Quick Review: Riveting Reads

Every now and then I pick up a novel not expecting anything in particular, but once I start reading I find myself sucked into the story and blazing through the book whenever I have a moment. These books either make me cry out “I can’t believe it! What happens next?” with nearly every page, or they have me captured silently wondering how the characters will deal with their situation. (…Well, now that I’ve typed that out, I realize that those are basically the same two reactions, hah.) I don’t usually review these sorts of books (isn’t that what I said about the last books I reviewed?! I guess I’m trying to do a better job of keeping tack of all my bookish thoughts). The reason I don’t usually review the books that provoke the reaction described above is because they’re very in-the-moment for me. I devour them and then forget them. For a few days, their stories are all that matter, but once I’m finished I can barely recall the main character’s name (example – I wrote “Jake and ?????” before looking up Jude and Noah’s names). These two books demonstrate those reactions.

  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
    • Rating: ★★★★½ [ratings guide]
    • Nelson’s novel provoked the “I can’t believe it! What happens next?” reaction
    • I’ve never read a book where I gasped so much or had to pause so often to let what I read sink in. And yet it’s not overdone, it’s not so surprising that it becomes unsurprising. Each shock has its place in the story. Just as you think you know how the story is going, Nelson throws one in. These surprises are largely realistic as well. They aren’t so absurd or unpredictable that you’d scoff at them. 
      • This is the sort of story I expected but didn’t find in We Were Liars
    • I’m also not sure I’ve ever read a more simultaneously heart-wrenching and uplifting story.
    • I like that at its heart it’s a story about family. Jude and Noah star, but ##, mother and father are also significant and have their own strengths and flaws.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    • Rating: ★★★½ [ratings guide]
    • Tartt’s novel provoked the furiously silent obsessive reaction.
    • I’m not giving this one four stars because I don’t think it has reread value.
    • This book is a beast. I agree with anyone who says it should have been 150 pages shorter. However, the length didn’t bother me much. I just kept plodding forward.
    • Thinking back, the characters are insufferable and the plot is a bit absurd. And I’m not sure if the prose was that great? Yet obviously there was something about this story that sucked me in…what’s the phrase about not being able to look away from a train wreck? Er, not that this book was as bad as a train wreck. I just can’t figure out now why I liked reading it so much. I do recommend giving it a go if the description piques your interest.

Have you read either of these books? Have any books completely dragged you into their world for a few days?