The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
If you're ready for your hair to stand on end, as you lay cuddled in your bed, looking over your shoulder for the insanely creepy murderer who plays number one bad guy, this is the book for you. While I'm definitely NOT a horror fan (I don't do slasher movies, read books about the occult or vampires, or read Stephen King), this is a murder mystery that will get your adrenalin pumping. Harper Curtis is not your run-of-the-mill creeper...he has found a 'special' house in downtown Chicago that affords him little side trips into the future and the past. In other words, yes, he's a time traveler, but don't think this is a sci-fi book
- the time traveling merely serves as a vehicle for Harper to terrorize his victims throughout their lifetimes before pulling the final knife. However, one has been left alive. Kirby, a tortured young woman, teams up with a quintessential old curmudgeonly reporter as the two try to solve the mystery of her attacker. This book is a humdinger - guaranteed to make you check under your bed at night and keep you turning pages until it is done.
I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits
This is a short, yet poignant, book that looks at a fictional Hasidic family post WWII. I have read numerous Holocaust novels as well as non-fiction, yet I had very little knowledge of the most religious of the Jewish sects, the Hasidic Jews. I found this tale to be utterly engrossing as it details the life of two girls, one adopted into a rather famous Hasidic family after the murder of her family in the camps, and the other the daughter of the prominent rabbi. The two girls follow different paths - one a strong follower and believer in the faith, the other who questions and chafes at the strict religious rules imposed especially on the women. Through this book, we learn of the adherence to their laws, as well as what occurs when those laws are broken. This would be a fascinating book to read as a book club, as it brings up all sorts of questions...what does God expect of us? how do we live with faith? what is our role in the family? can we be forgiven when we sin? If you are looking for something thought-provoking and off the track of 'best-sellers', I would highly recommend this book.
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz
So, next month is 'biography' month for our book club. Figuring I'd be buried under essays by then, I jumped in early to our chosen bio. After being presented with five different choices, our club enthusiastically chose the story of Julia Child. Rather hilarious, actually, as I'm not sure any of us are gourmet chefs, though we must all aspire to be:) I had seen the movie from a few years ago, Julie and Julia, and found it delightful. Although, I do remember thinking I was not that interested in the blogger and found Meryl Streep's portrayal and storyline of Julia Child far more interesting. I have to say, I was hooked from the first line of Spitz's fascinating, in-depth look at Child's life. He takes us from the moment she is born, back into the life of her parents and grandparents, and then looks at literally every aspect of her life. Spitz does an admirable job of looking at all Julia's life stages, and does not merely focus on the famous years from age fifty to her eighties. While it is a rather long book, the last 30% is taken up with footnotes, so it's not as long as it may seem at first glance. At times, I wished Spitz would spend less time detailing the peripheral characters of her life, but he was always able to bring it back to Julia and her husband Paul (that is a fascinating love story). I was thoroughly engrossed in the story of this 6'3" tall woman (yep, and her younger sister was 6'6"!!) and the impact she made in the American kitchen. I had always thought of Julia Child more as the parody on Saturday Night Live, but she was so much more. Each night I closed the book, I found myself starving to death - they talk food ALL the time - and I may even attempt one of her butter- and-cream-rich recipes soon, but if you like historical tidbits about famous people and you're even peripherally interested in cooking, this is a thoroughly enjoyable book. In the words of Julia...bon appetit!
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I had heard a little buzz about this book (Amazon book of the month last June), so when I saw it in my high school library, I impulsively checked it out. One of my students saw it on my desk and exclaimed "Oh, that was my favorite book this summer!" Hooked. Gaiman is typically a Young Adult author, but this is first foray into the world of adult fiction in quite some time. I admit - it's not my usual fare of mystery, historical fiction, or non-fiction inspirational true story. It is a fantasy, where a curmudgeonly old man attends a family funeral, and remembers his summer as a seven year old boy. As we return in the memories of the boy, we see the extraordinary summer he had as magic, myth, and fantasy conspire to create a whole new world for him to explore and conquer. What I liked about this fantasy is that it is grounded in a small, recognizable English countryside, the two children as main characters are utterly delightful, courageous, and engaging, and the antagonists are incredibly and evilly intelligent. It is a short, beautifully written story that will keep you reading to the end.