Friday Reads: STARTER HOUSE, by Sonja Condit

Dear Readers,

This week’s #FridayReads: another gripping debut novel! STARTER HOUSE, by Sonja Condit.

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I found this novel in an airport bookstore–Barbara’s Books in O’Hare, to be exact. THIS is precisely why we must continue to support our real bookstores–because it helps us discover books and authors we love! I hadn’t heard of STARTER HOUSE before finding it while browsing, but here’s how it worked:

1. The cover pulled me in. (Yes, we do judge books by their covers!) And I loved the title, which reminded me of “House Hunters” on HGTV, to which I am addicted.

Friday Reads: ALL FALL DOWN, by Jennifer Weiner

Dear Readers,

Five-star #FridayReads this week: ALL FALL DOWN, by Jennifer Weiner.

ALL FALL DOWN by Jennifer Weiner

I always buy super-bestseller Jennifer Weiner’s novels as soon as they come out because their heroines are smart, funny, warm and realistic–no surprise when you consider that two of Ms. Weiner’s literary idols are Nora Ephron and Susan Isaacs, queens of the narrators-who-sound-like-they’re-dishing-with-you-in-your-kitchen-over-coffee-&-danish realm.

But I especially loved and recommend ALL FALL DOWN because in her latest novel, Ms. Weiner marries her accesible kaffee-klatsch style with a serious topic: addiction. So for me, ALL FALL DOWN has unusual focus and gravitas, catapulting it onto my Most Meaningful Novels list. I know I’ll read this one again and again.

Friday Reads: THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS, by Christina HenríQuez

Dear Readers,

This week’s #FridayReads is yet another superb novel: THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS by Christina HenríQuez.

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Set in an apartment complex in Delaware, THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS reads like a novel-in-stories, introducing us to one emigrant after another from different countries in Latin America and subtly, smartly weaving their stories together. Henríquez’s writing is so clear and eloquent that she makes each first-person narrator feel both easy and real–a huge task to pull off–and I was so won over by the freshness of every new voice and his/ her experience in the U.S. that I felt ashamed for a little while I wasn’t myself an emigrant to this country. Then I remembered: my ancestors must have felt like this once, just speaking in different languages from HenríQuez’s characters. THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS is more than an excellent, engaging read (which in itself is rare)–it reminds us that we are or were all, once, unknown Americans, and it holds a mirror up to us to remind us of our responsibilities and privileges in this country.

Friday Reads: 10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

Dear Readers,

There’s a Facebook conversation making the rounds asking readers & writers to name 10 books that have stayed with them. Part of me cries, “Only 10?” while another part of me immediately blanks out, like when I used to go to the video store and stand in front of the racks trying to remember the must-see movie list I’d made before I’d left the house.

However, part of the 10 Books Round Robin is to list those books without getting too thinky about it, so here, off the top of my head, are mine:

HAPPY BOOKBIRTHDAY! to Pam Jenoff’s WW2 novel THE WINTER GUEST

Dear Readers,

Please join me in wishing HAPPY BOOKBIRTHDAY! to historical novelist Pam Jenoff’s THE WINTER GUEST. I had a sneak preview of Pam’s newest novel, about twin sisters in wartime Poland who take very different approaches to the Nazi occupation of their country, and found it authentic, atmospheric, and riveting–a must-read for any aficionado of WW2-era fiction. I hope you feel the same!

Pam Jenoff's THE WINTER GUEST

To purchase THE WINTER GUEST, please click here.

Happy reading!

~ Jenna.

Friday Reads: PIONEER GIRL, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Dear Readers,

Today’s Friday Reads is a preview: of PIONEER GIRL, the annotated autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder that her famous children’s book series was based on. PIONEER GIRL, which will be published by the South Dakota State Historical Society in September 2014, shows the grittier side of the LITTLE HOUSE books that Laura’s original publishers deemed too dark to tell–or, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune put it, “This ain’t your mama’s LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE.”

PIONEER GIRL, by LAW

So You’ve Been Told, “You Should Write A Book!” What Now?

Dear Readers,

Have you ever been told, “You should write a book!”? Thought about accepting this challenge?

This morning I received an inquiry from a gentleman who has–& is finding it not so easy. He wrote:

I’ve been told by a number of people that I should write a book about my life experiences. I can write but have found there’s a huge difference in being able to write and being a writer! (Jenna’s comment: True, dat.) I have so many life experiences that I have a hard time putting them together so they “flow”. I know others who’ve had authors tell their story. I’ve written a synopsis but am overwhelmed with more. I need help! Thank you for any guidance you may have :-)

Friday Reads: THE WIVES OF LOS ALAMOS, by TaraShea Nesbit

Dear Readers,

Today’s #FridayReads brings me back to the stunning debut novel! This week’s is THE WIVES OF LOS ALAMOS, by TaraShea Nesbit.

I had the privilege of participating in a round table writing discussion last week with novelists Rebecca Rotert (more about her soon!) and TaraShea, and I was enthralled by TaraShea’s description of her novel, which went something like this:

Friday Reads: THE ARSONIST by Sue Miller

Dear Readers,

This Friday I’m switching from reading debut novels to reading the latest novel of an author whose work I’ve loved for decades: Sue Miller. Her most recent book: THE ARSONIST.

What I love about Sue Miller’s novels is the clarity and dispassion of her writing. She describes people, their actions, and their emotions with a kind of precision and detachment that sometimes makes me think of somebody landing here from another planet and reporting on our human condition. That clear-eyed reportage helps cast light back on ourselves–Richard Ford and Andre Dubus III do this, too.

Friday Reads: LIFE DRAWING by Robin Black

Dear Readers,

Today’s #FridayReads: novel LIFE DRAWING by Robin Black–a book so good I’m wishing for the first time in my life that I were a slower reader because I’d be able to savor it longer.

Robin Black's LIFE DRAWING

I am not surprised that I love LIFE DRAWING so much; in 2011 I read Robin’s collection of short stories, IF I LOVED YOU, I WOULD TELL YOU THIS, & I was so inspired by her absolutely beautiful writing that she made me want to write again.

That’s about my highest compliment.