Standard disclaimer: there may be spoilers, in case any of these are still on your “to read” list. Also: previous reads.
I read the first book for book club, and that set me off through the whole trilogy. The books are long — longer than they really need to be — but overall the characters are enjoyable and the story arc is satisfying with echoes of Ender’s Game, Hunger Games and more but plenty of unique traits as well. Red Rising starts off slow and a bit confusing, but ended up being my favorite of the three. Golden Son suffers from the problems of many middle books and much of it feels plodding. I started to get really tired of Darrow and almost gave up about 2/3 of the way through, but ultimately stuck with it and was rewarded because Morning Star was a satisfying finale, almost as good as the first book.
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Another win for postal book club, because I might never have found this one my own. I really loved this book for so many reasons, but also find it a little difficult to put into words. There are so many novels out there that use WWII as a backdrop, but I never tire of them. I suppose it’s because war provides an automatic dramatic setting in which all other events seem to take on added meaning. This was the first WWII-themed novel I can remember set in Russia, and that gave it a decidedly different feeling. I really enjoyed the characters of both Lev and Kolya, the stark differences in their personalities, and how their interactions grew and changed as the story went on. There are so many themes and messages that hit home for me — how people maintained some sense of normalcy in the face of horrors, what people will do to survive, Kolya’s unflagging optimism and odd cheeriness despite being constantly in danger, Lev’s pragmatic nature and realistic fears, how good and bad are often intertwined. The story was about trying to find a dozen eggs in the middle of the siege of Leningrad, yes. But in the end, it’s not the eggs that matter.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
I was first introduced to Kalanithi when his essay “How Long Have I Got Left?” was published in the New York Times. He passed away from lung cancer about 14 months after that essay (and only a couple years after his diagnosis). This book came out posthumously. I’d had it on my to-read list for quite a while but kept putting it off because I knew it would be one of those books that’s valuable and thought-provoking but also a total gut punch. And it was. The epilogue, written by Paul’s wife Lucy after his death, is particularly moving — both heartbreaking and powerful.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
I’d been waiting for this one via library ebook since it came out…and I have mixed feelings. I knew it was a play and thus would read very differently than the previous Potter books. The script format threw me off at first, but I got the hang of it quickly enough. Being back in the wizarding world was lots of fun, but for me the story was just “meh.” It didn’t feel well thought out like the rest of the Potter saga, and that could be because it takes place 20+ years later or it could simply be the script format, which obviously doesn’t lend itself to nearly the detail and introspection of a novel.
I would LOVE to see this on stage though, if only to enjoy what must be some wonderful effects and sets!