Running From The Devil by Jamie Freveletti
This is a great read--fast paced, smart and unusual, particularly since the main hero of the piece is a woman. Emma Caldridge, a biochemist for a cosmetics company, survives a crash landing of a hijacked plane in the jungles of Columbia. She's no lab nerd, she's an elite marathon runner as well as a brilliant scientist, two things she leans heavily on to survive the terrorists who are searching for her since it seems that she might just be the reason the plane was hijacked. I don't want to say much more because part of the pace of this book depends on finding out bits of information at very specific times in the story and I don't want to spoil a thing for you. If you are a political intrigue/thriller fan, you're going to love this book. And best yet, it's the first in a series by a fascinating new author--she's a competitive runner, a blackbelt and teacher in aikido, and a former trial attorney who holds degrees in law, political science and international studies which means she has the background for some exciting plot lines for her readers.
Coop by Michael Perry
Michael Perry has made a name for himself writing about small town life: Population: 485 about being a volunteer fire fighter, Truck: A Love Story (and an Indie hit) about meeting his wife, etc. "Coop" picks up where he left off as he, his wife, his "given" daughter (he hates the word 'step') and a soon to be born addition to the family move onto a farm formerly owned by his in-laws. The book covers about a year in the family's life and his filled with absolute hilarity (don't make my mistake and read this while dining alone in a quiet restaurant unless you LIKE being thought insane for laughing and snorting to yourself), bouncing between present day and his childhood where whatever notion he's struggling with got planted, including what it means to be a father and a provider. He walks (and sometimes falls off of) a balance beam of earning his living as a writer (with deadlines, book tours, etc) and being a farmer with a family and endless chores that need done each and every day. His honesty is complete--he does not make himself a hero, though the sainthood of his wife is nearly guaranteed. There's a lot of nitty gritty farming stuff here--let's just say they start out with chickens and hogs and end up with a stuffed freezer for the winter and you're with them every step of the way.
But it's also about the land, family, tradition, marriage, parenting, the role of religion over a lifetime, writing and being true to your vision of yourself. It's a great book for both making you laugh and making you think. I cannot recommend it highly enough!
The Well and The Mine by Gin Phillips
This book, Phillips' debut novel, came out last year but is getting a lot of attention now because Penguin just bought the rights. And well it should--this is a marvelous novel. Set in 1931 in Carbon Hill, Alabama, this book is more of a snapshot of life in a southern coal town than anything else. There is a bit of a mystery--a nine year old girl sees an unfamiliar woman throw a baby in a well one night--but it's biggest asset is the wonderful, detailed and delightful character development throughout the book. It centers on a family--Albert, who has mined coal his whole life; Leta, his hardworking and kindhearted wife; Virgie, the couple's teenage daughter whose beauty terrifies her parents; Tess, the middle child who is 9 and longing for adventure; and Jack, the ornery 7 year old little brother of the family. In some ways this reminds me a great deal of The Waltons, but the depth of the characters and the carefully crafted atmosphere transcend that similarity by light years. I was left aching for more when the last page was turned. I'm going to miss this family. And I'm going to watch out for Gin Phillips books--she's going to be an amazing southern voice in literary fiction.
When Skateboards Will Be Free by Said Sayrafiezadeh
Sayrafiezadeh is half Iranian (poppa's side) and half Jewish (mama's side) and was raised completely Socialist by separated, but like-minded parents who both were staunch activists in the Socialist labor movement. His father even ran for the president of Iran as a Socialist (along with 175ish other folks, which is a story in and of itself). His was NOT the typical childhood, to say the least.
He offers us a glimpse into a world that many of us have never seen or experienced, offering painful revelations and rib cracking humor side by side throughout the book.
This book reads rather quickly and does not allow itself to be bogged down by political theory or rhetoric--it is simply full of his observations of the world he grew up in.
It's really a fascinating story and I absolutely recommend reading it.
The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook
Summer is coming and so ,of course, is a new, hilarious book by Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs, Summer Blowout, Life's A Beach). This one follows 32 days in the lives of 3 neighboring women who come together for fellowship and understanding as they set their pedometers fortheir daily walks. Noreen just took a buyout from her job and got dumped by her boyfriend. Tess is a school teacher suffering through her daughter's last contentious summer at home before leaving for college. And Rosie is a "tweener", raising young sons and taking care of her father and his lavender farm after the death of her mother. Cook once again blends familiar and serious issues with her keen sense of humor to serve up yet another summer treat for her vast legion of fans.
Broken by Lisa Jones
Local author Lisa Jones set out to write a book about Stanford Addison, a quadriplegic medicine man and horse breaker who lives up in Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation.
And certainly he was a main character (and an EXTREMELY fascinating one whose broken body freed him to soar), but Broken is more about Lisa herself. She finds a home, and more importantly, herself, while interviewing this amazing man and hanging out with his large, eclectic and somewhat wild family. She's fearless about telling her story, even when it paints her and her own family in a less than flattering light. I think women everywhere, especially women who feel a bit "broken" themselves by what their life has handed them, will identify with her. In addition, she does a tremendous job of capturing the spirit of the west as it lives and breathes today within the shadows of it's violent past. The 'medicine" in this book is thought provoking and hope-giving, especially Stan's tale of what the animals taught him about medicine, healing and living life. Read this book and see what all it has to offer for
yourself--and to yourself.
How To Buy A Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson
Gibson had me at the title, I have to say. And the premise is very interesting: after 15 year old Carly admits on a school questionnaire that she's "never met a book I liked", her very rich, very status-conscious parents decide to commission a book just for Carly. They actually hire an author to move into their house(well, mansion, complete with it's own bra museum) and write a book that Carly would actually like to read. That starts a lot of balls rolling in their little, monied town. The true story is about relationships: overweight and somewhat outcast Carly and her best
friend, model-perfect but strung out womanizer, Hunter; the author Bree and her long-ago love, Julian, who happens to be hiding out in this same berg; the complex machinations of high society marriages in which social standing means more than personal happiness. I identified with Carly so much I cringed and cried for her as her mother alternated between bullying and ignoring her and as she continued to love others with her arms wide open even as they continued to not deserve her. I ached for Hunter's empty life and his need to escape. All of the characters in this book, the author's first, are drawn with great depth and sensitivity. There are times when things got a bit muddled, when flashbacks or fantasies or
fictional tv shows seemed to get tangled into the story a bit too much, but overall the beauty of the story, and it's somewhat tragic, somewhat deeply satisfying ending, make all of that ignorable and this debut book very much worth the read.
Currently available to pre-order.
Home Game by Michael Lewis
This is a hilarious account of learning to be a father in the 21st century. I actually
gave this book to a guy friend of mine who is struggling with the idea of marriage and fatherhood in the near future, and he stayed up all night reading and laughing, which is amazing since he's even more of a reluctant reader than he is a reluctant grownup. Myself, I was able to read it in just a few hours--it's light and amusing but makes some real points about the naturalness of maternity versus the learned behavior of paternity. This should make a fun gift for any expectant or new father this coming Fathers Day.
Madewell Brown by Rick Collignon
Though this is a book meant to be an answer to a mystery created in an earlier book, Perdido, it stands alone quite well. It involves a forgotten team in the Negro League baseball of long ago, one old man who tells its stories over and over, another old man who keeps a dark secret about it until his death bed, and the younger people who inherit the stories and the pall of the secrets. It's a rambling story, changing voices and eras effortlessly, but a fine one, showing the importance of memory and oral storytelling in keeping the past alive long enough for the present to learn from it.
It's published by our local friends at Unbridled Books.