Welcome again to my monthly book round-up! I wanted to first let you all know that I love your comments on these posts, and I do have a list of books started from your recommendations to me!
1. The Help, Kathryn Stockett (lib, ebook) - To be honest, I wanted to hate it. Anything that becomes as popular as this book probably has something wrong with it....goes my typical thinking. To my great surprise and delight, it was a lot more fun and a lot more thought provoking than I expected it to be.
2. Wicked Bugs, Amy Stewart (lib, ebook) - Talk about fun! Stewart was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air, and when I saw this pop up in my library's online selections I knew I had to read it. Deliciously creepy and frightening...don't read this nonfiction book if you have a serious bug phobia in any way.
3. Await Your Reply, Dan Chaon (lib, audio) - I believe this book was either a finalist or the actual Columbia One Read book last year. I've not been involved with the project (although this year they are reading the truly excellent Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), but I had picked the book up a few times to read the cover. Audio was a good compromise...but truth be told I almost gave up on it a few times. I'm glad I stuck with it to the end, though, because it did at long last deliver some true surprises.
4. Townie, Andre Dubus III (lib, audio) - A Books On the Nightstand memoir recommendation. I didn't finish it. I found after a while that my horror and sympathy at the type of hardscrabble life Dubus grew up with only went so far.
5. Bright's Passage, Josh Ritter (ebook) - Go buy it and read it immediately. Please. You will love it! Harry Bright comes home from WWI with an angel. That's all I'm saying. (And thank you very much BOTNS!)
6. Naamah's Blessing, Jacqueline Carey (print) - Carey's books are among my guilty pleasures. Adventure, romance, mysticism and magic...they kind of have it all. I love them so much so that I still buy them all in hardback. Excellent summer reading.
7. Color of Love, Gene Cheek (lib, audio) - This was a shattering memoir of a boy who grew up in the Jim Crowe south and who eventually had to make a heartbreaking decision. It's not available in print anymore, but it's worth it if you can track it down.
8. The Double Comfort Safari Club, Alexander McCall Smith (lib, ebook) - and after that, I needed some comfort reading. I love the #1 Ladies Detective Agency books.
9. Robinson Crusoe, Daneil Defoe (lib, audio) - I've just about exhausted all of the downloadable classics available through my library, but this was one I had never read. (And it turned out to be one of my favorite male readers for Blackstone Audio.) I don't know if laughter is the appropriate response....I kept imagining our poor hero banging his head on a rock saying, 'stupid, stupid, stupid.....'
10. A Thread of Grace, Mary Doria Russell (lib, CD) - My second must read recommendation for the month.....go get it now! Russell wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Sparrow, but I hadn't tried her other books because she chose to change her genres, and I was nervous about that. A Thread of Grace tells the story of the Italian front during WWII, which is honestly a topic I knew little to nothing about. In that respect, I would compare it to The Invisible Bridge, which is also a WWII novel about a little known area. Books such as Bridge, though, tend to feel a bit dishonest because sometimes the main characters come out better than you suspect they really would have during the Holocaust. It's as if they are too precious to the writer, and having created them he or she feels like they must protect them even if it doesn't make sense. Russell has absolutely no qualms about fully exploring tragedy, and days later, I'm honestly still feeling a bit traumatized. I also feel like I've found truth. Apparently five years of research went into this book, and you can tell. For the record...I am also a sucker for a good frame for a story, and Russell's beginning and ending were pitch perfect.
11. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding, Alexander McCall Smith (lib, CD) - yep, definitely needed after A Thread of Grace. This was my first foray into audio for McCall's books....and I'm not sure I like it that much. (Ok, and part of this is because I have my own pronunciation for all of the African names and was largely disabused of my correctness in that matter.) Audio just doesn't seem to be a good fit for these books...which are quick to read but slow in plot and development.
12. The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan (ebook) - literary horror, a BOTNS recommendation. (Almost done...should finish in the next day or so.) Now, I like a scary book as much as anyone else, and I love books that delve into character and philosophic debates. I'm just not sure I like them all tucked into one book so much. Having said that, I found myself highlighting a LOT of passages and phrases (Gotta love being able to do that on the iPad!) Also, because it needs to be said, I am glad the monsters aren't cuddly. They owe a huge debt to the masters and originators of the genre - Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Gaston Leroux - which made my heart sing.
13. Little Red In The City, Ysolda Teague (print) - This is actually a knitting book...but I found I had to read it cover to cover because Teague has some FANTASTIC information in there about working with patterns in order to make the garment fit the individual. There have been books before which were written with a fuller figure in mind...but this book takes one pattern, shows it on two radically different (and blessedly real) body types and then tells you how to muck around with it so that it fits you. Once my year of socks is over I intend to delve into sweaters, and I imagine this book will be heavily used.
Whoops! Forgot one!
14. Mr. Peanut, Adam Ross (ebook) - Ok, so this is the THIRD must read book of the month. Yes, it is a BOTNS recommendation. Goodness bless them, they've done well by me this month. I don't want to ruin the fun, so all I will tell you is that this book is more than I really expected it to be. Sooo, sooo much more!