What to read this month

TRACEE: Hi everyone! Thanksgiving week brought lots of ‘hey, read this’ recommendations from friends and family. One of the recommendations came with an actual copy of the book, which I promptly read. Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me. I read it in one sitting, fighting sleep to finish it way after my bedtime. In a nutshell, the main character’s husband disappears, forcing her to reevaluate her marriage and her life. It is a book about trust and family and was so well written. If my sisters hadn’t given me the book, I would have bought one for them to read! 

The other recommendation I received was Elin Hilderbrand’s latest book, Golden Girl, which I then purchased. I’ve started it, and love the story so far. An author dies just as her breakout book launches and we see her life before and after death from her perspective as she is given the heavenly gift of being able to watch what unfolds. I don’t have to worry about an accidental spoiler since I’ve only just begun, but it is engrossing and makes me wonder how I’ve missed Elin Hilderbrand’s books. As a bonus, it is set in Nantucket where I spent several summers in college. (Break into song here . . . Memories…..) Hilderbrand is best known for her romances, but this story veers into mystery range, further enticing me with a central character who is an author now worried about the impact her latest book will have since it it based on events in her own life. I suspect it would make us, as authors, think very carefully before including any scandalous bits of our pasts in our books!

What books are you reading that you would recommend right now? And how do you keep track of recommendations? Art Taylor pointed out a great book the other day and I have already forgotten what it was . . . and will likely have to scroll through a gazillion Facebook posts to hopefully spot it. I should have screen shotted, I do take photographs in book stores of books to buy later, and periodically go back through and find that I have indeed purchased most of them!

EMILYA: Ooh! I just finished The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi. So good! I listened to most of it on audio and the narrator is just fantastic. One of the glorious days last week, I went for a seven-mile hike along the Hudson and listened to it. Perfect. 

ALEXIA: I’m mostly reading books for my podcast, as well as manuscripts for PitchWars and some blurbs I was asked to do, so I haven’t been doing much reading just for me. I did start The Westing Game, the classic middle-grade mystery. I’ve always heard good things about it and somehow never read it. I read The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues, also by Ellen Raskin, as a kid and still count it among my favorite books of all time. The Westing Game, so far, is good, but it’s not The Tattooed Potato.

I’m also reading A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries, part of the British Library Classics series, edited by Martin Edwards. It’s an anthology of classic murder mysteries set during, guess when? Christmas. Something about the dichotomy of murder and festiveness combined into a single narrative appeals to my cynical nature and I love classic crime.

I don’t have a great system for keeping track of TBR books. I buy way more than I can ever read and I keep track of those by staring at the literal piles stacked on every available surface. I use Goodreads sometimes, more to keep track of what I finished reading than of what I want to read. I used to keep a notebook with a list of books I read (because I once read of some long-dead historical figure who kept journals documenting what he read. Jefferson? Washington? Both?) but my smartphone and the Goodreads app made keeping track easier.

CONNIE: Thank you, Alexia—I just ordered A Surprise for Christmas. Irresistible!

KEENAN: Love The Last Thing He Told Me

The last book I finished was Catriona McPherson’s A Gingerbread House. I’d ordered the UK version so got it before the US release. Loved it. Catriona has such a seductive way of building a slow-burn psych thriller. Shy, lonely Ivy meets a woman who claims to be her long-lost sister. She accepts an invitation to Kate’s fairytale cottage and never comes out again. Meanwhile Tash Dodd discovers her parents’ trucking business has been used to smuggle illegal immigrants that have been promised work but are forced into slave labor instead, if they outlive the journey. 

I’m currently reading a Netgalley of Claire Allan’s The Nurse. Nell Sweeney, a bright young woman who has always worked hard, disappears after her shift at the hospital. The narrative bounces between her distraught mother and a creepy guy. The author’s writing is so precise, the characters feel like someone you met and they’re in the room with you telling you their story. So far, its harrowing.

CONNIE: Good timing, Tracee, as my post this week listed five books I plan to read over the Christmas holidays. I wish I had a great way of keeping track of books people have recommended. Maybe that will be my New Year’s resolution. 

Two books I’ve recently loved are A Line to Kill, the third in Anthony Horowitz’s outstanding Hawthorne series, and The Man Who Died Twice, the second in Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series.

In A Line to Kill, ex-detective Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, author Anthony Horowitz, are invited to a literary festival on the tiny island of Alderney. Horowitz has been hired to write Hawthorne’s professional memoirs and (of course) a murder occurs. Horowitz casting himself as the dim Watson to Hawthorne’s Sherlock is an intriguing device, but the real pleasure lies in Horowitz’s skill as a storyteller. 

The Man Who Died Twice pits the elderly members of the Thursday Murder Club against drug boss Connie Johnson. The plot was a little too complicated, and the book went on a little too long. But I really didn’t mind because living in the world of Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim, pensioners who form the Thursday Murder Club, and their sidekicks, DCI Chris Hudson and PC Donna De Freitas, is just plain fun. In this book it’s the characters, not the plot, that carry the story.

MICHELE:  I’m reading a colleague’s draft of her second novel in a series and enjoying it immensely. I love getting to read books before they are released. I think it makes me feel like I’m in on a little secret. And since reading Tracee’s question and some of your answers, I’ve cracked open The Last Thing He Told Me, which has been sitting on the top of the TBR file. It took no time for me to be hooked.

Finally, I’m reading Nobody’s Daughter by C. Michele Dorsey and hoping that it will soon have a book birthday. Although I am reading it for probably the 100th time, I’m having that weird experience that happens when you go back and read your own work. I keep asking, “Did I really write this?” Does that happen to anyone else? Happy Reading.

SUSAN: Hello all. The last book I finished was Claire Tomalin’s biography of Charles Dickens. I loved it. I’ve read several biographies of Dickens and I’ve enjoyed them, but this one I especially liked. She got in a lot of information in an enjoyable way and she seemed to be able to view him with all his complications and flaws and still make me care for him. The last recommendation I got was to read The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans, and I enjoyed it, but definitely next on my list is The Last Thing He Told Me. I’ve had many people tell me to read that. Michele, I just had that experience of reading something I wrote and being surprised. It was a short story being published in an anthology and I was reading the galleys and it just seemed so different than anything I’d written and I thought, if I didn’t know I’d written this, I wouldn’t believe it. Fortunately I still like it. 

TRACEE: I’ve been taking notes and have a few book to add to my TBR pile, now let’s hope there is extra time to read over the month. 

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