Category: Book of the Year

Thanks, Booklist

top-10_womens-fiction_adult_f2Every now and then as a novelist you get some unexpected affirmation from those whose opinion of your work matters a great deal. When I learned A Fall of Marigolds had been named in BookList‘s Top Ten Women’s Fiction for 2014, I was humbled to the core.This centutry-old magazine is published by the American Library Association, and is used to help libraries decide what to put on their shelves and to help library patrons and students decide what to read, view, or listen to.

This list comprises the top 10 women’s fiction reviewed from the last 12 months and covers “chick lit to tearjerkers, heavy issues to lighthearted comedy.” According to BookList, one of the key ‘appeal factors’ for its Women’s Fiction Top Ten list is “that sense of recognition the target audience—yes, women—gets from identifying with the heroines, and these novels deliver something for just about anyone.”

I am beyond grateful and so honored to be among these other writers and I know I will be adding some new books to my TBR ladder to the sky, too. Here’s the list. Have you read any of the books here? Tell us all about it. Or tell us what your list of best books for 2014 is so far.

BookList’s TOP TEN WOMEN’S FICTION:

The Apple Orchard. By Susan Wiggs. “Art specialist Tess has a successful professional life but is lacking in the family department. When she’s named heir to one-half of an estate and discovers the other half goes to the sister she never knew she had, her life gets turned upside-down.”

The Bookstore. By Deborah Meyler. “Between studying art history at Columbia University on a prestigious scholarship and a two-week fling with a magnetic, wealthy man, 23-year-old Esme Garland from England is happily settling into life in Manhattan when she discovers she’s pregnant. This character-driven novel is witty and poetic.”

A Fall of Marigolds. By Susan Meissner. “The heartbreaks of two women, separated by decades, come together in the history of a scarf that holds special meaning to each woman. Christian fiction author Meissner’s first mainstream women’s fiction novel hits all of the right emotional notes without overdoing the two tragedies.

Golden State. By Michelle Richmond. Estranged sisters Julie and Heather are brought together as Heather goes into labor and Julie, a doctor, rushes to her side to assist. But the sisters are separated by forces beyond their control, as their city, San Francisco, is in chaos, shut down by political protests. Perfect for fans of issue-driven women’s fiction.”

Ladies’ Night. By Mary Kay Andrews. “Grace, an interior-design blogger, discovers her husband is cheating on her. She begins therapy with a group of other “marital misfits,” and the women soon start meeting at Grace’s mother’s bar, where they plot revenge but eventually learn to move on.”

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe. By Jenny Colgan. “In this fun and fast-paced read, Issy Randall loses her job and her boss/boyfriend in one embarrassing swoop. She decides to take her severance pay and open a bakery in her London neighborhood.”

Sweet Salt Air. By Barbara Delinsky. “Two girlhood friends who’ve been estranged for the past 10 years reunite to collaborate on a cookbook, both of them harboring secrets. Never fear; Delinsky knows when a happy ending is in order.”

Time Flies. By Claire Cook. “In this delightful beach read, two best friends reunite for their high-school reunion and overcome their fears. The banter is a lot of fun, and the characters’ realization of what is important is certain to make readers yearn for reconnections of their own.”

Who Asked You? By Terry McMillan. “Told from the perspectives of several of the characters, this novel offers an array of personalities and everyday life challenges within a story of close friends, family, and neighbors as they grow and change over many years.”

The Whole Golden World. By Kristina Riggle. “Dinah’s world is about to fall apart—her teenage daughter has been caught half-naked in her teacher’s car. Rain, the teacher’s wife, is watching her life fall apart instead of rejoicing in the news that she’s finally pregnant. Fans of Jodi Picoult will devour this story.”

My favorite reads of 2013

speakingWhenever a year ends and I look back at its days to see which books were my favorite of all those I read, I always get a teensy bit melancholy. Part of me finds it a bid sad that the books that were my favorite have been read. I can’t read them again for the first time. And sadder still? I probably won’t be able to read them again — ever — because of the other thing that makes me a bit blue on the look-back, and that is that the number of books is always less than what I had hoped for.  The mantra that there are too many books and too little time has never been more true than this stage of my life. The To-Be-Read pile at my bedside (which could double nicely as a ladder to the stars) is now becoming eclipsed by the invisible tower inside my Kindle.  I find it funny and pathetic that earlier this year I bought Orphan Train (yes, one of my other faves for 2013) read it, and then found the dang thing buried on my Kindle – from an earlier purchase in 2013. Sheesh. All that aside, 2013 was a great year for books. Here are my five favorites, in no order at all. It wasn’t easy to pick just five, by the way. I had to look at their covers — in color — and gauge how just the mere visual nudge made me feel inside. Here are the five that made me feel the pull of a magnet at just another glance at their covers…

cuttingCUTTING FOR STONE

Here was a book that had been sleeping on the TBR shelf all 2012. I finally pulled it out when it became my local book club’s pick. I remember thinking that I didn’t have time to read a nearly-700-page novel, especially in a squished time frame, and I nearly took that month off from my beloved book club. But Abraham Verghese’s masterpiece had me from the very first page. I simply had to know what would become of the likeable and utterly compelling narrator, Marion Stone. The prose was delicious and there were many lines that cut me to the core. Like this one: “Wasn’t that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted.” And this one: “The key to your happiness is to…own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. [Otherwise] you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

 

bookthiefTHE BOOK THIEF

Here was another that had been on the AYEGTRI pile (Aren’t You Ever Going To Read It!?) I finally did just that after months and months and months of hearing how wonderful a book it was. What finally got me going was I began doing research for a World War II book I was writing.  This is quite likely one of the most cleverly constructed novels I’ve read in a long time (as was “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”) and I was completely taken by the devastating charm of the narrator. That’s all I will say. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? And please, do yourself a favor and read the book before you go see the movie.

 

 

life after lifeLIFE AFTER LIFE

Speaking of research for World War II, this gem by Kate Atkinson had me spellbound from the first line. And interestingly enough, this was the only book in 2013 that I had read to me, in that I listened to this book on CD on a long car trip to the Sierras. Perhaps having a plethora of British voices speaking the story to me was what fully captivated me, but I am thinking even if I’d read the print version, I’d still be talking this book’s praises. The premise alone is brilliant, and the execution of that premise is stellar. Can you imagine what it would be like to keep living your life over and over and over again, and being only barely aware that you are doing so? What would you change? What would you run from or run to or run over? This was Time magazine’s number one choice for Book of the Year, and GoodReads Best of 2013 historical fiction award-winner. I would have to concur.

 

secretkeeperblog2THE SECRET KEEPER

Kate Morton is one of my tippy-top favorite novelists ever. I love her style, her voice, her care with words, her attention to detail, the skill of her story weave, and her appreciation for her readers. If you’ve read nothing by her before, can I just gently say, where the Dickens have you been? I loved this book, as I have loved everything she has written. It is also a World War II book, but it’s much more than that. If you like stories with overlapping time periods and special attention given to each of the main characters, you are in for a treat. After you read this one, get your hands on The Forgotten Garden, The House at Riverton and The Distant Hours.

 

 

AndtheAND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED

I’ve been a fan of Khaled Hosseini’s story-telling since he whisked me away with The Kite Runner. What I liked best about And The Mountains Echoed might be the very thing that others who’ve read him before didn’t like. And that was the lack of a singular main protagonist on an obvious chronological pursuit of happiness.  This story is different, it is more episodic, far less linear than his other two books, and because it was so masterfully done, I loved this aspect of this book. And quotable quotes? They abound in the pages. Like this one: “It’s a funny thing… but people mostly have it backward. They think they live by what they want. But really, what guides them is what they’re afraid of. What they don’t want.” And this one: “For courage, there must be something at stake.”  And this one: “They say, Find a purpose in your life and live it. But, sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind.”

So there you have it. My top 5! Were any of these in your top reads for 2013? What were your top 5? I’d love to know!

It pays to pay attention

RuinsSo I know my short term memory ain’t what it used to be. I walk into a room and have no idea why I am there and I will meet someone new and within a minute of being introduced will have forgotten their name. But today’s was a first.

I figured out I am reading the wrong book for book club next week. Last month I ordered The Light In The Ruins by Chris Bojhalian for my Kindle without bothering to double-check the email from the book club prez, because of course I remembered what this month’s selection was. It was The Light In The Ruins. I started reading it, got interested, and then happened across the aforementioned e-mail.

OceansImagine my surprise when I read that the book I am SUPPOSED to be reading is The Light Between Oceans.  Sheesh. Back I go, via my fingertips, to the Kindle store to get the right book and thank God for cyberspace because two seconds later I had the correct book and still a whole week to read it.

But dangnabbit, now I’m going to have to pick up Ruins right after book club, even though I’ve a ton of other books on the TBR pile, because I just have to find out who killed Francesca. . .

Now if I had just happened to buy the wrong book that is titled the same as another, I wouldn’t feel so dumb. As in the two novels entitled Life After Life, one by Kate Atkinson and the other by Jill McCorkle, both of which  came out at the same time earlier this year (go figure). I’ve not read McCorkle’s yet, although I’ve a signed copy, met her, and heard her speak about this book at a local San Diego event.  It’s on that towering TBR pile of mine! I did read Katetwin lives Atkinson’s, though, and was blown away. It is incredibly clever, haunting, and compelling. It also just won some big awards from GoodReads and Time magazine, so I am not alone in my praise for it.

All that is to say, if you need a book recommendation, I have four. The answer is “E”, all of the above.

And please tell me you have done what I did . . .

 

Back from the misty beyond

I have a few very good reasons for being invisible the last two weeks.

I was working on a deadline. I was speaking at an event in Canada. I was working on a deadline. I was launching the fall small groups ministry at my church. I was working on a deadline. I was teaching at the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in Dallas. And then of course, there’s the deadline.

But I am back at my desk with the deadine met, (big hallelujah!) the small groups grouping, Canada a lovely memory, eh? and the ACFW workshop taught and apparently enjoyed by those who attended.

I am thrilled to tell you that Widows and Orphans, the first in my Rachael Flynn mystery series, won second place in the ACFW’s Book of the Year contest in the suspense category. It was wonderful to hear my name called and to see this beautiful book cover appear on the big screen as I walked to the stage this past Saturday. You can read the entire list of Book of the Year winners, all wonderful friends and superb writers, on the ACFW site.

I came home last night to this lovely email from a reader who had just finished reading W & O: “I loved Chapter 26. It was the reason for me picking up this book. I went through the same emotions and conversations with myself and God just this past August. I knew one of the ladies that died in the I-35W bridge collapse. It didn’t make sense….it still doesn’t, but I know God is like the rays of moon, that no matter how much you cover His light, He Still Shines!! When I read Chapter 26, I realized I’m still going through the grief, but also knowing I can still trust God with all that is going on around me. So Thank You again for writing this book.”

And reading that, friends, was also like hearing applause. I am in awe of having written anything that meets someone at a place of need. Wow.

I am a bit behind in sharing with you some news about new books a couple good friends have just released, so if I may, here’s some great reading available for the taking:

Tricia Goyer’s second book in her Spanish Civil War series is now on bookstore shelves: Here’s what my friend Tricia has to say about A Shadow of Treason: “There are very few of us who go through life without giving away a part of our hearts to someone who didn’t deserve it. Even though Sophie [the main character] had the best intentions, she gave away her heart and she was hurt-not only that she must revisit those emotions. I wanted to include this element-to delve into the topic that emotions are sometimes as big of a trap as any physical cage. Emotions are real and they guide us — even when we don’t want to admit it. Poor Sophie, not only does she have to deal with a war around her — she also has to deal with a war within herself. It’s something I’ve battled, and mostly likely others have too.”

Tricia is an award-winning novelist, a top notch researcher and a one of the most capable people I know. This book follows Valley of Betrayal and precedes Whisper of Freedom which is slated for a February release. You can learn more about Tricia’s new book right here. And you can read the first chapter here.

I’ll have another great read to recommend to you on Friday. Until then, enjoy these infant fall days. . .