Spring finally came to New England in late April as I continued to march forward with Eliza’s story. Rainy days followed by June beach days gave me plenty of extra time for research and writing and reading. I hope you’ll find a choice from the list below to spark your summer reading pile. The fourteen titles span fiction, non-fiction and biographies read for my NCL Book Club, research for my WIP and pleasure reading of my own choice. The books read for research will give you a hint of which time period I’m in and some of the issues I’m covering. There is one theme, however, I decided to abandon after my research as I felt it would require a curve off of my plot line. Any guesses which one didn’t make the cut?
From left to right and top to bottom. Books are linked to Amazon.
#amreading #bookreview #BookClub #historicalfiction #womenfiction
The Collected Letters of Martha Gellhorn edited by Caroline Moorehead. Read for Research, hardcover – library loan. I stumbled upon Martha Gellhorn while researching a profession for one of my secondary characters. Her biography reveals another woman of history whose story I didn’t know. A prolific journalist, she was married to Ernest Hemingway as one of her many lovers starting in the early 1930s. She traveled extensively throughout the world and wrote for Harper’s, Collier’s and all the major magazines of the era. I admitted I didn’t read the entire book as I needed to focus my research on the 1930s period which aligns with my character development period. I’ll be checking this book out of the library to finish reading it after my WIP is finished and I have more time. RATING ****
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. Read for Book Club, Audible. Another unknown piece of history, this deeply researched non-fiction exposes a series of killings of the members of the Osage tribe in Oklahoma and the start of the FBI which investigated the murders. Although the book was long and at part tedious with multiple names and intertwined stories, our discussion was more interesting as our hostess and book selector has Osage ancestry through her father. RATING **
The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. Read for Book Club, Hardcover – purchased. My only five star rating of the quarter. Apparently many others agree with me. I posted my review to Amazon and several Facebook groups on Historical Fiction which I belong to and the response was the highest I’ve had of any review. Many other book clubs are interested in scheduling a Skype interview with Lisa See. I hope I haven’t spurred an influx of requests to her inbox. Read my full review here: The Island of Sea Women. RATING *****
Margaret Sanger, A Life of Passion by Jean Baker. Read for Research, hardcover – library loan. Another biography of an influential woman whose work began in the 1920s and continues to be relevant after her death as her birth control clinics have evolved into Planned Parenthood. Her name and works needs to be elevated among more women whose choices today started with the passion of Margaret Sanger. RATING ***
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Read for Book Club, paperback – library loan. A contemporary story set in the early 1980s which delves into family relationships and the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. A good reminder of the horrors of AIDS and the secrecy which cloaked the homosexual community in the ’80s. I was reminded of the obituary I read of a classmate who died after contracting AIDS. He was in his late 20’s, a tragedy to loose someone so young. Beyond the social commentary, I found a few of the themes and topics were introduced on a peripheral basis and could have been more developed. In the end, I thought the book was more of a YA coming of age story. RATING **
Bossy Pants by Tina Fey. Read for Pleasure, paperback. One of my finds at the Morristown NJ library book sale for 50 cents. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of reading depressing and gripping research topics like The Great Depression and birth control and book club books about murder and AIDs, you need a detour into the light laughter and self-deprecating humor of Tina Fey. A quick, funny read. RATING ****
City of Flickering Light by Juliettte Fay. Read for Pleasure, hardcover. After my coffee with Juliette, I had to read her latest book, another historical novel based in the 1920s. The three main characters arrive in early Hollywood looking to escape their former lives and find stardom in the silent movie business. Juliette presents each well-developed character as a relatable personality as each one struggles through their past demons and current societal ills, which continue today: drug use, discrimination over sexual orientation, women vying for success in male-dominated industries. I’m looking forward to seeing Juliette at a Cape Cod bookstore in a couple of weeks to see how she runs an author’s event. More info on my coffee with Juliette here: Shine a Spotlight. RATING ****
Go Get ‘Em by William Wellman, forward from Eliot Robinson. Read for Research, paperback. Although William Wellman is listed as the author, there is family folklore that my grandfather, Eliot Robinson Sr. ghost wrote the entire book about a WWI ace pilot whose story is used as propaganda to support the war effort in 1918 as the US increased its involvement. We’ll never know for sure, but considering my grandfather was an author in the late 1910s and 1920s and William Wellman was a WWI ace pilot who went on to Hollywood as a director, I think the story is plausible. There is also the folklore Go Get ‘Em was adapted into Wings, a silent movie directed by Wellman and which won the first Academy Award for Best Picture in 1929. The glory of Amazon, I was able to rent the movie through Amazon Prime and suffered through it in black and white and subtitles one April night. Go Get ‘Em was better written than Man Proposes, the other novel I read by my Grandfather for research. RATING ***
Loom and Spindle, or Life Among the Early Mill Girls by Harriet Robinson (no relation to my knowledge). Read for Research, paperback – library loan. An interesting read about the young girls who worked in the textile mills of Lawrence and Lowell MA. First person accounts are transcribed and edited for easier reading. RATING **
Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell. Read for Research, paperback – library loan. A sad commentary on the family life of a rural Georgia family during the height of the Depression. The depths of despair are moving, albeit falls short of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Tobacco Road was banned from many Southern libraries due to its debasing account of a destitute, white sharecropper family driven by hungers for food and sexual urges. RATING **
Cape May by Chip Creek. Read for Pleasure – an advanced reader copy received through a FB giveaway. How many times can an author repeat himself? In a 256-page book, about 125 times. The premise of the story is promising: a young couple just married in the 1950s head from the South to Cape May NJ for their honeymoon where they meet and interact with a hodge podge of NY socialites during the off season. Have another gin and tonic, get drunk, and sit by the pool, night after night. There are only a couple of nights where any real action occurs over the two week span. As an aspiring novelist, I know how important reviews are for a debut, but I’d rather not give any than post a two-star one. RATING **
Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement by Barbara Berenson. Read for Research, paperback – purchased. An eye-opener to all the work done in MA for women’s rights, although I’m not totally surprised. I was happy to learn MA was one of the earliest states to ratify the 19th Amendment. More information on the 100th anniversary here: Votes for Women. RATING ***
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner. Read for Pleasure, Audible. I discovered Susan Meissner last year when I read As Bright as Heaven set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite historical fiction authors. A Fall of Marigolds presents a dual timeline plot which connects two characters through a silk scarf of marigolds design. The two timelines are separated by 100 years in NYC, September 1911 and 2011. The earlier story follows Clara, a nurse on Ellis Island who previously worked in the building of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. She is haunted by the trauma of the fire there which she escaped, but witnessed the death of so many other women and men, including the man she loved. Taryn, widowed by 9 – 11, is a textile designer who lives in NYC with her daughter. Writing a dual time line is challenging, but Meissner accomplishes the task with a compelling story of relatable women characters. RATING ****
The Buffalo Solider by Chris Bohjalian. Read for Pleasure, paperback – purchased. A local library book sale find for 50 cents. I’ve enjoyed other books by Bohjalian, namely Midwives, one of my Book Club’s first selections and The Sleepwalker, but this one fell flat. I powered through a drawn-out story of a family who fosters an African-American boy in rural Vermont. Too many loose threads were introduced and not tied together made this a plodding read. RATING: **
I am currently finishing Eunice by Eileen McNamara, an in-depth biography of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Queued up on my nightstand are Martha Hall Kelley’s Lost Roses, her prequel to Lilac Girls and In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende for my book club’s ironic July selection. I was fortunate to see both Eileen McNamara and Martha Hall Kelley present at back-to-back events in the Boston area in May. Author appearances are great fun and provide wonderful insights into motivations and back stories of books. I encourage you to look for them in your local area. Let me know if you attend any, I’d love to learn what makes them interesting and engaging as fodder for book marketing research.
Happy Summer Reading! I hope one of the above titles makes it into your beach or pool bag this summer.
Several books listed above are also mentioned in this post with more information: Mid-May Musings
More book recommendations are available on these pages:
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