Again this week we have some missing elements. I offer no excuses or explanations. I know it’s disconcerting, but yes, this is still You Are What You Read. This week we have some Chinese, action figures, a castle, a mash-up that has no business existing but we are not judging, anarchy, good books, a bad man, Everest, and a Southern Sojourn.
Let us begin.
Alan is reading pretty true to type here. “I’ve just read The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry. It’s very much in the same line as many of his other well-written, intelligent, good-with-the-little-details spy novels. In this one, a young agent is undercover in China, is targeted (or is he?) by the Chinese intelligence services, and soon finds himself with a very attractive girlfriend, an interesting job, and lots of enigmatic leads. He’s pulled back to the US and recruited for a deep cover assignment, mentored by a legendary spy. Soon he finds himself caught in the cross-currents, trying to keep his head (at least once, literally) above water. There’s some interesting tradecraft, wheels within wheels, and maybe things get settled up at the end a little too fast, but overall, a very satisfying book.”
Miss Kiera of the CL is reading Doll Bones by Holly Black. “This is one of the 2013 Booktalking Selections for fourth and fifth grade. Each year the children's librarians create lists of our very favorite new books for each grade. We visit every classroom in Darien to tell kids about the books and get them excited for Summer Reading. Doll Bones is one of my personal favorites this year. It's dark, creepy, and well-crafted. It's the story of three friends: Zach, Alice, and Poppy, who have been playing together since they were little. Using action figures and a rather scary-looking old porcelain doll, they have created an elaborate fantasy world in which they make-believe daring adventures. When Zach's dad tells him he's too old to play with dolls, things begin to unravel. Just as Zach decides to abandon their games forever, Poppy reveals that the doll is haunted by the spirit of a girl who was killed long ago and the three friends embark on a real-life quest to return the haunted doll to her grave. So much more than a terrific ghost story, Doll Bones is also a story about growing up, about friends drifting apart and finding each other again.”
The Amazing Amanda is back to finish the Graceling series by Kristin Cashore that she reviewed a few weeks ago. “Bitterblue is the sequel to Graceling. Set eight years later, we follow the adventures of the Princess Bitterblue who was rescued by the Gracelings Katsa and Prince Po from the previous book. At eighteen, Bitterblue has spent the last eight years in her tower signing off on land treaties and other boring paperwork. She hardly knows the layout of her own castle, let alone a thing about the daily lives of her people. Feeling restless, she begins sneaking out at night to explore her city. In the city’s underbelly, she discovers a group of people who want to bring to the light the atrocities committed under her father’s reign. These truth-seekers are being killed by others who want to keep their past crimes hidden. Bitterblue is suspected as the one behind the murders even though her new companions have no idea of her real identity. In a kingdom where everyone is determined to keep silent, can Bitterblue right the wrongs without losing everything? Other readers on Goodreads left negative reviews of this book as they were expecting a heroine like Katsa. Bitterblue is in a difficult situation and I find this book refreshing. While other authors may have left Bitterblue to sort out her country without looking into the process, I enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at her struggle. I skipped the second book in the series, Fire, on the recommendation that it had very little to do with the current story. “
John has a request this week. “I'm decompressing from my last read with A Discovery of Witches. It's sort of a Twilight-meets-Dan-Brown. To be honest, I have no idea why I'm reading it, but it's entertaining and I'm caught up in the story now. Don't judge me.” John, we don’t judge. At least not out loud.
Miss Elisabeth of the CL is taking suggestions! “This week I'm reading a dystopian science-fiction novel our own Alan Gray recommended, S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire. At the start of the book, something awful happens. There is a flash of white in the sky, and all mechanical and electrical things on earth stop working. Planes fall out of the sky. Cars run off the road. Submarines sink to the bottom of the ocean. And humanity is instantly plunged back to a lifestyle not seen for a thousand years. With no cars, no electricity, no guns, and no way to ship food anywhere in the world, society quickly devolves into anarchy. Government collapses, and in its place, loose groups of like-minded citizens try to make their way in this strange new world. Juniper Mackenzie and her coven quickly retreat to her grandfather's farm in the Oregon Mountains where they hope to farm peacefully, while Mike Havel, a former Ranger, tries to lead his growing clan to safe land. With a medieval history professor bent on setting up a violent fiefdom in Portland and citizens all over resorting to cannibalism, Dies the Fire asks an uncomfortable question: What would you do if the lights went out for good?”
Erin is listening to The End of Your Life Book Club on audio. “When Will Schwalbe’s mother is diagnosed with an advanced stage of pancreatic cancer, he spendst a lot of time accompanying her to chemo visits. Because they are both huge readers, they start to informally discuss the books they’re reading which leads to some overlap. This memoir is an ode to good books, family, and to use a cliché: the ties that bind. Will Schwalbe will be here June 5!” I for one am most excited about Will’s visit. I loved this book.
Stephanie is showing her dark side. Again. “I treasure books like The Good Nurse, by Charles Graeber, and the way they are invested in finding answers to human depravity without melodrama, because while I love me some Law & Order, it’s always over the top. This is true crime so gruesome I don’t think Law & Order has even attempted an inspired-by episode: about Charles Cullen, known as ‘The Angel of Death.’ It would need to be a multi-part episode. Cullen was a nurse who skipped from hospital to hospital in the tri-state area for years, killing vulnerable patients with drug cocktails so haphazardly that he doesn’t even remember all of them, for reasons he can’t really define. On Law & Order, this could go one of two ways: a twisted mercy killer, or a sadistic sociopath. The truth is much more complicated. And Graeber, with the help of many previously unknown resources, including interviews with the informant who was the linchpin of Cullen’s trial, does an amazing job of unraveling the truth of the matter, as well as anybody can in this circumstance. Cullen is clearly a bad man, but Graeber is not interested in the morality play of scolding him. He is interested in understanding him. He gets pretty close to doing so. And that’s why this book is completely chilling and great.”
Lois has just finished Above All Things by Tanis Rideout. “This is a historical fiction novel of 3-time Everest climber George Mallory during his last and fatal attempt to reach the summit in 1924. After 2 dangerous and unsuccessful attempts, George has promised his wife, Ruth that he will not leave her and their 3 small children again. But he is haunted by those failures, as well as his perceived failures during his service in WWI, and when the opportunity presents itself to try again, George accepts without consulting Ruth. The book beautifully blends Ruth’s world, her unconditional love for George, and her anger and fear with George’s unrelenting need for glory and redemption. It pulled me into both realties and I couldn’t put it down. “
I am preparing for an upcoming trip to North Carolina by reading Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Bernhardt. Although, I am pretty sure that my traveling companion would not want this to be my initial impression. Yeah. Actually I am positive that this is the case. The chapter on pledging Greek at Chapel Hill pretty much cinches that. Anyway, Jerene Jarvis Johnston is the matriarch of a proud upper class family and despite her best efforts her carefully constructed world is beginning to unravel. Bernhardt’s writing style reminds me a lot of Tom Wolfe (think Bonfire of the Vanities). This one is due out in August.