Yeah, I know. This is the latest year in review entry in Loud Bookish Type’s history, and I apologize for that. So why am I finally getting around to recapping my favorite books of 2015, almost halfway through January? A couple reasons, honestly.
First and foremost, I’ve been in a writing rut ever since I finished NaNoWriMo in November. When I say “finished”, I mean finished in the sense that I got to fifty thousand words, but the story itself is far from over and I still don’t know how it’s going to end, so my coping mechanism for that problem has been to just avoid the draft entirely, and this slacking-off has affected my book reviews as well. But my Sims families are doing extremely well, so there’s that. Although maybe things are starting to turn around – last night I sat down and banged out two thousand more words in the NaNo draft, so I might be getting over my holiday slump. Finally sitting down and writing this entry seemed like a good way to keep that going.
It took me a very long time to finish this book. I would stick with it for a few weeks, and then take a break from the book to read a novel or something. All together, I think I read five or six other books while trying to get through God’s Crucible. The problem wasn’t that the material was boring – I’ve been wanting to read a good, detailed history of pre-Crusades Islam for a long time, so I was really excited to find this – but it’s dense. Important historical figures appear and disappear from the narrative with very little notice, and Lewis expects you to keep up with the scores of characters and locations contained in this history. I don’t recommend trying to read this book on your morning train ride, is what I’m saying.
“Her name is Melanie. It means ‘the black girl’, from an ancient Greek word, but her skin is actually very fair, so she thinks maybe it’s not such a good name for her. She likes the name Pandora a whole lot, but you don’t get to choose. Miss Justineau assigns names from a big list; new children get the top name on the boys’ list or the top name on the girls’ list, and that, Miss Justineau says, is that.
There haven’t been any new children for a long time now. Melanie doesn’t know why that it. There used to be lots; every week, or every couple of weeks, voices in the night. Muttered orders, complaints, the occasional curse. A cell door slamming. Then, after a while, usually a month or two, a new face in the classroom – a new boy or girl who hadn’t even learned to talk yet. But they got it fast.
Melanie was new herself, once, but that’s hard to remember because it was a long time ago. It was before there were any words; there were just things without names, and things without names don’t stay in your mind. They fall out, and then they’re gone.”
I read Mindy Kaling’s first memoir/essay collection Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) about four years ago, but I just realized that I never actually wrote a review for it – I also just realized that I never made a “memoir” shelf, so that’s been corrected. I’ll go back and write a review of Kaling’s first book at some point, I promise.
When I started this, knowing that it was one of the big It Books of the year, I was pretty sure I knew what to expect. I had read the publisher-provided description, which goes like this:
“Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?”
*WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*
In theory, this book should have been my jam. The story opens with Elizabeth Vogelsang being found dead in a river near her Cambridge home, clutching a glass prism in her hand. Elizabeth is a 17th-century scholar who specializes in Isaac Newton, and her death interrupts her work on a book exploring Newton’s interest in alchemy. Elizabeth’s son, Cameron, recruits Lydia Brooke (a writer, friend of Elizabeth, and Cameron’s former lover) to ghost-write the rest of Elizabeth’s book. Along the way, Lydia tries to unravel the secrets in Elizabeth’s research – secrets that might have led to her death.
All right, let’s get something out of the way right now: yes, I know that this was the big “It Book” a couple of years ago and I should have gotten on the bandwagon then. But what convinced me to put this on hold at the library was the trailer for the movie version, which looks awesome. I decided to read a book only because there’s going to be a movie, and it’s not the first time that’s happened. Fight me.