The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick

I basically wanted to quit life for two days so I could do nothing other than read The Reason You’re Alive  by Matthew Quick. Apparently Quick wrote this gem in part as an homage to his late uncle, a Vietnam veteran who may have inspired elements of this novel’s “anti-hero”, David Granger.  The novel takes off right from the beginning, and amazingly, Quick sustains the momentum through to the end. I mean, check out this for an opening sentence: “They were giving me the mushroom treatment: keeping me in the dark and feeding me bullshit”. That just has to rank up there with the best opening lines of all time, right? I mean, talk about coming outta’ the box swingin’.

David Granger, main protagonist and narrator of the story is not supposed to be likeable, let alone loveable. But he is just that. After waking up in a hospital after brain-surgery, David rants about the evasive “Clayton Fire Bear” and how doctors are all corrupt scumbags who are either “pill pushers, needle pokers, or people cutters”. He’s right, though, isn’t he? I mean, who hasn’t had a negative experience with a doctor? But of course, he is wrong, too; and for every thieving people-cutter out there you will find a warm, compassionate civil servant who wants to take care of sick people. The truth may lie somewhere in between.

Throughout the course of this book, you’ll be amazed at the things that David says: and believe you me, he has something to say about everyone. And you’ll find that he’s right: why else would you be laughing SO HARD?  But he’s also wrong because, let’s be honest, it’s easy to stereotype and generalize entire groups of people without a second thought. And that’s where things get tricky, which is to say, human. David reserves a certain disdain for his son, Hank, his “mostly ignorant”, “ball-less”, cry-baby liberal son who wouldn’t cut it for a second in the jungles of Vietnam. And just wait until you meet Femke, Hank’s philandering wife, and their sweet daughter, Ella, who David notes is in the unfortunate position of having two complete morons for parents. All of the characters who fade in and out of David’s life are intriguing and memorable and will teach you something new about life.

This book beautifully reminds us that we see other people through the lens of our own experience. I think you’ll find, by the end of the book, when tears unexpectedly start welling in your eyes, that David strived to shield his family from suffering and pain, even at his own expense whenever possible (even when he was essentially shielding them from himself).This book is about loving and understanding your family and your friends on their own terms. This book is about war, madness, art, family, grace, and ultimately redemption. I dare you not to cry when you discover the rich meaning behind the title of the book, how David wrote it for his late wife, Jessica, and their son, Hank, the two most beloved people in his life. And then I dare you not to cry when it dawns on you that David was shielding you, too, as he had his family, from the heartache of having to let him go after finding out he was  good as gold all along.

 

 

 

New Mystery Fiction for August: Long-Running Series

Are you a faithful fan of PI Kinsey Millhone, Sheriff Dan Rhodes, Judge Deborah Knott or reporter Lucy Stone? August brings the latest installments of these four long-running mystery series, each set in a different region of the United States and each now including twenty or more novels.

Curious about the enduring appeal of these series? Start a “mystery” investigation of your own! Find the first book in each series by clicking on the title in the description below.

X GraftonStarting with “A” (A is for Alibi, 1982) and now up to the letter “X,” Sue Grafton’s much-loved “alphabet” mysteries follow the confident, smart-mouthed private eye Kinsey Millhone as she investigates crimes in and around the fictional town of Santa Teresa, California. In X is For…, a professional assignment and a personal favor set the gears of an intricate plot in motion, entangling Kinsey in the lives of fascinating new characters and placing her in the path of a devious serial killer.

crider livingWe first met Sheriff Dan Rhodes of Clearview, Texas back in 1986 in Bill Crider’s Too Late to Die. The 22nd novel in the series, Between the Living and the Dead, matches the the lonely laconic lawman against the local meth trade, his colorful rural neighbors, some runaway animals, and…the paranormal.

 

 

 

long upon maronMargaret Maron’s 20th Deborah Knott mystery adds yet more intricacy and brilliance to her masterly depiction of small-town North Carolina life. The district court judge first introduced in 1992’s The Bootlegger’s Daughter has by now traveled extensively throughout the state, solving crimes in varying locations with her special access to legal information. With each new novel, Maron further explores the relationships between the members of the Knott clan. In Long Upon the Land, the discovery of a dead body on the family farm revives a longstanding feud between the Knotts and the Earps; Deborah’s father and eleven brothers fall suspect and her sheriff’s deputy husband is accused of favoritism in his handling of the case. Meanwhile, Deborah uncovers some surprising — and possibly relevant to the murder investigation — details about her mother’s life as her parents’ courtship began.

 

candy cornTraveling from California to Texas and North Carolina, we now land in Tinker’s Cove, Maine, the setting for Leslie Meier’s cozy Lucy Stone mysteries. Our newspaper-reporter heroine can’t help but stumble upon murders connected in some way with holiday celebrations. Halloween is the subject of the 22nd novel as Christmas was for the first: Mistletoe Murder (1991). A wayward entry in the Pumpkin Fest’s Pumpkin Catapult Contest crashes open a car trunk to reveal the body of a family friend. And so Lucy’s amateur sleuthing skills are once again put to the test in Candy Corn Murder.

Upcoming Books – December

Here are some of the new releases from popular authors that are coming out in December. Reserve your favorites today!

 

 

 

Tom Clancy – Threat Vector

Joy Fielding – Shadow Creek

Aaron Elkins – Dying on the Vine

Earlene Fowler – The Road to Cardinal Valley

W.E.B. Griffin – Empire and Honor

 

 

 

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles – Blood Never Dies

Greg Iles – The Bone Tree

James Patterson – Private London

Douglas Preston – Two Graves

Karen Robards – Shiver

Barbara Vine – The Child’s Child

For more new titles, be sure to check out Upcoming Releases on the Davenport Public Library webpage!

Upcoming Books – November

Here are some of the new releases from popular authors that are coming out in November. Reserve your favorites today!

 

 

 

David Baldacci – The Forgotten

Rita Mae Brown – Fox Tracks

Max Allen Collins – Target Lancer

Michael Connelly – The Black Box

Clive Cussler – Poseidon’s Arrow

Janet Evanovich – Notorious Nineteen

Vince Flynn – The Last Man

 

 

 

Barbara Kingsolver – Flight Behavior

Margaret Maron – The Buzzard Table

Peter Mayle – The Marseille Caper

Colleen McCullough – The Prodigal Son

Ian McEwan – Sweet Tooth

James Paterson – Merry Christmas, Alex Cross

F. Paul Wilson – Cold City

For more new titles, be sure to check out Upcoming Releases on the Davenport Public Library webpage!

Amazing Audiobooks Part Four: Fab Fiction

For this installment of Amazing Audiobooks, I have a jumble of fun, funny, exciting, just-plain-great fiction that didn’t fit with the previous three categories. But you have my word: all these are winners!

  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. You’ll laugh out loud at this one, in which the Apocalypse goes all wrong when an angel and a demon accidentally swap out the Antichrist for a normal human boy.
  • The charming Flavia de Luce Mysteries by C. Alan Bradley, beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  • Calico Joe by John Grisham
  • 11th Hour, the latest from James Patterson (or if you’re new to the Women’s Murder Club series, start at the beginning with 1st to Die)
  • …In Death series by J.D. Robb: a futuristic police procedural – particularly recommended for those who like listening to sexy, seductive, lilting Irish accents.
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, a novel about a college baseball phenom (I reviewed the novel in June)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: A deeply sad but very sweet and rewarding novel; tells the story of a girl who learns about death and love while helping her parents hide a Jewish man from the Nazis in a small German town. Appropriate for teens and older kids as well as adults.
  • Stephen King’s latest hit, 11/22/63, about JFK’s assassination and time travel.
  • The Night Circus, a lovely atmospheric love story brought to life by Jim Dale. Lexie reviewed this on the blog back in October. There’s a movie version in development scheduled for a 2013 release, so get in on the ground floor of opinionated ‘book-was-better’ arguments by reading the book first!
  • Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella: listen to Lara, a twenty-something Brit, spar with the ghost of her great-aunt Sadie, whose 23-year-old form has come straight out of 1927 to beg the living girl to track down her missing necklace. It’s a hoot!

Hit the Road

Authors and publishers aren’t fools.  It was a cold and calculated move.  When those drafts were turned in over half a year ago – long before they warmed up the presses – they knew what you were going to do once you put away the winter wardrobe.  Folks are starting to think about getting the heck out of dodge, and along with gas prices is a rising need to clutch a bestseller…in a hammock, passenger seat, or an audiobook blasting out of your center console.

That was kind of a roundabout way of pointing out it probably wasn’t a coincidence that several heavy hitters are dropping in June.  Reserve them now.

Eric Van Lustbader — Bourne Objective

James Patterson — Private

Janet Evanovich — Sizzling Sixteen

Laurell K. Hamilton — Bullet

Dean Koontz — Frankenstein: Lost Souls

“We Read it So You Don’t Have To” *

Are you on your way to a dinner party where you know people will be dropping the names of hot new authors? And you barely have time to skim the newspaper, let alone devour big, fat sagas the way you used to do?

Well, look no further than www.earlyword.com. It’ll give you quick reviews of popular and notorious books, movies based on books, books featured on Oprah, Comedy Central, etc.  It even forecasts “Major Titles on Sale in the Coming Week,” (no one can blame you for not reading what hasn’t even hit the shelves yet!)

A favorite of librarians, Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust reviews are featured prominently.

In the Book Group link, you’ll find information about authors available for book group discussions by phone.

Can’t remember the book everyone is suddenly talking about? You can quickly check the New York Times Bestsller lists.

*Motto of Newsweek’s book reviewer. “You love reading newsy nonfiction, but you just don’t have the time. We get it, and we’re here to help. Give us five minutes, and we’ll give you the whole book—the big ideas, the best bits, the buzziest details. And you’ll get hours of your life back…”

Think warm thoughts

It throws one for a bit of a loop to write down dates like 2010 without seeing George Jetson puttering around in his airborne aquarium.

Similarly, assembling a list of fiction titles that hits shelves long after the subzero temps have left creates a warm feeling, albeit brief.  There will be a baseball game or two on the television, and, heck, I might finally be writing the correct date on my checks.  What’s crazy is you can place those holds now.

The possibilities of short-term time travel might not be that awe-inspiring, but given the bleakness of being Iowan right now, grade me on the curve.

Jodi Picoult — House Rules
Rita Mae Brown — Cat of the Century
Alexander McCall Smith — Double Comfort Safari Club
James Patterson — Worst Case
Tim LaHaye — Matthew’s Story