So many books, so little time, is the cry of every avid reader
It’s been the summer of the book. I’ve been reading in every spare moment. I sit on the deck (in the shade) and watch the hummingbirds come to the feeder and wish I had planted more flowers to bloom in August and September.
I’m flying through the books piled on the shelves (and on my Kindle, which I’m starting to appreciate). But, I still prefer the feel of a book in my hands. But, no matter how much I read, there are still many, many more wonderful reads to come.
“My Brilliant Friend” (2012) by Elena Ferrante is book one of her Neapolitan novels. Set in a poor neighborhood in Naples in the 1950s, it’s the story of two friends, Lenu and Lila and their school days and childhood as told by Elena (Lenu). It’s a look at a different world — not one many modern Americans would recognize. It’s a neighborhood of old grudges and secrets left over from the war and a casual violence, among the men and within families. But, also of camaraderie and loyalty and survival. I’m looking forward to the other three books.
“The Burning Air” (2013) by Erin Kelly. If you liked Ruth Rendell, you’ll love this suspenseful thriller. Erin Kelly cleverly lets the different characters tell the story in alternating chapters that sometimes overlap a little, so you get a different view of the same scenes. The MacBrides – Rowan, who is headmaster of a private school, and Lydia who is a local magistrate, and their three children – are a normal, happy family, when a student who didn’t win a scholarship at Rowan’s school takes it as a personal attack and forms an obsession for vengeance against the family. This psychological thriller kept me up until 2 a.m. because I just had to finish it.
“Emma” (2014) by Alexander McCall Smith. Part of the Jane Austen Project, the book is curiously old-fashioned in tone and plot for a modern re-telling of a classic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it could have used a little more of today. The plot is pretty much intact, set in England, with the addition of an older woman Harriet lives with. And, the fact that Harriet is a matchmaker herself, pairing the older woman with Emma’s father. Jane Austen fans will enjoy seeing Emma’s journey to the realization that we need to “make our lives something more than the pursuit of the goals of the unruly ego” and that “happiness is something that springs from the generous treatment of others.” But, I couldn’t help feeling it would be just as satisfying to read the original.
“The Here and Now” (2014) by Ann Brashares. I’m a fan of her “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” books and enjoyed this one just as much. It’s a clever story about time travelers who come here in 2010 from the future because the planet is a mess and blood plagues (spread by mosquitos) are decimating the world’s population. Prenna, a high school student, has spent the last four years of her life hiding in plain sight. Travelers aren’t allowed to develop physical or emotional relationships with time natives, aren’t allowed to seek any medical attention outside the travelers’ community, must avoid being noticed in any way, and can’t talk about what happened before the immigration. But, Prenna has made a friend at school, Ethan, and her leaders and counselors don’t approve. Can the teens help change the future of the planet? This young adult, sci-fi, romance, thriller is thought-provoking, suspenseful and very well-written.
“How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain’s Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate” (2013) by Wendy Moore. This is a stranger-than-fiction account of Thomas Day, an English gentlemen (in birth and money anyway) who has some odd ideas about how to live. In 1769, when an engagement falls through, he decries the fickleness of women and decides to create the ideal wife. He will find a virginal, unspoiled girl from the country and mold her into what he wants (someone willing to put up with him, work like a skivvy and live a simple life away from society with few servants). Moore has done an unbelievable job genealogically, tracking down the letters of the major players in Day’s life and using them and records from around England to recreate the experiment and Day’s life. It’s also a fascinating look at Georgian society, with portraits of many of those involved.
“At the Water’s Edge” (2015) by Sarah Gruen. Her books tend to be period pieces, which I like. And, this is set at the end of World War II in 1945. Madeline Hyde and her husband Ellis live in Philadelphia and are privileged, spoiled young things who live with his parents, party, drink too much and sleep late. Ellis has been kept from fighting because he’s color blind. After embarrassing them one time too many, Ellis’ parents cut off his allowance. So, Ellis and a friend insist they all travel to Scotland, despite the war, to prove the Loch Ness monster exists. It sounds like one of their escapades, but it will prove to be so much more for Maddie, who will learn about her husband, their marriage, the world, the war and herself. This book has it all, friendship, love, adventure, great characters and a beautiful setting in Scotland.
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