Wednesday, July 2, 2014

April & May Books I Loved

A YA historical inspired by Romeo and Juliet, the titular Prince is Benvolio who finds himself in deep when his cousin falls for the wrong girl and Benvolio himself meets Rosalind. A wonderful, in-depth world with a touch of paranormal and the ability to make you weep for almost every single character. Highly recommended.

I REMEMBER YOU/Yrsa Sigurdordottir
I'm a sucker for haunted house stories, and this Icelandic one is a gem. In an isolated village (naturally) three friends set to work renovating a house. With little experience and not enough preparation, things soon go badly. And that's before the haunting begins . . . Meanwhile, across the fjord, a doctor discovers a recently-deceased woman was obsessed with his own missing son. The two strands eventually come together for a chillingly good story.

SO MUCH FOR THAT/Lionel Shriver
Shriver is not an easy writer. For the first three-quarters of this book, I was convinced I hated it. And yet, I kept reading. And the last quarter fully rewarded me. Shep Knacker has finally accumulated the money needed for his lifelong dream of retiring to a small and simple life. But then his wife is diagnosed with cancer. As she deteriorates and their money vanishes into health care, Shep's friend, Jackson, is spiraling into his own circle of debt and depression trying to keep his severely-disabled daughter alive. Shriver is always provocative and in-your-face, but the elegy of Glynis dying at the end was so beautiful and poignant that I suppose I'll never be able to decide if I loved or hated this book.

THE BRONTES/Juliet Barker
A biography of the most famous siblings of the 19th century, Barker goes in-depth to not only each child's talents, but how their relationships in and outside their family shaped and twisted them. The outlines of the tale are familiar--Charlotte the only survivor of six children (losing Branwell, Emily, and Anne within less than a year), marrying in her late thirties, and dying likely as a consequence of a complicated pregnancy. If you're a fan, this is a great biography, especially in adding depth to the sometimes-villain of the classic tale, their father, Patrick.

ALIAS GRACE/Margaret Atwood
A re-read for me of one my favorite Atwood novels. Fifteen years after Grace Marks was convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper, Simon Jordan has come to study the famous prisoner in order to jump start his medical career in what will become the field of psychology. The two of them often seem to be at cross-purposes, but eventually Grace tells her story. The twist to this novel is that Grace Marks was a real woman, 16 years old when she was convicted and spent almost thirty years in prison before having her sentence commuted and vanishing from the record. Atwood weaves an  entirely plausible and moving story that, even in the end, leaves the reader undecided about the depth of Grace's involvement in the murders.

The first title is a novella featuring Walt Longmire, featuring a wild winter-rescue in an ancient plane and an injured girl whose life depends on them. Like everything Johnson writes, almost elegaic in its beauty and emotion. ANY OTHER NAME is the newest novel in the Longmire series, in which Walt is asked by old friend Lucian to investigate the suicide of a neighboring county's detective. Walt is soon mired in the cold cases of three missing women that the detective was investigating and someone wants him off the trail. Add in the time pressure of his first grandchild about to be born in Philadelphia, not to mention Wyoming blizzards, and Walt has his hands full. Always a winner.

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Jonson's novel of North Korea deserves every accolade it's won. Pak Jun Do is raised an orphan and then plucked into digging tunnels. Having survived that, he is selected to become a professional kidnapper, and then to sail with North Korean fishing boats as an intelligence officer. In love from afar with a legendary actress, Jun Do eventually takes on the most dangerous role of all trying to preserve beauty and love from a regime that wants only to crush everything. Absolutely recommended.

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