Thursday, May 30, 2013

What I've been reading: May 2013

It has been a great spring for reading--cool, rainy, lots of occasions to curl up with a good book.  I've been on a bit of a streak, so here's what I've been reading the last few weeks...

Triptych, by Karin Slaughter.  You know how it is when you find a new-to-you author and you just devour every title you can get your hands on?  That's what I currently have going on with the works of Ms. Slaughter.  In this cross-over between her Will Trent and Grant County series, readers follow Michael Ormewood and Angie Polaski, co-workers, former lovers, and now enemies as they both attempt to catch a killer whose signature crosses the lines of race and class.  And then there's the hapless ex-con trying desperately to keep his nose clean, when he finds himself unexpectedly caught up in the case in the most unlikely ways.  Phenomenal.  I never wanted to put it down.  392 pages

Fractured, by Karin Slaughter.  Still on a roll here.  Detective Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, is called in to aid in the investigation surrounding a murder/kidnapping in one Atlanta's most high-end neighborhoods, Ansley Park.  The abducted girl's mother has killed the intruder, but Trent quickly uncovers clues that turn the whole case upside down.  Slaughter plots so tightly--nothing is left to chance, but readers will never know it until the very last second.  388 pages

Paris, by Edward Rutherfurd.  Rutherfurd's sweeping multi-generational sagas have followed great achievements and catastrophes through history in a variety of settings:  London, Russka, and New York, among others.  In his latest novel, we find ourselves immersed in the magnificent city of Paris, moving seamlessly among centuries from the machinations of Cardinal Richilieu to the invasion of the Nazis, from the glory of Versailles to 1968 student revolt and beyond.  Vast, epic, and captivating.  862 pages

Whiskey Beach, by Nora Roberts.  Roberts has a knack for making her characters fallible, relatable, human.  And while I fully admit that her novels qualify as somewhat fluffy, light reading, I also find it reassuring that I know what I'm going to get sometimes, especially after something weighty and huge like Rutherfurd's Paris.  In Roberts's latest, Boston lawyer Eli has returned to the family house at Whiskey Beach on the North Shore to decompress after an intense year of being accused of (but not arrested for) the murder of his estranged wife.  Bluff House is standing empty when he arrives, but jill-of-all-trades Abra Walsh keeps house and keeps an eye on Eli's well being.  Local history, a series of break-ins and a long-standing vendetta throw them together even as they try to untangle a mystery.  Fun, easy reading. 484 pages

The Sandcastle Girls, by Chris Bohjalian.  This is my book club's choice for our June meeting, and while I was initially uncertain about the premise, I ultimately wound up completely enthralled in the stories.  Told in two parts, both contemporary and set in 1915 Syria, the story follows a group of people, Armenian refugees and American relief workers, through the spread of the First World War in Europe and beyond.  Part love story, part tragedy, Bohjalian draws upon his own Armenian history and the stories told by his grandparents for a novel that is so richly detailed and emotionally nuanced, I have a newfound respect for his work.  Brilliant.  299 pages

The Plague & I, by Betty MacDonald.  On the advice of some fellow readers, I made it a priority to find a copy of this book through Interlibrary Loan.  MacDonald, best known as a children's author (including the tales of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle)  in the early half of the 20th century, also wrote several autobiographical works, The Plague & I among them.  This particular work chronicles MacDonald's nine-month stay in the Firlands tuberculosis sanitarium.  I would honestly not have ever thought a non-fiction work about tuberculosis published in 1948 could be funny, but I found myself laughing out loud repeatedly.  Off-beat and surprisingly hilarious.  254 pages

Broken, by Karin Slaughter.  Another crossover between Slaughter's Grant County and Will Trent series, this one finds Trent investigating in a town where the police force is intent on protecting its own, even as he tries to determine how the death of a prisoner and a policewoman's possible role in the former police chief's death might be related.  Really, if you like a good thriller and you haven't read these, you are missing out.  402 pages

Z: A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Fowler.  Who is Zelda Fitzgerald, nee Sayre, other than the wife of the famous, and often infamous, F. Scott Fitzgerald?  Is she the "ungettable" Southern debutante from a wealthy family and a sheltered upbringing?  Is she the wild child with the scandalous bobbed hairdo and flapper fashion sense who parties with members of the Lost Generation, including Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein?  Or is she the fragile woman with the broken brain, spending years in a sanitarium trying to regain her sanity and spirit after so much time spent battling not only her own demons, but those of her husband?  Gorgeous, thoughtful, and compulsively readable.  375 pages

May totals:
8 titles
3,456 pages

Year-to-date totals:
35/75 titles = 46%
13,544/35,000 pages = 39%

Making excellent headway.  How about you?  Read anything share-worthy lately?  Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top 10 on Tuesday: Aussie reads


Since the last week of May is Australian Library and Information Week, I thought I'd show my Aussie colleagues, authors, and readers some love.  Some of my favorite books just so happen to have been written by Australian authors, so I thought I'd share the wealth!

1) Geraldine Brooks.  Her 2005 novel, March, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  I'm also a huge fan of two of her other novels, A Year of Wonders and People of the Book.  Read her work--she is amazing.

2) The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman.  Australian native Stedman may be rather reluctant when it comes to the limelight, but her first novel is a staff darling here at the Trumbull Library.  On a remote Australian island, a childless couple live a quiet life running a lighthouse, until a boat with a baby washes ashore. 

3) Kate Morton.  I fell in love with her style and story-telling when I first read The Forgotten Garden.  She's a favorite among staff and book clubs here at the library.

4) The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.  This is a title that shows up a lot this time of the year, as it is on many a summer reading list.  Accessible to adults and teens, Zusak's novel finds Death trying to make sense of WWII, relating the story of the story-telling book-stealing Liesel, a young German girl helping her family, the Jewish family they are hiding, and her neighbors. 

5) Peter Carey.  Two time Booker Prize winner.  Finalist for the U.S. National Book Award and the Man Booker Prize.  The man is a legend in his native country, and deserves more recognition here in the states, too.

6) The Hypnotist's Love Story, by Liane Moriarty.  All about the crazy things we do for love, with some really nice plot twists.  You can read my full review here.  Fun, funny, and surprising.

7) If fantasy is your genre of choice, you need to be reading Sara Douglass.  Though she sadly passed in 2011, her series live on and are magnificent. 

8) I think I'd be remiss if I was talking about Australian authors and neglected to mention Colleen McCullough.  Really, The Thorn Birds is timeless.  She writes in other genres, too, including thrillers and historical novels, so try them all!

9) Kate Grenville.  I loved The Lieutenant, and her 2005 novel The Secret River was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She, like Peter Carey, is hugely popular in Australia and well deserving of a wider readership in the U.S.

10) For teens and adults, John Marsden is definitely one to check out.  My personal favorite would be Letters from the Inside, about two girls who connect through writing letters.

I'm back Thursday with an update on what I've been reading.  In the meantime, enjoy!

*no koalas were harmed in the writing of this post.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reading Ahead: June 2103, part 5

So you're not in the mood for a thriller, or a love story, or a family saga, OR something a little more serious?  How about funny?  Can you handle funny?  I hope so, because this is the last of the June releases on my list!

The Heist, by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg.  From the book's description: "High-speed chases, pirates, and Toblerone bars are all in a day’s work . . . if [partners] O’Hare and Fox don’t kill each other first."  How can you not be intrigued?

Bad Monkey, by Carl Hiaasen.  Hiaasen is back doing what he does best--a fierce, wickedly funny tale in which the greedy and the corrupt get their comeuppance in the most ingenious, entertaining fashion. 

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, by Lauren Weisberger.  Ten years ago, Andy Sachs quit a job that was ruining her life, a job that a million other girls would kill for.  Now, she runs a successful business and has found the love of her life, but discovering a secret on the eve of her wedding turns everything upside-down.  Karma, it so happens, really is a bitch.

I'll be back next week with some fiction from down under, in honor of Australia's Library and Information week celebration!  Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reading Ahead: June 2013, part 4

That's me, with this particular part of June's list of new titles.  (Hur-ray!  Get it?  Right, moving on...)

My point is, sometimes, there are so many great books I can't wait to read, I get a little giddy.  Okay, maybe a lot giddy.  Can't take the suspense?  Me, either.  On to the list!

The Silver Star, by Jeannette Walls

The Blood of Heaven, by Kent Wascom

The Engagements, by J. Courtney Sullivan

Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld

What's got me all a-twitter?  Well, let's start at the top.  I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan.  He's funny, he's brilliant, he's a big fan of libraries.  What's not to love?!   Mr. Gaiman has, however, given us one more reason to love him--his first new novel for adults since 2005's Anansi Boys.  Gaiman has a love of mythology and ancient religions, and sprinkles them liberally throughout much of his work.  (My personal favorite would be American Gods, by the way.  It's one of the few books I make time to reread regularly.)  In that vein, this newest novel finds a middle-aged man who returns to his childhood home and is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where as a child he encountered an extraordinary girl, her mother and her grandmother.  As he sits by that ramshackle house, he's overcome with memories of a past that couldn't possibly be his own.  Could it?  Lots and lots of anticipation surrounding this new work!

The next on my list is, I predict, going to be one of the sleeper hits this summer.  (Psst--The Wall Street Journal and Publisher's Weekly have my back on this.)  Part scandalous love-story, part family drama, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls brings readers teenager Thea Atwell, cast out of her wealthy Florida family after a tragedy that Thea is, at least partially, responsible for.  She has been sent to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes, located high in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  And even as Thea mulls over the true story behind her expulsion from her family, she also must determine how her past will shape her future.  Looks like powerful stuff, and if the critics are already this excited, it is definitely worth checking out.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls ought to be a no-brainer for the avid reader.  If the name seems familiar, that's because she also wrote Half-Broke Horses and her memoir The Glass Castle, both of which won critical acclaim. 

For fans of historical fiction, Kent Wascom's debut, The Blood of Heaven, is one you should not miss.  Set in the American frontier in the early 19th century, the story follows Angel Woolsack, a preacher's son, as he flees his humble beginnings, finds friendship and brotherhood in Western Florida, falls in love in Natchez, and plots rebellion in New Orleans. 

Still looking for your one true love out of June's list?  I have a few things that might make you smile, but I'm saving those for Thursday.  See you then!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Reading Ahead: June 2013, part 3

The last couple of posts have been great news for readers of thrillers and suspense.  But what if you're looking for some titles worthy of adding to your beach bag or your vacation reading and you're not a thriller fan?  Never fear!  There are plenty of lower-key beach reads that will entertain your brain while you enjoy the warmer weather this summer.  Here are some, from family sagas to chick lit, that might be just what you're looking for.

Ladies’ Night, by Mary Kay Andrews.  Nothing in Grace's life prepared her for being locked out of her home, her checking account and her business after catching her husband cheating on her.  Okay, so she also drove his sports car into the swimming pool, but is that any reason for court-mandated "divorce recovery" group therapy?  It's being billed as poignant and funny with a bit of a mystery.  Andrews is one of the founding mothers of chick-lit, so I would say it should be a sure thing.

Island Girls, by Nancy Thayer.  Three sisters (who shared a father, but different mothers) all convene in their late-father's Nantucket home for a summer together, a condition of his will if they want to inherit said house.  With a history of jealousy and resentment among them, their relationship is understandably sour.  Until, that is, they need to lean on each other to get through relationship woes and sordid pasts rearing their ugly heads.  A classic light beach read.

Beautiful Day, by Erin Hilderbrand.  Nantucket seems to be a running theme this year.  Two families arrive on Nantucket to celebrate the nuptials of a young couple, the details dictated by a plan left by the bride's late mother.  While the couple themselves are happy, their families are much less so.  Family drama and scandal abound leading up to the big day.  This sounds like quintessential Hilderbrand, who does this brand of beach read with flair.

The Last Original Wife, by Dorothea Benton Frank.  As the last original wife among her husband's wildly successful Atlanta social set, Les is fed up.  His cronies have all traded in their first wives for younger models, and she is tired of losing friends and sick of her husband treating it as a favor to keep her around.  Unable to stand it another minute, Les lights out for her hometown of Charleston, intent on cultivating the life of her dreams.

Sweet Salt Air, by Barbara Delinsky.  Two old friends, separated for years by professional and personal choices as well as geography, get together one summer like they used to, on an island off the coast of Maine.  It is a project that bring them together, a professional collaboration that makes the most of Nicole's culinary passion and Charlotte's travel-writer chops.  But it may be the secrets they've been keeping that destroy their friendship for good.  Reviews have been good so far, my guess is it should be a great addition to your pool-side reading.

Light reads not your thing either?  I've got you covered--I'll be back next week with both the substantial novels and the comedy gold slated for June releases.  In the meantime, happy reading!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reading Ahead: June 2013, part 2

If you thought the first part of the June thrillers list was exciting, you haven't seen anything yet.  Really, sit down.  You are not prepared.

Are you sitting?  Okay, here we go.

Eye of God, by James Rollins

The Shadow Tracer, by Meg Gardiner

Killer Ambition, by Marcia Clark

Tell Me, by Lisa Jackson

Always Watching, by Chevy Stevens

The Kill Room, by Jeffery Deaver

Very exciting things here!  For one, I am delighted to see Chevy Stevens back with her third novel (after 2011's Never Knowing).  Few authors manage the twists and turns of gripping plotlines like Stevens, and I am extremely excited to read Always Watching

Also on my radar is the new Meg Gardiner stand-alone novel, The Shadow Tracer, which follows skip tracer Sarah Keller in her battle to going from tracer to untraceable after an accident reveals her darkest secret--that she is not the biological mother of her five-year-old daughter Zoe.  Lots of hype on this one--if you don't read her already, this is one to start with.

And finally, Jeffery Deaver has brought back one of my favorite thriller duos (last seen in 2010's Burning Wire), Lincoln Rhyme and partner Amelia Sachs as they track a sniper who hit his target from over a mile away, and the heat is turned up when a knife-wielding assassin begins to systematically destroy all evidence...including witnesses. 

So tell me, what strikes your fancy for some summer chills?