House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell can be described as a slow-burning, haunting police procedural, with layers of eerie gothic tale. Although quite a bit of it revolves around death, its darkness is laced with some wonderfully witty dialogue and vivid characters. It is an incredible mix of genres, truly a perfect stay-at-home winter reading book.
Who cares about rich people living in a crumbling castle, even if they lost most of their land and have no money, right? This might occasionally go through your head as you read Hannah Rothschild's new novel, if you can manage to take a break from reading it. Rothschild does not demand you pity the characters, as she does mock their inability to make good decisions or move on with the times (Clarissa in particular is a spectacular caricature of ossified aristocracy). But the characters are vivid and very human, making this novel way broader and more interesting than just a tale of crumbling riches. And I really just want a novel about Aunt Tuffy.
In what is definitely the biggest music book of the year, Sir Elton John follows the release of his biopic Rocketman with Me (Holt, $30), his first and only official autobiography. Elton John does not need an introduction, but this book is a cathartic, no-holds-barred memoir. There are dark years of addiction and recovery, losses of friends, and a battle with cancer. The memoir was written with the help of British music critic Alexis Petridis, but John’s voice comes through clearly in the final version. He is a candid and warm narrator of his own struggles and actions, good and bad, and his passion for life, his friends, and his music shines throughout the volume. Ultimately, Me is about hardearned wisdom and life changes, and while many of us might not carry on such a star-studded dramatic existence, we can definitely appreciate recognition of mistakes and coming to face the darkest parts of our lives. This is a wonderful account of an incredible life.