Thursday, February 27, 2014

What I've Been Reading: February 2014

It's that time again!  I'd love to say I've been reading lots and have tons to share with you  this month, but that would be false.  The Olympics seriously cut into my reading hours, but they only come around once every two years, so they're forgiven.  Also, those were some great hockey games, so they're extra forgiven.

However I do have several titles to share...

Twisted Sisters, by Jen Lancaster.  I've mentioned a time or three how much I enjoy Lancaster's work.  I'll still go on record and say that I prefer her auto-biographical non-fiction (such as her most recent, The Tao of Martha, which I reviewed here).  That said, this was hugely entertaining, funny and insightful.  Reagan Bishop has always pushed herself, and now she pushes others professionally, using her licensed psychologist credentials to help people overcome their fears on the breakout cable show, I Need A Push.  When the show is picked up by a major network, however, it's revamped almost beyond recognition, making her job nearly impossible.  Since her personal life is also nearly impossible already (sibling rivalry with both her older and younger sisters, a romantic relationship that alternates between booty-calls and stalking), Reagan is left grasping at straws.  Enter New Age Guru Deva who offers Reagan a very unorthodox solution, and some most unexpected results.  Very much recommended.

The Seamstress: A Memoir of Survival, by Sara Tuvel Bernstein.  This audiobook, read by Wanda McCaddon, has been what's keeping me company during my snowy commutes this past month.  This detailed, heartrending account of one exceptional woman's struggle in the rural Jewish community  on the border of Hungary and Romania during the Second World War, culminating in her imprisonment in the Ravensbruck concentration camp (located in northern Germany).  As profoundly disturbing as the subject matter is, it is also a story of hope and survival, and I consider myself the better and wiser for Bernstein's words.  Highly recommended.

The Martian, by Andy Weir.  I couldn't keep this one to myself.  You can read my review here.  At the risk of repeating myself, this was excellent, a total page-turner that I couldn't put down.  Very highly recommended.

The Bear, by Claire Cameron.  Told in the honest, raw voice of five-year-old Anna, this is a story of love and survival (I apparently seem to be on a survival kick this month).  Anna is on a camping trip with her parents and little brother when their campsite is attacked by a rogue black bear during the night.  Hidden with her brother by their father, Anna ventures forth at the faint, dying urging of her mother to save herself and her little brother, paddling away from the island in the family's canoe.  I'd recommend this to readers who also liked/were impressed by Emma Donoghue's Room

And that, my friends, is it.  Four whole titles for the month, bringing me to a whopping seven for the year.  At this rate, 75 titles by December 31 is going to be a challenge indeed.  What does give me hope, however, is that this blog has allowed me to look back and see that February tends to be one of my slower reading months in years past, too.  So there's hope for me yet!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

One Book, One Town 2014

Trumbull Library's annual One Book, One Town extravaganza starts next week!  This year, we're reading Chad Harbach's novel The Art of Fielding (which I loved, by the way).  We also have it in mp3 or book on CD formats.  The Library has also selected two additional books to get the whole family involved: Brothers at Bat by Audrey Vernick for kids, as well as teen selection One Shot at Forever by senior Sports Illustrated writer Chris Ballard.

The first programs start on Sunday, March 2 and will run through the beginning of April.  For a full list of One Book, One Town events, see our flyer here.  And don't miss out on author Chad Harbach's visit on April 6 at 2pm at Trumbull High School.  Contact the Library for registration details.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Can't Keep It To Myself: The Martian

You may remember that Andy Weir's debut novel, The Martian, was on my "Meg's Picks" list last month.  So you'd better believe there was some serious excitement when it came across my desk last week.  Cue a long weekend, and I was in heaven.  This is one that I absolutely cannot, will not, keep to myself. 

It is Sol 6 of the Ares 3 mission on Mars, the third manned space mission to the Red Planet.  Mark Watney, the crew's mechanical engineer and botanist, is helping crewmates scramble to scrub the mission in the face of a giant dust-storm with hurricane-force winds.  And then just as suddenly, he's hit by flying debris and lost in the cloud of red dust.  His crewmates can no longer see him, and they get no response from Watney, neither from his suit monitors or by radio.  The crew's commander is forced to leave him behind, for dead, in order to save the remaining members.

Watney, however, is not dead.  However, his suit's computer is fried and he's been wounded.  When he regains consciousness, it's to a horrible realization that he's stranded alone on Mars with no hopes to communicate with Earth or with his departing crew.  The next manned mission, Ares 4, is not scheduled to arrive for more nearly three years.  But he'll starve long before then.

His first order of business: survival.  Everything after that is merely details.

This novel is packed with so much suspense, I absolutely couldn't put it down.  It's been awhile since I've been able to say that about a book.  I read it in two days and have been unable to get the story of Mark Watney out of my head since then.  It's like MacGyver meets Apollo 13, and you will root for Watney every step of the way. 

Please note, I consider myself a nerd, but I'm a book nerd.  Not a math, science, space, or science fiction brand of nerd.  This is an instance where none of that matters--I would recommend this more to fans of suspense and adventure novels than perhaps to science fiction fans.  Technically, it is sci-fi.  But the reading of it is like the best of suspense novels.

Very highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Reading Ahead: March 2014, Meg's picks, part 2

The last part of my March 2014 picks list has a little something for everyone, including a title that will have series fans cheering with joy.  Want in on it?  Let's get to it.

Be Careful What You Wish For, by Jeffrey Archer.  Archer returned to readers several years ago with a new series, The Clifton Chronicles, that has won hearts and critical praise--if you're unfamiliar with the series, now would be a great time to get started with the first installment, Only Time Will Tell, followed by book two, The Sins of the Father.  This latest, book three, has fans lining up for a copy, and with good reason.  Across oceans, spanning generations, this installment catches up with the tragedies and triumphs of the Clifton clan. 

The Blazing World, by Siri Hustvedt.  Siri Hustvedt first made impact on readers with 2003's What I Loved, and critics are calling this newest novel her most "urgent and masterful work" since then.  Here, artist Harriet Burden has spent years enduring critics who dismissed or ignored her work, but when she conducts her Maskings experiment (three solo shows of her own art under three different male identities), the work is acclaimed.  However, when Burden admits her deceit in the wake of the third show, there is doubt and then scandal.  Hustvedt's presentation of this tale is ingenious, an emotional and highly detailed puzzle.  I cannot wait.

The Accident, by Chris Pavone. Pavone's first novel, The Expats, was an Edgar-Award-winner and a New York Times bestseller.  I think this second novel, a suspenseful spy-story involving a literary agent with dark secrets in her past, a veteran CIA operative who would love to bury the story only to find his life hanging in the balance, and the author of the manuscript who has spent an expat life trying to make amends for years of lies and betrayal with the publication of The Accident, which has landed on the literary agent's desk.  Rich characters, a fast-paced plot, and action that zips from America to Europe and back again--I think fans of Dan Brown's work might really want to try Pavone's novels.

A Circle of Wives, by Alice LaPlante.  A renowned plastic surgeon, a respected family man, and an active community spokesman, Dr. Taylor was loved and admired. But, hidden from the public eye, he led a secret life—in fact, multiple lives. A closeted polygamist, Dr. Taylor was married to three very different women in three separate cities. And when these three unsuspecting women show up at his funeral following the good doctor's murder, suspicions run high. Palo Alto Detective Adams soon finds herself tracking down a murderer through a web of lies and marital discord. This feels a little like a cross between a Jane Green novel and a Linwood Barclay thriller--I'd say readers of either would find themselves intrigued.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reading Ahead: March 2014, Meg's Picks, part 1

 I like to be ahead of the curve when it comes to reading trends.  That means I pay close attention to reviews and early critical acclaim.  If there's something that has other readers breathless with anticipation, I want to know about it!  And of course, there's no point unless I can share this information with other readers.  Here are some of my picks for books you should make sure not to miss next month.

The Weight of Blood, by Laura McHugh.  Critics have earmarked this suspense novel for fans of Gillian Flynn, David Woodrell and Scott Smith.  In the town of Henbane, deep in the Ozark Mountains, Lucy experiences loss twice in her life: once as a child when her mother leaves her behind with her father, and again when she is almost an adult, after her friend Cheri disappears and is later found murdered.  Haunted, Lucy cannot rest until she knows the truth about both disappearances.  They had me at hello! 

The Lost Sisterhood, by Anne Fortier.  Author of New York Times bestseller Juliet has returned with what is reportedly another spellbinding novel that brings history to life.  Here, young scholar Diana Morgan risks everything--her reputation, her livelihood, her life--to follow a line of research that has haunted her since her grandmother disappeared years ago: The legend of the Amazons.  Made an offer she cannot refuse by a mysterious foundation, Diana travels from England to North Africa and beyond, but danger lurks just a step behind her.  This looks like it should be extremely entertaining.

You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz.  Judging by the advance hype, this is going to be extremely popular.  I'm going to recommend that if the premise intrigues you, you place a hold now!  Grace is living the only life she ever wanted: dedicated to her husband, their young son, and the patients of her therapy practice.  Spurred on by her dismay at the way her female patients delude themselves about relationships, Grace has also written a self-help book titled You Should Have Known, in which she cautions women to really hear what men are trying to tell them.  When disaster strikes, Grace finds herself horrified at her inability to take her own advice, and must start over.  I'd recommend this for fans of Jane Green and Jennifer Weiner, in particular.

Cambridge, by Susanna Kaysen.  If the author's name seems familiar, it should: Kaysen was also the author of best-seller Girl, Interrupted.  Here, Kaysen writes a novel-of-life, exploring nostalgia and memory set among the academics and artists of 1950s Cambridge, MA.  The precocious narrator would rather be home in Harvard Square--after being uprooted, everywhere her family moves for her father's job, be it London, Florence, or Athens, leaves Susanna feeling lost and excluded and longing ever more strongly for Cambridge.  When she finally returns, it's with a sigh of relief cut short--could her feelings of being an outsider be attached to her and not her location?  I'm finding myself fascinated by the premise.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reading Ahead: March 2014, part 3

A long list of books to read makes for a happy reader, right?

If that's true, then next month, readers will rejoice!

Power Play, by Danielle Steel

Tempting Fate, by Jane Green

Blossom Street Brides, by Debbie Macomber

Four Friends, by Robyn Carr

To Dwell in Darkness, by Deborah Crombie

I'll be back on Thursday with some of my picks on what to read next month.  In the meantime, happy reading!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Reading Ahead: March 2014, part 2

While the weather outside may be frightful, March's list of new thrillers is not only delightful, it's full of titles guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. And these titles are hot, so make sure to place your hold to get your copy early!

Stone Cold, by C.J. Box

Black Horizon, by James Grippando

The Bootlegger, by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott

Without Warning, by David Rosenfelt

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reading Ahead: March 2014, part 1

March has so many new books slated for release, I hesitate to even give you an intro, because there are so many books to post about!

Suspense & Thrillers (part 1)

NYPD Red 2, by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Missing You, by Harlan Coben

Watching You, by Michael Robotham

If you're looking for a recommendation from this librarian, I have two for you.  I really think the new Harlan Coben (about a NYPD detective who goes looking for love, and finds only suspicion and conspiracy) is a sure thing.  The other title I have on my radar is Robotham's new thriller, which critics are comparing to S.J. Watson's chilling novel Before I Go to Sleep--that was a favorite of mine, so I need no further convincing!