What I read last month: November 2017

In What I Read Last Month, I recap the previous month’s reading and shamelessly copy and paste from my Goodreads reviews. You can read previous months’ What I Read… by clicking here. Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links, but despite wanting to support writers by buying books, I get most of mine from the library.

Here’s what I read:

Surprisingly little! That’s how it looks, doesn’t it?

In reality, I spent a lot of time reading for my writing group. I think I did more than a novel’s worth of reading and critiquing. Even though I can’t tell you about what they’re writing or share a link to it yet, I promise you’ll hear from me the moment that changes. My gratitude for this lovely group of talented writers is off the charts.

Between critiquing others’ work, assembling the Order from Chaos ebook, and spending over a week out of town visiting family, November zipped by with only one completed novel. Plus, our family has been feeling under the weather. I’ve been too tired for my usual late-night reading sessions.

My goal for December is to enjoy more magazines — something I’m already doing — and make more time for pleasure reading.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading, and how you’re making time for books and writing during the busy holidays.

Books

The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie

★★★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

This book feels like it’s trying to straddle the line between thriller and drama. I actually think it would’ve been stronger going all-in on the marriage/friendship drama, with a side of suspense. Naturally, we want to know what’s going to happen in the end, and the plot has a few twists and turns, but that’s secondary to the deep emotional story at the heart of the book.

In making this a plot-driven novel, we lose a little bit of character depth. Not only that, Cecily’s ‘big secret’ pales in comparison to Kate’s, yet both are treated somewhat similarly. And in the end I felt the POVs conflicted with one another a bit. It definitely feels like Cecily’s story, but Kate’s POV is really strong, even though those chapters are written in close third person instead of Cecily’s first person.

There’s a lot of heavy stuff in this book. I love the questions the author asks, and the characters she creates. However, I would’ve liked to have seen better character development, especially around their motivations at key points in the story. Information is revealed slowly, to create suspense, but the timing of these reveals doesn’t always feel natural for the POV, which can break the spell for the reader. This also creates distance between the reader and POV character. I didn’t always understand why a character felt the way they did, or feel like I knew them well enough to believe their actions.

All that aside, I did connect with the characters enough to keep reading, and their world felt very real to me. The best reading experience, for me, is to be invited into another person’s life. I felt like I was part of this book, and remember it as though I saw it all myself. I just think it would have been stronger with a more character-driven approach, since the issues at stake are so deep and complex.

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