Monthly Archives: August 2012

For Edith Wharton Fans: The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

For fans of Edith Wharton,  this book is for you.  For fans of Downton Abbey, this book is for you.   For fans of  fictionalized biographies, like The Paris Wife, Loving Frank,  Jackie by Josie, Twelve Rooms of the Nile (next in my to read pile), the  The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields is for you. 

Fields recounts the  love life of author Edith Wharton.  Told from Edith’s point of view, as well as her governess turned secretary Anna Bahlmann’s point of view, the reader is treated to the perceived inner thoughts of Edith Wharton as she marries Teddy Wharton, falls in love with Morton Fullerton, and befriends Henry James.   Anna becomes Wharton’s moral compass, held close when Wharton is confident,  sent away when Wharton strays, and depended on when Wharton can’t face the outcomes of her decisions.   Wharton seems to live by an “it is better to have loved and lost”  motto, but doesn’t seem to think she will actually lose.  After all, she has lived a successful and charmed adult life in New York, at The Mount, in Paris…she is a bestselling author, and a part of high society.   Anna’s self worth is dependant on Edith’s approval, so though Anna pays a price when she passes judgement, she is loyal to the end.

The Age of Desire is a good, quick, entertaining read.

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Going, Going, Gone!

If you haven’t read any of Linda Castillo’s mystery/thrillers set in Amish country, you should start now.  I will say, however, that you should not be deceived by the fact that these thrillers are set in Amish country, because they are fairly dark and not for the faint of heart.  Gone Missing is the fourth book in the series which follows Kate Burkholder as the chief of police in Painter’s Mill, Ohio, a community that includes a large number of Amish families.  The book begins with Kate breaking up a fight involving a 15-year-old Amish girl on rumspringa.  Rumspringa is the time when Amish teens are allowed to experience the outside world, before deciding if they want to become baptized, and live by the Amish rules for the rest of their lives or leave the Amish way of life and be cut off from your family forever as Kate Burkholder chose to do.   

It is not long before Kate gets a call from John Tomasetti, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation(and Kate’s lover), asking her to consult on an on a case in which there are two missing Amish Teens.  Kate is often asked to help with cases involving the Amish as not only does she speak fluent Pennsylvania Dutch, but she also has inside knowledge of the Amish daily  life that is invaluable to investigations. As  Kate works with Tomasetti and his team  the case expands to include more victims than originally thought.  A phone call from home brings the case back to Painter’s Mill and the rebellious local girl who Kate caught fighting in the beginning Goes Missing

Castillo’s characters are well crafted and  while Kate and Tomasetti are the dominant characters the smaller characters are interesting and quirky.  Beneath all the fast paced thriller aspects  Gone Missing  is still a police procedural.  Castillo’s books are striking with the juxtaposition of the brutality and darkness of the crimes with the plain life of the Amish.

If you haven’t started this series it is worth a try.

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Wild About Wild by Cheryl Strayed

In the middle of a divorce, having recently lost her mother to cancer, and with slim if any prospects for a career or good relationship, Cheryl Strayed decides to pull herself up by her boot straps and get her life together.  (You can see why Oprah made Wild one of her book picks.)  Some choose counseling, some choose ice cream; Strayed’s method…hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  She waitresses and saves her tips, buying her supplies in increments, researching her trip, and packing her resupply boxes.  The story of her trip, of coming to terms with her past and making herself whole for her future, is Wild. 

Looking at the author photo on the book jacket, Strayed doesn’t look anything like her story, and her picture certainly doesn’t betray her hardships.  Her writing is honest, without trying to shock you or make you laugh at her expense.  This hike is a huge physical and mental challenge in the best of circumstances.  One is left admiring Strayed’s courage to carry her heavy pack and stick with the trail, despite her lack of experience, money and the toll each day’s hike takes. 

Several of my colleagues at the Library have read Wild, and we’ve all loved it, despite the variety in the genres we usually read.  You don’t need to be a hiker, or in the midst of personal turmoil to love this book.  Don’t “kick it to the curb;”  add it to your to read list today!

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Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

What a fabulous read!  Liza Klaussmann’s debut novel tells the intriguing story of two cousins in Martha’s Vineyard post World War II — their marriages, children, relationships.  There are five sections, each from a different point of view, and leaping back and forth in time.  It is a clever technique for building suspense and revealing the plot as the author wants it revealed. The characters are smooth in a Mad Men sort of way, but all with significant flaws.  I didn’t pull for any one character, but more that their truths would be revealed, only to learn that most of the time, everyone (but me) knew what was going on anyway.  Brilliant!

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Nordic Mystery Explosion

Were you a fan of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy?  If so, there are many amazing Nordic mystery/thriller writers that are very popular in Europe and are relative undiscovered gems in the United States.  After I finished reading the final Stieg Larsson, my sister-in-law suggested that I try Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman.  I was hooked.  Jo Nesbo’s main character Harry Hole is every bit as compelling as Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander for different reasons of course.  Don’t get me wrong, these are fairly dark books, but ones that you won’t be able to put  down! After I read all of Jo Nesbo books I could get my hands on I found other Nordic writers that had a similar feel and began reading those books.  Occasionally people will ask me for suggestions for this type of book, so  I decided to put together a list of some of the best Nordic Mystery/Thriller writers and a few of their books so if you were so inclined you could take a walk on the dark side…and discover some new mystery writers in the process!  Here goes:

Camilla Lackberg- The Ice Princess, The Preacher

Karin Fossum-The Indian Bride

Henning Mankell-Faceless Killers(Kurt Wallender #1)

James Thompson-Helsinki White, Snow Angels, Lucifer’s Tears(Inspector Kari Vaara)

Lars Kepler-The Hypnotist, The Nightmare(Joona Linna)

Arnaldur Indridason-Artic Chill,Jar City, Silence of the Grave(Reykjavik Murder Mystery)

Asa Larson-Until Thy Wrath be Past(Police Inspector Anna-Maria Mella)

Sjowall-Wahloo-The Laughing Policeman,Roseanna(Martin Beck)

Jussi Adler-Olsen-The keeper of Lost Causes

Kjell Eriksson-The Princess of Burundi, the Demon of Dakar, The Cruel Stars of the Night(Ann Lindell Mysteries)

Lene Kaaberbol- The Boy in the Suitcase

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Overseas by Beatriz Williams

Just finished Overseas by Beatriz Williams-a delicious escape read!  I am going to call it a love story, because I don’t usually admit to reading the occasional romance, even when the library staff has read outside your favorite genre days. 

Kate Wilson, young investment banker on Wall Street, is out to save the life of Julian Laurence, superstar hedgie.  Its love at first sight (or is it second sight)?  The too good to be true story alternates between WWI France and today’s USA (mostly NYC).  As I started reading, I hoped there would be more modern-day story, but as I got to the end, I wanted the background from France.  Either era could be a novel in itself, so you can imagine the bonus of both in one book.

Overseas is a little bit Working Girl (the 1980s movie),  a little bit Discovery of Witches, a little bit Time Traveller’s Wife.  Happy ending, a few twists and a little suspense along the way, and worth reading.  Take it to the beach, take it on vacation, request it at the library tomorrow!

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Criminal by Karin Slaughter

Even though this is Karin Slaughter’s 7th installment of her Will Trent series and the reader learns quite a lot about Will Trent’s personal history, there is also quite a bit of Amanda Wagner’s history and the history of women in the Atlanta police department 4o years ago.  Criminal begins with Will Trent in love and beginning to put his past behind him.  Then a college student goes missing and inexplicably, deputy director Amanda Wagner keeps Will Trent off the case.  Criminal alternates between the Seventies,  when Amanda Wagner is new to the Atlanta Police Department and one of her first big cases is a brutal murder in a bad area of Atlanta and the present day as Will struggles to uncover the truth about his past.  Amanda, together with her partner Evelyn finally solve the case and put Will’s father in jail-burying all the information in order to protect Will.  Secrets have a way of coming out and that’s what happens in Criminal.  A good mystery and interesting glimpse into what it was like for women in the be one of the trailblazing women in a male dominated work environment.

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