Thursday, July 31, 2014

What I've been reading: July 2014

I have to say, while I can't quite believe it's going to be August tomorrow, I am looking back over what I've read this past month and can't quite believe I fit all of these titles into 31 days!

The Girls from Corona Del Mar, by Rufi Thorpe. When they were kids, Mia always thought that Lorrie Ann was perfect. A close-knit family. A serene sweetness. By comparison, Mia is the bad girl, smoking and drinking and getting into trouble. Until tragedy strikes Lorrie Ann's perfect world, and their roles begin to reverse. As the two become adults, the gap widens. Then Lorrie Ann suddenly turns up in Istanbul, where Mia is living on a research grant, and everything Mia thought she knew about Lorrie Ann is suddenly turned upside down. Written with a quiet vibrancy I can't begin to explain, this is a novel that will haunt me for years to come. Absolutely stellar and highly recommended.

Don't Talk to Strangers, by Amanda Kyle Williams. Third in a series, and new to me, this novel sparked major adoration for this reader. For thriller readers looking for a new series to love, this is it. Each novel stands alone nicely, but work cohesively as a series, too. Keye Street, ex-FBI and private detective, has been dealing with a lot of changes. Her Atlanta PD boyfriend has moved in with her. She's back on the wagon, though her relationship with sobriety is tenuous at best. And now a new case has her well out of her element, signed on as an independent consultant investigating a possible serial killer in the tiny town of Whisper, Georgia. Two bodies have recently been found, evidently killed nearly a decade apart but with the same signatures. The townsfolk of Whisper are anything but welcoming and helpful, seeming to protect one of their own even as Street closes in on the killer. Tense, gripping, character-driven story. I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment. 

Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver. This was a re-read for my book club, but I loved it every bit as much as the first time.

Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King. I know that a lot of non-horror readers simply hear the name Stephen King and shiver, because he's that good in that genre. What you need to know is that Mr. Mercedes is very much not what you would expect from the man who wrote Carrie and Under the Dome. No telekinesis, nothing otherworldly. Just plain old good vs. evil in an epic battle played in the streets of a Midwestern city. In the frigid pre-dawn, a maniac drives a stolen Mercedes into a crowd of people waiting for entry into a job fair. Eight are killed, fifteen wounded, and the killer drives off into the fog. He is never caught, and months later, this is an unsolved case that haunts retired detective Bill Hodges. A note from the killer, meant to drive Hodges to suicide, instead galvanizes him out of his post-retirement stupor and back into quietly investigating the crime, ultimately joined by a couple of friends who help him pursue the killer, who is gearing up to strike again. A really fantastic suspense novel. King is better than ever.

The Stranger You Seek, by Amanda Kyle Williams. Obviously, because I read the third book first, I had to go back and read the first two (see the review for the second just below). In the series opener, it is summer in Atlanta, GA and a killer is on the loose. He preys on the unsuspecting. He writes taunting letters to the media. Atlanta PD detective Aaron Rauser, desperate to catch the man who has the whole sweltering city on edge, calls on the one person he knows can help his team: ex-FBI profiler Keye Street, now sober and working as a private investigator. Street is quickly turned from hunter into hunted, and must fight for her life in order to bring the killer down. Taut, heart-racing, twisted, awesome.

The Stranger in the Room, by Amanda Kyle Williams. Picking up a few months after the first installment, the second in the series finds APD detective Rauser investigating the strangling of a teenage boy, while Keye Street tries to help her emotionally fragile cousin, a recovering addict who believes she's being stalked. When a second murder, which seems unrelated to Rauser's investigation, hits much too close to Street and her family, she is reluctantly drawn in to help track down a killer...whose ties to her are closer than she would have dreamed. This one kept me guessing all the way to the very end. Stellar.

Silver Bay, by Jojo Moyes. If you're in need of a romance that will tug on your heartstrings, look no further. Silver Bay, recently published for the first time in the US, combines a small community, two women hiding from very different pasts for very different reason, and the big-city businessman who endangers everything Silver Bay has to offer. Sweet and surprising and heartfelt. Perfect beach reading.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. How does one begin to describe this nearly 800-page Pulitzer Prize winning novel? It is so much more than the sum of its parts. Theo Decker is 13 when, already abandoned by his alcoholic father, he survives an act of terrorism that kills his mother. Left without a guardian, he is taken in by the wealthy family of a school friend, where he spends the following months in a haze of bewildered bereavement, becoming only more lost and lonely when his father whisks him off to Las Vegas. The one constant in Theo's life is his tie to his mother and the memory of their last day together--a work of art that is his secret, his love, and the source of overwhelming anxiety and guilt. It is ultimately this secret that draws him into a dark world of forgeries and blackmail, endangering his life and the lives of those he loves the most. This is absolutely a spellbinding, life-changing novel. I read it in just under a week, wishing both that I could read more of it faster, because it's that good, and also wanting to read it slower, because I didn't want it to end. Phenomenal.

That's 8 titles for the month, including a couple of biggies (The Goldfinch is 771 pages, but please don't let that put you off--it goes very quickly).  This brings my total for the 2014 up to 44, and I'm now past the halfway mark to 75 titles read by the end of the year.  I'm caught up!  Now let's see if I can keep it that way!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top 10 on Tuesday: Young Adult Novels for Everyone!

The average adult is somewhat familiar with some of the more popular teen fiction. The Harry Potter series, Hunger Games, Twilight. But what if you want more of what the cool kids are reading, but don't know where to start? Or what if you've read the series listed above, but are looking to branch out? I've got a list of my top 10 to get you through the summer.

1. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. I know, I've been talking about this a bit lately, but really.  Everyone should read it, already. Despite a medical miracle buying her a few more years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal. But when Augustus Waters turns up in her Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's life changes in ways she'd never dreamed. Bonus? It's also available on CD, perfect for a car ride.

2. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. I also mentioned this last week, but it's worth mentioning again. Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was initially not expected to survive. Now he is moving beyond home schooling and entering the fifth-grade in a private Manhattan middle school, which entails enduring the reactions and taunting of his classmates, even as Auggie struggles to be just another student.  Also available as a playaway

3. Divergent, by Veronica Roth. Book one in a trilogy, this follows sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior through a future version of Chicago as she attempts to discover which of five factions she belongs in--this faction will determine the course of the rest of her life. Except she finds out that she's an anomaly and doesn't fit into any single group, which leads her to question the rest of society's rules. A great choice if you're a Hunger Games fan! Available as a playaway as well.

4. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman. Young Lyra, accompanied by her daemon, must travel far to the North to keep her best friend and other children from becoming the subjects of gruesome experiments. A great adventure novel for all ages. First in a series.

5. The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other person in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives. It was a Newberry Award winner for a reason!

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky. Strongly influenced by J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Perks is the story of Pittsburgh teen Charlie's coming of age, glimpsed through a series of letters.

7. Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld. Tally is just a few weeks away from her sixteenth birthday and the operation which will turn her, like all the other uglies, into a pretty. Then her only job will be to have a really great time in the high-tech paradise that is the pretty world. And Tally can't wait. At least until her friend Shay runs away, preferring to live on the outside as an Ugly instead of going through with the operation. Tally is then given the awful choice of finding Shay and turning her in, or never getting the chance to turn pretty at all. 

8. The Book Thief, by Mark Zusak. The story of Leisl, whose book-stealing and story-telling abilities help to sustain her family and neighbors, as well as the Jewish man they are hiding during WWII.

9. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Nick O'Leary, rock band member and high schooler, meets college-bound Norah Silverberg and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes so that he can dodge an ex. The result is an exhilirating, sleepless night spent trying to find a legendary band's super-secret show. One of the most unique love stories you're likely to read.

10. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. After a family tragedy, Jacob finds himself drawn to an abandoned orphanage on an island off the coast of Wales. There he discovers that the children once kept there, including Jacob's own grandfather, may have been dangerous, and may still be alive. A creepy little mystery that beautifully blends photography and prose.

Got any suggestions to add?  Leave them in the comments! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Read-alikes: Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn's 2012 break-out hit novel, Gone Girl, is still going strong for readers everywhere (to give you an idea, as of this writing, while the hardcover edition is no longer on the New York Times Bestseller List, the trade paperback has been there for the last three months). And with the film adaptation being released this coming fall (starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris), it is about to get even bigger.

But what if you've already read it?  What if you loved it and, as you wait for the film's release, you're looking for something similar to read?  I'm so glad you asked!  Here are some compulsively readable suspense novels full of plot-twists to keep you going:

The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith. You may be familiar with the movie adaptation of this novel (which starred Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law). But if you ask this librarian (it's why you're here, right?), the book was better! The first in a series of five novels about Tom Ripley, The Talented Mr. Ripley follows the suave young Tom through his introduction to Manhattan and his trip to Italy to find a wealthy industrialist's wayward playboy son and bring him home, where Tom finds himself both entranced by the lifestyle of Dickie Greenleaf and enraged by the man's casual disregard for a sweet young dilletante. The birth of a confidence man.

Before I Go To Sleep, by S.J. Watson. I adored this book, and while Watson has not been forthcoming with a second novel, this remains one of my favorite thrillers. You can read my review here.

Never Look Away, by Linwood Barclay. Fans of missing-persons suspense will love this read-alike by Barclay. I really enjoyed this one--you can read my review here.

Like suspense books about deep family secrets? Try Defending Jacob by William Landay.  I read it for my book club earlier this year.  Here's what I thought about it: This is so much more than a thriller or a courtroom drama. In the wake of the murder of a teenage boy, the son of assistant district attorney Andy Barber, middle-school student Jacob, is the prime suspect. In the course of the investigation and prosecution, the tale becomes as much about secrets, family dynamics, community response to tragedy, and coping with change, all of which make this deep, intriguing novel so much more than the sum of its parts. Not for the faint of heart, but very highly recommended.

Josie and Jack, by Kelly Braffet.   Siblings Josie and Jack have always depended on each other, living in a secluded decaying mansion in western Pennsylvania with their mostly absentee and abusive father. Once they finally escape and venture into the outside world, however, it becomes apparent that Jack may be even more sinister than their father. I've heard this likened to Hansel and Gretel on drugs, so it's sure to be dark and twisted. 

I'm back next week with a review of something so good, I just can't keep it to myself.  In the meantime, happy summer reading!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Keeping up with the Jones's: Summer 2014

Do you ever get curious about what your neighbors are reading, but found yourself reluctant to ask?  No worries--we at the library have the inside scoop, and we'll keep quiet about just who is reading what.  However, if you want to see the top 10 titles most popular among Trumbull readers right now, I've got those for you.  How are you stacking up?

1. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.  A teen novel with a blockbuster movie and lots of appeal for adults.  Despite a medical miracle buying her a few more years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal.  But when Augustus Waters turns up in her Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's life changes in ways she'd never dreamed.  Sweet and poignant. 

2. All Fall Down, by Jennifer Weiner. A little heavier than your typical beach read, this packs an emotional punch--when Allison begins to struggle under the demands of her life (job, distant husband, spoiled child, ailing father), she starts to self medicate, ultimately winding up in rehab.  Her battle to get her life back on track, even as she doubts the seriousness of her addiction.  A major page-turner.

3.  One Plus One, by Jojo Moyes.  You have to know that any new book by Jojo Moyes is going to be a popular one.  This is the ultimate light, beachy read.  A single mom with a chaotic family meets a quirky stranger.  Sparks fly in this tale of unlikely romance. 

4. The Matchmaker, by Elin Hilderbrand.  Hilderbrand is the undisputed queen of summer fiction.  This year's story is a heartbreaking one of love lost and found.

5. The Vacationers, by Emma Straub.  One of the summer's sleeper hits!  Franny and Jim are on vacation in Mallorca, celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary and their daughter's high school graduation.  But this is not your average vacation, as they spend their two weeks confronting long-buried hurts, secrets and rivalries that may change the rest of their lives forever. 

6. Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty.  Moriarty made a major impact with readers in The Husband's Secret, so it's no surprise to this librarian that her new novel (being released next Tuesday!) is already in high demand.  Three very different women, each with her own secrets, are drawn together--each has a child in the same preschool.  Someone winds up dead--but the who and the how?  That's the heart of the novel.  This will be some great pool-side reading.

7. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. A stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.  

8. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.  Another teen novel with a huge adult readership as well.  Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was initially not expected to survive.  Now he is moving beyond home schooling and entering the fifth-grade in a private Manhattan middle school, which entails enduring the reactions and taunting of his classmates, even as Auggie struggles to be just another student.  Read it with your kids.  Read it if you don't have kids.  Just read it.

9. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.  Nine months after its release, The Goldfinch has won a Pulitzer and is still on the bestsellers' list.  That should be enough to recommend it, but if it's not: At 13, Theo Decker miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.  I'm reading it now and it is outstanding.

10. Invisible, by James Patterson and David Ellis.  Everyone thinks that Emmy Dockery is crazy.  She's convinced that there's a link among hundreds of unsolved cases--she's taken leave from her position at the FBI to prove her theory.  Patterson's readership continues to be strong!

I'll be back on Thursday with a list of psychological thrillers guaranteed to keep you cool even as summer heats up.  In the meantime, happy reading!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Meg's Picks: August 2014, part 2

Need something extra to take along on vacation this summer?  I've got a couple more titles you might want to look into, just in case...

We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas.   A generational saga of the American dream in the post WWII era.  Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, where she grows up wishing for a less chaotic life in a better neighborhood.  When she meets scientist Ed Leary, Eileen thinks she's found her ticket into the life she's been dreaming of.  It's only after they marry that Eileen realizes that Ed does not share her aspirations toward a bigger house and better friends, and as time passes, they struggle to come to terms with the differences that threaten to tear them apart in a world that is changing rapidly around them.  I'd recommend this to readers looking for something a bit serious, like those waiting for the next installment of Jeffrey Archer's series. 

Silver Bay, by JoJo Moyes.  No, you're not seeing double.  Moyes just released One Plus One in July, and now August is seeing Silver Bay, available for the first time in the US.  Liza McCullen has a small life in Silver Bay, running her aunt's hotel and caring for her young daughter, Hannah.  Then English businessman Mike Dormer arrives in the sleepy, eclectic little seaside town, seeing prospects for a resort in a town ripe for development.  What neither of them expected was to find complications of the heart in the mix.  Moyes has a beautifully gentle touch when it comes to human emotion--this is one to take to the beach, for sure. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Meg's Picks: August 2014, part 1

They say summer reading is for kids, but I don't believe that for a second.  Reading in the summer should be for everyone, and it shouldn't be a chore.  Here are some of my picks for August that will make bearing the dog days of summer a breeze.  (Bonus?  Summer reading rewards aren't just for kids either--adults should stop by our circulation desk for a ballot--every book you read entitles you to one entry for some great prizes!)

The Magician’s Land, by Lev Grossman.  You know when I like to pick up a series?  When the final book has been published!  Then there's no more waiting around for a year or more (George R.R. Martin, I am totally looking at you) for the next installment and you can enjoy them as quickly or slowly as you'd like.  Which mean's that the publication of The Magician's Land,the final installment of Grossman's epic Magician's trilogy (the first two being The Magicians and The Magician King), is my cue to get started at the beginning.  Here, former High King Quentin has not only been ejected from the magical kingdom of Fillory, but he's also been given the boot from his teaching job.  At loose ends, he joins a ragtag group of magicians on the hunt for a mysterious, invaluable case.  I'd recommend this to fans of Terry Goodkind and Deborah Harkness, as well as fantasy fans of all stripes.

Season of the Dragonflies, by Sarah Creech.  For generations, the Lenore women have manufactured a perfume unlike any other, and guarded the unique and mysterious ingredients. Their perfumery, hidden in the quiet rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, creates one special elixir that secretly sells for millions of dollars to the world’s most powerful—movie stars, politicians, artists, and CEOs. The Lenore’s signature perfume is actually the key to their success.  Now blackmail and shifting family alliances are threatening the family's livelihood, as well as the family itself.  As beguiling as the novels of Alice Hoffman and Adriana Trigiani, Season of the Dragonflies is a story of flowers, sisters, practical magic, old secrets, and new love, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I am more than a little intrigued.

One Kick, by Chelsea Cain.  Cain has been developing quite a following with her New York Times bestselling Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers.  Now, she's launching a new series featuring Kick Lannigan, a young woman whose complicated past has given her a rather unique skillset.  At age six, Kick was kidnapped and her case was headline news.  Five years later, she was rescued and captured America's heart.  Kick's abductor trained her in making bombs, picking locks, and target shooting, rendering her unable to adapt to a normal teenage lifestyle after her rescue.  Instead, she continued her training.  Now, at twenty-one, Kick finds herself entangled with a missing child case that will put her to the test.  This is being touted as an absolute nail-biter, and thriller readers will want to add this to their lists!

I'm back with the rest of my picks on Thursday.  In the meantime, stay cool and happy reading!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reading Ahead: August 2014, part 3

Here we are with the wrap-up of suspense, thrillers and mysteries slated for August release.  I would like to say that publishers often will change release dates, and in double-checking, I found several of the novels I was hoping to share with you for next month will have to wait--they've been moved to fall or winter release dates.  All's fair in love and publishing, I guess.  Not to worry--there's still plenty to keep you occupied until then! 

Top Secret, by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV

Close to Home, by Lisa Jackson

Shots Fired, by C.J. Box

Mean Streak, by Sandra Brown

Designated Daughters, by Margaret Maron

Her Last Whisper, by Karen Robards

If you're looking for an easy-reading suspense with a bit of romance in the mix, you can count on Karen Robards for that.  And if you're a mystery reader, Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott series is extremely popular.  Finally, I'd like to point out that if you're a fan of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett novels, please don't be put off by this new title, which is a collection of ten short stories about Joe Pickett and his corner of Wyoming.  Short stories are particularly perfect for summer, as you can read one in a short time, or read several together if you have a lazy afternoon free.  And if you're a fan of the series, these will give you a greater sense of the characters and the spaces that inhabit his novels.  

Wondering what's made my list for August?  I'll be back on Tuesday to share.  In the meantime, happy reading!