Traveling With T’s Best Books of 2013

Best Books of 2013

It’s that time of the year- the time of year where numerous “Best Books” list are published. And so, it’s time for Traveling With T to publish a list- a list of the books I loved, some books that made me a better reader, and a few honorable mentions.

Best of 2013

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman  

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

Lori Nelson Spielman’s debut is heartwarming, loving and and has some thought-provoking moments.  I cried, I laughed, I LOVED. Here is my review. This is 1 of the 2 hands down favorite books of Traveling With T. Read on for #2!

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

Kimberly McCreight’s debut, Reconstructing Amelia, was called 2013’s Gone Girl. While many books in the mystery/suspense was compared to Gone Girl- this one probably was most deserving. Dark. Twisty. Kate’s anguish over what happened to Amelia, realizing how she did not know her daughter- and wondering if past sins of hers played a role in Amelia’s death- of if the sin of not being there for Amelia in her time of need was why Amelia is gone. Each character- each section of the book- carefully crafted and wonderful. You, as a reader, might think you have it all figured out- but Kimberly takes twists and turns- and creates a story in unforgettable. Here is my review.

A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

When I was emailed a request to review this book, I wasn’t familiar with Susan’s work. But, I had a good feeling from the description and the cover was beautiful. I’m glad I trusted my instincts- because this book is a Southern Lit treasure. Love, finding yourself, feeling nourished, and acceptance are themes of this book- and it truly is a gem. Here is my review.

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

I yearn for the latest Kinsey book well ahead of Sue Grafton’s 2 year publishing schedule. I curse the the day I discovered A is for Alibi and thought “Years and years of mass market paperback books will keep me busy for some time.”  It did not. Thus began the waiting game. Each year a Sue book is published- I’m so happy. Kinsey rocks as a character. Seriously. If you like a mystery- Sue Grafton is great.

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

My first J. Courtney Sullivan book was a treat. JCS weaves a story of fiction with some real-life truths about how “A Diamond is Forever” came about. Criss-crossing from 4 viewpoints, 4 different time frames- and how a diamond plays a role in all their lives. Here is my review.

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

Mia March books just scream “SUMMER” to me. Light, funny- sometimes fluffy- I love to read a Mia book. Finding Colin Firth, her 2nd novel, tells the story of  3 women- women who are each dealing with troubles of their own. To add to the mix, a movie is being filmed- and rumor has it that Colin Firth is in town- which adds to the fun of the book.  Here is my review.

Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

Thriller. Terrifying at times. Suzanne’s look into the dark side of a marriage is worth a read. Here is my review.

The Pieces We Keep by Kristina McMorris

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

A mother’s love. Love and trust in WWII. Secrets and betrayal. Grief. And much more. Kristina McMorris weaves 2 stories together to make 1 compelling book. Here is my review.

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Magical-realism. That phrase made me hesitant about reading this. But, I did. And I’m so glad. It was so much more than I expected. Don’t let the magical-realism label scare you! Here is my review.

The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

Haunting and beautifully written. A Southern Lit tale that will stay with you far after the last page is turned. Here is my review.

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams– Love, lust, betrayal. Secrets. And a hurricane. Here is my review.

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

honorable mentions for 2013

Books that def require a mention!

The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

Enjoyable- very enjoyable! Here is my review.

You Knew Me When by Emily Liebert

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

Entertaining and enjoyable. A tale of friendship- the highs and lows. Here is my review.

Buried Leads by LynDee Walker

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Photo Credit: Henery Press

Smart. Funny. Nichelle is high-heel loving, Moscato-drinking, and funny as all get out reporter. Enjoyable read! Here is my review.

The Affair by Colette Freedman

the affair

Photo Credit: Amazon

Normally an affair can be seen as pretty black and white issue. But Colette Freedman takes this topic- and paints in shades of grey. By the end, you’re not sure who is right or wrong! Here is my review.

The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

A lie. A harmless lie. And a girl turns up missing. But, that is just a section of the story. Page turning- and you are never quite sure who is innocent or guilty. Here is my review.

What do you think? Find any books to read? Did I miss a book you thought was “Best of 2013” worthy? Tell me!

*This list is just my opinion. I fully realize that I may have over-looked a book that should be ranked. My apologies!

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Gift Ideas for the Book Lover In Your Life

The holidays are fast approaching.  I’ve got visions of a white Christmas dancing in my head (even though that is not santalikely), craving cups of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and marshmallows while listening to Christmas music and decorating the tree.

Before the stockings are hung by the tree with care, before the cookies are left out for Santa, before the joyous rush of family members hanging out at the house, before I celebrate another successful holiday by enjoying a glass or 2 of wine- presents will have to be purchased. And this is where my list of book-ish delights comes in handy. Have a reader in your life? Perhaps you’ll find a book that you will like to buy!

Mystery and Suspense

The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillipi Ryan

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

My first Hank Phillipi Ryan book- and I’m so glad I read it! As a fan of Sue Grafton (and seriously Sue- nothing but love for you- but I NEED you to write faster- yet I dread as we come closer to the end of the alphabet.) That little side topic is my way of saying that Hank helped me in quest for a Sue fix. Jane Ryland won’t knock Kinsey Millhone out of my heart for the #1 spot- but Jane is almost as good. And that’s saying a lot. The Wrong Girl was twisty and turny- with a great mystery and some potential steamy romance. Here is my review of The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan- an excellent consideration for someone looking for mystery and suspense!

Never Tell by Alafair Burke

Never Tell

Photo Credit: Goodreads

This was my first Alafair Burke- and after reading it- I’m all “Alafair-where have you been all my reading life?” Each time I thought I had the story figured out- Alafair zigged. Then she zagged. Then she twisted and turned. And kept me captivated.  Highly recommend Never Tell by Alafair Burke! Here is my review of Never Tell.

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

As witnessed above, I LOVE Sue Grafton. I LOVE Kinsey (Sue’s Character). If you have enjoyed A-V- then W is another great book.  Seriously. Just go get it. W is for Wasted is worth it.

If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Another Alafair Burke book- and again- twist, turns, zig and zags! While I prefer Alafair’s Ellie Hatcher a bit more to McKenna- that’s just a personal preference. Both mysteries are top-notch and great reads! Put If You Were Here on your wish list! Here is my review of If You Were Here- intriguing and enjoyable.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Oh. My. Gosh. I LOVED this book. Edge of my seat. Great storyline. How well do you know your child? Read this and prepare to wonder. This book will lead to a wonderful discussion amongst friends and book clubs. Reconstructing Amelia may very well be this year’s Gone Girl.  Here is my review of Reconstructing Amelia.

Cozy Mystery

I adore Cozy Mysteries. They are quick, fun and easy reads. They make me feel warm and fuzzy. The characters are fun and interesting. The settings are enjoyable- and the mystery is good.

Murder of a Stacked Librarian by Denise Swanson

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

Denise Swanson’s latest has Skye getting married- if the groom can get away from the police station long enough to exchange vows! If you’ve read Denise’s other books- you’ll enjoy this one. If not, start with Murder of a Small Town Honey. While each story stands on it’s own- there are some things that build along the series of the books- and to fully enjoy, you might want to be invested in the characters. Murder of a Small Town Librarian is a must have for cozy mystery fans! Here is my review of Murder of a Small Town Librarian.

Topped Chef (Key West Food Critic Mystery #3) by Lucy Burdette

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

I have fallen in love with Lucy Burdette’s main character, Hayley Snow. Cute, fun, gets her tarot cards read- how adorable she is! She’s a foodie- but not pretentious. Hayley is struggling a bit in the romance department (but aren’t we all?!) Topped Chef is a book to put on your list! Here is my review of Topped Chef.

Women’s Fiction

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Magical- realism. If you were like me- and those words kind of make you feel nervous about a book- put aside your worries. The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is wonderful. The story, the setting- the amazing Bonaventure Arrow. Forgiveness and love are major themes of this story. Read. You won’t be sorry. The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is a book that some readers might overlook- don’t do that! Here is my review of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow.

The Guest House by Erika Marks

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

Love. Secrets. Family drama. Being true to yourself. The Guest House is a book that you must read. Here is my review of The Guest House.

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Love. Intrigue. Friendships. Family secrets. And a Aunt Julie that provides a humorous aspect to the story. This story is fantastic. A Hundred Summers is a book to read- no matter the time of the year. Here is my review of A Hundred Summers.

I’ll be posting a few more recommendations next week as well! Hopefully, you, my darling readers of Traveling With T, will find a book to buy for your book-ish friends and loved ones!

Author Spotlight: Rita Leganski

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Yesterday, I posted an interview with Rita Leganski. Today is the author spotlight where we learn more about the author!

 

Author Spotlight: Rita Leganski

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I mention some of them in the PS Section of the book—Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, and William Faulkner, to which I would add Southerners Eudora Welty, Pat Conroy, and Anne Tyler. I also like Sheri Reynolds, Leif Enger, Yann Martel, Ann Patchett, Aimee Bender, and Alice Hoffman. And I’m a HUGE Annie Dillard fan.

 

Tell us some books that you will always make room for on your shelves.

To Kill a Mockingbird; Peace Like a River; Ellen Foster; Life of Pi; A Gracious Plenty; The Book Thief; Frankenstein; The Catcher in the Rye; A Good Man is Hard to Find; The Member of the Wedding; The Sound and the Fury; Bel Canto; The Accidental Tourist; An Invisible Sign of My Own; The Giver; and Teaching a Stone to Talk.

I’m sure there are many more that I’ll think of later.

 

Rita- do you have any #literaryconfessions?

I’ve never read any Jane Austen.

 

Do you have a #literarycrush?

I had the Rhett Butler crush going on when I was very young, but that’s about it.

 

If you could be a character in a book, who would you pick to be?

Liesel Meminger from THE BOOK THIEF.

 

 

*Special thanks to Rita Leganski for the author spotlight!

 

Want to know more about Rita? Check out her Facebook and Twitter pages!

 

 

 

Interview with Rita Leganski- author of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

the silence of bonaventure arrowToday, Rita Leganski, author of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, has stopped by to answer questions about writing, her book tour through the South and much more.  On Friday, Rita will be back to reveal #literarycrush, #literaryconfessions and favorite authors.

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow was March’s She Reads book club selection so that is how I became familiar with Rita. When she came to an independent bookstore near me, I made sure to go and meet her- just so I could tell her in person how much I enjoyed the book!

 

Interview with Rita Leganski

In 15 words or less, how would you describe The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow to readers?

A mute little boy with magical hearing discovers family secrets.

 

Rita, you are not from the South- and yet, The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow sounds like a book a Southern writer created. How did your favorite Southern writers influence your writing style?

More than anything else, I think I was influenced by their literary “voices”. The cadence of their sentences contributes so much to the storytelling, and they take full advantage of Southern vernacular to convey a certain regional mystique. Characters written by Southern writers are almost always complex in that they inhabit their own inner world while functioning in the outer one. It makes them quite fascinating.

 

Recently, you and The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow went on a book tour of several Southern cities. How was that experience?

Oh, I just loved every minute of it! Let me tell you, I was on the receiving end of Southern hospitality nonstop. One thing I really enjoyed was the architecture. There’s a certain look to those cottage-type houses one sees in the South that I find really enchanting. The Southern environment in general, things like the landscape, vegetation, and climate exert such great influence on Southern literature. A Southern setting is like another character. Probably the thing about the South that I noticed the most was how Southerners are so fully invested in what they value, be it literature, food, manners, or reverence.

I’ve been invited to attend the Louisiana Book Festival the first week of November in Baton Rouge, and I can’t wait to go back!

 

Could you tell about the first time you saw The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow completely finished- what kind of emotions were you, as an author, experiencing?

The first time I had a really emotional reaction was when my editor sent me copies of the layout of the first pages. I saw the HarperCollins imprint and realized that it was the same one that appears in Mark Twain’s books (and many other famous writers).

My next really emotional reaction came when I returned the final version (still in manuscript form) and knew that there would be no more changes. It felt like I was sending my child away from me.  I would say I went through a kind of postpartum depression after that.

When I received the actual book, I had a rather odd reaction.  I liked the cover, and seeing my name on it made me cry. But I had a really odd reaction to the story. I’d only ever seen it on my computer screen or on typing paper. When I opened it and started reading, nothing seemed to make sense! I even compared what was on the page to what was in my computer to make sure they were my words. They were, but it seemed to me I’d never seen that story before. It took a while, but I got over it.

 

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow was March’s She Reads Book Club selection. Through She Reads, many people were able to see and read reviews, and get to speak to you, the author, with use of Twitter chat and the Online Book Club Discussion Forum.  As a debut author, how important were those opportunities?

Books and reading have been thrust into the digital age. The internet is a universe unto itself. I think its greatest contribution is how it has made so much so easily accessible.  Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool there is, and things like Twitter offer tremendous exposure. The audience is huge. It’s also efficient in the ways of spreading information.

But there’s a personal side to it as well. I get a lot of personal messages through Facebook and email. People send me favorite quotes or relate the story to their own lives. I find it very humbling.

 

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow- themes of forgiveness, of darkness, of light, love, family and hope. How was it to write a book like this- and with characters that were human, flawed; yet relatable?

Honestly, sometimes it was exhausting. There was a point when the characters took on lives of their own, and even I became an observer. The key word in your question is “relatable”. As an author, I felt a great responsibility to be honest about that which makes us human—our flaws—while presenting them to the reader as something they could relate to.

The human condition is a massive topic; a writer tries to understand it through her characters in an effort to discover truth. I like to think there are a number of truths woven into THE SILENCE OF BONAVENTURE ARROW. Some have to do with the darker side of the human experience, like grief, judgment, guilt, jealousy, and self-righteousness. But others speak of the very best in humanity; namely, our willingness to forgive and our capacity to love. Love is full of paradox; its greatest might is its greatest weakness. Love puts a heart at risk; it strengthens us as it makes us fragile; it is measured by joy and by sorrow.

 

 Rita- are you gathering ideas for a future book? If so, are you still in the early days- or do you have a definite idea as to what the next book will be?

I get asked that all the time! I have a couple of stories in the early stages. Sooner or later one of them will take prominence. Whichever one I go with, I plan to stick with magical realism.

 

*Special thanks to Rita Leganski for agreeing to be interviewed!

 

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Rita Leganski’s first novel, The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, was a tale of magical-realism set in the New Orleans area. It’s a book that book clubs should put on their list! Rita, when not writing or working, can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

For more information on Rita:

Traveling With T’s review of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

Meeting Rita Leganski- the author of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

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Meeting Rita Leganski- The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

rita leganskiRita Leganski, author of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, came to Lemuria Books last Friday, the 12th to sign books and read/talk about The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow. As I watched her sign books that people had ordered and for the store- we talked about her book tour trip of the South. On her tour, Rita has been in New Orleans, Fairhope, AL, Oxford, MS and Jackson, MS. She talked of how she enjoyed each stop- meeting people, hearing about what “Bonaventure” meant to them. When Rita was in Oxford, she was a part of the Thacker Mountain Radio show- which is a pretty cool thing!

As I listened to Rita talk, I thought of how interesting a person she was. She was in her 40’s when she went to college, she’s now written a wonderfully imaginative book- my first “magical realism” type book to read- and it was a treat! Rita’s personality is open, nice, and she’s got a way with words that I just adored.

One person had asked her to inscribe the book with her favorite quote when she ordered it from Lemuria- and she laughed and put it aside for a few minutes since she said she’d have to think about what her favorite quote was. As she signed other books, a smile came to her face, and she picked the book up to write her favorite quote- and here it is: “Lord knows, nobody understand where love come from if not from inside a mystery- Trinidad” (page 293 of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow). As she signed, I asked about next book plans. Rita let me know that she had ideas, thoughts for another book- but as far as a definite plan- it was still in the early stages.

Rita also gave me an insider look into the publishing world- while I knew there were editors, and other people to read the work- what I did not know was how specific it is. With her writing about the Catholic church, there was a copy-editor who read the book and made suggestions such as- at this time frame/era, this would not have been the particular wording or this could not have happened like this- and when she wrote of the Baptist church and had a quote from the Bible- another copy-editor let her know that in the Bible she needed to be quoting from, the wording would be slightly different.  Which I just found this all fascinating- I knew it took many people to get the book from idea to print- but it’s really like a village of people.  Now as I think about a book, I’m reminded of the statement “It takes a village to raise a child”, and that’s how I feel about a book now- “It takes a village to publish a book.”

We spoke of different things about The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, how some characters were  not in the book originally, how she had changed things in her revision process. Listening to her, after reading the book- I’m glad she made the changes- because while I think The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow would have been great either way- I liked the changes Rita made from her original manuscript.

Me and Rita

Me and Rita

Me and Rita with The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

Me and Rita with The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

Thanks to Rita Leganski for the fun time and to Lemuria Books for hosting a great event.

My review of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow: Traveling With T’s review of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

 

Literary Friday ya’ll…

Friday. Pretty spring day. I’ve been enjoying my morning coffee while watching these 2 small brown birds make a nest near the breakfast nook area.  It’s a good day.

1. Deep South Mag and their #literaryfriday: A honor for Square Books, news about The Great Gatsby movie, and much more.

2. #giveaways: Luxury Reading is giving away a copy of Wendy Wax’s latest While We Were Downtown Abbey and She Reads is giving away a copy of The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley.

3. Other She Reads news:

1. Books and Wine: A Pairing for The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow.

2. She Reads April Book Club Selection: And Then I Found You by Patti Callahan Henry

3. Book Review: Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg

4. A Room of Her Own: The Writing Space of Patti Callahan Henry

4. What is your #fridayreads? Mine is Going, Going, Ganache by Jenn McKinlay.

5. Books that I have read lately and really enjoyed:

1. The Affair by Colette Freedman

2. And Then I Found You by Patti Callahan Henry

3. Learning to Fly: An Ucommon Memoir of Human Flight, Unexpected Love, and One Amazing Dog by Steph Davis

4. Nickled and Dimed to Death: A Devereaux’s Dime Store Mystery by Denise Swanson

5. The Mermaid of Brooklyn by Amy Shearn

6. Life After Life by Jill McCorkle

6. Have you made your bucket list? What about your book-ish bucket list? Here’s mine: Traveling With T’s Book-ish Bucket List

 

Happy Reading 🙂

 

Monday Mashup!

Well- I’m back. After a fun-filled few days raising money for Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital, hanging with my Queen-ly friends, and many costume/outfit changes- it’s back to the normal, every day world. Time to put away the tiara and other glittery items until next year!

And, on a side note, I completed my first 5k- the Color Me Rad Run/Walk- we walked it in a pretty decent time and had fun while doing it! Plus- got totally rad with color!

Monday Mashup notes:

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow discussion is happening at She Reads today (and all week!) Come join in and see what questions I post each day for the discussion!

Tell Me Something True: A Visit with Peggy Hesketh– plus a #giveaway!

Deep South Mag posted their 49th #literaryfriday while I was away Friday at the Big Hat Lunch event- but here it is for your enjoyment!

And look soon for She Reads to announce their April Book Club Pick!