These are the books I finished reading. I started putting new books at the top of the list. The *’s are my recommendations:
** The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins – Great story, fast-paced and enthralling
**City of Thieves by David Benioff – Takes place during the siege of Leningrad. Some parts are disturbing but the story is fascinating.
*The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – About Ernest Hemmingway’s first marriage and their early years in Paris. He was quite a character…
**The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore – True story comparing the lives of the author and another man with the same name. They had similar circumstances but the author is a Rhodes scholar, decorated veteran and businessman and the other Wes Moore is in prison for life.
**Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand – True story about a man who survived Japanese prison camps during WWII.
*Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen – Funny memoir.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers – Takes place during and after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo – A guy takes a road trip with a guru/monk with the intention of showing him America but he learns a lot about himself along the way.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin – A murder mystery that takes place in rural Mississippi.
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore – Funny story about a girl growing up in Ringgold Georgia.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson – Funny story with British humor
*The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver –
*The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa –
The Widower’s Tale by Julie Glass – Quirky characters and an interwoven story about their lives makes this book a good read. Her writing style is very enjoyable.
The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Conner McNees – A fictional account of LMA’s lost romance based on her letters and diaries. I liked the parallels between her story and Little Women. She was very much like Jo!
My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Olievera – Mary is a young midwife who wants to become a doctor when women weren’t allowed to attend medical school. The Civil War allows her to work with surgeons treating the wounded under the most horrendous condiditons. She gets her wish to study and learn more but suffers many hardships. This book gives a view of the war from a women’s perspective. The descriptions of Washington DC and the difficult decisions that Lincoln made are very interesting.
*Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland – The story behind the actual women that worked in Tiffany’s glass studio in the early 1900’s. I found it fascinating how the women actually designed and built a lot of the Tiffany artworks but didn’t get any of the credit. I went back to the library to take out a book on Tiffany’s work so I could see the beautiful lamps and windows while reading about how they were made. A great story!
The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett – I didn’t like this book as much as her other books. It’s an odd story with odd characters but it held my interest until the end.
*Women of the Silk b7 Gail Tsukiyama – This story is all about the girls that were sent to work in the silk factories in China in the early 1900’s. Very well-written and interesting. As my friend Caroline always says, it reaffirms why I’m glad to be a woman in these times!
*The Chinchilla Farm by Judith Freeman – A story about a Mormon woman who’s husband left her and she goes off to LA to make her way in the world. I liked the writing style and the story. The main character weaves her childhood memories into the story which provide the framework for her life. She makes some very intuitive observations about people.
Tinkers by Paul Harding – A man lies dying and reflecting on his life. The story was mostly about his father who was a tinker. I thought it was interesting but rather sad.
*The Spice Necklace by Ann Vanderhoof – I loved her first book, An Embarassment of Mangoes’ that described their cruising experiences in Grenada. This story follows their second cruise back to Grenada and neighboring islands. I like her stories because of their focus on the local people and cooking. I learned so much about rum, chocolate and native dishes. Recipes are included!
*Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – Another story about twins but this one was so interesting and well-written. The story takes place in Ethiopia and follows the lives of twins who were co-joined at birth. Read it!
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger – I loved her book The Time Traveler’s Wife but didn’t enjoy this one as much. It’s about some strange twins and ghosts. I liked the setting in London but had difficulty keeping my interest in the story.
*Midwives by Chris Bohjalian – A woman dies during labor and the midwife performs a C-section to save the baby. The story is told from her 14 year old daughter’s perspective and explores the legal and ethical issues that result when the midwife is charged with involuntary manslaughter.
*Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwartz – A riveting and suspenseful story about family rivalries and guilt. It took some unusual and unexpected twists and turns. I like being surprised!
Leonardo’s Swans by Karen Essex – Takes place in the early 16th century when Leonardo Da Vinci was living in Milan. The 2 sisters that lead this story were real people. I found it interesting to view those turbulent historical times through the eyes of women who suffered greatly for the sake of their husband’s glory.
*The 19th Wife by David Ebbershoff – The story of Mormon founder Brigham Young’s 19th wife is told alongside the story of a modern polygamist group. This book gives a perspective on how polygamy affects women and children.
*Wind from the Carolinas by Robert Wilder – A fictionalized account of the first loyalist settlers in the Exumas. The story follows a family that moved their entire household from a plantation in South Carolina to a remote island in the Bahamas. A great story to read while sailing in the Exumas!
*Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult – I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a fast-paced story about a little Jewish girl who starts talking to God. The story surrounds the reactions in the media and the religious community while her parents go through a bitter custody battle.
Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk – Hilarious! A bit dated but still very funny story about a guy from New York who buys a hotel on a Caribbean island and experiences all of the island culture first hand.
The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga – Interesting story that takes place in Florence after the river Arno flooded the city in 1966. The main character is a woman who helps restore books. The city was inundated with people who volunteered to help rescue the valuable paintings and books that were damaged in the flood.
Flirting with Mermaids by John Kretchsmer – A great story for sailors (and people who want to know what it’s like to sail in strenuous conditions.) John writes about his early years when he sailed around Cape Horn and delivered boats across oceans in very difficult conditions. He has some wild tales to tell and does so in a very entertaining way!
*The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein – About the life of Pan Yuliang–a Chinese woman painter who was one of the first western-style Postimpressionist artists in China. She lived through tumultuous times in the early 2oth century. A fascinating story about her early life as a prostitute and the difficulties of becoming an artist when the culture discouraged women from doing anything non-traditional. As Carolyn would say–it’s yet another story that reinforces how lucky we are to live in these times!
*Replay by Ken Grimwood – A guy dies in his 40’s and wakes up in college again. Time travel stories usually give me a headache but this one kept my attention. He keeps reliving his life with different approaches and each time there’s a new facet of ‘what if’ to consider.
*The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – It took me a while to get into this book but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a mystery written in a gothic style. Fascinating story!
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies – I like stories about real historical events that I didn’t know anything about. This book takes place in Wales during WWII. It’s about the interaction between the Welsh people and a German POW camp.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave – A very interesting story about a Nigerian girl and a wealthy British couple. Some parts were very difficult to read (violent.) I tried not to look ahead as I was told that the ending was magical. Not sure I agree with that but I liked the book. It made me think.
**The Linnet Bird by Linda Holeman – An amazing story! I loved this book about a woman’s life in the early 1800’s. From a poor childhood in London to her travels to India, this story was hard to put down.
**Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors – Another fantastic book! He writes a fictionalized account of the building of the Taj Mahal in the 17th century. The writing style is captivating and the story surrounding the tumultuous times is so interesting. There are so many good stories about India and this one ranks as one of my favorites.
The Abortionist’s Daughter – A good mystery
The Russian Cuncubine by Kate Furnivall – Historic novel about China
*The Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland – Very interesting historical novel about Loius XIV’s mistress
**Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows — Wonderful story written in the form of letters about people on Guernsey Island during WWII
The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst – Sad story, very well-written
**The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – One of the best books I’ve read–a mystery.
*An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof – Great cruising story complete with recipes
**Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill – Very interesting story about the slave trade and abolitionists.
Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult
Never Change by Elizabeth Berg
Paula Deen – A Memoir – I enjoyed reading about her life–she had a tough time. The book is written like Paula talks–bad language and grammar included! Sometimes when I read a biography I don’t really like the person afterwards. Not the case in this book.
**The Help by Kathryn Stockett – We all enjoyed this book about domestic help in Mississippi in the 60’s.
Mediterranean Summer by David Shalleck – Another cruiser’s favorite about a chef on a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean — great recipes.
Tall Grass by Sandra Dallas
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – An odd story told in short vignette’s. It’s all connected in the end. Olive is one strange lady.
Meet Me in Venice – Elizabeth Adler – A light read that kept me interested.
*The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo – Stieg Larsson – Fascinating story, couldn’t put it down.
*The Girl Who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson – Sequel, liked it even better than the first book
Narrow Dog To Indian River – Terry Darlington – Very funny story about an English couple who shipped their English canal boat over to the US and went down the ICW with their Whippet, Jim. I finally met a Whippet on our trip north in 2010 and emailed Terry. He sent a funny reply!
Keeper of the Crystal Spring – Naomi Baltuck and Deborah Baltuck – Captivating story that takes place shortly after the Norman conquest in England.
An Echo in the Bone – Diana Gabaldon – The 7th book in her series. I enjoyed it but you need to read the previous books to know the characters.
The French Mistress – Susan Holloway Scott – Historical fiction novel about Charles II French mistress.
Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts – An epic (over 900 pages) novel about the authors experiences in Bombay in the 80’s. Very vivid descriptions of the culture and lifestyles. The story is fascinating and sometimes hard to read about. The author is full of himself but if you can excuse that, the book is very interesting.
Beside a Burning Sea – John Shors – Takes place during WWII and involves characters shipwrecked on a South Pacific island. An enjoyable story–very easy to read.
The Piano Teacher – Janice Y. K. Lee – Takes place in Hong Kong during and after WWII. The story gives another perspective on the relationships between the British, Chinese and Japanese people during those difficult times when the Japanese invaded Hong Kong.
*The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson – The last of the Millenium trilogy. Our British friends ordered a copy from Amazon.UK before it was released in the US. It continues right where the 2nd book left off. Again, couldn’t put it down!
Away – Amy Bloom – An unusual story about a woman who escaped the pogroms in Russia after her family was killed and travels to New York in the 1920’s. She eventually tries to get to Siberia when she is told that her daughter is still alive. She travels by way of Seattle to Alaska and meets some strange characters along the way.
Soul Survivor : The Reincarnation of a WWII Fighter Pilot – Bruce & Andrea Leininger & Ken Gross – The story is about a 2 yr old boy who remembers the details of a pilot’s experience and death in WWII. He has nightmares and recalls details that a child couldn’t possibly know. The parents do a lot of research as the details unfold and come to believe that he really has these memories. It’s supposedly a true story (non-fiction.) I found it interesting but the book was written in the tone of a dramatic Nightline episode which I found a little annoying at times.
*The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein – I loved this book! The story is told by a dog who is reaching the end of his years. He relays the story of his owner and family from his point of view. I now look at my dog and wonder what he’s thinking! The owner is a race car driver and the dog also loves racing. He compares a lot of his experiences in life to racing. It’s a sad ending (like Marley and Me) but with a little reincarnation twist.
The White Queen – Phillipa Gregory – I like all of her historical novels. This one follows the ups and downs of the York queen during the war of the roses in the 1400’s. For once all of the angst and fighting wasn’t about religion in England–it was just family members fighting each other for power.
The Day the Falls Stood Still – Cathy Marie Buchannan. The story takes place on the Canadian side of the falls in the early 1900’s. Interesting perspective on the role of women in that time period during WWI and early ecological concerns about using the falls for hydroelectric power.
Cold Rock River – J.L. Miles – Takes place in poor North Georgia towns and weaves a story about a slave family with a current family. Very well-written and an enjoyable read.
The Next Thing on My List – Jill Smolinski – A fun Bridget Jones type story about a young woman who has trouble finding her purpose in life. When a passenger in her car is killed as a result of an accident she finds a list in the woman’s wallet of the things she wanted to do before turning 25. The main character decides to complete the list and runs into many unexpected adventures. I really enjoyed this book.
A Change in Altitude – Anita Shreve – I’ve enjoyed all of her books and this one is no exception. The story takes place in Kenya where a young couple attempt a very difficult climb of Mt. Kenya with 2 other couples. Something bad happens on the trip and results in many challenges to the young woman’s marriage and ambitions. The story delves into political issues as well as the lifestyles and culture of the Kenyan people which I found to be fascinating.