The #WritersRead prompt for November was: a book debut author. Bryan Washington isn’t a debut author, but Memorial is his first novel, so I’ve decided it counts. Also, I really want to talk about it.
Memorial was my November Book of the Month Club selection, and I picked it because it reminded me of the beautiful movie, Lilting. I also really enjoy stories about people who wouldn’t choose to spend time together. This is that, twice over.
Briefly, Memorial is the story of two young men who have difficult relationships with their fathers. In learning who their fathers are, as me and as human beings, they learn more about themselves, and perhaps start to solve the difficulties in their relationship with each other.
Memorial isn’t a hearts and flowers romance, but it is a love story. A heart-wrenchingly beautiful one. I sobbed unabashedly through the last few chapters and if I could have reached my hands inside the book and smooshed Mike and Ben together, I would have.
I think what I loved most about the book, though, apart from the fresh writing, was just how real the story felt. I loved the distinct voices of both Ben and Mike, and how the author used the sometimes mundane moments that make up our lives, showing how important they could actually be.
Other Notable Reads from October and November
Rather than reach for comfort reads to soothe my soul while the US battled through the election and this pandemic, I found myself picking books that might challenge me–and take me far, far away. I wanted to visit far flung worlds, immerse myself in adventure, and think deeply. As a result, I’ve read some really amazing books over the past two months, many of which I’m sure will be featured again when I write up my Favourite Things post for this year.
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer
Cal Newport mentioned George Packer and this book in particular in Deep Work. It sounded interesting, so I grabbed it on audio and settled in to listen. This book is more than interesting. It’s brilliant. It’s about the, well, the unwinding – of the American Dream, of our economy, our politics, our government, our country at the most basic level. You can’t read this and not feel it.
What makes it so impactful are the individual stories threaded through the forty-year timeframe. This book is non fiction. It’s about politics. And yet it caught me up and kept me rapt. I actually wept toward the end.
Happily Letter After by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
I’m a fan of Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward writing together. Their books are always entertaining, with great stories as well as a satisfying romance. I love their characters. And when the characters get together? It’s always scorching. Happily Letter After is all of that and more. Adorable, sweet, and hot. Also very funny. I laughed so hard at one point, I had tears in my eyes.
The Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds by Caroline Van Hemert
I’d like to say that after listening to this book, I was inspired to plan a 4,000-mile journey into the Alaskan wilds with my husband. We’ve talked about doing an overnight hike along the Appalachian trail and we’re planning a road trip from PA to CA with a theme of finding America’s best donut. Yeah, I know. Neither of these is ambitious enough.
But 4,000 miles. Through Alaska. Gosh. I’d love to be the sort of person who could accomplish such a feat, and then write so compellingly about it. Thankfully, Caroline Van Hemert has done it for us. Her book is amazing. The journey is thrilling, but I enjoyed reading about her relationship with her husband just as much.
The Player of Games (Culture #2) by Iain M. Banks
I get it, okay? I totally get why the Culture has such a devoted and loyal following. I’ve read the first four books now and the only reason I haven’t kept going is because they’re not available in audio in the United States. WHY??
The Player of Games is brilliant. It’s such a good book. The plot, the characters, and the reason behind it all. I also really enjoyed Use of Weapons. It’s a shockingly good book. I love this series so much, I have ordered print copies of the ones I can’t get on audio and will actually read them to myself. I know. That’s devotion. Told you I got it.
The Trouble with Peace (The Age of Madness #2) by Joe Abercrombie
A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness #1) was almost my top fantasy pick last year. If I had to call it now, The Trouble with Peace will be my top fantasy pick for 2020. I’ve read a lot of really good books this year. Outstanding books. This could be the best of the bunch. It’s a masterpiece and, in my opinion, the best book Abercrombie has written yet – though I’d have to reread my personal favourite, Best Served Cold, again to be sure.
Always the Last to Know by Kristan Higgins
If I still rated books, this one would get every star. So, so good. The best, in fact. Probably my new favourite Kristan Higgins! I know I say that every book but, seriously, just like the blurb on the cover says, she keeps getting better.
What I like most about Kristan Higgin’s books, especially the way she’s writing now, are the love stories buried beneath the layers of family, friendship, and complication. It’s like sitting down to a buffet of everything I love in a contemporary novel, and getting to the desert bar only to find they have pavlova. It’s perfectly baked, chewy and crispy, not too sweet, and someone has figured out why they don’t sell passion fruit in the United States, found some, and set it on top of lovely whipped cream.
Other great reads:
Last Flight by Julie Clark
Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
Predator One by Jonathan Maberry
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