Over the summer, as part of our Summer Reading Bingo Challenge, we asked readers to try out our BookWise service. We’ve just finished answering a few requests, and I thought I’d share the results so far. How did we do? Let us know, or try the service for yourself!
Did not Like: The Signature of All Things
Looks for most in a book: Believable characters
What I want now: Something like A Gentleman in Moscow
- The Tiger’s Wife, a lush, mystical novel. It is incredibly absorbing and the language is lyrical with captivating authentic characters and a mythic quality, as in The Tenth Muse. Obreht is a beautiful writer.
- Another well-known novel that is similar to A Gentleman in Moscow is Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. It’s sophisticated and compelling and deals with well-to-do characters humbled by political circumstances and held captive in luxurious surroundings. It’s character-driven, though in this case, a cast of characters take turns being in the spotlight.
- Based on some of the other selections, try The Sympathizer, an excellent novel about a Vietnamese spy hiding out in Los Angeles who relates his tales of war from the perspective of having been captured. It’s very sharp, smart, funny and a little dark at times too, but ultimately poignant and unforgettable.
- Also try A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki. It’s a character-driven, engaging novel about a struggling writer who happens upon the letters of a troubled Japanese teenager who is determined to write the story of her grandmother. It’s a moving tale and a challenging one, but like the previous recommendation, won’t easily be forgotten.
- Finally, if you’re looking for something to follow up on the The Number One Chinese Restaurant, I would suggest either The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney, or Family Trust by Kathy Wang. Both are character-laden, and engaging. They both concern the children of successful families forced to reckon with the realities of what their parents have sacrificed for their state of being.
What I look for most in a book: Something at least a little suspenseful, whether a simmering romance, criminal investigation or legal proceeding, or something “unknown”.
What would you like this time: Something that leaves me with a sense of satisfaction with the resolution.
- The Stand, by Stephen King: “A monumentally devastating plague leaves only a few survivors in a desert world who move toward the ultimate confrontation of good and evil, in the expanded original version of King’s novel.”
- The Program, by Suzanne Young: “When suicide becomes a worldwide epidemic, the only known cure is The Program, a treatment in which painful memories are erased, a fate worse than death to seventeen-year-old Sloane who knows that The Program will steal memories of her dead brother and boyfriend.”
- The Rule of One, by Ashley and Leslie Saunders: “In the near-future United States, a one-child policy is ruthlessly enforced. Everyone follows the Rule of One. But Ava Goodwin, daughter of the head of the Texas Family Planning Division, has a secret—one her mother died to keep and her father has helped to hide for her entire life. She has an identical twin sister, Mira.”
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N. K. Jemisen: After Yeine Darr is summoned to the majestic city of Sky and named an heiress to the king of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, she is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had, drawing ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.
- In The Woods, by Tana French: “Detective Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl near a Dublin suburb. The case resonates with similarities to a murder committed twenty years before that involved two children and the young Ryan.”
Did not like: The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George (Wanted to like it but couldn’t even finish it)
Look for most in a book: Good pacing, interesting characters, beautiful sentences
What would you like now: Something that sucks me in immediately and I can’t put down. But not dense or bleak. A hearty “summer read”
- Try The Guest Book by Sarah Blake. Despite its size it moves quickly. It’s a family saga that looks back from the present generation to the 1930s and the late 1950s, as secrets about this very wealthy, white, New York family are slowly uncovered. Blake writes really well, and the first chapter will shock you and compel you to read on.
- Next, try The Furies by Natalie Haynes, about a teacher in Scotland sent to instruct a small drama group for troubled youths. The teens in the program are mesmerizing characters, and the result is a good slow-burn suspense novel, not unlike The Secret History.
- Speaking of suspense and excellent characters, have you read Tana French’s novels? She can be a bit dark, but she is a really great writer with good pacing. The second is very good, The Likeness, but a lot of people claim the third is the best, Faithful Place. The first is In the Woods. They can be read out of order, though the stories are linked.
- You might also like Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, a coming-of-age story about a group of friends who call themselves The Interestings. Wolitzer is a very engaging writer. What it’s about: Forging a powerful bond in the mid-1970s that lasts throughout subsequent decades, six individuals pursue respective challenges into their midlife years, including an aspiring actress who harbors jealousy toward friends who achieve successful creative careers.
- Finally, Elin Hildebrand is a great writer for a weekend getaway. She writes lighter reads, but with authentic characters and engaging plot lines. She also really loves her setting. Here’s to Us is a popular one: “Gathering at a ramshackle Nantucket cottage, a late celebrity chef’s former wives and children confront the sources of their bitter rivalries and slowly let go of resentments as they remember positive times and share long-held secrets.”