Friday Book Whimsey: Top Five for 2019

In 2019, I read 84 books out of my 100-book yearly goal. I feel like I read a LOT, so perhaps my goal is too high. Nevertheless, I’m going to keep challenging myself.

Out of the 84 books I read, I would like to present my five favorite books. They weren’t all necessarily published in 2019, but I read them all this past year.

So, in no particular order….

1. Watching You, by Lisa Jewell
Tom Fitzwilliams is hired by schools in trouble. He is handsome and charismatic. There is a murder, and there are many folks who could be the killer, including Fitzwilliams. The author provides readers clues a little at a time, keeping us all guessing. Jewell is one of my favorite authors.

2. November Road, by Lou Berney
Maybe I liked this book so much because I am so familiar with the time period that this took place, right around the time of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Mobster Frank Guidry realizes that he inadvertently played a part in the assassination, and knows the mob will be coming to get him to keep him quiet. At the same time, housewife Charlotte leaves her husband taking her children, heading for L.A. The two meet, and despite the fact that Guidry initially only is interested in them as a cover, he finds real happiness, at least for a time.

3. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
Kya is abandoned by her family when she is 6 years old, and is left to take care for herself in the marshes of the southern Carolinas. As she faces the obstacles of life, she learns what is important and what isn’t. The story involves a delicious mystery as well.

4. The Chelsea Girls, by Fiona Davis
All of the author’s books to date have involved well-known places in New York City that add to her stories. The Chelsea girls takes place in the 1950s during the McCarthy period. The characters, who live in the historic Chelsea Hoel, represent several sides of the issue, and I not only found the book highly entertaining, but I learned a lot from reading it. Win-win.

5. Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes
I loved this book. It might have been my favorite of 2019. Evvie is literally packing up her car to leave her abusive husband when she learns that he has had a massive heart attack which eventually kills him. Evvie feels so guilty and distraught that she can scarcely get on with her life. She meets a professional baseball pitcher who has suddenly and inexplicably tanked. The two fall in love, and save one another.

Happy reading in 2020.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Long and Faraway Gone

Author Lou Berney wrote one of my favorite reads so far in 2019 —¬†November Road. Because I liked that book so much, I decided to give one of his earlier books a try. I liked The Long and Faraway Gone just as much. Thumbs up to Lou Berney!

Back in Oklahoma City 1986, two very sad fictional events transpired. Five employees working in a movie theater are shot and killed execution-style. Inexplicably one of the teenaged employees isn’t shot. He has no idea why he was spared, but as you can imagine, the notion that he didn’t die while everyone else did haunts him. In the meantime, a young woman, who is visiting the state fair with her younger sister, goes missing and a body is never found.

Years later, both the surviving theater worker and the surviving younger sister set out to find closure by solving the cases themselves. The author has the two meet at a point in the book — a clever move — but other than that, the two stories are not connected.

Berney’s writing makes for an interesting story. Like¬†November Road, I was unable to put the book down until I could learn the outcomes of their individual stories.

I highly recommend this book.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: November Road

I, like every other living Baby Boomer on earth, remember exactly where I was when I heard that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. The Warren Commission’s report, requested by President Lyndon Johnson, did very little to squelch the various conspiracy theories that arose almost immediately. Many people simply didn’t (and don’t) believe that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy, at least not acting alone. This reviewer is staying silent. But author Lou Berney expressed his opinion, at least as far as his novel November Road goes.

The book’s protagonist Frank Guidry is a lieutenant in the New Orleans mob, answering to mob boss Carlos Marcello. As soon as he hears of the assassination, he realizes Kennedy’s murder was orchestrated by Marcello, and that he unknowingly played a role, though he didn’t know it at the time. Almost immediately, everyone involved in the assassination is being killed one at a time. No witnesses, no fear of being caught.

Guidry immediately begins running from the mob. He knows all their tricks, but he has friends of his own. Still, it’s the mob. As he makes his way to a friend that he thinks will help him, he comes across a car that is broken down on the side of the road carrying a woman and two children He realizes traveling with a woman and kids would be perfect cover.

Meanwhile, housewife Charlotte is living an unhappy life with her kind but alcoholic husband and two kids. She decides to make the big escape on Thanksgiving night as her husband is passed out. The three take the car and head towards LA, where Charlotte’s aunt lives. Their plans are thwarted when their car breaks down along the side of the road. They are rescued by a kind man. As for Frank, he lies completely about who he is and where he’s going.

But it isn’t long before Frank realizes that he actually does care about Charlotte and the kids, and that isn’t part of his plans at all.

Berney develops the story and the personalities of the main characters deliciously. This isn’t a love story, though love is involved. It’s the story of loyalty and greed and the need for love, told in such a way that this reader couldn’t put down the book. Reliving those days of confusion and fear following the assassination was scary, reminding me about that time when the unbelievable actually happened.

Here is a link to the book.