Friday Book Whimsy: Top Five for 2018

Every year, my reading goal is 100 books. I don’t think I have ever reached my goal, and this year I fell even shorter than last year. Nevertheless, I read some books that I really liked. Not all of my top five books were published in 2018. Furthermore, it was pretty hard to narrow my book list down to five.

Here are the five favorite books I read this year, in no particular order…..

Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall
Willow is 10 years old, and her mother Polly was in her 50s when she was born. Willow lives in fear that her mother will die before she is grown. As for Polly she lives life to the fullest, but carries the burden of secrets that she refuses to share with her daughter. And then when tragedy strikes, they take a trip back to Polly’s old stomping grounds and Willow learns her secrets.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Gail Honeyman
Eleanor struggles with appropriate social skills, and prefers to live her regular, if boring life in which she never strays outside the lines. And then she meets Raymond, and their friendship opens her up to new possibilities. I loved this book primarily for the characters.

 

The Word is Murder Anthony Horowitz
In The Word is Murder, author Horowitz literally writes himself into the book as one of the characters. A disgraced police detective, let go from the London police force is hired as a consultant for the case of a mysterious murder of the mother of a famous actor. In Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson style, the detective — known only as Hawthorne — hires Horowitz to work with him on a case, and chronicle it by writing a diary. The premise is as clever as can be, earning it a place in my top five favorites.

Be Frank With Me Julia Claiborne Johnson
Alice Whitley agrees to become the assistant to famed author Mimi Banning as she writes her first book in years to ensure that the book is completed. Part of Alice’s job description is taking care of Mimi’s 9-year-old probably-autistic son Frank, who is one of my favorite characters of all time. He is smart, funny, and loves to dress up like 40s movie stars. I enjoyed the story, and simply adored Frank.

Clock Dance Anne Tyler
Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors of all time, but I have been disappointed in her most recent efforts. I found Clock Dance to be back to the author’s standards, featuring characters with whom I could be friends. Willa Drake has had plenty of sadness in her life. Her mother was bipolar, and her first husband died in a road rage accident. She is comfortably settled into a pretty boring marriage with her second husband, when she gets a call that takes her to Baltimore and changes her life forever.

Honorable mentions: Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn; Caroline: Little House on the Prairie Revisited, by Sarah Miller; and Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell.

Next year: 100 BOOKS

Friday Book Whimsy: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is author Gail Honeyman’s first book, and her debut novel, like her main character, is completely fine.

Eleanor Oliphant is 28 years old. She lives alone in a small apartment and works in an office. She has no friends and limited social skills. She says what she thinks without a filter. Her main activities are drinking too much vodka on weekends and talking to her mother on the telephone once a week or so.

Eleanor’s quiet life is disrupted when she meets Raymond, who is the IT person in her office. He is as kind as he is unkempt and unattractive. They become friends. The friendship is cemented when they help an old man they find unconscious and ill on the street. They take him to a hospital, where his life is saved.

As the novel progresses, the reader learns — little by little — about Eleanor’s completely dysfunctional upbringing. Eleanor, herself, knew little about her past life. As she becomes more comfortable with her friendship with Raymond, she gives him permission to look into her past. What he learns is horrifying.

The reader is kept in the dark as to where Eleanor’s mother actually is. It might be prison. It might be a psychiatric facility. It isn’t until the very end that the reader learns the surprising truth about Eleanor and her mother.

While Eleanor’s past is dark, the novel really isn’t. Eleanor is completely likable, as is Raymond. The novel is sad in places, but laugh out loud funny in other places. I have rarely enjoyed a story or liked a character so well.

The novel was somewhat overlong and this reader felt a bit more editing would have been helpful. Still, I recommend Elearnor Oliphant is Complete Fine wholeheartedly and without reservation. Because she is. Completely fine, that is.

Here is a link to the book.