Elizabeth I: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey
Technically, I have not finished this book, but I can tell you that it's good. Real good. For a biography on a historical figure who died hundreds of years ago, this is a fast, page-turning read (and who doesn't love Elizabeth I?) If you are interested in Tudor history in the slightest, I would highly, highly recommend this book. You'll lose your head over it. (Pun totally intended. You're welcome.)
Summer People by Brian Groh
This book is about a twenty-something college dropout who spends the summer as the caretaker of a wealthy elderly woman who has a few secrets up her sleeve. Intriguing story, right? Well, it could have been. The writing was good and I really identified with the narrator, which surprised me. I wanted this book to be good and rooted for it up until the last page. But something was missing. The plot fell flat and I was left wanting the story that the blurb made sound so exciting.
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Pat Conroy is, of course, the king of Southern fiction. And yet I had not read this classic until a couple months ago. All I can say is if you haven't read this, you need to go fix that. Be warned that it's graphic and intense and weird in all the ways characteristic of Southern gothic literature. But once you've finished, you won't be able to get the characters out of your head. (Also-has anyone seen the movie? Is it worth watching?)
Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
Travel memoirs are my guilty pleasure. And, yes, I mostly picked up this book because of the dreamy cover. But I found it boring. A girl moves to Paris, gets married, goes to the market and cooks sometimes. I wanted the narrator to change and grow and, I don't know, overcome some inner turmoil. Make some poetic connection between her new life in France and her cooking. But the writing felt forced and never came to any grand conclusions to make the read worthwhile.
The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
This was my first Anne Tyler book. And I quickly fell in love with her writing style. It's warm and soupy and something you're happy to curl up with on a quiet night at home. She's cozy and straightforward and yet deeply poetic at the same time. I will be reading many more of her books. That said, I wasn't totally wild about the actual story. It was about a marriage that ultimately failed, and while she painted the picture of their marriage beautifully, it still felt a little empty, like something was missing. Others, however, have fallen in love with this book, so it could have just been my happy-ending self that didn't fall head over heels.
The London Train by Tessa Hadley
This book, like Summer People, had an interesting concept but I wasn't crazy about the story. The first half of the book is about, who has decided to go to London to care for the teenage daughter from his first marriage, who turns out to be pregnant. The second half is about a woman struggling to leave her marriage. The two characters meet, as you can guess, on the London train. It was interesting and I enjoyed reading it overall, but it's not something I would necessarily need to add to my library.
Sailing Around the Room by Billy Collins
I can't name any other living poets off the top of my head right now, but Billy Collins is my new favorite. I pulled one of his poetry books out of a library shelf one day, shrugged, brought it home, completely unaware that he was as well known as he is. His style has been described as blue-jeans poetry, and I love that. He's funny and down-to-earth, but also kind of a genuis. Even if you think you're not into poetry, flip through a few of his poems next time you're at the library.