Category Archives: Literary fiction

7 Books and Counting

Yes, I am still reading.  A few quick notes on some of the books:

Recent Publications

9780062469687_p0_v1_s192x300  The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler

If there is an opposite to chick lit, this is it.  A story about men, boys, Boy Scouts, coming of age, growing old – all men, but focused on a few – Wilbur, the Scout Master, who saves Nelson, the upright nerd, and Jonathan, an older boy who wavers between being the cool dude he wants to be and the righteous man of goodwill he tries not to be. A good story across generations with friendship among men as the angle.    And the author has the hallowed credential of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

 Unknown-4  Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

So – is Ingrid, the mother, still alive?  Did she find the courage to swim away from her philandering husband who betrayed her with her best friend?  Did she leave the old coot English professor who used her secret fantasies to finally write his best seller?  Did she start a new life or end a desperate one? You decide.

Classics I Finally Got Around to:

Unknown-1  Remembering Laughter by Wallace Stegner

Reading Wallace Stegner’s first novel – Remembering Laughter – reminded me of how great an author he is.  The poignant story of two women continuing to live together after the younger one has an affair and gets pregnant with her sister’s husband.  Though short, the story had the same impact on me as his famous Crossing to Safety.  If you have never read Stegner, this is a good place to start.   If you know him, the reissue of his first book is a gift.

0031398233688_p0_v1_s192x300   Unknown-2 Genius and Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe

In the movie “Genius” with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, the editor Maxwell Perkins gleans the best from Thomas Wolfe’s manuscripts to produce the first two of his lengthy novels.  Jude Law plays the writer, Thomas Wolfe, but his contemporaries are just as fascinating – a clever F. Scott Fitzgerald moping over his wife’s debilitating depression and his subsequent inability to write, and Ernest Hemingway, gloriously manly as he is about to go off to war.  Maxwell Perkins was editor to them all.  I had read Ftizgerald and Hemingway, but never Thomas Wolfe and Perkins was a stranger to me.   Inspired by the movie, I am reading Look Homeward Angel with a long introduction by Maxwell Perkins.  Only ten pages into the 508 of the story, I am convinced Wolfe is the genius portrayed.

 

Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

Poor Mrs. Bridge – she lived in her insular world, not knowing or caring to know what happened around her.  Republished in paperback to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, Connell’s depiction of a privileged white woman in the nineteen thirties has notes of women in the fifties, but sadly, her plight could be applied to some women today.  Written in short paragraphs and chapters, Mrs. Bridge slowly evolves but never really grows.  Pathetic in her ignorance, she protects herself from the world, sometimes wondering about issues she is never curious enough to pursue – lest they disturb her bubble.  Of course she is sad and unfulfilled, yet she never realizes she could do something about her life – why would she?

Now Reading

Unknown-5   The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes

9780385316576_p0_v2_s192x300   Follow Your Heart by Susanna Tamaro

 

 

 

Celebrating the Authors

As the official bookseller at the Literary Orange conference, The Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore of San Diego had a ballroom of books for purchase. How could I not buy a book? Although I limited myself to two easy reading paperbacks for my plane ride ( I always need one book and a backup if I finish the first), I have a new list of titles to find in the library.

Why did I buy Julia Claiborne Johnson’s “Be Frank With Me”? She made me laugh in person and her book sounds funny, confirmed by Joanna Rakoff’s New York Times review. When asked how she finds inspiration for her books, Johnson said she just – “takes a nap.” I could relate.
As for my other purchase – “One True Loves” – Taylor Jenkins Reid’s description of the novel as Helen Hunt’s side of the story from Castaway sold me. I couldn’t help thinking of Irene Dunne and Cary Grant in the classic movie My Favorite Wife. If I like this one, I may get her new book – “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” – to be published in June

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Christina Baker Kline

 Books I plan to look for include Fannie Flagg’s winning short story that turned into her first novel, “Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man,” and Christina Baker Kline’s “Bird in Hand” because she disclosed she liked her own title better – “Four Way Stop” – before it was changed in editing. 

The best quote from an author was Steven Rowley’s “elevator line” – that one line pitch when someone asks “what is your book about?” Rowley summed up his “Lily and the Octopus” as a cross between “A Year of Magical Thinking” and “Moby Dick.” I may have to wait awhile to read this one, but it jumped onto my list.

In attendance were authors of mysteries, romance, nonfiction, memoirs, young adult fiction, family drama, historical fiction, cookbooks, and ghost writers with NDA’s (Nondisclosure Agreements) – an amazing range. I wish I could have met them all but maybe I can read all their books.

International Women’s Day

iwd-logo-portaiteps    The theme for this year’s annual International Women’s Day on March 8th is “Be Bold for Change,”  and women all over the world will be marking the day with festivals, book club discussions, conferences, concert performances, speaking events, and more. To celebrate women’s accomplishments politically, culturally, and socially, consider reading a book about and by women from around the world.

Here are a few ideas in fiction books; click on the title for my review:

baileys-womens-prize-for-fiction-2017  March 8th also has the distinction of being the day when the Baileys Prize (formerly known as the Orange Prize) longlist is announced.  The annual Prize targets fiction written by women, with past winners including Barbara Kingsolver’s  The Lacuna and Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife  This year’s longlist includes sixteen books  nominated to take the £30,000 award. The shortlist is announced April 3rd and the winner on June 7th.

Here are my predictions for inclusion on this year’s longlist.  Have you read any of them?

 

Liane Moriarty

With a mix of Sophie Kinsella, Maria Semple, and a little Sherlock Homes (with a nod to the Professor Moriarty), Liane Moriarty always delivers a satisfying story.  She is on the list of authors whose next books I anticipate as soon as the last is read.

Currently, the new HBO series – Big Little Lies – has a cast of well-known women, including Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, telling the tale of murder and ambition, with a sprinkling of self-doubt, and a large dose of bullying.  Thankfully, I forget most of the details of a book after I’ve read it – clearing my synapses for the next round of fiction – yet, watching the story unfold, I am grateful for having read the book first.  The vague flashbacks and inner thoughts in the televised version seem to make more sense.  I remember enough of the action and characters to be familiar but I do not remember the ending.   Like all her books, this one will be a surprise – again.

Happily, I found one of Moriarty’s earlier books on my shelf.  The Last Anniversary has all those familiar qualities  – romance and adventure, women working through issues, and a cliff-hanging mystery.  Two women, Connie and Rose, find a surprise when they accept an invitation to tea at the Munro house.  In addition to the warm marble cake on the table and the bloodstains on the floor, they find a baby girl.  They decide to name her Enigma and raise her as their own in their small town of Scribbly Gum Island.

The story revolves around the Munro Baby mystery and Sophie, a thirty-nine year ex-girlfriend who unexpectedly inherits the house from Connie; Enigma is now a grandmother, and the town mystery has become a tourist attraction.  Secrets are important in Moriarty’s books and every character in this story seems to have one.  Like all her books, The Last Anniversary is a page turner, and just when all the secrets seem to have been revealed, Moriarty adds one more on the last page.

Have you read Moriarty’s books?  Here is a list of my reviews:

I Am Ready to Listen

My Audible credits are piling up, and I decided to use them all before I cancel my subscription.  Although my library is full of books I have yet to hear, I am not discouraged. Short British mysteries, Maggie Smith and Julia Child biographies have kept me company as I walk, but heavy plots requiring attention tend to collect moss – started, stopped, ignored, replaced by a library book in print.  Flanagan’s Road to the Deep North still lingers – waiting to be heard on a long flight with no escape.

Five credits – five books:

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  1. Joanna Kavenna called Ali Smith’s first in a four-part series – Autumn – “a beautiful, poignant symphony of memories, dreams and transient realities…” in her review for The Guardian.  A symphony?  A candidate for an audiobook.
  2. Recently published Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders has a cast of 166 voices, including David Sedaris.
  3. Since I am number 279 on the library wait list, John Grisham’s The Whistler is a good candidate, promising fast-paced thrills.
  4. Melk Wiking’s Little Book of Hygge looked like a quick way to get life-style advice when I skimmed it in the bookstore, especially coupled with Rinzler’s The Buddha Walks into a Bar (already on my iPod).
  5. Finally (possibly because I have been reading articles about challenging the brain to prevent Alzheimer’s lately), the last book is French Short Stories (in French, of course).

Now I am ready to cancel my subscription.  But wait, those clever marketers have offered me a reprieve – 90 days on hold, a pause instead of a stop.  If I have not listened to my last five books by Spring, I may have the courage to really cancel.