Wednesday, December 18, 2013

October & November Books I Loved

I'm a huge fan of Carol Goodman (Juliet Dark is a pen name) and her gothic stand alone novels. As Dark, she leaps into a paranormal world, with Callie McFay discovering that the remote college she's been hired at is peopled by witches and fairies and other mythical creatures. Not to mention the incubus who is inhabiting Callie's dreams. The first book has a fairly high sensual element, but there's a good story in this trilogy that I enjoyed.

Every now and then I discover an old Bill Bryson book and give thanks. In this one, Bryson talks language--specifically, the development of the English language with its shameless borrowing and manipulation of other languages. Bryson always tells good stories, and this book is no exception.

A follow-up to King's 1920's novel TOUCHSTONE, this one also featuring former FBI agent Harris Stuyvesant. It is autumn 1929 and Harris has been hired to track down a missing American girl in Paris. The book is dripping with the atmosphere and details of Paris, and Harris finds himself immersed in the world of clubs, painters, writers, and the disturbingly visceral Grand-Guignol theatre. Although I will always claim Mary Russell as my first love among King's characters, I find the world of Harris Stuyvesant a rich one in which to escape.

FANGIRL/Rainbow Rowell
OH MY GOSH!!! Clearly Rainbow Rowell is my Favorite Author I Discovered This Year! I loved ELEANOR AND PARK, but I think I love FANGIRL a tiny bit more. Cather Avery and her twin sister are beginning their freshman year of college. Cath is on her own thanks to Wren's desire for autonomy, leaving the girl who loves writing fan fiction with an older roommate, two boys who may or may not be interested in more than her writing, not to mention worry about their bi-polar father living alone. Brilliant and beautiful and evocative of how it feels to be out in the world for the first time.

ISLAND OF BONES/Imogen Robertson
The third in the Gabriel Crowther/Harriet Westerman mysteries takes place in 1783 when the reclusive anatomist Crowther is summoned to his ancestral home when an extra body is found in an ancient tomb. Harriet is dealing with the recent death of her husband and Crowther is not happy about being forced back into old family wounds. I like the use of multiple POVs in this novel, including young Stephen Westerman who plays a fairly crucial role in events, and I am quite fond of the gentle but emotionally powerful feel of these books.

TEAM OF RIVALS/Doris Kearns Goodwin
The biography of Abraham Lincoln and the men--his political opponents--whom he welded into a powerful cabinet. Goodwin focuses on Lincoln's genius for understanding others, especially their motivations, and using that understanding to turn rivals into some of his finest allies. Highly recommended look at the humanity behind Lincoln's political gifts.

I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS BOOK!!!! The third in the Gentleman Bastards series finally introduces Sabetha, Locke Lamora's lost love. The novel opens with Locke pulled from the brink of death in exchange for running a political campaign. Unfortunately, the offer comes from the Bondsmagi, enemies with nearly unlimited power and no reason to love Locke. But Sabetha is running the opposition campaign and Locke can't resist seeing her again. As with the earlier books, the story weaves a significant past story into the present and by the end the world has exploded with new questions and doubts about Locke's origins. Fair warning for those who care: you need a high tolerance for cursing.

A small jewel of a book about friendship across borders. Alvarez and her husband own a coffee farm in the Dominican Republic and often hire Haitian workers who cross the border. One of their young workers, Piti, particularly captures their hearts and a promise made half in jest--to attend his wedding someday--becomes an odyssey of travel and hope and the power of witnessing. Having lived in Haiti for a year, this book was like a window into all my memories and love for the place and people.

JUST ONE EVIL ACT/Elizabeth George
In George's latest Inspector Lynley novel, Barbara Havers is in torment when her friend Azhar's daughter is missing. Haddiyah has been snatched away by her mother, and Azhar begs Barbara's help in tracking her down. They work with a private investigator, but the trail goes nowhere for months. Until Haddiyah's mother shows up in London screaming that Haddiyah has been taken from her in Italy and now no one knows where she is. A twisty, convoluted, heartbreaking novel in which I wanted multiple times to shake Barbara and alternately wanted to cheer on Lynley in his tentative pursuit of a new woman after his wife's death. Terrible and beautiful in equal measure.

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