Book Review: The Secret History

When we really look at it, there are only two ways for us to predict if we will like a book – the description and the hype. I normally only read half of the description, because I hate spoilers, and focus more on the hype. For this book – the hype was real. Besides the current obsession with Castle of Water, the book I have seen posted about the most on bookish social media is The Secret History. It seems like everyone has read it and everyone has LOVED it.

When I received credit from Barnes and Noble, I immediately knew this would be one of the books I bought. A modern classic that will fit in well on the bookshelf. And while its definitely challenging to review a modern classic, I’m going to try.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.

What I enjoyed about this book, was that it felt like a saga. It wasn’t skimming the surface or only telling the climax of the story, but it told the story from the beginning – when Richard, the protagonist, met his group of classmates, and everything was kicked in to motion. It followed in great detail, the life of Richard over the following year, through the climax of the story, and then through the aftermath.

If you compare this book to some of the other murder-mystery-thriller’s I’ve read this summer, (i.e. Into the Water or even In a Dark Dark Wood) you can recognize how [relatively] incomplete those types of books can be. You come in to the story after the event, and retroactively search for clues. The Secret History was a different experience, while following the same general plot.  (BTW the fact that TSH is a murder mystery is revealed in the first sentence, so no spoilers here!) It was something different, and while I felt like pages 400-475 would never end, I will advise you to stick around to the end because the end will draw you right back in!

So, to loop back to the beginning of this post, while the hype was real, and I truly enjoyed the book, for me the description was not. Corruption, Betrayal, and Evil are meaningful and dark words, and I didn’t find this book to be as dark as those descriptors would suggest.

Your turn!

Have you read The Secret History? What did you think?

What’s your favorite murder-mystery-thriller author?

Looking for a Book Club? Look no further

I’ve been a fan of Reese Witherspoon -who isn’t?- back to the Legally Blonde days. I recently LOVED her in Big Little Lies (Seriously considering a rewatch). But one of my favorite things about Reese Witherspoon is how much she loves to read! Fun fact: I picked up Girl on The Train solely because Reese Witherspoon was spotted reading it.

I follow the RW book club on instagram, and saw that their July pick was The Alice Network. The description was so enticing I immediately requested it from the library, and I finally received it on my kindle today!

The votes are in y’all… #TheAliceNetwork won as our next selection! I think you’ll really enjoy this exciting and fast-paced story about a pregnant American socialite who teams up with a female ex-spy and a hot-tempered young soldier in the aftermath of WWII. A story of courage and redemption. Happy reading! – RW

About a month later, I saw that herAugust pick was the Lying Game and was thrilled that I had already ordered it with my Book of the Month selection.

And with these two shaping up to be my next two reads, I realized that I am definitibely a participating member of the RW book club. And by the transitive property, that means Reese and I are best friends. #math.

Since this realization, I started to think about the other online bookclubs I always swore I’d join. So here’s a quick rundown of other online book clubs you can participate in:

  • Reese Witherspoon Book Club (Instagram)
  • Emma Watson’s Feminist Book Club (Goodreads)
  • Emma Robert’s Belletrist Babes (Instagram). While you’re add it, follow Emma herself. She’s the best. (Instagram)
  • Modern Mrs Darcy’s Book Club — This was was so talked about by Top Shelf Text I had to look it up. Modern Mrs. Darcy creates a FLIGHT of books each month. One month I desperately want to clear my TBR and just read them all. This sounds like too much of a commitment for me because I tend to only read 3-4 books a month anyway and I have so many others I want to read, but maybe when my BOTM subscription runs out I’ll give it a try. Have you tried it? Is it worth ditching my TBR? Let me know! (Website)
  • Book of the Month Club – this one isn’t as traditional, but Book of the Month provides discussion boards for you to share your thoughts, and a ton of bookstagrammers are reading the same book, so there’s always a platform for discussion for these great reads! (Interested: Use my discount code!)
  • Hello Book Lover – this is one subscription book I really want to try. You choose from two books on a theme and they send you an adorable book box with theme related trinkets. And as a bonus, they post discussion points on their instagram and during the month that you can reply to. Even if you don’t subscribe, follow their instagram for beautiful book photos! (Instagram)
  • Meetup – if you’re looking for something a little more in person, search meetup for local book clubs. I was blown away by how many were in my area and up my alley when I searched! And sure, I’ve been too shy (and/or busy) to go, but there’s still one I’m “following” along with!

 

And with that I’m off to read my RW Book Club Pics!

 

Your Turn:

Have you participated in an online book club?

Have you read The Alice Network or The Lying Game? Tell me your spoiler-free thoughts!

 

#ThrowbackThursday – Backlist Bumps

I’ve been on a huge backlist trend recently.

For the last couple years, my reading has been very New Releases oriented. Each month went something like this: one Book of the Month book, one Book Club pick, and usually one library book, whatever finally came up as available from my list of requests.

But this June I recieved $30 in credit to Barnes and Noble (class action lawsuit for the win), and instead of spending it all on a $27 hardback book, I decided to go for three different paperback books! …Then I flew to Denver, finished my book on the way, and decided to treat myself to another paperback and of course – walked away with two backlist bumps.

I’m making my way through them, but here’s my list of recent backlist buys!

  • In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (5 STARS, Review here)
  • The Return by Moshin Hamid (5 STARS, Review here)
  • The Secret History (SO FAR 5 STARS, Currently Page 240/550)
  • The Circle by David Eggers (3 STARS, Review here)
  • Modern Lovers (Not Started, Will make for a great September read)

Clearly I’m enjoying my backlist reads. I think there are a couple reasons for this.

  1. These are books that stuck out to me and never went away. They are books that I was reminded of over and over again, so clearly they’ve survived the test of time and aren’t just a case of good advertising.
  2. I’m having so much fun talking to friends about these books because most of my friends have already read them! Sometimes when I read New Releases I feel a little isolated because noone else wants to discuss them quite as much as I do.

So if you’re thinking of going through a Backlist phase I totally reccomend it!

 

Your Turn:

Are you typically a new releases or a backlist kind of reader? 

Do you read every book you buy?

Book Review: American Fire

Peeking my head up from The Secret History to bring you this review of American Fire by Monica Hesse. 🙂

LOVE IS A WEIRD ACT. An Optimistic delusion. A leap of faith and foolishness. Sometimes when it is tested, imperfections that were there from the beginning, lurking deep, can begin to work their way to the surface. Even two people who love each other deeply will always be two people, two souls. You can’t ever completely get in someone else’s head, or in someone else’s heart. It is the greatest tragedy and the greatest beauty of a relationship: that at some level, the person you are closest to will always be a total friggin’ mystery. Maybe the real mystery is why we ever do it at all. It must be something incredible.” – Monica Hesse, American Fire

I normally never start a review with a quote, but maybe I’ve been writing these wrong, because I think that quote serves as quite an intro.

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American Fire is a book I stumbled upon over the winter through a fit of boredom  – either browsing through Goodreads or Netgalley, I can’t remember, but I do remember setting a mental note for July when it would come out. So July 1st, when I saw it as a Book of the Month selection and I chose it immediately. I love when Book of the Month selects nonfiction!

The synopsis of American Fire is that two people living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, decide to set fires to abandoned houses throughout their county, and reaked havoc on their community. Monica Hesse, the author of this book, was a journalist with (admittedly) nothing to write about and asked her boss if she could go down to Virginia to cover this story.

What Hesse brings is a compelling narrative non fiction, sprinkled with chapters that take a step back from the story and explain the context. This context ranges from the psychology behind arson, to the history of the economy of the Eastern Shore (who knew that Doritos were part of the downfall?), to different state laws which could influence the trial and sentencing for arson.

The overarching story line was told through the lives of the arsonists as well as the firefighters fighting each fire, to give you the full picture of the crime and the damage to the community.

I felt like a learned so much from the story, and enjoyed it all the while.

I find that even though I shouldn’t, I tend to compare books. The comparisons I would make for this is that it was somewhere between The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and Deadwake (or any of the others) by Eric Larson. It reminds me of Rebecca Skloot because it truly was the story of a journalist who stumbled upon a story and invested the time and effort to develop a book, and of Eric Larson because, in my opinion, nobody writes narrative non-fiction better.

At the end of the day, I was drawn in to this story, but I was never obsessed the way I was with a Larson book. I learned so much, and those facts and feelings will stay with me – which is kind of the best that you can hope for!

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I hope you give this book a shot and let me know what you thought!

Feel Learn Wonder Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Title: American Fire
Author: Monica Hesse
Genre: Narrative Nonfiction