Stephanie: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. “Stranded in an airport with nothing to pick a book from but the airport bookstore; usually, that would be my worst nightmare! But not this time. I picked up The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, an epic fantasy that was nominated for the Nebula Award for best novel last year and loved it! It would take me a few thousand words to describe the plot, so I’ll just put it this way: if you’re sick of waiting for the next installment of A Song of Ice and Fire (or the next season of Game of Thrones), this is the book for you. Where Martin is inspired by European history, Liu is inspired by Chinese history, but both of them love a good battle scene as well as a close look at power and politics. The second book in the series The Wall of Storms has just been released, and I’m going to read it next—I’ll report back!”
Pat T: Between Breaths: A Memoir of Pain and Addiction by Elizabeth Vargas.
“I just finished reading Between Breaths, A Memoir of Pain and Addiction and it was a compelling and candid memoir! Anyone who watches ABC knows Elizabeth Vargas as a news correspondent, host of 20/20, and the co-anchor of World News Tonight. She strikes you as a person who has it all; successful career in broadcast journalism, married with children, but behind that veneer she carried a dark secret. In fact, she always looked at other people thinking their lives were perfect, while her life was not! She came from a military family, and the family moved to nine different bases, many overseas, and she attended eight different schools. All of this upheaval created an enormous amount of anxiety that she battled with from childhood into adulthood. As she achieved more success in her career, her anxiety flourished as well, so she coped with a glass of wine, then two, three and four, eventually becoming dependent on alcohol. Every time she chronicled her time in rehab, I would be cheering her on, only to be disappointed when she relapsed. Finally, rather than go away to a rehab center, she brought a life coach to her home who helped her deal with this disease in her everyday life. I admire her for her bravery and honesty in writing this memoir. As she said, ‘Perhaps my story will show that everyone has something they struggle with, something difficult and painful.’”
Alan: Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. “Hillbilly Elegy is JD Vance’s story both of the Appalachian ‘hillbillies’ and ‘rednecks’ of Scots-Irish descent, whose intense values and close family culture both endure and are being destroyed by lack of work and by drugs, and of his family in Ohio, which had migrated from a ‘holler’ in Kentucky that they still considered home. His broken family ; a father who deserted him, a mother on drugs all her life, left him to be raised by his mother’s parents, who gave him the grit, with the help of the Marine Corps, to escape his life and graduate from Yale Law School. He tells the story in a simple, direct style that is engaging and enlightening. This is a wonderful book, both as a fascinating story of his family’s wonderful strengths and pitiful faults, and the plight of a major part of our society, whose risk of destruction needs to be better understood."
Virginia: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue. “Emma Donoghue’s latest novel, The Wonder, is a haunting tale of religion, superstition and possible murder. Lib Wright, a Nightingale nurse, arrives in rural Ireland to monitor and investigate the well-being of Anna—a miracle child—who has supposedly fasted for four months with no signs of malnutrition. The family and community credit Anna’s devotion to religion as the source of her nourishment, but Lib is not convinced especially once Anna’s health begins to deteriorate. As Lib’s attachment to Anna grows, she is desperate to expose the hoax before the child perishes. Donoghue certainly knows how to build suspense in a novel while creating rich and vivid characters. I am thoroughly enjoying this novel, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries and historical fiction. “
Susie Skerrett: The Darkness and Neighbors 2. “Bacon, who doesn't like bacon? Specifically if it’s Kevin Bacon! The other day I watched The Darkness and I found it highly entertaining and scary. It is about a family who returns from vacation at the Canyon and unbeknownst to them they innocently bring home a supernatural force that preys off their own fears and vulnerabilities, threatening to destroy them from within, while consuming their lives with terrifying consequences. It was perfect for Halloween. The second movie I watched that was a sequel and a thousand times better than the predecessor was Neighbors 2. When their new next-door-neighbors turn out to be a sorority even more debauched than the fraternity previously living there, Mac and Kelly team up with their former enemy, Teddy, to bring the girls down.”
Pat S: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. “Everyone is talking about this book, and it is easy to see why- it proved to be an eye-opener about a small slice of American culture that has essentially ‘fallen through the cracks’. Vance tells the story of Hillbilly culture through his own life story- although his ended more happily than the culture at large. Born in Kentucky to mountain people of Scotch-Irish descent, Vance’s family joined the migration to southern Ohio in search of factory jobs to provide for their families. Initially they were able to establish middle class lifestyles-a huge improvement on where they had come from. But with the closing of so many factories, there was now a large population of unemployed people with no education, or skills that could transfer to other professions. The story is the old one-poverty, hopelessness and despair. However, with the help of his grandmother and a stint in the Marines, Vance climbed out of the abyss and ultimately graduated from Yale law school. It is a riveting story which gives a vivid interpretation to a group of unsatisfied Americans we have heard so much from in the run-up to the election.”