Thursday, June 26, 2014

What I've Been Reading: June 2014

While I really can't believe that June is nearing an end, I can look at my list of books read this past month and feel extremely accomplished! 

Delicious!, by Ruth Reichl.  I loved this one so much, I couldn't keep it to myself.  You can read my full review here.  Bonus--the audiobook is beautifully narrated, so if you're in need of great entertainment during a long drive this summer, I highly recommend it. 

What is Visible, by Kim Elkins.  You can read my rather dorky review here--my history buff side took over, but I really couldn't keep it to myself!  Adored this book, and highly recommend it to readers of both historical fiction and women's fiction. 

The Girl You Left Behind, by Jojo Moyes.  Moyes made quite a splash with readers with Me Before You (I loved it, my review is here) but she is no one-hit wonder, and The Girl You Left behind is just as compelling and passionate.  During the first World War, Sophie runs her family's business in a small French town overrun with German soldiers, including the Kommandant who is obsessed with the portrait that Sophie's husband painted of her.  The Kommandant wants more than just the portrait, but Sophie is reluctant to part with her one keepsake of her soldier husband, or anything else.  A century later, young widow Liv has possession of the portrait, a honeymoon gift from her own husband and a cherished keepsake.  When its provenance is questioned during a formal inquest, Liv must decide how much she is willing to risk to hang on to what she had.  Beautiful, touching, inspiring.  Moyes does it again.  Note: this would be an excellent pick for book clubs.

That Night, by Chevy Stevens.  Four years after reading it, I'm still haunted by Stevens's debut thriller, Still Missing.  She's still got it, as That Night proves, though I will say it was a bit of a slow start.  Stick with it, though.  Once it picked up a little steam, I absolutely couldn't put it down.  Toni wasn't a perfect kid, but she wasn't capable of murdering her sister.  Neither was her boyfriend.  And yet they both lose over a decade of their lives behind bars after being convicted.  Once out on parole, Toni just wants to keep her head down and stay out of trouble, but her past just won't leave her alone.  Now she must decide once and for all to find out what happened and prove her innocence, or go back inside for another crime she didn't commit.  Nicely done.

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman.  I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's work.  And I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that this was the first time I'd read Neverwhere.  Richard Mayhew is a hapless Scot in London who has a great job he doesn't much care for and a beautiful fiancee he fears as much as he loves.  One evening, he stops to help an injured stranger, and his life as he's known it ceases to exist as he's propelled into the mysterious world that seethes in the London Below.  Now he must learn how this different part of the city works, even as he helps his new friend, Door, to save this world from utter destruction.  Dark, gritty, and entrancing, there's a reason I love Neil Gaiman's work so much.  Bonus: the author himself narrates the audiobook version and he has a lovely voice, all Earl Grey and velvet.  Perfection.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin.  I love books intended to be read by book-lovers.  I don't just mean readers, although many readers love books.  I mean those of us who read widely and deeply, who have favorite authors and favorite books, who can discourse for hours about what we've read and what we want to read.  This is one such book, as much a love letter to books and reading as it is a novel in itself.  A.J. Fikry had a life he loved until the death of his wife Nicole.  Then he proceeds to mourn his loss, even as he muddles through the running of his tiny island bookstore and tries to drink himself to death.  When an orphaned toddler is left in his care, however, A.J. finds the will to live, and love, again, with miraculous results.  I cannot tell a lie: this one choked me up more than a little toward the end.  Consider yourselves warned.  But I very highly recommend it--this slim novel packs quite a punch.

The Son, by Jo Nesbo.  I've quite enjoyed Nesbo's Harry Hole series, which meant that picking up this stand-alone novel was a no-brainer.  I'm delighted to see it becoming quite popular among patrons, as it really is outstanding.  Sonny Lofthus is a quiet, complacent young man.  He's been incarcerated for a dozen years, nearly half his life, and inmates seek him out for his uncanny ability to soothe--they come to him to confess all manner of things, finding they feel cleansed afterward.  What his fellow inmates don't know is that Sonny has a very serious heroin addiction.  He's also serving time for other people's crimes.  When his past comes calling, however, Sonny is anything but complacent, executing an incredible prison escape to find those who have committed crimes against him and his family.  Except Sonny knows too much, both about the cops and about Oslo's criminal hierarchy, so it's a race to see which side will catch him first.  If you've been pining for something similar to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, there's a reason Nesbo has been called Steig Larsson's rightful successor.  Outstanding.

I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes.  This is another book that I'm really happy to see other readers picking up on, as it is one of the best thrillers I've read in a very long time.  The action pulled me in from the very first sentence, and I could not stand to put it down until I'd finished it.  It starts with the perfect murder: a victim left with no means of identification in a room devoid of evidence.  The detective in charge of the case pulls in Pilgrim, a retired CIA operative who penned the book, literally, on forensics in criminal investigations.  It appears the killer in question has read Pilgrim's book, and so it is up to Pilgrim to hunt the killer down in what turns into an international manhunt that moves across the globe.  Pilgrim is not only the hunter, however.  He is a fascinating protagonist, the adopted son of a wealthy family, a loner adopted by the Division, a top-secret black ops group that has since been disbanded.  This is not my "typical" brand of thriller, but I have never been happy to pick up something outside of my comfort zone.  I urge you to do the same.

So, that's eight books this month, taking me up to a total of 36 for the year.  I'm nearly halfway to my challenge goal of 75 titles read this year, so a couple more months like June and I'll have no trouble hitting my goal. 

I'm back next week to start filling you in on summer blockbusters slated for August release dates, so in the meantime, happy reading!

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