Thursday, March 27, 2014

What I've Been Reading: March 2014

Wow, this month has blown by!  I can't believe it's almost April, and that summer will be right around the corner.  However, this month has been chock full of good reads for me, and I can't wait to share. 

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O'Farrell.  This isn't a new book (2007), but I happened across a copy as it was returned to the library and gut instinct told me I needed to read it.  Readers--listen to your gut!  Iris Lockhart likes her life, tending her vintage clothing store and trying to avoid her married boyfriend.  When she receives notification that her great-aunt Esme, a woman Iris never knew existed (Iris's grandmother, Kitty, had always claimed to be an only child), is being released from Cauldstone Psychiatric Hospital after thirty years, Iris finds herself plunged into a well of family secrets.  How did Esme come to be committed, and how was her existence expunged from all family memory?  How can Iris find a way to keep Esme safe, even if she's been labeled as sane enough to coexist with the outside world?  Full of mystery and tragedy, this was incredibly compelling and a month later I am still haunted by Esme's story.  I highly recommend it to fans of family sagas--I also think it would be excellent for book clubs.

The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton.  This was my book club's read for our March meeting, and what a great discussion we got out of it!  Young Grace Bradley went to work for the Hartford family at Riverton House before the beginning of the First World War, when she was just 14.  In the ensuing years, her life was inextricably linked to those of her employers, particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline.  In 1924, at a society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself--only Hannah, Emmeline and Grace know what really happened, but the secret endures until Grace finally confesses...seventy-five years later.  A book of love, memory, war, and secrets.  Morton is masterful.  Very highly recommended.

The Good Luck of Right Now, by Matthew Quick.  I couldn't keep this one to myself, I loved it so much.  You can read my full review here.

Concealed in Death, by J.D. Robb.  When Lieutenant Eve Dallas's multi-millionaire husband, Roarke, swings a sledgehammer to begin the demolition of a newly acquired by long-abandoned building, the last thing he expects to find is a skeleton hidden behind the wallboard.  He quickly calls in Eve and her team, and when their long, gruesome day is done, they have uncovered the remains of twelve young girls hidden in the building's walls.  What follows is an emotional journey for all involved, at the cusp of the holiday season, a mixture of grief, regret, closure, and the reopening of old wounds even as Dallas gets closer and closer to uncovering the identity of a long-dormant killer, and those who helped him cover his tracks.  While this felt a little over-long and meandering at times, Robb still writes a mean suspense tale.

Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett.  There are few novelists as wry, witty, subversive and marvelously entertaining as Sir Terry Pratchett who, even after over 40 Discworld novels published in the last 31 years, proves in his latest effort that he's only getting better with time.  Engineer Mister Simnel has created a ruckus in Ankh-Morpork, harnessing the power of earth, air, water and fire in one giant, steaming monstrosity.  That no one is actually in charge of this steaming behemoth is very unsettling to the Patrician, Lord Vetinari--and he means to change that immediately.  Who better for the job than the man who already runs the Mint, the Post Office and the Royal Bank, Moist von Lipwig?  While Moist is not a man who enjoys hard work, he does enjoy living, and Lord Vetinari's offer is not one easily refused--even if it does mean working among greasy goblins, angry dwarves, and a fat controller who has a terrible habit of throwing employees down the stairs...  Pratchett is, as always, laugh-out-loud funny.  I've never met a Discworld novel I didn't like.

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain.  Chicago, 1920.  Hadley Richardson is 28, unmarried, and lives a quiet, loveless life in the wake of her mother's death.  Until she meets Ernest Hemingway through mutual friends.  Within a few short months their whirlwind courtship ends in marriage, and they move to Paris so that Ernest can write.  They are quickly absorbed into the fabled Lost Generation, which includes F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein.  But the couple is unprepared for Paris in the Jazz Age and all of the hard-drinking, free-loving, and fast-living that come with it.  Ernest struggles to make a name for himself as a writer, even as he pours his heart and soul into The Sun Also Rises.  Hadley finds herself torn between her roles as wife, friend and muse, even as she grapples to maintain a sense of self.  A sense of dread looms over the narrative as the lies and secrets that will destroy the happiness they've fought for draws nigh.  McLain does a brilliant job portraying this poignant tale of love and loyalty lost--all the more heart-rending for Hemingway's declaration that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.  This is my book club's April selection, and I'm eagerly anticipating our next meeting--I can't wait to pore over the story with them!

6 titles for March brings me to 13 for the year so far.  75 titles for 2014 may yet happen--let's see what happens in April!

I'll be back next week to share some of the new fiction being published in May.  In the meantime, happy reading!

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