“Fall” into Good Books 2013

Hi, I have been reading a lot and reviews are coming. In the meantime, check out my list of books to read this Fall!  Tracy’s 2 cents.

Fiction:

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

(A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.  Riveting and rich with lyricism, Burial Rites evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others? BookBrowse)

Cartwheel by Jenifer duBois

(Cartwheel is a suspenseful and haunting novel of an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, and a father trying to hold his family together. 
When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Her studious roommate Katy is a bit of a bore, but Lily didn’t come to Argentina to hang out with other Americans. 

Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes? It depends on who’s asking. As the case takes shape – revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA – Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her: the media, her family, the man who loves her and the man who seeks her conviction. With mordant wit and keen emotional insight, Cartwheel offers a prismatic investigation of the ways we decide what to see – and to believe – in one another and ourselves. BookBrowse)

The Circle by David Eggers

(When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge. Sounds like – Apple, Microsoft  or Google land….from Book Passage & Amazon)

Henry and Rachel by Laurel Saville

(Brought to live with the George family as a child, all anyone knew about enigmatic Rachel was that she worked hard, making herself indispensable to the plantation. And she remained a mystery until the day she disappeared…even to her husband. Especially to her husband. 

Henry was Rachel’s opposite – gregarious where she was quiet, fanciful where she was pragmatic. After years of marriage, Rachel left Henry and their oldest son without explanation and set off on a steamer for New York City with their other four children. Was her flight the ultimate act of betrayal or one of extraordinary courage? Eight characters connected by blood and circumstance reconstruct Rachel’s inexplicable vanishing act. 

Weaving real family letters into this narrative of her own great-grandparents, Laurel Saville creates a historical novel of incredible depth and beauty. BookBrowse)

How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

(In the tradition of Emma Donoghue’s Room and S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, a haunting literary debut about a woman who begins having visions that make her question everything she knows. 

Marta and Hector have been married for a long time. Through the good and bad; through raising a son and sending him off to life after university. So long, in fact, that Marta finds it difficult to remember her life before Hector. He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife – as advised by a dog-eared manual given to her by Hector’s aloof mother on their wedding day.

But now, something is changing. Small things seem off. A flash of movement in the corner of her eye, elapsed moments that she can’t recall. Visions of a blonde girl in the darkness that only Marta can see. Perhaps she is starting to remember – or perhaps her mind is playing tricks on her. As Marta’s visions persist and her reality grows more disjointed, it’s unclear if the danger lies in the world around her, or in Marta herself. The girl is growing more real every day, and she wants something. Amazon)

Longbourn by Jo Baker

(Jane Austen had written Longbourn, she might have begun with a variation of Pride and Prejudice‘s famous first sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gentlewoman in need of a husband is also in need of a good servant.” 
Longbourn is the childhood home of Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice‘s main character. The Bennets are not wealthy enough to afford full-time maids for the women of the house, so the house servants often have to do double duty. In Longbourn, we hear from Sarah, the young housemaid, who washes the clothes, assists in the kitchen, and sets Elizabeth’s curls if she’s in need of a lady’s maid. Sarah envies the five Bennet daughters their leisure time and marvels at their carelessness with shoes and clothes. She tires of the long hours of work, and dares to imagine a different life for herself. As if on cue, James, the new manservant, enters the picture with a dashing demeanor and a heart full of secrets. Sarah’s interest in him turns to frustration when she determines that he would rather keep to himself than confide in her. Meanwhile, Sarah also makes acquaintance with a Creole manservant named Tol Bingley who fascinates her with his ideas about his employers and plans to own a tobacco business. Mrs. Smith, the housekeeper at the Bennets, and a mother figure to Sarah, worries that the young woman will fall in love with Tol and leave Longbourn before she understands the value of working for a happy family in a safe, contented place.

Along this storyline, Baker recreates the world of the Bennets’ Longbourn in vivid detail, and it is from this perspective that the novel truly shines. Readers interested in knowing how people ate, slept, loved, and celebrated during Jane Austen’s time will find ample illustration here. Even if Sarah’s daily experience is preoccupied by the Bennets’ needs, her independent spirit urges her to conceive of a life beyond theirs. In this way, as she evolves from a naive child to a mature woman, the novel is fully hers. It is interesting to note that despite the class differences, Sarah’s story is similar to Elizabeth’s: love and marriage offer the only real change a woman can expect in her life.
 Amazon & BookBrowse)

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

(A single event can dramatically alter the emotional landscape of the people it affects. The Doppler wave that it creates radiates outward in endless patterns, colliding with new people and circumstances generations down the line, irrevocably shaping them in sometimes minute – but not insignificant – ways. This is the basis for Jhumpa Lahiri’s haunting and powerful The Lowland. 

Set mostly in Rhode Island and India -specifically in Kolkata, the story revolves around the Mitra brothers, Subhash and Udayan, born fifteen months apart. It is the late ’60s, a time of turmoil in their native state of West Bengal. The brothers come of age when the Naxalbari movement serves as a catalyst for the growth of communism in the region. Subhash, the older brother, is reliable, less likely to cause trouble. It is the more daring Udayan who is drawn into the movement with deeply affecting consequences. When an opportunity to pursue graduate studies in the United States presents itself, Subhash decides to leave – eventually doing research in marine science at the University of Rhode Island. Revealing much more wades into dangerous plot spoiler territory. It is sufficient to say that the tableau that unfolds crisscrosses the continents and generations in a beautiful and profoundly moving story. Amazon
)

Mother, Mother, by  Koren Zailckas

(Josephine Hurst has her family under control. With two beautiful daughters, a brilliantly intelligent son, a tech-guru of a husband and a historical landmark home, her life is picture perfect. She has everything she wants; all she has to do is keep it that way. But living in this matriarch’s determinedly cheerful, yet subtly controlling domain hasn’t been easy for her family, and when her oldest daughter, Rose, runs off with a mysterious boyfriend, Josephine tightens her grip, gradually turning her flawless home into a darker sort of prison.  Amazon)

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning

(Axie’s story begins on the streets of 1860s New York. The impoverished child of Irish immigrants, she grows up to become one of the wealthiest and most controversial women of her day. In vivid prose, Axie recounts how she is forcibly separated from her mother and siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, and how she and her husband parlay the sale of a few bottles of “Lunar Tablets for Female Complaint” into a thriving midwifery business. Flouting convention and defying the law in the name of women’s reproductive rights, Axie rises from grim tenement rooms to the splendor of a mansion on Fifth Avenue, amassing wealth while learning over and over never to trust a man who says “trust me.”When her services attract outraged headlines, Axie finds herself on a collision course with a crusading official—Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. It will take all of Axie’s cunning and power to outwit him in the fight to preserve her freedom and everything she holds dear.

Inspired by the true history of an infamous female physician who was once called “the Wickedest Woman in New York,” My Notorious Life is a mys­tery, a family saga, a love story, and an exquisitely detailed portrait of nineteenth-century America. Axie Muldoon’s inimitable voice brings the past alive, and her story haunts and enlightens the present. Book Browse)

Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips

(In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, mother of three, is lonely and despairing, pressed for money after the sudden death of her husband. She begins to receive seductive letters from a chivalrous, elegant man named Harry Powers, who promises to cherish and protect her, ultimately to marry her and to care for her and her children. Weeks later, all four Eichers are dead.

Emily Thornhill, one of the few women journalists in the Chicago press, becomes deeply invested in understanding what happened to this beautiful family, particularly to the youngest child, Annabel, an enchanting girl with a precocious imagination and sense of magic. Bold and intrepid, Emily allies herself with a banker who is wracked by guilt for not saving Asta. Emily goes to West Virginia to cover the murder trial and to investigate the story herself, accompanied by a charming and unconventional photographer who is equally drawn to the case.

Driven by secrets of their own, the heroic characters in this magnificent tale will stop at nothing to ensure that Powers is convicted. Mesmerizing and deeply moving, Quiet Dell is a tragedy, a love story, and a tour de force of obsession and imagination)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

(THE ART OF LOVE IS NEVER A SCIENCE so MEET DON TILLMAN, a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. And so, in the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She also is strangely beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. And while Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, as a DNA expert Don is particularly suited to help Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you. Arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, Graeme Simsion’s distinctive debut will resonate with anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of great challenges. The Rosie Project is a rare find: a book that restores our optimism in the power of human connection. Amazon)

The Scavenger Daughters by Kay Bratt

(Having survived torture and imprisonment during China’s Cultural Revolution, Benfu escaped to find love with his compassionate and beautiful Calla Lily. Together they build a fulfilling life around the most menial of jobs – Benfu’s work collecting trash.

As he sorts through the discards of others, he regularly discovers abandoned children. With unwavering determination, he and Calli spend decades creating a family of hand-picked daughters that help heal the sorrow and brighten their modest home. But all is not perfect and when crisis threatens to separate their family, Benfu – or possibly his band of headstrong daughters – must find a way to overcome the biggest hardship yet.  Book Browse summary)

The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

(A gritty, psychological thriller that asks the question: How well can you know anyone?

On a fateful summer morning in 1986, two eleven-year-old girls meet for the first time. By the end of the day, they will both be charged with murder. Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside vacation town when her investigation leads her to interview carnival cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it’s the first time they’ve seen each other since that dark day so many years ago. Now with new, vastly different lives—and unknowing families to protect—will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden? Amazon)

Non Fiction

Book Of Ages: The Life and Times of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore

(From one of our most accomplished and widely admired historians, a revelatory portrait of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister and a history of history itself. Like her brother, Jane Franklin was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator. Unlike him, she was a mother of twelve.

Benjamin Franklin, who wrote more letters to his sister than he wrote to anyone else, was the original American self-made man; his sister spent her life caring for her children. They left very different traces behind. Making use of an amazing cache of little-studied material, including documents, objects, and portraits only just discovered, Jill Lepore brings Jane Franklin to life in a way that illuminates not only this one woman but an entire world—a world usually lost to history. Lepore’s life of Jane Franklin, with its strikingly original vantage on her remarkable brother, is at once a wholly different account of the founding of the United States and one of the great untold stories of American history and letters: a life unknown. Amazon)

David & Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell  (Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David’s victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn’t have won. Or should he have?

In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks. Amazon)

I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban  by Malala Yousafzai

(When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons. Amazon)

Manson the Life and times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn

(Manson puts the killer in the context of his times, the turbulent late sixties, an era of race riots and street protests when authority in all its forms was under siege. Guinn shows us how Manson created and refined his message to fit the times, persuading confused young women (and a few men) that he had the solutions to their problems. At the same time he used them to pursue his long-standing musical ambitions, relocating to Los Angeles in search of a recording contract. His frustrated ambitions, combined with his bizarre race-war obsession, would have lethal consequences as he convinced his followers to commit heinous murders on successive nights. NPR, Amazon)

The Men who United the States by Simon Winchester

(Simon Winchester, the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of Atlantic and The Professor and the Madman, delivers his first book about America: a fascinating popular history that illuminates the men who toiled fearlessly to discover, connect, and bond the citizenry and geography of the U.S.A. from its beginnings.

How did America become “one nation, indivisible”? What unified a growing number of disparate states into the modern country we recognize today? To answer these questions, Winchester follows in the footsteps of America’s most essential explorers, thinkers, and innovators, such as Lewis and Clark and the leaders of the Great Surveys; the builders of the first transcontinental telegraph and the powerful civil engineer behind the Interstate Highway System. He treks vast swaths of territory, from Pittsburgh to Portland, Rochester to San Francisco, Seattle to Anchorage, introducing the fascinating people who played a pivotal role in creating today’s United States.Throughout, he ponders whether the historic work of uniting the States has succeeded, and to what degree. Featuring 32 illustrations throughout the text, The Men Who United the States is a fresh look at the way in which the most powerful nation on earth came together. Amazon)

One Doctor by Brendan Reilly

(An epic story told by a unique voice in American medicine, One Doctor describes life-changing experiences in the career of a distinguished physician. In riveting first-person prose, Dr. Brendan Reilly takes us to the front lines of medicine today. Whipsawed by daily crises and frustrations, Reilly must deal with several daunting challenges simultaneously: the extraordinary patients under his care on the teeming wards of a renowned teaching hospital; the life-threatening illnesses of both of his ninety-year-old parents; and the tragic memory of a cold case from long ago that haunts him still.

As Reilly’s patients and their families survive close calls, struggle with heartrending decisions, and confront the limits of medicine’s power to cure, One Doctor lays bare a fragmented, depersonalized, business-driven health-care system where real caring is hard to find. Every day, Reilly sees patients who fall through the cracks and suffer harm because they lack one doctor who knows them well and relentlessly advocates for their best interests. )

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

(You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within. Amazon)

Young Adult

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

(What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?
The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and InsurgentAmazon)

One comment on ““Fall” into Good Books 2013

  1. John Novick says:

    wow, you’ve been busy

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