Here it is: my final “What I Read” post for 2020 (granted it is 2021 when you’re reading about them)! I’m pretty proud of what I managed to accomplish this year, reading-wise. However, that was simply because I had more time, and not because I worked any harder at it than in previous years. I love to read, but it often falls by the wayside for other things I need to do so it really all depends on how busy I am. And 2020 was the year of “not busy.”
The first book I read was The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany, by Lori Nelson Spielman. This was my Book of the Month club selection in November (I think?) and I initially had some trouble getting into it. The backdrop sounded fantastic: a young woman travels to Italy with her aging aunt and tries to undo a family curse (all second-born daughters in the Fontana family are ill-fated to never find love). The story goes from present to past, slowly weaving in the details readers need to know so that there’s a bit of a mystery to the whole thing.
Emilia, the main character (and a second born daughter) is living happily single in Brooklyn when her estranged aunt Poppy calls to invite her on an all-expenses paid trip to Italy. The trip is controversial for many reasons, the main one being that Emilia’s grandmother (and Poppy’s sister) is not welcome into the family (for reasons that will be a major plot point so I will not spoil them here). Also, Poppy would like to break the second-born daughter curse which Emilia has never necessarily believed in. However, Emilia eventually agrees to the trip, along with her cousin Lucy (and much to the chagrin of her grandmother) and they go off on an adventure where they learn about love, life and – of course – themselves.
It was, overall, a cute story, and I liked the different points of view (though I will admit I was way more interested in Poppy’s stories of the past as we got deeper into the story). This one would make a nice beach-y read, which I say even though I read it in November!
Sticking with the theme of “books I finished that I initially had trouble getting into,” The Lions of Fifth Avenue, by Fiona Davis. I bought the book because I was intrigued by the idea of a family living in the Fifth Avenue branch of the New York Public Library (apparently, there used to be apartments in there).
Laura Lyons (got to love the wordplay with the family’s name) lives in the library with her husband (who is the superintendent) and their two children in 1913. She is trying to make her own way, however, and attend a new journalism program at Columbia, which introduces her to a new way of life in the village (essentially a group of woman who question the traditional roles of being a wife and mother). She is intrigued by the group but also has to deal with the consequences of what happens when books start to go missing at the library.
This book also jumps back and forth in time, with the second narrative belonging to Sadie Donovon in 1993. She is the granddaughter of Laura Lyons (the late at this point; Sadie never met her grandmother) and working at the library when books begin to go missing again. The past and present must collide as Sadie learns more about her grandmother’s life at the library.
Once the book thefts started happening, I got more into the story. I wasn’t all that interested in Laura’s story, but once there was mystery involved, I was hooked. Historical fiction can be hit or miss for me depending on the topic. It can also take me longer to read as I spend a ton of time looking up real facts about the storyline. For example, this one was loosely based on a ring of book thefts in the 20’s.
Next up was Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman which has been sitting on my nightstand for well over a year I’m sure. I kept reading the same couple of pages without really getting anywhere. I finally decided to power through and finish the book. And… it was confusing.
Erin and Mark are a honeymooning couple who stumble upon, well, something in the water. Money and diamonds to be exact, and the wreckage of a plane crash that was carrying them. They decide to keep the money and what follows is the consequence of their decision. However, even though this was a mystery/thriller, I did not feel all that invested in the characters or the outcome. It also seemed like it had two completely different plots: the money/diamonds and then Erin’s working with inmates at a prison (which admittedly does serve a purpose, but I honestly had to speed read through these scenes because I was so uninterested in them). Other than being glad that I checked this one off of the ever-growing TBR (to be read) pile, I don’t think I would really recommend this one (although it was in Reese Witherspoon’s book club, so someone out there’s gotta love it!).
Like lots of people (I assume, given that the show was renewed for a third season), I have been watching Virgin River on Netflix, usually when I’ve exhausted my usually binge watching choices. I only recently learned, however, that it’s a book series. Of course I had to read the first book, and it was good enough for me to want to read the second book… but this is one hundred percent guilty pleasure reading! They are, essentially, sappy romance novels so if that’s your thing then I say read away! As for me? I can’t say that I’m completely hooked on this books, but I will probably continue reading the series, but much the same way I watch the show: every now and then.
So did I hit my fifty book goal? Made it to exactly fifty just under the wire… okay so it was maybe a few minutes after midnight that I finished the last ten pages of the last book, but I’m counting it!
Depending on how 2021 goes, we shall see how the reading changes. I always make it my goal to read fifty books, and I often don’t make it, but I have a lot of fun trying!
Here’s to 2021 reading!