Oh. My. Gawd. Y’all! I have been like a reading machine for the last two weeks. Fifteen books in fifteen days! It wasn’t even a goal I set; it just sort of happened. The best part about it is that most of the books were really great reads! I was thrilled. Thrilled, y’all!
Now, I reviewed my reading from the beginning of January previously this month (you can check that out here). Below I’ve included brief reviews for each of the final fifteen novels I read this month. Enjoy!
Y’all, I cannot rave about this book enough. Five stars, all the way. When Hermione Winters is at a cheerleading camp party, a boy slips something into her drink, and things progress as you would assume from there. But only that far. Hermione is not your typical victim – in fact, she refuses to be one. She is a survivor, and this novel is about just that. With an amazing best friend and other supporters, Hermione fights her way back to a new normal and wields her emerging power like a boss.
All three books in this trilogy are surprisingly fast and easy reads. Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town tell the tale of Ethan Burke and the town of Wayward Pines, Idaho – an eerie, small town smack in the middle of nowhere (literally). Dystopian fiction is not generally my kind of thing, but the concept of this trilogy was too good to pass up. A post-apocalyptic community, overseen by an egomaniacal Big Brother, that has no idea it exists as one? Yes, please. My only complaint is Crouch’s continued use of violence – sickening at times and particularly overdone in Book #3. Wayward Pines is also currently airing as a television series on FOX; you can view its website and watch full episodes here.
Lainey’s husband has been in a coma for months. She is desperate for him to wake as she struggles to raise their two daughters. I first read this 21 years ago. I liked it then; it was the first Elizabeth Berg novel I’d ever read, and it turned me into a lifelong fan. Reading it now, however… it was so much more. I just appreciated it so much more. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older and wiser, or a more discerning reader now, or what the difference is but the entire book was just so much more beautiful and meaningful this time around. If you’ve never read an Elizabeth Berg novel, this is a great one to start with.
When Samantha’s husband, David, leaves her she is forced to live her life outside of the box she is used to. Sam grows and grieves as she makes new friends and finds new experiences as a newly single mother. One of the most important lessons she learns, however, is that the person she once was is the person she has always been meant to be. This one was a favorite of mine from several years back; I didn’t love it as much this time around, but still enjoyed it immensely, because: Elizabeth Berg. C’mon, did you really have to ask?
The late Gloria Naylor’s debut novel is just So. Damn. Good. Following the lives of seven African-American women living in the same inner-city housing complex, their stories are stark and beautiful and raw and tender. Each woman’s tale reads like its own short story, however, they are all intricately woven throughout the novel. Naylor’s writing evokes vivid images of each woman and their lives, and leads you down a path you can’t come back from. Oprah produced and starred in a mini-series based on this novel back in the day; you can check it out here.
Oh, yes, more Elizabeth Berg. Had to do it, y’all. Many, many moons ago I read this novel and absolutely adored it. It is beautiful and charming and life-affirming and heartbreaking. Fifteen years later, I related to it even more than I did the first time around. At fifty-one years old, Myra Lipinski has always lived alone. While she admits that her job as a visiting nurse and caring for her beloved dog, Frank, are fulfilling, she is also quietly unhappy. When a former classmate with terminal cancer becomes her newest patient, Myra’s life changes forever.
Good Behavior is the collected works of three short stories by Crouch, starring the unforgettable Letty Dobesh. Fresh out of prison and struggling to turn her luck around, Letty runs into quite the conundrum: while robbing a hotel room, she unwittingly witnesses two men planning a murder. Try as she may, Letty is unable to just walk away. Unable to go to the police without incriminating herself in the robbery, she takes matters into her own hands and attempts to play the unlikely hero. Good Behavior has recently been developed as a television series on TNT; you can see it here.
This collection of stories was published in 2001, but I avoided it at the time because I had a long-standing grudge against short stories. I hated them! They ended way too soon for my taste. As soon as you got settled into a story, started investing yourself in the characters and storyline, BOOM! Story over. It was my worst nightmare. Thus, I refused to read them for years and years. I’ve gotten over this grudge in years past and have enjoyed some truly excellent writing because of it – these stories are included in that bunch. I previously recommended Range of Motion as an excellent introduction to Elizabeth Berg; Ordinary Life would be another great way to start your relationship off with her as well.
I read this one for the first time sixteen years ago, when I was pregnant with The Boy. I adored this story about 36-year-old Patty who wants nothing more than to have a baby. Unfortunately for her, she’s been unlucky in the love department up to this point and happens to be madly in love with her gay best friend, Ethan. Desperate for something – anything – to happen and aware that time is running short, Patty makes a snap decision that is going to change her life forever, as well as give her the baby she’s always dreamed of.
This powerful novel follows the lives of Mia and Lorrie Ann, lifelong friends who seem destined to follow diverging paths: Mia living a troubled life and Lorrie Ann sheltered in the cocoon of her loving family. Soon, however, life throws a series of curve balls and each of their paths changes – Mia finding success and love she never expected or believes she deserves, and Lorrie Ann finding herself the hapless victim of tragedy after tragedy. This is a brutal and honest novel of love, friendship, motherhood, and loyalty beyond normal measure.
Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden
Bernice L. McFadden’s debut novel, originally published in 2000, is amazing. A young prostitute, Sugar, moves to small-town Bigelow, Arkansas to get away from a past she is trying to forget. She is befriended by Pearl, who is still wracked with grief over the death of her daughter fifteen years ago. Despite the rejection of Sugar by the townsfolk, she and Pearl form a close bond and the two find healing within their friendship that neither had expected. Unfortunately, dark secrets and true dispositions never stay hidden forever and it won’t be long before Sugar’s sweet new life begins to go sour.
January is officially the Month of Elizabeth Berg, y’all. Whew! Six books by the same author in a ten-day period is unusual for me, but when it comes to Berg, I will make an exception any time. What We Keep chronicles a summer in the 1950’s during which a family fell apart – and the reunion of the mother and daughters in the present day. This is not my favorite Berg novel by a long shot. Now, we could contribute this to the fact that I have my own #mommyissues. But we could also say that Berg’s trademark attention to the beauty of every detail and to the atmosphere itself is simply not as present as it is in other novels. It’s OK, though, Elizabeth – I still love you!!
Plans for February? Nothing specific; I’m just going to take it as it comes. But I know what y’all are really wondering – will there be more Elizabeth Berg on my plate? Why yes, yes there will be. I’ve got a few more of her novels that I’d like to re-read and one or two that I somehow missed over the years that I will be reading for the first time. Yippee for me! But we’ll chat more about that later this month. Until next time, y’all – Happy Reading!!
What was your favorite book in January?