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No. 100 Books in the Time of Quarantine

I like to start a novel without knowing anything about the story. I don’t look at the back of the book, the sleeve, or the reviews.

I read these eleven books over the winter, and they all kept me hooked. During Quarantine Times, if you are looking for a good book or eleven to read, below are some excellent novels I truly enjoyed. They were either lent to me by friends, ordered through an interlibrary loan with my library, or I read them through the Libby app.

Read my mini-reviews below.

Royals by Emma Forrest

If you need to be taken back to the giddy highs and lows of your teenagehood in the 1980s, this book about friendship, fashion, and sexuality is for you. The ache of a fabulous new romance (star crossed, hilarious, and set to The English Beat) will cheer and devastate you in that extreme way you felt so hard in your teens. This book is not yet for sale in the US unless you shop on Amazon.

The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney

I found the sci-fi thriller The Perfect Wife to be startling and inventive. With multiple narrators, you get an inside view of the high tech arrogance of Artificial Intelligence when it is taken too far. The book has a much needed feminist perspective, and the suspenseful corporate power plays freaked me out.

Novels about opioid addiction, abusive sibling relations, and South Asia politics are rarely fun.

But like so much of Rushdie’s writing, this book dances off the page. It is relevant, hilarious, and smart. Rushdie offers up a Cervantesesque sci-fi romanticism fit for our age.

This book lives up to the hype. Poetry in verse. Interconnected stories of identity and race.

“. . . women who miraculously spend their working day wearing bondage-tight skirts and vertiginous, destabilizing heels which make their feet look bound the erogenous zones of crushed muscles and cramped bones, encased in upmarket strippers’ heels and if she has to cripple herself to signal her education, talent, intellect, skills and leadership potential then so be it.”

I recently read about a couple who went on a date to a bar so they could read the end of this book together. It’s that good. A teacher turned eccentric recluse becomes obsessed with solving local murders in as bossy and funny a way as possible.

I read the whole book in one day. The lead suffragette plays the long game and shines bright at the end. Atwood gives us the expected brutality and unbearable suspense that pays off.

I found this book to be a much needed long sigh of relief. You go with a young man on a wonderfully winding hike through England. Set in the aftermath of World War II, the boy becomes a man in subtle and surprising ways when he encounters a grieving woman who slowly shares her colorful life with him.

A WWII spy thriller set in London with a woman at the center of the intrigue. Handling herself with wit and impressive aplomb, she goes from typist to spy and gets in over her head on more than one occasion. An adventuresome page-turner.

Written by the same author who wrote The Girl with the Pearl Earring. This book is a vivid fantasia of mysteriously materializing dollhouse furniture, political strategizing, and a mail order bride who won’t tolerate subterfuge in a family full of secrets. Surprises are revealed right up to the very end. Rich with complicated female characters.

You think you are reading a book set in the 1600s until you realize you are reading a novel set in post-apocalyptic 1600s. A young priest is sent to a small town to bury the town’s priest. Modern ideas and items are illegal and sinful. This young priest is hot for a new age, and so is a widow he meets during his visit - a stylish and captivating thriller.

Violet lost her fiance in WWII and is considered a “surplus woman.” She moves to the city and tries to make a life for herself as a single woman. She joins a group of other “invisible” women who gather to create great art together - embroidered kneeling cushions for the local Cathedral. It becomes a fulfilling experience for Violet and gives her a strong sense of independence and worth.

The book has a well-realized scene where the heroine decides to go for a multi-day hike by herself. Her desire to be a free spirit is compromised by a shady character who follows her one afternoon. Every woman I know relates to this compromise, and it is infuriating. Violet second-guesses herself the entire afternoon, and her day is ruined by her being tossed between fear and not trusting her intuition. Eighty years later, women still experience this hike.

I've just started book one of Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell trilogy, Wolf Hall. Going into these books, I knew slim details of Cromwell and now I'm obsessed.

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