What I’ve Read

I’m deep in edits for my next novel, and working on another (trying to make up for the deficit from last year, I suppose), but I do find time to read. Here’s what I’ve read so far in 2021:

Hope: an ARIA anthology

I’ve worked as editor as the annual anthology of short stories, essays, and poems by members of the Association of Rhode Island Authors for three years now, and as editor, I also get to choose the theme! For our 2020 anthology, ‘hope’ seemed most appropriate. Besides, it’s our state’s motto! This collection showcases the varied talent within our 300+-member organization.

Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump

Yes, I read it. I borrowed it from the library, and I was curious. While it doesn’t really offer any new revelations, the former president’s niece offers insights into the man. The greed and dysfunction within the family (headed by Trump’s father) is mind-boggling at times.

Eventually Evie by Cat Lavoie

In my opinion, you just can’t go wrong with a Cat Lavoie book. This is chick lit at its very best – a modern woman who travels through life with plenty of bumps along the way. Evie is lovable and well-drawn. Really just a very fun read.

Home Waters by Elizabeth Devlin

If you’re a Rhode Islander, or even if you’re not, you’ll enjoy this book set in The Ocean State. Here’s a romance with an important message about ocean conservation, all set in and around Narragansett Bay. Local author Elizabeth Devlin has done a great job with this first in a series.

Halfway to Nowhere by Steena Marie and Elena Aitken

This novel is short and sweet, and a very enjoyable read. I believe it’s an introduction to future novels, and I’ll be looking for what comes next. A lovely mother-and-child connection.

The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander

If you’re familiar with The Lost Child of Philomena Lee or its subsequent movie, Philomena, then the plot behind this book won’t be a surprise. It’s set in Dublin in 1962 and is fiction, but based on the very real Magdalene Laundries, a Catholic institution that operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. It’s heartbreaking but a very good book.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

I loved this novel – and I can see why it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018. Arthur Less is a gay man in San Francisco, dreading his upcoming 50th birthday. To avoid attending the wedding of his ex-lover, he goes on a trip around the world. It’s poignant and funny and sad and wonderful.

The Mill Town by Sam Kafrissen

Another local author, and I was intrigued. Set in the dying town of West Warwick in 1958, this novel reminds one of the Sam Spade detective series. In fact, the character of Hugh Doherty figures in multiple Kafrissen novels. This story has a good plot, and while it would benefit greatly from a good edit, the author knows how to craft a tale.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

This book was published in 2019, so the headlines may have faded, but it shouldn’t matter. Journalist Ronan Farrow writes about the obstacles that were put in his way when he tried to investigate allegations of abuse by legendary filmmaker Harvey Weinstein. It’s about a lot of powerful men trying to keep quiet the stories of sexual abuse and assault against not-powerful women.

Our Wicked Lies by Glede Brown Kabongo

Here’s the tagline: “Her marriage is to die for…” Right?? Don’t you want to read this? (Answer: yes, you do). Kabongo is a great storyteller and knows how to weave tension into every scene. I’m looking to read more from her.

I Thought You Said This Would Work by Ann Garvin

Okay, so I wasn’t sure I would love this book as much as I did. A shaky start (for me), but oh boy – once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. Three girlfriends with misunderstandings that have broken friendships apart, a road trip, and forgiveness. It’s really, really good.

COVID Chronicles by Dr. Therese Zink

Dr. Zink is a local author, who presents a book of essays, detailing the thoughts and memories of essential workers who helped to get the country through this crisis. If you want to read about the human spirit and its remarkable resiliency, this is for you.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I’ll admit, I wasn’t familiar with this book (even though it spent more than seven years on the NYT bestseller list). My sister told me about it a year or so ago. I finally read it this past spring and OMG. Talk about the best opening lines: “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting in a Dumpster.” If you haven’t yet read this book, please go find it now.

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Maybe it was because I had just read The Glass Castle, but I sought out this book to read. The book is 20 years old now, so some of it might seem dated, but the story remains true, maybe truer now. She went undercover to work in low-paying jobs and tried to see if she could ‘match income to expenses.’

The Woman Who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes

Delightful, quirky, witty – everything you’d expect from Irish author Marian Keyes. A woman with a rare disease (Guillain-Barre syndrome) is hospitalized for months, only able to communicate by blinking. As she struggles with her identity (before and after the illness), relationships get complicated.

Boop and Eve’s Road Trip by Mary Helen Sheriff

Just so you know, Eve is the granddaughter and Boop is her grandmother. The road trip is essential, not only for their relationship, but for their respective healths (both physical and mental). It’s full of Southern charm and sayings, but is poignant and sweet at the same time.

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

This is actually last summer’s big read, but I just got around to it (and now I can read Weiner’s next book, That Summer). The character of Daphne Berg is lovable, and this story – about female friendships and fallen-apart relationships, is classic Weiner.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Did I save the best for last? Oh, this book. Given to me by my pal Lisa at Ink Fish Books, it took me weeks to finish. But that’s not a bad thing. With possibly the most exquisite prose I’ve ever read, this novel – and it is a novel, it’s fiction – imagines the aftermath of the loss of William Shakespeare’s only son, Hamnet, from the bubonic plague at age 11. Now, it’s true that Shakespeare’s son Hamnet died in 1596 at age 11, but little was known about the boy. O’Farrell took what she did know and constructed a gorgeous novel about parents and children, grief, loss, and love.

So, there you are. I need to return to writing so I can have (at least) one book for my readers this year! Feel free to let me know what you’ve been reading in the comments. And be well, everyone – better days are here.

14 thoughts on “What I’ve Read

  1. What a fabulous list! I’ve read a few (Walls [I agree with you. It’s so awful that it’s hard to believe it’s not fiction.], Ehrenreich, Trump. A few already on my TBR list (O’Farrell, Farrow, Greer). “Hope” is in my collection, too.

    Some new to me will be added, especially Alexander. Even retired, there’s never enough time!
    I love these looks back.

    You read my reviews so you know what I’ve read. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You post great reviews, Connie. I donated my hardcover copy of Hamnet to Stillwater, so if you’re looking for a print version, you can probably get it used there. Hope to see you soon!

      Like

  2. Hari OM
    I so badly need to get my reading mojo back – it got lost somewhere in among all those years of elder cares… that’s okay, am working my way back in by reviewing some new and emerging authors from India. I have been pretty impressed… – this one in particular got the brain cells properly firing again! Have bookmarked a couple of your recommendations here. YAM xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am getting so old. I thought the Glass Castle sounded Interesting so I went to my Goodreads acct to add it only to discover that I read it in 2013. I have no memory of it at all. Yikes!
    I too have done a lot of reading lately, but mostly mystery who-done-its.

    Liked by 1 person

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