Solo Lisa Reads: October 2019

Round-up of recommended books

I finally got around to reactivating my defunct library card recently and ever since then my reading rate has skyrocketed. In fact, I'm expanding this post to include 6 books instead of the usual 4—and I'm not even including everything I've read lately! Here are the books I couldn't stop talking about to Lawrence and anyone willing to listen. What are you reading these days?

1. Providence by Caroline Kepnes

You might know Caroline Kepnes's name from her other novel, You, which was turned into a hit TV show starring Penn Badgley. This novel, however, reminds me more of Jessica Jones: It's dark and atmospheric, there are detective noir elements, and the protagonist has an uneasy relationship with his powers. Jon is the sort of lonely, tender-hearted young boy who volunteers to take the class hamster home and sleeps with it in his bed. He's also from the wrong side of the tracks and bullied by classmates, completely friendless except for pretty and popular Chloe. One day while walking to school, Jon is abducted. His unsolved kidnapping sends Chloe spiraling into intense grief, but she eventually moves on, adjusting to the reality of post-Jon life.

4 years later, Jon's sudden reappearance throws Chloe for a loop. He's older, bigger, and stronger, but he has no memory of what happened to him, only a growing awareness that he now has strange powers that cause people around him to get sick and even die. Afraid of hurting people, Jon goes on the run and disappears again, breaking Chloe's heart a second time. Fast forward several more years, and a detective named Eggs is now investigating a spate of mysterious deaths in Providence, Rhode Island. Could these deaths be related to Jon? What has he been doing in the intervening years? And what about Chloe, who has become a successful artist in New York but still can't shake her connection to her childhood friend? Kepnes beautifully captures these characters in all their brokenness, loneliness, and vulnerability as they try to reconnect and fail time and time again. Their longing for human connection, and the climactic face-to-face meeting between Jon and Chloe, literally had me in tears.

2. Paris For One & Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

I don't usually read short story collections and this is my first Jojo Moyes, but I couldn't resist the romantic appeal of the title story. Nell is an anxious, sheltered 26-year-old woman who has never been to Paris—never left the country, for that matter. She sets her fears aside and books two tickets for herself and her boyfriend, only to have him fail to show up at the last minute. Nell goes on the trip solo despite her anxieties, and as overwhelmed as she is by her new surroundings and the language barrier, being in Paris by herself also begins to change her and bring her out of her shell. Moyes's prose is clean and moves along breezily; you'll devour the entire book in a single sitting.

3. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Pride and Prejudice adaptations seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but Sittenfeld's incisive and hilarious version stands out. In Sittenfeld's modern take, the Bennets are a Republican-voting, country-club-going family in Cincinnati, living on Mr. Bennet's dwindling inheritance and in massive debt. Liz, who's been working as a writer in New York, returns home to care for their ailing father after he has a heart attack. Jane is a yoga instructor with a tranquil temperament; Bingley is a former reality TV star from a Bachelor-like dating show; Darcy is a handsome doctor from an old money California family; Kitty and Lydia are obnoxiously into paleo and CrossFit; and Mrs. Bennet is as exasperating and comical as ever in her efforts to find husbands for her 5 unmarried daughters. Fans who have reread Jane Austen's original so often that they have the text memorized will appreciate how skillfully Sittenfeld's retelling hits every narrative beat, echoing the ironic rhythms and comic pacing of Austen herself.

4. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty's bestseller is probably old news for a lot of you, as is the widely acclaimed HBO show. However, I had little familiarity with either when I checked out this ebook from the library on my Kobo reader. Big Little Lies focuses on a group of mothers in a small coastal Australian town whose kids are all starting kindergarten together, and a mysterious murder that occurs during a school fundraising trivia night. I had trouble keeping everything straight initially—the first few chapters were a confusing swirl of character names and perspectives inter-cut with police interview dialogue. But eventually the story focused in on 3 mothers. Hyper-feminine Madeline is happily remarried, yet resents the fact that her teenage daughter from her first marriage prefers her father and stepmother over her. Beautiful Celeste seems to have everything, but behind closed doors her marriage is anything but picture perfect. Young single mother Jane moves into town with her son Ziggy and harbours a dark secret about a traumatic past. Above all, this is a novel about how seemingly superficial schoolyard slights can cut deep, and how the effects of domestic violence and sexual assault have a ripple effect from one generation to the next.

5. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date hits all the tropes one would expect of a charming romantic comedy, but still seems fresh because it: 1) depicts an interracial relationship and features a black leading woman; and 2) realistically depicts the joys and tribulations of a long-distance relationship, complete with rushed romantic weekends and drunken text message misunderstandings. Alexa is the chief of staff for the mayor of Berkley, super focused on her career. She's also a woman who's sometimes prone to body image insecurities, especially in a world that seems to favour tall, thin, white California blondes. Drew is a handsome pediatrician from LA who has messed up relationships in the past because of his commitment issues. The two meet cute when they're both stuck in the elevator of San Francisco's Fairmont Empress hotel and hit it off. Drew desperately needs a date for a wedding he dreads attending (the bride is his ex, the groom is his best friend, and he's a groomsman...awkward), and on a whim he decides to ask Alexa, who agrees only because she sees it as a lark. What started as a one-time wedding date arrangement quickly escalates into something more. You'll be rooting for Alexa and Drew to find a way past their respective hang-ups and finally admit their true feelings to each other.

6. The Wife by Alafair Burke

Harlan Coben called The Wife "This year's Gone Girl" when it was published, and like its predecessor this is a domestic thriller with a twist and a potentially unreliable narrator. Angela meets Jason Powell while catering a party in the East Hamptons, and despite the differences in their background they fall in love and get married. The marriage allows Angela and her son to start fresh in New York City, and escape a traumatic past that she wants to keep quiet. Fast forward to the present, and Jason (now a successful academic whose research has become a cultural phenomenon) is being accused of sexual assault by two different women. The case and the media circus it generates put a new spotlight on Angela's past. What lengths is she willing to go to in defending her husband, and what exactly is the truth? Burke's novel toys with the reader's notions of what a stereotypical victim should be before skillfully subverting them.

Shop the post

1 comment

  1. This novel, however, reminds me more of Jessica Jones. It's dark and moody, with detective noir undertones, and the protagonist has a complicated relationship with his abilities. Jon is the type of lonely, tender-hearted young lad who offers to take the class hamster home and sleeps with it in his bed. I appreciate your time and effort on this. This post taught me many new things. It's great to see such important content available. This post contained excellent information and advice. I am delighted this piece brought the subject to light. The post was well-written and easy to understand. I look forward to reading more stuff like this in the future. I'm convinced that many readers will find this piece helpful.


Back to Top