Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sweet Serenity, Treasured Nooks

A little bird named Dalley A. Galuzzi (ask her what the A stands for and you may or may not get an answer) kindly asked me to post a list of book recommends here. And since I have been meaning to for a long time (because I am fond of a book, here and there, from time to time) here we go:

MY TOP FIVE BOOKS OF ALL TIME (the version that does not include 'To Kill A Mockingbird' although it certainly could)

1) The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

This book wins because it's highly entertaining, incredibly creative, beautifully written, and an un-mushy love story. I recommend this book all the time and only once did someone tell me they didn't like. "It was too sad," she said. I think she was missing the point.

2) The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

It could be number one. The story of a German girl growing up in a poor neighborhood in Nazi Germany. And her scrappy, starving, huge-hearted best friend. And a hidden Jew who dreams of birds and boxing. All narrated by Death. Don't worry. Death is not macabre, or giddy. He is poignant and tender and continually amazed by humanities ability to love even under the worst of circumstances. Warning: This book could change you.

3)The Crimson Petal and the White, Michael Faber

A rolling romp of a good read. Sugar, our heroine, is a prostitute in Victorian London who spends her downtime penning feminist pamphlets. Historical Fiction at its best.

4) Fall on Your Knees, Anne Marie McDonald

Dark and beautiful. Family saga. Incredible writing. Takes place in Nova Scotia. What more could you ask for? (You may never forget "She does! She does!". Just ask me and Hea.)

5) The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Yeah, it was good. There's not much really to say. It's all there in the book.


6) The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood

So disturbing, in a safe way, because it could never really happen.

. . . Or could it?

Ok. Moving on.


A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini

The Other Boylen Girl, Phillipa Gregory (book clubby with sex and corsets) (but not a bodice ripper)

The Red Tent, Anita Diamant

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See (book clubby)

Plainsong by Kent Haruf and An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg for a new western

The Gravedigger's Daughter, because you have to read at least one Joyce Carol Oates

The Mists of Avalon, Marion Z

The Russian Concubine, Kate Furnivall (fast 'n fun)


This is a new genre for me to read. New since 5th grade, that is, when I moved out of my Mary Higgins Clark and Dean Koontz phase.

MUST READ: In The Woods, Tana French.
Note--this book has mixed reviews on Amazon. If you are a typical mystery genre reader and like your endings tied up neatly with a kiss and a bow on top, this might not be for you. That being said, this book got under my skin like maybe nothing else I've ever read and creeped me out and haunted me for days. I read it last October and I STILL think about it. You have to use your imagination. Seriously. Let your imagination run wild when reading this book. If you don't mind shades of gray, you will love this Edgar Award winner.

And if you like that, read The Likeness, her second. It's almost as good. Which is to say, it's really, really good.


Margaret Atwood and

Lauren Groff. I got an ARC of her first novel, "The Monsters of Templeton" from Barnes and Noble because I am a special person. Special enough that I once got an email saying "Send us your address and we'll send you a free book!" from and it was legit. Nevermind that the email went out to anyone who had an account at My speciality is not thus declined.

TMOT (the monsters of. . .) was Groff's self-described love letter to her hometown, Cooperstown, NY. I love magic realism. Our hero, Willie Upton, returns home from college to her hometown, Templeton, in mild disgrace. I keep trying to describe this novel and I just can't figure out how. There's a lake with a monster in it. Maybe. A search for the truth about one's past. A group of men who run together every morning. Two women from another century who wrote each other letters and one of whom may have been responsible for a great tragedy. Old-timey pictures of the author's actual ancestors. Natty Bumppo aka Hawkeye? He's there too. And a eerie narative from a Native American girl. Groff makes this all make sense. And you have a lot of fun watching her do it.

Her next was a book of short stories which is normally not my thing. But "Delicate, Edible Birds" is full of delicate, edible stories. Savor them.

And finally, a world on Alice Hoffman:

I discovered her in my teen years and so of course I can't guarantee that anyone will find anything as good as something that meant something to someone in their teens. (There is sense in that sentence somewhere, I swear). Magic realism is her thing too. Incredible and fantastical things, people, and situations presented in a thoroughly real way. Almost all set in New England so they come with a dose of reeds and cranes and early American mythos and blackberries. My favorites were:

Here on Earth
Turtle Moon
Blackbird House
Seventh Heaven
Illumination Night
Property Of
Local Girls

My least favorites were:

The Third Angel
Skylight Confessions
The Probable Future

But that could just be because I had moved on from my dear Alice by the time those books came out.

That's all for now. More to come later. We still have to cover: Fantasy, YA, Vacation books, Memoirs, and Neil Gaiman. Ah, the thrills!

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