Thursday, July 28, 2016

What I've Been Reading: July 2016

It's hard to believe it's the end of July already, but here we are, right in the hot dog-days. I don't know about anyone else, but I've been reading up a storm as I try and stay cool during these heat-waves. And I've got the reviews to prove it!

Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance, & Two Graves, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. This trilogy is part of the best-selling duo's long-running Agent Pendergast series, but the three titles all follow a particular story arc. Pendergast has always been quite a mystery, even to his closest friends, and it is with some surprise that they learn that he was once married, and that his wife died over a decade ago in a terrible, tragic accident. Or was it an accident? For that matter, is she even dead? With some help, Pendergast goes back and recreates the life, and death, of his beloved Helen, only to find out that she was an even greater mystery than he had ever believed. I read these three in the span of just over a week--I couldn't stand not knowing what happened! I love this series and am already dreading the day that I'm caught up and have to start waiting a year between installments.

Second Chance Pass, Temptation Ridge, & Paradise Valley, by Robyn Carr. It's funny. I'll go years without reading more than 1-2 books in a series. This is not one of those years--I'm devouring series at a rather alarming rate. Here I am in the midst of Carr's Virgin River series with books 5-7, all of which I read via Overdrive, available to Trumbull Library Card holders for free. The series follows the residents of a small, close-knit community nestled in the redwood forest of California, and it is very necessary to begin at the start of the series--picking up in the middle would be incredibly confusing, as the cast of characters grows with each new book. Book 1 is Virgin River.

Knit One, Pearl One, by Gil McNeil. Third in the series from McNeil (see what I mean about the series?), following The Beach Street Knitting Society & Yarn Club and Needles and Pearls. Jo's seaside yarn shop, with a brand new café, has taken off, keeping her busier than ever. And being a single mum to two boys and headstrong toddler Pearl is just as exhausting and enchanting as she thought it would be. On top of all that, celebrity diva Grace has a secret; Jo's firecracker best friend Ellen is launching a new television series; and lovable but hapless Martin continues his oft misguided attempts to woo Jo. Just when Jo thinks she has about all she can handle, Daniel, Pearl's globe-trotting dad, turns up out of the blue... These are warm, witty books that make me laugh out loud, with beautifully drawn characters that feel like friends by the end. I do hope that Ms. McNeil continues this series in the future!

The Tea Rose, by Jennifer Donnelly. It's 1888 in East London, and amid the rough conditions of her upbringing, Fiona Finnegan thrives. She has big dreams of marrying her sweetheart and opening a tea shop with him. When her family is torn asunder following the murder of her father by one of London's wealthiest tea barons, Fiona flees for America, hoping to find a new beginning with relatives. It is there that her dream shifts, and revenge becomes a distinctly motivating factor for her new life. Donnelly's writing is rich and evocative, her attention to detail absolutely painstaking. Her characters fairly leap off the page. I am very much looking forward to discussing this with my book club when we meet again in September.

The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister. Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect. Each of them is looking for a recipe beyond the kitchen, and Lillian is very aware of their needs, having been there once herself.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Meg's Picks: August 2016, part 2

Sometimes the best way to survive these scorching summer days is to completely lose yourself in a great story. Here are two, both slated for publication in the next two weeks, that I'm hand-picking as stories I cannot wait to plunge into!

To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey. Ivey's 2012 debut, The Snow Child, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and continues to be wildly popular among our readers. So I'm guessing that her follow-up effort, due out next week, will be in high demand. In the winter of 1885, decorated war hero Colonel Allen Forrester leads a small band of men on an expedition that has been deemed impossible: to venture up the Wolverine River and pierce the vast, untamed Alaska Territory. Leaving behind Sophie, his newly pregnant wife, Colonel Forrester records his extraordinary experiences in hopes that his journal will reach her if he doesn't return--once he passes beyond the edge of the known world, there's no telling what awaits him.
Bonus? Reading about Alaska in winter might just help you beat the heat!

Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton. (Please note: this title is on order and will be available in our catalog shortly.) Billed as being a great read for fans of fiction like Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven (loved it) and Andy Weir's The Martian (also loved it) as well as Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child (as mentioned above!), Brooks-Dalton's debut is the story of two lonely outsiders, a lone researcher in the Arctic and an astronaut trying to return to Earth, as they grapple with love, regret and survival in a changed world. I am very much looking forward to this!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Meg's Picks: August 2016, part 1

If August is anywhere near as hot and humid as the last few weeks have been, you may find yourself in need of some reading materials to keep you company while you're trying to stay cool. Luckily, there are some very cool titles being published next month.

A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny. Canadian-born mystery author (and winner of any number of awards, including Anthony and Agatha ) Penny has become quite a reader favorite recently, and I'm predicting that her new title, the thirteenth to feature Inspector Armand Gamanche, will win her even more devoted fans.
When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes. Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But go he must. Interested in the origins of Gamanche's adventures? Start with the first in the series, Still Life.

Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel. Advance buzz about Neuvel's debut caught my eye when they recommended the novel to readers who enjoyed books like Andy Weir's The Martian (whose film adaptation starring Matt Damon was nominated for seven Oscars)  and Max Brooks's World War Z (adapted both as a film in 2013 & starring Brad Pitt). Now, I adored both books and thoroughly enjoyed both films, so I was really intrigued! A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand. Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.  But some can never stop searching for answers. Equal parts action, mystery, sci-fi and adventure, I have a feeling this will be adapted to film--soon! (Edited to add: This was actually moved up and is already available in print. Get your copy today!)

The Book That Matters Most, by Ann Hood. Best-selling author Hood has made some serious impact on readers with titles like The Knitting Circle and An Italian Wife. Her new novel is a story of friendship, love, loss and secrets that is sure to be a favorite for readers and book clubs. Ava’s twenty-five-year marriage has fallen apart, and her two grown children are pursuing their own lives outside of the country. Ava joins a book group, not only for her love of reading but also out of sheer desperation for companionship. The group’s goal throughout the year is for each member to present the book that matters most to them. Ava rediscovers a mysterious book from her childhood―one that helped her through the traumas of the untimely deaths of her sister and mother. Alternating with Ava’s story is that of her troubled daughter Maggie, who, living in Paris, descends into a destructive relationship with an older man. Ava’s mission to find that book and its enigmatic author takes her on a quest that unravels the secrets of her past and offers her and Maggie the chance to remake their lives.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Reading Ahead: August 2016, part 4

You know my favorite part of reading in the summer? It's the sudden speed with which I seem to be able to devour books. Whole series read in a matter of weeks. How is it that it happens this way? I don't know, and I don't want to jinx it, but if you're looking for quick reads to jump start your own reading, here are a few, light and fluffy, coming out in August.

Family Tree, by Susan Wiggs. Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Los Angeles home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child. But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a yearlong coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost. It is only when she returns to her family home, a Vermont maple farm which has been in the family for generations, that she can put her past to rest, and build herself a new future. Wiggs does feel-good fiction like few others.

Always A Cowboy, by Linda Lael Miller. This is the second in Miller's Carsons of Mustang Creek series (following Once A Rancher, published earlier this year), in which readers get to know the middle Carson brother, Drake, the quintessential cowboy. In charge of the family ranch, he knows the realities of this life, its pleasures and heartbreaks. Lately, managing the wild stallions on his property is wearing him down. When an interfering so-called expert arrives and starts offering her opinion, Drake is wary, but inexplicably drawn to her.

Texas Tall, by Janet Dailey. The late author lives on in her body of work, including this new addition to her Tylers of Texas series (following 2015's Texas Tough). With the family ranch in trouble and their need for one resurfacing, a rancher and his ex-wife find themselves presented with a second chance at love and a life together, if only they can right the wrongs of their shared past.

Rushing Waters, by Danielle Steel. Hurricane Ophelia is bearing down on New York City. And in a matter of hours, six people, along with their families, friends, and millions of other New Yorkers living around them, will be caught up in the horrific flooding it unleashes. A day of chaos takes its toll. Lives, belongings, and loved ones are swept away. Heroes are revealed as the city and New Yorkers struggle to face a natural disaster of epic proportions. And then the real challenge begins, as the survivors face their futures, with damage to repair and scars to heal.