Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What I've Been Reading: May 2016

Well, it seems I've gotten my groove back, logging eight titles for the month of May! I'm not proud--I've been reading some very lovely, easy-reading novels in Robyn Carr's Thunder Point series and they move very quickly. Each is like a lovely, escapist vacation for my brain, and I'm delighted. I have read a few other things, too...

Gone Again, by James Grippando. Miami criminal defense lawyer Jack Swyteck takes on his first death-row client since 1994's The Pardon, returning to his old stomping grounds with The Freedom Institute. Dylan Reeves is facing the final countdown to a lethal injection for the rape and murder of teenager Sashi Burgette. Jack has no intention of getting involved in the case--he's only supposed to be renting office space from the Freedom Institute. But Sashi's mother comes in to plead for help--she believes that her daughter is alive, following a series of phone calls, each occurring on Sashi's birthday. Sashi's body was never found, so could Reeves actually be innocent? Then it's Jack's race against the clock to stay Reeves's execution, but nothing in this case is as it seems. Very well plotted and paced, lots of twists and surprises. If you're looking for a good thriller, this is excellent.

The Wheel of Darkness, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Agent Pendergast returns, this time hunting a killer who has stolen an ancient, sacred Tibetan artifact. With his ward, Constance Green, in tow, Pendergast chases the killer aboard a luxury ocean liner on its maiden voyage. Now, killer, Pendergast and artifact are all trapped until the journey's end, an end which spells certain disaster if the mystery is not solved before they arrive at port. This was an excellent installment (the eighth) in the Pendergast series.

Lucia, Lucia, by Adriana Trigiani. This is a re-read for me. It's my book club's selection for our June meeting, and it is my very favorite of Trigiani's work to date. Lucia Sartori is a modern girl in 1950 Manhattan. She's the youngest of five children born, a first generation American, and a career girl. She has spent the last six years working as a seamstress for B. Altman's custom department, and she loves her work and her family. Soon, though, she must choose between the old and the new, between her family and a dark stranger who promises her the moon. When she finds herself in the midst of a scandal, her beloved career is also in jeopardy, forcing Lucia to re-examine what's really important. If possible, I loved it more the second time through.

The Wanderer, The Newcomer, The Hero, The Chance, & The Promise, all by Robyn Carr. I don't think I've ever read five novels from a series in a single month, at least not since my Babysitters' Club days! These are the first five titles in Carr's Thunder Point series, which take place in the fictional bayside town of Thunder Point, Oregon. A small, sleepy town peopled with hardworking, friendly folks, this is the perfect scenic backdrop for a series of stories about people facing challenges, starting over, finding love and starting families. Her characters are incredibly likeable, her prose easy and compulsively readable. She's also very prolific, which is lucky for me! Highly recommending these for readers looking for some sweet, easy reading to take along on vacation or to the beach this summer.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Meg's Picks: June 2016, part 2

Sometimes, my picks are no-brainers, at least to me. New titles by authors who have won awards, whose work consistently hits the best-sellers lists, whose novels have been staff and patron favorites in the past. And then, there are titles like these. Novels that the critics are excited about, and which I think may be of particular interest for readers looking for a novel a little off the beaten path.

If I Forget You, by Thomas Christopher Greene. Author of The Headmaster's Wife (2014), Greene returns with a love story: Twenty-one years after they were driven apart by circumstances beyond their control, two former lovers have a chance encounter on a Manhattan street. Told from altering points of view through time, If I Forget You tells the story of Henry Gold, a poet whose rise from poverty embodies the American dream, and Margot Fuller, the daughter of a prominent, wealthy family, and their unlikely, star-crossed love affair, complete with the secrets they carry when they find each other for the second time.

The Crow Girl, by Erik Axl Sund. If your idea of a beach read is a compulsively readable thriller like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or Gone Girl, add this international bestseller to your list. It begins in a Stockholm city park where the body of a young boy is discovered. Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg heads the investigation, battling an apathetic prosecutor and a bureaucratic police force unwilling to devote resources to solving the murder of an immigrant child. But with the discovery of two more deceased children, it becomes clear that a serial killer is at large. Superintendent Kihlberg turns to therapist Sofia Zetterlund for her expertise in the psychopathology of those who kill, and the lives of the two women become quickly intertwined—professionally and personally. As they draw closer to each other and to the truth about the killings, what surfaces is the undeniable fact that these murders are only the most obvious evidence of an insidious evil woven deep into Swedish society. Not for the faint of heart, but if your preferences run to reading something chilling in order to beat the heat, this should be on your list.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Meg's Picks: June 2016, part 1

There are some very exciting books coming out this summer, titles I have been dying to share for months! Here are three of my picks for some great summer reading.

Barkskins, by Annie Proulx. You should know Proulx's name--her reputation precedes her as a Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, the short story which was the basis for the Oscar-winning film. In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, RenĂ© Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. RenĂ© suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. This is the tale of their descendants across three hundred years--yes, this makes it sizeable, but don't let that scare you off. Expect to hear lots about it in the months to come--critics are already raving, calling it remarkable, her finest work, and enthralling.

They May Not Mean To, But They Do, by Cathleen Schine. Schine's another name you may recognize--she also penned The Three Weissmans of Westport (2010), which has been quite a local favorite, given the local setting. Here, she returns to delight readers with a tender, sometimes hilarious inter-generational story about searching for where you belong as your family changes with age. Joy Bergman is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would prefer. She won't take their advice, and she won't take an antidepressant. Her marriage to their father, Aaron, has lasted through health and dementia, as well as some phenomenally lousy business decisions.When Aaron dies, Molly and Daniel have no shortage of solutions for their mother's loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy's college days. They didn't count on Joy suddenly becoming as willful and rebellious as their own kids. I foresee this being another reader favorite.

The Tumbling Turner Sisters, by Juliette Fay. Suggested for fans of historical novels like The Orphan Train and Water for Elephants. It's 1919, and the four Turner sisters and their parents are barely scraping by--it seems they're always one paycheck away from eviction. When their father crushes his hand and can no longer work, their irrepressible mother decides that Vaudeville may be their only hope for survival and they are soon on a train traveling from town to town, meeting other performers and learning the ropes. I've got this on my to-read list already.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Reading Ahead: June 2016, part 4

Beach reads come in many flavors, like funny, romantic, or magical (just to name a few). Intrigued? Read on!

By The Numbers, by Jen Lancaster. I've made no secret of my love for Lancaster's work, both memoir and fiction, so it should be no surprise that this new novel has a spot on my list for summer reads this year. Actuary Penny Sinclair has a head for business, and she always makes rational decisions. Knowing that 60% of spouses cheat and 50% of marriages end in divorce, she wasn’t too surprised when her husband had an affair. She just made sure she got everything in the divorce, including their lovely old Victorian house. And as soon as her younger daughter has her hipster-fabulous wedding in the backyard, she’s trading it in for a condo in downtown Chicago...  Well within the average market time in her area, Penny gets an offer on the house. But then life happens. Her children, her parents and her ex come flying back to the nest, all in need of Penny’s emotional—and financial—support. Spread thin, Penny becomes the poster child for the “sandwich generation,” when all she really wanted to do was make managing director, buy a white couch, and maybe go on a Match.com date... Guaranteed to be funny and touching.

First Comes Love, by Emily Giffin. Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious, relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing, Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes, their delicate bond splinters. Fifteen years later, with the anniversary of their tragedy looming, each sister finds herself dissatisfied with her life, longing for something more. Painful secrets from their shared past resurface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover that they need each other more than they knew—and that in the search for true happiness, love always comes first.

Bay of Sighs, by Nora Roberts. Second in Roberts's fanciful Guardians trilogy (after Stars of Fortune, 2015), Bay of Sighs follows the story of the three stars, of fire, ice and water, created by the moon goddesses to celebrate the rise of a new queen. When the stars fell, however, the fate of all worlds was put in danger, and the chosen six must put the pieces back together. Here, after the six guardians have retrieved the fire star, they are brought to Capri to seek the water star. Mermaid Annika is from the sea, and even as she leads the search to reclaim the star before their enemy can, she also may find love with fellow guardian Sawyer King.