Books to Read No. 9-16
So for my Bucket List, my aim is to read at least 80 books. My bookshelves groan under the weight of an eclectic mix of book types. These are some of the books I still hold onto including fiction (romance, thriller, crime) and non-fiction (biographies, history, poetry). So I’ve listed them randomly in alphabetical order and the aim is to produce 10 lists of 8 books I’ve read…..this being the 2nd list. Click here for the first related blog.
9. Back When We Were Grown Ups ... by Anne Tyler
Tyler's 15th novel, like most of her work, is set in Baltimore, Maryland. It opens with the sentence, "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." The woman in question is Rebecca Davitch, a 53-year-old widow, mother, grandmother, and proprietor of a party and catering business run from her home called Open Arms.
Up until age 20 Rebecca's life had been following a fairly predictable straight-line path towards both marriage to her high school sweetheart and a Ph.D. in history. Then Joe Davitch came along and she was “swept off my feet by a fully grown man, someone who...was already living his life.” Joe was a 33-year-old divorcee with 3 children whom Rebecca met at a friend’s party that happened to be at the Open Arms.
One month later, Rebecca had quit college, had married Joe, and—as she quickly discovered—had married the Davitch family, with Joe’s 3 daughters, his mother, his brother Zeb, his huge old Baltimore house (Open Arms) and its business as a venue for celebrations of all sorts—weddings, graduations, christenings, anniversaries, etc.
Rebecca is now taking a breath to ask, “What happened to the 20-year young woman who was a serious scholar, politically-involved idealist, engaged to be engaged….?”
Anne Tyler represents life in an uncomfortable way. There is no fancy adventure, just a woman trying to live day to day with a blended family and a family business that was not even her's to begin with. Anne Tyler manages to adeptly make us face how we can make choices in our life that bog us down. Rebecca is not a prototypical heroine, instead she's a woman who has to learn to love the life she has. Life happens...you make of it what you will, and you can still love something that was not your original expectation – Mary @ 80b480
“A WONDERFUL NOVEL . . . Tyler’s eye and ear for familial give and take is unerring, her humanity irresistible. You’ll want to turn back to the first chapter the moment you finish the last.”
–People (Page-Turner of the Week)
“Her characters endear themselves to the reader with their candor and their wit and their simple decency. . . . The charm of an Anne Tyler novel lies in the clarity of her prose and the wisdom of her observations.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“Maybe there’s something glorious to be said, after all, for companionship, common cause, and sanctuary. And what there is to say, Anne Tyler has been saying for decades, with gravity and grace.”
–The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis in 1941 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. This is Anne Tyler’s fifteenth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore.
10. Beachcombing For a Shipwrecked God ... by Joe Coomer
Nine weeks after losing her husband, Charlotte escapes to a wooden motor yacht in New Hampshire, where her shipmates are an aging blue-haired widow, an emotional seventeen-year-old, and the ugliest dog in literature. A genuine bond develops among the three women, as their distinct personalities and paths cross and converge against the backdrop of emotional secrets, abuse, and the wages of old age.
Off the boat, Charlotte, an archaeologist, joins a local excavation to uncover an ancient graveyard. Here she can indulge her passion for reconstructing the past, even as she tries to bury her own recent history. She comes to realize, however, that the currents of time are as fluid and persistent as the water that drifts beneath her comforting new home.
Mary@ 80b480 - “A good story - nothing too profound. (unlike the title which seems to promise something of some depth). The ending is a bit disappointing - lacks credibility in the tying up of events but overall still a worthwhile read”.
Elinor Lipman author of The Way Men Act - “The proverbial great read where you can't rest until the story's been told -- beautifully -- and all its secrets have been confided”.
Tom Pilkington Dallas Morning News - “An entertaining, provocative read”.
Judyth Rigler Fort Worth Star Telegram - “A captivating novel...provocative and life-affirming”.
About the Author
Joe Coomer is a fiction and nonfiction writer who lives outside of Fort Worth, Texas, and on the coast of Maine. He "spends his winters in Springtown, Texas, where he runs a pair of large antique malls. He lives in a fairly new Victorian house that he spent a year and a half building in the late eighties, a project he wrote about in Dream House .
When the weather's nice, he takes his old motor boat, "Yonder", on day sails and cruises down east. He chronicled her purchase, restoration, and his stupidities at sea in Sailing in a Spoonful of Water ."
11. Better Than A Rest ... by Pauline McLynn
Private eye Leo Street is on the trail of an adulterous husband when her clapped-out car causes her cover to be blown. It’s time to draft in Ciara Gillespie, the teenage tearaway whom she befriended on her last case. At first, Ciara’s methods of surveillance leave a lot to be desired, but soon she’s unearthing the secret life of an obstetrician who likes to dabble in genetic engineering...
With Ciara in control, Leo’s free to pursue other matters, such as who’s making anonymous phone calls to her friend Maeve, and why there’s pandemonium at the local crèche. Then she accepts an invitation from Andy Raynor - an old flame who she’s never fully extinguished - and sparks begin to fly.
I bought 'Better Than a Rest' for a bit of light holiday reading so wasn't expecting much but was very pleasantly surprised. Pauline brings together a satisfyingly strange collection of characters that produces a hilarious combination. She truly understands the eccentricities of Dublin life and reflects them nicely: from the cleaning lady from hell to Leo's slobbish live-in boyfriend and his pretentious live-in thespian friend. The book's descriptions of Dublin streets, pubs and landmarks caused me to smile with recognition but you certainly don't need to be Irish to enjoy this novel.– Mary @80b480
“With the perfect balance of humour, adventure and romance, Pauline makes crafting witty, fast-paced fiction look like a doddle” - OK magazine
“Sparky crime caper combining a cracking plot with nice one-liners” - Eve
“It’s entertaining and it’s also life” - Irish Tatler
“Funny and snappy, will sit well on a shelf next to such writers as Cathy Kelly, Morag Prunty and Marian Keyes” - Sunday Tribune
About the Author
Pauline McLynn grew up in Galway. She shot to fame playing the inimitable Mrs. Doyle in Father Ted, and has appeared in numerous other film, television and stage roles. I remember her well from my early days in Dublin when she regularly performed in the Gate Theatre. She divides her time between London, Dublin and Kilkenny, where she lives with her husband.
12. Bridget Jones’s Diary ... by Helen Fielding
Bridget Jones's Diary, written in the form of a personal diary, chronicles a year in the life of Bridget Jones, a thirty-something single working woman living in London. She writes about her career, self-image, vices, family, friends, and romantic relationships.
A daily chronicle of Bridget's permanent, doomed quest for self-improvement — a year in which she resolves to: reduce the circumference of each thigh by 1.5 inches, visit the gym three times a week not just to buy a sandwich, form a functional relationship with a responsible adult, and learn to program the VCR.
Over the course of the year, Bridget loses a total of 72 pounds but gains a total of 74. She remains, however, optimistic.
I must be one of the few people on the planet to not have loved this book; albeit I preferred the book a bit more than the movie. On the one hand, I can see that Fielding nails the humour. I often found myself smiling. But when I wasn't, I was exasperated with Bridget Jones. Fielding nails her too. Shallow, idiotic and self-absorbed. I didn't sympathise with Bridget at all, nor did I really care about the holes she dug herself into. I also didn't buy into the love story and didn't get why Bridget liked him other than he was there. But what else than a shallow love interest did I expect from Bridget? – Mary @ 80b480
“I cannot recommend a book more joyfully . . . Hilariously funny, miraculously observed, endlessly touching.” - Jilly Cooper, Daily Telegraph
“Brilliant . . . any woman who has ever had a job, a relationship or indeed a mother will read it and roar.” - Gill Hornby, The Times
“Effortlessly addictive . . . presents a perfect zeitgeist of single female woes.” - Sunday Express
“A brilliant comic creation . . . even men will laugh.” - Salman Rushdie
“A gloriously funny book”. - Sunday Times
About the Author
Helen Fielding was born in Yorkshire. She worked for many years in London as a newspaper and TV journalist, travelling as wildly and as often as possible to Africa, India and Central America. She is the author of Cause Celeb (1994), Bridget Jones's Diary (1996), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2000), Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination (2003), and Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy (2013). She co-wrote the screenplays for the movies of Bridget Jones's Diary and The Edge of Reason, starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. She now works full-time as a novelist and screenwriter and lives in London and Los Angeles.
13. Cause of Death ... by Patricia Cornwell
An investigative reporter is found dead in Virginia's icy waters ...New Year's Eve and the final murder scene of Virginia's bloodiest year takes Scarpetta thirty feet below the Elizabeth River's icy surface. A diver, Ted Eddings, is dead, an investigative reporter who was a favourite at the Medical Examiner's office.
Was Eddings probing the frigid depths of the Inactive Shipyard for a story, or simply diving for sunken trinkets? And why did Scarpetta receive a phone call from someone reporting the death before the police were notified? The case envelops Scarpetta, her niece Lucy, and police captain Pete Marino in a world where both cutting-edge technology and old-fashioned detective work are critical offensive weapons. Together they follow the trail of death to a well of violence as dark and forbidding as water that swirled over Ted Eddings.
A very enjoyable read. Again I read this book on holiday, I couldn't put it down once I'd started, the book flowed, and was good/easy to keep track of everything that had occurred. My only negative was how quick the ending was, considering the build up to it.. – Mary @ 80b480
“A standout...Gripping reading...So hard to put down your arms will tingle with intimations of rigor mortis before you reach the smashing climax.” (Newsday)
“Fascinating, frightening ...Reaffirms that Cornwell is one of the best crime fiction authors working today.” (Miami Herald)
“Filled with suspense.” (Cosmopolitan)
About the Author
Patricia Cornwell is considered one of the world's bestselling crime writers. Her intrepid medical examiner Kay Scarpetta first appeared on the scene in 1990 with Postmortem—the only novel to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity awards and the French Prix du Roman d'Aventure in a single year—and Cruel and Unusual, which won Britain's prestigious Gold Dagger Award for the best crime novel of 1993.
Dr. Kay Scarpetta herself won the 1999 Sherlock Award for the best detective created by an American author. Ms. Cornwell's work is translated into 36 languages across more than 120 countries.
14. Circle of Friends - by Maeve Binchy
It began with Benny Hogan and Eve Malone, growing up, inseparable, in the village of Knockglen. Benny—the only child, yearning to break free from her adoring parents…Eve—the orphaned offspring of a convent handyman and a rebellious blueblood, abandoned by her mother’s wealthy family to be raised by nuns. Eve and Benny—they knew the sins and secrets behind every villager’s lace curtains…except their own.
It widened at Dublin, at the university where Benny and Eve met beautiful Nan Mahon and Jack Foley, a doctor’s handsome son. But heartbreak and betrayal would bring the worlds of Knockglen and Dublin into explosive collision. Long-hidden lies would emerge to test the meaning of love and the strength of ties held within the fragile gold bands of a…Circle Of Friends.
Circle of Friends was published in 1990 novel; the year I left home for Dublin. Although set in the 1950s I related to it on many levels. I loved this book!! It’s so well written and the character development is amazing. The best way I can think of to describe this book is that it’s a cosy read with a bit of a bite near the end. The novel was adapted into a 1995 feature film directed by Pat O'Connor.– Mary @ 80b480
“Full of warmth and pure delight.” — Woman & Home
“As gripping as a blockbuster, but infinitely gentler and wiser.” — Cosmopolitan
“[An] irresistible invitation to share the lives of people who believe in enduring values.” — Detroit Free Press
About the Author
Maeve Binchy was born in County Dublin and educated at the Holy Child convent in Killiney and at University College, Dublin. After a spell as a teacher she joined The Irish Times. Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982, and she went on to write more than 20 books, all of them bestsellers.
Several have been adapted for film and television, most notably Circle of Friends and Tara Road, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. She was married to the writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell for 35 years, and died in 2012 at the age of 72.
I was a big fan of Maeve and had the pleasure of meeting her when she came to do a writing workshop with us in our secondary school, Scoil Mhuire (Greenhill), Carrick-on-Suir in the early 1980s.
15. City Girl ... by Patricia Scanlan
Three very different women face heartache, upheaval and reinvention in this romantic drama, which praises the power of friendship to pull you through when life gets tough.
At 21, Devlin is seduced by the suave, sophisticated Colin Cantrell-King, an older married man and her boss. But this affair will leave her with some tough decisions to make.
Caroline is afraid of being left on the shelf so jumps at the chance to marry the cool, detached and very attractive Richard. But, why does he never return her ardour with equal passion?
Married mother Maggie feels trapped in a loveless marriage until she discovers her husband's infidelity. What will she do with her new-found sense of liberation?
This is an effortless, relaxing read for your holidays. It is about friendships, relationships and how life changes them. It was a good page turner. Some of it is a little predictable, and some questions are left unanswered, but that did not spoil the story that was unfolding. – Mary @80b480
'Utterly magical and wonderful ... warmth and compassion shine through' - Marian Keyes
'Like being enfolded in a hug from the great writer herself: warm, comforting and full of love' - Cathy Kelly
'There can be little doubt that Patricia Scanlan is the prolific queen of contemporary Irish popular fiction' - Sunday Times
''There is a heartbreaking authenticity in her observations' - Irish Times
'The ultimate comfort read' - Glamour
'A bright, sunny read in which these lives interweave with unexpected results' - Sunday Express S magazine
About the Author
Patricia Scanlan was born in Dublin, where she still lives. All of her books have been #1 international bestsellers, most recently With All My Love, A Time for Friends, and Orange Blossom Days. Patricia is the series editor and a contributing author to the Open Door series.
16. Easter Widows ... by Sinéad McCoole
One week in May 1916, seven Irish women became widows. When they had married their husbands they had embarked on very different lives. They married men of the establishment; one married a lecturer, two others married soldiers, another a civil servant. These women all knew each other and their lives became intertwined.
For the seven women whose stories are told in Easter Widows, their husbands’ interest in Irish culture, citizenship and rights became a fight for independence which at Easter 1916 took the form of military action against British rule. These men were among the leaders who formed a provisional government of the Irish Republic and issued a proclamation of Irish Independence.
But the Rising was defeated, and the leaders were arrested and hastily executed. Some of the widows broke under the strain of their experiences and this story tells of miscarriage and tragedy. Yet for another of the women, the execution of her husband allowed her to return from self-imposed exile, freed from the fear that her son would be taken from her by her estranged husband.
This is also a story of women of power and success – some of the widows emerged from the shadows to become leaders themselves. It is a human story told against the backdrop of the years of conflict in Ireland 1916-1923 - the Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War.
Easter Widows introduces all the characters separately through the romances of these seven women – Lillie, Maud, Kathleen, Aine, Agnes, Grace, Muriel – before bringing their stories together in a cohesive narrative. These interlinking stories are clearly embedded in an authentic historical account.
After reading this emotional, yet well researched book I was left feeling both sad and admiring. Sad at how they were treated over the years and particularly how they were sidelined by those who remained behind or survived…..their sacrifice was arguably even greater than their husband’s in many ways as they were left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives…often rearing fatherless children on a pittance. Admiring of their collective strength of character and sheer determination to honour the Republic their husbands had been executed for. It is a necessary read for all those with any interest in 1916 and Irish history – Mary @80b480
"Arguably the most enjoyable book of the year. . . . Of the many books that will be published to commemorate the Easter Rising’s centenary in 2016, few will be as riveting as Sinéad McCoole’s Easter Widows . . . heart-rending . . . fascinating." (Richard Fitzpatrick Irish Examiner)
"It is very unlikely that any of the books to be published about the Rising will be as moving and as empathetic as Easter Widows. . . . Her marvellous history combines the skills of the scrupulously conscientious researcher and historian with the craft of the storyteller and the art of the novelist." (Books Ireland)
"Sinead McCoole's passion for her subject gives an energy to her writing. Drawing on new research and skilfully weaving the skeins of the seven stories together, she makes us think about the high price paid by the women for their husbands' political dreams." (Rachel Trethewey The Independent)
"McCoole is on first-name terms with her subjects and moves effortlessly among them. . . . Easter Widows, a worthy addition to McCoole’s excellent back catalogue, is a valiant account of what the women did for a country that has yet to live up to the 1916 ideal of equality between Irish men and Irish women." (Susan McKay The Irish Times)
"It is very unlikely that any of the books to be published about the Rising will be as moving and as empathetic as Easter Widows … Her marvellous history combines the skills of the scrupulously conscientious researcher and historian with the craft of the storyteller and the art of the novelist." (Hugh McFadden Books Ireland)
About the Author
Sinéad McCoole is the author of many books including Hazel, A Life of Lady Lavery (1996), No Ordinary Women (1997), Easter Widows (2014) and Women 1916-Mná 2016 (2017). She is a member of the Irish Government's Expert Advisory Group on the Decade of Centenaries (2012-to date).
She was Historical Advisor to the 2016 National Commemoration Programme, Curator of Mná 1916. She has curated exhibitions on Irish history & art in both Ireland and the U.S. A Broadcaster and script writer her work includes Guns and Chiffon (2003) and A Father's Letter part of the After '16 Irish Film Board shorts commissioned for the centenary was based on her interviews with Fr. Joe Mallin (1913-2018).
Bucket List Items Partly Ticked Off in the above Blog post
Number 55 - Skills - Read 80 Good Books
Other Blog Posts
Blog 7 - Alice Springs, Australia
Blog 8 - Adelaide, Australia
Blog 9 - Melbourne, Australia
Blog 10 - Cairns, Australia
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 16 - Books 8 of 80 to read now!
Did you read any of these books? Which ones? What did you think of them?
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!