What I’m Reading, What I’ve Read, and Everything in Between

By JT Ellison

I love taking a real vacation – away from home, work and the responsibilities of a schedule. Vacation is the time of year I allow myself to be a total slob – drop clothes on the floor, don’t make the bed, stay up too late and sleep the morning away, tipple in the afternoons – all things I would never, ever do at home.

But the best part of vacation is unrestricted reading time. I managed a few books during my week away, and enjoyed all of them. I focused mainly on new to me authors, with an old faithful tucked in for surety. Here’s what I read, with attendant thoughts.

What I Read:

THE GHOST – Robert Harris

This was a phenomenal book. I knew the narrator was unreliable from the start, but the story swept me in immediately with an excellent opening line – “The moment I heard how McAra died, I should have walked away.” You know something dreadful is going to happen, and you can’t wait to find out what it is. This was my first Harris book, but it certainly won’t be my last.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK – Neil Gaiman

My first foray into Gaiman’s world wasn’t a disappointment. I was so touched by the story, the setting, the lovely notion that there are lives to be lead whether you’re alive or dead. It was a morality tale, but more – an exploration into the mind of a creative genius. I can’t wait to move on to his adult work.

SILVER FALLS – Anne Stuart

Stuart is an author with my house, a classic romantic suspense specialist. Though I wanted to slap the heroine for being rather too trusting and too committed to a bad course of action, the premise of the story – even serial killers have families – was intriguing, and the sex was rompalicious.

BABY SHARK’S JUGGLERS AT THE BORDER – Robert Fate

Full disclosure, Bob is a friend of mine. But his Baby Shark books are some of the finest on the market today. The latest installment was a true pleasure to read – I felt like I was right there in late 50’s Texas, a cannon strapped to my arm and a blade down my pant leg. Otis Millett was in his finest form ever, and the story crackled along at a breakneck pace. And Henry makes a welcome reappearance in this book too, lending his usual poignancy to Kristin’s life. I absolutely loved it, and I can’t wait for the next one. Bob, I hope you’re writing faster!

CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC – Sophie Kinsella

Silly, fun and an easy read, I had a good time while reading this. My own confession, I’m still reading it, which is more my problem than the author’s ability to keep my head in the story. A definite beach read.

WORD FREAK – Stefan Fatsis

This exposé into the word of professional Scrabble reads like an anagrammatic dictionary, full of unfamiliar words and quirky characters. But it’s rekindled my love of the game, and I promptly downloaded Scrabble for my iPhone and have been using the tips and tricks laid out in the book to further my own scores. I still suck, but at least I’m looking at the board in a whole new way. It also served to remind me that while I think I have an extensive vocabulary, I really don’t.

THE ACCIDENTAL BUDDHIST – Dinty Moore

I saved the best for last. This was my favorite of all the books I read. Surprised me too. Jeff Abbott suggested I give this a read, and I enjoyed every minute. It’s in turns funny, enlightening and inspirational. I’ve documented my path to finding some sort of Zen in my daily life on this blog, and this book affirmed much of what I’ve been thinking. I’ve realized that many of my “methods” are firmly rooted in Buddhism, which surprised me. But I loved the idea of dedicating yourself to a project like Moore has, and the realization he makes: the more you search for something, the further away it gets. When you allow peace and happiness to find you, then you can achieve enlightenment. That’s true in all things, I think. Highly recommend this book for everyone, whether you’re on a journey of personal growth or just want a little more peace in your life.

What I’m Reading Right Now:

ECLIPSE – Stephenie Meyers

After a big jag like this, I often turn to familiar, comfort reads to help me get settled back into my routine. Seeing the New Moon trailer the other night sparked a reunion with my old friends Jacob, Edward and Bella. I’ve read this series twice before, but this time it feels different for me. I have more compassion with Jacob than I have in the past, feel his pain more keenly. Trying to choose between two men is difficult for anyone, but for the first time I felt myself lean a bit toward Team Jacob. I wonder how the movie will turn out, and if I’m simply responding to Taylor Lautner in the role of Jacob. Regardless, these books are the perfect segue back to my real world of writing.

What I’m Reading Next:

This weekend, I’m starting Dan Brown’s THE LOST SYMBOL. I can’t wait. It’s sitting next to me, taunting me. I enjoyed THE DAVINCI CODE, and I’m sure I’m going to enjoy this as well. I’m not down on Dan Brown like so many others – hell, he’s done for adults what JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyers did for teenagers – got them reading. I will never fault an author who draws a huge audience. Brown strikes a chord in many people. I know he struck one in me when I first read THE DAVINCI CODE. So, love him or hate him, I choose to enjoy the ride and can’t wait to crack the covers. My grandfather was a Mason, and I hope to learn something about him, too.

The minute I finish THE LOST SYMBOL, I’ll move on to Diana Gabaldon’s long awaited AN ECHO IN THE BONE. Gabaldon’s books are a lifeline for me, a series of books that truly transcend description. We all have those books that just speak to us, the characters who climb into our brains and reside there. Gabaldon is an author who evokes such strong imagery and setting that I feel like I’m living the story as one of the unseen cast. I’ll admit, I’ve had a wicked crush on Jaime Fraser for a very, very long time.

And to cap off my week, I get to see Ms. Gabaldon here in Nashville this coming Thursday. She’s at Davis Kidd September 24, 7:00 p.m. Be there or be square!

So, my ‘Rati friends, how about you? Tell me the last book you read, the book you’re reading now, and the book you’re planning to read next. Ready? GO!

Wine of the Week: 2006 Chateau la Rose Tour Blanche Bordeaux

32 thoughts on “What I’m Reading, What I’ve Read, and Everything in Between

  1. Chuck

    Hey JT:

    Glad you had a good time, devoured some books, and tippled in the afternoons!

    Just finished Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse–amazing, classic story.

    Currenty reading Topaz by Leon Uris. He had enough talent to make me want to vomit, and wrote screenplays, Broadway plays…a master.

    Next up is The Lost Symbol! Like you, I’m curious to see what old Dan is going to bring us. You know, I think he is going to make it.

    See you soon!

    Reply
  2. JD Rhoades

    I’ve been going through one of those spells where I have trouble finding anything to hold my interest. I pick books up, read a few chapters, put them down. Many times, I’m just not in the mood for that particular book right now. Last one I finished was Stephen Hunter’s first book THE MASTER SNIPER. Not as polished as his later work, and without a badass hero like Bob Lee Swagger, but you can still see some of the elements that Hunter weaves through some of his best known books, most notably a fascination with snipers and their gear that borders on the fetishistic. I love Hunter’s work, but I’ve occasionally referred to some of his books as "gun porn." Still, a fun read.

    Right now, I’m reading THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN’S UNION.Ii’m only a few pages in, so I haven’t really formed an opinion yet, but it’s an interesting idea. Next up is probably Anthony Neil Smith’s HOGDOGGIN.

    Reply
  3. billie

    I’m getting ready to read Echo in the Bone too – and also Audrey Niffenegger’s new one, Her Fearful Symmetry.

    I just finished re-reading the entire Outlander series in prep for the newest, which has spoiled me for everything else right now.

    Reply
  4. J.B. Thompson

    Just finished Jennie Bentley’s first, FATAL FIXER-UPPER. What an adorable series this is going to be. I have her second, SPACKLED AND SPOOKED, ready and waiting on the TBR pile.

    I’ve been off and on reading a book that a friend recommended, a delightful literary fiction number called SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS, by Marisha Pessl. It’s another of those books that’s hard to describe, but the first-person POV character, a teenaged girl named Blue Van Meer, is engaging as she narrates the "Magnificent Reason" for writing her Life Story.

    Also "up next" are a couple of review books – GUMBO JUSTICE by Holli Castillo and TOMMY GUN TANGO by Bruce Cook/Brant Randall.

    I too am a Dan Brown fan, loved THE DA VINCI CODE, and am looking forward to reading THE LOST SYMBOL once I get through the rest of this mountain of books I call my TBR pile.

    Great post as usual, sister. Glad you enjoyed your vacation! =)

    Reply
  5. Joe Moore

    JT, I just finished THE GHOST by Harris and thought it was amazing. The ending was haunting. BTW, it won the ITW Thriller Award for best novel in 2008. Next up is THE LOST SYMBOL. Not sure why, but what the hell. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Alafair Burke

    Lord, you read all those books in 1 week? That’s ridiculous!

    The last book I read was Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly (ah, got to love early ARCs). That man’s a god. I’m actually re-reading Rain Gods right now (by my father, JLB), because it’s just that good. Up next is Rogue Island, a forthcoming debut by Bruce DeSilva.

    I loved Word Freak. Did you see Word Wars?

    Reply
  7. Debby J

    Hi JT,
    Just finished THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and loved every word of it. Lisbeth Salander has to be the most provocative female character I’ve read in a long, long time–smart, quirky, and balls out fearless. My only disappointment is that I have to wait until next summer for the final book.

    Reply
  8. pari noskin taichert

    Oops. I got cut off

    Just finished: EMPIRE FALLS by Richard Russo
    currently reading: REWRITES by Neil Simon
    up next? Well, I don’t know. I’ve got the Master Class coming up and that’ll be a lot of authors I’ve probably not heard of before. THEN I want to tackle that list of authors and books that our ‘Rati readers recommended in my post from a few weeks ago.

    Reply
  9. PK the Bookeemonster

    Then:
    A DUTY TO THE DEAD by Charles Todd — liked it
    EVIL AT HEART by Chelsea Cain — though I liked the first one a lot, I think I’m done with this storyline

    Now:
    THE LOST SYMBOL by Dan Brown — I’ve loved this type of book for decades — love political/religious/court intrigue. BTW, if you like this type, too, THE LAST EMBER by Daniel Levian is excellent.

    Next:
    I have so many next-in-series to read plus a couple current events 24-day books from the library. I just have to make time for everything. Ah, the house cleaning can be let go for another week ….

    Reply
  10. Becky LeJeune

    Geez, your vacation list is impressive! We’re going on vacation in about a week (my high school reunion) and I’m already overdoing it with what I want to pack.

    Last book finished, honestly, was Pretty Little Ladies by Abby Drake. It had kind of a rocky start for me (very silly premise) but I’m a sucker for a fun read and this was just plain fun. Quick and beachy. Read it in one night.

    I’m in the middle of Ivy Pochoda’s The Art of Disappearing. I had hoped I would finish this one yesterday as well (I took a day off to do some reading, so it was like a stay-cation). This is a really well written story about magic and love.

    I’ve also just started Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Not through book one just yet, but I’m working on it. I really like it so far. Kicking myself for waiting this long.

    Next on the list is probably Nevada Barr’s new one, 13 1/2, or some paranormal with Jennifer Armintrout’s Queene of Light or Gail Carriger’s Soulless.I’m going to aim for getting them all done this weekend — which almost never happens.

    Reply
  11. Louise Ure

    Put me in the camp of those who read the Da Vinci Code at one sitting … but part of my pleasure was in making fun of his shallowness and crappy dialogue. I’m not in line to read this one.

    Reply
  12. JT Ellison

    What great suggestions! It’s so nice to belong to such a diverse literary community!

    Sorry I’m so late this morning, I finished ECLIPSE and dove right into BREAKING DAWN, read half of it and didn’t get to bed until 2. Nothing like a trasporatory read. (I think I just made up a new word. I AM tired!)

    Chuck, can’t wait to meet you in person!

    Dusty, I do that. Thankfully it’s been riches instead of rags lately. You’ll like Chabon’s book, it’s good.

    Billie, I have both of Niffenegger’s books ready to go – pre-ordered Her Fearful Symmetry. And I know just what you mean about being spoiled for the rest of the world’s books after reading Gabaldon. Others always seem pale in comparison.

    JB, great choices all. I have Special Topic here too, trying to figure out when I want to tackle that. I’ve heard good and bad things.

    Joe, Harris is wonderful. He deserved the award, no doubt!

    Sara, I really need to get the Larsson books. I’ve heard good and bad, but more good.

    Dru, I need to read that Martin book – it’s been staring at me for months.

    Alafair, I didn’t see Word Wars, I’ll have to add that one on. And aren’t you the lucky duck getting Connelly’s new one early! (And to be truthful, the trip was actually 9 days, so if that helps…)

    Pari, you’re schedule is most definitely full. I have the Russo here too – I have a billion books I haven’t read yet. It’s actually quite joyous to think about. Have fun intensive writing!

    Debby, that’s what I’ve heard. OK, I’m convinced. He’s been added to the list.

    PK, I haven’t read Chelsea Cain yet – I find myself shying away from serial killer books these days. I guess I feel like I’m inviting so much evil into my life writing my own that I can’t add more in. And I do love a good religious/political/historical thriller. I’ve added THE LAST EMBER in too…

    Becky, your reading list is always so eclectic and cool! As far as packing, I literally took a bikini, two pairs of shorts, a couple of tank tops and a dress so I could have room for all the books.

    Ah, Louise. No transcendence for you, eh???

    Reply
  13. Fran

    Lillian and I are on vacation in New Mexico this week, and oddly, I’m enjoying not having to read. Since my "homework" is reading, it’s a bit relaxing not to feel pressured to pick up the next cool book.

    Except. There’s always an "except", isn’t there?

    I started reading Jess Walter’s new one, "The Financial Lives of Poets", before we left, and it’s so funny and heartbreakingly accurate about these financial times, that I’m having a difficult time taking a vacation from it.

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  14. Kaye Barley

    This is fun!!
    Recently read –
    newly discovered by me – the Smokey Dalton series by Kris Nelscott. Loved every one of them.
    The Writing Class by Jincey Willett – Huge Fun!
    Heaven’s Keep by William Kent Krueger. What can I say – It’s William Kent Krueger for God’s Sake. One of the best writers out there.
    Tower by Bruen and Coleman. oh my. Worth the wait. What can I say – it’s Bruen and Coleman.
    Tommy Gun Tango by Brant Randall/Bruce Cook. I LOVED this book.
    The Day the Music Died by Ed Gorman – can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

    What’s up next? I’m settling in tomorrow with the newest Dan Brown and dare anyone to interrupt.

    and I need to get my hands on Word Freak! I’m addicted to word games . . . .

    Happy Weekend!
    Kaye

    Reply
  15. Sandy Jones

    Last read – Eclipse

    Reading now – Breaking Dawn

    Next read – Probobly the 4th book in the Sookie Stackhouse series.

    Eventually – Love Angels and Deamons and The DaVinci Code so I will read The Lost Symbol
    Still working my way through the Gabaldon books, so I will have to get the new one too.

    SOOOOOO Many Books, SOOOOOO Little Time!!

    Still waiting for the next Taylor Jackson book!!!!!

    Sandy Jones

    Reply
  16. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Wow, I was on Team Jacob from the beginning. Have not made it through one entire book in the series, but I’ve skimmed.

    At the moment reading Picoult’s SALEM FALLS, Anita Shreve’s TESTIMONY, and a bunch of paranormals.

    Enjoy well deserved vaca, sweetie, and I think I will be seeing you next week at SIBA, right?

    Reply
  17. Sean Chercover

    Recent reads: THE LONG DIVISION by Derek Nikitas – Absolutely brilliant. And THE GOOD SON, by Russel D. McLean – A stunning debut – I loved it.

    Just started: VANISHED by Kat Richardson. Loving it.

    Hey – three great books in a row! I’m on a roll.

    Reply
  18. Jemi Fraser

    I just finished Night’s Landing by Carla Neggers. I just discovered her this summer, and I think that’s the 3rd book of hers I’ve read. Good romantic suspense – lots of action and tension 🙂

    Reply
  19. Zoë Sharp

    Hi JT

    What a list – I LOVE the word ‘rompalicious’!

    And thanks for the recommendations, particularly on THE ACCIDENTAL BUDDHIST. That definitely sounds like one I ought to read and inwardly digest.

    Just reading GRAVE STONES by Priscilla Masters – she has her heroine DI Joanna Piercy reading a Charlie Fox book on holiday, which is kind of surreal.

    Just finished Stuart B MacBride’s HALFHEAD, which I loved, and am about to start Russel D McLean’s THE GOOD SON.

    Enjoy your well-earned hols!

    Reply
  20. Catherine Shipton

    JT, since University has been on a break for a couple of weeks I’ve gone a little mad reading…

    I recently discovered a couple of Australian authors that I’m surprised I’ve not seen before. I found Garry Disher’s ‘Dragon Man’ and was hooked with the back cover blurb…[which is unusual, I normally read at least the first couple of pages].

    ‘A serial killer is on the loose in a small coastal town near Melbourne. Detective Inspector Hal Challis and his team must apprehend him before he strikes again. But first Challis must contend with the editor of a local news-paper who undermines his investigation at every turn and with his wife, who is attempting to resurrect their marriage through long-distance phone calls from a sanitarium where she has been imprisoned for the past eight years for attempted murder. His.’

    So I’ve found myself reading the Inspector Challis series in rapid succession, and am currently reading his latest book from this series,’ Blood Moon’.

    Somewhere in the midst of this I bought Canadian/Australian author Tara Moss’s latest book, ‘Siren’, which I think is her best book in years.

    The other Australian writer I’ve recently starting seeking out is Kathryn Fox, a medical practioner with a special interest in forensic science. I’ve read; ‘Malicous Intent’ , ‘Without Consent’, and ‘Sking and Bone’, so far…and love how the female lead characters move through carefully layered stories.

    I’m also reading Meg Abbott’s, ‘Die a Little’, and have Gregg Hurwitz’s ”Or she dies’ lined up after hearing him read at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival.

    Reply
  21. JT Ellison

    Sean, I am DYING to read Derek’s newest!!!! (hint, hint…)

    Jemi, Carla Neggers is an excellent choice every day of the week. Twice on Sundays! She and Allison are my favorite romantic suspense authors.

    Z, you’re the only one who noticed!!! Coining phrases is my new past time, and making up words to see if the Scrabble machine will accept them. I’m often surprised.

    And Accidental Buddhist can be life-altering.

    Catherine, excellent suggestions. I like Tara Moss a lot – I’ll definitely put that one on my list. Glad you’re getting a break!!!

    Reply
  22. BCB

    I’m going through one of those phases where I can’t read. Well, okay, I can read. I just can’t concentrate. I’ll get through a few pages of a book, maybe an entire chapter, stick a bookmark in it and then don’t feel particularly inspired to pick it up again. And the problem is NOT with the books — some of them are from writers I love and who never fail to engross my attention. But lately? Meh.

    I’m not entirely certain whether the library’s online renewal system is a valuable benefit or an evil device designed to enable my delusions of being a reader. You renew a book seven times without reading more than ten words, you’ve got to wonder.

    The last time this happened, a couple years ago, the only book that held my attention from start to finish without sleep in between was Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses. If you haven’t read that, you are really missing out on something incredible.

    The one book I’ve read this summer that has wholly engaged my interest is Bob Mayer’s non-fiction Who Dares Wins. And even then, I can only read it in small chunks before I have to put it down and think about things. But it’s that kind of book. Inspires of a lot of deep soul-searching reevaluation kind of stuff. I think it has the potential to make me a better writer. ::fingers crossed:: Either that or I’ll sign up to be a Green Beret. I just know they’d accept me.

    Depending on the day, I’m convinced this inability to concentrate is either a sign I should be writing instead of reading or that I should give up writing entirely. Yeah, I’m that close to finishing the ms.

    Reply
  23. Laura Benedict

    GREEN with jealousy over both your beach time and reading feast! Such a fun, diverse list. Love Gaiman–Have had The Graveyard Book on my shelf since last October, but haven’t gotten to it. ‘Tis soon the season again!

    Looking forward to the Accidental Buddhist–Seems I have a copy right here! xo

    Reply
  24. Betty

    I like your blog. I found several books I’m going to read and recommend for my book club. Thanks for the book reviews! I’m reading Three Kisses by Heath Daniels. It’s a suspense thriller, international espionage adventure which incorporates current events into the story. I can’t seem to read it fast enough. Have a great vacation!

    Reply
  25. DianaUrtan

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    Reply
  26. millwakjpnx

    Japanese cherish the simple amidst compounded tragedy

    Tokyo (CNN) — Solace sprouted from the mundane Thursday as Japanese refused to cave in at the beck the impact of mounting tragedies.

    In the hardest-hit parts of the disaster-struck political entity, thousands of people, many of them frail and elderly, settled in into shelters not knowing when, if ever, they might be competent to leave.

    They cherished the ordinary. Place in calling championing lunch. Or arranging the few effects they salvaged preceding fizzy water be illogical washed away their homes.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/17/japan.disaster/index.html?hpt=C1

    Reply

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