With school beginning next week, we are truly approaching our last summer weekend. I know Ann wants me to remind everyone to squeeze out as much enjoyment as you can. We will be shoveling before you know it. You can also tell that summer is winding down because our population seems to be swelling. People are filtering back from Vacationland and we are still waiting for fudge. Don’t let us down please. This week we have some disappointment, a Federation, a banker, some sass, a murder, shrooms of the culinary kind, prison, hard time, warring royals, Boo Radley, a shantytown and some great daring.
Let us begin.
Amanda is disappointed and counting the ways after starting Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride. “I had high hopes for this novel. The cover is intriguing as is the book jacket's summary. The heroine, Li Lan, is approached by a neighboring family to become the wife of their dead son. She then becomes haunted by the dead man’s ghost. I had to stop reading the book after nine chapters because of:
1) The main character reeks of ‘virginal sweet girl.’ You can almost peel her off the page with just how good girl she is. This would be fine and well if she or any of the other characters were anything more than caricatures. Unfortunately, at this point in the book, no one is any deeper or interesting than a piece of paper.
2) The author has a habit of telling rather than showing. Instead of weaving historical knowledge and background seamlessly into the story, she'll take an aside and go on for several paragraphs about the history of a particular item or area. The author’s method takes you completely out of the story.
3) The story is boring. Nine chapters in and there is nothing happening?! The supposed hook of the first chapter still hasn't materialized into anything substantial. The secondary complication of Li Lan finding real love-- which I could see compelling this novel forward -- is also fizzling without passion.
On GoodReads, readers mention that the novel has a very slow start. Well, I have a pile of books to read and no time for slow starts, so this one was returned posthaste!”
Miss Kiera of the CL is still revisiting some old friends. “I just finished another oldie-but-goodie from the children's literature cannon: Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl. Published in 1970, it won a Newbery Honor and was later chosen for a Phoenix Award in 1990. It is a sci-fi adventure story featuring a young space explorer named Elana. Elana is a citizen of the most advanced civilization in the universe, the Federation. Special members of the Federation travel across the universe seeking out developing "youngling." The Federation passively and peacefully protects these planets from being wiped out by stronger colonial forces. When we first meet Elana, she is a stowaway on a spaceship carrying her father and several Federation members. They are en route to a young planet, Andrecia that has developed a simple feudal society. The Andrecians are under threat of a more technologically advanced civilization that wishes to colonize the planet. It's up to Elana and the Federation to save the young Andrecians without revealing who they are or disturbing the delicate balance of the youngling society. Engdahl's writing is rich and absorbing, her characters compelling and grounded. A book guaranteed to bring out the inner Trekkie in us all! “
So while Miss Kiera is reading some Kid Lit, Miss Elisabeth is reading some decidedly more grown up fare. “This week I read Overseas by Beatriz Williams. It was just the kind of sweeping, epic love story I was looking for! Kate Wilson is attractive and great at her job as an investment banker at a Wall Street firm, but she never dreamed she would catch the eye of the most eligible bachelor in NYC - billionaire Julian Laurence. But he seems to fall madly in love with her from the moment he sees her. Is it because he needs inside information from her about her firm? Or is it something more - something magical? This book has it all - intrigue, poetry, WWI, time travel, dramatic rescues, delicious descriptions of jewels and dresses, and some fairly epic bedroom scenes. It's a perfect end-of-summer read!”
This is Mallory’s last day with us as she is headed back to school. We will miss her huge. Wish her good luck and hope she will come back to play with us again very soon. Ciao Mal! “Mindee Arnett's novel, The Nightmare Affair, has got a little bit of everything for us YA lit fans. The magical boarding school (think Hogwarts but with sirens and faeries and demons studying alongside the witches and wizards) has found itself with a murderer in its midst. To aid in the capture of the killer, in comes young Dusty Everheart. Social outcast Dusty has a knack for sassy comebacks, using faulty magic, and a much hated mother, making her a protagonist you want to root for. Using her powers as a Nightmare, Dusty travels into the dreams of classmate Eli Booker to hunt for clues; what she ends up finding will drag them both into the belly of the dangerous beast. Part mystery, part love triangle, part boarding school drama, part fantasy, I wasn't lying when I said this read has something for everyone!”
Steph is out this week but before she left, she left us with this. “This weekend I read Louise Penny’s latest in the Inspector Gamache series, How the Light Gets In. I love this series, which has just gotten better and better with its likably gruff and complicated Inspector Gamache, and his love affair with the tiny off-the-map village of Three Pines. The books have grown steadily more menacing of late due to an unseen adversary who is striking out at Gamache from within his own department, and in this installment, the conflict ignites. And of course, all the while, Gamache has to solve a separate murder in his beloved village. The book is perfectly paced and Penny’s writing is on point throughout. I hated to see the book end, but it ends so well that I didn’t mind. Penny really has become a mystery master.” Hurry back Steph! We miss you.
Barbara M. is enjoying one of my favorites of the year but with reservation. “I’m almost finished with TransAtlantic by Colum McCann and for the most part am really enjoying it. The three main stories concern transatlantic crossings between Ireland and the United States and span the years from 1845 to the present. I love the way the stories intertwine with one another and McCann’s writing is lyrical and poetic. When he writes dialogue you can hear an Irish brogue. This is not a book to breeze through; you need to savor the writing. My one critique is that I feel that the structure of McCann’s books have become formulaic. This is not, however, stopping me from reading it every moment I can. “
Abby is adding another food centric favorite to her pile. “In his new book The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America, Langdon Cook really puts the fun in fungus. I love mushrooms so the title was intriguing. What I didn't expect was to find a rich and often wacky subculture dedicated to foraging for the delicious morsels...or should I say, morels? Set primarily in the Pacific Northwest, we are introduced to the chain of wild mushroom foraging: from the folks who live transient lives to follow the mushroom seasons, to the buyers of their harvest and the chefs who demand the finest mushrooms. The book reinforces my belief that for everything that exists, there is probably a group of folks dedicated to learning more about it. The next time I go to a nice restaurant and order a mushroom dish, I'll have a whole new respect for their journey from the great outdoors to my plate.”
Pat S. is doing some time. And it sounds like it was some hard time. ” I just finished Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. I picked this up because of all the hoopla around the new series by same title. The story is a memoir of a young, upper middle class Smith College graduate who essentially performs the service of a money launderer for a lover. Fast forward ten years, and who should appear on her doorstep but the DEA? Eventually she is sentenced to serve a prison sentence of two years in a low security institution; Danbury to be exact. The story describes her experience learning the ropes of prison etiquette. It comes across as prison-lite, with none of the drama, violence or social unrest we have come to expect in similar tales. In spite of admitting her guilt, Kerman is so busy talking about the unfairness of her predicament that any genuine observations about the current prison system ring hollow. Not worth the time I took to read it. “
Pat T. is reading about hard time of a different sort. “I am reading The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay. It is a thought provoking account of young adults navigating their twenties. The twenties are not just an extension of adolescence, but rather a critical developmental stage that can have a great impact on the life choices they make in their thirties and forties. I highly recommend this book for all twenty-something year olds and their families!”
Sweet Ann has been working on a new mantra lately. It comes from Padre Pio and it is ‘Pray. Hope. Don’t worry’. I think it suits her brilliantly. I too have a mantra but Ann is swift to point out it’s not safe for publication. Or small children. “I have not read a Philippa Gregory novel in years and I have to say I enjoyed the story of Elizabeth of York and her marriage to Henry Tudor in her latest The White Princess. The marriage was a political one, no surprise there, but Elizabeth and Henry eventually found respect and some love. If you are in the mood for a quick read with conspiracy theories, battles, and warring royals, this could be the novel for you. Last week I was helping a patron choose a ‘classic’ audio book. We noticed that, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, was read by Sissy Spacek. We said at the same time that we both like Sissy Spacek so he took one copy of the audio book while I took the other. I am loving it so much. It has been a couple of years since I read it, ok I was in 8th grade, but still the story has once again grabbed my heart. Ms. Spacek's reading is mesmerizing and I am in the wonderful company of Scout, Jem, Boo Radley, Calpernia, Dil and Atticus. This is a marvelous audio book and I can't recommend it enough.
Jeanne is reading We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. ”What is inside this author that she writes with this blunt, graphic honesty that makes my eyes pop and takes my breath away, but compels me to keep reading? The 11-year old voices of Darling and her posse of friends doing kid things while the tragic truth of their lives in a Zimbabwe shantytown takes away their childhood. I am also listening to Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown; read by Karen White. Based on many years of research Dr. Brown, TED motivational speaker from Texas, exhorts us to own and accept our shame and vulnerability and only then will we be truly whole, creative and successful in life. I am on disc 3 of 8 so we will see if I finish because I don’t love the narrator.”
I began Quiet Dell by Jayne Ann Phillips earlier this week and I have to say I am really enjoying it. Phillips based the story on a true crime that happened in the 1930s. Asta Eicher is a widow struggling to raise her 3 young children during the Depression. When she begins a correspondence with elegant yet mysterious Harry Powers her prayers seem to have been not only heard but answered. When Asta and her children end up murdered, Chicago journalist Emily Thornhill becomes obsessed with the case and travels down to West Virginian to begin her own investigation. Phillips is doing an excellent job of painting each character in a distinctive style and making you genuinely care about them. This one comes out in October.