WSIRN Ep 18: Compelling, character-driven books steeped in time and place with Jessica Turner

It’s Tuesday, which means a new episode of What Should I Read Next!

Today I’m talking with Jessica Turner, author of The Fringe Hours and My Fringe Hours. Jessica lives in Nashville with her family, where she works full time outside the home and blogs regularly at The Mom Creative.

Of all the guests I’ve talked to, Jessica’s the most consistent with her picks. We have a lot of fun talking about compelling stories and character-driven plots in her favorite genre. She also hates a book that many listeners adore, and she’s not afraid to say why.
What Should I Read Next #18: Compelling, character-driven books steeped in time and place with Jessica TurnerConnect with Jessica Turner on her site The Mom Creative, facebooktwitter and instagram.

Books discussed in this episode:

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The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Glory Over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Dead Wake by Erik Larson
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Also mentioned in this episode: 

• I recommended Jessica’s hated book to Janssen Bradshaw in episode 10 here.
Expert investigates 10-year-old’s reincarnation claims on The Today Show.
When Calls the Heart on the Hallmark Channel
• I recommended Everything I Never Told You to Seth Haines in episode 4 here.
How a non-fiction writer finds his next subject: Erik Larson on the “dark country of no ideas.”


Leave A Comment
  1. Kinsey O. says:

    I have been listening to the CDs of Dead Wake in my car recently, and am really enjoying it. I read Devil in the White City for a class in college and now want to read everything Erik Larson has ever written. I was especially interested in Dead Wake after reading The American Heiress by Dorothy Eden, a historical fiction novel that also involves the Lusitania.

    Also it’s been everywhere, but if you haven’t read Kate Morton’s The Lake House yet, the CD audiobook of that was excellent, as well.

  2. Sara K says:

    This was one of my favorite episodes so far! On top of Jessica being enjoyable to listen to, her taste in books is very similar to mine. I can almost pretend you are recommending books for me 🙂

    One thing I love to do when I start listening to a new episode is to look at the list of books discussed and try to guess at which books are favorites, least favorite, and recommended by Anne. Sometimes I’m right on the money, and sometimes I’m off 🙂 In this case, I could easily pick out the book Jessica was going to hate. Though I haven’t read that book myself, I had a similar reaction to another book by the same author. Despite her popularity, I don’t think I will read any more books from that author. Like Jessica said, I most enjoy historical fiction and don’t read very many contemporary or modern fiction.

    I’ll add another nonfiction book to the list. The Boys in the Boat was wonderful, and I would highly recommend it as an audiobook 🙂

    And for historical fiction: Kate Morton’s books, Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah (yes her books can be hit or miss, but this one was good). Along those same lines is The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean. And definitely Outlander. As the series progresses it gets very detailed and amazingly interesting in its historical detail with very strong characters!

  3. Claire says:

    Loved this episode! So good! I think she would also like Life after Life by Kate Atkinson because it combines historical fiction (WWII) and kind of a supernatural aspect of the protagonist’s life like in The Forgetting Time.

  4. Julia says:

    I just listened to The Shoemaker’s Wife – it’s a perfect example of character driven plot. I also loved how the narration switches perspectives chapter by chapter. So good! I’ll definitely be checking out your other recommendations!

  5. Danae says:

    How funny – I just (yesterday!) abandoned the audiobook version of Angle of Repose because I could not get into it, but your description makes me want to give it another attempt! Perhaps it would be less boring on paper than audio. Long books on audio can be amazing (Wolf Hall) but I find the hour count on an audiobook harder to commit to than a 600 page count.

  6. Sandra m says:

    As a lover of historical fiction I loved this podcast. Even though it sounds bizarre, C.J. Sansom has a wonderful series set in the days of Henry VIII with a hunchback lawyer as a main character.
    Vivid characters and a mystery with history make for a compelling read. Sharon Kay Penman writes about earlier English history & is another favorite.

  7. Lyndsay says:

    I loved this episode! Jessica was a great guest. I have a historical fiction recommendation for her and for all the other historical fiction fans. The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly is a book that tells of a family over a long stretch of time. It’s actually the first in a trilogy and I loved all of them. I highly recommend them. They are long, but they are the kind of books where you’re sad when you finish because you love the characters so much.

    Also, another excellent WWII novel is Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.

  8. Sarah says:

    I wanted to say that I loved Jessica’s boldness in commenting on a book she hated even though others loved it.
    I Really, really did not like the book “me before you”. Everyone seems to love it but I have the same reaction as Jessica in that I have no interest in reading anything else that author puts out.
    I LOVE this podcast and look forward to it each week. Even though I subscribe to other podcasts this is the one in which I haven’t missed an episode. I love how I can relate to almost everyone on the show in one way or another. I would love if you put out an episode everyday. ? Thanks again for this wonderful podcast. Blessings!

  9. Kim says:

    I love this podcast so much and this episode was wonderful for me because I enjoy historical fiction too! Another great WWII and Japanese internment camp novel is The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende.

  10. Mary says:

    I loved this podcast! You’ve increased my book list! It is not fiction but the book Truman by David McCullough really opened my eyes to history. So good! (And I like When Calls the Heart on Hallmark. : ) )

  11. Rachel says:

    Out of the Darkness: The Story of Mary Ellen Wilson.
    It’s about the first child abuse case, so definitely not the easiest read. However, it’s very interesting to read about the beginning of the ASPCA by Henry Bergh and how animals’ rights contributed to the creation of child abuse laws.

  12. Lisa Aberle says:

    I look forward to Tuesdays SO MUCH, and this episode was probably my favorite! I didn’t realize that I loved historical fiction so much. Anyway, I just ordered Dead Wake. Thanks for doing this podcast!

  13. Simone says:

    I enjoyed listening so much today. I must say I have a lot of books to go digging for, and a big amen to “When Calls the Heart.” We love it here, cheesiness and all.

  14. Jackie says:

    Suggestions of some wonderful historical fiction I’ve enjoyed…..”The Mark of the Lion” trilogy, “Her Mother’s Hope”, and “Her Daughter’s Dream” all by Francine Rivers. Such wonderful stories!

    LOVE your podcast, Anne!

  15. Amy says:

    Fantastic episode!! I really enjoyed the chemistry between the two of you, I hope Jessica makes another appearance in the future. Tuesday’s are my favorite?

  16. Courtney says:

    I absolutely love this podcast!! I think this one with Jessica is my very favorite so far!! She was such an engaged guest and had so many good recommendations too! I love historical fiction so I’m excited about all the books you all suggested!

  17. Dawn says:

    Jessica–Try reading Spring Moon by Bette Bau Lord: A 5-generation story set in China over the transition from their ancient, traditional culture to the rise of the Communist Party. Great Historical Fiction.

  18. I really want to read Glory Over Everything, but I read The Kitchen House 5+ years ago and I barely remember it. Do you think you’d need to reread to enjoy?

    I am not a giant historical fiction reader, but I will check out Shoemaker’s Wife! I have liked Trigiani’s books but not looooved them.

  19. melanie says:

    Anne, life has been crazy hectic for me, and so I have not had the opportunity to listen to any of your podcast yet. That ends today! I just subscribed and am making time! I can’t wait to listen to them. I just finished The Forgetting Time and loved it. Can’t wait to hear what your thoughts on it were.

  20. Hilary says:

    I must say that historical fiction is my JAM as well. LOVE IT. I just read two books I’d highly recommend to any HiFi fan: The Paris Architect and House of Thieves both by Charles Belfoure. The Paris Architect takes place in France during WWII. House of Thieves takes place around the turn of the century in NYC. This is a time period I haven’t read much about in the states and it was fun to read. These aren’t literary masterpieces but they are thoroughly enjoyable books!

  21. Dawn F says:

    Loved this one! I always recommend The Perfume Collector to my reader-friends, but haven’t heard it mentioned anywhere! So glad it was mentioned! It’s a good one!

  22. Cathy Hughes says:

    I would recommend Transatlantic by Colum McCann. It spans almost 80 years and three different story lines across different continents. It’s not long, but it’s not a fast read because you’ll have to keep track of the plots.

  23. Anne says:

    I am an avid reader & particularly enjoy historical fiction, especially really long books & ones that are part of a series. I am also a physician, so I can’t believe I have never heard of City of Dreams!! This is going straight to the top of my list. Great episode.

  24. Another historical fiction addict here…long books don’t scare me!

    I second, third, forth, whatever….OUTLANDER! It is my favorite series. Gabaldon did and does so much research for her books, she takes it all very seriously. Two other awesome historical fiction series are by Ken Follett, Pillars of the Earth-World Without End and The Century Trilogy….EXCELLENT!

    GREAT SHOW LADIES! My TBR list grew exponentially!

  25. Heather Finley says:

    I grabbed Angle of Repose at the library last night, and I LOVE it! It kind of reminds me of Willa Cather, who is one of my favorites. I will be trying several of your recommendations to Jessica.

  26. erica says:

    I need to give The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet another try. A couple of years ago I visited the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle and their building is on that alley in the International District and the do walking tours. The story of the internment in Seattle is especially shameful. One reason Seattle has an International District rather than separate ethnic areas is that when the Japanese returned to the city they were not given their land and buildings back and were basically told “possession is 9/10 of the law.”
    A historical series I really enjoy is the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. They are light and fun and yet there is a lot of good historical information and suspense and intrigue (think The Scarlet Pimpernel)

  27. Heather Clements says:

    I have read your blog for stem time now and just started listening to podcasts today. Picked this episode at random and loved it. Will be checking out the Erik Larson book. And, it you have not read The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, do! I listened on audio and will say there is a little romance cheesiness, the story that that spans 3 generations is wonderful. If you liked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, this is a good choice for you.

  28. Tea.n.toast says:

    Catching up on old episodes I’ve missed and have some suggestions for Jessica’s desired changes in her reading life. For audio books, listen to things you are interested in but hesitant to read. For me that is usually non-fiction (a great way to work in more of that!) I especially like Malcom Gladwell on audio because it’s ok if I can’t get back to it right away. Plot driven fiction is more frustrating when you’re dying to know what happens! Hillbilly Elegy was fantastic on audio too!
    To read more on kindle, make yourself read 3 or 4 in a row electronically. You’ll get used to it and find its perfect for some books and in some situations. These tips helped me make changes in my reading life. Hope they helps someone else.

  29. Mark Rogers says:

    This just proves that not every book is for everyone. I am reading Everything I Never Told You and really like it

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