Happy New Year! This marks the final monthly post tracking 2018’s reading, and I’m actually proud that I “reviewed” every book I read in regular posts. This will definitely continue into 2019, which I kicked off by finishing such an enjoyable YA book (I know, a little off brand for me!).
You’ll hear about that read next month, but for now, here is what I managed to read amidst the holiday craze in December!
Marilla of Green Gables, by Sarah McCoy (★★★☆☆)
I would rate this a 3.5 star read. McCoy took on the challenge of writing about what exactly happened to Marilla Cuthbert and her romance with John Blythe long before Anne Shirley came to Green Gables. I didn’t manage my annual reread of Anne of the Island in 2018, and thanks to its impressively similar tone to L.M. Montgomery’s work, Marilla of Green Gables made me want to pick up the original series again ASAP. The book begins when Marilla is quite young, continues throughout her teens, and then jumps to a little more than a decade before the start of Anne of Green Gables. In addition to Marilla’s romance, it focuses on Canadian politics, abolitionism, and Marilla’s intensely loyal bond with her family, particularly her brother Matthew.
While this was such a sweet story that definitely melded well with Montgomery’s canon, it felt a little rushed the older Marilla got, and the ending felt particularly speedy. Marilla basically disappears from the original books after Anne gets married, and it would’ve been nice to see McCoy present her version of Marilla later in life. I think being in such a familiar world with different or much younger characters might’ve thrown me off, but I would still recommend this to any Anne fans!
Maybe in Another Life, by Taylor Jenkins Reid (★★★☆☆)
There is so much adoration for Taylor Jenkins Reid’s other books, which I think is why I was disappointed with this Sliding Doors-esque story. Similar to a few other plots I enjoyed in 2018, Maybe in Another Life introduces Hannah, whose life has fallen apart over the course of several moves across the country and uninspired career choices. Back in her hometown, she sees her high school sweetheart at a party her best friend throws for her and entertains the idea of going home with him that night. This is when the book splits into two different timelines — one in which Hannah goes home with her old boyfriend Ethan and another in which she leaves early with her best friend Gabby.
Based on what I was expecting from this, I found it a little too simplistic and repetitive. The whole point of the book is for Hannah to find her purpose within both timelines, but I found myself not caring too much about what happened to her. The story kept me invested, but the characters felt a little flat for the book to become anything more. To be fair, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Reid’s upcoming book sound right up my alley, and I haven’t seen their kind of hype applied to this read. This being just okay definitely hasn’t turned me off, because in the past, I’ve felt meh about a first book I read from an author and then gone on to love their other work (looking at you, Jeffrey Eugenides!). I’m excited to finally read The Seven Husbands!
You Think It, I’ll Say It, by Curtis Sittenfeld (★★★☆☆)
This one also leans more towards 3.5 stars. I’ve really enjoyed Curtis Sittenfeld’s previous books, but before reading it, I didn’t know what to expect from this short story collection. The uniting theme among these stories is the idiosyncrasies of relationships, both romantic and platonic. I enjoyed some stories more than others, but a few weeks after finishing the book, I just remember vague circumstances from each story rather than their lessons. I’d also forgotten how blunt Sittenfeld’s writing is with sexual situations, which I remembered while reading the book at my Catholic alma mater and waiting for a sibling’s school concert to begin. Whoops! Still, Sittenfeld is such a masterful writer, and it shows best when she creates a fully fledged world in each short story.
My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine, by Kate Betts (★★★☆☆)
Kate Betts eventually became a prominent fashion journalist, but I hadn’t heard of her before picking up this account of her immediate post-college years working and living in Paris. I always find travelogues like this appealing, but in the end, they’re usually just a little “meh” to me. My Paris Dream was a little slow to get into, but there is something intriguing about reading other people’s stories of building their careers and post-grad lives when you’re in that stage yourself. I did enjoy the book’s cultural observations and insight into the Parisian fashion industry of the late ’80s, but it wasn’t too memorable overall.
32 Candles, by Ernessa T. Carter (★★★★☆)
This is a 4.5 read! Davie escapes from her life of poverty and parental abuse by watching ’80s teen films, particularly Molly Ringwald’s Sixteen Candles. When an incident in front of her classmates coincides with her mother blowing up at her yet again, 15-year-old Davie hitchhikes from her Mississippi hometown to Los Angeles, where she finds a job and essentially has to grow up ASAP. She transforms from a shy nerd into a composed, glamorous woman, but her past unexpectedly arrives in L.A. when her high school crush returns to her life in her early 30s.
While the title suggests a lighthearted read, 32 Candles is a far more immersive, sometimes bleak story than it is at first glance. The writing style flows so smoothly, and even with a twist halfway through that affected my perspective of Davie, I still felt so invested in finding out what happens to her. I highly recommend this for anyone who’s a fan of books taking place over a long period of time or playing around with the rules of a standard narrative!