Sunday, January 24, 2016

Books Read in 2015

What a sad, sad year for my SmallWorld Reads blog. I am sure I neglected to record lots of books that I read, and many of these on the list I didn't review. I don't know what happened to me! I didn't read as much, and I somehow wasn't motivated to review much.  According to my list, I read 31 books, but I know there were many that I just forgot to record here. I'm determined to do better in 2016!

My favorite 5 books of the year (not including re-reads) were
  1. Love, Anthony (Lisa Genova)
  2. Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)
  3. What She Knew(Gilly Macmillan)
  4. Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls (Anton diScalfani)
  5. Moloka'i (Alan Brennert)
Here are the books I recorded:
  1.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (multiple reread)
  2. Beekeeper's Apprentice (Laurie King)***
  3. Boston Girl (Anita Diamant)****
  4. The Crucible (multiple reread)
  5. Devil and Miss Prym (Paulo Coelho)***
  6. Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)****
  7. Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Heidi Durrow)***
  8. Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)*****
  9. Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee)***
  10. Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)***** - multiple reread
  11. Healing Stones (Nancy Rue)**
  12. Little Princes (Connor Grennan)****
  13. Love Anthony (Lisa Genova)*****
  14. Moloka'i (Alan Brennert)*****
  15. Night Strangers (Chris Bohjalian)***
  16. Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck) -- multiple reread
  17. Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)***** re-read
  18. Princess Academy (Shannon Hale)****
  19. Scarlet Letter (multiple re-read)
  20. Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy)***
  21. Season to Taste (Molly Birnbaum)****
  22. Secrets of Eden (Chris Bohjalian)****
  23. Tenth Gift (Jane Johnson)***
  24. This Boy's Life (Tobias Wolff)****
  25. Under the Same Blue Sky (Pamela Schoenewaldt)***
  26. Undomestic Goddess (Sophie Kinsella)***
  27. Uninvited (Cat Winters)**
  28. What She Knew (Gilly Macmillan)*****
  29. When the Moon Is Low (Nadia Hashimi)****
  30. Widower's Tale (Julia Glass)***
  31. Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls (Anton diScalfani)****

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What She Knew

Gilly Macmillan's debut novel, What She Knew, turned out to be one of my favorites of 2015— right up there with The Girl on the Train. When I first read the premise—a little boy disappears in the park— I was a bit hesitant to read it. First, the thought of that happening has always terrified me— but my kids are teens or older now, so I figured I could make it through. Second, I didn't want to read about horrible things that happened to the little boy. The author handled this perfectly, and I had no reason to fear.

Ben and his mother, Rachel, are out for their daily walk in the park. Ben asks to run ahead to the rope swing, and Rachel agrees. When she gets to the rope swing, he's gone. I think probably all parents have experienced that moment of terror— and then that sweet moment of relief when you spy your child's feet as he hides in the racks at Target. But Rachel doesn't have that sweet moment of relief. Ben is really gone.

The rest of the novel follows various characters as the search for Ben begins and continues: Rachel, her ex-husband, and the detective in charge of the search. Everyone is a suspect, and, naturally, Rachel becomes an object of suspicion and hate in the public eye. How could this horrible mother have let her child run ahead in a park? Again, I usually avoid novels that involve child abduction, but Macmillan isn't out to instill fear in parents or give us glimpses into terrifying scenarios.

This was a fantastic psychological thriller, a genre I really need to explore more. I loved Gone Girl, although it was pretty gory and graphic, and The Girl on the Train was brilliant. I really felt like What She Knew was a terrific blending of the two books. It had the heart of The Girl on the Train and the mystery of Gone Girl— but it was more uplifting than either of those books (which, again, I absolutely loved). I stayed up way past my bedtime reading this novel and finished quickly.  Highly recommended.