Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Reading: First Half of 2016

I just realized if I blog this week or next, I can say that I'm still posting at least once a month! Woohoo! Anyway, it's that time of year again, and for once I'm going to be on time, or even early, and not two months late like last time! http://cherrycoast.blogspot.it/2016/02/reading-more-or-less-2nd-half-of-2015.html

This year I've had so much traveling back and forth that it's also given me more time to read for fun again. I've been mostly reading YA stuff, and I've discovered some fun authors.

1. The "His Fair Assassin Trilogy", by Robin LaFevers. I'm on the waitlist for the last book, and the person in front of me is supposed to turn it in by tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get to wrap up this trio soon. I raced through the first two and quite enjoyed them. They're loosely based on historical events surrounding Anne of Brittany in the late 1400s, with some added bonus magic and lady killers thrown in. Not ladykillers, but ladies who are killers. Wait, whaaat? I just learned there might be a fourth book in the works! Sign me up!

2. The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner. Boastful - and heretofore successful - thief Gen gets snagged by a powerful king and his henchmen and is forced to go on a mission of utmost political significance. Like that tagline? I made it up myself. The pacing was a bit slow, but even so, I couldn't put it down. I know there are other books in this series and they've now been added to my list, too.

3. Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder. What captured my interest in this book was the basic premise of a murderer being released from prison to become the king's food taster in accordance with local law, after the previous food taster died of, you guessed it, poison. Ooh, I do love a good intrigue! (Bonus points to you if you caught my movie reference.)

4. Janet Lee Carey's Wilde Island Chronicles. Here there be dragons! Mythology meets fantasy as this blessed (or cursed) family estranged from their Pendragon bloodlines in England seeks to rule over the isolated Wilde Island and all of its many inhabitants. This series is filled with witch hunts, rulers with long-held grudges, fairies with slow-burning political ambitions and, of course, dragons.

5. Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel, by J. Ryan Stradal. Food, family, friends - bildungsroman! I've been waiting forever to use that word in an actual sentence. Probably better to type it than try to pronounce it, though. This is a coming-of-age story woven around the flavors and people of the American Midwest, and I'm so happy Amy made the recommendation.

6. A Pocket Full of Murder, by R. J. Anderson. Magic, murdery, and mystery! Boy, I'm getting good at this alliteration thing. A young girl's father is sent to prison for insurgence and murder, and she pairs with a wise-cracking street urchin to help keep her family solvent - and to solve the crime. 

7. Laurie Halse Anderson. I read four of her books in a row: The Impossible Knife of Memory, Prom, Catalyst, and Speak. The only one I didn't cry and ugly cry while reading was Prom, which was surprisingly upbeat considering the other three. In The Impossible Knife of Memory, a girl and her veteran father try to settle down after their long-haul trucking days come to an end due to the dad's struggle with PTSD. Catalyst is about a teenage girl trying to escape home by getting into a great college (!) when she comes face-to-face with her neighbors' great tragedy. Speak is about bullying, rape, and using art and friendship to win the daily battles a person faces after undergoing that kind of trauma. I think I added these to my list after reading Wintergirls last year, and this is an author I'll keep an eye out for in the future.

8. The Uncommon Reader: A Novella, by Alan Bennett. What happens when the Queen of England discovers a love of reading late in her life? An imaginative and fun little read - if you like the British sensibility, which I do.

9. Life from Scratch, by Melissa Ford. Divorced New Yorker teaches herself to cook - and blogs about it. Like Julie & Julia, but more real.

10. The Peach Keeper: A Novel, by Sarah Addison Allen. I picked up this book because I loved the author's name. Just kidding, I forget how I found it. Not my favorite, but superstition, social class warfare, and small town secrets all play a big part in this book. I did love the throwback Southern vibes and mystery aspects, but some of the petty sniping between key players just made me tired.

11. Bloodroot, by Amy Greene. This is a multi-generational story about an Appalachian family touched by healing powers, madness, and a longing for various kinds of freedom. Here's the tagline from Amazon: "Named for a flower whose blood-red sap possesses the power both to heal and poison, Bloodroot is a stunning fiction debut about the legacies - of magic and madness, faith and secrets, passion and loss - that haunt one family across the generations, from the Great Depression to today." This was just as sad and moving and depressing as The Peach Keeper, but had a certain juxtaposition of grit and grace that kept me interested in the family in more than a superficial way.

12. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: A Novel, by Mark Haddon. A story of an autistic boy investigating a neighborhood mystery, and discovering some big truths.This one had been on my list for a while, and it was worth the wait. The author did a fantastic job unfolding the story so the reader knew more than the protagonist, and my heart just ached waiting for that lightbulb moment I knew was coming. 

13. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green. Two boys named Will Grayson accidentally meet. Another good story by the indomitable John Green. I accidentally checked this book out in Spanish the first time, and was so sad that it was beyond my scope. One cannot read stories of teen angst in anything other than the mother tongue, I'm convinced. 

14. Find Me: A Novel, by Laura van den Berg. Meh, this one was pretty forgettable for me, but if you like dark post-apocalyptic/disease sagas, this one might be for you. An addict has an inexplicable immunity to the plague that is running rampant across North America, and she goes to a hospital to participate in an important study before breaking free to find her long-lost mother.

15. Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, by Harper Lee. Despite the brouhaha surrounding this novel, I couldn't stay away. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorites, and I just had to dig in and find out a little more about Scout and the world in which she grew up. While it wasn't as good as the first book (could anything be?) I'm not sorry I succumbed to my curiosity. 

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