Happy Book Day! This year has started out well for me with some good books in January. As usual I'm linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books.
Here's what I read:
1) Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard. 4/5 stars. This is one of those books that you can see the train wreck coming from a long way ahead and are powerless to stop it. That said - I did really like it. The main character, Helen, is at an all-time low, divorced and having recently lost custody of her son due to a DUI, when she gets swept into the circle of rich and charismatic Swift and Ava Havilland. But ultimately their friendship comes at too high of a price.
2) The Trespasser by Tana French. 4/5 stars. This is the sixth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. It follows Antoinette Conway who was a side character in The Secret Place. The neat thing about this series is that she takes a side character from a previous book to become the main character in the next book. I like her writing and the world that she's created and the fact that the characters - detectives, murderers, and victims alive - are more developed with a deeper psychological drama going on than in a simple procedural murder mystery - Although I think that piece was not quite as well done here versus earlier books in the series.
3) The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick. 3.5/5 stars. This is the third book recommended to me by my friend Chesleigh that features elderly British widowers. The first two being Major Pettigrew, which I loved, and Harold Fry, which I didn't. This one is in the middle. I liked it but didn't love it. After his wife's death, Arthur Pepper discovers a hidden charm bracelet that leads him to discover the many adventures that she had before they met and prompts him to embark on some adventures of his own.
4) News of the World by Paulette Jiles. 5/5 stars. I loved this book. But I do love stories of frontier America, so I was well disposed to like it from the start. Set in Texas in 1875, Captain Jefferson Kidd makes a living travelling from one small town to the next doing live newspaper readings. He is charged with returning a ten-year-old girl, who has been raised in a Native American tribe for the past four years, to her nearest relations, 400 miles away. The psychology of white children raised in Native American tribes is fascinating on its own, but the writing is also beautiful and I loved watching the relationship grow between the old man and the girl.
5) The Mothers by Brit Bennett. 3/5 stars. I didn't love this book as much as others did. I agree that it was well-written, and the plot, while sad, was compelling, and I liked the "chorus" of Mothers, but I never really felt that I KNEW the characters. Nadia and Luke have a brief yet intense relationship in their youth which results in an unplanned pregnancy and secret abortion - I don't think that's a spoiler, You find out on the first page - the ramifications of which haunt both their lives for years to come. This book made me realize that, while I remain pro-choice, I think abortion is a really sad thing.
6) Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. 5/5 stars. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Gretchen Rubin is my guru! I enjoyed the first two Happiness Project books but I think this book goes a step beyond and really breaks out step-by-step how we create and maintain the everyday habits that have a great impact on overall happiness and well-being. One of the important concepts here is that we have to shape our habits with regards to our individual personalities. She has various frameworks - Are you an Upholder/Obliger/Questioner/Rebel? Are you a lark or an owl? Are you a marathoner of a sprinter? and various techniques - Scheduling, Monitoring, Pairing - that we can use to develop and maintain habits depending on our personal strengths and weaknesses.
That's all! I hope that you had a good month of reading too!