Monday, July 30, 2012

Summerland: Glimpse into the Real Nantucket

By Elin Hilderbrand

Genre: Women's Fiction, Popular Adult Fiction

Summer isn't summer without the latest Elin Hilderbrand read and a vicarious vacation to Nantucket!

ReviewThe real Nantucket, the year-round islanders are at the center of this novel. Zoe, a chef, and her twins Hobby and Penny are the golden children of their high school. Penny a gifted singer, Hobby a gifted athlete. The whole island is shocked when Penny drives off the road at high speed, three friends in the Jeep, including boyfriend Jake and friend Demeter. The book follows three island families as they deal with the accident and resulting events, told from rotating character's perspectives. This novel was fast-paced yet I felt very connected to the characters and their emotions. 

Song to Read by: "Next in Line" by Walk the Moon

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Disturbing and Truly Unputdownable Book

Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn

Genre: Popular Adult Fiction, Thriller

Review: Gone Girl came highly recommended from many sources. What happens when an emotionally stunted former magazine writer, Nick, and a "Amazing" Amy get married, the recession hits, and they lose their jobs and move to Missouri? This book takes us there, divided into three shocking sections. After section 1, a super crazy twist occurs. The novel is expertly plotted, with unpredictable twists and turns, unique characters, and incisive social commentary. I don't want to say more for fear of revealing too much. Just read it! This is one book that can't be explained. 

Also recommended by Gillian Flynn: Her first novel, Sharp Objects. 

Author website:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Adventure on the High Seas

The Cat's Table
By Michael Ondaatje

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

Review: Ondaatje's most autobiographical novel yet. The poetic language expected from the author of The English Patient, Anil's Ghost, and Divisadero doesn't disappoint. The story is a strange mix of the adventures of three boys on the Oronsay, a ship traveling from Sri Lanka to England, along with reflections on interpersonal relationships and quirky characters. The structure of the storytelling was interesting. Interludes into the present-day as the main character looked back to his three-week high seas adventure. Overall, this book is more about savoring the language for me, than enjoying the plot. Not my favorite by him, but worth reading.

Favorite Quote from the Book: "We all have an old knot in the heart we wish to loosen and untie."

Song to Read by: "Southampton" from the Titanic soundtrack, by James Horner

Monday, July 16, 2012

Returning to a Modern Classic: Bel Canto

Bel Canto
                          By Ann Patchett

This book cover is the Vintage Modern Classics edition.

Genre: Literary Fiction

After reading State of Wonder, I had to return to Bel Canto to re-read and savor a book that I first devoured in two days, many years ago. 

Review: A Japanese tech magnate loves opera and travels to "the host country" in South America to hear Roxanne Coss sing at a birthday party in his honor. Terrorists take over the party, in search of the President, who is not present. The ensuing plot follows the shifting relationships between the guests and the terrorists, tracing three loves stories: love of opera, a translator and a soldier, and an unlikely couple. The writing is amazingly beautiful, yet the plot moves swiftly. The story is told with psychological precision.

Bottom Line: Read it. Re-read it! Well-written thriller. Literary Masterpiece. 

Song to Read By: RenĂ©e Fleming - Mozart - Ch'io mi scordi di te?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Easy, Breezy Beach Read

Summer Breeze
by Nancy Thayer

Genre: Popular Women's Fiction

Review: Make this the first beach read of the summer! I read half the book in one night. This book has the balance I've been waiting for--each young woman is searching to find the balance between love and career in their lives. The characters weren't standard--there was more depth to them--Bella searches for meaning by opening an art gallery, Morgan balances motherhood and yearning for her biosafety career, and Natalie blossoms as an artist. Near the end, the plot gets tied into some neat little bows, but that's okay. This book is better than most beach reads!

Author Website 

Song to Read by: "Shiver" by Walk the Moon

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Astonishing, Heartbreaking Prose

Autobiography of a Face
by Lucy Grealy

Genre: Memoir

Review:After reading the description, I thought this book would be too sad to read, yet it was honest and clear-eyed. Lucy Grealy was a brilliant writer, a solemn child, daughter of an Irish immigrant. The story begins with a fateful game of dodgeball and follows Lucy through her life, chronicling the way she negotiates with herself, reinventing concepts of beauty and identity again and again. This book is about waiting for your life to start, yet struggling to live your life at the same time, a life no one could ever imagine without experiencing it. 

Note: Read this book as a companion to Truth and Beauty.

Song to Read By: "The Cave" by Mumford and Sons

To Be Sung Underwater

To Be Sung Underwater
by Tom McNeal

I love both covers. Paperback above, hardback below.

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

Review: Well-written is an understatement. I found myself writing phrases in my journal, relishing the poetic language. However, I still cared about the characters the most. This is the story of Judith and Willy, and how Judith's great love at 17 didn't fit in with her life plan, and her resulting choices. The setting, Nebraska, becomes a celebrated landscape of buttes, pines, and prairie. I also admired the novel's structure. Part 1 goes back and forth in time, Part 2 is the past, Part 3 is the present. Ingenious.

Savor this novel on a slow summer afternoon.

Song to Read By: "To Be Sung On the Water" by Samuel Barber, title derived from this song, sung by a woman's choir

Author Website:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Romance and Tragedy: a Literary Exploration of Life by the Berlin Wall

The Moment
by Douglas Kennedy

Genre: Adult Fiction, Literary

Review: Thomas Nesbitt is a travel writer looking back on his life and his one true love, back in his twenties. Petra Dussman was a translator exiled from communist East Germany when they met in Berlin, 1984. If you're looking for a sad, wrenching love story, romantic  without conventionality, this book is for you. The writing is quite literary with meditations on creativity that I found to ring true, mostly. The lives of an artist, a writer, a translator are all profiled. I enjoyed learning about the historically significant event of life on both sides of "The Wall."

On another note: Mature content in more ways than one, not appropriate for teens.

Song to Read By: "Closer to the Edge" by 30 Seconds to Mars

Interesting Author Interview

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer Reading List Top Ten

--Henry James

I hope to be spending many summer afternoons reading!

Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading This Summer. I hope you'll read some too. Some are new releases, some I've been waiting to read.

New Books from Some of my Favorite Authors and Recommendations Gleaned from Only the Best Sources!

Here they are, in no particular order:

Her books are suspense thrillers with thoughtful characters that you want to devour in one day!

What is summer without a quintessential beach read by Elin Hilderbrand? Return to Nantucket for more beautiful descriptions and realistic emotional drama.

After enjoying Arsenault's The Broken Teaglass and In Search of the Rose Notes, I am looking forward to this novel involving a mystery embedded in a manuscript.

In the Summer Reading edition of Tin House, I discovered Holly Goddard Jones' "The Right Way to End a Story." Love her writing style and want to check out this short story collection.

An old-fashioned love story set in Nebraska. The writing style promises to be something to luxuriate in during a quiet night lounging on the front porch.

An author from Nashville writes a funny return-to-hometown story. Recommended by ParnassusBooks.Net.

Pulitzer prize nominee, this book sounds delightfully strange, a coming-of-age story set in the otherworldly locale of the Everglades.

By one of my all-time favorite authors, fiction writer and poet Michael Ondaatje writes his most autobiographical tale yet, the story of a boy and his friends, and their adventures on a ship making its way from Sri Lanka to England. Promises to be a Huck Finn on the Indian Ocean tale.

Looks to be smart chick lit, recommended to me at Powell's Books in Portland. Love in the digital age, light summer reading.

After watching the movie trailer with favorite Emma Watson, I definitely want to read what has become a YA cult classic before the movie comes out. 

Friendship and Loss and Life

Truth and Beauty 
by Ann Patchett

Genre: Memoir

Review: Once again, Patchett takes my breath away with her writing. This book made me cry, and it was earned. Although we know at the outset that Lucy Grealy, Ann's best friend since Iowa Writer's Workshop, is no longer alive, in the book she is liveliness itself. We follow their friendship from grad school to transitions, and later literary success and teaching careers, as Ann helps Lucy through one surgery after the next. She never gave up on Lucy, who was brilliant and fun-loving and never gave in to self-pity or tragedy. This book is the best kind of literary portrait--honest, fierce, and above all, real.

Best Line: Near the end, Patchett describes Lucy's new apartment in Brooklyn, an empty kitchen far away and Lucy in tears on the phone. Patchett, in Tennessee, feels near-helpless to assist her friend, goes online and orders her an entire set of kitchen things, writing something like...It was my own particular brand of insanity that I thought Tupperware would save Lucy. That is what brought on the tears for me, how symbolic of their friendship this is.

Song to Read By: "Anna Sun" by Walk the Moon

Timely Topics, Character Studies, Yet Lacking Suspense

So Far Away
By Meg Mitchell Moore

Genre: Women's Fiction

Review: The second novel by the author of The Arrivals, follows 13-year-old Natalie, a victim of cyberbullying, who finds solace in the journal of a servant, Bridget, found in her basement. Her search for family takes her to the archives and Kathleen, a quiet librarian who is searching for her lost daughter and discovers a sense of purpose through helping Natalie.

This novel is what I would call a “too quiet novel.” Not much happens, and the story revolves around the conflict in the hearts of two people; while this isn't always bad, in this case I just didn't care enough about the characters.

Bottom Line: Skip it. I had trouble connecting to the characters and the plot didn’t propel me to keep reading.

Author Website

Song to Read By: "Titanium" by David Guetta and Sia