by Molly Greene
I’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.
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.
I’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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