Thursday, May 17, 2012

Refilling the Creative Stores by Jenny Gardiner

I come to writing as a reader. It was as a reader that I first knew I wanted to be a writer. And it is to reading that I return when I need to recharge my creative battery, to challenge myself (or better yet, be challenged by other talented writers) to become a better writer myself. And as a reader I go through very distinct phases of what I'm interested in reading. Sometimes it is purely mindless drivel. Not poorly-written drivel, mind you, but nothing particularly artful over which future civilizations might marvel.

When I'm in this "fast food" phase of reading, my standards are certainly in low mode, to say the least. It's often in search of such books that I dip into the books I've downloaded for free on Amazon, and sometimes I'm quite pleasantly surprised! It was a few months ago in which I discovered a little gem of a novel in this way. I think I'd done a free download and then Amazon suggested I'd like something else if I liked that, and the novel it told me I would enjoy I did indeed enjoy very much. Tracie Banister's BLAME IT ON THE FAME was a bargain and a half at $1.99 -- I've since told her she's nuts to not charge more for it. It's the type of novel that for some bizarre reason could not find a home with a New York publishing house, and it's certainly their sad loss. It's a lovely novel that follows five diverse actresses who are nominated for an Academy Award in the month leading up to the big night. While it's a fast, delicious read, it really wasn't at all the junk food as I'd expected. Banister is a talented writer, and she's great at getting her character's voices down well. The book is entertaining, fast-paced, well-written and funny. I'd highly recommend it for a great summertime read.

 Shortly before reading Blame it on the Fame I happened upon Joshilyn Jackson's GODS IN ALABAMA. I know, it's been out for a while. And I'd heard her name repeatedly but just never got around to checking out her books. It wasn't until I stumbled upon a story written by her in an anthology I was blurbing, WEDDING CAKE FOR BREAKFAST: Essays on the Unforgettable First Year of Marriage, that I fell for her writing. Agent Wendy Sherman and Kim Perel assembled a top-notch collection of women authors to write about their experiences in that first year of marriage, and it's a lovely book to sit down and nibble on like a wonderful appetizer. It's how I discovered I adore Joshilyn Jackson's voice. So there are two more fun reads for you to check out if you've not so far.

I wasn't going to read Charlotte Rogan's THE LIFEBOAT. Saw the review in People Magazine, but it didn't appeal to me. But then I heard the author on NPR and she just sounded so unlike what I expected, so I decided to download the sample chapters out of curiosity, and I was hooked. Now I will warn you my husband didn't become so engrossed in it. And it has a lot of lazy problems later in the book -- things I would have expected an editor to do something about (poorly tied-up loose ends, some things rushed to conclusion, the goal of the story, the rescue, was sort of an afterthought dealt with in a paragraph or two). But overall I loved how she got the voices down well, sort of wrote it in that Edwardian Era voice, and took us into those dark hours one must experience while trapped on the seas.

 On vacation I downloaded Jenny Lawson's memoir LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED. I haven't finished it yet, it's sort of one of those books you pick up and put down. So far it's been enjoyable, albeit a bit bizarre. She's pretty funny. Albeit bizarre.

 I started to read BLOOD, BONES AND BUTTER: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, by Gabrielle Hamilton. Again, I haven't finished it, but it's enjoyable. It didn't keep me glued to the page, however, so I'll return to it eventually.

 I LOVED Suzanne Finnamore's SPLIT: A Memoir of Divorce. Terrific writer, very poignant and gut-splaying.

 Have picked up Nathan Englander's WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT ANN FRANK, and i find him to be a compelling writer, but it gets a bit tiresome. Another pick up and put down book.

 Probably my favorite novel in the past six months has been Amor Towles's RULES OF CIVILITY, one of those books you are so sad to have to finish reading. One of those books that challenges a writer to step up her game. This was like a 10-course gourmet meal, paired with top-notch wines, it was that memorable.

 I loved Erin Morgenstern's THE NIGHT CIRCUS, and Sarah Bird's THE GAP YEAR.

And for fun mindless reading, anything by Victoria Dahl, Shannon Stacy, Jane Graves, Erin McCarthy and Jill Shalvis work. Sure they might be snack food, but hey, snack food can be downright perfect at times.

 And lastly I simply could not put down Katherine Boo's incredible debut, BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS:Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. It's not type of book I tend to gravitate toward, but damn, is it ever something that has seared itself into my psyche. It reads like a well-told story but it's all true. I highly recommend it.

 Of course if you're still looking for some good reads, don't forget to check out these great books by yours truly:

  Slim to None (Diversion Books) #1 Kindle Bestseller!

Where the Heart Is

Anywhere but Here (Diversion Books)

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

 I'm Not the Biggest BItch in this Relationship (Penguin)

Accidentally on Purpose

Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me (Gallery Books)

Compromising Positions


  1. Love this round-up, Jenny! You've just made my TBR pile waaaay larger!

  2. Wow, Jenny. Great suggestions. I'm a big Suzanne Finnamore fan. You should try her novel, Otherwise Engaged. Her wit reminds me of your writing.

  3. That's funny, probably why I love her voice so much ;-) . I'll have to check it out! thanks for stopping by guys!

  4. Great suggestions. I'm a big Sara Bird fan - check out her earlier stuff too. And Karin Otherwise Engaged is definitely going on my TBR

  5. I just sent a few of these to my Kindle...Thanks, Jen!!

  6. Amy, I love Sara's novel the Boyfriend School. Very funny.

  7. I have had The Night Circus and Rules of Civility on my TBR pile forever! Now that I know you liked them so much, I must find time to read them!

    Thanks so much for including Blame It on the Fame on your Book Recs list, Jenny! I'm so honored. :)

  8. Great, now all I want to do is sit here and read. I'm having reading envy. Thanks a lot, Jenny!