Elizabeth: What Have You Been Reading?

CarpeLibrumAlthough my eReading app is packed with free books (courtesy of those daily Book Bub emails) and my to-be-read pile has grown to epic-proportions, it has been quite a while since I’ve had time to sit down and read.

Last week I decided to change that, and not just because I was on a business trip and needed something to do.

A New Author

I started out reading Penny Reid’s Neanderthal Seeks Human on my iPhone while I was trapped in the airport waiting for a delayed flight.  Those who know me know that I’m not particularly a fan of eBooks, but in this case, having no physical book handy, I made an exception.

Those of you who are paying attention may also recall that I mentioned I had started reading this book in my last “What are you reading?” post back in December.   The story didn’t manage to keep my attention then and I wandered off after a few chapters.  This time around I’m happy to say I made it all the way to the end of the book.  The story is told in 1st person and, as Jilly mentioned in her post on Sunday, that can become a little tiresome.  It started off very slowly with a lot of internal dialogue.  The copious thinking was a trait of the main character, Janie, so it made sense, but I’ll admit that I did a fair amount of skimming, especially in the early chapters.    This was a girl-meets-boy story, with not much of anything keeping them apart.  There were also “evil doppelganger sister / crazed criminal” and “obsessed ex-boyfriend” subplots, but they didn’t get a lot of page time.

The thing that saved this story for me was the characters.  Janie was quirky, awkward, smart, and relatable.  Quinn, the hero, escaped his Sir McHotpants introduction and was interesting and believable. I liked the two of them together and believed their happily-ever-after, I just wish I hadn’t had to wade through so much “thinking” to get to it.  This won’t be a read-it-again book for me, but I’m thinking of sampling the next story in the series.

A New Book by a Favorite Author

After spending time with a new author, my next selection from the TBR pile was What I Love About You by Rachel Gibson.  I’ve read a number of her books before; See Jane Score is probably my favorite.  Sex and hockey – what’s not to like?  Truly Madly Yours is another story of hers that I’ve read a few times and What I Love About You is set in the same town (same house actually), ten or so years later, so there is a familiar feel to the book.

Like Neanderthal Seeks Human, this is a boy-meets-girl story without much of anything keeping them apart.  Told in 3rd person, the story belongs to Blake Junger, ex-military, who has moved to town to get on with life and get over his desire for Johnnie Walker.  There’s an attractive next-door neighbor (Natalie), her plot-device daughter (Charlotte), and a puppy.    There are entertaining interactions and a fair amount of sex.  What was missing, besides conflict, was anything that made me understand why the two characters were interested in each other (besides sex) or why they would stay together.  It felt like there were some missed opportunities in the story and the ending didn’t really work for me.  Reviews on Amazon seem fairly spread out, so it seems like I’m not the only one who felt this story missed the mark a bit.

I really wanted to like this book, but I’m afraid this was a miss for me.  I’ve got another book of hers – Run To You – in my TBR pile; hopefully that one will be more my style.

Something Thought Provoking

I’m rounding off my current reading session with When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi.  Definitely not a light-hearted story or a romance, the book is a memoir written by a young doctor, diagnosed with stage IV cancer.    The description on the inside of the book cover says:

When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.”

The book was recommended to me both by an author friend of mine and by several authors I follow.  I didn’t realize when I started to read that I had read about this individual before.  It turns out I had read (and saved) a copy of the op-ed piece, How Long Have I Got Left, he did for the New York Times a little over a year ago.  I had read the piece as research for a story I was working on and because the doctor-becomes-a-patient scenario is very interesting to me.

I’ve only just started reading the book, so I don’t know if it’s going to be depressing or “beautifully written and deeply meaningful, a treasure”, as one goodreads reviewer put it.    I guess we’ll all have to wait and see.

So, what have you been reading (or starting to read) recently?  Any recommendations to add to my queue?

13 thoughts on “Elizabeth: What Have You Been Reading?

  1. I read and enjoyed a couple of contemporary romances by Laura Florand (All For You and Chase Me). She’s an American author but the books are set in Paris with mainly French characters, which is a nice change of pace. Apart from Paris, the backdrop is chocolate-making, patisserie and restaurants, and the characters are mostly hard-working, ambitious self-improvers with challenging backstories. She also manages to incorporate hard-hitting issues like terrorism intelligently and honestly without spoiling the tone of the stories. She was one of the authors I was thinking about when we discussed conflict recently, because I found a lot of powerful emotion and strong character arc in the stories rather than a conflict lock. The two books I read are a new sub-series and I plan to read the original series at some point, when I’m in need of a warm, enjoyable, sweet-without-being-sickly treat.

    I also read Grace Draven’s romantic fantasy Radiance, which I absolutely loved. Well-written, intelligent and romantic, chivalry and intrigue in a political marriage of convenience between high-born characters whose only worth to their families is in their marriageability. One is human, the other is not. Superficially each finds the other physically ugly, almost repulsive. But with plenty of brains, kindness and good humour they come to understand and eventually love one another. Again, I’d say character arc not conflict lock, but I didn’t care. I stayed up way too late to finish the book. And I don’t normally bother one way or another about book covers, but the artwork for the book and on Grace Draven’s website is so beautiful I looked up the artist.

    On the non-fiction front I’ve been dipping into Kim Barker’s The Taliban Shuffle, which is an excellent read. I can treat myself to a chapter or two before bed and save the rest for another night, which I can’t do with fiction.

    • The stories by Laura Florand sound intriguing; I’ll have to check themout. The Paris backdrop sounds like a nice change of pace and what’s not to like in a story that includes chocolate-making, patisserie and restaurants.

  2. I’m currently reading Firefly Hollow by T.L. Haddix–a BookBub purchase.I chose it because it’s set in Hazard, KY in the 1950’s/60’s and that intrigued me. It’s a shapeshifter paranormal, but so far that’s played only a minor role. She’s gotten a couple of historical details wrong–the head librarian where the protagonist works calls the other women “Ms.” and that didn’t come into common use until Gloria Steinem started Ms. magazine in the 1970’s. But she’s picked up on the highly independent, stubborn and introverted ethos of Eastern Kentucky really well.

    I’m also reading The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, who has generously offered to give me some tips on improving my query letter and picking a stronger title.

  3. New author – JoJo Moyes. With all the hype about Me Before You, my daughter and I both read this one. In general, I’m ambivalent about the book, but the bottom line is that I am not the target audience. The good – I was emotionally connected to the two main characters by the end of the book and I cried with them and for them, so Moyes did her job to hook me emotionally. The bad – I’m not a big fan of first person plus she threw in four scenes in four other character’s POVs that seemed out of place. I’m not sure they were necessary and they seemed like cheating. SPOILER ALERT – I did not like the theme of assisted suicide and I generally like happy endings. There wasn’t anything remotely happy about the ending to this one, which you can see clearly before you get a third of the way in. My daughter had the same opinion.

    New book by favorite author – Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. I usually love her books, but not this one so much. The good – her usual well-developed characters and fun plot points and scenes. The bad – the witty banter was waaaaay over done. I found my self skipping over it in big paragraph leaps because it went no where. I pre-ordered Marrying Winterbourne by Lisa Kleypas. I hope I’m not disappointed in that one.

    Something thought provoking – One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus. The good – it was based on an actual event in US history in which a Cherokee chief approached President Grant proposing to trade one thousand white women for one thousand horses. The women would marry Cherokee warriors and bear children. The premise was that lineage in the Cherokee nation follows the woman’s family so the child would be white and having the white women in the tribe could provide for a cultural exchange and mingling with whites that could ease the tension between the whites and the Cherokee (good logic on the part of the
    Cherokee, but flawed because the whites wouldn’t see it that way). Grant refused, but the book is written as if he went ahead with it in a clandestine fashion. The footnotes suggest that a lot of the details are historically accurate so it was interesting to read a day-to-day account of life in the 1870s, both in a city and with the nomadic Cherokee nation. The bad – there was some violence in it that, while likely historically accurate, isn’t something I would normally choose to read.

    • Michille – sorry to hear Because of Miss Bridgerton didn’t quite measure up. I haven’t read anything by Quinn in quite a while, so that book is at the top of my list. I’m hoping not to be disappointed. Think I’ll skip the JoJo Moyes book though – like you, I’m pretty sure I’m not her target audience.

  4. I’ve just finished a slew of Sabrina Jeffries books. The Hellions of Halstead Hall series, the Duke’s Men series, and now The Sinful Suitors (the next book in that series comes out this fall). I like the characters, they’re all related…each series is a spin off the others, but I’m noticing some rather repetitive trends, like how all the couples get physical. It happens the same way every time (kissing, then touching, then oral sex, then sex before marriage). Note to self: change up the sex scenes in each book I write.

    I’m also reading Darynda Jones’ Grave series. I’m on book 6 (took a break from them for Jeffries’ books) and they’re a fun read. This one has a poker game with a demon who will trade your soul for whatever you need (it’s not a poker game with gods, but it still made me think of Jeanne’s book). I’m only on chapter 3, but they’re hard to put down.

    These books are older, but along the same lines of “When Breath Becomes Air,” I read “The Emperor of All Maladies” by Siddhartha Mukherjee, which is sort of a history of cancer (and the fight to cure it), and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, about the woman (and her quick replicating cells) that have formed the basis for most cellular research and testing in the latter half of the 20th century (as well as the lack of benefit her family has received as a result of her fast-replicating cells, which were taken from her without her permission). Both books were nothing short of amazing.

    I plan to go back and pick up some of the books that have been mentioned recently in the various comments. I’m just glad I’m reading again. I took a hiatus from it for awhile and it’s nice to have something to look forward to at the end of the day!

    • Justine – I agree with you on reading again. It is definitely nice to have something to look forward to at the end of the day, plus it is extra motivation for me to finish what I’m supposed to be doing in a timely way so that I have time left to read.

      That’s a good observation about the sex scenes in the Jeffries books. I noted the same thing in Stephanie Laurens’ books when I read a group of them one right after the next. A good reminder keep things unique for each character / book.

  5. I read The Charm School by Susan Wiggs last night. In general, a pretty good book, but I did have some problems with it. There’s a doobie scene in the jungle which I thought was odd — my first thought was maybe it should have been coca leaves, but Wikipedia doesn’t mention coca leaves being grown in Brazil. The scene itself was very sexy (I do like the “altered states of romance” trope), but the novel was set in 1851. “Herbal cigars” used as a seduction tool by a couple of white Americans . . . seemed like an anachronism. But the story really jumped the shark (in an understated manner, but it really bugged me) when Our Heroine shows up at a Boston dancing party with goth eyeliner, red-painted lips and nail enamel. That was just weird.

    I kind of wish the book had been set in space or something. Then, Wiggs could have tackled the same sorts of issues (the family-rending horror of slavery, finding one’s true self, being at odds with society but personally OK with that) with some of the not-1851 elements that Wiggs wanted to add.

    It’s been more of a movie week for me, though. I watched Mean Girls with Lindsey Lohan and Tina Fey, and was blown away! I have the non-fiction book, Queen Bees and Wannabes, and I must make time to read that. I love that Tina Fey adapted a non-fiction book to a girl-power narrative. Plus, great story, great conflicts, and gosh, the girls are so cute. Hard to believe this is more than 10 years old. Definitely a film I want to see again with my daughters.

    • Michaeline – I added Charm School to my TBR pile, after a recommendation here on the blog. Based on your comments I’m extra curious about it now. I think it just moved up to the top of the list. Glad you enjoyed Mean Girls. I have never seen it, but it sounds interesting. I didn’t do much movie watching this week, but I did binge watch a little Luicifer. After hearing so much about it on ArghInc, I was curious. So far, I’ve enjoyed it enough to continue watching.

      • I really thought Charm School was a lot of fun. Very effective in the romance-fizzy department (at least, it pushed a lot of my personal buttons in a very good way). But the story didn’t always match up nicely with the setting — 1851 Western Hemisphere. In some ways, it totally did; in many ways, I was able to suspend my disbelief, but like I said, there were a couple of places that unravelled on the space/time continuum for me. When you read it, I look forward to hearing what you thought about it!

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