Archive | December, 2012

Two Books, No Zombies.

28 Dec

My reading streak continues! Two excellent books this week – one young adult and one post-apocalyptic.

shadow-bone

I hadn’t read a YA book in ages. Literally MONTHS. And this was floating around my house, getting moved from one stack to another (my copy has the most boring brown cover). One of my co-workers at the library came in one day RAVING about  it, so I decided to give it a go. So terrific. Set in an imagined Russia, full of dark magic and a love story you can root for (or maybe two?) – this would be perfect for anyone who loved Crewel, Matched, Scorpio Races

dogstars

Here is another one that has been in my stack for months and months. I picked it up once, read about 15 pages and thought “this is TOO weird.” But then. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen it on so many Best Of lists, heard such wonderful reviews from the podcasters I listen to, that I thought I’d give it another go. And I’m so glad I did – I ended up really, really liking it. Here is the set-up: The world has been wiped out by a super-flu and the devastating blood disease that followed it. Hig and his faithful dog Jasper are among a handful of survivors, and the two of them have staked out a somewhat safe harbor in a small airport in Colorado. They have one neighbor – a gun-wielding tough guy named Bangley. Hig, a pilot, decides about a third of the way in to get in his little plane and leave his safe harbor, searching for a voice he heard on the plane’s radio over three years ago. The writing style is different – choppy, tangential sometimes, staccato. And given my recent obsession with The Walking Dead, I half expected zombies to attack as I turned every page. But there are no zombies. And it is lovely. I cried, I cheered. There are a lot of things to really like about this story (if you can give it a little time to get into).

Love & Sexy Wheelchairs.

23 Dec

These three books are the reason no one is getting Christmas gifts from me this  year. To end the year with three books in a row that I couldn’t put down…that must be a good sign for 2013. Here they are:

13330767The News From Spain directly followed Snapper, so I guess that makes it four books in a row that kept me spellbound. I have never read such lovely and perfect stories in all my life. And I would never, ever call myself a short story reader (Alice Munro is my only exception). I was not expecting to love this book so much, but since I finished it I have thought back to it a zillion times. Her writing is…well…amazing. At one point I thought “Oh, I’ll just write this bit down that I like.” I’m not someone who usually writes bits down. And the ‘bit’ that I liked ended up being darn near the whole story. What I like about this book, what makes it better/easier than a book of short stories, is that each story is loosely bound to the others. Not in the sense that characters reoccur, or places or events, but in that each story involves the news from spain. That phrase works its way into each story – boldly, slyly, seamlessly – and has good reason to be the title of each. It’s mostly perfect.

mebefore you

I enjoyed The Last Letter From Your Lover. I didn’t love it, I wasn’t thrilled by it, but I read it and thought it nice. So I wasn’t particularly thrilled to start Me Before You. And I wasn’t particularly excited about the promise of a great love story involving a young girl and a quadriplegic. In fact, I thought it sounded like a rotten idea for a story. BUT IT WAS GREAT. It was so great. I laughed out loud, I almost fell in love with that moody quad Will too. Such a surprise. My grandmother and mother are in a mother/daughter book club, and the entire group of women raved about this book (their book club had been given advance copies, as the book doesn’t come out until next week). I think this book will be everywhere – WalMart, Target, bookstores – so it will be hard to miss. Don’t write it off because the plot line sounds dreadful, it’s not!

HattieLastly, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. This is the new Oprah 2.0 book club pick. And I love the cover. It also fits into my interconnected-short-story trend of late, because each chapter bears the name of one of Hattie’s twelve children. They are not linear, you jump around in time a bit and I was never exactly clear on the order in which the children go, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Through each child (usually an adult child) we learn a little bit more about Hattie. If anyone has ever read an Oprah book – I’d tell you that this is just what you’d expect her to pick. Sort of a Their Eyes Were Watching God/The Color Purple/Beloved  mix of fiction. It’s heavy. And it’s depressing. But I read it straight on through and didn’t notice the time flying by. So while I can’t positively say that I loved it, I can certainly say that I was caught up by it.

Best Litpicks of 2012

11 Dec

I love this time of year. You can hardly turn around without seeing some “Best Of” list, and I always spend lots of time poking through the book ones. Not very many of my Top Ten come up frequently – but these were the books I Very Much Loved this year. Strangely, it was exactly 10, so I didn’t have to cut any.

best2012

  1. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carla Rifka Brunt.
  2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.
  3. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.
  4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
  5. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
  6. Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith
  7. Crewel by Gennifer Albin
  8. Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
  9. Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann
  10. The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy

Runners up included: Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman, Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen, The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, Art of Hearing Heartbeats Jan-Philipp Sendker, Perla by Carolina De Robertis, and Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan.

AND, I just finished one that will surely be on my list for 2013:

KimberlingSNAPPER

I loved, loved this slender novel (novel in stories?) about Nathan Lochmueller; birdwatcher, romantic, unwitting rebel rouser. This novel made me desperate to move (back) to Indiana, paint my jeep in glitter paint and wallow around in the mud with a pair of binoculars and a long stick with a mirror taped to the end. I’ve been back twice already to re-read my favorite chapters. It’s not due out until April, so I’ll probably post about it again.

Twists.

6 Dec

I always forget how busy the holiday season is – I never get through as many books as I’d like. But here are two from last week that are worth mentioning:

secretkeeper

I have an interesting relationship with Kate Morton’s body of work. By that I mean that usually I think they are too long, too detailed, too…I don’t know. But I always LOVE the twists at the end. Enough that I am willing to slog through 400+ pages of rolling English countryside and creaky old English buildings just to see what happens. And this one was much better than the last (The Distant Hours). The other thing that is either nice or annoying is that all of her works have the exact same feel – if you liked one, you’ll surely like all the others. The Secret Keeper opens with a 16yr old girl, hiding in a tree house at her country estate, who witnesses a stranger approach her mother. And sees her mother kill him (with a knife). Fast forward to years later, the young girl is now in her sixties and a famous actress. As her mother lies on her deathbed, our heroine decides finally to delve futher into her mother’s history and figure out what that murder was all about. Cue twists and turns.

mirrored-world

Madonnas of Leningrad was a big hit. A big Russian/Revolution/Art/Intrigue sort of a hit. So I was excited to get my hands on her newest. I am generally a sucker for good Russian stories (my favorites include City of Thieves, Sashenka, Kitchen Boy) so you’d think this would be right up my reading alley. However. I didn’t LOVE it like I thought I would. The writing is a bit choppy, the characters a bit dull (at least the main two women) and I found myself wishing it was over. And given how short it is, I was surprised it took me so long to finish. The story is of a young girl, Dasha, who is sent to live with her cousin Xenia and her husband. When Xenia loses the child she struggled to carry, when her husband dies in an untimely accident, she goes a bit crazy. Starts giving away all of her possession and money to beggars on the street and finally disappears. This is the story of her decline, and what happens after she is found.