Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Meg's Picks: May 2016, part 3

I like to urge people to read a little off the beaten path, as it were. The best-sellers lists are great, but there are so many great reads beyond those 15 big names every week (and let's be honest, some of them have been there a year or even longer. That's awesome for them, but if you're a reader who's choosing what to read from that list, things might seem a little stale from time to time!). And that's why I post my picks every month, of the noteworthy titles that might get a little lost in the shuffle. Here are some of those diamonds in the rough.

The Children, by Ann Leary. I adored Leary's previous novel, 2013's The Good House, stuffed to bursting with small New England town gossip and secrets and very memorable characters. Her new novel, The Children, introduces readers to a different side of New England, this time of a wealthy yet unconventional Connecticut family, as told by Charlotte Maynard, a reclusive 29-year-old who has a secret (and famous) life on the Internet. Every family has its secrets, and it appears that those of the Maynards is about to be revealed in the wake of a patriarch's passing and in the face a son's wedding.

LaRose, by Louise Erdrich. Erdrich's name is one you should have heard before. After all, her last novel, 2012's The Round House won the National Book Award and 2008's The Plague of Doves was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. But if you're unfamiliar, you have time to catch up, or you can dive right into her latest. Here, she brings readers an emotionally haunting contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in Native American culture.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, by Phaedra Patrick. Arthur Pepper lives a simple life, eventless since his beloved wife, Miriam, died: same food, same clothes, same daily routine. On the one-year anniversary of her death, something changes. While painfully sorting through her possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he never saw her wear. On the chain are an elephant, a tiger, a book, a heart, a palette, and other charms. Curious, Arthur begins a search for the origin of these trinkets that takes him from New York to London, Paris, and India. Not only is Arthur's life amazingly altered, but he learns much more about Miriam and the choice she made when she married him. This debut novel is generating quite a lot of buzz in addition to favorable comparisons to recent favorites like Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop (which I loved like no other) and Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye.

June, by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. How could Cassie Danvers have been named the sole heir of Hollywood movie idol Jack Montgomery, who says she's his granddaughter? But it turns out that Montgomery once made a film in her grandmother June's hometown, and therein lies a tale of blackmail, murder, betrayal, and heartbreak. Beverly-Whittemore's debut, 2014's Bittersweet, was incredibly well-received. I expect this second offering will be as well.

The Rules of Love & Grammar, by Mary Simses. Like several other authors in this post, Simses's reputation precedes her. In her case, her debut of 2013's The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe has been a huge favorite among my library's readers. In her new novel, she hits close to home, newly jobless, newly single, and suddenly apartmentless, writer Grace Hammond has come unmoored. A grammar whiz who's brilliant at correcting other people's errors, she hasn't yet found quite the right set of rules for fixing her own mistakes.  Desperate to escape the city and her trifecta of problems, Grace hits pause and retreats to her Connecticut hometown. What begins as a short visit with her parents quickly becomes a far more meaningful stay, though, as she discovers that the answers to what her future holds might be found by making peace with-and even embracing-the past.

The Fall of Man in Wilmslow, by David Lagercrantz. This novelist's name may be familiar, as he wrote the follow-up to Stieg Larsson's legendary Lisbeth Salander trio, titled The Girl in the Spider's Web. This departure delves into the death of British mathematician Alan Turing in 1954. Det. Constable Leonard Corell welcomes the assignment of looking into Turing’s apparent suicide as a break from the boredom of working in the quiet backwater of Wilmslow. Corell, who as a boy had a head for numbers, feels a connection with the dead man, a sentiment that deepens when the policeman learns that Turing was arrested for indecency and subject to some horrific treatments intended to “cure” him of his homosexuality. Turing’s experience revives painful memories of Corell’s own boarding school days, even as his investigation attracts the attention of higher-ups who want things handled discreetly. Corell’s identification with Turing threatens his own professional standing when he bridles at speculation at the inquest as to Turing’s motives for committing suicide. Turing has been made a household name after the release of The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch--fans of the movie may want to check out this novel, too.

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