I began this month by reading 700 pages of Nixon transcripts, which meant that the rest of my list was wall-to-wall YA and thrillers. Guys, it’s all about balance.
1) The Nixon Tapes, by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter: This was intense. It really was almost a thousand pages of mostly unedited transcripts, with short paragraphs at the beginning of each for context. These conversations took place from 1971-72—so, before the Watergate hullabaloo—and are almost entirely about foreign policy. The book’s introduction reminds readers that presidents have been secretly recording their conversations pretty much since the technology became available, and was not some Nixon-specific novelty.
My biggest take-away from this—other than what a weird thing he had against India—was how badly he wanted to be liked and appreciated. We all do, Nixon.
2) The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins: Rachel takes the train into London every morning and home every night. She watches the houses, and the people in them, as they slide by, making up stories about who they are, where they’re from and what they do. One morning, Rachel sees something she isn’t supposed to. She goes to the police, wanting to help. But as it turns out, Rachel’s word may not be all that reliable.
This book is being marketed as the next Gone Girl. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I’d make that comparison. To me, it was much more like Rear Window. There is nothing as tempting as an open curtain and the opportunity to peek in.
3) 100 Sideways Miles, by Andrew Smith: Finn—epileptic, heterochromatic—is trapped inside a book. His father wrote a pivotal science fiction novel, in which an (epileptic, heterochromatic) alien named Finn comes through a Lazarus door and attacks the human race. That’s a lot for a sixteen-year-old to carry, especially when his best friend is a blond, Argentinian descendant of Nazis and the girl he loves witnessed him passed out in an epileptic fit. With their help, Finn tries to escape the book and find his own path.
4) The Outcasts, by Kathleen Kent: This is a good, old-fashioned cowboys and saloons book. Lucinda escapes her Texas brothel and entrenches herself in a small community, where she waits for her partner to arrive so they can seek a buried treasure. Meanwhile, young lawman Nate hunts a vicious killer wreaking havoc across the state. When their paths converge, everyone’s guns are drawn.
5) The Never List, by Koethi Zan: Best friends Sarah and Jennifer know how dangerous life can be, so they develop a “Never” list to keep them safe: never walk alone at night, never leave the door unlocked, never run out of gas. One night at college, they break a single rule—never get into a cab—and pay for it dearly. Ten years later, the man who ruined their lives comes up for parole. Sarah can testify at the hearing, but after a decade of hiding in her apartment, she wants more. She wants answers. She wants revenge. She wants to find where Jennifer is buried.
A small side note: Ms. Zan lives in Upstate New York. Fellow Syracuse residents, while reading this book, will immediately picture a small, notorious house in Dewitt and get incredibly creeped out.
6) The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood: Jade and Belle are eleven-year-old girls who meet in the morning and by sunset are accused of murder. The girls are tried, convicted and shuttled into the correctional system. Twenty-five years later, a string of killings in a seaside town leads journalist Kristy to interview Amber, a local cleaner. The women instantly recognize each other and go into panic mode. As more information about the murders comes to light, both will be faced with difficult choices about what they are willing to do to protect their new lives.
7) Feeling Sorry for Celia, by Jaclyn Moriarty: This is the first book in a series about a pen pal program between an Australian private school and its nearby public counterpart. No one except for Elizabeth seems particularly concerned that her best friend Celia has disappeared. Elizabeth communicates with her mother solely through notes on the refrigerator, and with her father only at fancy dinners. When Elizabeth embarks on an adventure to find and save Celia, her pen pal Christina becomes an increasingly important source of support.
And the best thing I read this month…
8) The Year of Secret Assignments, by Jaclyn Moriarty: In the second book of the series, best friends Lydia, Emily and Cassie are each matched with a boy from the public school. Lydia’s pen pal Sebastian is an artist (martial and traditional), Emily’s match Charlie is nice, funny and gullible, and Matthew…seems to be a psychopath. When a war of pranks and dares breaks out between the schools, things get messy.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Jaclyn Moriarty is the younger sister of Laine Moriarty, whose smart, funny adult novels I also love.
Thanks for reading. Back next month!