Archive | June, 2017

Summer Reading at its Finest!

16 Jun

 

All of the sudden I have a giant, excellent backlog of books to tell you about! The only dud on this list (and apparently I’m in the minority, a lot of people have loved it) is The Jane Austen Project. There were a lot of things to love about this odd time-travel period piece. Two scientists travel back in time with the goal of befriending Jane in order to save a secret manuscript and potentially Jane herself. The thing that really bothered me was that I didn’t believe ANY of the romantic interests. At one point, when two characters were confessing their undying love, I thought had to page backwards and figure out where exactly they had even spoken to each other. 3 stars

The Hearts of Men was a book club pick this month – we’d read his previous novel Shotgun Lovesongs and it went over well. This one was a little tougher – although people agreed it was interesting and compelling, it was dark and everyone had trouble saying that they “loved” it. The story follows young Nelson, an outcast at Boy Scout camp and in his everyday life, as he deals with bullies and the business of growing into a man. Broken into three sections: Nelson as a child, Nelson as a man, Nelson as an old man (sort of, a little more convoluted) all sections set at the Boy Scout camp. I gave it 4 stars, I think the group would’ve given it 3.

I bet the cover of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore gives you an idea of what to expect – a sweet, small town bookstore, quirky staff, feel-good ending. That’s what I was thinking as I cracked it open. Guess what? I’ve never been SO WRONG. This was maybe the creepiest story I’ve read in a while and I loved it! It starts at a great independent bookstore…and a suicide. The patron was especially known and loved by Lydia, a member of the bookstore’s quirky staff. She is the one to discover the body, and in his pocket, a picture of her as a child. From there, she follows a series of clues he’d left behind that lead her deeper and deeper into her creepy past. If you like a creeper, pick this one up right away! 4 stars

I read If We Were Villains faster than I’ve read anything lately. Oh it was so good. Think The Secret History plus all the Shakespearean tragedies and you’ll get pretty close to the essence of this novel. We meet the seven fourth-year theater students at an elite but nontraditional university that specializes in four different areas of the arts. At first I thought seven would be too many to keep track of, but pretty quickly their characters were established and so memorable that they kept themselves untangled. Just like in Secret History, we know something bad is going to happen as we see their friendships get tested and start to crack. You just don’t know WHAT that something will be. Very tense, full of drama on and off the stage. Lots of Shakespeare quotes as the seven begin to rehearse for the tragedies they’re putting on throughout the year. Very ominous and good. 5 stars

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is our next book club pick and I got a good jump on it this weekend. Of course now by the time we meet I will have forgotten everyone’s names, but at least it’s read! I really enjoyed this one. Jumping back and forth between the 1630s, the 1950s and the year 2000, we meet first Sara de Vos, one of the few Dutch women painters of her time. One of her paintings (that I can so clearly picture because of the excellent writing) ends up over the bed of Marty de Groot who, in the 1950s, realizes that his copy is a forgery. In the year 2000, both the forgery and the original are accidentally on their way to an exhibit of female Dutch painters that professor/expert Ellie is opening in Australia. The three plot lines all converge, but each one has its own mystery to solve. What happened to Sara de Vos? Did Marty track down the thieves and recover his original? Will Ellie be in the center of a giant scandal when both copies arrive at the museum????? 4.5 stars

Well, the Cover is Pretty

12 Jun

houseamongthetrees

Isn’t it? I was disappointed with this one. I loved The Widower and was excited to dig into this, but I found myself waiting and waiting for something that never came. I was waiting for the story to get interesting, the characters to really resonate with me, something to really happen. Overall I thought it just didn’t connect with me. The story is about a famous children’s book author who dies and leaves his estate in the hands of Thomasina, a younger-than-him woman who worked as his personal assistant for many years. The two had a weird relationship, she lived with him, but not a romantic one. So the story is Morty’s rise to illustrated greatness (the past), Tommy’s difficulty with his death and settling his estate (the present). We also get some of Tommy’s history, as well as (randomly, maybe) chapters about this woman Merry who thought that her museum would be getting all of Morty’s personal effects/work. 3 stars.