Recommended Reading List: May, 2017
It took nearly half the month before I had anything to recommend, even though I’ve been reading like crazy. That’s unusual for me. Usually I find something I like enough to share with all y’all. This time, my problem wasn’t that I read bad stuff. I was reading forgettable stuff. As in, I couldn’t remember what was happening when I picked the book up again. Or I couldn’t remember the characters.
I read a first novel by a journalist, which I’d heard about on a podcast. The novel was about the Supreme Court, and was partially fascinating and partially typical serial killer hugger-mugger crap. The ending was all serial killer, and just not interesting. Sadly, because until the balance fell off (and I blame the traditional publisher on this one), the book was one of the more interesting I’d read all year.
I also read the hot new YA novel that I heard about everywhere. It had some nice details, but the story was shockingly predictable. (Unless you…um…don’t pay attention to the news.) A few books from favorites who just didn’t engage me, an entire anthology of short stories that alternated between too brutal and too tame, and that pretty much sums up everything until May 13. Then I picked up the Bowen, out of self-defense, really. I was in the mood for a mystery, not a romance, but I read it anyway, and…you’ll see below.
My non-fiction reading, which I haven’t had a lot of time for, has been marvelous, though. Some I will share next month, because I’m not quite done (and won’t finish by the end of the month), but wow, am I enjoying what I’m reading.
I also, by the end of the month, had some Fiction River line edits to do. I’m working on Feel The Fear, which comes out around Halloween. Wow, are there some good stories in that volume. Just like there are in No Humans Allowed, which I line edited earlier this year, and which is out now. In fact, I have some true all-time favorites in No Humans Allowed. You’ll find out what they are if you read the forward.
Here’s the good stuff that didn’t come from me or WMG Publishing that I read in May.
Bowen, Sarina, Hard Hitter, Berkeley, 2017. Bowen wrote a series of hockey romances set in a made-up university (cough-cough Yale cough-cough), and they were delightful. She published those herself, and then got stolen or received a great offer or something from Berkeley for a series of hockey romances set in an NHL team. I can’t tell if she’ll continue to be traditionally published or not. She had some weird language in the acknowledgements of the latest book, and she has a new book out indie this spring as well as the Berkeley books, so I suspect she’s running back to the indie fold. Part of me hopes so, but the other part really loved having mass market paperbacks, so as a reader, I’m on the fence.
Anyway, I plowed through this book in two rapid bursts. I couldn’t put it down. The hockey team is in Brooklyn and is owned by some quirky billionaire (who better get his own book). I think the billionaire is Bowen’s explanation for the fact that the team is different from the other teams. There are a lot of non-standard things here.
The romance isn’t standard either, which is one of the things I love about Bowen. She can take a cliched idea, and make it fresh and new. Her main character, Ari, is the team’s massage therapist. The team’s grumpy captain, Patrick, who has a lot of issues, really hates to be touched. That’s the beginning here, and the book goes sideways from there. Ari is coming out of an abusive relationship. When the relationship’s history threatens to make her TSTL (to stupid to live), Bowen offers the perfect explanation: Ari compares herself to a frog in water, not realizing that the heat has been turned up until it starts to boil.
The explanation works, and the romance moves forward, with some really delicate relationship stuff. Even my big complaint about her work, which is that the endings are sometimes too easy, didn’t bother me here. The ending was just right. I loved the book and immediately grabbed my copy of the next one.
Daniloff, Caleb, “The Runners High,” Runner’s World, April 2017. Fascinating article on the ways that some organizations are rethinking the approach to addiction treatment. Not rethinking so much as adding to it. And what they’re adding is exercise. They’re finding that even a moderate amount of exercise “can reverse relapse vulnerability.” Combine that with other treatments, and this gives hope to people struggling to recover.
I know many of you don’t read Runner’s World. I also know that most of you don’t want to consider running. This isn’t about running. This is also about walking and moving around more. Just approach this piece with an open mind. I know exercise and running (and getting my 10,000 steps per day) have dramatically improved my chronic health issues. I’m hoping it can help some of you as well.
Faught, Andrew, “Rebel Alliance,” On Wisconsin, Spring 2017. More information I didn’t know. I knew a lot of women were working to get women jobs in the movie/TV industry; I just didn’t realize how organized it all was. Nor had I realized that Jennifer Warren spear-headed a lot of what’s happening now. Fascinating read, about something that has an impact on what you watch, each and every day.
Janek, Erika, “The Great War at Home,” On Wisconsin, Spring 2017. Here’s how much I pay attention: I hadn’t realized that Erika Janek, who wrote the book I recommended below, also wrote this article. It took typing in the information just now to figure it out. (I suspected she was a UW grad when I saw her acknowledgments in the book; this confirms it.)
Anyway, this is a great article about the home front in WW1. I knew very little about this, except the things my parents had told me, secondhand. The only person I knew who had lived through the war–my grandmother–had never spoken about it. Lots of great photos here, lots of great history snippets. If you’re at all interested in WW1, then take a peek.
Janek, Erika, Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction, Beacon Press, 2016. Fascinating book on the history of women as actual detectives (both private and in the police force) and also as fictional ones. The chapters alternate, and the book works chronologically, so it can get a bit dry if you’re trying to read it all at once. But the information is fascinating. I didn’t know most of what I was reading, including the history of women in various police departments. Next, I’m going to comb the footnotes, and order some of the books she used as research. If you’re at all interested in women as writers and as detectives, this book is for you.
Viertel, Jack, The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows are Built, Sarah Crichton Books, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2016. I loved this book. I picked it up because of a fantasy series I’m noodling with, but the book became much more than research. I love reading books about storytelling in other mediums, and that’s exactly what this book is about. Viertel owns and operates five Broadway theaters, plus teaches musical theater at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. He used a lot of what he taught in this particular book, which makes the explanations clear, and the information fascinating.
Full disclosure: I did not read this book in May. I read it months ago, and was going to use it as the basis for either a blog or a long post here. But I never got around to it. There was just too much quotable stuff, too much to parse, too much to share. So I’m punting, and letting you pick it up. If you’re interested in theater, this is a must-read. If you’re a writer who needs to think about structure, this is a must-read. And if you’re a musicals fan, well, then I’m sorry. Because you’ll never get some of the songs he mentions out of your head. Pick this one up. You’ll learn a lot about storytelling while you enjoy the read.