Harsh Cry of the Heron by Lian Hearn. This is the fourth installment of the Tales of the Otori. Hearn blends historical fiction and sword-and-sorcery fantasy with elements from Arthurian legend and Taoist philosophy; this is a beautiful and breathtaking saga. The martial artist can fly and become invisible. If you’ve read Tolkien, Eragon, or Harry Potter and want something more; this is your new series. Start with Across the Nightingale Floor, and don’t stop until you finish Harsh Cry of the Heron.
Lisey’s Story by Stephen King, Lisey’s Story is very dazzling novel that you’ll remember long after you’ve read King’s comments at the end, and closed the book. The beat of this book was Hank Williams, all the way. This is a personal and powerful novel of life, survival and marriage. It’s a story about creativity, madness and the languages of love.
Gimp by Mark Zupan - This memoir by the quad rugby standout rings out his defiance, his spunk, and his courage. It is a total portrait, he doesn’t hold back or sugarcoat. He’s a symbol of a “real man”; he takes full blame when it’s due. Mark is rude and crude throughout much of the book. But he's also brutally frank and honest. This is no-holds-barred, in your face, love-me-or hate-me biography at its best. GIMP is raw, and alive.
The Road – Cormac McCarthy. Ask any literary critic to name the greatest living American novelist, and Cormac McCarthy will surface as a major contender. He is most widely known for his Border Trilogy. The Road may be McCarthy's masterpiece. Unfolding in a terrifying future where Armageddon has been waged and lost, The Road traces the odyssey of a father and his young son through a desolate landscape of devastation and danger. Powerful, moving, and extraordinary by any standard, this is McCarthy at his greatest and gravest.
The Other Side of the Bridge - Mary Lawson. This is a dramatic novel about moral quandaries. It shifts between the lives of two families and two time periods. Lawson is a masterful storyteller, and is able to accomplish this smoothly. She clearly loves the terrain, rural Ontario, and the people who inhabit there. I haven't read Lawson's first novel Crow Lake, but I will soon.
Address Unknown, by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor - I discovered this gem while I was shelving fiction yesterday. I read it while I was eating lunch. It's a very small, 64 pages, powerful book. It's the best fiction indictment of Nazism I've ever read. Originally published in 1938, I hope it never goes out of print.
An American Summer By Frank Deford - An American Summer takes place in 1954, a very different time than we now live in. A time those of us of a certain age can remember fondly, if not well. It's a great summer read, but not a light story. Deford is a master story teller, who I haven't read before. The novel was written in 2002, but Deford stays true to the era he's writing about, a lone summer in Baltimore, where the main character, a 14 year-old boy, learns about honor, winning and love.
The Devil’s Feather by Minette Walters – This is an intense thriller. If The Devil’s Feather were a movie, I'd have been on the edge of my seat the entire time. I like reading novels with no wasted words. Walter's writing is tight, and this is a great read. It’s a mystery within a mystery, never boring.
Thunderstruck – Erik Larson. Larson's gift for rendering an historical era with vibrant tactility and filling it with surprising personalities makes Thunderstruck an irresistible tale. If all historians wrote this well, there would be no need for fiction writers. You’ll have a hard time putting this book down.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir - Bill Bryson. If you grew up in the ‘50’s, or if you want to know what it was like, this is the book for you. Bryson nails it. Read this some place where you won't embarrass yourself by laughing out loud.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne - This is a spare descriptive tale of Nazi Germany in 1940. The narrator is a nine-year-old boy. This is not a children's novel, it requires some knowledge of history. I think this will be an enduring novel, that will become a must read for high school. It's one you won't forget.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl Pessl is well read and well educated, and it shows in her stunning debut novel. The beginning of the novel was a bit draggy, but I preserved and I’m glad I did. She references many books, both fiction and non-fiction through out the book. She uses these references to make her book very visual. She also includes a few of her own drawings as visual aids. “Calamity Physics” is a murder mystery that I wasn’t able to solve until the very end, and that’s a sign of a well-written mystery.
The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood by Sy Montgomery The first sentence in this memior is - "Christopher Hogwood came home on my lap in a shoebox." Chris is a rescued runt pig that wasn’t expected to survive. Chris not only survives, he prospers. While you could compare The Good Good Pig to Marley and Me, there are major differences in the animals described. Christopher Hogwood is brilliant! If you love animals, you’ll love this great tale. I laughed and cried while reading it, good combination. Sy Montgomery is a naturalist and has written many science books about nature targeting children.
The Driftless Area by Tom Drury The Driftless Area of the U.S. covers part of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. This small book is filled with the small town eccentrics who populate that part of our country. The writing is tight and concise. This is a better description than I can write: “Deadpan wit, cosmic melancholy, characters both ethereal and down and dirty, predicaments a Beckett character would accept as inevitable, and a porous divide between the living and the dead add up to a delectably unnerving outlaw fairy tale.” Donna Seaman, ALA. I really enjoyed the book.
The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist. A betrothal broken without explanation. A suspenseful chase by carriage and train. A country house hosting inexplicable vice. An intrepid heroine seduced by danger... And that's only the beginning! Gordon Dahlquist's mammoth (760 page) debut novel reads like a 21st-century imagining of a Victorian thriller. Pulsing with terror, erotic energy, and exhilarating invention, this is a fantastic and compelling saga — part Wilkie Collins, part Jules Verne, part Sherlock Holmes, part Alexander Dumas. I modified the preceding from an email I received from BN.com. I and nine other booksellers had dinner last night with the author, on the Queen Mary. How cool was that. He got the idea for the book in a dream, and wrote a lot of it while commuting to his "day" job at Columbia Univ. It only took him a year to write This is his first book, but he's a playwrite. The book is very visual, and never boring. You must read every word, no skimming. A sequal is in the works!
Blind Your Ponies by Stanley Gordon West. When I was in high school, my Dad chauffeured my friends and I to every basketball and football game. Our team always won, our school was CIF champions in everything. Blind Your Ponies is not about that kind of school, it's an amazing story about small town basketball; the Broncos hadn’t won a game in over five years. It tells how basketball affected the players, their families, the town and the region. I love a book that not only makes me laugh out loud, but also brings tears to my eyes. You'll love the interesting, offbeat characters that inhabit Willow Springs, Montana.
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson This is a fun read, a very British mystery. It starts with an "incident", brutal road rage. Everyone involved, perpetrator, victim, bystanders and authorities are woven into the twisting, fun tale of a small town in Scotland. The release date is Oct. 11th.
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig "Can't cook but doesn't bite", what a great line! Its part of a newspaper ad from Rose, who is seeking a position. The time is the fall of 1909; the place is the Montana prairie. Thus begins a celebration of a vanished way of life and the offbeat characters that made up the sparsely populated landscape. After reading The Whistling Season, you might like to change the phrase, "As American as Apple Pie", to "As American as a One Room School House".
Echo Park by Michael Connelly. This is the 16th installment of Harry Bosch. Connelly writes the best police procedurals around, and this one did not disappoint. The crime is the discovery of an unknown serial killer, Raynard Fox. When Fox confessed to a murder that has haunted Bosch for 13 years, his professional integrity is rocked. Find out what happens when the book is released on 10/9/06. It's edge of your seat, all the way.
the ride of our lives by Mike Leonard. Since I barely watch TV, I had no idea who Mike Leonard was. He works for NBC, and contributes to the Today show. I was really impressed with this first book. It has the main aspects I love in a good memoir, humor, self-effacing honesty, wit and history. Mike takes his eccentric parents, 80'ish, and three of his grown children on a motorhome trip across America. Oh, the stories you'll love in this one.
The Attack by Yasmina Khadra, translated from French by John Cullen. The protagonist is Amin; a Muslim, an Israeli, a prominent well thought of surgeon. The attack is a suicide bomber in a restaurant. Amin's world is turned upside down when the authorities discover the bomber is his pampered beloved wife. Amin dives into the madness of the Palestinian terrorist, in order to prove the police wrong. This is a strong work, especially in light of today's world affairs. This is the first time I've understood the psychology of sucide bombers.
The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos. Set in DC, this is a murder mystery that felt as if I was listening to a favorite CD. Pelecanos writes with a beat. This is one of my favorite writers and this is his best; a perfect union of suspense, character, and unstoppable fate.
A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas. This small memoir would be a great Christmas gift. Thomas generously tells us about her "reconfigured" life after an accident leaves her husband with massive head injuries. Their lives change, not better, not worse, just change. Very well written.
Augusta Locke by William Haywood Henderson. This is a fictional chronicle of six generations of a western family. The west is always one of my favorite subjects. Gussie is a rare woman, both strong and tender. She is a character you will never forget. This raw and haunting tale is my pick for best book for the first half of 2006.
Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen. I love a good mystery and this first time author didn't let me down. An FBI agent has lost everything to a madman; this tale tells how she turns the tables, gets the bad guy and tries to re-assemble her life.
The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson. This is a debut novel, a well-researched thriller. Wells is the spy no one trusts; not the CIA who had him become al Qaeda, not al Qaeda, because he's American. He’s undercover for 10 years, much of that time with no contact with his handlers or any other Americans. I could barely put it down.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I was shelving books in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section and came across this book. It looked interesting, so I bought it. It was a great read. Gaiman wrote so visually I could see the story unfold. I loved the monsters, saints, murderers and angels that populated this fantastic story.
The Hard Way by Lee Child. This is the 10th in the Child's thriller franchise "Jack Reacher". I love Reacher and The Hard Way is the best. Reacher is ex-military and he lives off the books; no phone, no address, carries his toothbrush in his pocket, no suitcase, and buys clothes, as he needs them. If you haven't read any of these exciting books, start with the Killing Floor. They don't have to be read in order, but when you're reading a series, knowing the back-story adds to your enjoyment of the current novel.
A Girl Could Stand Up by Leslie Marshal. The best way I can describe this wise and charming book is: Harper Lee meets Augustine Burroughs. That should give you advance notice of the wonderfulness of Marshal's wild inventiveness.
Strong West Wind by Gail Caldwell. This is a wonderful, moving memoir by a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper columnist. It started out a bit disjointed for my taste. At one point I thought I’d quit the book altogether. I’m glad I persevered. Caldwell skillfully tied all the loose ends together in this moving tribute to her parents. Her time of coming of age was during the Vietnam era and all the turmoil that offered.
Marley and Me by John Grogan. This book has been on the Non-Fiction, Bestsellers list for months now. I thought I'd better read it to see what the hoopla was all about. Marley is a very special dog. He's huge, rambunctious and low-IQ, the formula for disaster. Those of you that know my family have heard of Zeus, my daughter Sharon's pit bull. Marley and Zeus are of the same mold. Grogan is a newspaper columnist; his writing is supurb. The trials and tribulations of Marley and his family, will have you in stitches and in tears. A wonderful read.
The Good Life by Jay McInerney, is the only post 9/11 novel I've read that I'd be happy to hand-sell. It's a wonderful, well-written, powerful and poignant read. Most of the others I’ve read are extremely hedonistic, and unfocused. Perhaps this novel is much better because McInerney took his time dealing with the aftermath of the attack, before writing this. The image of Luke walking out of the aftermath, on the 12th, will stay with me for a long time. When I started the book, I couldn’t relate to any of the characters, who are privileged New Yorkers, but I persevered because of the good writing. Eventually, as the story unfolded, I related to most of them. I particularly loved the tenderness of the “love scenes”. I haven’t read McInerney before, but I’m going to be reading his backlist.
The Brief History of the Dead, by Kevin Brockmeier. From the back of the book - 'Remember me when I'm gone' just took on a whole new meaning. Brockmeier wrote this book after reading a one sentence discription of an African fable; he creates a new place to go when our hearts stop beating. People who are still remembered by some one on Earth, populate "The City". As long as they're remembered they stay in the City, at the same age. Could be decades. I could hardly put this book down. I know you'll love it.
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, by Ayelet Waldman. This is the first time I've read Waldman. Her other books are part of a "mommy-track" series that is off my radar. I loved this book. The central character, Emilia, is full of mystical thinking that often gets in the way of real life. This is another book that I had a hard time putting down. On the days I work I get up at 4AM. Last night I stayed up until 11PM to finish this page-turner.
Whale Season, by M.N. Kelby. Sometimes I read a book, and all the characters are familiar, and that's comforting, especially if the plot is tense and/or twisted. Well, in Whale Season, none of these guys are familiar or comforting, and the plot is very twisted. I love this book. It just twists and twists away. It's a great book, especially to those readers who say they've read all of Chris Moore, or all of Carl Hiaasen, and now they need someone new, but like Moore and/or Hiaasen.
Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos. This is story about love. It's a great first novel from a previously published poet. This is a magically woven tale, told in two voices, of two women, one an adult, one an eleven year old, and how they find their lives drastically changed when they meet. To use a baseball metaphor, they both step up to the plate. It is not Chick Lit.
What are you reading?