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Sunday, November 1, 2020

Fall Into Some Great Reads

Reprinted from auburnpub.com

If summer is traditionally a time for lighter “beach reads”, fall is a time for more “serious” books. This year, there are a plethora of books that will satisfy our literary desires.

Jess Walter’s 2012 novel, Beautiful Ruins took the world by storm, ending up on many Best of the Year and Best of the Decade books. This year he returns with another stellar novel, The Cold Millions. 

Set in 1909 Spokane, Washington, it tells the story of Irish immigrant brothers, Gig and Rye. They spend most of their time looking for day jobs, and trying to scrape enough money together to rent a cold porch in a woman’s home. 

Tired of living hand-to-mouth, Gig becomes involved with a local workers’ union, and during a workers’ protest, he and Rye are arrested and thrown in jail with hundreds of other men. Sixteen year-old Rye is released and catches the eye of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a union organizer who travels from city to city giving speeches and raising money to bring attention to the cause of workers’ rights.

Flynn, who is an actual historical figure, is despised not only for what she says, but also because as a woman she dares to speak out at all. This makes her a target for many, but especially for the obscenely wealthy business owners who do not want their workers to organize. 

The Cold Millions takes historical events and people and mixes them with fictional characters to create a fascinating story that resonates with things that are occurring in society today. The brilliant writing pulls you in, and the characters live on long in your mind long after you finish this though-provoking book. I give it my highest recommendation.

V.E. Schwab is best known for her young adult fantasy novels, but her newest novel, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is geared towards adults. Addie LaRue is a young woman who, in 1714 France, runs away from an arranged marriage to a widower. 

In the woods, she meets the form of a man who promises her the life she wants- freedom to choose how to live, whom to love, what to be. The only catch is that in exchange for this life, she must give her soul over to him. Addie agrees, but only if she can give up her soul when she is done living her life.

This Faustian bargain allows Addie to make her own life choices with one caveat- no one will remember her. Once she is out of their sight, it is as if they never saw her before. This makes for a very lonely life for Addie. She can’t hold a job, or have a relationship; she is forever a stranger. 

The only one who knows her is the fallen god who gave her this life. He shows up from time to time, and Addie’s exchanges with him are intriguing and tension-filled. He seems particularly drawn to Addie. 

Three hundred years later, in 2014 New York City, Addie meets Henry in a used bookstore and he remembers her name. How is this possible? Henry and Addie begin to spend time together, and everything changes for Addie. Could this be the life she has always wanted?

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue reminded me of one of my favorite books from the past few years- Lisa Grunwald’s Time After Time. Both books ask the question “What would you give up for the love of your life?” 

I loved The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. It reminds us to be careful of what we wish for, it may not be what you wanted. A tantalizing adult fairy tale, I give it my highest recommendation. 

Cassidy Lucas’ mystery Santa Monica begins with handsome, hot trainer Zack being discovered dead in his gym by his secret half-sister Leticia. She is an undocumented worker from Mexico, living here with her young disabled son.

Leticia works many jobs, cleaning the homes of the wealthy women of Santa Monica, including Brooklyn transplant Mel, who moved when her husband’s movie script became a success. Zack is drawn to Mel, which angers Regina, who is running a financial scheme with him.

This terrific mystery is elevated by the writing, characters, and the tackling of the difficult life of an undocumented worker. It has explicit sex, and if you liked Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, pick up Santa Monica. I couldn’t put it down. 

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter- A+

Published by Harper 

Hardcover, $28.99, 352 pages

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab- A+

Published by TOR

Hardcover, $26.99, 444 pages

Santa Monica by Cassidy Lucas- A

Published by Harper Perennial

Trade paperback, $16.99, 348 pages

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