I could have skipped this update and rolled the books into my yearly list of Favourite Things, but there are seven books on this list and they’re all titles I want to talk about and recommend now. I have a hard enough time choosing just a handful at the end of the year as it is. 😉
Dinner at Jack’s by Rick R. Reed
What I love most about Rick Reed’s books is that they’re love stories. The romance never feels rushed for the sake of getting to the good stuff. More, we get time to get to know the characters—who they are, who they want to be. Who they will be together. Another aspect of Rick’s books I really enjoy is the feeling he is sharing a part of his life with us. Either someone he once knew or someplace he’s been. There’s a sense of reality to most of his stories and, whether my observations are true or not, I feel I get to know the author a little better with each read.
Dinner at Jacks could be a new favourite. I dunno. It’s hard to beat Blink for concept and execution. I don’t think I cried so much over a simple hug in Blink, though. Or throughout the entire book. This one made me weepy. There was just so much emotion on the page, coming from unexpected directions. There are aspects of the story that are incredibly sad and wonderfully moving. But I had hope that everything would work out in the end because this was a love story and absolutely had to have a happy ever after.
The best part about this particular book? That the story wasn’t rushed. That Jack was given the time he needed to heal. By the last chapter (and the epilogue), I had total faith in this romance, in the ability of these characters to make it work. That being said, I’d love another peek at these two a couple years down the road. Something fluffy with no challenge to this wonderful relationship whatsoever. 😀
If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins
There aren’t enough stars for books like this. So utterly perfect. Funny, sad, uplifting, wrenching and beautiful. I listened to this one on audio and two different narrators voiced the two main characters, sisters Jenny and Rachel. Each of them became that character, to me, and I lived in this story for the week and a half it took me to listen to it. I shared their lives—their joy and pain.
Being a parent obviously helped me appreciate Rachel’s point of view, but it was more than that. Her sense of betrayal was so real, as was her confusion. Jenny’s story was equally poignant and I was so overjoyed by her last chapter, and by the author’s trust in her readers—in keeping certain facts veiled until the end.
Finishing If You Only Knew left a hole in my life—which I could fill with another Kristan Higgins title, but I’m afraid to spoil the spell of this one. ❤
A Drink Before the War(Kenzie & Gennaro, #1) by Dennis Lehane
I’ve had Mystic River on my TBR list forever, but I keep putting it off because the movie is so dark. Brilliant, breathtaking and…dark. I thought the Kenzie & Gennaro series might be less so.
It is and it isn’t, and now that I’ve read the second book (Darkness, Take My Hand) I’ve a better idea of what I’m in for with this series. Lehane’s voice is so worth the price, though, as is the character of Patrick Kenzie. He’s so real. What I appreciated most was the touch of humour. You really need it in a book like this.
Also—this was Dennis Lehane’s first book. I’m so envious of authors who write first books that are this damned good.
Bittersweet (True North, #1) by Sarina Bowen
I loved everything about this book. I just adored it. Not only did I like Audrey, but I identified with her. The need to please your parents, even when your parents don’t please you? Check. Discovering what you’re good at quite a bit later than the other kids, then having to work twice as hard to make it happen? Double Check. She felt so real to me. Her flaws weren’t token or annoying. I loved her femininity. What I enjoyed most, though, was her passion for the things she really valued.
Griffin Shipley would be hard not to like. He’s a big, burly farmer with a crunchy outside and tender middle. He’s the perfect hero. His character is far from perfect, too, and I enjoyed his faults just as much. I loved that he had to question himself, and that he was genuinely afraid to pursue his dreams, even though he totally deserved to have them.
Also, apple cranberry pie.
Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
Initially, I wasn’t sure what to rate this book. I enjoyed the story—or the telling of it, anyway. I laughed and I cried. The compassionate choice chapter touched me deeply because I’ve been there. Quite recently, in fact. I had so many of those same thoughts, particularly of the “how long should I wait here so I don’t seem callous” variety. It was healing, in a way, to read someone else’s experience of the same situation.
The book was really weird in places and as I thought that, I also thought you’re really weird, how is this book too weird for you? It was the magical realism. I haven’t read a lot of it. I liked those scenes, they were awesome, but I needed to fit them seamlessly into the same world as the story and I couldn’t. I still don’t know if they actually went out on the Fishful Thinking or not.
After sleeping on it—and dreaming about battling an octopus (in between dreaming about planting arc mines through a textile factory in the city of Dunwall)—I decided to rate Lily and the Octopus five stars simply because it exists. Because Steven Rowley loved Lily enough to write it, and because, ultimately, it has a happy and hopeful ending.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
This is one of those books you go into knowing the story—or how it’s going to end, but you read it anyway, because stories can be told in a number of different ways. There were points along the way where I did hope Madeline Miller would change history, but ultimately, I’m glad she did not.
The Song of Achilles is a really wonderful interpretation. I liked it for obvious reasons, but I also really enjoyed the language. It was refreshingly simple and felt right to me as both suited to the period and very much Patroclus’ voice. I also enjoyed the point of view (of Patroclus) and interpretation of events. My favourite aspect, though, was the ‘frame’ of the story. The reason this book is called The Song of Achilles. Toward the very end, when you think you’re keeping it together, the title will become clear—and then you will weep.
I did, anyway. The ending is beautiful.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
So, for a thousand pages, I waited for the axe to fall—because this edition begins with a preface from the author that contains what I figured was a pretty big spoiler! Apparently he was referring to something that happened in the made for TV mini-series, which I will NEVER watch, because after preparing myself for ten days for the worst of the worst to happen, and getting to the end of the book with this character still miraculously alive, I am quitting while I’m ahead.
Unfortunately, a lot of other characters didn’t make it to the end of the book. Some deaths were inevitable, even the one I really wasn’t expecting, and some were a quiet sort of surprise. In fact, it’d be easy to subtitle this book “living and dying in the West.” It almost reads like a diary of a sort, even though the point of view shuffles back and forth so we get a comment from everyone. For ten days, I lived the lives of these cowboys – and what lives they were.
The other novels in this series are well worth the read, by the way. As is McMurtry’s first novel, Horseman, Pass By. Next up on my McMurtry reading list is Buffalo Girls.
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