Lisa Barr is the author of the award-winning novel, Fugitive Colors, a suspenseful tale of stolen art, love, lust, deception and revenge on the eve of WWII. An Amazon bestseller, Fugitive Colors won the IPPY gold medal for Best Literary Fiction 2014, and was awarded first prize at the Hollywood Film Festival (Opus Magnum Discovery Award). Find out more on Lisa’s book site.
It’s early morning, 6 a.m., my favorite ‘ME Time’ of day, before the rest of my world wakes up — which includes one husband, three teenage daughters, two girl dogs (aka: Drama Central). I glance over at my nightstand — an antique two-tiered, single-drawered representative of my life, my loves. Two framed pictures face me: my beautiful daughters (taken years earlier, before they copped the “fine, whatever, nothing” teen ’tude) and a sepia-tinted loving couple’s shot (and yes, years later I’m still deeply in love with this man), my night-guard because I’m a major grinder (Let’s just say that my teeth put my dentist’s kids through college) and my beloved books — those I’m now reading, and those that define me (located on Tier Two).
Let’s talk Tier Two: These books not only taught me how to write, but also made me fall in love with literature. A 40-year-old tattered copy of Nancy Drew: The Moonstone Castle Mystery by the incomparable Carolyn Keene. I once owned the entire series, which singlehandedly taught me how to write suspense and how to create a page-turner. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (snuck off my parents’ top shelf), showed me how to be fearless in my writing, and to celebrate all that goes into being a woman. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, taught me how a single character becomes the friend you need most, and one that you never want to let go. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence— ahh, the power of passion and forbidden love that still haunts my soul. These are the books — my literary teachers — that I carry through my life’s journey, to remind me of the extraordinariness of prose, passion, and possibility.
Now, let’s get to those binders decorating the top of my night stand …
The Last Summer At Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff: I’m simply amazed. Aside from how prolific this international best-selling author is, how brilliant her works are — I have never seen another author produce such great back-to-back works like this woman — while raising three young children and teaching law school! She is also the most generous writer I know, promoting others’ works even more than her own. Pam personifies the gift that keeps on giving and that’s why other writers and ALL readers love her. Her literary gift is being able to take the reader on a journey back in time — creating historical romances that are heartbreaking, beautiful, filled with first loves and second chances during the WWII years, journeying from the U.S. To Europe. I cannot wait to delve into this book, and lose myself in another P.J. saga … and embrace her cast of characters who tend to cleave to your heartstrings, long after you close the book.
The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: I wanted something lighter for the beach this summer, and I absolutely LOVED and laughed out loud with this sassy, deliciously spot-on read. I devoured it in two days, ignoring my TO-DO list, my kids, my own writing demands, just to laugh, cry, and cheer on these characters. It is a one-woman quest, supported by close friends, to change the course of her life. It’s funny how this novel made me look at various components of my own life. Liz & Lisa’s work asks the question: Would you be truly happy if you could rewrite your own fate via Facebook? While the story line is very contemporary given the at-times (too often) farcical aspects of social networking — the novel really makes you think about what matters in life, the choices we all make, and why. And the best part … you leave this book deeply satisfied with the answers.
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica —— I’m in the middle of this gritty, riveting novel that depicts my own personal worst fear: What happens if your daughter is kidnapped? This book explores the underbelly of family relationships, dysfunction, love lost, love found, and survival through the eyes of everyone involved: the young woman’s parents, the detective, the kidnapper himself. Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, and the voices of each character are vivid and penetrating. It’s an addictive thriller, Gone Girl-esque, the kind that leaves you breathless and compelled to keep turning pages, because you simply have to. Believe me, the next stack of books on my nightstand will surely include Kubica’s latest, Pretty Baby.
Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum —— This novel has been described as Anna Karenina meets Madame Bovary meets Suburban Housewives. It’s a psychological saga of one woman’s marital discontent and the spiraling damage she leaves in the wake of her unquenchable desires. Disturbing, most likely written not with a pen but a knife, because it cuts into you. Essbaum’s take on unhappiness, guilt, carnal pleasure, and destruction of family is seeringly painful. The writing is engrossing and precise. The protagonist, who specializes in secrets and lies and wallowing in her own misery, is an ex-pat who followed her Swiss banker husband back to his homeland. Her loneliness and isolation, and ultimately, her descent, is a harrowing cautionary tale of the dire consequences of infidelity. This is not a happy read, but as a writer I look at the writing, at the unfolding of events, at the character development, and it is unputdownable.
Are any of these next to your bed? Any recommendations for Lisa?