I loved The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson and was eager to read her summer release, Caste. She ropes you in during the introduction by talking about that famous Nazi shot where one guy (August Landmesser – I never knew his name) stands alone, not saluting Hitler. She urges us all to be that guy. While the topic is challenging, and the reading difficult, Wilkerson weaves stories together to tell the history of race in this country in a way that is fascinating, heartbreaking, and ultimately, like reading a novel. She has a true gift. The thoughtful and guided way she compares castes in India, the Nazi regime, and race/class issues in America made so much sense. Even so, I didn’t love this as much as I loved The Warmth of Other Suns (which would have been hard to top), but it is well worth a read. The back half picked up steam and was more interesting to me than the first.
Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle was beautifully written, but not for me. The story didn’t move along at a good enough clip and I found myself wishing for it to end from pretty early on. It’s told in four voices and is ultimately mostly about Lil.
Amazon: “Lil and Frank married young, launched into courtship when they bonded over how they both—suddenly, tragically— lost a parent when they were children. Over time, their marriage grew and strengthened, with each still wishing for so much more understanding of the parents they’d lost prematurely. Now, after many years in Boston, they’ve retired to North Carolina. There, Lil, determined to leave a history for their children, sifts through letters and notes and diary entries—perhaps revealing more secrets than Frank wants their children to know. Meanwhile, Frank has become obsessed with what might have been left behind at the house he lived in as a boy on the outskirts of town, where a young single mother, Shelley, is just trying to raise her son with some sense of normalcy. Frank’s repeated visits to Shelley’s house begin to trigger memories of her own family, memories that she’d hoped to keep buried. Because, after all, not all parents are ones you wish to remember.”
While I recently posted about the power of giving up on a book, I really did enjoy the way McCorkle wrote, but I was too bored with this one to recommend it.
I picked up The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary on the recommendation of Gayle from Everyday I Write the Book. It’s a light and fun read, not much of a surprise, but a cheerful read overall – just what one needs in the crazy world we are living in. Tiffy and Leon share an apartment – he sleeps there all day because he works the nightshift and she sleeps there at night. They live this way, never meeting, for months. You can guess the trajectory of the story, but it was a good distraction and a creative story.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri has gotten a lot of praise. And, I am sure it is a good book. However, I abandoned it about 2/3 in. I just wasn’t into the story and life is too short to keep reading a book you aren’t into unless you REALLY need to know what happens at the end. Too bad for this one.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley has been on my TBR list for a while. It’s the story of an isolated Irish island wedding told back and forth from multiple viewpoints and in present and past time. While I didn’t like the characters much and might have given up, the mystery/thriller angle kept me reading and it was a quick enough read. And, while I enjoyed it and the ending surprised me, I didn’t love it.
Shiner by Amy Jo Burns was OK, but not great. It’s the story of a family in WV who live in an isolated community on a mountain where moonshine and evangelical snake charming are the norm. It’s short and depressing, so it didn’t take too long to get through. While I wanted to know the outcome, I can’t say I would recommend it. Thank goodness for the library!
Party of Two is the fifth in Jasmine Guillory’s Wedding Date series. I have also read The Wedding Date (reviewed here), but none of her others. I would describe this one as saccharin at best. It’s just SO filled with cliche, so predictable, and the story is so sweet that it’s just too much. “Dating is the last thing on Olivia Monroe’s mind when she moves to LA to start her own law firm. But when she meets a gorgeous man at a hotel bar and they spend the entire night flirting, she discovers too late that he is none other than hotshot junior senator Max Powell. Olivia has zero interest in dating a politician, but when a cake arrives at her office with the cutest message, she can’t resist—it is chocolate cake, after all.”
The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton has been on my list for a while and finally was only $1.99 for Kindle. It’s a quick read with stories from three main characters that finally weave together in the end. Each story takes place in 1935 in the Keys of Florida. While I would argue that this novel tied up much too neatly at the end, this seems to be a time for me to enjoy such diversions. The Last Train has the added plus that the hurricane and many other details in the story are true, which always appeals to me.
Beach Read by Emily Henry was exactly that. A perfect beach read, candy-like experience. Nothing deep here, but a good story, nonetheless. “Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast. They’re polar opposites. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.” You can imagine how it ends. But, it’s a fun road to get there. If you are looking for a distraction (and who isn’t?!), this is a decent one.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ruth Reichl’s Save Me the Plums (reviewed here) and in the great summer bookshelf purge, picked up Garlic and Sapphires, which a friend lent me years ago (lesson here – don’t even lend me books – it often takes me forever to get to them with library books always taking precedence). Reichl was a food critic at the NYT among other awesome editing jobs over her career. Garlic and Sapphires’ subtitle is “The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise,” which tells you everything you need to know about this one. It’s a great memoir, not only because it’s fun and funny, but also because of the wonderful descriptions of food at NY’s finest restaurants, the recipes she sprinkles throughout, and also the actual reviews, which I assume were in the Times. It’s a great book, but not as good as Save Me the Plums.