End of Summer Reads

It’s getting close to the end of the summer – catch up on some great reads now that the kids have gone back to school!  We have a few fiction titles coming in over the next two week by best-selling authors: Danielle Steel (Dark Side), Nora Roberts (The Pagan Stone), Janet Dailey (Texas Forever), Fern Michaels (Cut and Run), Louise Penney (Better Man), and Sarah Jio (All the Flowers in Paris).

Two more fiction books worth noting are The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri and The Ventriloquists by E. R. Ramzipoor.   Each of the stories takes place during different war periods, Beekeeper during the current fighting in Syria and The Ventriloquists during World War II.  Both are stories of triumph over extreme adversity.  Based on a true event, The Ventriloquists has great characters, Belgian resistance fighters and journalists who outwit the Nazis with fake news.  What’s really fascinating is how the author came across the story: while researching for her thesis on underground political literature, she discovered a single document written by the Office of War referencing the fake edition of the Brussels newspaper Le Soir.  She followed that research trail and then wrote the novel at the suggestion of her thesis advisor.

We have some exciting nonfiction coming on order.  Karen Abbott is back with The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America. This book follows much the same theme as her previous ones – major events in America, researched and told from a woman’s point of view.  This is the story of the excesses of the Jazz Age, murder, and corrupt government officials. I have an early copy of The Ghosts of Eden Park for the first person who emails me that they’d like to read it (sperry@uptexas.org). Haben: The Deafblind Women Who Conquered Harvard Law is Haben Girma’s memoir of her family’s refugee experiences after leaving Eritrea and moving all over the world before coming to the United States, looking for a connection to a community.  Haben embarks on adventures that most people who can see and hear never even attempt, and developed a text-to-braille communication system.  It’s an amazing story.

At the suggestion by one of our residents who is an avid reader, I’m reading Whisper Network by Chandler Baker.  This is Baker’s first adult novel, and a Reese’s Book Club pick.  I wish I liked it better.  The author is a corporate attorney who worked in Dallas, and she draws on that experience to craft a timely, ripped-from-the-headlines story with elements of the #MeToo movement.  The story is a murder mystery surrounding the death of a high-powered corporate attorney who is not known for treating women well.  The real story is about the main female characters who are also corporate attorneys who shop at Neiman’s, struggle with work-life-family balance, and have secrets to keep.  The author spends too much page space describing the “Dallas lifestyle,” and the dialog seems contrived.  The best part of the book are the deposition transcripts at the beginning most chapters.  I’d be interested to hear what some of you think of the book.  We have it in print and ebook.

So many books and so little time!

There are quite a few new titles by bestselling authors coming in soon:  Contraband by Stuart Woods, A Dangerous Man by Robert Crais, The Inn and The Warning, both by James Patterson, and True Believer by Jack Carr.   JP Delaney’s newest psychological thriller, The Perfect Wife, is just as suspenseful as her two previous titles (The Girl Before and Believe Me).  Another new title, which will keep you awake at night (at least it did me), is Alex North’s The Whisper Man, about a serial killer who whispers at his victims’ windows at nightDuring the three or four days that I was reading this book, I had to triple check my windows at bedtime!

Sandra Brown has a new title out, Outfox, as does Nora Roberts – The Welcoming.  Other new books coming in soon include Careful What You Wish For, a suspense novel by Hallie Ephron and Inland by Tea Obreht.  Inland is centered around the often-forgotten United States Camel Corps, the experiment in the mid-1800s with using camels in the Southwest.

Also out this week is The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware.  If you’ve read Ruth Ware’s previous books, then you’ll be familiar with her formula:  a young woman with a troubled past gets a too-good-to-be-true opportunity that turns out wrong.  This story involves a smart home, and it’s interesting to see how too much technology adds to the suspense of the story.  There are enough subplots throughout the story to keep the book interesting through to the end, although not all of them are resolved by the end.  This was not my favorite of her books.

On the nonfiction side, there is a new biography about Steve Ray Vaughan, which should be interesting reading for any Texas music fan.  Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan by Alan Paul and Andy Aledort, gathers insight from Stevie Ray’s family, friends, girlfriends, and bandmates to tell the story of his life and music.

The two of the most interesting books out this week are Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior and Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton.  Hollow Kingdom is a post-apocalyptic novel told by S.T., a Cheeto-eating, television-educated crow who sets out to save humanity from extinction, along with a dog named Dennis.  The dialog is hilarious (especially with the wild crows), the writing is very good, and you’ll find yourself rooting for S.T. and Dennis as they become unlikely heroes.  Please give this book a chance, even if it does seem to be a very far-fetched, crazy story.  Ellie and the Harpmaker is a charming story of unexpected love and hope.  It is also the story of how viewing the world through different eyes can be healing.  If you want to read the first five chapters, it is this week’s First Look Book Club.  Sign up at http://www.librarywebservices.com/firstlook/.

Please let me know if you have questions, book suggestions, or want to let me know what you think about any of the books I’ve mentioned:  sperry@uptexas.org.  Happy Reading!

Is it really already August?

It’s August already!  Just a few more weeks until school starts and everyone gets busy, so get your reading in now with some of our new titles.  Blake Crouch has a new sci-fi thriller, Recursion, about an alien force that attacks memory.  Escape Room by Megan Goldin is a thriller centered around a team-building escape room exercise that turns deadly.  Anthony Horowitz’s new mystery, The Sentence Is Death, has detective Daniel Hawthorne hunting the killer of a celebrity divorce lawyer.  You have to love a mystery by the man who created Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War.

Some other new titles that we have in are Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson, Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman, Someone We Know by Shari Lapena, and The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary.  Never Have I Ever is a departure for Jackson — It’s her first thriller, but it still has a touch of her humor throughout.  The Flatshare is a quirky love story about how opposites truly attract.

If you like historical fiction (my very favorite thing to read), then check out Deep River by Karl Marlantes and The Vexations by Caitlin Horrocks.  The story of three siblings who migrate to America from Finland, Deep River is several stories contained in one epic novel.  Family dynamics, the immigrant experience, working in the harsh wilds along the Columbia River, and the early 20th century labor movement blend together into a wonderful story.  The Vexations is Horrocks’ debut novel, and chronicles the life and genius of French composer Erik Satie.  It is set during the Belle Epoque in France, and includes many of the artists who were writing, painting, or composing during this period.  It is a story about the thin line between artistic genius and madness and how that thinness affects those who love the genius.  It is an amazing read.

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen tells the story of an unknown portion of Hepburn’s life: her life during five years of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands.  This show a different facet of Hepburn’s life star — she worked with the Dutch Resistance and tended the wounded of the battle of Arnhem.   Her son Luca Dotti wrote the foreward, and many of the photographs featured in the book are from Hepburn’s personal collection.

I’ve just finished Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land, and it should be on everyone’s must-read list.  Stephanie Land was a single mother living in the Pacific Northwest where there was very little economic opportunity.  The term “working poor” comes to life with her story:  she worked long hours cleaning houses, took online classes to work toward a writing degree, and relied on various government programs to supplement her income.  Land exposes the apathy of the government workers she dealt with while getting assistance.  She talks about the things she learned from cleaning people’s houses, such as money does not always bring happiness, and about being a “nameless ghost” to her clients.  What I like best about this book is that Land is not complaining or making a political statement; she’s just exposing how a person can work hard and still live below the poverty line.

Special note to all the book clubs:  We’ll be changing out the titles in our Book-Club-In-A-Bag sets, so let me know if you have any suggestions or want to be notified when we select the titles (sperry@uptexas.org).