206 Bones by Kathy Reichs

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One last review to toss into the ring–an interesting series (as long as you can replace the image of the TV show Bones character). As a recovering archaeologist myself, I thoroughly enjoy these types of books, with plenty to learn from forensic science. And not an eyebrow was raised suggestively!

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko
Rating:  Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book to TV

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

book coverIf you’re a fan of old Hollywood glamour, you would probably enjoy this fun, beach read. On the surface I took it to be just that, a beach read, but as you move through the story, you’ll find that the main theme runs a bit deeper. Evelyn Hugo is an Elizabeth Taylor-esque Hollywood icon, and now finds herself to be a bit of a recluse in her old age. One day she seeks out a relatively unknown writer and offers to give her a tell-all book about her amazing and scandalous life. To accomplish what she did, Evelyn was willing to do anything, including marrying seven different men over the course of her life. But at the heart of the book is discovering what really matters to each of us at the end of the day. There were definitely a few surprises I wasn’t expecting, regarding Evelyn’s loves and why she chose Monique for the assignment. After reading “Malibu Rising” earlier this summer, also by Taylor Jenkins Reid, I would have to say that while I enjoyed it more, this one has many of the same elements/themes I enjoyed in that book.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kaylie Jasinski ’14
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: A book with a number in the title

City of Thieves , David Benioff

book coverThis amazing novel is set in Russia during WW II. Given the choice between being executed or completing an impossible task, Lev and Kolya understandably try to achieve the impossible. Thrown together facing harrowing challenges, the two young men go from strangers to close friends during the course of just a few days. This developing friendship is a big part of the story but so is seeing the atrocities that war creates, depicting how normal people are driven to do extraordinarily horrible or heroic things.

I really enjoyed this novel. It laid bare how ignorant I am of what the war looked like from the Russian front, which was interesting to read about. Mostly however I loved the characters Kolya and Lev, they are such an odd couple and yet suit each other so well. I laughed, cried and tensely listened as the smooth voice of Ron Perlman read this wonderful book. I can highly recommend it as well as the audiobook.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Emily Nelson Ringholm ’07
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Audiobook

Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín

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Young Irish Eilis can’t find suitable work in her small town, so her vivacious sister and a priest friend arrange her travel to Brooklyn, work there in a department store, and lodging in a boarding house. As she slowly finds her way, Eilis must make many difficult and life changing decisions. I watched the movie, then ironically found the book two days later in a mini free library while biking on Kent Island. The movie is nice, but the book was a delightful beach read.

Availability: COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Maggie D. Brace ’82
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book to film

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

book coverMeeting your partner’s parents for the first time can be a bit tense, especially if you’re contemplating ending the relationship. That’s the premise for this amazing story, which on the outside seems relatively simple but is actually a very interesting and compelling dive into the mind of someone suffering from depression and grappling with the meaning of one’s life, among other things.

After seeing the movie adapted from this book on Netflix, I was really curious to see what differences it would have in book form. Without spoiling things I will say the movie is perhaps a little more surreal at times, but otherwise it was a very close representation of the novel. The audiobook narrator even sounded very much like Jessie Buckley, the actress playing the (nameless à la Rebecca) main character.

This is a novel that surprises, keeps you thinking and gives me goosebumps thinking about it as I write this, highly recommend!

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Emily Nelson Ringholm ’07
Rating:  Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book to film and audiobook

Nomadland by Jessica Bruder

book coverA truly eye opening book about how the United States has failed a generation, and how older Americans have been forced to survive without stability. The resilience shown by the people in this book is inspiring, as is their reclamation of what it means to be “houseless.” Yet, amid people’s expressions of joy at the communities they have developed and their shirking of capitalism, this book made me deeply sad about how much the U.S. has failed its citizens and continues to do so, and how quickly we are turning into a manipulative corporatocracy. My only reservations in regards to this book would be its lack of discussion (about 3 pages in all), of the lack of Black nomads, and why that is.

Availability: USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Izzy Lott
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: book to film, book with a one word title

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

book coverJessamyn Teoh, an unemployed recent Harvard graduate, has just moved back to Malaysia with her family to help her parents get back on their feet. Once she arrives, she starts hearing the voice of her estranged dead grandmother who is angry and seeking revenge on behalf of a god… the Black Water Sister. This book features a queer main character and Malysian folklore. It also touches on the immigrant experience, Asian family dynamics and the challenges of being closeted.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book with a color in the title.

Triple Jeopardy by Anne Perry

book coverIf this wasn’t likely the final book I will review before the Summer Reading program ends, I wouldn’t post yet another set of comments on the same series as before. But, I might not finish my next book in time, so I will just repeat my comments that this set of books shows how murder can be presented and solved in a “clean” and decent way, with wits and observations instead of with high-tech devices. Vexing at times because of the reliance on characters reading so much into the most subtle expression, the book does bog down part-way through. But the ending makes it all worthwhile. Enjoy (she said, with her eyebrow raised ever so slightly)!

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko
Rating:  Highly Recommended

The Searcher by Tana French

book coverThe Searcher is the eighth book from mystery writer Tana French. I have read four of her other books, which is perhaps why I kept reading this one even when I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I expected. While her other books follow similar characters, this book was a stand-alone mystery.

I loved the other four books I’ve read by French so I kept waiting for this one to pick up, and while it did a little, I found much of the book too slow to really enjoy. The story follows a retired Chicago detective, Cal, who moves to a remote village in Northern Ireland, hoping to get away from the crime and the hustle and bustle of the big city. But like any retired detective in almost any book you’ll read, he finds a mystery where he least expects it. A young boy comes to him because his older brother is missing, and he wants Cal to help find him because no one else will. Interesting premise, but for me the story took way too long to get going. It is a slooow burn and this is not a short book by any means.

Much of the story follows Cal trying to fix up his house, his interactions with the locals, and then tidbits about the missing boy that he gleans slowly over time. It is not until about three-fourths of the way through the book that the reader starts to find out any real information about the mystery at hand. And while I ultimately enjoyed the ending, I think there was too much exposition in getting there.

Availability:  COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kaylie Jasinski ’14
Rating:  Recommended with reservations

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennettra

book coverThe Vanishing Half is a multi-generational story about two twin sisters who, after leaving their small town for greener pastures, diverge on widely different paths. One decides to use her lighter skin to pass for white, while the other marries and has a dark skinned child. The story is told out of order, and has many time jumps, however this happens in chunks (rather than every chapter), so the narrative is still easy to follow. Be warned, this book has racism, colorism and abuse, so if you are looking for a lighthearted read this is not for you.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI, SMCM
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: Tournament of Books

 

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan

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When twins Jack and Jill were 12, they found a stairwell while seeking refuge from their overbearing parents who tried to fit them each in neat boxes. There they found the Moors, a place of the undead, werewolves and Drowned Gods. In order to survive the harsh world they found themselves in, they learn they need to embrace their true natures which their parents tried to stifle. After all, doors lead to where children need to go.

If you enjoyed the first novella in this series, Every Heart a Doorway, then you will enjoy this sequel. I liked this one more than the latest released and standalone book in the series, Across the Green Grass Fields.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Highly Recommended

Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier

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A light and fun read that seemed particularly pleasant in the hot summer. I will seek out more (older) books in this series.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko
Rating: Recommended