Great Reads! November, 2015

by Molly Greene

Once upon a timeI’ve been reading like a crazy person lately, and I’ve singled out my favorites of the past quarter and written about each below, all books I peg as good for both avid readers and authors doing research. Keep in mind I am a writing-driven reader, meaning I’ll ignore a less-than-perfect plot if the author has a magic pen. Check these out and let me know what you think.


Wild, by Cheryl Strayed: I saw the movie first – tagged it muddled, but moving – then read the book, and my advice is to go with the written version, then see the movie if you’re still inclined. I am a self-avowed picky read who typically does not like heavy-on-narrative books (I love me some great dialogue), but Strayed’s writing is stellar. A must-read for all memoirists and writers and everybody else, really. If you don’t get inspired by what she pulled off on that monumental hike, nothing will pump you up.

Trad published fiction – very small press

The Deep End by Julie Mulhern was published by Henery Press (and BTW authors, their website looks intriguing). This book is a genre blend, part women’s fiction and part mystery – like mine, which is why I read it: RESEARCH. I do not know the author, but I like the way her mind works and I liked her main character, Ellison Russell, very much. It’s a debut and not perfect – too much narrowing of multiple characters’ eyes and crinkling of the skin around them and raising of eyebrows, all of which her editor should have caught. She strung the plot out a bit too long for my taste, but it didn’t stop me enjoying the book. Light reading, a good story. I bet we’ll be hearing more from Ms. Mulhern.

Trad published

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve was an Oprah’s book club choice long ago, and I finally got around to it. I was shocked to see it only had 3.8 stars on Amazon out of 1160+ reviews, because I loved it. You see how reviewers are? Although there may have been a couple of storyline weaknesses, I say read this one for the deep, wrenching emotion, the tension, the way Shreve’s chapter endings COMPEL you to turn the page and start the next. Love, love, loved it. First time ever I soooooo wanted to be in a book club so I could drink wine and talk to others about this deeply moving story. As soon as I finished it, I cried – great ending, by the way – and then wanted to start at chapter one and read it through again … but I will save that pleasure for a rainy day this winter. The Pilot’s Wife was a ten for me.

O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton. I’ll start by saying that Ms. Grafton drives me nutty with her over-descriptive narratives. It often takes protagonist Kinsey Millhone three pages to get through the grocery store, noting every item she puts in the cart. (Arggghh!). But then she’ll make some perfect snide remark – in internal dialogue – about getting likkered up, or she’ll sit by her philandering ex-husband’s bedside and hold his hand while he takes his last breath, and I remember why I read every word of her books.

Favorite new author

I happened to pick up a copy of Harry Dolan’s latest title in the library. The Last Dead Girl is actually (kinda sorta) a pre-quel to his other two, and I’m glad I read it first. The book almost had me swooning right from page one – great tension and pacing, a great opening scene, and I was intrigued with the main character. (Spoiler alert: A little strong on the violence-against-women theme.) I thought I’d have to buy it just to study how he’d set up the plot. Then, three-quarters of the way through, he introduced a new element that was so implausible to me I almost stopped reading. I finished, begrudgingly, because his writing is just so good, then went on to read Bad Things Happen and Very Bad Men. If you’re a fan of a good mystery without graphic sex and blood and low on the foul language meter, you’ll like Dolan.

Fairytale_7-29-BIG-Title_OpI’ll close with the news that I just put The Last Fairytale, Book 2 in my Gen Delacourt Mystery Series, through a big revision. Plot is the same, but the flow of the story has improved. I’m finding that as my craft gets better, I want to bring my previously published books along on the ride.

Now, what are YOU reading?

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28 Responses to Great Reads! November, 2015

  1. Sue Coletta November 2, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    I’m reading Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell. It’s good, has a great plot, BUT that bestselling author (x a million) can stretch out a sentence like nobody’s business. I swear one sentence had seventy words or so. I find it exhausting! Still, it has a great storyline, so I’ll finish it. My husband loves her, but even he grew tired of the never-ending sentences.

    • Molly Greene November 2, 2015 at 2:24 pm #

      Ha! You see? That’s when I give up. If I have to re-read a sentence five times to figure out exactly what the author is trying to tell me, I’ll put the book aside and pick up another. You’re more forgiving than I am!!

  2. Joann Lombardi November 2, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    I just finished reading “A Common Struggle” by Patrick J. Kennedy and Stephen Fried. Mr. Kennedy is the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy is a former U.S. Congressman from the State of Rhode Island. The book chronicles Congressman Kennedy’s struggles with drug and alcohol abuse and bipolar disorder. I was surprised at the apparent lack of detailed proofreading and editing. There are many run on sentences that are distracting and confusing. The book doesn’t flow smoothly. Mr. Kennedy jumps from one topic to the next. As I was reading it I thought that it would be better if this were two separate books; one focusing on Mr. Kennedy’s addictions and one focusing on the governmental issues of healthcare and coverage for mental illnesses. Both are covered in one book and it is not the most interesting book to read because of this.

    • Molly Greene November 2, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

      You’re a much more patient and forgiving reader than I am, Joann, although Patrick Kennedy’s life must be interesting. Thanks so much for the suggestion!

  3. Kim Wenzler November 2, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    Hi Molly,

    I loved Wild too and I agree, it was much better than the movie (as most books are). I just finished Circling the Sun by Paula McClain. Did you read The Paris Wife? I loved that one too. McClain is such a good writer. I just checked out Henery Press and will pick some of those books too. Thanks!!
    Finally, I downloaded your book and really look forward to reading it. 🙂
    As always, great post!

    • Molly Greene November 2, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

      Hi Kim, thanks, I just requested both of McClain’s books from my local library and look forward to reading them. And thanks for the download – hope you enjoy it!

  4. Pamela Beason November 2, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    I am always reading, and gosh, I find so many good books out there. I recently read The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony (nonfiction) and I’ve discovered Elizabeth Flock’s books, especially Emma & Me and What Happened to My Sister–wonderful voice! I do read a LOT of indie-pubbed books but I have to say that I would recommend very few of them. Most newbie writers really need to work on characterization–readers have to want to spend time with the protagonist!

    • Molly Greene November 2, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

      I just requested The Elephant Whisperer … Thank you! … and as far as indie books go, Pam, yours are standouts as far as grabbing the reader right away. Mwah!

  5. Belinda Pollard November 2, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    I bought The Pilot’s Wife at Heathrow airport years ago and read it on the plane back to Australia. I would be a failure as a book-club buddy though, Molly, because I can’t remember it just now, although I’m pretty sure there was a woman married to a man who flew planes! Haha. (did the plane crash? And then she found out what he was like? Was that it?) I’m hopeless sometimes at remembering books. Perhaps I’d better dig it out and read it again so you wont’ be too disappointed in me… 😉

    I am in meltdown trying to get my own book to the editor by Monday, so reading is on the backburner, but the one on my Kindle just now is a historical romance novella called A Pirate for Christmas by Anna Campbell. Not my usual fare as I’m more of a mystery girl, but I sat next to the author at a panel discussion at GenreCon on Saturday, and she was good fun, and it was on special for 99c, so I thought, “What the heck!” Enjoying it so far in the little snippets of reading before I lose consciousness at night, a lighthearted read. She’s a trad published romance novelist but indie for her novellas.

    • Molly Greene November 2, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

      No worries, Belinda, I’m the same way about remembering plots, and if you read The Pilot’s Wife’s reviews, you’ll see that so many other readers panned the book as predictable and/or “how did she not know??” but it grabbed me emotionally and that was what I loved. Let us know what you think about the novella, and huge good luck with you mss.

      • Belinda Pollard November 2, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

        Meh. Wives often don’t know. And if the writing carries me along, I don’t care about any of that anyway. I generally open a book hoping to be entertained and/or engrossed, rather than looking for things to criticise. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think I did, too, from memory. 😉

        • Molly Greene November 2, 2015 at 4:05 pm #

          EXACTLY. I agree on all counts.

          • Belinda Pollard November 30, 2015 at 4:04 am #

            An update: I’ve now finished A Pirate for Christmas and I probably should report that it has a much higher “heat” level than my usual fare. My eyebrows will take a while to grow back. 😉

          • Molly Greene November 30, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

            Ha ha – and the title didn’t tip you off? 🙂

  6. Laura Zera November 2, 2015 at 6:03 pm #

    The Pilot’s Wife has been on my TBR list for years, but your review has made me want to bump it up to the top. I love books that make me cry. I’m just finishing some non-fiction — Vivian Gornick, Pema Chodron — and am looking forward to diving into a good piece of fiction soon!

    • Molly Greene November 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

      Oh, Laura, I hope you like it as much as I do. That’s the glitchy thing about fiction, it’s so individual. I often think that a book comes into your life right at the right time, and that’s often why it doesn’t affect other readers the same way. Mwah! Love you.

  7. Virginia King November 2, 2015 at 7:05 pm #

    Thanks for your reviews. Really enjoy the energy you bring to your reading. Have just finished Mark of the Loon so am thrilled to download a free copy of The Last Fairy Tale. Thank you.

    I’ve just read a book which I really adored. The Quiet Woman by Terence Faherty. Can’t recommend it highly enough. The writing is gorgeous and the mystery got me in — poignant with unexpected twists, even a ghost. Deeply embedded in its Irish location and subtley moving on the emotional side. I didn’t want it to end.

    • Molly Greene November 3, 2015 at 6:52 am #

      Thanks, Virginia! Outstanding recommendation – I’ve put it on my TBR list, and thanks so much for your support!

      • Virginia King November 3, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

        Thanks Molly, I forgot to mention The Quiet Woman is an Amerian/Irish book and I read it the same week as Mark of the Loon with its unexpected Irish connections. The Quiet Woman refers a lot to the old film The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, and I woke after finishing it to hear that Maureen O’Hara had died. Spooky! My next book (wrote the first sentence yesterday) is set in Ireland. I seem to be heading in the right direction 🙂 Here’s my review of The Quiet Woman if any of your readers are interested:

  8. joybelle2012 November 2, 2015 at 11:46 pm #

    Thanks Molly. I have read The Pilot’s Wife and it was a moving story. I didn’t know it had been made into a movie, but perhaps instead of trying to see it I;ll just read the book again

    • Molly Greene November 3, 2015 at 6:54 am #

      Hi Joybelle, I didn’t see the movie, either, but as Kim said above, movies are seldom as good – with a few exceptions. I think The Pilot’s Wife is worth another read!

  9. Aya Walksfar November 3, 2015 at 4:34 am #

    Glad I read your post as I picked up on a couple of recommended books. I read constantly. Mostly mystery, paranormal, romance, Native American fiction, some nonfiction, and things that grab my attention. In other words, I’d read a cereal box if I had nothing else. I don’t read religion–though I do read books that have spirituality as part of the plot–and I don’t like erotic though I don’t mind explicit sex/violence scenes if they are necessary for the plot.
    Oh, dear…what have I read recently…
    I guess the one that stands out the most right now is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The basic plot is interesting but I felt the book could have been about 300 pages shorter. Too many detailed descriptions that are often repeated later on and things are said again and again like the reader might be too slow to understand the first 100 times. Rather lovely writing in the descriptions. I still am not certain why it won the Pulitzer Prize.
    Recently, I read a Kay Hooper, part of the Bishop series. Paranormal FBI unit.
    Currently, I am getting ready to read Kelley Armstrong The Unquiet Past.
    I loved the Hunger Games series. Patricia Briggs series that stars the werecoyote is great. Guilty Wives by James Patterson will grab you. I love Ruby Standing Deer’s series about ancient Native Americans. They are YA books, no sex and no graphic violence; very spiritual.
    One of the most disturbing books I have recently read is by kristen Houghton, For I have Sinned, a Cate Harlow Private Investigation. This book, like my own Street Harvest, deals with the abuse of kids. The subject is always disturbing but as far as I am concerned this is a Must-Read.
    That is not even the tip of the iceberg of books I read. But thanks for letting me share these. Have a great week!

    • Molly Greene November 3, 2015 at 7:00 am #

      Wow, Aya, thanks so much for all these titles! I tried to read The Goldfinch when everyone was talking about it, but I couldn’t slog through. I’ve heard many people say similar things about it, though, that it was hundreds of pages longer than it needed to be and repetitive. Sounds like the embedded message was worth the time for those who have the patience to find it. 😉

    • Virginia King November 3, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      Wow Aya, I love your list to add to my TBRs. Thanks. I adore mysteries with a mythical/paranormal twist. I’d highly recommend Amber Foxx’s psychic mysteries to you. The first book is The Calling. Gorgeous writing that blends popular fiction with literary fiction. She weaves native American mythology into grounded modern mysteries. Two of her books have won BRAG Medallions.

      • Molly Greene November 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

        Virginia, thanks so much for all this info – I reserved Flaherty’s first book at the library, they don’t have Quiet Woman yet. Best to you with your next book!

        • Virginia King November 3, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

          Thanks. I’m now a Flaherty fan. He’s got a couple of crime/mystery series I’m about to dip into 🙂

  10. Dannie November 3, 2015 at 4:49 am #

    I’m reading The Game Of Thrones series. After finally watching four seasons on Amazon I decided to give the books a try. I think it helped to watch it first so I could keep up with all the characters. It’s a very good read.

    • Molly Greene November 3, 2015 at 7:02 am #

      Hi Dannie, what a great idea! I don’t have cable or Netflix, so I miss a lot of good TV – I’ll look for the books. THANKS!