Friday Book Whimsy: Top Five of 2020

Like many others, I did a lot of reading in 2020. I would find my interests going back and forth. Sometimes I would feel like a murder mystery. Sometimes a ghost story appealed to me. I read many good books and a couple of duds. After careful thought, here is a list of my five favorite books of this past year.

The Thursday Murder Club This quirky novel by Richard Osman is the story of a group of senior citizens living in a retirement community who help the police solve a murder. Wonderful characters that I hope return as a series.

Blacktop Wasteland S.A. Cosby’s book, touted as a thriller, is so much more. Beauregard Montage is a black man who is trying to make it outside of his former criminal career. The book is a great example of the problem poor people, and especially poor Black people, often face under difficult circumstances.

One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow I think Olivia Hawker’s book about two women in the mid-1880s in rural Wyoming was my very favorite of the year. I loved the rural setting and reading about how these two women managed to keep their families safe and fed during difficult times. More than that, however, it was about forging friendships and letting go of anger.

Daisy Jones & the Six This novel, written by Taylor Jenkins Reid, reads like an oral biography. The format is so unique and so realistic that I found myself googling to determine if the band actually existed. It didn’t, though I’m sure it models other bands that were popular in the 1970s. I was worried that the format might throw me, but I ended up loving the book very much.

The Book of Longings Sue Kidd Monk writes a novel about the human life of Jesus and those who loved him. The emphasis, however, is not on Jesus, but on his wife Ana. Obviously the author takes great liberty in telling this story, but she tells the story very well. I was left with a much clearer appreciation of the difficult role of women in ancient times. Well written and very interesting.

I’m looking forward to some good offerings in 2021.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Earlier this year when we were really pretty confined to our homes and there was little else to do but read, I read a surprisingly good novel called Daisy Jones & the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I say surprisingly because the format was very unusual, written as an oral biography. Normally I like more traditional formats. But once I started reading it, I was drawn in completely. I reviewed that book here. 

To be completely honest, I didn’t realize that the author of that book was the same as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo until I was through a couple of chapters. I should have, however, because once again the format was somewhat unusual. While much traditional than Daisy Jones, it still took a bit of getting used to.

Evelyn Hugo was a poor Cuban-American girl who grew up in NYC with an abusive father. She was determined to get out of her situation. She knew it was possible because she was simply beautiful. Movie star beautiful. As soon as she could, she used her beauty to get out of NYC and into movies. This led to that, and she eventually became famous, in fact, a Hollywood institution.

And now she is ready to tell her story. But she will only tell her story to an unknown writer named Monique Grant. Nobody is more confused than Monique herself as to why the Hollywood legend insisted on her writing the biography. Evelyn insists on only one thing: Monique must tell Evelyn’s true story, every bit of it.

We learn about the actress via her interviews with Monique. And she breaks down her story by each husband.

“Who was the love of your life?” Monique asks the actress early on. The truth, in fact, many truths, came as a surprise to this reader. Through the interviews, we learn about the strength of one woman to change her very world. We learn the true meaning of love.

It was a wonderful book.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Daisy Jones & the Six

Daisy Jones & the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, was a breath of fresh air. I read a lot. Some books are good; some aren’t so good. But they all basically follow the same format. This novel was something new altogether. New and refreshing.

Written as an oral biography, this NOVEL tells the story of rock music in the 70s through the lives of two very talented rock musicians. The format was so realistic that I will admit to googling Daisy Jones and the Six on more than one occasion to make sure that it was fiction. It was. Very good fiction.

I grew up in the 70s. It’s true I wasn’t particularly a traditional rock music fan, but I know enough about rock music and the musicians involved to know that this novel told not only an interesting story, but one that was pretty realistic. Lots of music and drugs and sex. Welcome to the 1970s.

Daisy Jones was the only child of two people who couldn’t have cared less whether or not they had a child. She basically raised herself. Her life revolved around music. She loved listening to it. She loved writing it. She loved singing it. She wanted music to be her life’s work.

When she met Billy Dunne, and his rock band called the Six, it was a marriage made in heaven. Billy was just like Daisy: music was everything in his life. That, along with the woman he loved and eventually for whom he changed his life to keep her.

Daisy Jones & the Six is a story of love and friendship and music, all wrapped around life in the 1970s. I couldn’t put the book down. I loved both Daisy and Billy, and was happy that music shaped their lives just as they had hoped.

I strongly recommend Daisy Jones & the Six, particularly for anyone who grew up in the 70s.

Here is a link to the book.