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?

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