Recent 5 star reads:
The Hidden Light of Northern Fires – Daren Wang – little known piece of Civil War history vividly told with taut narrative pacing and remarkable characters; sourced from the author’s childhood home; a very different war story that pushed and pulled my heart.
Swimming with the Bridgeport Girls – Anthony Tambakis – an unreliable narrator, maybe deluded is better, takes us on a clear-eyed, entertaining ride through gambling addiction and the attempt to get his ex-wife back.
Everybody’s Son – Thrity Unrigar – Deeply emotional, with a sensitive portrayal of moral complexity and beautiful character arcs that resist heroes and villains; an exploration of culture outside the author’s own; ignore that criticism and read!
The Jane Austen Project – Kathleen Flynn – a really fun read about the future and the past with Jane Austen; a few cringe-worthy moments, but overall, the novel is so inventive and fresh that it’s sure to please Jane-ites and the Jane-curious.
News of the World – Paulette Jiles – with lively immediacy, we journey with the Captain and Johanna, a ten year old ‘rescued’ from the Kiowa who kidnapped her; a fresh look at Texas history during Reconstruction with two distinctive, compelling characters.
The Devil and Webster – Jean Hanff Korelitz – an academic thriller, if you can imagine those two words working together; a familiar framework freshened by surprises and believable conundrums.
The Women in the Castle – Jessica Shattuck – World War II stories are everywhere st the moment; this one explores the complexities of the immediate post war period in Germany through three women’s stories; detailed and sensitive, the narratorial voice is non-judgmental, making the experience of each all the more personal and affecting.
Lucky Boy – Shanthi Sekaran – immigrant tale of two cultures and two classes show the disparity of experience of the American Dream; I knew the stories would collide, but the empathetic writing style and balanced telling make the narrative all the more heartbreaking; Soli’s story is especially poignant
Love and First Sight – Josh Sundquist – I meshed into the witty voice of Will, a blind high school boy, as he explores his microworld and ‘comes of age’; his journey of blindness to some sight leads to new understandings of trust and how the senses help us know our world; unique bildungsroman
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb – Melanie Benjamin – historical adventure romp with an unusual hero; not a perfect book, but a wonderful opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes…and try on a little humbug
Tumbling Turner Sisters – Juliette Fay – I’m a sucker for just about anything Vaudeville, and this historical novel presents vivid characters and details about the circuit; there’s enough plot and social context to situate the reader and keep the pages turning and tumbling.
Bright, Precious Days – Jay McInerney – his style is almost old-fashioned, with sentences carefully crafted, yet smooth. His characters reveal themselves and their plots with subtle sensitivity and a respectful understanding as they push against NYC, “the city (that) is supremely indifferent to their transit through its arteries.”
Translation of Love – Lynne Kutsukake – evocative, astonishing, yet so satisfyingly quotidian; an intimate look at several intertwined lives of Japanese and westerners in WW2-ravaged Tokyo.
The Two-Family House – Lynda Cohen Longman – assured writing embraces from the first paragraph to the last; tender, gentle plot with deep character development; masterful
The Hours Count – Jillian Cantor – a harrowing read about Ethel and Julius Rosenberg through their neighbor’s eyes; the nature of national and personal power and paranoia
House of Thieves – Charles Belfoure – evocative of Gilded Age New York, in all its grit and glamour; set aside incredulity, and you’ll go on a wild ride of architecture and crime
Two Across – Jeff Bartsch – a wonderfully satisfying romance for language lovers with two characters who create a life full of literate surprises; at once cinematic and brainy
Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee – Don’t let other people’s biases take this book away from you. I loved every page, laughed, loved, and got sick with Scout, and am ready to talk about it all with anyone who dares.
The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell – William Klaber – if it had been straight fiction…but it’s not; an evocative, lively account of a woman whose story broke my heart
The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty – Amanda Filipacchi – the author creates fascinating women characters with fantastical gifts; a comic horror genre with satirical bite
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England – Brock Clarke – while not quite living up to its madcap premise, it satisfies the reader willing to go on a fantastical, and rather sad, journey that starts with accidentally burning down the Emily Dickinson House
Shotgun Lovesongs – Nickolas Butler – what Richard Russo does for small town New England; a meditation on the emotional lives of 4 Wisconsin men organized around weddings and divorces; masterfully crafted, wistful, very real
Pearl that Broke its Shell – Nadia Hashimi – two Afghan women separated by a century surviving impossible lives by crossing the gender line; fascinating and heart breaking
Famous Writers I Have Knnown – James Magnuson – a very funny send-up of the writing world, with a con artiist for a narrator; his story seems truthfully told, but will we ever know?
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed out of a Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson – hilarious characters and situations; a Swedish Forest Gump, along with Herbert and Amanda Einstein, who are priceless
Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd – often difficult, always compelling story of the abolitionist sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke, along with the fictional Handful; grows in power to the end
Revolutionary – Alex Myers – a woman fights in the Revolutionary War, written by a transgendered author, heightening my attention to the gender-identity elements
We are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler – a unique sibling story like I’ve never read; the last image lingers in my mind and my heart
Signature of All Things – Liz Gilbert – despite needing an editor to weed through all that science, Gilbert creates an unforgettable character, Alma, on a distinctive, vivid journey
Sisters Weiss – Naomi Ragen – despite occasional lapses into pedagogy, an affecting story of fallible characters and the complexities of minds and hearts
The Rose Project – Graeme Simsion – funny, funny, funny; a rom-com with the emphasis on com, as a professor with Asperger’s attempts to complete his Wife Project
The Golem and the Jinni – Helene Wacker -goes around the world and back in time in an inventive and believable way, the mythological dropped into the historical Lower East Side
The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell – subtly written, miss a sentence-miss a clue; unreliable narrator obsessed by an unreliable character; the last paragraph twists yet again
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Stout – she writes unlikeable characters in a way I find compelling; a believable, grounded story of 3 siblings and their developing relationship
The Dinner by Herman Koch – I rather hated where the author took me, but I couldn’t stop reading; the most intense kind of moral dilemma and question of justice
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg – the minutiae of one family, honestly told from multiple points of view; each voice seems just right; a companion to “The Whale”
The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro – a terrific art thriller, need I say more?
Big Girl Small by Rachel deWoskin – coming of age story with a serious twist; a very sure voice
Elsewhere by Richard Russo – his relationship with his mother, a fully drawn, rich characterization, resonated: touching, confounding, frightening, recognizable
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty – wonderful 3rd person personal point of view; glamor pushed to the side
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – he got the women’s voice just right; a feisty, fresh point of view
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – kept me guessing, a page turner
Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont – I cared about this protagonist
The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby – just so much fun for the insider scoop on Golden Age Athens
Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach – good characters, good plot, engagingly written
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett – couldn’t be more delightful for anyone passionate about reading
An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer – how refreshing to look at later in life love
A Good American by Alex George – love a good immigrant story, and this one’s a fresh take
Blindspot by Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore – when art historians write some fiction for a colleague, the result is rollicking good fun about colonial Boston and its portraitists; I love a good pants role
Plus many 4 star books.
If you haven’t already, take a look at GoodReads.com. It’s a great way to keep track of what you’ve read (plus what your friends are reading, too).