Note: These are just the books I’ve deemed worthy of mention in the last two weeks or so. I know there’s more worth reading this summer on the beach, and I know you’re itching to add your own pick. Comment away!
The Waverley women in Sarah Addison Allen‘s debut novel, set in Bascombe, North Carolina, have always been a little different. From protecting the secret of the apple tree in their yard from people who would take advantage of its magical gift to baking edible concoctions that affect their neighbors in mysterious ways, sisters Claire and Sydney find themselves reestablishing a filial bond. One heals the other’s love life; another provides a safe refuge for the sister who’s always run from her past. Perfect for closet romantics, intriguing enough for escapists. I recommend you read this on a full stomach, though. Addison has just released her second novel, The Sugar Queen, which I look forward to reading. Read Garden Spells if you liked Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife or Love Walked In, by Maria de los Santos.
I couldn’t be more thrilled about picking this book for my introduction to the graphic novel. I’ve been reading Alison Bechdel‘s blog for a while now, and decided it was finally time to read her bestselling autobiography in pictures. Fun Home is subtitled “A Family Tragicomic,” quite suitable for this book that grapples with Alison’s closeted-and-married father’s suicide and/or accidental death, her self-recognition as a lesbian in college, and her childhood in a family affected by the secrets harbored by their parents. I couldn’t put it down and deprived myself of a few hours of sleep for this one. Read if you liked Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis or Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.
I’m more than just a bit biased in picking this one, being a lifelong Card fan since Ender’s Game (which was written, incidentally, before I was born). Nonetheless, this collaboration with screenwriter Aaron Johnston, based on an earlier Card short story, results in a scientific thriller that is a lot easier to buy than most of Card’s sci-fi and fantasy. A hot-shot scientist comes up with a genetic cure for many incurable diseases. The catch is that the cure is so meticulously engineered for each patient that when other people are exposed to it, they die a violent and gory death — within seconds. A virologist in the federal government’s forced employ enters the picture, seeking to counter the geneticist’s overzealous do-gooder cure. In the process, he discovers the geneticist’s true motivation is much more dangerous — and out of this world — than anyone could have imagined. Read Invasive Procedures if you liked The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton or The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.
Codex 632 was originally written in Portuguese and translated for our pleasure. It’s a good thing too — after Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason’s The Rule of Four, I didn’t think I’d ever find such another thrilling pseudo-historian race to unearth some historically suppressed secret. What makes Codex 632 even better: the books and documents referred within are real, apparently meticulously researched by the Ph.D holding author. Who was Christopher Columbus, for real? And why are we so determined to believe he was a poor silk-weaver from Genoa when, clearly, he was a skilled sailor and shrewd captain?
I really, honestly, and truly tried not to fall victim to the mass-marketed ploys of The Host‘s publishers and sellers. But after seeing a gaggle of teen girls literally fall on their knees and kiss each cover of Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight series for young adults, I decided couldn’t resist seeing if her first book for adults was worth the hype. (Confession: The deal-breaker was Orson Scott Card’s unabashed plug on the book jacket.) The premise is a bit off-putting: Earth has been taken over by body- and brain-controlling parasites. But Melanie Stryder, whose body has been implanted with the parasite known as Wanderer, refuses to surrender. The result is a curiously compelling tale of a battle of wills within one body, and of the last band of “wild” humans, eking out their survival in the desert wilderness. The first 50 or so pages had me wondering what the fuss was about; the last 550 pages had me holding up a flashlight under the covers, flipping pages at breakneck speed. If you liked James Patterson’s Maximum Ride books or Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas books, odds are that The Host will blow those out of the water.
I’ve been struggling with how to encapsulate Lisa Scottoline‘s Lady Killer, and the only thing I’ve been able to come up with is “Rocky in black pumps.” Maybe that’s not totally unfair, since the references to pasta and the Italian mob in Philly are about as common in this book as page numbers. A feisty local girl done good, lawyer Mary DiNunzio is visited by her old high school archenemy, Trish, who fears for her life at the hands of her abusive boyfriend. But there’s a catch: Mary once dated the boyfriend in high school as well. But when a body is found and Trish disappears, Mary doesn’t quite have time to process all the emotions drug up from her hormonal cesspool of high school. Like Janet Evanovich, Patricia Cornwell? You’ll like this.
Yes, this is that book on sale at Starbucks, but I didn’t buy it there, promise. Garth Stein‘s third novel is precious and entirely readable for one reason more than any other: the narrator is a dog. And a pretty dang funny one at that. Enzo is his name-o. He’s obsessed with opposable thumbs and racecars (as is his up and coming racecar driver, Denny). Enzo is the first to detect something wrong inside the head of Denny’s wife’s head, and bears silent but poignant witness to her sudden death and the fallout as her parents go to extreme measures to sue for custody of Denny’s daughter. Enzo sees a documentary once saying that a dog will be reincarnated as a human, and thus spends the book shaping little philosophical vignettes in preparation for his future life. You’ll like The Art of Racing in The Rain if you liked John Grogan’s Marley and Me or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.
I don’t think I would ever have found out about The Sign for Drowning had Sharon not blogged about it a few weeks before its release, so there’s a hat tip in order for her. This novel is more character-driven than plot-driven, and reads more like a poem than anything else, one centering around loss and grief. When Anna loses her younger sister in a freak drowning accident, she decides she can speak to her sister via sign language. This signing ability leads to a career as a teacher of the deaf, during which she meets a deaf orphan who she later adopts. The emotional connection to her daughter Adrea becomes the catalyst that forces Anna to examine the emotional cost of her sister’s death for her family over the years. I admired this book for it’s accuracy in portraying the deaf community through a somewhat-knowledgeable hearing mother’s eyes. The style reminds me of Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and Ian McEwan’s Atonement, but Rachel Stolzman’s effort is, thankfully, a much shorter read.