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Category: Adult fiction
NOVEMBER 21, 2011
Just finished reading...
The Magician King by Lev Grossman. A writer and critic for Time magazine, Grossman has certainly got a way with language. This fantasy for adults has been compared to The Chronicals of Narnia and The Harry Potter Series, and it does deal with themes common to both. Quentin Coldwater, the main character of Grossman's previous novel, The Magicians, returns. He has become a King of Fillory, the imaginary land made real, when Quentin discovered that he had magical powers. But things are beginning to go wrong in Fillory, and needing a change of scene, Quentin sets out on a sea voyage which leads him not only back to Earth, but also to the End of the World. To me, this second installment seemed much more cohesive as a novel. It switches between Quentin's point of view and a flashback to the amazing journey of Julia, a friend from high school who was originally refused admittance to the magic school, Brakebills. Her struggle to find her way in the world of magic without much assistance is interesting and well-conceived. Quentin, however, remains the focus, and we can only hope that he will return for more adventures.
The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo. In this novel, Nesbo's Norwegian detective, Harry Hole, is crumbling under the stress of not being able to resolve the murder of his partner. A series of new murders, by what appears to be a serial killer, may be Harry's last case, as his drinking and absence from work may leave him with out a job. In spite of all his faults, however, Harry is still a character we want to succeed. Nesbo is a very effective writer, and his complex but fast moving plot makes you want to keep reading. Try this amazing series from one of the newest stars in the detective genre.
Embassytown by China Mieville. Humans on a strange planet in the far distant future have forged a sort of alliance with the indigenous population, called Ariekei. In order to communicate with the creatures, pairs of Ambassadors have to be matched and trained to speak the Ariekei's unusual language. As you may have guessed this is science fiction, but it is also a book which challenges the reader to look at speech, communication, and writing in new ways. Mieville has created a world that takes a few chapters to absorb, but once you're there, the story effectively carries you along, and you find yourself rooting for his compelling heroine Avice to save her planet from destruction. Want something different? This novel is definitely that.
Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. The sentimental title of this novel is rather deceptive, although Campbell has managed to create a sort of fairy tale world set along an imaginary tributary of the Kalamazoo River in southwestern Michigan. The novel's focus, a teenager named Margo Crane, has grown up with the river as her companion. She is more in touch with its moods than with any of the people around her. A series of family disturbances forces Margo to leave home and search for a new place to center herself. She is determined to live off the land, and as a crack shot with a rifle or a shotgun, that may just be possible. The voice of the narrator, as it speaks from Margo's viewpoint, is filled with the essence of the river and those who live along it. Some critics have compared Margo to Huck Finn, and there are some similarities, but make no mistake, this is a book about modern times, even though the characters sometimes seem as though they are in another world. Campbell has won several awards for her fiction, and I'm sure we'll be hearing more from her.
The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg. I picked this up in error as it is actually the second book in the series, but can easily be read on its own. Lackberg is another in the windfall of Scandinavian crime writers being translated into English these days. While not as cerebral a writer as Nesbo, as bleak as Mankell's Wallander, or as violent as Larsson's Millenium Series, Lackberg's prose is interesting and engaging to read. Her detective, Patrick Hedstrom, is a young policeman, about to become a father in this volume. When three bodies are found in a popular tourist area, Patrick is put in charge of the case, but he is plagued by a heatwave, a family feud, and a bunch of unwanted visitors at home. The translation of this novel seems a bit more straightforward and easier to read than some of the other writers in the genre. Try it, or choose the first in the series, The Ice Princess, also available at the library.
Thanks to a grant from the Schuylkill Area Community Foundation, the library will be expanding its audio book collection. A grant of award of $500 will be used to purchase 19 new audio books on CD with cases. These include favorites like Michael Connelly, James Patterson, and Debbie Macomber. Popular titles such as Twilight, The Kite Runner, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are also included. Audio books add a new dimension to the activity of reading, and a popular with commuters, those with impaired sight, and other who, like me, enjoy the opportunity to listen to a book while driving, walking, or even lying in bed. These new additions should all be ready for borrowing by the end of August.
Nemesis by Jo Nesbo. In this second Harry Hole novel, Harry is caught up in two cases-a bank robbery ending in murder, and the mysterious death of an old girlfriend. Unfortunately, Harry was probably the last person to see the woman alive! As he tries to reconcile his grief for his lost partner, a disturbing period of amnesia, and the pleasures and pains of a new relationship, Harry is once again forced to make his own rules to solve the crimes, much to the dismay of his superiors. These books are like potato chips-you can't read just one! Try them now before they get even more popular, and you'll have to be on the waiting list.
.........The Wood Beyond by Reginald Hill. I read this Dalziel and Pascoe series mystery while I was on vacation. I found it very fitting, as I was in Belgium and in this story Yorkshire policeman Peter Pascoe is taken back in time and place to that very country. After his grandmother's funeral, he finds himself left with the job of distributing her ashes as requested in the will. This task leads him to information about his great-grandfather, a soldier who served in Belgium during the first World War. Hill's mysteries are always complex, and he likes to blend the intricacies of the case with the everyday events in the lives of the detectives. An attack on a research company by a group of animal activists, soon connects with Pascoe's personal research into his family history, You can find this book in paperback at the library, and we also have several other selections in this long-standing detective series.
Tigerlily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell. In Rendell's latest psychological thriller, she examines a group of dwellers in a suburban neighborhood. Stuart Font has just inherited a bit of money, and he uses it to buy a flat. He invites his neighbors to a party- a trio of college girls who share a flat, a woman who is trying to drink herself to death, a middle-aged bachelor, and even the building's handyman. The party is soon interrupted, however , by a man with a cudgel, who breaks Stuart's arm and threatens further damage. As the tenants begin to learn more about each other, secrets are revealed which soon lead to more frightening events in the housing complex. Dark and sinister, like all of Rendell's work, this novel deals with a familiar theme-seemingly ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. You can find this and more of her work at the library.
Since the end of the Cold War, the spy novel has been struggling to evolve as a genre. While there are a few secret agents out there still flourishing-Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon is one I can think of-readers don't seem so interested in spying these days. I recently had the pleasure of rewatching the first parts of John LeCarre's masterful A Perfect Spy, dramatized back in 1987 by the BBC, and available on Netflix. I was reminded of the pure pleasure of reading the wonderful book from which it was adapted. LeCarre's creation, Magnus Pym, is indeed perfectly portrayed, along with his con-man father, Rick and the refugee friend whom he betrays, Axel. It may be getting old, but it is still worth a read, if you are missing those golden days of the British spy.
The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo. O'blah mentioned this new author in her post a few weeks ago, and I got a chance to read the first book in the series. Well, it isn't really, but it is the first that's been translated into English from the original Norwegian. Nesbo's detective, Harry Hole, can be compared to many other work-obsessed detectives with lonely, troubled personal lives like Connelly's Harry Bosch or Wingfield's Jack Frost, but the similarities don't make him any less appealing. Nesbo has been acclaimed as the next Stieg Larsson, author of the Millenium Series, but Nesbo is actually a much better writer. The plot of this book is very complex and will definitely keep you guessing, but it is the wonderful characters that capture your attention. The library has five of the Harry Hole series just waiting for you to try.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. What a thoughtful, delightful, inspiring book this is! And how meaningful to those of the baby-boomer generation. In 1960's Jackson, Mississippi, Eugenia Phelan, also known as Skeeter, has just returned from college. She is looking to make a place for herself in the world, preferably not under the thumb of her overbearing mother, Charlotte. But Skeeter's old friends, Hilly Holbrook and Elizabeth Leefolt are interested only in the Junior League, their ambitious husbands, and having children. Pursuing her interest in writing with a purpose, Skeeter seeks the help of two unlikely partners-Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson, two black maids who agree to tell Skeeter what it is really like to serve the privileged ladies of white Jackson society. This partnership results in real change for Skeeter, her friends, and for the black women who agree to tell their stories. The book is filled with references to the early Sixties and the news and cultural events that marked the decade-the Kennedy assassination, integration in Mississippi, Bob Dylan, and mini-skirts all make an appearance. I would venture to say that everyone who has read or listened to this book, whether staff or patron, has enjoyed and recommended it to others. We have both the book and the audiobook versions. The latter uses different voices for the main characters and is very well done. Read this soon-the film comes out in August, 2011!
If you still have a cassette player, you might be interested in a book on tape currently available in our rotating collection. P. D. James wrote her first mystery novel when she was forty. Until that time, she was employed in the British Civil Service. Too bad she didn't start to write sooner, for her work is excellent. Cover Her Face was the first of her acclaimed Inspector Dalgliesh series, and it is detective fiction of the classic kind. A cozy country house, a tightly knit family group, a brazen interloper-this novel has all the elements of a good English mystery. The character of the detective is not yet quite developed-we are just getting to know Dalgliesh, and his backstory is only partially revealed. Once you get a taste of P. D. James, you will most probably want more.
Angel's Flight by Michael Connelly. In my efforts to entice more people to try some of our audio books, I sampled one of America's most popular authors of police detective fiction to tell you about. Connelly's Detective Harry Bosch finds himself pulled from his regular Hollywood beat in order to investigate the murder of influential civil rights attorney, Howard Elias. Almost at once, Bosch realizes that something isn't quite right, and that he and his team are being put into the middle of a tense situation pitting police against mobs of angry citizens. Harry is an irresistible guy-tough, rough around the edges, but loyal to his friends and capable of great depth of feeling. He is surround by a wealth of interesting characters, and placed into a plot which keeps you guessing to the end. This particular novel is available in hardcover as well as on tape, but Dick Hill's reading on the audio version is superb. Other Bosch adventures, some on CD, are also in the library's collection.