Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Looking for a Great Book? Girlfriends say, "Read This!"

Just finished John Greene's young adult novel THE FAULT IN OUR STARS about a romance between two teens with cancer. It's a 5 star hankie read, but also funny, philosophical and real. The author pierced me with this one and I'll never forget it.

Malena Lott, author of Life's a Beach and Fixer Upper

Over the Christmas break I read my first Lee Child book, Killing Floor. Since then, I've been obsessed! with the series. I think it's because it's so different from what I write and and what I normally read. The action and pacing are fabulous. Plus, I have a major crush on his main character, Jack Reacher!

Maria Geraci

My most recent favorite has been Julian Barnes's THE SENSE OF AN ENDING, which recently won the Man Booker Prize.  It's a very subtle, more minimally plotted literary novel about a middle-aged man who looks back on his time with high school friends, his first love, his marriage and subsequent divorce, and a suicide he cannot entirely understand, one that keeps impinging on the present moment.  This book is slim, beautifully structured, and psychologically complex.  There is tremendous emotional depth in the (essentially unreliable) narrator, Tony.  The book also contains gorgeous writing and very profound thoughts on memory, aging, and time.    --Sandra Novack, author of PRECIOUS and EVERYONE BUT YOU

Lately I've been obsessed with dystopian YA (I blame The Hunger Games for kicking off this new habit) so I've been gobbling up books like THE DEAD, PURE and WITHER. I have trouble reading novels in my genre, commercial women's fiction, when I'm on deadline as I am now - so YA fills my need to read! 

Sarah Pekkanen

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles is so deliciously well-written, well-researched and so engagingly told it makes me as an author envious of the author's incredible talent (and it inspires me to write even better) 

In Zanesville by JoAnn Beard is such a convincingly-told story of mundane day-to-day life, so beautifully-told and evocative. It reminded me of one of my favorite books, In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd (from which the movie A Christmas Story was derived). 

Jenny Gardiner

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Victoria Jones, the protagonist, is at once haunting, engaging and achingly real. Flashbacks to her ten-year-old self in the foster care system break you open. At eighteen, she is released from the system and begins to make her way through the world. It’s not pretty…she’s distrusting, hesitant, and awkward. Yet, she communicates through her extensive knowledge of flowers, their meaning, their ability to reflect feelings and emotions. I found myself, at points, exhausted from pulling for her and urging her on because for a woman who can see with such deep clarity into others, she remains an enigma to herself. What I loved about this novel was its surprising twists and discoveries. It was unlike anything I had ever read, and I only wish I could read it again for the first time.
Christa Allan

I was utterly enthralled by ROOM, by Emma Donoghue.  It was stunning in its originality and ambition, and I loved the characters.  I also read THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield, a truly inspiring treatise on how writers and other artists can overcome the internal and external barriers that stand between us and our creativity.  Reading it helped me to complete the first draft of a difficult book I've been struggling with.  It was like a coach, cheering and nagging me all the way to the finish line.

Judith Arnold

I've just whipped through all five books in the White House chef
mystery series by Julie Hyzy. The main character, Ollie Paras, is
spunky, curious, and utterly appealing--can't wait for the next!

Lucy Burdette

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN says:  DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay. Highly highly highly recommended! A fabulous legal thriller—but really, more of a family thriller.( Can there be such a thing?)  An suspenseful, poignant, and incredibly surprising book—intense, beautifully written, and completely wrenching. Reviewers have compared Landay to Turow and Grisham…and I must agree.  And the ending. Ah, the ending. More I cannot say. (Email me if you want to chat about it! I need someone to discuss it with..)

I am reading the Steve Jobs biography. Not only is it an inherently 
good story, but the actual writing is fantastic. Walter Isaacson is a 
superb storyteller. I also recently read and loved the journals of 
Spaulding Grey.

-Melissa Clark

My teenage daughter is a voracious reader who often presses her favorite books on me, and I usually acquiesce. This time, I'm especially glad I did, because John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR OURS is so good I didn't even mind the constant nagging: What part are up to? What part are you up to?

The book is about a 16-year-old girl with fatal cancer, but Green handles it with such deft humor, authenticity and humanity that it's an exquisite journey. I highly recommend it. Keep the tissue nearby. 

-Ellen Meister

I just finished Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua. I couldn't put it down. It's a fascinating memoir about motherhood. It's been extremely controversial, however I was enthralled by Chua's honesty, conviction and brilliant self-parody.
Also: Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear, and while I don't usually do mysteries this was a unique variety of one. And: Perfect Madness: Mothering in the Age of Anxiety, by Judith Warner, which I totally didn't agree with but was interesting just the same, and good research for my own motherhood book that I'm working on.

Sam Wilde

It has not been a great reading year for me thus far. Of the books I've read, only two are worthy of stars: THE PARIS WIFE, by Paula McClain, which perfectly captures the voice and times of one of Ernest Hemingway's wives; and THE ODDS, by Stuart O'Nan, a slim novel about a couple who hit the casinos in Niagara Falls in the hopes of winning big before their marriage goes kaput. If I want to read more great stuff, perhaps I should be reading more books by my sister GBCers?
 Lauren Baratz-Logsted   

Witches On The Road Tonight by Sheri Holman (Love that it was set in the South and speaks to how we love to be scared. ;)
Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman (Ms. Coleman steps out and writes the forbidden in this book. I love the compassion she uses.)
The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew (Such a wonderful charm and strong dialogue)
The Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (How do the children of Bigamist feel? Where is their place in the family tree?)
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Hauntingly beautiful and tragic. A part of history many would like to turn their backs on.)
The Orphan Sister by Gwendolen Gross (A engaging story about triplet girls. Two are identical. The other is a singleton.)
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (Ms. Addison Allen’s mystical characters and stories always are a thrill to read.)
Coming Up For Air by Patti Callahan Henry (A mother/daughter story like none I’ve read.)
I Gave My Heart To Know This by Ellen Baker (A novel of strong women set in the Depression. I love this setting. Ellen Baker is a strong new voice in fiction.)
The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen (Two sisters and their story set in the Depression.)
Pictures of You by Caroline Leavett (This intricate story is real, tragic, and beautiful all in one.)

Ann Hite

I'm lucky to get to read a few novels at once this month -- THANK YOU FOR ALL THINGS by Sandra Kring (very lyrically written women's fiction), THE EARL'S MISTAKEN BRIDE by Abby Gaines (a lovely historical/inspirational romance) and several terrific stories for the RITA awards (really enjoying the privilege of getting to be a judge for this wonderful contest). I'm already looking forward to curling up on the sofa and reading some more tonight...
Marilyn Brant

I've read so much good fiction by women lately, including Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and Oxygen by Carol Cassella, that I made an effort to slip in titles by men for a change.  I was surprised to enjoy Stephen King's 10-22-63 and Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot.
Cindy Jones
author of MY JANE AUSTEN SUMMER: A Season in Mansfield Park
William Morrow/HarperCollins (March 29, 2011)

Before I Go to Sleep By S.J Watson was an incredibly imaginative thriller. Here’s the killer premise:  
Every day Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear every time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he's obligated to explain their life together on a daily basis--all the result of a mysterious accident that made Christine an amnesiac. With the encouragement of her doctor, Christine starts a journal to help jog her memory every day. One morning, she opens it and sees that she's written three unexpected and terrifying words: "Don't trust Ben." Suddenly everything her husband has told her falls under suspicion. What kind of accident caused her condition? Who can she trust? Why is Ben lying to her?
Another lost memory book ended up being my favorite book of 2011. What Alice is Forgot by Liane Moriaty is about a woman who’s lost ten years of her life. She wakes up thinking she’s happily married and pregnant with her first child, when in reality she’s got two kids and is on the verge of divorce. Engrossing, moving, funny. I can’t say enough about this novel.
Linked short stories usually make we want to run for the hills but I loved The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson.  She is like Anne Tyler but with a bit of an edge.
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan is the thinking girl’s beach read. It’s fun but not overly fluffy. Great writing.
Like Christa, I also loved Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. 

Karin Gillespie