And just those. If I don’t like a book, I just might toss it in favor of another (wink). Really, what is the point of complaining about books?
Also, no spoilers alert! Look here for reviews, but no reveals.
4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
This is the original The Girl on the Train. Elspeth McGullicuddy cannot get anyone (the porter, the local police) to believe that she witnessed a murder on a passing train.
No one believes her, except her friend Miss Jane Marple …
If Shonda Rhimes were to write a book about Renaissance France, it would likely resemble The Rival Queens—a dramatic and almost soapy page-turner by Nancy Goldstone.
I don’t mean this as a knock, but more as another case of truth being stranger than fiction.
This novel features all the hallmarks of classic Christie: a “village mystery,” mustached detective Hercule Poirot, memorable supporting characters, and an intricately woven plot.
There’s also danger, as the children have more to fear than ghosts and goblins in this Halloween story.
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
I read Salem’s Lot by Stephen King as part of the #SalemAlong readalong, which made it extra fun.
This scary pageturner is an especially good read on the run up to Halloween. Just remember to lock your windows! Here’s my wrap-up and review.
Village School by Miss Read
This book tells of the small village of Fairacre, England, as narrated by the school mistress of the local, two-room elementary school, aka “Miss Read”.
The story unwinds in a series of slice-of-life vignettes that follow the school year.
Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World
In 1820, Jane Austen sunk into obscurity “out of print, out of demand, and almost out of mind.”
Today, Austen is a worldwide phenomenon. Jane’s Fame by Claire Harman looks at the erratic, inexorable rise of Jane and the Janeites.
“A wire that snaked its way through all the trenches, through all the winters … across all the lines.”
This moving novel is both a mystery and a reflection on the Great War. It feels especially resonant as we head into the 100th anniversary of the start of that conflict this July.
Phantasmagorical is how I would describe Neil Gaiman’s latest. That is not to say this is a book of pure fantasy.
The story feels real even as it veers off into the fantastic. All becomes plausible via Gaiman’s dark magical realism. But, it is the emotional pull that gives this book its heft.
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
If a book could at once be chilling and cosy, that is how I would describe The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton.
I highly recommend this as a perfect Halloween read. These stories offer all the joy of reading Edith Wharton, plus some very spooky moments.
Although a doorstop of a book, it’s neither dense in writing style or in words per page—so a fast read. The plot is intriguing and supernatural, but beware of the gore.
Luckily, King lightens things up with pop-culture references and “easter eggs.”
I really enjoyed the latest by Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph J. Ellis. This book offers several fascinating and new insights on that seminal time frame from May to October of 1776, which Ellis calls “the crescendo moment” in American History.
Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean
Norman Maclean’s brilliant, wonderfully written account of the Mann Gulch Fire, which killed 13 men in 1949.
Not only is this an award-winning investigative report, but also an eloquent, moving rumination on mortality. The book takes on extra meaning after the Yarnell Fire tragedy.
The Other Typist, by Suzanne Rindell, is a twisty, noir page-turner. Fans of Gillian Flynn will definitely enjoy this book, which feels like Gone Girl set in the 1920s.
This book is not so dark, however. It’s snazzy with an alluring, slow-boiled plot.
Sinners and the Sea tells the story of Noah’s Ark from the viewpoint of his unnamed wife. It’s a fascinating, beautiful, and addictive read.
Kanner gives us an impassioned look at what life was like for Noah’s wife, the family’s many struggles, and the giant, terrifying adventure of the ark.
How Did I Not Know About Marvel’s Pride & Prejudice?
It came out ages ago. I am hugely, abominably embarrassed. I wouldn’t even share this mortifying tale, except for the hope that others might benefit.
Let me say up front that this Marvel P&P is a gem. Regency romance meets comic book—pure genius!
Today, January 28, marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and celebrations abound both here and in the U.K. For many years now, P&P has been one of my favorite books. I confess, however, that when I first tried to read it I simply could not get into it.
I am usually very skeptical about all the Jane Austen riffs. But I must spotlight and gush about an absolutely delightful collection of Austen-inspired short stories, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress. These charming vignettes reflect the spirit of Austen, almost like the literary equivalent to a tribute album.
I couldn’t resist the cover of Death in August by Marco Vichi: a vintage Florence streetscape with the famed Palazzo Vecchio clock tower in the distance, all diffused by a red-orange sunset. This is the first of several mysteries set in Florence and featuring Inspector Bordelli. I’m psyched (as always) to have discovered a great new detective series.
Moonshine here does not mean Tennessee hooch, though this being Wodehouse, the characters tend to reach for potent liquid bracers at key plot points. Here, moonshine takes the British connotation, of nonsense or silliness. Certainly, this novel has a carefree absurdity which reminded me a bit of Shakespeare’s classic romp A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I really loved this wonderful novel! I admit I had a hard time getting into it, but once I did, I found myself so emotionally taken. Oh, did I ache for these characters. They are such a fascinating group, collected at the ‘Cat’s Table’—the farthest from the Captain’s table on the steam liner Oronsay. The story is told via the wonder of an eleven-year-old boy, Michael, as he explores the secrets of the ship.
This biography reads like a real-life game of Risk, roiling with war, the crusades, and the machinations of 13th-century medieval Europe. The queens are like chess pieces, married off to forge alliances between different fiefdoms. Reminder, they are queens, not pawns, and each manages to exert strong influence into the politics and ambitions of her realm.
For the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, I decided to read A Night to Remember by Walter Lord. I had never read the classic, which was first published in 1955, has never been out of print, and is still considered the definitive text on that disastrous event. I can’t believe I hadn’t picked this book up before—what a gripping read.
Caveat Reader: I loved this beautiful little novella, which just won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Though, several in my book group did not. Julie Otsuka tells the story of the Japanese “picture brides” who emigrated to California during the early twentieth century. Otsuka employs a sing-song narrative of many voices, which I found captivating.
I really enjoyed this searing, beautiful, and understated book by Jamil Ahmad. I approached it thinking it would be one of those books that I would learn a lot from but did not expect it to be a page turner. What a wonderful surprise to find myself hooked!
I’ve been surprised to hear that many of my friends who saw War Horse—the play on Broadway or the new Steven Spielberg film—did not know that both were based on a wonderful novel by children’s author Michael Morpurgo. He has written dozens of children’s books, which are extremely popular in the UK, and indeed, worldwide.
“Stay off the ice,” wrote Alexi Zentner, as he signed my copy of Touch. I hadn’t yet read the book, so I didn’t understand that loaded and ominous warning…
Esquire Magazine called Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin “the first great 9/11 novel.” This may sound odd since the book takes place 27 years before the World Trade Center attack. The novel examines a day in the life of New York City, using the Tolstoy approach of many characters.
Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.–Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Like most muggles, I raced to see Deathly Hallows Part 2. But for me, Harry Potter is really all about the books.
Can You Pick 5 Favorite Books?
Recently, The New York Times Magazine conducted a poll via Twitter: “What are your top 5 fiction books?” My feed lit up with a stream of titles: The Great Gatsby, Infinite Jest, Crime and Punishment, Jane Eyre. It was like a reader’s stock ticker with books instead of companies.