It’s time to take a look back at the books I read in January.
Still Life by Sarah Winman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So, time heals. Mostly. Sometimes carelessly. And in unsuspecting moments, the pain catches and reminds one of all that’s been missing. The fulcrum of what might have been. But then it passes. Winter moves into spring and swallows return. The proximity of new skin returns to the sheets. Beauty does what is required. Jobs fulfill and conversations inspire. Loneliness becomes a mere Sunday. Scattered clothes. Empty bowls. Rotting fruit. Passing time. But still life in all its beauty and complexity.
This is a beautiful and exceptional book. The characters are richly drawn, flawed, and perfectly human. They life their lives to the fullest and share so much with each other, art and poetry, pasta and wine, love and loss and hope for the future and it all comes together with gorgeous prose and a little bit of magic. Highly recommended.
The Guide by Peter Heller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Heller brings back Jack, one of the main characters from The River, for this tale of fly fishing in a bucolic setting which actually harbors a sinister secret. It’s entertaining and fast paced, with a touch of romance and enough mystery to keep you guessing.
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
. . . the truth is infinitely more complicated, that we are all beautiful even as we are all part of the problem, and that to be a part of the problem is to be human
It took me quite some time to get into this book but once I did, I loved it. The characters are richly drawn and alive. The setting, whether it’s ancient Constantinople, a small town library, or a space ship escaping planet earth, is described in a way that immerses you in the scenes. And the whole thing comes together in a satisfying, heartbreaking, and gorgeous way that I never really saw coming. Highly recommended.
What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What if, instead of asking what’s wrong with you, instead we ask what happened to you? That is the basis for this book and it will change the way you think about victims of trauma. It helped me immensely to understand why my brain reacts the way it does and I highly recommend it.
Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Charming, light, and slightly predictable, I enjoyed this tale set in a small southern town. A little bit of romance, a dash of magical realism, and a lot of delicious pie round out the story. It reminded me of lightened up version of Practical Magic, fans of chic lit will enjoy this one.
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Like many others, including those who did and did not enjoy this book, I’m struggling with how to review it without giving anything away. Like many of Picoult’s books, she tackles a timely issue, and she has clearly done her research. My problem with it is that the issue itself isn’t obvious and I felt betrayed when I realized what was really happening. I will just say this: if you feel it’s too soon to read a book about the horrors of COVID, skip this one. I wish I had.
It was a good month for reading despite that lackluster finish! What are you reading right now?
Sounds like an interesting month of reading. Thanks for the caution, too.
The first three books are on my list, and your reviews have made me even more anxious to read them!
Thanks for the reviews, Carole. I have been having trouble finding something to read, but that may be related to the leftover mess from the ice storm we had last Wednesday. I am so ready for spring and a good read! I will look for Still Life. I think your review of Wish You Were Here was accurate, and I agree completely.
Mary K. in Rockport says
I put “Still Life” down, and I guess I’ll pick it up again. (It has a very pretty cover.) I’m still inching my way through “The Empire of Pain.”
Three five-star books in one month is a pretty amazing month of reading! Still Life was my first finish of the year, and it was such a great way to start out another year of reading. I fully agree with your review!
I loved Still Life. So much. 🙂 And you already know what I thought of Cloud Cuckoo Land . . . 😉 I also read What Happened to You and thought it was fascinating! I think Tom might like Peter Heller (I’ve read a few of his books, but will likely pass for myself), and I’ll definitely pass on the Jodi P. Thanks for you excellent book reviews!
I started Still Life but could not finish it before I had to return it to the library. I am waiting to get it back…sigh.
I am also on the list for Cloud Cuckoo Land… so good things are coming soon! 🙂
I am going put a few of these on my To Read list. I find it interesting to hear another’s take on a book that didn’t resonate with me (Cloud Cuckoo Land 2/5 stars). Thanks for sharing!
I loved both Still Life and Cloud Cuckoo Land so much that it is likely that I will read them again. Hope you read a lot of great books this month!
Always a favorite post Carole! I had to pass on Cloud when it came through but hopefully I’ll get it back shortly. I’m saving Still Life for a point where I can really savor it. Did you read or listen?
Judy Shaw says
Great titles to add to my list, thanks! I am reading The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan. He’s the author of our last month’s book club title Beneath a Scarlet Sky which was very interesting.
I read “The River” by Heller and kept having the music from “Deliverance” go thru my mind. I decided to pass on “The Guide.” But…”Still Life” and “Cloud Cuckoo Land” are definitely on my TBR lists. Always enjoy your reviews Carole – thank you!
I love it when my friends and I share the same 5-star books! and now I need to check out that Bruce Perry title! also, I’ve had Heather Webber on my feel-good list for a while – is that the one to start with?
Margene Smith says
Still Life and Cloud Cuckoo Land are also my top 5 star books, too. They will be hard to beat this year.