Here are the books I've read recently. I'm too lazy to link to their Amazon sites, so you're on your own there.
1. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. This is about a boy whose brother kills two men and goes on the lam. His family sets out for the badlands to find the brother. This was a good book, although I doubt the boy's nine-year-old sister could have written such inspired poetry. Still, I enjoyed this one.
2. What You Have Left by Will Allison. This received great reviews, but I found it to be just so-so.
3. Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank. This was a light, fluffy read.
4. Louisiana Power and Light by John DuFresne. Interesting and enjoyable, but not great.
5. This One and Only Life by Anne Carroll George. Frankly, I don't remember anything about this one, but I made it all the way through, so it must have been okay.
6. South of Reason by Cindy Eppes. About a family with way too many secrets. Pretty good.
7. Bruiser by Ian Chorao. This one is set in the 70s and is about a kid who runs away from home. Interesting, but not great.
8. Cage of Stars by Jaquelyn Mitchard. About a young woman facing tragedy. This one was good.
9. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Pretty good. A little heavy on the environmental message.
10. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig. This author is pegged as a writer of "Westerns", which I usually do not like, but I really enjoyed this book, perhaps the most of anything I've read so far this year. There was a plot twist at the end that was really unnecessary (and which you could see coming from the beginning of the book), but I still enjoyed this one. I'm currently reading his memoir, which is also interesting.
Here's what I tried to read, and could not get through:
1. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler. Meh. None of the characters were particularly likable, so I lost interest and gave up about halfway through.
2. Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West. I usually like her stuff, but I could not get more than 40 pages into this one.
3. Brother Odd by Dean Koontz. I had never read any of his stuff, but gave this one a try while I was in Texas. No thanks.
4. Julia's Chocolates by Cathy Lamb. Chick lit - blecchh. Made it to page 90 and had to quit.
5. Mother Road by Dorothy Garlock. Started out promising, but quickly degenerated into a Harlequin Romance-type book. Nope.
6. The Southern Belles of Honeysuckle Way by Linda Bruckheimer. I really liked her book "Dreaming Southern", but I could not fight my way through this one. Just one cliche after another. I actually left this book in Texas.
So! There you have it! What I've read, and tried to read, since the first of the year. Any recommendations?