I am trying to use the extra time I have now to catch up on some long-overdue posts. Hopefully you will be encouraged by these suggestions to contact your local bookseller and order some books! Curbside delivery or mailed to your home – we need to support our local businesses in this time of crisis.
I am going to review several books in one post, so that you don’t have to look through the feed for them. If you haven’t seen my posts before, you will notice that I don’t give bad reviews, I simply don’t post about books I didn’t like. By now, I am a pretty good judge of what I like, so it is extremely rare that I don’t finish a book, or find something to like about it.
Paris, 7 a.m. by Liza Wieland
I chose this book because I thought the premise was terrific — poet Elizabeth Bishop, who painstakingly chronicled her life in journals, omitted three weeks she spent in Paris after graduating from Vassar. But why the gap? With Paris on the brink of war, Wieland—a poet herself—offers her own theory in this evocative book. Though the book is well-researched, the writing drew me in with its ethereal quality, setting it apart from most historical fiction I’ve read. Recommended for anyone interested in interesting viewpoints on World War II, or Elizabeth Bishop, before she became one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century.
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Wiener
I am pretty sure you can’t go wrong with a Jennifer Weiner book, but maybe I’m biased, having read several others. I also have a sweet spot for stories about sisters, especially two seeming opposites like these, who share so much more than they realize. Weiner spares no feelings with the trauma and tragedies they face, but she crafts her story with care and grace. While I will admit that I noticed some timeline inaccuracies here (like many others on Goodreads), I tried not to let that distract me from enjoying what was otherwise a compelling story.
Inland by Téa Obreht
Inland is one of those books where I say, who knew this topic could be so compelling to me? I understand that plenty of people would find it compelling, but I am not always as open-minded as the rest of you when it comes to certain historical fiction topics. Obreht’s mythic narrative captures the vast, lawless Arizona territory in stunning detail. Despite the little-known history of the time, her characters come to life in a world that is moving and deeply intimate. There is suspense and drama—it’s the wild west, after all—in this gem of a book.
The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess
This is a perfect, be-careful-what-you-wish-for kind of story, a light read for the weeks ahead. A peek into the publishing world set in a lovingly described Cape Cod community, the story seems even more nostalgic than its 1987 setting would seem. Or is that just me dating myself? The protagonist is a 20-something would-be writer, who hasn’t yet found her footing, and gets distracted along the way. If it sounds familiar, yes, this is the story of many would-be writers, but this one has prettier people fumbling about in more elegant settings, and Dukess’ sharp writing will make you care how it all works out.
Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart
I am a fan of middle grade books (and yes, I’m too old for that), so I had no problem reading and loving, Wonder. For those who want something that skews a bit older, Scars Like Wings, while technically still a YA book, offers a more grown-up story in this vein. This felt to me like a much more difficult and personal story, given that teenagers can already be so swift and ruthless in their assessments. The emotions run heavy, but, I think, equal to the circumstances; and these fraught relationships remind you that everyone has their own battles they fight every day.
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
I am a fan of Elizabeth Strout, and I think I’ve read most, if not all, of her books. I don’t know if I’m in the minority here, but I liked this one even more than Olive Kitteridge. Maybe it’s because I was already introduced to Olive, so, with the exception of seeing her older, and perhaps a bit more empathetic, it was like stepping back into a familiar place. Olive is not a perfectly sweet old lady—she can be ornery, funny, rude, crafty, wise, and occasionally kind. Just like all of us. Personally, I would like her to meet Ove, but maybe that’s for the next book.
Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
I’m not going to lie, this was a crazy book. I had to remind myself throughout that this was a memoir, not some farfetched fiction. There were so many moments while reading this that I stopped to say to my husband, you’re never going to believe this! It was shocking and bizarre, and yes, of course, a gripping story. Brodeur’s got baggage beyond comprehension, all completely justifiable, but she manages to cobble together a life in spite of that. I am amazed at her resilience, and appreciate her lowering the bar for motherhood so that we can all sleep a little easier about the job we are doing.
Mobituaries by Mo Rocca
This book was based on Rocca’s podcast, which I had not heard, but I am an obituary reader, and the fact that there are several books like this makes me understand that I am not the only one. These are not necessarily the lives celebrated in the NY Times pages, though many are familiar. Rocca celebrates people famous for unusual reasons, and also honors the demise of some unusual things: the station wagon, sports teams, and dragons. This is a perfect choice for these times, I think, not because it’s about people dying—it’s not, it’s celebrating lives—but because I seem to have a social-media-induced attention span, and these individual stories offer some respite from all of that.
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
This is one of those stories where you are waiting for the other shoe to drop from the very first chapter. Though Fowler takes us down a seemingly predictable path, she has more in store for these characters than a simple morality tale. I think Fowler’s writing, fresh and smart, saved this from becoming an “issue” book; though the amount of hot-button topics still seemed a little unrealistic. I like a book with multiple points of view, so this added to the story for me, though not every character felt authentic. Regardless, Fowler has given us a lot to chew on here; a perfect read for a neighborhood book club.
Naked Mole Rat Saves the World by Karen Rivers
This is not your typical middle-grade book. Rivers has given us a cast of unconventional characters who somehow seem ordinary despite their extraordinary circumstances. This is a complex, unapologetic book, overflowing with powerful emotion, necessary magic and superhero naked mole rats—really, what more can I say?