Nine Books I could Not Put Down

Recently I saw a list shared to facebook, repeatedly, that was 20 Books You Can't Put Down.  I clicked on the link, read the list, and was slightly dumfounded.  They were all books I had read, and none of them kept me up to finish them.  Some of them I didn't even care to finish, they just were not that good at all.  It was another reminder that my taste in books is far from the New York Times Bestseller list.  (I recently finished All the Light We Cannot See - and although it was good enough, I cannot fathom why everyone is raving over it - it really wasn't that great in my opinion)

In no particular order, these are a few of  the books that I had a hard time putting down:

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

This book, more than any other I have ever read, still sticks with me.  For no discernible reason.  It is probably the only book I have ever read where I truly don't know "who did it", and I'm ok with that.  Normally I like clear endings, with everything wrapped up. But this time, it was better left open to interpretation.

This is my review at goodreads:

Not since reading The Room by Emma Donaghue have I been so completely pulled into a novel. This was a riveting read, near impossible to put down.

This book is set in the prohibition era, and at times you expect Rose & Odalie to run into Gatsby himself. It is delightful to read, with the speakeasies and the clothing so vividly described without being tedious. (I've recently read Inferno & The Kill Room, Brown & Deaver could take some notes from this on how to set a scene without being so tedious that the reader forgets why anyone is in that scene to begin with.)

The narrative is fantastic. The early reference to The Wasteland by TS Elliot hints at the depths and twists in this book, which are at once so clear, and so unclear, that at the end you may wonder what this book was really about. Normally I cannot stand that in a book, I like clear endings with everything wrapped up neatly, but in this book I simply do not care that I don't have all the answers. It's truly that well done.
If you like to think more deeply about plot lines and inferences that the author quite likely never intended be sure to read Odalie by Alice Dunbar. It is very short, not really much longer than this review, and free to read online.
(a side note - I read through some of the reviews at goodreads, and many seem to think there are only two options for the ending. I see a third. Not one or the other, but a blending of the two. I'm not prone to over thinking things though, and allowing for the blending allows me to take the text pretty literally as the author wrote it. ) 

Room - By Emma Donoghue
Ok, so ignore my comments about the New York Times Best Seller List for this one.  I'm sure they will ruin it with the movie, but this book is gripping.  I read it in one sitting, and was haunted by it long after I finished it.  Definitely one of my favorites of all time.

From GoodReads: "To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work."

What Was Mine - Helen Klein Ross
This was a book club selection from She Reads, and a lot of my favorite books come from their recommendations. This one might be more of a mom thing?  I'm not sure.  I am a mom, so I can't separate the bias here. It's about a woman who kidnaps a baby.  Not a planned kidnapping, it just sort of  happened - although a kidnapping is a kidnapping, and she knew what she was doing was wrong.  She was a good mom, and raised a great kid.  And then one day, with the child off to college, the lie unravels and she is exposed.  Now I'm pretty firmly a law and order type gal - I believe you break the law, you pay the price.  And the birth mother did NOT deserve to have her child kidnapped.  So I can't quite understand how this author made the kidnapper so likeable that I did not want her to be punished.  But she's really that good.  I couldn't put this book down - I had to know how it all worked out.

Learning To Swim - Sarah J. Henry
"If I'd blinked, I would have missed it. But I didn't, and I saw something fall from the rear deck of the opposite ferry: a small, wide-eyed human face, in one tiny frozen moment, as it plummeted toward the water."
When she witnesses a small child tumbling from a ferry into Lake Champlain, Troy Chance dives in without thinking. Harrowing moments later, she bobs to the surface, pulling a terrified little boy with her. As the ferry disappears into the distance, she begins a bone-chilling swim nearly a mile to shore towing a tiny passenger.
Surprisingly, he speaks only French. He'll acknowledge that his name is Paul; otherwise, he's resolutely mute.
Troy assumes that Paul's frantic parents will be in touch with the police or the press. But what follows is a shocking and deafening silence. And Troy, a freelance writer, finds herself as fiercely determined to protect Paul as she is to find out what happened to him. She'll need skill and courage to survive and protect her charge and herself. 
Sara J. Henry's powerful and compelling Learning to Swim will move and disturb readers right up to its shattering conclusion."

Six Years - Harlan Coben
Or, basically anything Harlan Coben has ever written.
I love his books so much that I actually save some unread, for times when my reading list has been disappointing and I want a really good read. I have them stashed away like emergency chocolates, no joke.   He's never failed me yet.

This was one of my all time favorites though.  From GoodReads:
"Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd. But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for . . . but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for more than a decade, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life—a time he has never gotten over—is turned completely inside out. As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart—and who lied to him—soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on carefully constructed fiction. Harlan Coben once again delivers a shocking page-turner that deftly explores the power of past love and the secrets and lies that such love can hide."

Winter Garden - Kristin Hannah
This is another author that rarely disappoints, but this was my favorite so far.  I really love these books that alternate between present day and past history, revealing the mystery of the past as they go along.  I love history, and mystery, and when it is well incorporated into a present day story, all the better.  (Which is why it is very surprising that I was disappointed by All The Light We Cannot See - but there's no explaining my taste I guess)

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard: the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time - and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya's life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother's life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.

Another that was a real favorite or mine was Night Road - also by Kristin Hannah -

The Husbands Secret - Liane Moriarty

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

This sounds heavy and deep, but it's really not.  This is what I think of more as a "beach read", but with substance.  And the twist at the very end is very satisfying.  It challenges what we know not only about our spouses, but what we know of ourselves.

Before I Go To Sleep - S.J. Watson
Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love--all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. 

Ok, so I definitely have a "type" of book.  Not just a mystery, but things are not what they seem.  

The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton
During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

I also really enjoyed The Houser At Riverton by this author, it is the same style of book.