I don’t know about you guys, but I love GoodReads’ Recommendation page! Sometimes I find completely new-to-me novels and other times seeing a certain book is similar to one I already enjoyed is all I need to give me that extra push. I thought this would be a fun feature to start – and today I’m highlighting some recommendations from two pre-2014 novels I absolutely loved! Who knows, maybe there will be a new favorite found in these recs!
BECAUSE I READ…
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki | my 5-star review
In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.
Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
I SHOULD READ…
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
In 1950, a doctor and an anthropologist sign on to an expedition headed for a remote island in search of a lost tribe. Once they arrive, they discover that, not only is the tribe alive and well, but they have a lifespan that far surpasses ours. Suspecting the source of their long life is a rare turtle, the doctor tracks one down and brings the meat back to America where he proves his theory and gains worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize. But he quickly learns that this new-found fame comes at a price.
This one had actually been on my To Read list last year, but I let one negative review get the better of me and I removed it. So I don’t know about you guys, but this one sounds like a total Leah book! A little Magical Realism, a little Literary Fiction… yep, this is definitely a book I WANT TO READ (possibly sooner, rather than later!).
Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
Five characters – a country boy-turned pop star; a man hoping to expand his family’s real-estate empire; a poetry-loving, left-wing activist who reinvented herself into a successful businesswoman; a girl who arrives in Shanghai only to discover the job she came in search of doesn’t exist; and the novel’s title billionaire – and the city that surrounds them.
I’m all about stories following multiple characters! I looove them. It also helps that Ruth Ozeki herself gave this one 5 stars. That said, there’s nothing about the summary that I find particularly intriguing. It was a nominee for the Man Booker Prize and I usually adore the novels up for the title, but I think I might have to PASS.
The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
Fifteen-year-old Yoshi is heading home one night when American bombers shower her city with napalm, leaving 100,000 people dead within hours. As Yoshi attempts to pick up the pieces of her now-broken life, we meet other characters: a pilot taken prisoner, an architect, and a soldier.
I’m a little surprised I had never heard of this novel until now! I love me some Historical Fiction, especially when it’s a wartime novel. From what I understand, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment takes place in the years before, during, and just after World War II. That, combined with the glowing reviews (including some from bloggers I adore!) make me WANT TO READ this one!
The Garden of Evening Mists by Twan Eng Tan
Malaysia, 1949. A young lawyer who has started a career of prosecuting Japanese war criminals (she was the sole survivor of a camp). She heads home and discovers the only Japanese garden in Malaysia, along with its owner, the former gardener to the Japanese Emperor, now in exile. With his guidance, she soon learns the art of garden design and struggles to make sense of the mysteries surrounding her teacher.
Again, another novel I had never heard of and yet another Man Booker nominee! While the summary doesn’t seem like much, the reviews are outstanding. I’m also getting the feeling that The Garden of Evening Mists will break me and I’ll be a horrible weeping mess after finishing. WANT TO READ.
The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma
Three friends and the falling out that upended their world. Our narrator, who always knew he wanted to become a writer. Julian, the narrator’s best friend and rival. Evelyn, the green-eyed girl who got away. Their falling out leads to a tangled web of lies that leaves the narrator unsure of who he is and where his life is now headed.
Last year the publicist pitched this novel to me and, at the time, I had passed. Since then it’s crossed my path more than once and every time I wonder if I had made a mistake. The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is a slim thing – just 250 pages – and certainly sounds like something I could enjoy. There are mentions of Manhattan jazz clubs and Sri Lankan villages. That the narrator is unreliable and unnamed only intrigues me more! From the sound of things, this is a novel unlike any other – in the latter half of the book, names and identities are completely changed. I’m thinking I just might WANT TO READ this one after all!
BECAUSE I READ…
The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe | my 5-star review
Still reeling from the deaths of her mother and sister on the Titanic, Sibyl Allston is living a life of quiet desperation with her taciturn father and scandal-plagued brother in an elegant town house in Boston’s Back Bay. Trapped in a world over which she has no control, Sibyl flees for solace to the parlor of a table-turning medium.
But when her brother is suddenly kicked out of Harvard under mysterious circumstances and falls under the sway of a strange young woman, Sibyl turns for help to psychology professor Benton Derby, despite the unspoken tensions of their shared past. As Benton and Sibyl work together to solve a harrowing mystery, their long-simmering spark flares to life, and they realize that there may be something even more magical between them than a medium’s scrying glass.
I SHOULD READ…
By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
Fifteenth Century Spain. The Spanish Inquisition rages and those in power become even more powerful day by day. Luis de Santángel holds a position at court and is a close friend to King Ferdinand. When a friend falls victim to the Inquisition, Luis decides to take matters into his own hands – even though his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target.
While I adore Historical Fiction, I have to admit I tend to stick to a few specific periods. The Fifteenth Century is not one of them. That said, I love reading outside my comfort zone! I’m also curious to see just how religion will play out in this one. Although I have no immediate plans for By Fire, By Water, it does sound interesting enough and having Christopher Columbus as a character just might make this novel one I’ll read SOMEDAY.
And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander
A Viscount’s proposal lands Emily in the throngs of Victorian society. Upon his sudden passing however, Emily discovers deep and dangerous secrets.
Not a whole lot to go on, but I’m familiar with this author! I haven’t read any of her novels, but she is someone I come across daily at work. I’m definitely interested in the Historical Mystery aspect and I’m loving that this series is a bit on the longer side (the ninth book came out this year). And Only to Deceive sounds like a fun, quick read for a rainy day: WANT TO READ.
Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli
October 1941. An eleven-year-old girl sits on a bus bound for Georgia. As a child of mixed race (her father is black, her mother is Scotch-Irish and Cherokee), Ella has already spent a lifetime confronting racism, and the further South she heads, the worse it’ll get until her disappearance in the Georgia mountains (for her parents receive a phone call saying she never arrived in her hometown) uncovers a century’s worth of family secrets.
Glow spans multiple eras (from the 1830s to the Great Depression to the 1940s) and follows numerous narrators as they dish out the family saga. Just like The People in the Trees this is one I’ll be reading immediately and the second I read the summary I raced to my library’s website and squealed in delight when I saw it was listed in the database! It’s now requested and I cannot wait to read this one! WANT TO READ
The Doctor and the Diva by Adrienne McDonnell
It’s 1903 and Erika, a beautiful and talented opera singer, has been struggling for years to get pregnant. Just as she’s about to finally give up home and leave Boston (and her husband) to pursue a career in Italy, she makes a visit to Dr. Ravell. The young doctor has a budding reputation helping couples conceive. When he meets Erika, however, he soon comes to realize their doctor-patient relationship will be unlike any other.
Eh. I don’t know. On the one hand, yay opera! Yay turn-of-the-century Boston! …but on the other, this sounds like it could quickly delve into Erotica territory and no thank you. I read through some reviews and they seem pretty split: either people enjoyed this one or they hated it. I haven’t seen many glowing reviews from people who loved this one and that concerns me. I don’t want to spend time with just an okay novel. Sorry, but it looks like both doctor and diva will be getting a PASS.