whole list of topics that Mrs. Bird won’t even touch, which includes basically everything that a woman in the midst of WWII might be struggling with. Emmy soon takes it upon herself to start responding to some of these letters and, of course, trouble ensues.
This was full of the real emotions behind the keep calm and carry on attitude of WWII. I appreciated the vulnerability Emmy expressed between the pages while doing her best to keep smiling through it all. I loved the scenes at the magazine – full of typewriters, tea, and letters. And the flat that she lives in with her best friend Bunty is amazingly cozy. I cannot wait until I can get my hands on the second book in the series!
The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
“Maybe it’s easier to forgive others once you’ve learned how to forgive yourself.”
The One and Only Bob was the Dart selection for August and what a way to start the school year! I was nervous because it’s a little long for us, so we started reading it the last week of July — but it looks like we would have had plenty of time to read it in August! This is the second book in the series, but it didn’t feel like we’d missed too much by starting here.
This book was full of opportunities for juicy discussions. Our main character, Bob, is a rescued chihuahua mix with a troubled past. He is riddled with guilt and anxiety over his past decisions, but we are right by his side while he finds redemption and a renewed understanding of bravery.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
“So we were all witnesses to a murder” says Elizabeth “Which, needless to say, is wonderful.”
(This book deserves two quotes!)
“We normally meet in the Jigsaw Room, you see,’ says Joyce. ‘But it’s not Thursday and the Jigsaw Room is being used by Chat and Crochet.’
‘Chat and Crochet is a fairly new group, Detective Chief Inspector,’ says Ibrahim. ‘Formed by members who had become disillusioned with Knit and Natter. Too much nattering and not enough knitting, apparently.”
This was recommended to me by Laila at Big Reading Life when I finished The Postscript Murders and it was the perfect pairing! The Thursday Murder Club is full of a quirky group of people in a senior living community. Their obsession? Murder. They spend their time poring over cold case files until a new murder comes knocking on their own doors.
This book was hilarious. It was a wonderful group of pitch perfect characters with a complex plot. I wasn’t even sure I was following along very well until the very end and the pieces finally came together. Plenty of red herrings, plenty of good suspects, and I would have never guessed the ending but it made perfect sense. I loved it and am definitely looking forward to the next one, which is due to be published in September.
Okay! I’m expecting to share fewer books with you next week because I started Jane Eyre last night. Let’s hope that keeps me out of trouble for a little while! Are you a Jane Eyre fan? You might be surprised to read that I am not a fan of any of the Brontës! I think they had interesting lives but I haven’t liked anything I’ve read by them. I’m picking up Jane Eyre because it’s the September selection for the Novel Pairings podcast and I’m hoping they can persuade me to become a fan of Jane. We shall see!
I’m going to try to be back here on Friday despite missing the last couple Friday posts. Take good care!
Great post ! I love Kate Morton ( read all her books) and will have to check out Elizabeth Brooks. I too felt the same way when I read the Great Gatsby, it was a let down and I found it rather boring. For me Jane Eyre is one of my favorite all time classics. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and still do. The Brontes were an interesting group of sisters. I have read all of their books, each one writes a little differently from the other, but for me interesting reads for the time in which they were written. Thank you too for mentioning Novel pairings too.
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Kate Morton is my favorite author – I’m also a Morton completist 🙂 I’m impressed that you enjoyed the Brontë novels – they were not for me! But I’m hoping that I’ll appreciate Jane a little bit more as I read along with the Novel Pairings crew. I’m also relieved that I’m not the only one who disliked Gatsby!
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I am going to speak up for “The Great Gatsby,” which I think is a nearly perfect novel. That quotation you featured really gets to to the heart of the book, which, to me, is about class and striving and the cruelty of the upper class. And self-destruction. It seems to me that Fitzgerald catches something essential about the American character. Also, I think it’s wrong to consider “The Great Gatsby” a love story. Instead, an anti-love story. Daisy and Gatsby are spectacularly unsuited for each other. Then there is the incredible beauty of Fitzgerald’s prose. I know I am not going to change your mind about the novel. After all, we like what we like, and we also dislike what we dislike. Just wanted to give you my perspective.
I’m so glad you shared your perspective, Laurie. And I apologize that I dumped on one of your favorite novels! I know there are a lot of people who LOVE The Great Gatsby — and I thought I would be one of them! It wasn’t at all what I was expecting and maybe that is part of the reason I was disillusioned by it?
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No worries! I belong to a book group where there are often, ahem, lively discussions. 😉
I hated the Great Gatsby. I read it after returning from a holiday in New York, with my head full of Ellis Island and the Five Points, the novel just seemed full of cardboard characters. And you liked Mrs Bird and The Thursday murder club, which I have really enjoyed recently. I’m going to try Elizabeth Brookes now.
Elizabeth Brooks is good fun, but not amazing. And sometimes that’s just what we need! So glad you enjoyed Mrs. Bird and The Thursday Murder Club, too — they were both so much fun! And I’m happy to meet another person who disliked Gatsby 🙂
If you liked The Thursday Murder Club, you may also enjoy The Marlow Murder Club 🙂
That one is completely new to me and looks perfect – thank you!
I have Thursday Murder Club waiting on my kindle. I’m hoping that my TBR gets a little break when Chelsey and Sara take time away for their babies so I can catch up on all the books I’ve been wanting to read for months!
and p.s. I’ll be starting Jane Eyre later this month – I’ve read it a few times and my last re-read garnered a 4th star on Goodreads. I expect this one to garner at least another half star 🙂
I also disliked Gatsby. I read it in high school in English class and found all the characters to be destestable. I don’t know why it’s so celebrated.
The Thursday Murder Club sounds delightful — and it would fill a square on my bingo card! I’m off to check its availability at the library.
I really like Jane Eyre! She is feisty! I have some quibbles with it, but overall it’s a good read. I HATE Wuthering Heights. Ugh. And those are the only two Bronte sister books I’ve read so far. I have the Tenant of Wildfell Hall on my Classics Club list, to get to someday soon(ish.)
I hated Wuthering Heights, too!! I remember wondering what it meant that I identified more with Nellie the Maid than anyone else? I’m really enjoying Jane this go-round though!
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I first read The Great Gatsby in high school, around 1968 or 1969, and loved it. It is one of my favorite books and I’ve read it several times over the years. The novel took place when my grandparents were young adults and I remember talking with them about what life was like at that time, and although they came from very modest means, their stories helped make the novel come alive for me . I think it would be interesting to look at how different generations react to it?
Debbie – that would be SO interesting! I wonder if I would have perceived the book differently if I knew people who were alive at that time?