Titles link to reviews
Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. Not as good as Rebecca, but I did enjoy it. I knew the surprise twist quite early, and of course because of the time in which this book is written, despite Mary Yellan being a very brave, tough woman, at the end of the day she is saved by a man, and gives up her dream to follow his.
The Universe vs. Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. I have had this book on my to read pile for several years. I really enjoyed the first few chapters, and I was really touched by the ending (I confess I even cried a bit). But, I do think the middle plodded a bit. There is A LOT of detail that didn’t, in my opinion, serve the overall narrative. I found myself skimming through many paragraphs to get back to the story. But the characters were very alive and I’m sure will remain vivid for a long time to come.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. (light spoilers ahead) I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps because I read it in one day I was really immersed in the world, and was even very frightened at times. On the surface it’s about magic, monsters and old souls, but underneath is a tale of going from the innocence of childhood into the awareness of the far less innocent larger world. As the world around our seven-year-old protagonist shifts (a loved pet dies, he sees a dead man, the family has financial trouble, his mother is less available to him, his father is unfaithful to his mother), like most children, he believes he is responsible for the changes, that he brought the badness to his world. As an adult he has only rare moments of memory for the monsters he faced, which I think is true for many of us. We all sprang from innocence into awareness, we were let down by people, circumstances and ourselves, but most of those moments are gone for us too. The oceans of our childhood have receded into ponds, but the echoes of those ocean waves live within us and have shaped who we are.
The Witches Of New York by Ami McKay (Canadian) I enjoyed this book as I enjoyed both of McKay’s other novels, (The Birth House, The Virgin Cure). She is gifted at writing rich stories about magical women. This book also comes with a wonderful afterword by the author that I suggest you read before reading the story. Not only will it add dimension to your pleasure in the novel, it may make you wish to explore your own powers in the wake of #Metoo and #Timesup.
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Great story, beautiful insight into life, love and the passing of time. It made me cry and it made me happy. I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this book. Apparently it’s being made into a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
Slade House by David Mitchell. Creepy and fun. I love Mitchell’s writing. My only dislike was the level of explanatory conversations, that sometimes seemed a bit contrived. But I still really enjoyed this book.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I found I didn’t want to put this book down, even though it could hardly be called a page turner. It was like sitting with a wonderful storyteller and I was entranced. The main character is an everyman coming to terms with his past (who he was compared to who he thought he was) and with the fact that we often fill in the gaps in stories through our own lens on life and we may be very wrong. This has been made into a movie, but apparently is quite different than the novel.
What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan. This book was boring. Very cliche. Told in two viewpoints, should have had a third, the person who did the abduction. It’s people who are capable of this that are “interesting.” The mother’s reaction is normal, the cop reaction is too over the top. The red herring side story was silly. It was easy to guess who did it (the person who showed a sign through her hostility to the mother, but wasn’t on the cops radar) we’ve all read enough of these books to know the obvious looking person didn’t do it and the mysterious possible person (silly side story about the sister) didn’t do it. It will always be a twist that was planted, but not seen. Which it was, but the author backs away from exploring that character with just comments that she was infertile, and a known liar. And adds that she has stayed silent, so they may never know what made her do it. Well, we as readers certainly will never know, and that’s a big cheat.
Writing and Story
Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight. A good overview of the craft of writing a short story. I can see myself referring back to this resource when writing.
Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. A practical book full of examples of people, past and present, making a living with art. The chapter that spoke most to me was the one about not working for free. That was always a hurdle for me, it took me getting older to start valuing my skills.
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. A little gem. A must for creatives. Pink Title links to his TED talk.
Theft by Finding by David Sedaris. LOVED this book. It’s a collection of his journal entries from 1997 to 2002. It’s funny and a great look into what Sedaris notices, and his journey as an author. I kept looking at the entry dates and remembering what would have been going on in my life a the time. I can’t wait for him to publish a second volume.
The Destiny Thief by Richard Russo. It was OK. Some essays were better than others.
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero She says a lot of things I’ve heard before, but has a good take on them. But I really have to break my addiction to advice. It feeds my interest in thinking, even changes my thinking at times, but doesn’t always have lasting impact on my actions.
The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles. This was an audiobook. I kept drifting off. It was an odd book. Not really sure what I think of the advice. But it did make me realize audiobooks aren’t my thing.
The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.I really do have to stop indulging in these books because the advice is so often the same at the core. This book explains a bit about why women tend to question themselves and not be as confident as they would like to be. Even women who appear on the surface to have it all together often suffer from underconfidence. Some of it is a genetic lottery, but we can all grow our confidence, no matter how much or how little it comes naturally. How? Plain and simple; by taking action, possibly failing (the faster the better), but always learning and gaining in confidence with every action. So ultimately, if I’m not confident at something, I have to overcome that feeling and be willing to fail, and then I will grow confident. I think I already knew that. Reading these books is my fake attempt at action. I know that, but I really love reading them.
Finish by Jon Acuff. This is THE book. I read and read these self development books. I’ve been reading them for decades. I have realized that they all say pretty much the same things. But I keep reading them. And then this book. This book is a game changer. It addresses something that the others didn’t or at least not as exclusively and as thoroughly. I’m sure there has been stuff about finishing in most of what I have read before. But I never really absorbed that, because I thought my problem had to do with starting, or committing; that I had to overcome those things before I had to worry about finishing. Nope. I don’t start as a way to avoid finishing. I think another reason this book is so effective it that he is so very funny. Good advice (amazing advice!) delivered when you’re happy and laughing (not white knuckling the edges of the book willing yourself to change), just gets in your head in a different way. If you find yourself drawn to self development books, if you are trying to figure out why you know what you want but constantly get in your own way, start with this book. It may save you a lot of time and money with all the others in the genre.