I am really bad at remembering the books I’ve read, sometimes even while I’m reading them. So I’m going to keep a record as I read…and when I find time, I’ll fill in books read in previous years (that could be a full-time job!)
Mary called Magdalene, by Margaret George.
I read the Bible as a novel when I was young. Without the religious connections to it, it became a thrilling epic, in the manner of the Mahabharata or the Ramayana. I’ve always been fascinated by the women in the Bible (as I am by the women in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.) Since the Bible seems to have been written primarily by men (except for Mary’s testimony in later years, not often recognized as being part of the Bible), tales of the women are often brief and elusive, mostly serving as contextual matter. So when a friend brought this book to bookclub (over a year ago, sorry Angela!) I pounced on it. But then it languished on my bedside table, giving way to newer, thinner volumes…because, you know, over 600 pages is a lot to commit to! But believe me when I say this book is worth it. It is written from the perspective of Mary Magdalene, from childhood to the crucifixion, her later years a brief chapter at the end. While it is a fictional work, the level of research Ms. George had put into it makes it seem like it could be the way it was. I was reminded of Thomas Costain‘s writings while I was reading this. Heart-wrenching, the inevitability of the story is a backdrop for a woman’s search for faith, meaning, and purpose, while giving up her family of blood to follow a man who promised her Life.
The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly.
I love his books! Murder thrillers that rise above the usual, make you think and work for the big reveal. His Harry Bosch series are a must in any murder/mystery collection. I read this one through in one sitting, or should I say lying, as I read it one night when I couldn’t sleep, and then I really couldn’t because I had to finish the book. My body hated me the next day.
The Ginger Tree, by Oswald Wynd.
Men who write from the perspective of women are intriguing. And when they do it well, I want to read every other book they’ve ever written. Mr Wynd does a phenomenal job of writing in first perspective the life of a young Scotch woman who leaves her homeland and travels to China to marry a man she’s known briefly, in the early 1900s. Spanning two world wars, this tale follows the growth of Mary Mackenzie from a naive 20-year-old to a 50-something lady. It sucks you in right from the first sentence and never lets you go. Reading this book as a mother is particularily heartbreaking. I especially liked this book because she travels to and mentions places I’ve been or where my family has lived. My grandfather survived imprisonment by the Japanese in the second world war, and this book ends right in the middle of it. Mr Wynd writes with a grace and command of English that you rarely see anymore.
My current book is one I’ve had since college, and I re-read it every couple years. It’s by Thomas Costain, The Darkness and the Dawn. Just a great story set against the backdrop of Atila the Hun and his march on the roman empire. Battles, intrigues, slaves, pretty girls and boys, horse races…good stuff.
Travels with Alice, by Calvin Trillin.
If I could write like him. Effortless, beautiful, travelogues that, I know this sounds cliched, make you feel like you were there with him, eating that cheese, sampling that gelato, watching that taureaux piscine. Read it. Really.
When Madeline was Young, by Jane Hamilton.
So I got this from the library, started to read it and then couldn’t really get the desire to read any further. Maybe another day.
All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, by Janelle Brown.
A family in a fictional silicon valley town, falling apart when the father decides to divorce his wife on the day his company goes IPO. The relationships between the mother, the two daughters, their coming-of-age at different stages in life, finally finding a connection with each other, a really good read. I particularily liked the references to local places in the SF Bay area.
Marked, by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast.
Another young vampire book? Yes, but with an entertaining twist. Vampires (or vampyres, as the book has it) have always lived among us, and any one of us could be marked to become a vampyre. At any time. And then you go to vampyre finishing school, where you learn the fine arts of vampyredom. And wait to see if your body accepts the change or you die…or something. It is a good premise, and I’m hoping the authors flesh it out in the rest of the series.
No One You Know, by Michelle Richmond.
A murder mystery set in San Francisco, with side trips to South America. Not a true murder mystery though, but more its effect on the lives of the family members who live on in the aftermath. I know I’m not writing this review very well…but I just finished the book and I loved it, but even as the protagonist says in the book, a story can change, even after it is written, for things are revealed, and people change and in the end, a story belongs as much to the author as it does to the reader. Confused? Read the book!
Waiting on my bedside table: Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World, by Sarah Vowell.