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My Favorite Recent ReadsApril 12, 2013

Thanks for the AWESOME comments in my last post. The ten winners have been drawn and notified by email. You guys make me happy with all the happy you were making yourselves.


I HAVE MADE A DECISION. (It's entirely possible I've made this decision before, but because of my legendarily bad memory, it feels like the first time. Yay!) 

From here on out, I'm going to read only books that I LOVE. I've been pretty good at that--sometimes. Other times, I think, okay, this book has great reviews, everyone loves this book, and boy, I'd rather be reading this than stabbing myself in the eye, so I'll keep on plodding through. You know those books.

On the other hand are the books that you adore. You can't wait to get back to them. You think about them during the day and sneak time to read wherever you can grab it (on the bus, on the toilet, underneath the porch). At night you wish your eyes would stay open longer. 

Yeah, I've decided I'm only going to read that type from now on. We live in the future, people! With an e-reader you can load up your device with samples and then lie back on your fluffy pillow and read through them until you find something that makes your eyelashes curl. THEN you hit purchase. 

And if that beloved book stops delivering half-way through? I've decided I'll give it maybe a chapter or two more before throwing it in the virtual round file. No more guilt about books on the e-reader that are only halfway read. Books you really love don't stay half-read. Delete away! And it's not like we could ever run out of AMAZING books, especially with friends that recommend good reads to us. 

In that spirit, I offer you a couple of great reads, books I've read recently that I haven't been able to put down. (There's something here for everyone. I've been reading widely and happily.) 


FamilymanThe Family Man, Elinor Lipman. My friend Sophie sent me this. You have to love a friend who knows you well enough to say, Here. This is for you. You'll love it. And it was lovely. I read it in Italy, and it was the perfect vacation read. No spoilers (I hate to know ANYTHING before I start reading a book): it's about a retired gay lawyer in New York who finds his long-lost adopted daughter working the coat check of his hair-dresser's salon (this happens at the very beginning). It's adorable. It's sweet. It's funny while managing to keep some of that bittersweet flavor of life that makes the funny funnier, you know? She has such a delightful voice that I'm immediately putting all her other books on my Check It Out pile. 

Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn. By the author of Gone Girl, this is rather the polar opposite of the book I just recommended. Absolutely jarring, it's the story of a family torn apart by a secret. And honestly, while I love light and sweet, I have to admit I love a very dark story well-told. Flynn's voice is not only unerring but also completely fearless. She crossed lines with this story that I, as an author, would never dare to cross, and I kept gobbling it down. It's my favorite of her three books. 

Purgatory Chasm, Steve Ulfelder. This is a hard-boiled mystery novel that reads like . . . a Bruce Springsteen song. I'm not the biggest mystery fan, and I can give the Boss a miss most days, but combined? This is dirty-sublime. Great fun. 

ArrangedArranged, Catherine McKenzie. DARLING. Zany chick-lit romp with the added bonus that the heroine's name is ANNE BLYTHE.  ::rolls on the ground in ecstasy::  The author clearly knows Anne like we know Anne, and this was great fun. 

The Beginner's Goodbye, Anne Tyler. Oh, Anne Tyler, you wonderful thing, you. I think you're not going to able to pull it off, and then you do. I'm only half-way through this one, but it's glorious and sad and sweet and so very her. Her prose makes me want to be not only a better writer but a better person. She knows emotion. 


Any amazing recs from y'all? 


Have you read anything by Dorothy Whipple? She was an early 20th century writer of what's best termed domestic fiction now reprinted by Persephone Books. She writes such wonderful characters that I daren't pick one up unless I know I've got time to finish it.

The one that has left a lasting impression lately is The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. So beautiful and witty and smart and sad at the same time.

Try The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman. After reading it the first time I immediately read it again. Amazing story. Also, City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte. It's set in modern day Prague with dark history pulled into the story. Some of the story is not as "filled out" as I'd like but it's an interesting read.
Loved your post on your trip to Italy. My husband and I went to Florence 2 years ago for 3 weeks and took the train everywhere. The only thing on our agenda was to eat well and drink Italian wine every day. I didn't fall in love with Venice, probably because of the rain and cold but we were there for only 1 day. Maybe next time it will charm me.
Happy reading.

Mine are a memior and a cozy mystery. First up: "Until I say Goodbye" by Susan Spencer-Wendel. It is a book about a woman (journalist) who was diagnosed with ALS in her early 40's, and her decision to live the last year she will be relatively healthy with joy. She goes on special trips with her family/friends, and it is really a wonderful story about living in the moment, being grateful for what you do have instead of being sad about what you don't have. Truly, I think you would enjoy it.

2nd: Cozy mystery by Heather Blake in her witch/enchanted village series. I have all three and just read the first one "It Takes a Witch" and it was so much fun. Makes me want to move into the village there and makes me want to be a witch. :)

Lost by SJ Bolton was one of those, for sure. That whole series is, really.

Did I recommend the Ulfelder to you? I really love his books, even though I don't care a whit for cars.

Andrea beat me to it. The Fault in Our Stars is tremendous.

I lovelovelove the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. It starts with A Crocodile on the Sandbank, but the middle and later volumes are better. My favourites are a tie between The Hippopotamus Pool and Tomb of the Golden Bird, the last book chronologically. The audiobooks narrated by Barbara Rosenblat are amazing!

BTW, Anne Blythe is Anne Shirley's married name (you remember...Anne of Green Gables!).

I came to that realization last year - there are too many damn books in the world for me to force myself to read one that I don't like. So now I feel no guilt if I delete a half-read book from my kindle.

Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls. True story and entirely engrossing. You just can't believe this girl lived like this! Read it about a year ago. My grown daughter loved it too.

Walking Back to Happiness by Lucy Dillon. A recent young widow in England makes her way back into the world. Fun and funky.

Loved The Family Man! First heard it on audio and read it a couple of years later. Wonderful story and so funny.

Another one, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. Endearing story about a retired English major who takes up with a Pakistani shop owner. Loved it!

And yes, anything read by Barbara Rosenblatt is terrific! What a fun job to have.

anything by Jodi Picoult. Her latest - The Storyteller - was, for me, like you describe. I couldn't wait to get back to it and it has stayed with me since I read it a few weeks ago.

I'm a librarian and I read a lot of books for work that I wouldn't necessarily choose to read, some good and some not so good.
My favorite recent read is Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I can't say much of anything without giving too much away, but I haven't cried over a book like that in a long time. I both wanted to finish it to know what was going to happen and didn't want it ever to end.

I agree with you about Anne Tyler. A college professor friend introduced me to Tyler in 19801 and I've been grateful ever since. I recommend Cecelia Ahern's books especially Thanks for the Memories and A Place Called Here.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen invited me into a world I wanted to stay in. The last book that had the same impact on me was Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees.

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly was another favorite, akin to finding a great British mini series on PBS.

Best of luck reading books you can't put down.

I am a big Ann Tyler and Alice Hoffman fan. My favorite book is "The Third Angel" (Hoffman), currently reading "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova, which I cannot put down. A thriller and historical fiction about the hunt of Count Dracula. This book surprised me and I am enjoying it. I also enjoy time-travel romance novels like Susanna Kearsley. Outlander on the other hand was not my favorite.

Just because I am truly obsessed with the Fault in Our Stars, here is one of my favorite sentences from the book: “As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

These Is My Words, by Nancy E. Turner is one of my alltime favorite books. I also love sweet books and am a fan of Elinor Lippman. James Herriot's books are favorites to read over and over. The Miss Read books are sweet, peaceful fun. The Bertie and Jeeves books by PG Wodehouse are hysterical favorites. Recently enjoyed The Perks of being a Wallflower (movie is good too!) And Barbara Kingsolver's new one, Flight Behavior. Happy reading!

I forgot to mention Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. A wonderful, funny, sweet book written in the 1930s, holds up very well.

You have probably heard of some of these, but just in case you haven't:
Anything by Arturo Perez Reverte (love love love his writing, and the mystery ones are fabulous; almost all are completely different; I think there are only two or three about the same characters)
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (beautiful book, just like all of hers)
The Louise Penny series (think Donna Leon in Quebec)
Henning Mankell's Wallander series (police procedurals in Sweden)
Alan Bradley's Flavia De Luce series (I actually think you would like these; classic british mystery set in the 1950s but told from the point of a chemistry/poison obsessed 12 year old)
Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles (loved this one; funny and thought provoking, but the humor is a bit dark)
Holy Rollers by Rob Byrnes (very funny caper full of irony; excellent premise)
Station Life in New Zealand by Mary Anne Barker (not fiction; collection of letters sent back to England during her early years on a sheep ranch on the south island)
Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano series (Donna Leon in Sicily, only better. I literally chomp at the bit waiting for these to be translated)
Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series (set between WWI and WWII in England)
I'm sure there are others I am forgetting but I'll stop for now. :)

One more to add, that is probably too obvious and you likely already know:
Donna Leon's Brunetti series (set in your beloved Venice)

I'm so glad you started this topic -- I'm finding lots of new titles to look up! I've got some more: Winterdance by Gary Paulsen (has been around for years - amazing, funny, exciting book about the Iditerod), The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (food, love...all yummy),
a young adult book: Homecoming by Judith Voight, and another memoir-type that has been out for awhile but blew me away with descriptions of fn Antartica, written by a woman doctor who was stuck there over the winter, trying to deal with her own cancer.

Oops-- the title of the book about the dr. in Antartica:
Ice Bound, by Dr. Jerri Nielsen. It's great on audio - narrated by her - not a smooth, professional reader - the real person.

I read fast- I devour books...a dozen a week.
When a book makes me slow down and savor the writing...I take notice.
I LOVE how this author uses language.
I even found myself writing down sentences to share with others because of the pure poetry of a few words.
You will love this as a writer, a reader and a woman...
I read this when it first came out a few years ago and still share the story with others as a "must read"
I was stunned to find the author was a man...for him to have this characters voice, you know there were some amazing women in his life and he really carries them with him.This story was intriguing and full of surprises.....a FEMALE rabbi in a small Northeast town, the challenges ;of being a woman in a male dominated vocation, professional embarrassment, demands of others when your own are even greater, questioning your own judgement, and THEN....The Autobiography of God by Julius Lester.
Please give this jewel of a story a chance to be heard-you will love love love it for oh so many reasons.

I don't know if you ever got around to reading "The Passion" by Jeanette Winterson. But it really is extraordinary. And it has Love, and Venice, and a mysterious red head.
I swear if I knew your address I would send you a copy. LOL

Have read three in the last two weeks and loved them all:

Sarah's Key; Tatiana deRosnay: Nazi occupation of France Haunting, cant get it out of my brain. Just noticed its a new movie....

The Law of Dreams: Peter Behrnes: Vivid portrayal of 1800's Ireland, wonderful read....

The DoveKeepers, Alice Hoffman The story of three women at the Roman seige of Masada in 70AD. I loved this book so sad when it ended....

I love Kate Atkinson's novels, and I am mesmerised by her new one Life after Life. It starts slowly, but boy does it get going. The main character, born in 1910, dies at birth, and keeps dying through decades, but then she's not dead. Sounds weird, but it's just spellbinding. So many ways to die, but so many ways to survive. And it's all for a purpose, that isn't revealed until the end.

Anything by Cecelia Ahern. Amazing, magical, lyrical. Truly.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is wonderful. Such a good read!! And the author has a cute name!

City of Women by David Gillham....excellent!

The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared. Best book ever.

I am took a look at all of the books and I've already downloaded samples of three. Wow! Thanks for the recommendations. Play to start reading them as soon as I'm finished with a two-month project afghan.

I just read (last night) The Family Man, thanks to you, and you were SO right!

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