Friday, August 16, 2013

A little late summer reading

There's still time for some summer reading, people!

So if you are looking for a few good books to see you through the end of summer, or into fall, check out the following. (To see my previous Book Nook blog post as well as other book recommendations, click here -- or on the Book Nook label at the end of this post.)

As per usual, I have included a link to the book on Amazon, in case you would like to read more reviews and purchase it. I have also put an asterisk (*) by those books I especially enjoyed -- and left out books that were part of a series or didn't like enough to include here.


Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly. It's a mystery, set in Cork, Ireland, and most of the action takes place in or around a pub. What more do you need? Reading this book made me think of Ireland, and all the nice people we met there several summers ago, as well as the beautiful scenery. As to the plot, it revolves around an Irish-American young woman who returns to her grandmother's village in Ireland after the grandmother dies. Just after she arrives, a body is found in a local bog. Plus there's the matter of who is going to run the local pub, whose owner just passed away, without seemingly leaving a will. A story more about love and loss and people helping and protecting each other than a classic "mystery," Buried in a Bog is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. 

*The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. I loved this book. Which is saying a lot because, as the spouse would say, "it doesn't seem like a Jennifer read." What can I say? I guess I'm not that predictable after all. So why did I love this book, which is about a teenage boy, a loner who is the only child of a single mother who runs an occult bookshop, who at 10 years old was struck down in his bathroom by a meteorite (the boy, not the mother), develops epilepsy, and winds up befriending his much older, pot-smoking, Kurt Vonnegut-loving neighbor? I'm not sure. Must have been the writing. Though I found the characters and their relationships with one another endearing. Just read it.

*Brilliant by Marne Davis Kellogg. I stumbled upon Brilliant, which was published in June 2004, long before the financial crisis, while looking for something else in the stacks at my local library. And am I glad I did. It is my definition of a perfect summer read -- or guilty pleasure: a funny, sexy romp through fabulous places (in this case London and Provence), involving jewels, thieves, fast men and fast cars, the auction business, and a sharp-tongued, sharp-witted narrator who is not what she seems. Highly recommend for those looking for a little escapist literature. 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. And speaking of escapist literature and guilty pleasures, I give you Crazy Rich Asians. Think of it as the "Gangnam Style" of books. I could try to describe the plot to you, but I think this sentence from Amazon does it better than (or as well as) I could: "Crazy Rich Asians is [Kevin Kwan's] outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families [in Singapore] and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season." If you like reading about the lifestyles of the rich and famous (in this case of Asia, specifically Chinese Singapore), or enjoy a fun gossipy read, pick up Crazy Rich Asians (which also has some deeper, thoughtful moments and plot twists that made it even more enjoyable, to me at least).


Queen Bee of Tuscany: The Redoubtable Janet Ross by Ben Downing. An interesting look at British expats in Tuscany from the mid-1800s through the 1930s, focusing on the life of Englishwoman Janet Ross, "the acknowledged doyenne of the Anglo-Florentine colony," who lived outside Florence with her husband from the late 1860s through the 1920s. Unlike many other English men and women who resided or lived in Tuscany at the time, Ross befriended not only her fellow countrymen but the locals, learning the language and getting to know the people who worked her land while supervising the running of her estate (unusual for a foreigner and a woman at that). Visitors and neighbors Mark Twain, Bernard Berenson, and other luminaries of the time also make appearances. A fascinating read.

On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta by Jen Lin-Liu. I just finished reading this book, which I first read about on a plane to someplace or other, while eating dreadful airline food -- and it sounded delicious. I have to admit, though, I hemmed and hawed about including On the Noodle Road on this list as I cannot stomach memoirs by neurotic and/or self-absorbed women who stray off-topic and rant about their significant others (or try to justify their own often selfish behavior). Just stick to the topic at hand -- in this case food, specifically noodles -- and discuss your identity crisis and partner with your therapist. Please. That said, I enjoyed the book when Lin-Liu focused on food and described the meals she ate and made and the people who made them. I particularly enjoyed the sections on Iran and Turkey, both of which made me want to jump up and find the nearest Persian or Turkish restaurant. If you like food memoirs and travel writing, check out On the Noodle Road. Just don't read it on an empty stomach.

A Curious Man: The Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley by Neal Thompson. While many, if not most, people have heard of Ripley's Believe It or Not! very few people, I would guess, know much or anything about LeRoy Robert Ripley, the cartoonist who started it all. I certainly didn't. And his story is nearly as fascinating as the unusual characters he drew and described in his long-running cartoon. Thompson also provides readers with a unique perspective on life in America (and Asia) in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, and the importance and role of newspapers, then radio, then television in the lives of Americans. If you enjoy a good biography and/or learning about unusual people and feats and history, you will enjoy A Curious Man.

Read any good books lately? Please tell us about them, or at least the title and author, in the Comments.


Betty Cracker said...

I read "The Cloud Atlas" awhile back (David Mitchell) and thought it was terrific. Saw the movie afterward, and it wasn't nearly as good as the book. But then, movies rarely are.

Anonymous said...

I read a trilogy by Noah Gordon: The Physician, The Shaman and a Matter of Choice. The first two were wonderful not so much the third but I was hooked into finding out what this family of physicians would end up at so I read it anyway. It was not bad. It kept my interest the whole time.