Artwork by Morgan Harper Nichold. See: https://morganharpernichols.com/
In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this novel.
The narrator writes “When you attempt a memoir, I am told, you need to be in an orphan state. So what is missing in you, and the things you have grown cautious and hesitant about, will come almost casually towards you. ‘A memoir is the last inheritance,’ you realize, so that during this time you must learn how and where to look.” This is a story about missing things: missing parents, missing pieces of a story, missing persons who leave or are left. And a good, good story at that. I only wish I’d saved it for a weekend read to allow for less interruptions in my reading. There are multiple time periods, subtle POV shifts, and many characters that are all best kept track of in a concentrated space of time. — Jen Payne
A Map of Days
by Ransom Riggs
Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery….Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom….New wonders, and dangers, await in this brilliant next chapter for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children.
I savored the idea of this book from the moment I heard about it until I finally opened the Amazon box—and it was worth every anticipatory moment! This series of books sets me right down in my own loop—circa 1970s, when reading was pure, delicious childhood pleasure and the adventuring kids were The Boxcar Children, and Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy in Narnia. I devoured the first three books and A MAP OF DAYS, too, which picks up seamlessly from the third and whoosh! whisks us right back into the lives of our favorite Peculiars. Despite a darkness that hits maybe a little too close to home sometimes (we live in dark days too, after all), I LOVED this book as much as the others, especially the new collection of oddball photos! Fair warning: you’ll realize about 2/3 of the way in that you’re going to finish the book soon and you’ll have to wait (again) for the next in the series to magically appear! Pace yourself. — Jen Payne
The Course of Love: A Novel
by Alain de Botton
We all know the headiness and excitement of the early days of love. But what comes after? In Edinburgh, a couple, Rabih and Kirsten, fall in love. They get married, they have children—but no long-term relationship is as simple as “happily ever after.” The Course of Love explores what happens after the birth of love, what it takes to maintain, and what happens to our original ideals under the pressures of an average existence. We see, along with Rabih and Kirsten, the first flush of infatuation, the effortlessness of falling into romantic love, and the course of life thereafter. Interwoven with their story and its challenges is an overlay of philosophy—an annotation and a guide to what we are reading.
This should be required reading. For everyone. Period. — Jen Payne