I just realized yesterday as I started the latest Anita Shreve book that I have a particular fondness for authors who set all (or at least most) of their books in the same town or region. Anne Tyler is one of my all time favorite authors and all of her books are set in Baltimore. The landscape of Baltimore isn’t critical to the plot but somehow the books belong there and wouldn’t work in another city – like Philadelphia. Richard Russo sets his books in small town upstate New York. Again, the place is so critical to the fabric of his books.
Some of my guilty pleasure authors, Anita Shreve, Elin Hildebrand, Joshilyn Jackson and Louise Penney all center their books on a core setting and sometimes even a core set of characters. I believe my fascination with Anita Shreve started with the knowledge that three of her books were all set in the same house in Maine. I have never been to Nantucket but I feel like I have been there after reading several of Elin’s books. Joshilyn’s books are truly southern at their roots event though the people sometimes leave the South for portion’s of the novels.
So, why do I so much look forward to the new books by these authors? I think the allure may be the sense of comfort and feeling at home when you start one of their books. So even though the plots and characters may or may not take unexpected twists and turns there is still that calming sense of knowing where you are.
It is June and I am in the heart of summer reading which for me is focused on the lighter titles on my To Read list. Lucky for me I have a new Anita Shreve, a new Elin Hildebrand and a new Joshilyn Jacksone queued up and read to ready. I may even squeeze in Book 6 in the Louise Penney series!
It took me two tries to finish this book! I am glad I made it through but it does not move into my list of all time favorites.
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Review Part 1: I really wanted to like this book but I am having a really tough time staying engaged with it. I am going to put it aside for a few months and see if I have a better experience with it at another time.
Review Part 2: So, I finally finished this book. It was a selection for my book group or I don’t think I would have made it to the end. I got stuck again around the middle.
I am glad I finished this but I did not love it. There are perhaps too many characters with none of them being developed to the point where I could engage with them. My favorite was Lelah. By the second half of the book she was more well drawn and relateable than the others. Her flaws seemed real and I found myself rooting for her to beat her addiction and find a loving relationship.
No one in my bookgroup gave this book a high rating. We all found ourselves wondering why it was such a critical success.
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I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Strout. However, I think I need to re-read this one in a paper version. The audiobook did not do it justice.
Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I loved the linkages in this book to My Name is Lucy Barton. It made me want to re-read Lucy Barton. However, I didn’t realize when I started that this book truly is a collection of short stories. Although there are some common threads it is not as cohesive as Olive Kitteridge.
I listened to the audio version of this book and I wish I had read the paper version instead. My Name is Lucy Barton was wonderful as an audio book but with this one I felt the desire to continually page back and forth which isn’t an easy task with an audiobook.
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This was my favorite book as a girl in the 60s. I have for a few years tried to find copies of it with no luck. Today I happened to search on Amazon once more for this title and found it is in print again! I can’t wait to get my copy and read it once more. Ann likes red. Red red red.
This book certainly doesn’t fit into the class of classics for young girls like Anne of Green Gables or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It doesn’t have the popularity of children’s books like Good Night Moon, Charlotte’s Web or Peter Rabbit. But I adored this book as a young girl. I read it over and over and over. I can’t wait to get my copy and read it again!
Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There is nothing like a Hallmark Movie to get into the Christmas spirit! Similarly, I enjoyed this light Christmas novel. I listened to the audio version and it was very enjoyable to listen to as I drove, walked my dog and did my household chores. I am looking forward to listening to the 2nd in the trilogy during this holiday season. It is like a Hallmark Christmas movie in book format!
Reading one of David McCullough’s books has been one of my reading goals. I purchased John Adams several years ago and started it a few times but keep putting it down. I was excited when my book group selected this book so that I would have the added incentive to read it.
This book has received such great reviews and the size was a bit less intimidating that Mr. McCullough’s other books. Unfortunately I was really disappointed. I rated it a three only because I was able to make it to the end. However, it was a painful experience. The Wright Brothers as a subject matter were interesting and I did learn some new facts and I was driven to research them further. However, I found reading the book to be a chore. It was very boring and I found the writing style that intermixed narrative and quotations from letters and diaries to be very difficult to read. It did not flow smoothly and the narrative text and quotations were not integrated into the narrative non-fiction format I was expecting.
I am not sure if I will try another of his books. I tend to prefer novels over non-fiction but I do enjoy well written narrative non-fiction – I loved The Boys in the Boat!
Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book (as I have all of Richard Russo’s books). Mr. Russo does such a great job of developing his characters and reading one of his books makes you feel like you are in the room with them.
I am typically a very fast reader. I could have easily read this book in just a few long reading sessions. However, I found myself savoring this one. I only read a few pages a day.
If you are a Richard Russo fan, I suggest listening to some of his interviews. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at a local library and I listened to an interview with him when this book was released. Hearing him describe his approach to writing and developing his characters makes reading his books and even great pleasure.
This book is a must read for any fans of Richard Russo’s previous works and anyone who enjoys a character driven novel!
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