Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What I've been reading: July 2012

It felt like I was reading up a storm this month, and somehow, it doesn't feel quite as momentous as last month.  Granted, there are a couple in the list with pretty significant page-counts, so maybe that's why?  Who can say.  In any case, here we go.

The Apprentice, by Tess Gerritsen.  I'm a huge fan of TNT's Rizzoli & Isles series, which is based on the books by Tess Gerritsen, so I decided to go back and read the series from the beginning.  Some of it is quite different, and some of it is spot on between the books and television adaptation, which is true of most adaptations, in my experience.  The first in the series, The Surgeon, introduced Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli, and The Apprentice, which is the second, is where readers meet medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles.  I read The Surgeon a number of years ago, and Gerritsen is quite good at giving readers enough framework at the beginning of a novel so as not to make us feel left behind if we've missed a book, so I got right into the case and the story.  The Surgeon, Rizzoli's arch-nemesis serial-killer in the first book, appears to be back.  Only this time he has, you guessed it, an apprentice, which changes the signature of the killings and means that Rizzoli is now out to catch a diabolical duo.  A serious page-turner.  400 pages.

Flirt, by Laurell K. Hamilton.  Another book from the middle of a series, and yes, over the years I have read the seventeen books in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series prior to this title, which is actually a novella.  And, as a novella, the situation is meant to be brief, which is clear from the outset.  Yet Hamilton, who typically writes novels of 350+ pages, seemed unable to let go of longer, more convoluted plotlines and so this felt rushed, without much detail and somehow still too many story elements crammed in.  I loved earlier books in the series, and critics and fans alike adore the series through the first fourteen or so titles about Anita and her man-harem of vampires and wereanimals, as she raises the dead as a professional necromancer in addition to solving matters of vamp- and/or were-politics at the side of one or more love-interests.  If you're looking for a series to fill in time outside of Sookie Stackhouse's adventures, this would certainly be one to try.  171 pages.

Hot Blooded, by Lisa Jackson.   I'll be honest--I read this one on my Kindle while waiting for the library's reordered copy of this New Orleans series opener to come in.  The link for this will take you to Overdrive, which allows library users to check out ebook titles for a number of different devices.  Dr. Sam, popular late-night radio talk-show host in sultry New Orleans, gets home from a botched make-up holiday with her ex fiance in a foul mood.  A boating accident has left her with a sprained ankle, she's lost her keys and wallet, and some creepy hate-mail from a stalker is waiting when she arrives home.  As she attempts to settle back into her routine, the stalking becomes ugly, the city is beset by a series of murders, and a sexy new neighbor makes a play for Dr. Sam.  Then things really start to heat up.  A super-speedy read, with just a few hiccups.  464 pages.

A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness.  As you know by now, this is a re-read for me, but the timing on this is two-fold.  One, my book club is reading this over the summer for our September meeting.  Two, the sequel, Shadow of Night, just came out this month and I wanted to brush up before I delved into the new book.  You can read my original review from last summer here.  Bonus, the audiobook is phenomenal, read by the extremely talented Jennifer Ikeda.  579 pages.

The Passage, by Justin Cronin.  What's with all the vampires this month?  I'm not quite sure how that happened, either.  First in a trilogy, the secon book The Twelve is due out later this year (on order, just not in our catalog yet), The Passage introduces us to a huge host of characters, multitudes of plotlines, and spans over 100 years.  No small undertaking.  Cronin's strengths lie in the details and the quiet moments--some of his imagery is extremely poignant and sticks with the reader.  However, it's a giant book at 800 pages, and contains a LOT of story.  Imagine vampirism as a virus, which infects millions of Americans.  States secede and set up giant walls.  The outside world cuts off the North American continent.  What would human civilization look like after 100 years in a camp of survivors abandoned by the Army?  Cronin is overflowing with ideas, and I can't wait to see what the next installment brings.  800 pages.

Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead.  Shifting gears, from vampires to social satire.  A clan of well-to-do New Englanders gather for the nuptials of Daphne Van Meter and her husband-to-be, a handsome young businessman.  But the bride's sister, recently single, becomes the target of the best man's need for conquest.  And rather than being helpful as the wedding planned by Mrs. Van Meter with precision starts to fall to pieces, the family patriarch is busily pursuing one of the bridesmaids.  Mayhem ensues, in this extremely well-written and hilarious novel.  Really enjoyed this one.  320 pages.

July totals:

2,734 pages
6 titles

2012 totals:
18563/50000 pages = 37%
44/100 titles = 44%

It's going to be a fight to the finish this year to see if I can finish both of these challenges!  Any other challengers have some recommendations to share?

See you all back here on Thursday when I start sharing what new titles from your favorite authors you'll get to look forward to reading in September!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Three Thoughts on Thursday

We're in the thick of summer reading here at the library, and ordering new books that will be released this fall.  My list of books I want to read just grows and grows, no matter how fast I read.  And I got to thinking. 

1. How do you, non-librarian readers, find out about new books coming out?  Television or print ads?  Listserv emails or blogs?  Author websites?  I'd love to hear in the comments.  (I read an average of eleven professional journals each month, full of reviews.  And sometimes they miss things, too!)

2. Do you keep a formal list of what you've read, and what you want to read?  I do keep one of the former, but I don't keep an official "to read" list beyond what I place on request at the library and on Overdrive for my Kindle.  I have a Goodreads account, but I am sorely remiss in maintaining it.  Anyone else use Goodreads? 

3. What genres would you like me to share more on?  There are so many possibilities, but I'd like to tailor some posts more toward you, my readers.  Any preferences?

I can't believe it, but I'll be back next Tuesday to share what I've read over the month of July with you--the summer is going by so fast!  And Thursday, if you can pull yourselves away from the Olympic Games, I'll start sharing some titles that will be released in September.  In the meantime, stay cool, and happy reading!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Crimson Petal and the White

Way back in 2002, there was a debut novel written by Michael Faber called The Crimson Petal and the White.  Set in 1870's London, a prostitute finds wealth and power, if not happiness, after becoming the mistress of a powerful patriarch.  The novel received great critical acclaim.  It was beloved by many a reader, myself included, and a darling of book clubs everywhere.  There were some talks of film adaptation.  And then it slowly faded from the minds of readers as new titles came to the fore.

Imagine my shock and awe when I chanced upon a commercial over the weekend for an Encore miniseries in September based on The Crimson Petal and the White.  It was apparently made and released in the UK last year, and now Encore has picked it up.  Notable among the cast is Gillian Anderson, of X-Files fame.

Now, I'm not always a huge fan of film/television adaptations.  Some are popular despite huge departures (True Blood), some are really phenomenal (Game of Thrones, The Help).  I'm not sure where this particular miniseries will fall, but I'm really eager to find out!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Can't keep it to myself: The Age of Miracles

I mentioned this title a few months ago, and finally got a chance to sit down with The Age of Miracles early this week.  Now I understand the awe surrounding it leading up to the release date: Karen Thompson Walker's debut is compelling, powerful, poignant and haunting, though the premise seemed almost unassuming.  When middle-schooler Julia wakes up one sleepy Sunday morning in suburban California, she and her family learn that overnight, the rotation of the earth has begun to slow.  Over the coming weeks and months, the days and nights continue to lengthen, dividing neighbors between those running on "clock time" and those trying to adjust to the ever-changing rhythm of the earth, including the "syndrome" of gravity-related illness that begins to affect some citizens.  In the midst of external chaos, Julia continues to struggle with the smaller maelstrom that is pre-teen life: boys, betrayal, loss, and hope. 

Walker completely outdoes herself with the strength of the narrative's tension; I found myself increasingly reluctant to put the book down for any reason.  I can only cross my fingers and hope that she has more books for us in the future, and that they carry similar pull, because this novel was so full of quiet power and perfect imagery that I cannot imagine this is all Ms. Walker has to offer readers. 

Pick this up at your earliest convenience, it is amazing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Reading Series 2012: A Touch of Humor*

Few things are as cathartic as a good laugh.  I mean one of those that makes you lean over and really howl until you can hardly breathe.  A really GOOD laugh can relieve stress, brighten your day, and take the edge off a bad mood.  In case you’re needing one of those, I have a few suggestions where you might find one.

If you prefer your humor with a sarcastic bite, JenLancaster is an author I can’t recommend enough, especially her early work.  Lancaster is the queen of snark and can turn a phrase so witty and dead-on, it will leave me snickering for days.  Start with Bitter is the New Black to see if you might want to indulge further.  If you prefer your sarcasm in the form of fiction instead, Jane Heller and Jennifer Crusie are also good bets.  Need more irreverence?  Try Christopher Moore, Tim Dorsey, or Carl Hiaasen.

If you’d rather have your humor served with a heaping side of the absurd and outrageous, Jenny Lawson’s recent “mostly true memoir” Let’sPretend This Never Happened should be right up your alley.  Lawson proves that, without a doubt, truth is always stranger than fiction.  (Side bonus, Jenny Lawson interviewed Jen Lancaster about the release of Lancaster’s new book, Jeneration X, with hilarious results)  Other great bets would be Tina Fey’s Bossypants and David Sedaris’s Naked.

Finally, if you’d like something that’s plain old hilarious, here are more authors you should consider checking out.

Dave Barry (one of the kings of comedy)
Sarah Strohmeyer (the Bubbles series)
Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next series)
Charlaine Harris (yup, vampires and humor)
Terry Pratchett (if you think you don’t like fantasy, you have never read Pratchett’s Discworld books)
Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy remains one of the funniest books I’ve ever read)

Do you have something to add to the list?  Leave a comment!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Reading Ahead: August 2012, part 3

Here we are, at the end of the list of August's up-and-coming bestsellers, and what a list it is!  I hope you've saved some room in your reading schedule for some of these, because there are some great ones in here to help you soak up those golden summer days.

And When She Was Good, by Laura Lippman

The Spymasters: A Men at War Novel, by W.E.B. Griffin & William E. Butterworth, IV

Kill You Twice, by Chelsea Cain

A Hundred Flowers, by Gail Tsukiyama

You Don’t Want to Know, by Lisa Jackson

What Happened to My Sister, by Elizabeth Flock

Now, do you have your choices made?  Me, I am really intrigued by Molly Ringwald's fiction debut.  Critics are calling it deeply compassionate and poignant, and I definitely can't wait to see if it lives up to the acclaim.  I'm also interested in Elizabeth Flock's novel, a follow-up to her hugely popular Me & Emma. Finally, you know I love a good thriller, and I'm becoming quite a fan of Lisa Jackson's work, so You Don't Want to Know has already found its way onto my request list.  

Anything on August's list that has caught your eye?  Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reading Ahead: August 2012, part 2

Publishers know that people love to read more in the summer, and they time many of their releases accordingly.  If you thought June and July were chock-full, here's more of August's list of titles to gear up for!

The Survivor, by Gregg Hurwitz

The St. Zita Society, by Ruth Rendell

A Sunless Sea, by Anne Perry

Return to Willow Lake, by Susan Wiggs

By Starlight, by Dorothy Garlock

The Kingmaker’s Daughter, by Philippa Gregory

The Inn at Rose Harbor, by Debbie Macomber

I'll be back on Thursday with more great August titles to look forward to!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reading Ahead: August 2012, part 1

Did you think I'd forgotten about you?  Not at all!  Independence Day on a Wednesday made for a weird week, is all.  But I've still got your list of titles that will be released in August, so let's get started!

Tiger’s Claw, by Dale Brown

The Last Victim, by Karen Robards

The Sentinel, by Matthew Dunn 

Sweet Talk, by Julie Garwood

Line of Fire, by Stephen White

Bones Are Forever, by Kathy Reichs

So, anything strike your fancy?  I have to say, I'm interested to see where Matthew Dunn is going with his Spycatcher series in this second installment.  If you missed The Spycatcher, go back and read it now!  I tend to be a bit of a sucker for Julie Garwood's suspense/romance novels, so I'm hoping this latest is a good one.  

I'll be back next Tuesday with more of the list--happy reading!