Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr
I really wanted to love this one--like I wanted to love it as hard as I loved All the Light We Cannot See. Ironically, that was the novel he was trying to work on when he spent his year in Rome. I definitely want to go to Rome now. I marvel at Doerr and his wife--taking off to Rome with newborn twins in tow! I don't know what Doerr's religious affiliation is, but I wish he had explored that some. While he was in Rome, Pope John Paul II passed away, so he spent time hanging around the Vatican while the funeral and the conclave took place. I wanted to know what was driving him to brave those crowds, to be present in those moments.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
If you've read Fangirl, you've heard of Simon and Baz. I found myself wondering whether this was Cather's version of Simon and Baz, but it's Rowell's. It was okay. Because it's a Potter-esque story (magical wizards at a boarding school--a whole magical world), I felt like I spent lots of time translating their language into a Potter equivalent, and that distracted me. So it's another teenaged love story--she sure can write wistful romance!
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Like just about everyone else who has read this book, I felt like Elizabeth Gilbert was writing just to me--like she's in my head; it was blowing my mind! I had been resisting reading this book--how could it possibly live up to all the hype? And yet, it did.
Pause for "Brush with Celebrity" tale: A few years ago, I took my daughters up to Frenchtown, NJ for their Bastille Day celebration. We walked to Gilbert's store, Two Buttons. I had no expectations of seeing Gilbert, but sure enough, there she was! Her husband gave my girls some popcorn, and Elizabeth talked to us all--even gave the girls a couple of bracelets. I was about to fangirl all over her (having only read Eat, Pray, Love), but once I saw the table stacked with all of her other books (this was before The Signature of All Things came out), I felt sheepish and decided to keep my mouth shut. There you have it--lovely lady, has written way more books than I thought.
Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal
The fifth installment in the Maggie Hope series. This time, Maggie travels to Washington, D.C. with Winston Churchill to spend Christmas (it's 1941). As the war progresses, I look forward to seeing whether Maggie goes back undercover.
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
I'll just say this now; if Rowling/Galbraith ever writes a new phone book, I'm going to read it. There's just no question. Rowling is so good. This book was a two-day thrill ride through some very creepy stuff. I can't wait for the next installment.
The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagan
I checked this out after reading something about Pagan on Laura Vanderkam's blog. I liked this novel. Here's what I wrote in my book journal: entertaining--woman learns to take charge of her life--act instead of react; forget transgressions and be grateful for what she has. I have to tell you, for most of the book I hated the manipulative best friend, but then there was redemption. I received Pagan's next novel for Christmas, so it'll be on here sometime this year.
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
I will paraphrase a review of this book: when you sell your wife and child for five guineas, you don't ever get over it. And he never does. This Hardy novel was darker than Far From the Madding Crowd.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Ah, Jane! I posted a review of this recently. I recommend. If you're done with Jane Austen and want to try a different flavor, give this a try. This was my 19th Century Classic Book for the Back to the Classics Challenge.
After You by Jojo Moyes
Well, Me Before You just tore me up, so I was very excited to know that there was a sequel of sorts. What happens to Louisa Clark after Will Traynor ends his life? What happens to Louisa's family, to Will's family? The short answer is, life goes on. The longer answer is spelled out in the pages of the novel. There is no magic quick-fix to recover from the loss of a loved one, so we go on a journey with Louisa and watch her find her way through. There were surprises, some heart-wrenching scenes, a few things were predictable. True confession: I had picked up this book thinking it would be my entry under the "a book you can finish in a day" category because I had plowed through Me Before You, but I started it at a busy moment, and it took me a couple of days to finish.