Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What I've been reading: July 2013

Wow, it's almost August already?  This year is just whizzing right by, and so is this year's reading challenge!  I'm past the halfway point and still going strong.  As expected, the heat wave we had made for great reading.  It's hard to go wrong with a tall glass of iced tea and a good book on a humid 90+ day, am I right? 

Beyond Reach, by Karin Slaughter.  You'll see a lot of Slaughter's work on this list this month--I'm finally caught up!  As I'd read a number of these out of sequence, I already knew how this one was going to end, and as such, it was not one of my favorites--that's my fault for reading them out of order, not the fault of the book itself.  It is a hard transition from her Grant County series into her later work, and not one for the faint of heart.  I don't want to give anything away for those who haven't read it and might, so I'll stop there for fear of spoilers.  404 pages

Snatched, a novella, by Karin Slaughter.  I snagged this as a fast read on my Kindle, via Trumbull Library's connection to Overdrive.  But if you want to read it and don't have an ebook reader, you can also read it at the end of Criminal (reviewed below).  Will Trent wouldn't have been stuck policing the airport restrooms looking for illicit sexual activities if he had kept his hair at regulation length to abide with GBI regulations. Unlucky punishment for him, but lucky for the child in the next stall with a man who could be abducting her. Unfortunately for both of them, Will's hesitation and a dead cell phone let the man carry the girl off.  Super-fast paced, brilliant as always.  (page count added to Criminal, below)

Joyland, by Stephen King.  King returns as eerily, invitingly creepy as ever with this summer's Joyland.  It's 1973 and a heartbroken Devon Jones (Dev to his friends, Jonesy to his coworkers) heads south for the summer, away from his ex-girlfriend and college, to work at the Joyland amusement park in North Carolina.  The story starts as sweet and nostalgic as Dev makes new friends, learns park lingo, discovers he's a natural at "wearing the fur", and saves a child's life.  Sweet quickly becomes increasingly menacing as Dev finds himself caught up with investigating an old haunting linked to a series of murders years earlier.  King's delight in writing this novel is evident in the reading.  Unadulterated spooky fun.  283 pages

Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman.  Two of my British favorites, who made beautiful fiction together in this collaborative novel about Good, Evil, and the end of the world...in Lower Tadfield, England.  All of which has been obscurely transcribed in the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch three hundred years earlier.  The humor swings from wry to outrageous by turns, and I find it's one of the few titles I re-read every few years, because it just gets funnier every time.  384 pages

Criminal, by Karin Slaughter.  Will Trent has been trying to leave his past behind him, even as he builds a future he never would have thought possible.  Then he finds that his boss, Georgia Bureau of Investigation's deputy director Amanda Wagner, is deliberately keeping him off of a new case.  Will can't imagine her motivation until they literally collide in the orphanage where Will grew up.  This new case, it turns out, has deep roots in both of their pasts, including Wagner's first big case as a policewoman back in 1975.  By far one of my favorites in the series.  436 pages

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  I find this interesting--while this book came out in 2009, it has recently experienced an upsurge in popularity.  I read this on the recommendation of a friend, and I have to say I found Rubin's experience both highly readable and inspiring.  She spent a calendar year focusing on a different goal (with mini-goals) each month.  One month was organization, one was on finances, others were on actively having fun and spending more time being silly with her daughters.  Rubin also spent the months leading up to her project researching what others had to say about happiness, from saints to scholars.  I came away with a lot of great ideas and information--this one may be up for some spot-rereading in the future.  301 pages

Unseen, by Karin Slaughter.  Finally, I am caught up!  Unseen is Slaughter's most recent Will Trent novel came out at the beginning of the month, and I was lucky enough to snag it in time for a long weekend.   Here Will has been sent to Macon on an undercover case, and must hide information from his girlfriend, Dr. Sarah Linton.  Unfortunately for both of them, other circumstances bring Sarah to Macon, too, and the stakes are raised for both of them.  Slaughter never disappoints.  382 pages.

Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell.  This novel has been on my "to read" list since its release in 2011, and now I'm kicking myself that I waited so long to get around to it.  Russell's prose is uniquely elegant, and while the story has some uneven patches, I have to say that I loved the spirit and fire of main character Ava Bigtree, a twelve-year-old alligator-wrestler from the swampland of southwest Florida.  When her mother dies, Ava's family scatters to the winds, leaving Ava no choice but to undertake a dangerous trek in order to save them all.  Lavishly imaginative and completely engrossing.  315 pages

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer.  The summer of 1974, six teens meet at a summer camp for creative kids, and over the years, much changes even as they remain fast friends.  What makes someone stand out at fifteen, it turns out, is not necessarily enough to sustain you when you're thirty.  For Jules Jacobson, her years as an aspiring comedic actor are left behind for more pragmatic work as a therapist.  Fellow-former-camper Jonah puts down his guitar and becomes an engineer.  And then there are Ethan and Ash, who as a couple seem unhindered by reality even as their art propels them into success after success.  Each character is complex and beautifully rendered, their stories bittersweet and poignant.  I loved every second--bonus, this would be excellent for book club discussions.  468 pages

July totals:
9 titles
2,973 pages

Year-to-date progress:
55/75 titles = 73%
20,375/35,000 pages = 58%

I need to read more books with higher page counts!  Any recommendations?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Three on Thursday: Summer Reading Standouts

Want to know what "everyone" is reading this summer?  Of course you do!  Here at the library, we keep close track of the grapevine, chatting with patrons and other staff members as well as readers we meet out in the community, and the most common question is "What's popular?  What's new that everyone wants to read?"  Here are the top three titles that are super popular right this very minute.

The English Girl, by Daniel Silva.  Mr. Silva is no stranger to the best-seller's list, and this latest in his series featuring art-restorer and Israeli spy Gabriel Allon is being hailed as his best to date.  It's even gotten Amazon's Best Book of the Month rating for the month of July and reviewers are calling it a masterwork and a thriller written at the highest level.  When a beautiful woman goes missing in Corsica, an unfaithful prime minister's career is threatened. Enter Allon, who immediately finds that the only thing more dangerous than his predicament is the truth.  If you're new to Silva and his Gabriel Allon series, you might consider catching up, starting with 2000's The Kill Artist.  

The Silver Star, by Jeannette Walls.  Walls made a huge impact on readers with her 2005 memoir, The Glass Castle, about growing up as the child of nomadic, alcoholic parents.  Then in 2009, she rocked readers again with her "true-life novel" Half Broke Horses, which was based on the life of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith.  So here it should be no surprise that her second novel, The Silver Star, has drawn readers in once again.  "Bean" Holladay and older sister Liz have moved around with their mother since they can remember, but when their mother takes off and leaves them for a few months "to find herself", the girls wind up heading to their uncle in Virginia, finding themselves learning more about their mother, themselves, and the world in general in the process. 

The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling).  Yes, you read that right.  This crime fiction novel, published in April of this year to little notice, has recently been claimed by the very famous J.K. Rowling.  Rowling reportedly used the pseudonym to see what sort of reviews her work would receive without readers attaching expectations based on her Harry Potter series.  When initial reviews of both critics and readers were favorable, Rowling owned up to her authorship.  In this novel, Cormoran Strike is down on his luck.  He lost a leg in Afghanistan, has lost his girlfriend, and is just scraping by as a private investigator even as he both lives in and works from his tiny office.  Then a huge case falls into his lap--a famous supermodel's death from a fall was ruled a suicide, but the model's brother doesn't believe it.  As Strike investigates, he's plunged into a world very different from his own--a world of rockstars and millionaires.  A classic mystery that's anything but ordinary.

I'll be back next week to share what I've been reading this month.  In the meantime, happy reading!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reading Ahead: August 2013, part 5

Ah mysteries.  A little suspense, a little whodunit, super sleuths of every variety and occupation.  A little history, a change of scenery, a quirky character or two, perhaps a recipe thrown in for good measure.  Blend well and you have the wrap-up of August's new titles.

Last Kiss Goodbye, by Karen Robards

Heirs and Graces, by Rhys Bowen

Blind Justice, by Anne Perry

The Whole Enchilada, by Diane Mott Davidson

Hope you're all enjoying the cooler weather!  I'll be back on Thursday with some ideas on what (else) to read on your summer vacation.  Happy reading!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Reading Ahead: August 2013, part 4

If you've been holding out, hoping that August would serve up some great beach reads, you are in luck!  Here are a few titles that might just be what you've been waiting for.

The Girls of August, by Anne Rivers Siddons.  When a group of friends, who call themselves the Girls of August because they meet each summer to spend some time together at a beach house, loses one of its circle, the group dissolves and drifts apart.  Until, that is, they reconvene to celebrate a new marriage, and as they reconnect, they find one another changed beyond imagining.  This will undoubtedly be a book club favorite in the coming months!

The First Affair, by Emma McLaughlin & Nicole Kraus.  You may recognize the names of these authors--they made quite a splash several years ago with The Nanny Diaries, and have been regularly hitting the bestseller's list ever since.  Here, a young woman with a pricey degree gets the intership of her dreams--at the White House.  However, she quickly becomes embroiled in a heated affair with the most powerful man in the country, and scandal is only a step behind her.  Reviews are calling it unflinching fiction for pop-culture aficionados--sounds like a beach read to me!

The Girl You Left Behind, by JoJo Moyes.  Moyes, who got great reviews from critics and readers alike for 2012's Me Before You, returns here with another heartbreaker of a novel that asks "Whatever happened to the girl you left behind?"  It's 1916 and a young artist leaves his wife to go and fight at the front.  When their small town falls to the Germans, the young wife, Sophie, draws the eye of the new Kommandant, and Sophie is willing to do anything to survive in order to see her husband again.  Then the story shifts to present day, and a portrait of Sophie that has survived is under scrutiny.  This is being likened to Sarah Blake's The Postmistress and Tatiana de Rosnay's Sarah's Key; I can almost guarantee it's going to be one of the must-read titles this fall.  

Rose Harbor in Bloom, by Debbie Macomber.  Macomber returns here to her ever-popular Rose Harbor Inn series, where every room comes with a second chance and a new view on life.  Three women arrive, seeking to put their pasts behind them, and look forward to new beginnings.  Of course, compassion and joy await all three.  A gentle, heartwarming novel for your beach-bag.

Hotshot, by Julie Garwood.  Peyton Lockhart and her sisters have inherited Bishop’s Cove, a small, luxurious oceanfront resort, but it comes with a condition: The girls must run the resort for one year and show a profit—only then will they own it.  Yet nothing simple is ever easy, and they will have to overcome confrontations with family and powerful land developers who don't want to take no for an answer.  Add a mystery and a little romance, and it's the perfect summer read.

I'll be back next week with the final wrap-up of August's new titles.  In the meantime, stay cool and happy reading!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Reading Ahead: August 2013, part 3

Are you feeling overloaded by the number of thrillers being published this summer?  I have to admit, I kind of am.  There are so many to choose from, and never enough time!

Let Me Go, by Chelsea Cain

Tragic, by Robert K. Tanenbaum

A Tap on the Window, by Linwood Barclay

The Beast, by Faye Kellerman

The Last Witness, by W.E.B. Griffin & William E. Butterworth IV

The Last Alibi, by David Ellis

What's on my list?  The only sure thing is Linwood Barclay's new novel, because it sounds amazing.  In the weeks after Cal Weaver's teenage son's death, Cal has found himself buried in grief.  Perhaps it is the grief that clouds his judgement one night when he opts to give a hitchhiker a ride, and finds himself down the rabbit hole trying to find answers to the mystery surrounding his son's death.  Hope it's as good as it sounds!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Reading Ahead: August 2013, part 2

This summer of the thriller is continuing with gusto, and shows no signs of slowing, either in heat or in the absolute deluge of new suspense/thriller titles being published.  I hope you've got some time in your schedule to slow down and enjoy some goose-bump inspiring fiction!

Justice for Sara, by Erica Spindler

The Mistress, by James Patterson & David Ellis

It Happens in the Dark, by Carol O’Connell

Bones of the Lost, by Kathy Reichs

Tell No Lies, by Gregg Hurwitz

Compound Fractures, by Stephen White

I'll be back next week with the rest (I know!) of the thrillers coming out next month.  In the meantime, stay cool and happy reading!