Public Notes to Myself: A Mid April Reading List

Sometimes I need a written reminder for what it is I have committed to reading for the month, and this is one of those times. How is April getting away so quickly? It is the middle of April already, people! I have book club books to read and Bloggers Recommend Picks to pick. I have to get on it! Let’s take a peek at what I’ve got.

Frog Music, The Fever & AmericanahSo this month I have three book club picks in the works.

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue –  I am late to the game with Donoghue, having missed the much acclaimed Room and her follow up of historically based short stories, Astray. Frog Music is promising to be a rich historical novel via 1876, the smallpox epidemic and an unsolved murder. All things that tickle my reading fancy. I’ll be starting on this (hopefully tonight!) to discuss the first few sections with my Twitter Book Club, The Hashtags, on Friday.

The Fever by Megan Abbot – If my Twitter book club is called The Hashtags, then my regular IRL book club should be called The Publicists, since its members comprise my favorite people scattered at Bloomsbury, Little Brown, Viking, Random House and Riverhead. This month we are reading Megan Abbott’s The Fever, and I have started it and I love it. I have no idea what the hell is going on, but I am totally intrigued. This is my third Abbott and she never fails to bring an almost uncomfortably realistic depth to the inner, troubled, lives of teen-aged girls.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - As if I didn’t have enough book clubs of my own, I am guesting at a friend’s book club this month. She has been trying to get me to join, and I have been resisting because, you know, all the things and all the books. However, this month they are reading Americanah, and I adored Half of A Yellow Sun. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to read and discuss it with a group. I also suspect that I will have hard time resisting going back, especially if they keep selecting books that are right up my alley.

A Life Apart and When the Cypress Whispers

My mother has had a lot more time to read this year, so we have been trying to read a book together each month. Way back when, at the beginning of the year, we started with Walter Walker’s Crime of Privilege, but neither of us could really get into. It was strangely light on details despite being a really long book. We went on to Defending Jacob, which we both really enjoyed, me more so than my mom –  she didn’t like the ending. Our favorite joint read has been Rhidian Brook’s The Aftermath.

Two books that we are reading together are:

A Life Apart by L.Y. Marlow - I am looking forward reading Marlow’s latest novel about a navy man whose life is saved during the attacks on Pearl Harbor by a black sailor, who dies in his attempt. He develops a relationship with the sailor’s sister when he travels to visit her, in his own hometown of Boston, pay his respects. My mother has already read it and she thinks that is just fabulous. I read the first chapter and I can attest that it is captivating and has and immediacy that make you want to sink into the story. She made lots of notes during her reading, so I am really looking forward to see where the discussion goes.

When The Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon – Corporon’s novel falls into the “woman returns home to find herself” category. It’s a much used plot device, so while I usually enjoy these types of books, I tend to read them with great care in the choosing. I gravitate toward ones that have an element of surprise for me. In this novel, the heroine does her soul searching while on a rare trip home to visit relative in Greece. That heightened the appeal for me. I also love reading beautiful books – the cover and the luxury of deckle-edge pages is very enticing.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Happy Spring! And. A book list.

And hopefully to a better spring. With more posting. I did a double take to realized that I have posted a whopping 2x in the last three months. Time does fly when you are having fun. So what have I been up to? Busy job, busy life. I have made headway with quite a few books, though you couldn’t tell that AT ALL from around here. I took a look at the list of books I have read so far and thought I would share it here. 

What I’ve Read

Fog of Dead Souls  by Jill Kelly
The subject matter on this one is disturbing, but I loved that the characters were firmly in their 6os, and still vibrant and complex human beings, with the accompanying expertise in their careers, consideration for their sex lives, and a long list of completed goals and lingering aspirations. Though this is a essentially a whodunnit, the bulk of the narrative examines how Ellie deals with the crimes committed against her, and subsequent attempts to put her life together.

The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie

I just discovered Deborah Crombie with No Mark Upon Her, and I adore her smart detectives and equally smart writing style. If time allowed, I would read all of her books in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. If you can start at the beginning, I would highly recommend doing just that.

Defending Jacob  by William Landay
I read this one with my mother and I can tell why book clubs have been so taken with this one. We debated throughout the book the culpability of parents in raising their children, when sullen teenage behavior should be taken as an indication of something more sinister, and what actions are appropriate to take in protecting your child from society or vice versa . Landay packs in the twists. If you can truly guess the end, you are a better person than I am.

Choice of Straws by E.R. Braithwaite

This was first published in the 60s, and was recently re-published by Open Road Media. What stands out most to me is the oddity of this haunting story. A twin loses his brother while they are in the midst of brutal attacks against black citizens in London, and then he starts to consider feelings for the sister of an unwitting victim. This was an emotionally charged read, and while I’m not sure I felt it was entirely plausible, it gave me a lot to think about.

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard

I started reading this on the train for a visit to DC and I was enchanted. Let’s see, magic, dragon, and intense alliances and politics, side by side with a romance that by rights should fail. Loved every minute of it.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard – Movie/Book Club

Stack of books

Readers react with mixed emotion when they hear that a book they’ve read is being made into a movie, especially a favorite one. I confess that I’m no different. I try to judge by the attached director, approve or seethe over the casting choices, and find either affirmation or more trepidation upon viewing the first trailers and stills from the movie.  When I heard that a movie was being made of Labor Day, Joyce Maynard’s 2009 novel about the unlikely romance between an escaped convict and the housewife he takes hostage (along with her son), I was intrigued because I remembered enjoying it when it was initially published.

My book club was fortunate enough to receive copies of the paperback movie tie-in version of the novel and passes for a screening of the film, which we plan to attend next month. I was really taken with Labor Day when I first read it back in 2009. The premise of the novel stretches credulity a bit in terms of whether a romance like this could have occurred, but the love story is a sumptuous one, and I loved these characters. They were rich and real and I loved seeing the way they developed in the aftermath of a weekend that proved a critical turning point in all their lives. I was really excited to hear what my book club would have to say about, and I am especially looking forward to the discussion after we have all seen the movie.

So far, the feedback upon reading the book has been mixed – with a slight majority enjoying the book. I’ve found that this is the sign of a great book club book. There has never been all that much discussion at my clubs over books that are universally adored. Usually with those books we say we loved it and then get on with the good work of drinking wine and eating great food.

Everyone was curious about the pie-making scene and thought it was a pivotal point in the book. So we are all waiting for that. One of the members had a hard time getting through the book but thought that the trailer makes the movies seem a lot more interesting  than the book.  Those of us who loved it were just as interested in the themes of trauma, empowerment and hope. One our member had this high praise for Labor Day: “This story is about coming ALIVE, re-birth; honesty; goodheartedness; going with the flow; following dreams.”

Labor Day opens in wide-release today. I’ll report back when we’ve seen the movie.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Oh, and Happy New Year. -p

In Search of the Perfect Romance: Four Tempting Romances I Wouldn’t Kick Out of Bed

I use Grammarly for proofreading because I’d be loss without it. See, get it? Ha!

(Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Grammarly. I also got to test drive their proofreading software, which offers the basics for checking the grammar of your writing in the style you need for either your business writing (formal) or your blog (casual).)

Moving on, though. Two or three times a year I go through a period where I am all about a good romance novel, and I read through a bunch of them trying to find the right one. A couple of weeks ago I was on vacation, and I would have killed for one such novel. I picked up and discarded a lot of books (in fact, this was where a Nook and a library card came in handy). I mostly read just a chapter or two of each one because I knew pretty quickly what wouldn’t fit the bill.

Reading so many romance novels  in a quick succession gave me an understanding of how difficult it must be to write one that’s both engaging and rewarding for readers. It’s like comedy. People think it’s easier than drama. But that’s just not true, and the same goes for romance. There are so many foregone conclusions in a romance novel (that the characters will end up together, that their love will be tested, that they complement each other, that one person is in trouble and needs help to get through, etc.) that writing something fresh and imaginative can be a daunting task when readers already know how much of the story will go. Kudos to writers who are capable of pulling off such a coup. While that’s not something I want to try anytime  soon, I can lead you in the direction of the novels that held my attention on such an arduous quest.

Gwynneth Ever After by Linda Poitevin_Fotor_Collage

Gwynneth Ever After by Linda Poitevin – Charming and delightful, I easily devoured this in  just a few short hours and passed it along for my aunt to enjoy, as well. It was refreshing to have a heroine with children and to see both her and her children interact with the love interest. What’s so fun about this story is the touch of fairy tale that comes along with the charming actor (read : royalty) in love with our fair lady.

Once She was Tempted by Anne Barton – I was thrilled to see that there were other books in this series because I loved the clever heroine and witty banter in this romantic story line involving a wealthy man wanting to keep his ward from marrying a woman with a less that stellar reputation.

The Pursuit of Mary Bennett by Pamela Mingle_Fotor_Collage

Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase - I am just waiting for the day when I discover I’m a  lost duchess with land, money and the attention of a handsome prince and other assorted royalty. While I wait for that day, it was great fun to read of Samantha’s playful romps with Prince Alex as she learns about her new home and responsibilities, and opens herself up to the love of a good man.

The Pursuit of Mary Bennett by Pamela Mingle - Though Mingle’s novel strays almost too close to the events of Pride and Prejudice,  I nevertheless enjoyed getting to see some perspective and insight on Mary’s formerly unappealing character. Mingle provides her with the motivation and growth that make you root for Mary finding love and happiness.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung