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: Be Frank With Me

I approached Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson, with some trepidation. After all, it was a debut novel in which the title character is 9 years old. Still, it was being compared to Where’d You Go, Bernadette – a book by Maria Semple – that I also approached with trepidation, and that book turned out to be one of my favorite books ever.  So I dug in. I’m still patting myself on my back for my great decision.

Alice Whitley is given an unusual assignment by the publisher for whom she works. She is to become the personal assistant to writer M.M. Banning (called Mimi), who is world-famous for a classic book she wrote when she was a young adult, but she hasn’t written a book since. She lives as a recluse of sorts with her 9-year-old son, Frank.

But the unconventional writer lost her fortune in a Ponzi scheme, and now she is forced to write another novel to pay her bills. Alice will handle her affairs and keep her on target while she writes. One of her main assignments is to take care of Frank.

Frank is not your ordinary 9-year-old. He has a photographic memory, he dresses like he is a movie star straight out of the 30s and 40s, and he has no filter. He says what he thinks and he thinks what he says. He is clearly a genius. While the author never even suggests that he is autistic, it’s what obviously comes to the reader’s mind.

But eccentric though he might be, that same reader will be unable to not fall in love with this child. He is innocent and wise beyond his years. He loves his mother and Mimi loves him right back. It is a sweet – if odd – relationship.

Alice’s fondness for Frank grows throughout the book, and she sets out to learn the secrets in Mimi’s (and therefore, Frank’s) past. Who is Frank’s father? Is it Xander, the odd fellow who shows up on occasion and gives Frank piano lessons? And what has made Mimi not write for so many years?

Like Alice, everyone who reads this book will fall in love with Frank. He is a character I will never forget. I hope Julia Claiborne Johnson doesn’t wait decades to write her next book as did Mimi because I am eagerly awaiting her next book.

Here is a link to the book.