Thursday, August 28, 2014

What I've Been Reading: August 2014

August seemed to just fly right by this year, a cooler, gentler August than what we're used to in this neck of the woods. But readers will tell you that there's no bad weather for reading, and I am doing my best to prove that rule this year. I've been reading, and listening, to a little bit of everything this past month and I can't wait to share!

Jim Henson: A Biography, by Brian Jay Jones. A comprehensive biography of the gentle dreamer and creative genius Jim Henson. From Sam & Friends to Sesame Street, the Muppet Show and movies, Fraggles and story-telling, it is a compilation of imagination and nostalgia for someone like me, who grew up with the Muppets as an integral part of my childhood. The work was made possible by the immense generosity and candor of Henson's friends and family, giving a full portrait of the man as more than puppeteer, but also as son, father, husband, and friend. I savored this book, finding it touching and enlightening.

Cop Town, by Karin Slaughter. It's Atlanta in 1974, and Kate Murphy's first day on the police force. Everything is wrong, from her enormous uniform, to her lack of preparation for the job despite her time in the police academy, to her presence as a woman on a force made up mostly of resentful males, to the fact that a cop killer is on the loose and the city, already seething with racial and class tensions, is now on the point of all-out war. Over the course of three days, Murphy will earn her stripes even as she tries to elude the cop killer, who seems to have set his sites on her. This stand-alone novel from Slaughter is raw, compulsively readable, and so tightly plotted, it was all I could do to put it down long enough to do things like sleep and work. Very highly recommended to fans of suspense and crime novels.

The Book of Life, by Deborah Harkness. The final installment in Harkness's All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night) is all fans of the series could have hoped it would be, complete with the wry wit, deft details and fast pacing that made the first book a darling among my library's staff two years ago. Here, Diana and Matthew are back in the present and are seeking, with the help of their tight group of family and friends, to outwit the rogue vampire who has been hunting them across time and place and end his threat against all they hold dear once and for all. Absolutely stunning--one that I both couldn't read fast enough and never wanted to end.

One Kick, by Chelsea Cain. First in a new series by Cain, and my introduction to her. Kick Lannigan has gone by many names over the years, all given to her by someone else: her parents, her abductor. But Kick is her name of choice, and she has, in the years since her rescue from her captor, honed the skills she learned in her years as captive: she can pick any lock, shoot any gun, has studied martial arts, and searches for missing children in her free time. It is when Bishop, he of the shrouded past and fast cars, shows up and insists she help him track the victim of a predator that Kick must face her own past again, if only to find her way forward. Compulsively readable, with a heroine as endearing as she is damaged. I am eagerly anticipating the next in the series.

State of Wonder, by Anne Patchett. I re-read this in preparation for my September book club meeting. When pharmaceutical researcher Dr. Marina Singh is sent to the Amazon for work, it is for several reasons.  First, she is to collect the remains and effects of a colleague who recently died under mysterious circumstances.  She must also locate another colleague studying the fertility of a local tribe, as their women often bear children well into middle age.  It is this second colleague, Dr. Swenson, who was once Marina’s mentor, that troubles Marina the most, as their past together is something she has tried to leave behind her.  Deeply atmospheric, emotional and detailed, this is Patchett at her finest, very much worth the re-read.

The Arsonist, by Sue Miller. Frankie is in her mid-thirties and adrift. After fifteen years of aid-work in East Africa, she has burnt out, returning to the States for an extended, perhaps permanent, break. She spends the summer with her aging parents in what had been their summer home, where they now reside permanently. On her first night back, an unoccupied summer house burns. Then another. And another. Always the homes of summer people. The small New Hampshire town, where no one has ever bothered to lock their doors, now begins to crumble under the suspicion and fear. A novel of family and community, of trust and fear and love, told in Miller's quiet, measured style. I'm a fan, as always.

Queen of Sorcery, by David Eddings. To quote the lads of Monty Python, "And now, for something completely different." Second in a series I originally read about twenty years ago, this follows the sorcerer Belgarath, his daughter the sorceress Polgara, and their motley crew of princes, thieves and adventurers as they pursue the legendary Orb in order to keep it from falling into the hands of those who serve the sleeping god of darkness, Torak. And in the midst of this adventure, young Garion begins to face his own role in their epic quest, prompting him to ask, as all adolescents will: Why me? Just as funny and entertaining as when I first read it.

That's 7 titles for this month, and my total for 2014 is now up to 51! This year is going to be a race to the finish, but I'm determined to hit my goal of 75 titles by the end of the calendar year.

I'm back next week with some titles you can look forward to come *gulp* October. In the meantime, have a safe Labor Day weekend, and happy reading!

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