Top 14 Books of 2014

Dearest ones! It’s that time of year again–to FREAK THE F OUT BECAUSE YOU STILL NEED PRESENTS FOR PEOPLE ON YOUR EVER-LOVIN’ LIST! Never fear, stressed Santas. You may have heard that #BooksMakeGreatGifts, and since you no doubt do not have time to sit down and read a bunch of them right this very second, I will recommend some for you, with Cliff Notes. Also luckily, 2014 was a terrific year for reading! So many astonishingly good books by debut and esteemed authors. Put these in your sack, and if you have time, enjoy before giving (just make sure not to eat chocolate while reading. Those fingerprints will give you away every time).

#FridayReads: THE LAST DAYS OF CALIFORNIA by Mary Miller

Dear Readers:

You know a novel has to be good when it can overcome my traditional aversion to teenaged narrators–Holden Caulfield, Katniss Everdeen, Gabriela from Iris Gomez’s TRY TO REMEMBER, and Karen Thompson Walker’s Julia from THE AGE OF MIRACLES excepted. To that company I’m adding Jess, the heroine of debut novel & Indiebound pick THE LAST DAYS OF CALIFORNIA, who tells this story of a Rapture-bound road trip with her family that starts in a Waffle House en route from Alabama to California (where the world will naturally end).
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#FridayReads: THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD by David Laskin

In solidarity with our buried friends in Buffalo this past week, for my #FridayReads I dug out this book from the middle of my TBR stack: THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD by David Laskin.

The Children's Blizzard by David LaskinI should have hated this book. Because I hate snow. Or, to be more specific, l hate being OUT in snow. I hate driving in snow. I very much dislike walking the dog in snow. I do not enjoy being cold, wet, having my eyelashes stuck together, or discomfort, and as long as I am observing the snow from the wrong side of the window, I do. Not. Like It.

#FridayReads! Top-Notch Historical Fiction: THE SEA CAPTAIN’S WIFE by Beth Powning

I just read the best historical novel, y’all. It’s about a sea captain’s wife, Azuba Galloway, in 1860s Nova Scotia who yearns to accompany her husband on his ship, the Traveller–and the amazing and unfathomable events that befall her and her little daughter, Carrie, when she does. (If you read my last post, you now know that I’m not writing about seafaring–or am I? Maybe I’m using reverse psychology…HAHAHAHAHA.)

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 11.59.37 AMWhat makes this such good historical fiction–what do I look for in historical fiction?

#FridayReads: I’d Tell You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You.

Dear Readers,

I’d love to tell you what I’m reading this week, but then I’d have to kill you. Because it’s for research for my next novel, and if I disclose it, you might figure out what I’m working on. As somebody who like to stay very much behind the curtain until the Big Reveal, I can’t have that, can I?

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Okay, I lied a little bit. If you’ve been in a book club I’ve visited recently or an event I’ve spoken at, you know I’ve taken your temperature in terms of whether you like my current idea. I do like to get a sense of how readers will respond by whether there’s an “Oooh” or “Ahhhh” factor, whether people are nodding when I disclose or whether they’re actively falling asleep.

#FridayReads: 10 More Books That Have Stayed With Me

 

 

Here are ten more books that I have loved reading, that have stayed with me and that inform my writing and thought process every day!

The House of Sand & Fog by Andre Dubus III
Affliction by Russell Banks
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
A Map Of The World by Jane Hamilton
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

What books have stayed with you? What books do you think about every day, and why?

Friday Reads: BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY by Jay McInerney

When you read BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY in college, it seemed to you both deeply personal and the pinnacle of sophistication. You got the novel, first of all, because you’d grown up in New Jersey and spent weekends in New York, initially with your parents getting your braces tightened and going to Broadway plays, then with friends going to clubs like Nell’s and MK. In 1988, you wore petticoats that required you turning sideways to get through doors and smoked Capris because you thought they looked like joints. Your hair on either side of your head was bigger than your face itself, fanned out and crispy with hairspray, and you had a handcuff belt and a collection of asymmetrical earrings.

What the F-ing F Already! Why Writers Use The F-Bomb

Good morning!

Today I received an email from a reader asking why the F-ing F I use the F-Bomb in my novels.

As Tony Soprano would say, “Jesus Christ, what the F already.” No, really. There is a reason I use the F-Bomb, and it’s not just that I’m originally from New Jersey.

Jersey girl

There should be a reason for everything you include in your writing, from theme to punctuation.  Here’s mine:

“Dear Reader,

Friday Reads: AN UNSEEMLY WIFE, by E.B. Moore

Dear Readers,

Every once in a while you come across a book that contains a scene so memorable that it elevates the story from being a good read to great literature. An event so haunting you reread the story for years to come just to read that scene, because you know it’s coming, even as you wince in foreknowledge for the poor characters. A scene that makes you think, “Oh no, she DIDN’T!” at the writer because what she just did to her people was so terrible yet true, because he was brave enough to do it.

I’m thinking of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” for instance, when the Misfit takes the family into the woods.

Friday Reads: THE POSSIBILITIES by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Dear Readers,

Remember George Clooney? (Just wanted to see if you were awake.) Remember a movie George Clooney was in called “The Descendents”? (It was a great movie, as most Alexander Payne movies are; if you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat. You’re welcome.) “The Descendents” was based on a debut novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings.

I read THE DESCENDENTS after I saw the movie and thought it was a terrific novel–about what happens when a Hawaiian native (played in the film by foxy George) discovers while his wife is in a coma that she was cheating on him. What effect does this have on him and his two daughters? What does he do? What happens to all of them? What happens to his comatose wife?