It’s so lovely when a novel can turn a well-worn trope into a fresh, lively story. Just as she did with time travel in The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger turns cliches into something more in Her Fearful Symmetry. The story follows 21 year old twins Julia and Valentina, who inherit their aunt Elspeth’s London flat and fortune on the condition that they live in the dwelling, without their parents or any other chaperone, for one year. The catch: Elspeth, mute and invisible, has clung to her flat and haunts it – and she’s getting stronger every day. Don’t groan! It sounds horribly cliched – identical twins; an inheritance contingent upon ridiculous demands; London; ghosts – but it’s so much more than it seems. Elspeth is the estranged twin sister of Julia and Valentina’s mother, Edie; the elder sisters have a history of secrets that Niffenegger unravels throughout the tale. Even more impressive is the host of delightful secondary characters: Martin, an obsessive-compulsive neighbor who writes crossword puzzles for a living, and his estranged wife Marijke (pronounced Mah-RYE-Kuh); Robert, a cemetery historian and Elspeth’s former lover; even the white kitten the twins adopt has personality and verve. They call him “The Little Kitten of Death.”
It’s a beautiful, unusual tale that unfolds slowly and doesn’t pander to the reader. Both of Niffenegger’s novels tell the stories of ordinary, although perhaps quite unusual, people who must find a way to navigate a frightening, supernatural situation. She tells the tale at the pace she wants, rather than dropping in action sequences and extra dialog where they don’t belong. If you liked the style of The Time Traveler’s Wife, you’ll be pulled in by this ghostly, ethereal tale. I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was excellent in that format; a perfect companion for rainy springtime commutes!
Long Gone, the new thriller from Alafair Burke, is a suspenseful roller coaster of a novel where everything appears one way but, in reality, is completely the opposite. Recently fired from her job at a prestigious art museum in New York, Alice Humphrey is thrilled to be approached by a complete stranger, Drew Campbell, during an art gallery opening. Drew offers her a fabulous proposition – a dream job of managing an up-and-coming art gallery funded by an anonymous, wealthy patron. After a few initial doubts, Alice accepts the offer and begins to make her mark on the art world.
After the initial flurry of a successful opening, Alice begins to enjoy her new career until one morning a few weeks later. She opens the gallery and discovers the space is completely empty and the body of Drew Campbell is on the gallery floor. Quickly, the evidence begins to mount against her and the police believe that she killed the man who she thought to be Drew Campbell, but has been identified as someone else. Knowing that she has been set up, Alice desperately sets out on a quest to clear her name and find out the truth. While searching for answers along the way, Alice discovers even more hidden secrets involving her own family’s past.
Long Gone is a page-turning mystery with an intense and intricately woven storyline. Highly recommended!
guest review by Georgann
Seizure is the second in Kathy Reichs new YA series, Virals. The background from book one, Virals: a group of four teens and their wolf-dog are contaminated with a man-made virus. It gives them special wolf-like powers. They don’t turn into werewolves; rather, they get super-enhanced senses.
I liked Virals, but Seizure is even better! Our heroes are a group of ordinary teens, verging on “nerdy” but OK with their lowly status on the high school totem pole. These are great characters. In this novel, the group tracks down a long-lost pirate treasure in an effort to save the island on which they live. You just gotta love these kids! Although they are forever off doing things their parents continually ground them for, they just keep after their goal.
I enjoyed letting my imagination soar with the kids as they get into and out of one scrape after another. They are an entertaining group to spend time with! I chuckled out loud more than once. But I also enjoyed the suspense. they get into some dangerous situations, ala Indiana Jones, and I had to keep reading. Will they get through this? Will they get caught? How will this situation turn out? Will they find the treasure and save their home?
I had a day off and read this book in one sitting! It was that fun! Now, if I can only remember what all happened by the time book 3 comes out. Look for Code in 2012.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has become one of the most buzzed-about books of the year, and with good reason. Set in the late 1800s, it is the story of a boy named Marco and a girl named Celia who are bound in a competition that they don’t truly understand, but they know that it will involve using the magical abilities that both show at a young age. They spend their young lives being trained by instructors whose methods differ greatly until the time comes for the challenge to begin. For this purpose, a venue is created: a stunning, mysterious black-and-white circus that travels constantly and only operates at night, called Les Cirque des Reves. It is like no other circus you have ever seen, complete with a fortune teller, an illusionist, acrobats, the most delicious food you can imagine, and tents filled with landscapes that will take your breath away. The two spend years using their abilities to make alterations to the circus, constantly one-upping each other as they grow more and more aware that the consequences could be dire. Especially once they realize their true feelings for one another.
The story is told through multiple points of view all while bouncing around in time to different points in the lifespan of the circus. Initially this can make it a little hard to follow exactly when and where everything is happening, but once you catch onto the flow of it, this makes the story more complete and layered. The focus of the story isn’t just on Celia and Marco, but on all the supporting circus folk as well. In fact, the part of the story I found most compelling was the story of Bailey, a boy who becomes enthralled with the circus at a young age and waits for years for it to come back. Eventually he befriends two of the circus performers and find his fate intertwined with that of the circus in a way he never expected. But my absolute favorite thing about the book is how beautifully it is written. The language is absolutely lovely and creates the most vivid and uniquely beautiful pictures in the reader’s head. I don’t even want to describe any of it to you because part of the fun of the book is discovering new parts of the circus as Celia and Marco make their alterations! Morgenstern creates a very sensory experience; you can see, hear, smell, and taste the circus as though it is going on all around you.
Making my expereince with The Night Circus even better, I listened to the audio version read by the amazing Jim Dale (narrator of the Harry Potter audio books). He really brings the characters to life, and his narration makes this already beautifully-written book even more magical. If you like magic, romance, and very vivid reading experiences, I highly recommend picking up this incredibly enchanting novel.
guest post by Georgeann
Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer may be in the J section, but I was completely taken with the characters and the writing! Theo is the 13-year-old son of two lawyers and nephew to another. He is enthralled with all things involoving the law, courthouses, lawyers and judges. He is on first-name basis with many of the employees at the courthouse in his city of 75,000. He even has his own “office” at his parents’ law firm.
Because of his knowledge and experience of all things having to do with the law, Theo is in demand with students at his school and even some adults who need advice. Well aware of his limits, he nevertheless willingly helps others with their run-ins with the legal system. Then suddenly, Theo finds himself in over his head in the middle of the biggest murder trial his community has ever known.
I loved this book! I loved the characters and their difficulties and solutions. I loved how the characters struggled with their dilemmas and I loved how they solved them. I appreciated how Grisham explained legal terminoloty and practices without ever talking down to his audience and I learned a lot! I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Theodore Boone: the Abduction! I highly recommend this series for all readers from 5th grade on up!
The bestselling author of Sarah’s Key, Tatina de Rosnay, has written another winner. A Secret Kept literally keeps the reader in suspense, wondering if the secret will ever be totally revealed.
Antoine takes his sister Melanie on a 40th birthday trip to Noirmoutier Island, a lovely place where they had spent several enjoyable summers as children. But something about the island also brings back troubling memories for Melanie. On the return trip home, just as Melanie is about to reveal her fears to Antoine, she loses control of the car. The book opens with Antoine waiting anxiously in a hospital waiting room, wondering if Melanie will even survive.
Antoine finds himself confronting not only his past, but his present family relationships as well. Unhappy since his divorce just a year ago, he has difficulty communicating with his children and he has always felt distanced from his father. He senses the secret revolves around his mother, and he wonders about her sudden death so many years ago.
I really enjoyed this book. The tension is kept sufficiently tight, and the character development, realistic. Plus, if you’re a francophile, you’ll appreciate some of the many French references! Incidentally, the author was recently named one of the top ten fiction writers in Europe.
Rango – Johnny Depp
Rango, a kooky pet chameleon, accidentally winds up in the gritty, gun-slinging town of Dirt, a lawless outpost populated by the desert’s most wily and whimsical creatures. Welcomed as the last hope the town has been waiting for, new Sheriff Rango is forced to play his new role to the hilt, until he starts to become the hero he once only pretended to be.
Arthur – Russell Brand, Helen Mirren
Lovable billionaire Arthur Bach has always relied on his limitless fortune and nanny Hobson to keep him out of trouble. Now he faces his biggest challenge. He must choose between an arranged marriage that will ensure his lavish lifestyle or an uncertain future with the one thing money can’t buy: Naomi, the only woman he has ever loved. With Naomi’s inspiration and some unconventional help from Hobson, Arthur will finally learn what it means to become a man
Limitless – Bradly Cooper, Robert De Niro
Eddie Morra, a burnt-out writer, discovers a top-secret pill that unlocks 100% of his brain’s capacity. He instantly acquires mind-bending talents and mesmerizing visions that bring him big money, beautiful women, and limitless success. But his dream life soon becomes a waking nightmare, as the drug’s brutal side effects take their toll and Eddie finds himself entangled with a cunning Wall Street power broker who wants everything Eddie has and more.
Source Code – Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan
When Captain Colter Stevens wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he’s part of an experimental government program that enables him to cross over into another man’s identity in the last eight minutes of his life. In order to identify the bomber of a Chicago commuter train, he must relive the incident over and over again, gathering clues to prevent an even deadlier second terrorist attack.
What’s with all the numbers lately? Recent releases by several popular authors all feature numbers in their titles, as evidenced here:
Connelly’s newest is actually the fourth in this series, which began with The Lincoln Lawyer. Movie-goes may have seen the recently released film (same title) with Matthew McConaghey playing the lead role of lawyer Mickey Haller. Haller’s reputation comes from managing his L.A. criminal defense practice out of his Lincoln Town Car.
Baldacci’s newest book stars characters Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, both former Secret Service agents who are now security consultants for hire. As in the other books in this series — the first being Split Second — there’s lots of dialogue and fast-paced action. The investigators seem to be constantly on the move, seldom sleeping or eating, yet still able to ward off professionally hired assailants with maximum efficiency.
Patterson’s 10th Anniversary is his tenth novel in the Women’s Murder Club series, which began with 1st to Die. If you haven’t read any of them, perhaps you caught some of the made-for-TV-movies featuring Angie Harmon in the lead role of Lindsay Boxer, a tough San Francisco detective who works alongside other professional women (an attorney, a coroner and a journalist) to solve high-profile murder cases. The books are quick, easy reads with short chapters.
All of the above make great choices for summer reading, so come check out some — by the numbers!
In Still Missing, the debut novel by Chevy Stevens, Realtor Annie O’Sullivan had only a few things on her mind the afternoon she finished her latest open house. She was late to meet her boyfriend, she was still reeling from a fight with her mother and she really wanted to sell a house. Annie was thrilled when a last minute, prospective buyer pulls up asking to see the house and introduced himself as David.
Hope for a house buyer turns to horror when, after climbing the home’s stairs, David forces a knife in Annie’s back. He coerces her into his van and into a nightmare of epic proportions. Before driving away from the house he drugs her and then takes her to a remote wilderness cabin intending on holding her captive for the rest of her life. Annie’s kidnapper, who she refers to as “The Freak” has a twisted scheme to make her the perfect submissive wife – or else. Eventually, Annie reaches her breaking point with her captor and the outcome is deadly.
Told in alternating chapters between past and present, Still Missing is a suspenseful journey that holds unbelievable twists and turns culminating at its shocking end. Chevy Stevens is definitely an author to watch – her second novel will be released this July.
Four close friends, Tracy, Olivia, Holly and Janis who met years earlier at St. Ursula’s High School, decide to reunite by taking a relaxing trip to the Caribbean in Jacquelyn Mitchard’s Still Summer. At the last minute Janis cancels due to the health of her husband, so Tracy invites her nineteen year old daughter, Cammie, in the hope to salvage their fragile relationship. After boarding a private yacht, complete with the two person crew of Lenny and Michel to navigate the waters, they set sail on their journey upon the Opus.
In the early days of their journey, Cammie develops a relationship with the young and handsome co-captain, Michel, much to the chagrin of her mother, Tracy. When Michel and Cammie set off for a secluded part of the beach, they are discovered and head back to Opus to suffer the consequences. When trying to dock with the boat a tragic accident ensues with both Lenny and Michel falling overboard and the women don’t know if they are dead or alive. Quickly the foursome realize they are alone on the boat – now without a working engine.
Soon thereafter, they are discovered by a trio of modern day pirates – with deadly results. Still Summer captures some of the turmoil between these women held over from their youth as well as the desperation of trying to survive on the open sea. I listened to the audiobook version of Still Summer, which made for a suspenseful and emotional journey of survival and what it means to live a fulfilling life.