Thursday, September 26, 2013

What I've been reading: September 2013

It's that time again!  I have to admit, my reading list this month is kind of all over the place.  Two book club selections, two fluffy reads to keep things light between heavier titles, a bit of memoir (which actually was done via audiobook on a road-trip with my husband), and a horror novel.  Yup.  All over the map.  Sometimes, I get into a groove and read a lot of one genre for awhile.  September was not one of those times.

City of Light, by Lauren Belfer.  This was for my book club's September meeting.  Published in 1999, this was Belfer's first novel, set in the author's hometown of Buffalo, NY around the turn of the last century.  Scandal, secrets, murder, society gossip, politics and power-hungry moguls teem in this novel, which made for some great discussion.  I will say it felt a little long and convoluted in places, but it was meticulously researched and ultimately quite interesting.  518 pages

The Next Always, by Nora Roberts.  First in the Inn BoonsBoro trilogy, this is a Roberts love story at its finest.  Local color (set in Maryland), unique characters, a likeable supporting cast and a very odious villain.  Entwined in this particular series is a ghost story that downright gave me goosebumps.  Gentle, easy reading, and for me, Roberts' work is always a pleasure.  341 pages

Here We Go Again, by Betty White.  A memoir of White's first fifty years on television, full of her signature wit and optimism.  White's long and memorable career has included audience favorites such as Life with Elizabeth, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls.  The audiobook is also narrated by the author, and is an absolute delight.  320 pages

Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay.  This is a reread for me, and my book club's selection for our October meeting.  1942, Paris: Young Sarah is arrested with her family and other Jews by the French Police in the brutal Vel' d'Hiv' roundup, before they are transported to Auschwitz.  But before she leaves, she locks her younger brother in a hidden cupboard to keep him safe, thinking she will only be gone a few hours.  2002, Paris:  Julia Jarmon, writer for an American magazine, is assigned to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vel' d'Hiv' roundups.  In the process, she also learns that the former inhabitants of the apartment her husband's family is rehabbing was home to victims of the roundups, and vows to find out what happened to them.  Brilliant and moving.  294 pages

The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker.  Chava is a golem, awakened at sea and without direction after her master dies shortly after her awakening.  She is hardworking by design and curious by the request of her now-deceased master, arriving friendless and alone in turn-of-the-century New York City.  Ahmad is a jinni whose own curiosity nearly cost him his existence, and who is partially freed by a tinsmith in Little Syria on the Lower East Side.  It is only fitting that these two incredible creatures should meet and become allies.  Beautifully detailed, this debut novel is a masterwork of rich historical background and meticulous embellishments of fantasy and legend.  Very highly recommended. 496 pages

The Last Boyfriend, by Nora Roberts.  Second in the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy.  Yup, more fluff, and I can't apologize for it.  I like to take a break here and there around some of the more serious reading--this was particularly entertaining as an audiobook, read by MacLeod Andrews.  Funny and easy, just what I needed.  336 pages

Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King.  Dan Torrance, last seen in King's The Shining, has grown up and has a small, quiet life in New Hampshire.  He attends AA meetings and works at a nursing home, using what remains of his 'shining' to comfort the dying.  When he encounters the True Knot, he knows that they are not merely harmless vagabonds, but powerful psychics who tap into the shinings of children, using it like the fountain of youth.  And when he meets twelve-year old Abra Stone, he is nearly blinded by her shining, and realizes the True Knot with stop at nothing to take it from her.  King does not disappoint.  531 pages

September Totals
7 titles
2,836 pages

Year-to-date Totals
67/75 titles = 89%
25,018 / 35,000 pages = 71%

I'll be back next week to start talking about new titles to look forward to reading later this fall, so in the meantime, enjoy the gorgeous New England weather and happy reading!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Book Is Still Better

I know, I have a running theme when it comes to movie adaptations of books.  In most (not all, but definitely most, in my experience) cases, the book is significantly better than the movie.  I know the old Jim Gaffigan line, too.  "Know what I liked about the movie?  No reading!"  Well, if you're happier with movies than books, you already know that this is likely not the blog for you.  I mean, the title isn't "Trumbull is Watching...", after all.

Do I have a specific example in mind as I write this post?  You bet I do.  That example would be The Great Gatsby, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel of the same name.  I will admit to having read Gatsby multiple times.  High school, college, book club, just because.  Why?  It's considered to be Fitzgerald's magnum opus and an American classic, sure.  But it's also, in this reader's humble opinion, a beautifully crafted novel.  In a mere 180 pages, Fitzgerald conveys good vs. evil, beauty, love, tragedy, greed, corruption, deceit, despair, and regret.  His characters are painstakingly crafted, and his prose is both spare and evocative.

What I'm saying is: A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes, a word is all that's needed to paint a picture. 

In the case of the film, I will agree that it is visually stunning.  The costumes and set design are positively jaw-dropping.  But the pacing  The thing about a book is you get to choose, to a certain degree, how fast the action moves.  You can skip ahead.  You can skim.  You can linger and savor.  You can reread your favorite parts.  With movies, the screenplay and the director determine how fast the story moves, and in this case, for me, it just didn't do the story justice.

What do you think?  Have you seen it and read it, and prefer one over the other?  Or do you have an example of a successful film adaptation?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Freebie--Reading Ahead, October 2013: the late edition

If you're a fan of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels (and the HBO adaptation, True Blood), then you were likely crushed when earlier this year, Harris wrapped up the series with the thirteenth title, Dead Ever After.  If that's the case, I do have just a touch of good news for you.

While she's not resurrecting the series, Harris is giving fans some closure with a "what happened next" work called After Dead: What came next in the world ofSookie Stackhouse. For fans, this is an absolute must!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Three on Thursday: Cozy Fall Meals

If you're ever in need of inspiration for what to make for dinner, look no further than the shelves and shelves of cookbooks at your library.  Want to cut back on take-out? Learn how to make your favorites at home--it's easier than you think.  Bored of your same old stand-by recipes?  The library has books on a variety of ethnic and contemporary American recipes.  Inspired by your favorite Food Network chef?  Check us out!  We have dozens of cookbooks written by your favorites!  To get you started, here are a few new cookbooks that might help with some of your weeknight cooking dilemmas, full of warm, comforting recipes to suit any palate.

Not much time to cook, but still want a homemade meal for the family?  Try Debra Ponzek's The Dinnertime Survival Cookbook, with lots of healthy and easy recipes.  My favorites?  The soups and slow cooker recipes--low-maintenance, high satisfaction, and great on the leftovers front!

Have one day a week that you can use for food prep?  You might find Jessica Fisher's Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead Cookbook to be just what you're looking for.  She teaches you how to batch-cook just about anything, from breakfast items easy to grab on your way out the door to soup, pizza, meats, casseroles and more.  I have to give her major points for thoroughly addressing the planning stages of batch cooking--any bit of time-saving in these instances helps tremendously!

Finally, we are entering the season for parties, and I don't know about you, but I often find myself stumped on what to bring!  Fear not--Good Housekeeping's The Great Potluck Cookbook to the rescue!  The cookbook itself is separated by event or holiday, but who says that you can't mix and match?  Who says you can't use that picnic recipe for Monday Night Football?  Or that tailgate recipe for a holiday party appetizer? 

Happy reading--and cooking!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Two on Tuesday: Fall into Reading

Chilly nights and the first changes of color on the trees are just a few of the hints that autumn is upon us.  The opportunity for catching up with some great fiction titles is another!  Just think of a cozy evening with a warm drink and a good book.  Here in New England, those are upon us.  If you're looking for a title to inspire you to stay up past your bedtime and indulge, I've got you covered. 

Looking to get a jump on being scared silly this fall?  Stephen King's Doctor Sleep comes out next week, chock full of paranormal spookiness as he brings readers back to The Shining's Dan Torrance, now middle-aged and protecting another child from some very nasty paranormal phenomenon.  My advice?  Give The Shining a quick re-read while you wait for Doctor Sleep.

If creepy isn't your taste and you'd prefer something historical, I'd highly recommend Jamie Ford's Songs of Willow Frost.  (He also wrote Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, fyi.)  A young Chinese American orphan feels an instant connection when he first sees actress Willow Song on the silver screen.  With his friend Charlotte, he escapes the orphanage to navigate the streets of Depression-era Seattle and try to resolve the mystery of his own history.  I really, really recommend this one.  Really.

I have delicious surprises in store for you Thursday.  In the meantime, happy reading!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Reading Ahead: October 2013, part 4

If you're squeamish, you may want to skip this post.  Nope, it's not a post about zombies or horror novels or serial killers. 

Here in library-land, however, it is time to start thinking about...the holidays.

I know, it feels shocking to be talking about December when school's only just back in session, but publishers have been thinking about this well in advance!  And holiday books, just like the store decorations, seem to show up earlier and earlier each year.  In fact, I started ordering books with holiday themes back in June!  So if you like to get a jump on getting into the holiday spirit, here are a few titles coming out in October to get you started.

Christmas Bliss, by Mary Kay Andrews

Silent Night, by Robert B. Parker & Helen Brann

Starry Night, by Debbie Macomber (also in Large Print)

If you're not quite ready for the holidays just yet, that's okay!  I'll be back next week with some suggested titles to get you back into the fall spirit.  In the meantime, happy reading.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reading Ahead: October 2013, part 3

 Sometimes, there aren't enough titles in a particular genre coming out in a given month to give you a proper list.  In these cases, you get a little bit of everything!  Romance, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, chick-lit--this list has it all!

Winners, by Danielle Steel

The Spymistress, by Jennifer Chiaverini

We Are Water, by Wally Lamb

The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Some extra-good things in this list!  Chiaverini, who is best known for her Elm Creek Quilts series, made a huge splash earlier this year with her foray into historical fiction, Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.  This new title, The Spymistress, returns to the Civil War era, this time following Elizabeth Van Lew, who was born to a slave-holding Southern family, educated by Quakers, and eventually pledged herself to the Lincoln White House, becoming a spy among the Confederates.  Van Lew, who was posthumously inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, is a lesser-known historical figure, and by all accounts, Chiaverini has out-done herself bringing the spymistress to life.  

Also on my list of things I must read, of course, is Wally Lamb's new novel, We Are Water.  Lamb, a Connecticut author, here returns to his familiar setting of Three Rivers, CT (loosely based on the Norwich area) in a story about modern America in transition in matters of race, class, family and social mores, illustrated in the Oh family.  

Anything on this list strike your fancy?  I'd love to know!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Reading Ahead: October 2013, part 2

If this past summer was prime thriller territory, autumn is shaping up to be overflowing with suspense and mystery titles.  Have you ever wondered what the difference between the three genres is?  Here's a quick breakdown.

Mystery: A puzzle to be solved.  These are the classic whodunnits, solved by the protagonist (a detective, amateur sleuth, etc.) gradually putting together clues.  There can be elements of suspense (anticipation) or thrills (danger) involved, but a mystery certainly can work without either element.

Suspense: Literally, the action is suspended, and the anticipation of what will happen next is what keeps the reader enthralled.  In these cases, the reader very often knows something about the scene that one or more characters do not, and suspense as built as the characters get closer to that same knowledge.

Thriller:  Thrillers are full of action: fights, chases, explosions, etc.  There can be elements of suspense in a thriller, and vice versa, but thrillers always include elements of danger, such as close calls, escapes and so on.

Clear as mud?  You're welcome. 

Lesson over.  On to the books!

Accused, by Lisa Scottoline

The Double, by George P. Pelecanos

Just One Evil Act, by Elizabeth George

Critical Mass, by Sara Paretsky

Catch and Release , by Lawrence Block

Enjoy the lovely weather this weekend--if you're out for a drive this weekend (an orchard or vineyard, perhaps?), consider stopping at the library on your way out of town.  An audiobook is a great accompaniment to a road-trip!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Reading Ahead: October 2013, part 1

Happy September!  Hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday weekend.  It's the beginning of a new month, and you know what that means?  More new books to look forward to!  Some of the heaviest hitters in the suspense/thriller genre have new titles being released next month, so get your requests in now!

Identical, by Scott Turow

Sycamore Row, by John Grisham

Doing Hard Time, by Stuart Woods

Storm Front, by John Sandford

The October List, by Jeffrey Deaver

I'll be back on Thursday with more titles to look forward to.  In the meantime, happy reading!