Friday, August 20, 2010

Well read

First, let me say that it’s so wonderful to be here! It’s been amazing to be a part of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, and I’m so thrilled that we’ve now grown into the Girlfriends Book Club!

By way of introduction, I'm Brenda Janowitz, a former lawyer-turned-writer. I'm the author of Scot on the Rocks and Jack with a Twist. My work has also appeared in the New York Post and Publisher's Weekly.

Nice to meet you! And thank you for coming to read me here. Double thanks if you're coming here from my personal blog (the oh-so-cleverly titled 'Brenda's Blog.' My creativity had clearly run out that day....).

So, I suppose since we’ve renamed ourselves, there’s only one thing to do here: discuss books! This summer, I’ve read some wonderful ones so far.

I started the summer with Emily Giffin’s Heart of the Matter. It’s about two women: single mother Valerie, whose son gets injured in an accident at a sleepover party (thus ensuring that my son will never ever ever be allowed out of the house—ever), and married stay-at-home mom Tessa, whose husband is the doctor called in to help Valerie’s son. Fair warning: there is quite a lot of detail about Valerie’s son’s injury, much of which I found hard to read, but Emily does relationships so well that by the time you get into this novel, you’ll be glad you pushed through all of that.

As is the usual in an Emily Giffin novel, complications ensue and relationships begin to change, challenging what the characters think about their current lots in life; what’s wrong and what’s right.

What I love about Emily’s novels is how they always make you think. After I finished the novel, my cousin and I had a long discussion about Tessa and Valerie’s choices, about what we would have done if we’d been in their shoes, and about the nature of marriage and forgiveness.

Allison Winn Scotch’s latest, The One That I Want, will make you think, but for altogether different reasons.

As with Allison’s last novel, Time of My Life, this novel has a time-travel element to it, which I adore. But you needn’t be a sci-fi lover to pick up this book—it’s women’s fiction at its best. When protagonist Tilly Farmer bumps into an old friend-turned-psychic, she is given the power to see the future. The only problem is that Tilly thought she had the perfect life, and these glimpses into the future are not at all what she expects.

Allison’s books are always total page-turners for me. I can never put them down—I’m always completely absorbed by her characters and the situations they find themselves in. The stories are great, but as with Emily Giffin’s novels, they always leave me thinking. Would I want to see the future? What if I saw something I didn’t like? Does anyone truly have the perfect life?

But it wasn’t all brand new hardcover books on my nightstand this summer. I also picked up Katie Crouch’s Girls in Trucks, which had been on my bookshelf for months.

I loved it. Pure and simple, I thought it was great. I didn’t think it was a novel; it felt more like a collection of short stories that were tied together, a la Melissa Bank’s The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing, but that was part of its charm.

In Girls in Trucks, we follow Southern debutante Sarah Walters from her childhood cotillion classes straight through to her life as a thirty-something single woman living in New York City. It was equal parts sad and funny, but always compelling and beautifully written. In fact, if you are a writer yourself, I’d say that this book is a must read.

And as for the books that will be closing out the summer for me? Ayelet Waldman’s Red Hook Road (she’s made us wait for a new book for so long—I can hardly wait to crack this one open!) and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad. I heard Egan read from this book on Wednesday night, and she was fabulous.

What are you all reading this summer?


  1. I'm impressed at the number of books you've read over the summer. My own post will look very tiny compared to you girls!

  2. Perfect timing Brenda... I was wondering what to read on vacation and now you've given me a whole big shopping list.. I just finished Ayelet Waldmans' BAD MOTHER (wanted to make sure I wasn't in there) and she reminds me of you- a smart, funny lawyer turned writer turned mom! So glad we're in this together!!!

  3. Hi Brenda! I'm so tickled our GCC morphed into this great group blog. These all sound like perfect picks for me since I love books that leave you thinking, wondering, seeing a different approach. Looks like (once again) I'm headed out to my favorite bookstore.

  4. Me too Brenda--thanks for ways to make my TBR pile topple!

  5. Hi Brenda, and thanks for the recommendations! I've been curious about Girls in Trucks for a while now - you might have just given me the push I needed to finally pick it up. I also recently finished Heart of the Matter which definitely made me think...I'm just waiting for my roommate to finish it so we can discuss!

  6. So thrilled to see it's your turn, Brenda! And thanks for the heads up on all these wonderful novels. They all sound like great book club picks.

    As far as feeling anxious about letting your son out of the house, here's some wisdom from a mom who's been around that block a few times: It never goes away!

    The good news is that after decade or so you might stop checking to make sure he's breathing before you turn in for the night.

  7. Brenda, Thanks for the great post. I read Emily's new book the day it came out. She never disappoints, does she?
    Doesn't surprise me that our reading tastes are so similar. I hadn't heard of Girls in Trucks, so I'll check that out, stat.

  8. Oh, gosh, summer reading--isn't it the best? And you have such an impressive (and terrific) list.

    I powered through Stephen King's Under the Dome--I could NOT put it down, and that's saying something--it's huge! He is astonishing, don't you think? The essence of page-turning suspense. I learn something every time I read his stuff.

    I also read Justin Cronin's The Passage. (It's my summer for huge books, I guess.) Incredibly well-written, and incredibly disturbing.

    Now on to Pillars of the Earth, which I missed the first time around. My husband read it, and was riveted.

    Love this blog! HI, sisters!

  9. Love, love, love your new blog! A girlfriend's book club is the next best thing to a fabulous collection of girlfriends!

    Currently, I'm reading Rumor Has It by Jill Mansell, and I'm loving it. I have personally had a rough summer, and I was desperate to read something that didn't involve vampires, werewolves or wizards, and that was guaranteed to whisk me away into a fun-filled fantasy of love, girlfriends, and finding your true self. Rumor Has It is just the remedy I needed!


  10. Love summer reads lists! I very much agree about The One That I Want--I loved it, especially its realism (a feat, given the fantasy aspect) and honesty. The Emily Giffin is on my TBR read--I need to bump that up.

    A book that accompanied me on many trips to the playground this summer was Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller, a bio about Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. I had no idea about 3/4s of it.

    I very luckily have a $50 Amazon gift certificate to use, so will look forward to reading about everyone's recs!

  11. Thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments! Isn't it a blast to see that we have similar reading tastes?!

    And I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who has a towering TBR pile. My husband is always wondering why I buy more books when I haven't finished the ones I have on the shelves. My brother loves his iPad and thinks I should get one, too, but I'm terrified that I'll order hundreds of books each day because I have no self control.

  12. Fun post, Brenda! And, yes, I'm furiously scribbling more notes on books I want to read (I have a feeling my TBR pile--already out of control--is going to grow by leaps and bounds because of this blog! ;->) I'm currently reading the ARC for the fabulous Ms. Marilyn Brant's FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE, out at the end of September. I am engrossed by the tale of three friends who start asking "what if" regarding old loves. Before that, I read ONE GOOD DOG by Susan Wilson, which shifts from the POV of a down and out CEO and a pit bull who escapes from a fighting ring. The writing was terrific and the pit bull character was so endearing, although sometimes hard to read because of his circumstances. Also read DOG ON IT, a dog-narrated mystery. Finally got to Susan Vreeland's, THE GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE, which I adored. Next up, THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE by Aimee Bender and THE HOUSE ON FORTUNE STREET by Margot Livesey (I loved Livesey's EVA MOVES THE FURNITURE--one of my all-time faves!).

  13. Brenda! I now have *more* books to add to my tbr pile. I fear until the kiddies go back to school my reading will remain Clifford The Big Red Dog and Junie B. Jones. Not that I don't *love* Junie, (she super cool) but I do enjoy a protagonist around my age. You know...early twenties. Ahem. Or older.

  14. Love the blog! I'm definitely going to read everything you mentioned. I just finished Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang (Chelsea Handler) - I laughed out loud from start to finish! I also recently read The Three Weissmanns of Westport; fantastic book - interesting, layered characters. Beautifully written (and a fun read for anyone who's lived in/near Westport)!

  15. I've got many of these on my shelf just waiting to be read. I've had a very busy summer reading some great books. I'm looking forward to the ones that you've mentioned here.

  16. I definitely need a bigger bedside table. Thanks for the great recommendations, Brenda! This blog is going to be the end of me...if I don't stop adding to my MUST READ list I will never finish my own novel!

  17. I have quite a few of these same books on my summer reading pile! I hadn't heard of Jennifer Egan's book, though--looks interesting!

    I'm running out of room for books in my house--perhaps I'll *gulp* give in and buy a Kindle or iPad!!

  18. Brenda, I'm already a fan of Emily Giffin and Allison Winn Scotch, but thanks for the introduction to Crouch, Egan and Waldman! I'm looking forward to finally reading Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked before the summer is officially over. I read Cathy Lamb's Such a Pretty Face about a month ago and loved it, too. ;)

  19. Hi Brenda,

    Katie Crouch's newest novel Men and Dogs is really wonderful as well. I think I liked it even better than her first. Great suggestions.

  20. We've got the same taste - but I haven't read Girls in Trucks yet. Can't wait!

  21. Brenda! Loving this post (and blog!) as I am always looking to add to my pile :-} I actually have been flying through books this summer which has been a wonderful change of pace...Emily Giffin and Allison Winn Scotch's new titles you mentioned above did not disappoint- both were amazing! Also read and LOVED Pieces of Happily Ever After- Irene Zutell, The Opposite of Me- Sarah Pekkanen, Get Lucky- Katherine Center, After You- Julie Buxbaum.... There is nothing like a great read...Hope you are well- owe you an update via email :-}

  22. Oh, you just added a few more books to my list. Sadly, I haven't read nearly as much as I wanted to this summer. But summer favorites were BITCH IS THE NEW BLACK (Helena Andrews), THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE (Aimee Bender), THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON (Sarah Addison Allen), SPOT OF BOTHER (Mark Haddon), GIRL IN TRANSLATION (Jean Kwok), and SUBSTITUTE ME (Lori Tharps).

    Looking forward to reading THE PASSAGE (Cronin), SUPER SAD LOVE STORY, FLY AWAY HOME (Weiner) , ONE DAY, THE ONE THAT I WANT, and GETTIN TO HAPPY (the new Terry McMillan).