Despite all the “extra” time at home, I had a hell of a time reading during the first full month of quarantine. Despite being a voracious reader since the age of 5, I just could not focus on more than a paragraph at a time. This was particularly alarming because I’m currently on-lock-down in a house that is filled to the brim with actual physical books, a luxury I can’t maintain in our 690 square foot Brooklyn apartment. As the pile of “books I’d like to read” continued to pile up, the more I found myself, picking up and immediately putting down books. I wish I could say that a profound book, like Eli Shafek’s Forty Rules of Love, pulled me out of my reading slump, or even a good standby like my beloved Prisoner of Azkaban. But no, it was Jessica Simpson’s memoir Open Book that ignited my covid-dulled reading love. Now I’m back to a semi-regular reading routine, though it still comes in waves. In the meantime, I thought I’d share an honest account of my month of, sometimes low-brow, quarantine reading. I hope you can relate. As always:
Please share some of your favorite book recommendations.
I’d love to know what you’re reading and loving!
Open Book by Jessica Simpson
Memoir // B+
I’m a little, okay completely, embarrassed by how much I enjoyed this book. I was in a series reading rut – my covid anxiety kept me from being able to read more than two sentences at a time. This is a refreshingly honest book by a celebrity. Simpson offers a very unfiltered look into her life, her relationships, her alcoholism, her liposuction, and finally settles the iconic “chicken or fish” debate. I highly recommend this as Quarantine reading.
Heaven, My Home (Highway 59 #2 by Attica Locke)
Thriller // A
I bought this book immediately after listening to Locke’s Fresh Air Interview with Terry Gross, and it was worth it. Darren Matthews, a black Texas Ranger, is sent to Caddo Lake, to help investigate the disappearance of a missing 9 year old boy, who happens to be the son of an Aryan Brotherhood captain doing 20 years on drug charges. Matthews is, understandably, conflicted about what it will mean to help find this boy. Set in December 2016, the story starts four weeks after Donald Trump is elected, and Matthews is filled with rage over the election: “In an act of blind fury, white voters had just lit a match to the very country they claimed to love- simply because they were being asked to share it.” In a case filled with political and racial turns, Matthews must confront his love of Texas and concerns as a black man in America throughout every twisty turn of this story. In the end, Locke brings justice and a measure of mercy to the wide array of characters. It is a fantastic read, and Locke does an incredible job bringing the traditionally white-washed thriller genre into the Trump-era we live in today.
Note: This is the second book in the Highway 59 series. I didn’t actually realize this before starting the book. I highly recommend reading Bluebird, Blue Bird before starting Heaven, My Home.
A Faint Cold Fear (Grant County #3) by Karin Slaughter
Thriller // B
***Trigger Alert: Domestic Violence & Abuse
Last year I started making my way through Karin Slaughter’s Georgia-based Grant County and Will Trent mystery series. I’m not entirely sure what makes them so addictive. The plots are slightly outlandish and it’s more thriller than mystery. I’d personally recommend Slaughter’s standalone books, like the Good Daughter, over this particular series. That said, Slaughter provides an interesting look into rural Southern politics and gender roles. She creates complex, flawed characters and ultimately a very good “beach/quarantine” type read.
An apparent student suicide has brought medical examiner Sara Linton to the local college campus, along with her ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver. But a horribly mutilated corpse yields up few answers. And a suspicious rash of subsequent “suicides” suggests that a different kind of terror is stalking the youth of Heartsdale, Georgia—a nightmare that is coming to prey on Sara Linton’s loved ones.
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
Thriller // B
*Trigger Alert: Domestic Violence & Abuse
This book is weirdly This book is weirdly terrifying. I honestly got chills while reading it in bed at three in the morning. It’s not a great book, but I just could not put it down. Jack and Grace appear to have the perfect marriage. They have a beautiful house, stunning dinner parties and a garden to die for. Yet, you soon realize that Jack and Grace are never apart, and Grace never seems to leave their beautiful home. The book blurb gives the plot away, yet it still manages to be suspenseful. It’s superficial, light and very twisted book.
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
Thriller // B+
*Trigger Alert: Domestic Violence & Abuse
This is another book that I could not put down. The twist at the end is slightly predictable, but incredibly satisfying. Amber
It was a month for the superficial thrillers. This was another twisted, suspenseful “chick noir.” Every once in a while I google “best thrillers” and add them to my library que. I rarely remember the plotlines, so the entire book becomes a mystery. This book was no exception.
It’s the story of a coolly manipulative woman who worms her way into the lives of a wealthy “golden couple” from Connecticut to achieve the privileged life she wants, only to realize she may have gotten herself in way over her head. It’s a juicy, and utterly addictive thriller with some diabolical twists.
The Forty Rules of Love by Eli Shafak
Fiction // A
If there is one book you should remember from this list, it’s The Forty Rules of Love. My friend Monika has been recommending this book for years, yet the title alone prevented me from taking an interest. What I assumed to be some weird, self-help about romantic relationships*, turned out to be an incredible, philosophical book on the many types of love- romantic, spiritual, social justice, humane.
Ella Rubenstein is forty years old, unhappily married housewife, when she takes a job as a reader for a literary agent. Her first assignment is to read and report on Sweet Blasphemy, a novel by unknown written Aziz Zahara. Ella is transformed reading the tale of how Shams of Tabric, a wandering whirling dervish, transformed thirteenth century Rumi from successful but unhappy cleric to committed mystic, passionate poet, and advocate of love. Through the story, Sham’s presents his forty rules of love,and how “A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern of Western… Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. IT is what it is pure and simple.” As she reads on, she realizes that Rumi’s story mirrors her own unfullfilled and that Zahara—like Shams—has come to set her free.This is a story about love, and about a global unity of all people and religions, and the presence of love in each and every one of us.
If you are interested in more book recommendation and other musings by Monika, you can check her out at here.
The Client by John Grisham
Thriller // B+
This is a classic thriller- mobs, lawyers, and two kids. I found this book while cleaning out some old books, and had to re-read it. It’s still the ultimate thriller.
Eleven-year old Mark Sway and his younger brother were sneaking a forbidden cigarette in the woods, outside their trailer park, when a shiny Lincoln pulls up. A chance encounter with a suicidal lawyer leaves Mark with the knowledge with the location of the most sought-after dead body in America. While his younger brother goes into a coma, and with the mob after him, Mark must trust his only ally, Reggie- a novice attorney, to save their lives.
Welcome to Aheli Wanders – a lifestyle blog for wandering bookworms & foodies. Please join me as I wander around the room and rummage through my fridge. In return, you’ll get some random musing, travel guides, recipes, and lots of book recommendations. Enjoy!