Year 12, Book 65

65. Saving Sophie by Sam Carrington

Seventeen year old Sophie is returned to her parents by the police one night drunk out of her mind. Then, the next morning her friend Amy fails to return home. When the young girl is found dead everyone wants Sophie to remember what happened the night before, but the few memories she begins to recover she is too afraid to share with the police especially as a stranger begins contacting her with terrible photos of that night to try and fill in the gaps.

Meanwhile Sophie’s mother is hysterical over the whole situation as she has become agoraphobic after being raped the previous year. Now she is unable to leave the house without having a panic attack, something that has strained her relationships with her daughter and husband and leaves her unable to help her daughter cope with her friend’s death or protect her from the danger that seems to still be lurking.

I really enjoyed this book at the beginning, but the ending pretty much ruined it for me. I found the reveal of who the murderer was to be ridiculous, and I completely rolled my eyes at the final piece of the book. I’m disappointed because it started out with such great promise for me, but the book didn’t hold together for me all the way through. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 64

64. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Anna lives with her father, her former showgirl mother, and her disabled sister in Brooklyn. As a child during the Great Depression her father takes her to a meeting he has with a man named Dexter Styles. Now only years later in the midst of World War II with her father missing in action and her sister severely sick, does she begin to realize the real meaning behind that meeting and the things her father was involved in when she runs into Dexter Styles again at a night club. The situation becomes even more complicated as Dexter calls on her to put her skills as the first female diver to use for his own purposes.

I didn’t love this book while I was reading it, and I can’t really say that I love it now. However it’s been almost two months on since I’ve read as I’m writing this review and I seem to have fonder feelings of it now than I did when I was reading it. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 63

63. Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis is the first colony on the moon. Jazz has lived there for the past 20 years since she was six years old. She’s been living as a low level criminal to get by ever since a tragic incident she was involved in as a teenager. Now an opportunity to pull off a much bigger crime has presented itself, but little does Jazz realize the conspiracy she is getting herself involved in.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s got a different feel to it than Weir’s previous book, The Martian, but I found it to be a lot of fun to read, and I thought the creation of Artemis and the way things work there was very clever. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 62

62. Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

Gerry and Stella are a retired couple heading to Scotland for a short vacation. Over the course of their four day trip we get a look into their relationship and see how far apart they’ve grown in a large part due to Gerry’s drinking. Will their marriage be able to survive their realization that they may not be as happy together as they once thought they were?

This was a short little book. It was okay. A lot of the book involves watching Gerry go through his alcoholic routine while trying to deny and hide it. It’s probably very realistic, but it was also a bit of a slog to read through as I imagine it would be to live through. I give the book a 5 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 61

61. The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

I usually really enjoy Alice McDermott’s novels. I love the way she describes even the most mundane life scenes and turns them into something beautiful. This story just didn’t connect with me though. After the suicide of her husband, a pregnant woman is helped by a group of nuns who become a driving force in her life and the life of her daughter Sally, who eventually becomes the main protagonist of the book. I just never cared anything about any of the characters, and the style of writing that is usually my main attraction to McDermott’s works did not really grab me here. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 60

60. Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner

This is a short little novella written by the creator of the TV show Mad Men. It sort of takes you through the marriage of the Breakstones and how their lives become completely overtaken by their daughter Heather such that everything else in their world suffers. It steps you fairly quickly through Heather’s life until her teenage present where a darker force seems intent on preying on her. I didn’t find it to be a terribly interesting book. At least it was short. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 59

59. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

In idyllic Shaker Heights Elena is the matriach of the Richardson family and mother to four teenage children. Enter Mia Warren, an eclectic artist always on the move, and her daughter Pearl who become tenants in the Richardson’s rental property and both become objects of obsession for Elena and her kids. Then when close family friends of the Richardson’s become engaged in a custody battle over the baby they are trying to adopt, the fault lines drawn in the town are played out between Mia and Elena causing the members of each family to plant stakes in the sand.

I feel like this is yet another book that is winning universal praise, and which probably win a number of book awards that just did not resonate with me at all. I did not connect with any of the characters. In some respects I understand that the plotting was supposed to seem pedestrian, but it just felt that way to me without the literary merits behind it. Granted I seem to be the only reviewer or person I know who feels this way about this book, so take that for what it’s worth. I give it a 5 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 58

58. Startup by Doree Shafrir

I cared so little about this book I don’t even care to try and give a plot synopsis of it. You can look it up. Basically though it revolves around characters working in the tech industry in startups and developing apps. Maybe someone who works in the tech industry might find this interesting, but I did not at all. I found all the characters to be really blah. I did not care about the plot. The whole thing was just boring. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 57

57. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Abby Williams thought she left her past in small town Indiana behind when she left as a teenager. Now she’s a lawyer living in Chicago, but a case against a plastics company based in her hometown has forced her to return and confront her past. As she digs find out the truth about whether the plastics company is illegally polluting the environment and causing health problems, she also begins to question the story about why the most popular girl in school suddenly disappeared when they were teenagers.

I sort of discounted thinking this book could be really good because the author is actress Krysten Ritter. I really like her as an actress, but stupidly and unfairly I tend to think anyone breaking out of the exact box I have them labeled in can’t be any good at the new thing. I was completely wrong here. Let that serve as a lesson to me. The ending of this book is perhaps a little outlandish, but for the most part I really loved it. It’s well-paced and is a real page turner. It’s definitely one of the best suspense books I’ve read this year. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 12, Book 56

56. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

I first read the play A Doll’s House during my senior year of high school. I remember that it really resonated with me at that point, and it was always a play that stood in the back of my head as one I really liked. Upon rereading it, I have no idea why it would have been something that would have made such an impact on me as a teenager.

I reread it recently before going to see A Doll’s House, Part 2 on Broadway. One would think that as a middle-aged woman I would have connected to it more now than I did 20 years ago, but I did not. I realized that I really didn’t actually remember much about the plot other than that Nora left her family at the end. I still enjoyed it, but I don’t think there was any way it could have lived up to the magic that it was in my memory. The sequel play was wonderful though. I give it 6 out of 10.