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Bookshelf

As you may have gathered from earlier posts, I love reading and books are a central part of my house and my family’s life. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions as I’m always looking for a good book. Happy Reading!

I also work with authors and publishers to review books on this blog. Check out the Book Reviews / Author Interview page, and contact me if you’re interested in having me read and feature you and your book on my blog.

Recent Reads

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

Visible City, Tova Mirvis

Pack Up the Moon, Rachael Herron

A Fall of Marigolds, Susan Meissner

Etched On Me, Jenn Crowell

Writing is My Drink, Theo Pauline Nester

Whistling In the Dark, Lesley Kagen

American Wife, Curtis, Sittenfeld

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, Jessica Soffer

Just What Kind of Mother Are You?, Paula Daly

Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time, Carissa Phelps

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table, Molly Wizenberg

Early Decision, Lacy Crawford

Labor Day, Joyce Maynard

The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey

And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini

Lies My Mother Never Told Me, Kaylie Jones

The Sisters, Nancy Jensen

Bed and Breakfast, Lois Battle

The Outcast, Jolina Petersheim

The Tao of Martha, Jen Lancaster

Call Me Zelda, Erika Robuck

How I Created a Dollar Out of Thin Air, Ann marie Houghtailing

The Secrets They Kept: The True Story of a Mercy Killing that Shocked a Town and Shamed a Family, Suzanne Handler

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story, Luisa Weiss

Heart Like Mine, Amy Hatvany

The Affair, Colette Freedman

Calling Me Home, Julie Kibler

Whatever is Contained Must Be Released: My Jewish Orthodox Girlhood, My Life as a Feminist Artist, Helène Aylon

The Good Daughter, Jasmin Darznik

The Comfort of Lies, Randy Susan Meyers

Hemmingway’s Girl, Erika Robuck

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain

Spending the Holidays with People You Want to Punch in the Throat, Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson

Velva Jean Learns to Fly, Jennifer Niven

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, Kathleen Flinn

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, Kathleen Flinn

Outside the Lines, Amy Hatvany

Blackberry Winter, Sarah Jio

The Nobodies Album, Carolyn Parkhurst

Broken Promises, Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman

How to Eat a Small Country, Amy Finley

The Last Time I Saw Paris, Lynn Sheene

Sisters of Heart and Snow, Margaret Dilloway (unpublished manuscript)

The Book of Mormon Girl, Joanna Brooks

The Three Martini Playdate, Christie Mellor

Summer at Tiffany, Marjorie Hart

22 Britannia Road, Amanda Hodgkinson

The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, Margaret Dilloway

The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Midwife’s Confession, Diane Chamberlain

Room, Emma Donoghue

Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie, Beth Howard

The Murderer’s Daughters, Randy Susan Meyers

The Good Daughters, Joyce Maynard
Real Life and Liars, Kristina Riggle

Little Girl Gone, Drusilla Campbell — Loved this book! You will be fascinated by the story of Medora who essentially becomes an emotional captive of her boyfriend. But as I read it, I realized how common this type of mistreatment is in everyday life. I guarantee as you read it, you will recognize this emotionally abusive relationship in someone you know. Very powerful writing!

Little Gale Gumbo, Erika Marks — Excellent debut novel by fellow-blogger Erika Marks. I loved all the different characters and the personalities she gave them. And you really end up feeling that the voodoo and New Orleans cooking is a secondary character. Warning though: don’t read this book when you’re hungry. All I craved the entire time reading it was jambalaya and gumbo!

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar, Michelle O’Neil — I was on the edge of my seat reading Michelle’s account of her own life, growing up with an alcoholic father. I felt rage, sadness and happiness for her all at once while reading this book. It was inspiring and so honest. While some parts were tough (because of the brutal honesty), it is an amazing read.

Best Kept Secret, Amy Hatvany — I was riveted by this book, the story of a mother who struggles with alcohol addiction and her fight to get out of the addiction and win custody of her son. While I have not personally dealt with addiction on that level, Amy did an amazing job of conveying exactly what it feels like to slip away and struggle to return. My heart broke for the main character through the entire novel. Highly recommend!

Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones — So this is a book I probably wouldn’t pick up on my own. But I heard Tayari Jones speak at an event and read from her book, and I was hooked. Once I started in at home, it took me only two days to finish it. This is a story that stays with you after you’ve read it. The characters are  so well-written and compassionate, yet they’re all so different. Definitely recommend if you want a family drama novel.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth Hoffman — This book reminded me so much of The Help, yet it was so different too. I loved the story of 12-year-old CeeCee and how she ends up living with her great aunt in Savannah. The characters were all so different and lovable. This was a fun, yet also serious, read. I recommend it!

The Orchard, Theresa Weir — I can’t say enough about this fabulous memoir. Seriously you think it’s about an apple orchard. But it’s so much more. It’s a love story; childhood tale; and an environmental lesson. You can read more about the author and the book here.

Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority, Sue Fishkoff — Interesting facts about the history of Kosher food in the United States and where it’s heading.

Secret Daughter, Shilpi Somaya Gowda — I read this incredible story and three days because once I started, I could not put it down. I loved it! Loved the characters and how they evolved over the years. There was not one character that I could not identify with in some way. Such a beautiful story and creative storytelling. Even though the ending was not what I anticipated, it had me in tears anyway. Highly recommend!

Little Bee, Chris CleaveFascinating story of flawed people in a flawed world and how they came together to help each other. This was a “simple” story, but had a lot of meaning and lessons in it. I liked the two narrator women, how they both helped each other survive. Very touching and also informative about a part of the world that is not often talked about.

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, Gail Collins — Fascinating look at the history of women in the United States. I read her first book, which chronicled American women from the early years of the country to 1960. This book picked up right where that one left off. I’m a history buff, so love reading how times have changed over the years. And the role of women in history was also amazing.

Secrets of Eden, Chris Bohjalian — Great book, and as usual, Bojhalian doesn’t fail to deliver a powerful story. This one is part mystery, crisis of faith, and family drama. It was haunting at times, but so well-written and easy to visualize the characters. This one is up there with “The Double Bind” as one of my favorite Bohjalian book.

The Stormchasers, Jenna Blum — Like her first book, “Those Who Save Us,” Blum has the ability to craft beautiful characters that feel very real. The story was engaging and the book is really well-written and kept me on the edge of my seat. Can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Sky of Red Poppies, Zohreh Ghahremani — This book was amazing! I had the pleasure of meeting the author and hearing her speak about the book. I only wish I’d read the novel first because I have so many questions now. It’s a wonderful depiction of Iranian history with the story of two coming-of-age girls within it. Highly recommend this book.

The Reading Promise, Alice Ozma — What a wonderful, inspiring book! Read more about the premise of this book here. Suffice it to say, I finished feeling completely inspired to start my own Reading Streak, as well as commit to helping local public libraries. A “must have” book!

Townie, Andre Dubus III — I loved both “House of Sand and Fog” and “Garden of Last Days.” I am amazed at how Dubus can write characters that are so flawed, yet we end up feeling such sympathy for them. When “Townie,” Dubus’ biography came out, I had to read it so I could learn more about where these characters came from. This book does not disappoint. The stories of his troubled life and his eventual writing career were fascinating and so real. A must-read for Dubus fans.

All That is Bitter and Sweet, Ashley Judd — I typically do not read celebrity tell-all’s. But I got this book for free and decided to read it since I have not heard much from Ashley as much as her mother and sister. While I don’t think it’s the most well-written book, I applaud Ashley for sharing her story, memories, and tales of depression and despair as honestly as she does. Having had friends and relatives battle depression, I know it’s not an easy thing to deal with. I give her tremendous credit for helping herself.

The Law of Similars, Chris Bohjalian — I loved this book’s somewhat simple plot, yet it was so complicated as well. Chris Bohjalian’s early books like Midwives are an interesting mix of medical mystery. This one was no exception as it was a follow-up to Midwives. I love his writing; can’t wait to get his latest book.

Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay — I could not put this book down it was so good! Yet so sad too. It’s the first time in a while I found myself crying throughout parts of the story. Beautifully written and I learned a lot  about a part of history that is not well known.

Second Draft of My Life, Sara Lewis — Great story about why I read this book. I found this at the Goodwill Bookstore and it caught my eye. Should I get it, I wondered. And then I realized the author was a San Diego writer. To show my support of her and local authors, I bought the book. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first because a few online reviews weren’t too fond of the story. But I found it a delightful read (funny word, I know). It was a light, entertaining, heart-felt, and relatable.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein — Great book and so much insight into how pop culture is ingrained in everything. I now look at Disney, television and toys in a completely new light, especially with respect to Sophie. A “must read” for anyone with a daughter.

The Saturday Wife, Naomi Regan — This book was okay. Interesting look into the life of an Orthodox rabbi’s wife. But I felt absolutely no connection or empathy for the main character. So I found myself being irritated the entire time. Quick read though.

Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls — This novel was incredible. A “true life” story about Walls’ grandmother’s fascinating life; growing up in the early 1909s, through the Depression, and running a ranch. Really puts into perspective how easy we have it today. I’m a big fan of Walls’ “The Glass Castle,” which is her memoir. “Half Broke Horses” is a great prelude to that novel. Best book I’ve read in a while and inspired me to really start working on my grandfather’s story.

The Uses of Enchantment, Heidi Julavits I found this book disappointing and a bit confusing at times. The book is told in three narratives — from the point-of-view of 16-year-old Mary, who disappeared for three weeks; a therapist who treated Mary; and older Mary in somewhat present day. The story was very confusing, but I kept reading because I assumed the author would tie up all the loose ends, which she did not. It was an interesting premise. But I felt somewhat cheated and I have lots of unanswered questions.

Denial: A Memoir of Terror, Jessica Stern This was an interesting read. I read an advance copy of the book, which meant it needed a lot of editing. But despite that, it was a fascinating account of how a person responds to trauma. I learned so much and I enjoyed her investigation into her own rapist’s life. Not an easy read, but worth it.

The False Friend, Myla Goldberg — Not sure how I felt about this book. I loved her Bee Season book, but this wasn’t up there with Bee Season. I guess I expected more of a story or a twist at the end. Interesting concept and story. Just not the best read of late.

Red Hook Road, Ayelet Waldman — Interesting book. The story focuses on the aftermath of a family tragedy (i.e. what happens to the two families after a bride and groom tragically die). Great study in how grief affects every member of a family differently.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot — Fascinating book! This true story reads like a novel. So many issues, questions, ethics, family relationships at the heart of this story.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver — This was a fascinating look at how one family vowed to eat only what is grown locally by themselves or at local farms. Sounds boring, I know. But it’s fascinating if you’re a foodie and like learning about where food comes from and agriculture. I was completely in awe and was tempted to move to a Virginia farm to do the same.

The Last Child, John Hart — This was a pretty good read and really picked up in the last 1/3 of the book. I wasn’t too thrilled with it at first. But it was compelling enough to keep me reading rather than giving up. And by the last third, I was hooked. I also enjoyed the ending quite a bit. A good read if you’re into mysteries and suspense.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett — This was an AMAZING book! Growing up today, it’s hard to imagine living in a world where you fear walking down the street, as many of the characters in this Southern town do. It was an eye-opening account of the women – both white and black – who lived in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. All I can say without giving too much away is, WOW! READ IT NOW!

How to be an American Housewife, Margaret Dilloway — This was such an enjoyable read! The author, Margaret Dilloway, writes much of the book her hometown and mine, San Diego. So of course, I could really picture all the sites she describes. Loved the two main characters. I felt so much for Shoko, the Japanese protagonist as she struggles to be an American housewife. And at the same time, I strongly resonated with her daughter, Suiko. A must read book for mothers and daughters.

An Alphabetical Life: Living it Up in the World of Books, Wendy WerrisI gave this book three stars on my Goodreads page. I have a mixed review of it. On the positive, I found the entire process of selling books (buying, repping, promoting, etc.) fascinating. I learned so much about how a book gets onto the shelves at the local bookstore. I also learned so much of how the independent stores went out of business, which I find quite sad (even though I myself probably played into this by buying from Amazon and Borders). I even found Wendy Werris’ stories quite interesting. The negative for me was the structure of the book. It started out chronological and then starting skipping around. I found it tough to keep up with where she was in her career and the year in each chapter. And toward the middle to end of the book, it digressed from her literary journey to more of an autobiography. Changing course mid-stream was confusing. But overall, an interesting read if you like books and love the history of bookstore and book-selling.

South of Broad, Pat Conroy — As someone who loved Price of Tides, I was eager to read Conroy’s latest work of fiction. This novel definitely had all his classic elements — tragedy, humor, family drama and secrets, flawed but lovable characters, and the central character of the South. I liked this story quite a bit. But it had a lot going on throughout the novel. I think that was the point, since this book took place over a 20 year period in American history. Even still, I felt like it was a lot to take in. But overall, a good read.

Flux, Peggy Orenstein — This was a very interesting study of how women in various life stages negotiate the choices they make in life. The section specifically about motherhood – and the choices to work or stay at home – really resonated with me. It was encouraging to know so many women have gone through what I’m facing now.

Fall on Your Knees, Anne-Marie MacDonald — I probably read nearly half the book in one day. It started out a bit slow. But once I got into the heart of the novel, I couldn’t stop reading. It’s not the most pleasant book and some pretty disturbing topics and situations occur. But I like the family drama aspect and the characters were quite interesting. My Goodreads rating is 3 starts. The reason being because I was not too fond of MacDonald’s writing style. She switches perspectives, sometimes within the same paragraph. That was tough to keep track of while reading. Although it seemed like she stopped doing that as the story progressed. All-in-all, a good read if you like epic family dramas and aren’t afraid of tough topics.

The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón — I read about 230 pages of this book and just stopped being interested. Life’s too short to read a book that doesn’t sustian your interest.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski — This is truly one of the best books I’ve ever read. It was amazing and is still with me each day. More will be said about this epic story in an upcoming blog post.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Ree Drummond — I love this new cookbook! She has so many delicious recipes, and they’re so easy to make with her photo step-by-step tutorial. Delicious!

Sala’s Gift: My Mother’s Holocaust Story, Ann Kirshner — The true story of a woman’s survival in several Nazi labor campus. Very well written and left me with nothing but admiration for Sala and her daugther, Ann, for telling the story.

The Garden of Last Days, Andre Dubus III — Amazing book! This is Dubus’ second novel after House of Sand and Fog, another book that really moved me. But dare I say that this book is almost better. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and could not put the book down after reading the first sentence. The character dipiction is his strength and this book does not disappoint.

Manhood for Amateurs, Michael Chabon — This compilation of personal essays about being a father, husband and son is his first non-fiction work. With so many personal narratives written from the woman’s perspective, reading these stories from the male point-of-view is refreshing and interesting.

Posts About Books

My Attempt at Booking Through Thursday

Welcome to the Reading Corner

Meeting an American Housewife

Making a Difference – One Book at a Time

The Future of Bookstores

So Many Books…

If you’re a fellow reader, I suggest you check out Goodreads where you can also see my bookshelves and check out reviews of your favorite books. I’ve linked the book titles below to Goodreads as I feel it’s a great site to find book reviews, resources, and a fellow book-reading community. The links do not represent any monetary endorsement by me.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2011 11:16 pm

    I love this. I am a goodreads member too :)

  2. May 22, 2011 10:42 am

    Hi, Leah! Always nice to find another avid book lover. I didn’t know about Goodreads so thanks for passing that along. I just signed up.

    I’m reading The Help right now and would love to take the rest of the day to curl up on the sofa and finish it. But it will have to wait until bedtime. I HIGHLY recommend The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar as a wonderful companion to The Help.

    I LOVED Shadow of the Wind and could not put it down. Isn’t it amazing and wonderful that readers react so differently to the same books? Loved Edgar Sawtelle, too, though I was disappointed in the ending.

    Other favorites: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (but disappointed in the Epilogue), Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

    Always on my nightstand – daybook, The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, and a book of poetry, currently Caroline Kennedy’s newest compilation, She Walks in Beauty.

  3. May 22, 2011 3:25 pm

    I loved House of Sand and Fog too, and there is a short story I really like by Dubus–I think it’s called A Father’s Story. But, I read part of Meditations From a Movable Chair, his book of essays, and I was a little disappointed. I thought his essays were rambling and unfocused and not of the same caliber of his fiction, so I’ve been reluctant to pick up Townie.

    • Leah permalink*
      May 22, 2011 10:15 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I was hesitant about Townie as well. But it really read like one of his novels. I think his worked really came into greatness with House of Sand and Fog and continued with The Garden of Last Days. Let me know if you read Townie and your thoughts. I’ll have to check out that short story you read.

  4. June 6, 2011 6:00 pm

    As I read your list and realize that I’m familiar with a couple of the titles, I’m still amazed and excited; amazed that there are so many great books out there and excited that I get to check out something new. I too love to read. I’m currently reading ISLAND BENEATH THE SEA by Isabel Allende. She is an amazing storyteller. If you’re not already familiar with her, you should check her out. The first novel I read by her is called DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE. Great read. Complex but in a way that is easy to follow, if that makes any sense.

  5. August 1, 2011 11:49 pm

    I am on Goodreads too. What is your name there?

  6. August 9, 2011 7:24 am

    eu amo muito seus trabalhos, Goodreads para sempre no nossos Corações !
    Obrigado Amigos!

Trackbacks

  1. A Year in Reading « Leah's Thoughts
  2. Welcome, New Friends and Readers! « Leah's Thoughts
  3. Totally Random and I’m Still Here « Leah's Thoughts
  4. "Early Decision" Sheds a New Light on College Admissions | Leah's Thoughts

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