Following is a rundown of what I’ve enjoyed so far this year. Most are now available or soon will be. It’s rather long so carve out a few minutes to wade through this.
Remember clicking on the book title will take you to either my review or the book page on GoodReads.
Two books by Oregon authors are a little offbeat but both are excellent.
Karen Thompson Walker is from Portland and her first book, Age of Miracles incorporated the theme of “slow-apocalypse” in which heading into an apocalyptic event is slow and becomes normal life. She continues this theme in The Dreamers where a sleeping sickness has taken over a small college town. I felt the tone read like a “gentle fever nightmare.”
If, Then by Kate Hope day (from Corvallis) also has a quirky attitude with the topic of “multi-verses” where people exist in two different planes at the same time. It’s a mind-bender and I compare the reading experience to being in a carnival funhouse. (If interested, the author will be appearing at Salem’s Book Bin on May 24.)
A novel sure to appear on my Best Books of 2019 list is Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I was surprised at how much I loved this because the oral history told in the form of interviews didn’t seem that enticing, but it soon became riveting. The story of the 70s iconic band is told from various points of view (lead singer, band members, and others involved with the group), and one can’t help but think of Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham though it is nowhere the same story. I would recommend this be “read” in audio as the various voices would lend even more authenticity to the storytelling. Also, get the musical vibes by listening to the Spotify playlist (also on YouTube) created by the publisher.
At first glance, Cape May appears to be aimed towards readers who enjoy a good beach read (similar to Anne Rivers Siddons or even Elin Hilderbrand), but it’s not. Taking place in the late 1950s, it’s a novel about a very young couple’s honeymoon shenanigans that have a lasting effect on their marriage. It was compelling (and a little steamy) but what made the book worthwhile was the epilogue which covered the rest of their married life. I’m recommending this for book groups if no one minds the racy scenes.
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin has been receiving quite a bit of attention and I loved it. It’s a literary novel about messy family dynamics with a bit of a twist at the end. Another sure bet for book groups.
By now readers of this blog should know there’s nothing I love more than a good twisty psychological thriller and many good ones have been published over the past few months.
Burning up the bestseller list is Alex Michaelides’ Silent Patient, and I was lucky to be a very early reader. I’m a sucker for anything set in a mental institution and the final revelation packed a heckuva punch.
Two thrillers with interesting locations were Fiona Barton’s The Suspect and Annie Ward’s Beautiful Bad. Both of these dragged a bit but the Thailand setting in The Suspect and The Balklands (based on the author’s experiences) in Beautiful Bad kept me reading.
For a chronicle of family foibles, Sally Hepworth’s The Mother-In-Law kept me guessing. At first, the MIL seems like a totally unlikeable and cold woman but the author has a few surprises for readers by the end of the book. Hepworth’s earlier book, The Things We Keep, is wonderful.
While I was reading Dear Wife, I had no idea where it was going, but decided to go with the flow and be surprised. Since this isn’t due to be published until June, you can mitigate the wait by reading the author’s earlier book, The Marriage Lie, which is also “unputdownable.”
Alice Feeney made her mark with her first book published a year ago, Sometimes I Lie, and readers are still talking about what really happened at the end. I Know Who You Are isn’t quite as twisted and ambiguous but it’s a solid thriller with a few shocking revelations.
My most recent psychological thriller is Liv Constantine’s Last Time I Saw You, which was quite good and kept me on the edge of the recliner. Her previous book, Last Mrs. Parrish, is also a good thriller.
If you have a hankering for a creepy gothic style read set on a remote isle featuring a spooky manor and ghost sex (yep, that’s right), look no further than Stephanie Merritt’s While You Sleep. Read this one with the lights on.
I’m a huge fan of Lucy Knisley who wears her heart on her sleeve by drawing and writing from her own life in graphic form, aka “comics.” Her latest, Kid Gloves, is a harrowing and poignant story of the struggles she endured during her pregnancy and the birth of her son. If you haven’t read Knisley and aren’t sure if you’d like this kind of format, start with her earlier book, Relish.
Cathy Guisewite is the author of the syndicated comic strip, Cathy, and I was sad to see it discontinued, but am pleased she has a humorous book of essays which often mirrored her fictional counterpart’s life. In Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault, Cathy writes about life as we age, along with stories about her experiences as the single mother of an adopted daughter and of coping with aging parents.
Librarian colleagues are raving about How To Forget by actress Kate Mulgrew, a very heartfelt memoir about her parents and their illnesses (father had cancer and mother Alzheimer’s). This is one of the best and beautifully written memoirs many of us have read in quite a while. To be published in late May.
Ruth Reichl annoyed me with her last book, My Kitchen Year, where she talked about how cooking “saved her life” after losing her job as editor-in-chief at Gourmet magazine. Her latest memoir, Save Me the Plums, soothed my irritation as she toned down the angst and wrote a fascinating report of the inner workings of the magazine while also discussing her main passion in life, food.
I expected more out of Olivia Newton John’s memoir, Don’t Stop Believin’. There was nothing wrong with it, I just found it a little tedious and at times a little coy, but then I’m more of a casual fan so it may be that true fans will enjoy this more than I did. (One of my gripes about celebrity memoirs is when they write a story involving someone famous but then act evasive and won’t say who it is.)
For sheer hilarity, Helen Ellis’s Southern Lady Code is chock full of snarky and off-the-wall essays about the “true” meanings behind various southern phrases. The author reveals that those southern phrases may not be as sticky sweet as they first appear.
That’s all for this blog. We’ll be heading south to close on our Arizona villa so I’ll be back soon after to tell you about two wonderful novels coming out this summer. Many of us are positive they will be blockbusters.
I was curious about Kate Mulgrew’s book but I’m kind of wary about celebrity memoirs (I also dislike the certain evasiveness in them you described.) But it sounds like that one is something entirely different. I also think I want to read Southern Lady Code at some point, I’m glad to hear it was so funny!
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