No matter how busy life gets, I never stop reading. So even during these past few weeks when things in my regular life have been crazy, I've always had the comfort of a good book to come home to. Here's a few that have sustained me during the mayhem of April and May~

The Luncheon of the Boating Party, Susan Vreeland~Based on the Renoir painting of the same name, this book is a fictionalized account of Renoir and the friends he gathered to paint on Sunday afternoons at this terrace cafe. Narrated in turn by Renoir and each one of the subjects, which include his future wife, the story is a delightful and imaginative look at the artist at work, and la vie de France during the time following the Franco-Prussian war. This is one of my favorite Renoir paintings - it's so full of detail and joie de vivre. I've often thought it would inspire a wonderful story, and Susan Vreeland has done a marvelous job creating a slice of the artists' life.
The Sweet Life, by Lynn York: I picked this one up at the airport, and it turned out be a captivating beach book. The story of Miss Wilma Swan, choir director and piano teacher in the little town of Swan's Knob, North Carolina, her new husband, Roy, and the startling changes wrought upon their lives by the advent of Wilma's teenage grandaugher, Star, who comes to live with them. It's a charming family story, with a memorable cast of small town "characters" reminiscent of Jan Karon's Mitford series.

The Knitting Circle, by Ann Hood: The first of two novels I've read that feature knitting as the vehicle for women to form friendships and work through dilemmas in their lives. Ann Hood's novel is a poignant, understated story about a mother grieving the loss of her five year old daughter. When the novel begins, Mary Baxter is unable to pursue any of the activities that once gave meaning to her life, including her relationship with her husband. Through the women she meets in The Knitting Circle, who have each overcome their own personal disasters, Mary is able to share her own story and begin the long road back to life once more.

The Friday Night Knitting Club, by Kate Jacbobs: Another group of women joined by their interest in knitting, this novel is a bit more lighthearted and humorous than Hood's story. The crisis in this tale comes at the end, after we've become attached to Georgia Walker and her 13 year old daughter, Dakota, proprietor's of Walker and Daughter Knit Shop, where the club members meet each week to hash out not only sweater patterns, but life changing events. This is a fun read, full of characters that are instantly recognizable and likeable. Both this novel, and The Knitting Circle are part of a new genre of books that I really like to read~novels where the reader meets groups of women characters dealing with various life concerns, forming friendships, and bonding together in pursuit of a common activity, one that, in itself, becomes therapeutic for them.

Of course, I've always got a writing book or two going, and lately I've been working my way through the Gotham Writers' Workshop Guide to Writing Fiction. You can read more about what I've been learning from this collection of essays if you visit Moving Write Along (my other blog dedicated to all things writing related).