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Posts Tagged ‘ARCs’

Or something like that. These days, the mail is bringing books – mostly ARCs for my new reviewing gig at Shelf Awareness. I am SO excited to be part of the review team for this thoughtful, informative, often hilarious publication. (I’ll let you know when my reviews start going up!)

So, on to the May reads, part 1:

Summer Friends, Holly Chamberlin
This is my first review for the Shelf, so I can’t say too much about it here – but it’s a tale of a long friendship, set in the lush summer landscape of Maine.

And I Shall Have Some Peace There, Margaret Roach
I really wanted to love this book. “Trading in the fast lane for my own dirt road” – isn’t that, in some way, what I dream of? Being in control of my own days, far from the urban rush and press? Roach is a talented writer, but I found this memoir a little lacking. She didn’t convince me she was really happy with her decision – too much focus on the loneliness, the fear, and (ugh) the snakes.

The Soldier’s Wife, Margaret Leroy
Oh, I loved this wartime story set on Guernsey (echoes of that other Guernsey book I love). The tenderness between a mother and her daughters, the sacrifices of wartime (small and large), the courageous acts of kindness done by strangers and friends…bittersweet but beautiful. And gorgeously written.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne Valente
A fantastically fun story, elaborately detailed – it took me a little while to get into, but once I was into it, I loved the tale of September and her quest through Fairyland. Such a fun cast of supporting characters, and a satisfying (if bittersweet) ending. (And a great passage on washing your courage.)

Knit the Season, Kate Jacobs
Good old-fashioned comfort reading, with characters I know and like, and a dose of knitting fun. And a Christmas in Scotland, which I found delightful.

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind, Ann B. Ross
The first in a series featuring Miss Julia, a Southern woman of a certain age whose life is turned upside down after her husband dies. Entertaining and even touching at times, though predictable. I like Miss Julia, but her housekeeper, Lillian, has far more sense and spunk.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
I’d heard about this book from lots of folks – but was unprepared for its quiet power. A heartbreaking, courageous tale of life in Nazi Germany during World War II, involving accordions, a boy obsessed with Jesse Owens, an unusual narrator (Death himself), and quite a lot of thievery. Fantastic.

The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall
Found at the Brattle for $4. The four Penderwick sisters spend a few weeks at a cottage in the Berkshires with their father, trying (and failing utterly) to stay out of trouble. They succeed, however, at being charming, loving one another, and having all kinds of adventures.

I’m in the middle of three books right now, with several more in the queue. Just the way I like it. What are you reading lately?

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I’m getting through a lot of books these days – so many that a monthly book roundup feels a little long. So I’m trying semi-monthly. As always, share your opinions, recommendations and/or current reads in the comments!

Love Walked In, Marisa de los Santos
After lending this to Abi, who loved it, I decided it was time for a reread. Gorgeous writing (the author is also a poet), and oh, I love these characters, especially Cornelia, who narrates half the story in a rambling, charming, old-Hollywood-loving voice. It’s a beautiful exploration of all kinds of love, and what happens when you decide to love the people who end up in your life unexpectedly.

Belong to Me, Marisa de los Santos
This is a sequel, of sorts, to the above – though in quite a different setting, and with three narrators instead of two. Some characters I already knew and loved; some I loved right away; some I came, grudgingly, to admire and even like. This book is, of course, specifically about the people who fill its pages – it shines a light on the beauty and messiness of their particular stories. But in a larger sense, it is about families – the ones we have and the ones we choose.

Patches of Godlight, Jan Karon
I’m a devoted Mitford fan, so of course I knew about Father Tim’s beloved “quote book” – what fun to read his scribblings in physical book form. Two favorites: “Be faithful in the little practices of love,” from Mother Teresa, and “Friendships, like geraniums, blossom in kitchens,” from Peter someone or other. Wise, funny and beautiful.

A Lesson in Secrets, Jacqueline Winspear
Bought and signed when I went to hear Ms. Winspear read at the Harvard Book  Store. This one’s set in Cambridge, which I found doubly interesting – for one, it’s a departure from Maisie’s usual London life, and for another, I don’t know much about Cambridge, as I am an Oxford girl. Full of intrigue, compelling characters, and Maisie’s trademark sleuthing instinct.

Imagined London, Anna Quindlen
A book about books about London – what’s not to love? Although I am an Oxford girl (see above), I’ve read my share of stories set in London, and spent some time wandering its streets, famous and otherwise. Quindlen adores London and is proud to be a speaker of “real” English; I enjoyed her tour of the worlds of Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope and others who have written about this city. Recommended if you love London, England, books or all three.

The Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen
Bethany sent me the ARC she received, with a note about how this book is a story of enduring friendship, like ours. It’s also about secrets, and families, and letting go of who we think we have to be. Light and enjoyable, though I wanted more development of every plotline. (Rachel the barista – scribbling notes about people’s drink orders and what they mean – particularly made me smile. I used to practice that kind of “coffeeology” myself.)

The Thoughtful Dresser, Linda Grant
A rambling, mostly interesting meditation on how our clothes influence us, and how fashion reflects our basic human desires to be attractive and to be seen. (The author is the child of Polish immigrants to England who changed their clothing styles to fit into their new country, and has also interviewed an Auschwitz survivor who went on to work in fashion and later open her own boutique.) A sort of intellectualized version of What Not to Wear.

When We Were Strangers, Pamela Schoenewaldt
I enjoyed the story of Irma Vitale, who leaves her tiny Italian village to seek her fortune in the U.S., working as a dressmaker until she discovers a talent for nursing. She goes through some horrible trials, but makes some steadfast friends (especially spunky Irish maid Molly), and eventually finds her place in a new community. Lovely prose, and the details of clothing and dressmaking remind me of Adriana Trigiani’s Valentine series.

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