We’re just past the summer solstice. Which means, it’s time for my spring edition of . . .

I’m just gonna start with this: I have read some Really Fine Books these past three months. (And some clunkers, but there you go.) In fact, I had a hard time choosing just five books for this post. So . . . there’s a little bonus “extra” at the end. Let’s get rolling, shall we? (So many books, so little time . . . )

First up, I’ve got James by Percival Everett, a book I only just recently finished, and haven’t even had the chance to write up my review on Goodreads yet. (I have gotten dreadfully behind on writing my reviews this past month.) (I’ll either catch up. Or I won’t.) James is an incredibly clever re-imagining of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a book beloved by some and reviled by others (and avoided by many). I fall into the “beloved” camp, myself . . . so I picked up the book with some trepidation. But I needn’t have worried. Because Percival Everett is a master and his re-imagining is brilliant. The book blurb calls the book “brilliant, action-packed;” “harrowing and ferociously funny.” I’d agree . . . except . . . I did not find much to laugh about and would never go as far as to call it “ferociously funny.” But I was certainly captivated – and compelled to keep turning the pages. I loved it. (I gave James 5 stars.)

Next, I’ve got Table for Two by Amor Towles. True confession: I will pick up and read anything that Amor Towles writes. Now I hadn’t read anything about this novel before diving in, so I had no idea it was, essentially, a short story collection – and I had no inkling that the second half of the book was a delightful follow-up story for one of my favorite characters from Rules of Civility, Evelyn Ross. (I actually gasped out loud when I discovered this while reading.)

I actually love short stories – especially well-written short stories with excellent characterization, perfectly paced story arcs, and conclusions that tie it all together. Amor Towles really hits the mark here. Each short story is perfectly crafted. To me, a sign of a good short story is one that leaves the reader wanting more. And this collection . . . does just that.

The novella section of Table for Two, though, really shows Amor Towles at his storytelling best. ‘Eve in Hollywood’ is a wonderful “reunion” for fans of Rules of Civility (like me), offering a chance to catch up with Evelyn Ross – to finally discover what happened after she got on board a train in New York bound for Indiana . . . but didn’t get off. Using interlinking stories told from alternating narrators/points of view, Towles stays true to his Table for Two format of short stories while still developing a deeper narrative for Eve’s story in Hollywood. The dialog is always crisp (he really is a master with dialog), the pacing is perfect, and it was divine to spend a little more time with Evelyn Ross in this delightful romp through old Hollywood. (I gave Table for Two 5 stars.)

Then I have Salman Rushdie’s new memoir, Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder. I know not everyone is a fan of memoir, but friends . . . this one is a good one. Knife is personal, intimate, and vulnerable. Rushdie brings readers right up on stage with him during his attack. He invites us to sit with him in his hospital room and to accompany him through his lengthy rehabilitation, both in a rehab facility and then at home. Finally, he allows us to journey with him into his mind as he works through the shock and trauma of the attack, coming out the other side with a renewed sense of who he is, what he is capable of, and – most importantly – what he must do, now that he’s been given a “second chance” at life. This is an eloquently written, poignant account – and I am glad Mr. Rushdie has lived to share his experience with us.

I also want to note that . . . the book jacket on the hardback copy of the book has the best cover graphics I’ve seen in a long time. It’s an excellent design that really catches the eye. (I gave Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder 4.5 stars, which I rounded up to 5.)

Next, I’ve got Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar. Now I read this one back in April . . . but I’m still thinking about it. (Yeah.) That said, I don’t recommend this book very often. Because it’s . . . well . . . it’s just not going to be for everyone. I found Martyr!, Akbar’s debut novel, to be beautifully written. Full stop. It’s sharp, witty, and poignant, with a clever construction and a deliciously ambiguous ending that will likely keep you thinking long after you close the book. Themes cover a wide range of topics: art and theology, culture and language, identity and belonging, recovery and self-discovery. Bonus extras: all the philosophical “bits” — and humor. Akbar is brilliant, and this . . . his first foray into fiction . . . bodes well for the future! I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Arian Moayed. His narration brought the book to life. (I gave this one 5 stars. But . . . if you absolutely can’t bear ambiguity. . . and then it might be best to stay away.) (Just sayin.)

Last up for this quarter, I’ve got The Hunter by Tana French. This one is a follow-up to French’s last novel, The Searcher. Set again in the picture-perfect Irish village of Adnakelty, this time the entire place is smoldering under a tension-building summer heatwave and drought. French is a master when it comes to characterization, and she really shows off her skills here in The Hunter. She brings back familiar faces from The Searcher (Cal, Trey, Lena, Mart), giving them fresh perspective and depth, while also introducing new and complex characters (Johnny, Sheila). In terms of pacing, Tana French really knows how to build the slow burn! Although readers looking for the more typical crime-drama pacing of her Dublin Murder Squad series might be disappointed, the tone of The Hunter is Just Right. The Hunter features themes of friendship, family bonds, and love, and explores just how far characters will go to protect those they love. I highly recommended this author, generally, for readers who enjoy complex characters, excellent plotting, sharp dialogue, gorgeous descriptions of setting/place – AND an appreciation of a slow burn. I will read anything she writes. Although this could be read as a stand-alone, I think reading The Searcher first would only deepen the enjoyment of this second installment. I listened to the audio version of this novel narrated by Roger Clark. His excellent narration really made the story come to life. (I gave this one 5 stars.)

And . . . there you have it!
My Top Five Books for spring 2024.


And now . . . for the “extra” I promised you: 1 charmer and 2 to watch for in the near future.


Sipsworth by Simon Van Booy is the charmer – and a perfect book for you to read right now. It’s sweet and comforting; a bit whimsical and not at all what it seems to be at first. It’s quick to read. Compelling. Soothing. A book about kindness and love. Imagine that! (I gave this one 4 stars.)

Then, there are two books I read in advance of their publication dates through NetGalley. I always hate to recommend books that won’t be out for awhile, y’know? It just doesn’t seem quite fair. But these two are worth mentioning — and they’re close enough to their publication dates that you can probably put a hold on them at your library (just sayin).

The Wedding People by Alison Espach will be published at the end of July. Romantic comedies are not my usual, preferred reading genre. That said, I do enjoy reading a well-done rom-com now and then — and The Wedding People is definitely a rom-com (a delightful, well-done, surprisingly thoughtful one at that!). Like any rom-com, The Wedding People features implausible coincidences, a certain level of predictability, situations that would never occur in real life, and – naturally – a charming meet-cute. But The Wedding People is so much more than that. The characters are a bit unexpected and interesting, the dialog is fresh and funny, the pacing is good, and while, yes, the predictability factor is high, there is also more depth and thoughtfulness than you might expect in a romantic comedy. (I gave this one 4 stars.)

Tell Me Everything by Elizabeth Strout will be published in early September. It is amazing to me that Elizabeth Strout can write books about the same characters in the same couple of settings over and over while deepening those same characters – and our understanding of them – with each new entry. You thought you knew Olive Kitteridge? Well. Wait until she starts sharing stories with Lucy Barton. You thought you’d heard all of Lucy’s stories already? Not quite; not yet. You thought Bob Burgess was a frumpy guy who was unlucky at love? Oh, just wait until you see the size of his heart. No one writes about ordinary people living their ordinary days in ordinary locations better than Elizabeth Strout! She is simply a master when it comes to . . . Connection. Heart. Grief. Loneliness. Aging. Marriage. Reconciliation. Love. Tell Me Everything is a gentle unfolding of real life – and a highly readable, compelling, marvelous addition to the Elizabeth Strout universe.


How about you?
What books would make it onto YOUR Top Five list?


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