I finished reading “Black Cake” yesterday. I highly recommend it. Without giving away the story, I will say I loved the characters — and the story. The story opens in what was called the West Indies with a half Chinese, Black young girl who loves the ocean and swimming.
She learns to cook black cake with other women in her village. Black cake is a traditional cake at weddings in the Caribbean and plays a central role throughout the book.
The characters are all strong. The story covers three generations of the same family. The children are in their 40s when they discover secrets about their family’s past.
“Wilkerson debuts with a shining family saga that stretches from the 1960s Caribbean to present-day Southern California….Readers will adore this highly accomplished effort from a talented new writer.”
What books have you read lately that you can highly recommend? I need more good book ideas.
My beach chair has a pocket on the back with a zipper. That’s where I keep sunscreen and books. I selected two books by Shirley Jackson and my goal was to get through them while I sat on the beach.
I adore reading on the beach.
“We Have Always Lived in the Castle” is one of my favorite books. I’m thinking of assigning it to Book Club when it’s my turn — if book club survives. The last book club turned into a disaster more on track with “The Real Housewives” than a social evening to discuss literature. A spat broke out between two ladies. One woman went way over the top — and the other countered by sending a certified letter telling her she was out of the group.
Since then, two months of book clubs have been cancelled. In August only one person RSVP’d. September’s book club is off because the woman hosting said she needs a break. After that last episode, we all need a break!
Back to the beach. I LOVED reading both Shirley Jackson books. She is such an excellent writer. “Come Along with Me” is the beginning of a novel she never finished due to her death.
In 1968, Jackson’s husband released a posthumous volume of her work, Come Along with Me, containing her unfinished last novel, as well as 14 previously uncollected short stories (among them “Louisa, Please Come Home”) and three lectures she gave at colleges or writers’ conferences in her last years.
Although I’ve hauled “Come Along with Me” from Washington to California to Arizona, I’ve never read it. It was the perfect beach book. I read one short story or a lecture each day at the beach and finished it the day before we left. Her unfinished novel “Come Along with Me” was a joy with a very quirky character who was clairvoyant and communicated with the dead.
At the beach house I had a Liane Moriarity book I was reading but didn’t finish. “Nine Perfect Strangers” may remain strangers to me.
The contrast between Shirley Jackson and authors today was stark. I felt almost smug reading such a talented writer and forgoing my usual beach romances. I have five more Jackson novels yet to read. I can’t wait!
What type of books do you like to read on vacation?
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Have you read Shirley Jackson’s stories or books besides “The Lottery?”
I finished reading two books this week. “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba” by Chanel Cleetom and “The Matchmaker” by Elin Hilderbrand.
The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
I read a book by Cleeton earlier this summer called “Next Year in Havana” and absolutely loved it. Although “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba” is good, it comes in second place to the prior book I read. This story takes place in Cuba and the United States during the Spanish American War amidst the battle of two newspaper empires, Pullitzer and Hearst.
The novel tells the story of three women, a reporter Grace Harrington in New York City based on Nellie Bly, the real-life Cuban revolutionary Evangelina Cisneros, who becomes famous as the “most beautiful girl in Cuba,” and Marina who left the comfort and safety of her wealthy Cuban family to marry her love, a poor Cuban farmer and fighter.
I recommend this book, but it took me about a third of the way in to get engrossed. In both of Cleeton’s books I’ve read, she has the same main family of Perez’s. I enjoy following their stories from different generations. I’m starting a third novel by her today, “The Last Train to Key West.”
I have read at least a dozen Elin Hilderbrand books and enjoy them. I get lost in the scenery of Nantucket, the Caribbean, or the other backdrops which become as much of a character as the people in her novels.
I get caught up right away and find she creates easy, fun reads. Although there’s usually common threads of death and cheating spouses, her stories fascinate me.
This is the story of a high school couple who are madly in love their entire lives, although not together after college graduation when Clendenin takes a job in as a reporter on the other side of the world. The main character, Dabney stays on Nantucket and becomes the director of the Chamber of Commerce and literally runs the island as a single mother. Eventually, she gets married to a famous economist Box, who becomes a great father and husband.
I won’t give away more of the story, but I got kind of annoyed. This one requires a lot of kleenex and I just wasn’t in the mood.
Have your read books by these authors? What are your opinions of them? What are some good books you’ve read lately and can recommend?
I’ve always loved to read. That’s why I wanted to be a writer beginning when I was a young girl reading all the Anne books over and over. My mom used to take me to a used book store at the “U District” in Seattle — that’s the area surrounding the University of Washington. I loved hanging out with the musty smells of thousands of aging books. I’d always find a treasure like “Little Women” or a book called “Liz” written by Jean MacGibbon. copyright 1966.
Back then, I treated the books and characters like old friends. I loved C.S. Lewis series, Anne, Harriet the Spy, and Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary. My parents thought it was odd that I could read a book more than a dozen times. I hung on to many of my favorites from my childhood. They have a sacred place on my bookshelf.
Today, I rarely read books more than once. But here’s my new quirk. If I really like a book, I have trouble finishing it. I’m reading “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett. I love the characters, the story, the setting. The house that’s a central character in the book. I have less than 20 pages left. But it has sat on my nightstand for the past two nights untouched. I don’t want to finish the book and leave it.
I had the same trouble two weeks ago with “Next Year in Havana” by Chanel Cleeton. The characters and setting, along with the story about a family’s life in Cuba during Batista’s years and their escape to Miami under Fidel Castro was fascinating. So was the jump forward to the granddaughter’s life when she visits Cuba for the first time and tries to discover pieces of her grandmother’s life. It was a good story because the author had characters on every side of the issues. There are revolutionaries, debutantes, sugar cane millionaires. You get to view Cuba’s history through many points of view. Many Cubans who stayed resented those who moved to America and flourished. Definitely worth a read. But it took me so long to finish those final chapters. The good news is there another book about the same family in the works.
What are some of the good books you’ve enjoyed lately? What are your favorite books from your childhood? What are some of your quirks reading books? Do you have certain genres you read?Who are your favorite authors?