What I've Been Reading And Where I Find My Next Read
2019 was an incredibly busy year but even so, I was able to squeeze in some reading time for myself and reading.
One quirk of mine is that I like to read wintery books when we are up north for the holidays and beach reads when we are back in Florida. That said, last December I read the first two books in Erin Hilderbrand's Christmas series. They are light and easy reads that put me in the holiday spirit with the perfect dash of humor and just enough drama and meat to have me hooked. I enjoyed them so much that this past Christmas I read the second two books of this quadrilogy.
The holidays can be stressful so I like to keep my reading light in December and these two final books in the series were the perfect elixir as I bounced between wrapping gifts, planning food, and making time for friends and family. I would recommend reading all four books. They would make a great mini-series. Are you listening Netflix? The setting for this series is a serene and idyllic Inn in Nantucket. The setting contrasts greatly with this book's drama-filled family of characters that are transversing through life and the holidays while dealing with an affair, resurfacing ex's, a son convicted of insider trading, a daughter-in-law that has a drug issue, another son missing in Afganistan, and a daughter with a very conflicted love life. The first book was probably my favorite and while the final installment left me less enamored, I still enjoyed it and it was the closure I needed.
Because I liked this series so well and because I was returning to Florida and looking for a warm-weather book, I decided to move right on to Winter in Paradise.
This may be one of my favorite books from this same author.
This book begins in Iowa City, Iowa where I am sure the author was part of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Because I am so familiar with this corner of the world it was fun to see her mention so many of the restaurants, streets, and stores that I have also frequented. This is the story of a fifty-something woman, wife, and mother. She has just recently been "promoted" which she realizes is, in reality, a slow nudge to push her out the career door. It is New Year's Eve and since her sons live out-of-state and her husband is on an extended business trip ( she can't remember exactly where) she is having dinner with a close friend. She receives a call on her cell phone from a number she doesn't recognize so she ignores it. Later, she returns to her upscale Victorian-style home and the house phone is ringing. She answers the call and is told that her husband was killed in a small plane crash in the Virgin Islands with two other people; the pilot and an unidentified woman. When she flies to the islands she discovers that her husband had a whole other life that didn't include her or their sons.
This is a good one and it also has a sequel. Yay!
I subscribe to Bookbub for affordable books. Their offerings are sometimes recent best sellers but often they are less well-known ebooks that I love to read on my iPad. Bookbub sends an email daily letting me know what the book deals are for the day along with a brief synopsis. Because their prices are so reasonable I have added more books to my queue than I have read. As a result, I have an extensive unread library. Hmmm. I hope my husband did not just read that. LOL.
Bastard Out of North Carolina is just one of the many books that I discovered on Bookbub and one I would definitely recommend. It is the true story of a young illegitimate girl born into a white trash corner of a 1950's world of abuse and prejudice. It is a story of an extended family and the choices they make, and of a girl who will endure almost anything to feel her mother's love, a mother that repeatedly chooses an abusive husband over the daughter that so desperately needs her protection.
This book is written with a compelling voice and was made into a movie in 1996 starring Jennifer Jason Leigh.
The Last House Guest is another book I discovered on Bookbub. A twisting suspense novel that had me guessing and second-guessing until the end. Avery, the main character, lives in the tourist town of Littleport, Maine. It is a year since her best friend, the privileged daughter of Avery's boss, supposedly committed suicide but Avery has never believed that her friend's death was a suicide. A year later and her grief has morphed into anger and a determination to clear the name of her friend by discovering what really happened last summer. What gives this novel more depth than so many mysteries is the study of social hierarchy and how it impacts these characters. It is a contrast between the upper class and the working-class, the townies and the summer islanders and how their social designation determines how they are perceived by other islanders.
The Au Pair is another psychological thriller I discovered on Bookbub.
This book begins with the birth of twins, Seraphine and Danny Mayes, at the family's summer home, Summerborne. Within a few hours of the twin's birth, their mother jumps off a nearby cliff to her death. Was it suicide? And if so, why? The story moves back and forth between the time of the twin's birth and the Au Pair that was in the home that day and present-day when the twins are now young adults and curious about events around the time of their mother's death.
The Two-Family House is a haunting read that I would pass along to a friend. The modest house, in a closely connected Jewish neighborhood in the 1950s, plays a key role in this story. The upstairs houses an outgoing younger brother, his wife and their three sons. The first floor is home to the older and much more introverted brother, his wife and their two daughters. The two wives are both struggling with the idea of their children growing up and the subsequent empty nests they will leave behind. Interestingly enough, both wives become pregnant at about the same time and deliver their babies at home on the very same night and in the middle of an incredible snowstorm. With the help of a midwife, a baby girl and a baby boy are born that night. A night that is a turning point and involves a choice and the consequences that will alter all of their lives forever. The decision is central to the book but the author also explores extended family relationships, parenting roles, marriage, honesty, loyalty, the lengths we will go to protect others, and the price we will pay for happiness.
A lot here for discussion.
I had been reading a lot of heavier themed books and sometimes I just need to escape into some light Chick-lit. This was one of those times. This is a fun read if you love fashion and witty one-liners. If you like Sophie Kinsella and escaping, this could be the book for you.
Not all of the books I've downloaded from Bookbub have been winners.
I read this one, The People We Hate At The Wedding earlier in 2019 and if I'm being honest, I couldn't even remember what it was about and that is never a good sign. I think I was pulled in by the title but that is where the good part ended.
I downloaded this book several years ago. I really knew nothing about but I can say that it was nothing like what I was expecting. The title and the summary were intriguing so I went with it. Bully reads like young adult literature. The characters are all in high school so I was more than a little surprised to read its VERY GRAFFIC sex scenes (think 50 Shades). The scenes were compellingly written but even though the idea of sex and teenagers isn't a shock to anyone it was stunning to see how explicitly detailed these physical acts were described and the expertise the characters seemed to possess. I always thought that most first sexual experiences were typically much more awkward and tentative than the erotic first encounters portrayed in this book. What bothered me about this book, and I am probably showing my age, but the story is really more of a high school read and as a parent, I feel that this isn't a book I would have been thrilled to see my high schooler's backpack but then again, it might be a good jumping-off point for a frank discussion.
Another place I find book titles is on Good Reads. Last summer I was looking for a good beach book and specifically something that had something to do with sea turtles (I'm kind of obsessed). A number of books by Alice Monroe popped up and I chose this one.
Like Erin Hilderbrand, Alice Monroe also has a series of summer reads and this one came highly recommended. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was informative, had evolving and memorable characters, and a storyline that left me wanting more. Which is great because this book has a sequel...
This second book in Alice Monroe's series was a bit of let down after The Beach House. Many of the characters are the same with a few new ones added in but somehow this book, even though sea turtles were a significant subject in the story, left me less enthused to continue reading the other titles in this series but I will probably revisit this series later this summer.
Sometimes I will go back and search for my next read by authors of books that I enjoyed in the past. Several years ago I read Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and loved it. So I decided to read something else of her's. I started with Nine Perfect Strangers.
This story takes place in a remote luxury spa/resort. I found it and the characters unrelatable and outlandish. The entire plot seemed far-fetched and inconceivable. I'd say pass.
Even though I didn't especially care for that book, I thought I would give Ms. Moriarty one more chance and I followed it up with The Hypnotist's Love Story.
This one was more compelling. It is based on a hypnotherapist, Ellen, who if finally dating someone she thinks could be "the one" only to find out he has a stalker ex-girlfriend that is currently following both he and Ellen. Ellen becomes intrigued with the ex but is unaware that they have already met several times and that is where the story gets interesting.
So yes, I find books through Bookbub, on Good Reads, or by googling authors that I like. But when all else fails I fall back on the best seller's lists and after reading a book that ranks highly, I can see why they are so well received. One of my favorites this year was An American Marriage.
This book has been in my queue for a while but I just recently picked it up. I wasn't sure I was going to like it. I used to read a lot of books that were Oprah book club selections but they all seemed to have the same theme of a downtrodden character dealing with poverty, bigotry, and or dysfunctional families. It all felt redundant. So I stepped away from her selections for a while until this book. This isn't a book about the old south this is a book for today and reflects the issues of racial profiling and incarceration that we are seeing so frequently in our current headlines. What makes these characters different from so many of the Oprah books I have read is that these characters are successful and upwardly mobile. They are residents of Atlanta, Georgia. A husband and wife and a third character, a man that grew up next to and has been friends with and in love with the wife his entire life. The future is promising for all of them until one night the husband is mistaken for someone else and erroneously accused of rape.
This book is a study of what it means to be a black male in the US. It is about marriage and how, or if, a marriage endures in times of crisis. The author explores loyalty, commitment, and profiling. The author makes music with her sentences and one of my favorite quotes from this book is "...home isn't where you land; home is where you launch". That spoke to me and so did this book.
A definite recommended read. You're welcome.
The Mothers was another bestseller that I had spied at Barnes and Noble and on a lot of reading lists.
This is a book about making choices and questioning them later.
The story is about a young girl who has recently lost her mother to suicide. The relationship with her father is stilted and nearly non-existent and as a result, the girl, in her grief, becomes increasingly rebellious. She and the preacher's son begin seeing each other covertly and she soon discovers she is pregnant. The pregnancy is hidden and terminated but it is a secret that will haunt both of their lives for years to come.
This book would make a great book club selection.
I have only read four books from Reese Witherspoon's book club selections and I gave three of them five stars, something I rarely do, on my Goodreads review and the fourth book was worth four stars in my world. The book I read this year from this book club list was Next Year in Havana. The story goes between 1958 Havana where Elisa, the nineteen-year-old daughter of a sugar baron and 2017 where Elisa's granddaughter, Marisol, a freelance journalist that decides to return to Havana to discover the city her grandmother had loved so deeply.
This book seems timely with all of the current campaign debates of communism, socialism, and democracies. The characters in the book were both likable and believable and the subject matter was informative and thought-provoking. Add this one to your "want to read" list.
So what's next up? Well, I just opened up one that I downloaded months ago,
Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
You can find it here.
I always find it a little hard to start a new book. I hope that it won't disappoint or I fear it can't possibly be as good as the last one. I don't rely on the first sentence but it can be a pretty good indicator.
"If A Man is forced to choose between the truth and his father, only a fool chooses the truth."
I think it is going to be a good one.