Despite having a very busy month, I managed to squeeze in a number of books thanks to a sick day and Thanksgiving break. Let’s get right into it shall we?
The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell was SO GOOD. I’ve read a few of Jewells books before and liked them, but none so much as this one. It was a creepy psychological thriller with three narrators who alternated chapters. They are connected to each other, that much is obvious going in, but how they are related unfolds with the plot. As with many books I read, I don’t know if it was highly predictable or if my book sleuth skills were on high alert with this one. I figured a lot out as I went along, and was super excited to do so. Every time I had a revelation about the plot, I was really excited about it (and correct for the most part, aside from one blindside that I just didn’t consider as an option).
The story is about young woman who turns twenty-five and inherits a large house in a wealthy neighborhood in London. But with this massive inheritance comes the truth of her birth. She has always known she was adopted, but she has not known that she was apparently born into a mystery: she learns her parents died in an assumed suicide pact. They were found dead in the house, along with her infant self. The mystery? Four other children also lived in the house, and all four of them had mysteriously disappeared.
The Secret Life of the American Musical, by Jack Viertel, is a book I started last month and have been reading in bits and pieces since October. I’m not a huge non-fiction reader but when I find a book about a topic I like, I make exceptions. I absolutely loved reading about the inner workings and structures of broadway shows, and I found myself nodding along in agreement the entire time as the author made countless good points. His main point is that all good musicals follow a basic formula, and that formula generally leads to the most successful musicals (but of course, that doesn’t man that there aren’t exceptions to this). He also breaks them down bit by bit, with each chapter focusing on the next step in the formula.
This book solidified for me that, above all, my calling has always been the theater (which is hysterical because I was a super shy kid and I always thought I would be a writer… turns out writing it not my best creative outlet; that honor belongs to sewing and costume design).
After loving The Family Upstairs and recalling that I have read two other Lisa Jewell books I the past (another I loved, one I liked but wasn’t quite as I to), I decided to start making my way through more of her works. I started reading I Found You one evening, and finished in during a day home sick. It was excellent – as with Family, it had just the right amount of creepy and the mystery unfolded at a good pace. Unlike the previous novel however, there were no surprises with this one. I kind of had the whole thing worked out very early on. However, the fun of the book was filling in the holes, predictable or not and it was an interesting ride to get to the end. I am a sucker for books which blend the past and present together to create the full picture, apparently.
In I Found You, a man is found on the beach in a seaside town in England with no memories, not even how he ended up on the beach. As the plot drives forward, Frank (as he is called by the family who takes him in) begins to remember small things leading to him finally getting his memory back. Meanwhile, a young woman named Lily is desperately searching for her missing husband. It is obvious there is a connection between the two events, but that that connection is exactly is the fun of reading this book.
I stayed on the Lisa Jewell bandwagon for my next read as well, this time selecting The Girls in the Garden. This one, of the three I have read this month, would be my least favorite. I still enjoyed the concept of it, but I didn’t find the mystery as intriguing as I did in the other two books. It also felt like more of a reach, mystery-wise, even though it was probably the most realistic, storyline-wise, of the three. In this book, Jewell tells the story of a group of families who all live in an area of London surrounding a private park. Once night, thirteen year old Grace Wild is found in the park with her face bloodied and her clothing askew. The story then goes back to when she, her mother and sister moved into the neighborhood and set off a domino effect of events.
The fifth book I finished was The Dress Doctor, by Edith Head which I have been slowly posting about. It’s amazing if you’re into costume design and fashion. My final post on it is upcoming! You can read the first two here and here.
My goal is still to finish fifty books by the end of the year, even though I am positive I am going to end up just short of it. This is the crunch time month for the musical, PLUS crazy holiday time, so we shall see!