A couple of months ago, I asked for some ideas on what to read. I asked on the blog, I asked on Facebook, and I asked on Twitter. I love that I have so many reading readers and reading friends. I got a zillion ideas. I bought about a dozen books. In just over a month and half, I’ve read more than six of them, and I thought I’d report back.
A few provisos before I start. I had been reading a bunch of non fiction, primarily faith and leadership stuff because of the books I’ve been writing. But I’m a fiction girl. Lose yourself in the story, read past midnight because you can’t put it down, fiction girl. Also, I don’t read anything racy, and I don’t read sci-fi. Otherwise, I’m game. Here’s my review of what I’ve read and what I’ve got on my nightstand next – what am I missing? (And if you want any of these books I’ve already read, leave a message in the comments or subscribe with a note. My hubby’s going nuts because our bookcases are overflowing!)
In order of preference:
1. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin – This was my hand’s down favorite thus far! I stayed up well past midnight a couple of nights because I couldn’t put it down. I was totally invested in Cora, the American rich girl from the 1890s whose parents wanted to marry her off to the English aristocracy. The book is set in both America and England and is both entertaining and addictive. I was crestfallen when it ended. Highly recommend if you enjoy a lush period piece.
2. Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg – I have read several of her books, including Open House, but this is my favorite. It’s a story about girlfriends. Four women randomly end up living in the same house with very different personalities and styles and backgrounds but become friends. There were a few kooky things, like one of them liked doing card fortunes which annoys me, but the relationship development was interesting and felt authentic. As a woman who loves her girlfriends, I enjoyed watching the relationships emerge.
3. Tied for next is The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and Family Pictures by Jane Green. Hmmm, so let me lead with the fact the underlying stories are sort of depressing in both. Marriages collapse as a result of yucky marriage stuff. That’s all I’ll say. Yet the books were still good reads. McLain’s is a fictionalized account of the first wife (of four) of Ernest Hemingway. Since I enjoy both Paris and Hemingway, I really enjoyed the imagining of their relationship as he went from unknown to recognized. Set in the 1920s Parisian writing community, the chapters moved, introduced memorable characters and made the central characters, Hadley and Ernest, sympathetic and sad.
Green’s story took a page out of very different, but realistic, modern-day marriages, and touched on what constitutes true love, what a leap of faith it is to trust your partner, and how you rebuild if your heart is broken. Jane Green is no Jane Austen, but I loved her early stuff (Jemima J), and after a period of hers that felt like lazy writing and unappetizing story lines, this was a good comeback.
In complete contrast to The Paris Wife and Family Pictures is The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James, respectively.
I do not recommend either. Weiner is a chick-lit writer in the same manner of Green and I read her early works over a decade ago. She’s written a decent book or two, but this one was entirely lazy. Her editor must have been in Tahiti. I can not stand bad editing in a story. There were so many inconsistencies and misses (changing people’s ages and story lines mid-book – I had to stop keeping the list which I had started initially to send a note to the publisher outlining how bad it was). The story probably couldn’t have stood on its own but it was lost in the bad editing. James attempts a fictionalized Jane Austen journal, but unlike The Paris Wife, it doesn’t feel remotely authentic. She just steals, poorly, story lines from Austen’s more famous work like Sense and Sensibility, and attempts to make it something in Austen’s own life via first person journaling. She also leaves annoying footnotes about certain period English words which felt self-important.
Okay, so on my night table to read now are: Fall of Giants by Ken Follet, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, and Come to the Edge by Christina Haag. They are all so different and they got rave reviews, so I’m super excited to read them.
What are you reading? What is a must-read or a must-miss?