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.

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