If you’ve been following my blog for a while you must know by now how much I cherish my book club. We started out as a special interest social club connected to a women’s philanthropic group in our MA town over 20 years ago. A core few of us have been members from the beginning. Others have come and gone and now many of us no longer live in the town, but we manage to stay involved and attend the monthly get-togethers the best we can.
Are you in a book club? What were your group’s top picks? What were you own personal favorites? What are you looking forward to reading in 2020? I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below. More book club tips available HERE.
#amreading #bookreview #BookClub #historicalfiction #womenfiction
Here are our TOP FIVE choices for 2019
- The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. Hands down, the #1 favorite. We had also read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Being able to schedule a Skype call with Lisa for our meeting was exciting. We had questions prepared to speak directly to this gifted author who brings her stories and characters to life with empathy and incredible research. Full review here: The Island of Sea Women. Available on Amazon, click HERE.
- News of the World by Paulette Jiles. A gentle story of a man and a young girl traversing the Republic of Texas in the late 1800s. Jiles created a seamless story of friendship combined with examining the politics of the wild west before Texas statehood. Quick read – only 220 pages. Movie version in production, starring Tom Hanks. Available on Amazon, Kindle Year-End Deal at $2.99 – click HERE.
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor is not completely fine, even though she tells us repeatedly she is, which of course is the irony of the book. She is a deeply damaged soul and a loner who makes you laugh without her having any intention of wanting to make you laugh. The Mommy Dearest character is pure evil. I recommend the Audible version if for no other reason than to hear the shift in the character voices. Available on Amazon, click HERE.
- Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts. Another top pick for not only the content of the book but also the extraordinary meeting we had, complete with full costumes and themed food and drink and decorations. An adept use of a dual timeline approach, Finding Dorothy presents the backstory of Frank and Maud Baum in the late 1800s/early 1900s so we can understand the inspiration for his Wizard of Oz books and Maud’s desire to protect the heart and meaning of the Dorothy character as the movie version is filmed in 1938/1939. Full review, and fun photos from our meeting here: Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Available on Amazon, click HERE.
- Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I agreed with the group consensus on the four titles above, but this one didn’t make my personal top five list. A contemporary story set in the 1980s, it delves into family relationships and the ravages of the AIDS epidemic of the times. I thought it was more of a YA novel. Check it out yourself and form your own opinion. Available on Amazon, click HERE.
The six other titles we read are listed below. Click on the title for a link to Amazon for other reviews and to purchase.
- The Paris Orphan by Natasha Lester. This would have been my choice to round out the top five. Also a dual timeline and yes, another WWII novel, but I enjoyed the main characters who were woman journalists and photographer.
- Pachinko by Min Jee Lee. Also a novel set in Korea close to the same time period as Island of Sea Women.
- Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. Interesting, but long, expose on the calculated killings of members of the Osage tribe for their oil drilling rights.
- In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende. A close runner up for me to make the top five. Allende always finds a way to introduce North American readers to the culture and history of her native South America, namely Chile. I’m currently reading one of her earlier releases, The House of the Spirits, which I received as a part of an online book club Secret Santa exchange. Really enjoying it.
- Christmas Jars by Jason Wright. We always choose a light Hallmark Channel styled quick read for December. Bonus – our hostess gave us all a jar for us to collect our own version of items of value. Stay tuned for information on how I intend to use my jar.
- Eliza’s Story (working title) by Janis Robinson Daly. Not published, yet. Am I upset Eliza’s Story didn’t make the top 5? Of course not! I shared the first draft of my historical novel for our August read. Not receiving a top rating means I have more work to do. With valuable, constructive feedback from everyone, I can continue to polish my manuscript with hopes in a few years Eliza’s Story will be worthy of a top 5 pick. See also: Title TBD
Hey Janis – did you fail math? That’s only eleven books above; there are 12 months in a year. Well, I didn’t fail math, but came close in a few courses! For November, we took the month off and gathered instead for a movie night to watch the adaption of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt which we had read years ago. I missed this meeting, but recall the book discussion was a lively one.
Other Q4 2019 Reads – Janis
In addition to reading for my book club, I continued to pick up and enjoy a few other titles over the last few months of 2019:
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. A moving memoir of a young neurosurgeon diagnosed with lung cancer. Recommended to me as a resource book for my writing about doctors.
- Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Reid Jenkins. An entertaining diversion from my normal historical fiction preferences. I look forward to guest blogging about this title as part of my Facebook book club, Women, Wine & Wit. How fun is that group name? When I saw it on Facebook, I had to join and am now in contact with a great group of women from the across the US, the UK and other parts of the world! Full review available here: Turn Up the Volume
- Blessed by Heather Hood. Another book sourced through one of my Facebook groups, this one a writers’ support group. So excited to see one of our members achieved publication this year. Congrats Kim!
- Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. Yes, that John Grisham! A true testament to an author’s talent is being able to cross genres and continue to engage a reader. Who knew the master of legal thrillers could offer up a humorous tale which was transformed into the movie, Christmas with the Kranks?
- The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Research for my novel led to the discovery of Gibran and his beautiful collection of thoughts on life and trials of one’s soul. I fell in love with his words and the thought-provoking meanings to such an extent I have included one of the passages as a preface to my Epilogue. Apparently there was a resurgence of interest in the collection in the late ’60s/early ’70s. When I posted in a few Facebook groups about my ignorance of the 1923 publication, I was flooded with notes as to how many passages were read at weddings, it has sat on my bedside table for nightly reflection for years, etc. etc.
- The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. I’m thrilled my group has selected this one as our March read. I listened to it on Audible with Tom Hanks narrating – perfection. Looking forward to an expanded discussion with the group.
The rest of my reads and reviews from 2019 can be found below. In total, I read / listened to 41 books for the year. Not as high as other years, but I’m not counting the hours I spent writing, research and editing the other 50,000-ish words of Eliza’s story, including the craziness of the month of November, #NaNoWriMo – #NaNoWriMo – It’s a Thing.
And, my all time Top 10 based on a Facebook challenge which circulated this year: Ten Books, Ten Days
Throughout the year I post individual book reviews as well as quarterly round-ups.
I invite you to follow my blog for those in-depth reviews and to follow my journey toward writing my first historical fiction. More information in my Novel Synopsis. You can sign up from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I can email you an invitation to follow. I’m on social media, too:
- On Facebook @ Janis Robinson Daly – Author — Follow me on Facebook where I also post info on the Amazon Deals I find on books I recommend
- On Instagram @janisrdaly_writer
- On Twitter @janisrdaly_writer
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.
Are you an avid Kindle reader? You may want to check into a Kindle Unlimited membership – totally worth it! Click HERE for more info and a free month trial.