Happy Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we’re talking about books you have read that were recommended to you by someone else. My list is made up of books recommended to me mostly by other people in my book club, and blogs.
I decided to go with books that I have read in the last two years that were first recommended to me by someone else. You will notice this isn’t exactly a top ten list, but a mixed bag. I think it’s fun to sometimes talk about books that didn’t “wow” me.
Guests on Earth by Lee Smith
It’s 1936 when orphaned thirteen-year-old Evalina Toussaint is admitted to Highland Hospital, a mental institution in Asheville, North Carolina, known for its innovative treatments for nervous disorders and addictions. Taken under the wing of the hospital’s most notable patient, Zelda Fitzgerald, Evalina witnesses cascading events that lead up to the tragic fire of 1948 that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them. Author Lee Smith has created, through a seamless blending of fiction and fact, a mesmerizing novel about a world apart–in which art and madness are luminously intertwined.
Recommended by: A friend of mine who works at Davidson College. We later went to hear the author speak on campus.
My rating: 3.5/5 stars. I would definitely read more by this North Carolinian author.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion—a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.
Recommended by: My neighborhood book club.
My rating: 4/5 stars. I really enjoyed this one, even though quite a few of my fellow book club members didn’t.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.
First of all, I just have to say, holy batman run-on sentence! I just noticed that now. It’s a good thing the book was much better written than the blurb!
My rating: 4/5 stars. My review is here.
Isle of Palms by Dorothea Benton Frank
Anna Lutz Abbot considers herself independent and happy, until one steamy summer when she must find a way to deal with the secrets of her unpredictable family-and her past.
Oh, my beloved Lowcountry, which has taken quite a beating from Hurricane Matthew. I read this book on the beach this past summer at Hilton Head Island visiting my parents. They have been staying at our house in Charlotte since they had to evacuate last week, and haven’t been allowed back on the island yet. We don’t know how severely their home has been damaged.
Recommended by: My mom.
My rating: 3/5 stars.
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.
Recommended by: Book club.
My rating: 3/5 stars. Probably on the lower end of 3 stars. It was okay.
Cataloochee by Wayne Caldwell
Against the breathtaking backdrop of Appalachia comes a rich, multilayered post—Civil War saga of three generations of families–their dreams, their downfalls, and their faith. Cataloochee is a slice of southern Americana told in the classic tradition of Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner.
Recommended by: A friend.
My Rating: 4/5 stars. This was a surprise gem! I read it while we were vacationing in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains last summer, which made it even better to be immersed in the setting.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.
Recommended by: Book Club.
My Rating: 3/5 stars. I was a bit disappointed in this book, I was expecting to like it more than I did.
Euphoria by Lily King
Inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is the story of three young, gifted anthropologists of the 1930s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives.
Recommended by: A friend who knew I studied cultural anthropology in college.
My Rating: 3/5 stars. It was okay. Another one low on the 3-star spectrum.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.
Recommended by: Book Club.
My Rating: 3/5 stars. I really enjoyed the second half. Liane Moriarty books are usually a delight to read!
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
Recommended by: A friend from the local social justice advocacy group that I belong to.
My Rating: 5/5 stars. Excellent. I learned a lot of new things about the capital punishment system in America, particularly how it has been applied over the last few decades in the South.