Things I've read in the last three months:
Billy Boyle, James R. Benn: This is the first in a series of World War II mystery novels. Billy Boyle is a cop turned military investigator who, thanks to a highly placed uncle, ends up in the middle of the most important parts of the war. The history is good and the writing is quick. The husband introduced me to this series and I flew through the first three in July.
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway: I reread Hemingway's first novel after reading Paula McClain's The Paris Wife and then A Moveable Feast last quarter. I hadn't read this one since high school. Then, I was so in awe of Hemingway that I thought the book was perfect. It's not. The characters are a little unlikable and the unattributed dialogue makes it hard to follow at times. But the flaws make it more real.
A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness: I often joke that low expectations are the key to happiness. The internet was raving about this book, and I thoroughly expected it to be trashy and stupid. Instead I found it entertaining and engrossing. It is a little trashy. But it's like a thinking person's Twilight. I'll read the sequel.
The Reading Promise, Alice Ozma: A light, well-written memoir that I wrote about right after I read.
You Know When The Men Are Gone, Siobhan Fallon: Short stories about life for women on an army base. Depressing and unsatisfying, which is usual to the genre as far as I'm concerned. On a positive note, her writing was clear and engaging and felt honest.
The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown: Michelle and I both read this novel about three sisters dealing with personal trouble and returning home in their late 20s, early 30s. I really liked it. She did not. This book is not as smart as it thinks it is. The father is a college professor who speaks in Shakespearean dialogue; the book gets a little smug. But the interaction among the sisters who all are struggling in their roles in the family felt very real to me. For that, I forgave the book its faults.
Dani's Story, Diane and Bernie Lierow: Lane DeGregory with the St. Pete Times is one of my newswriting idols. She wrote this story about Dani, a feral child, and you should definitely read it. That kind of narrative journalism is what I aspire to do. This book is the continuation of that child's story, written by the couple who adopted her. The writing isn't great, but the story is fascinating.
Prince of the Mist, Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Have you read The Shadow of the Wind? If not, DO. It's mysterious and wonderful. This is a young adult novel by the author. It ... well, this is not a book I felt OK reading at night. I haven't been that creeped out since I read Animal Farm and Amityville Horror back-to-back the summer Silverchair came out with that creepy video with the guy in the pig mask.
State of Wonder, Ann Patchett: Gorgeous book. I completely agreed with everything Elizabeth over at Princess Nebraska had to say about this novel. Unlike her though, I really loved the cover, which was simple and pretty.
Bright's Passage, Josh Ritter: This is the first novel of one of my favorite singer-songwriters. Josh Ritter is an amazing lyricist; his lyrics always tell a story and are filled with witty, smart word play. This novel was ... interesting. It's very short and I would recommend reading it, though I warn you the first chapter or two is hard to swallow. It's set after World War I in West Virginia. Bright is a soldier trying to assimilate back into the world, helped along by a talking horse. (There's the hard to swallow part.) At the end, the novel felt relevant to our war-ridden world.
The Scent of Rain and Lightning, Nancy Pickard: Good, but not great. Your standard family secret novel.
The Atlas of Love, Laurie Frankel: Horrible chick lit.
The Choice: I don't remember who wrote this. It was an Amish life novel. I have mocked these books, but I had never read one, which is of course not fair. So, I read one. It was good for what it was. The writing didn't blow me away, but it was entertaining. I won't be reading any more though. Having grown up around Amish, I find it difficult to romanticize the lifestyle.
The Widower's Tale, Julia Glass: Spectacularly unlikeable characters, a plodding style and predictable plot.
Witches on the Road Tonight, Sheri Holman: Oh this was a weird book. I liked it and think the writing was quite beautiful, but I'm a sucker for a pseudo-fairytale. So, if you like that style and are fascinated by Appalachia and class differences, this is the book for you. Otherwise, don't bother.
Crossing the Creek, Anna Lillios: This poor book. It was a thesis, I think, and read like the worst kind of one: stilted, slow and dry. The subject -- the friendship between two Florida authors, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Zora Neale Hurston -- was interesting enough to drag me through, but just barely. I more enjoyed Cross Creek Kitchens, which was a cookbook written from someone living in Rawlings' Cross Creek house and emulating the lifestyle.
Once Upon A River, Bonnie Jo Campbell: This is a coming of age novel set in the wilds of Michigan. Like it's setting, the book is rugged and rough. The main character is a girl who worships Annie Oakley. It had the feel of a female Odyssey.
The Magician King, Lev Grossman: This is a sequel to The Magicians, which is sort of a grown up Harry Potter: boy discovers he's a magician and goes off to a magic school where he has adventures. To make it adult, there is sex and pop culture references. I wanted to like it, but didn't really. This book is about the same. It's faster paced and more entertaining than the first, but both are just so self-aware and trying too hard.
Tiger, Tiger, Margeaux Fragoso: This book is so good and so disturbing. It's a memoir about Fragoso's relationship with the pedophile who first molested her when she was 8 years old. Fragoso is unflinchingly honest. I realize that's a cliche, but there's just no other way to describe it. This book makes you squirm, but it also leaves room for hope and sympathy.
Inconceivable, Sean and Carolyn Savage: Carolyn Savage, while trying to expand her family with reproductive technology, became pregnant with another family's embryo. She basically became an unwilling surrogate. Complicating things: The Savages are Catholic. Fascinating. This book got me all riled up. I think the husband was glad when I finished it; I stopped shouting random paragraphs at him.
The Lost Mother, Mary McGarry Morris: Morris was an Oprah's Book Club author. It shows. It's not a bad book, but it moves a little slow and is depressing.
What are you reading?