Lexicon by Max Berry
This has probably been my favorite 'compex' book so far in 2014. Now, with that said, don't expect it to be a simple, page-turner, type of mystery - it was far more complex than that. Hmmm...how to describe it? Let's start with the title - Lexicon - so the plot obviously has to do with words. Next, think back to a news story a couple years ago about a man who had woken up from a coma, speaking an entirely different language, as in a language he had never heard before in his life. Weird, right? So Max Barry's premise in this book is that we have compartments in our brain for language, and if trained properly, we can access those places for both good and evil. In Lexicon, an academy exists to train people on the use of manipulation through the use of words, an intriguing idea. Barry takes us through a plethora of twists and turns, using time creatively as he yanks us back and forth through past and present. On one hand, this was a quick read because I was so obsessed with it, yet each page has to be read very carefully, picking up on his language and clues throughout. I think this would be a fabulous, topical book club read, as it makes one think about how the media manipulates the public on a daily basis.
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
This is a beautifully told story of a time of my childhood, the early '60's, set in a small Minnesota town, peopled by characters we all recognize: the local pastor, two mischievous brothers, the girl who doesn't 'belong' in the small town, the mother who wants more, the racist police officer, the rich family on the hill, and the genius hermit. Sound familiar? Yet Krueger weaves a story that is not repetitive, dealing with family ties, death, stereotypes, prejudice, and lost dreams in a thoughtful and provoking manner. He doesn't wrap everything up in a neat, tidy little bow, which I actually appreciate. With many similarities to To Kill a Mockingbird, I understand the accolades and awards for this book. It is a wonderful book club read, well told, of an era of jello and tuna-noodle casserole, that leaves us with questions and topics to discuss.
The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene
If you're an obsessive reader of who-dunnits, this it the book for you, though I'm not entirely sure I can classify it as a mystery. Regardless, this book was read in just one day by your's truly, so yes, it is a page-turner. The story begins with Arthur Winthrop, a middle-aged headmaster from the elite Lancaster prep school, wandering naked through Central Park. The obvious question, of course, is ...why??? As Greene attempts to answer this question, we see Arthur's life through his rambling story to the police and we begin to understand that his past has strongly influenced his present. However, if you've read Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, be ready for some unexpected twists and turns in this one as well. Greene does a masterful job of throwing out red herrings, and must chuckle as we grasp onto them just as he rips them away. This is a thought-provoking book on family, love, grief, and redemption that will make you want to push the copy of this book into a friend's hand just so you can dissect it together.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A best-seller here in my little college town in the great Northwest, I sincerely hope other parts of the country have discovered Zevin's little gem as well. If you love books (and if you're reading this blog, I'm figuring you do), and you love independent bookstores (who doesn't - the salespeople who have actually read the books on the shelves, the owner that calls your name as he greets you in the morning, the smell of home-made chai tea...you get the drift), then you will fall as solidly in love with this book as I did. It is the story of a 39 year old man, A.J. Fikry, who instead of finishing his PhD in literature, opens a bookstore with his wife, situated on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. Thus ensues the most delightful book I have read since The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The community of Alice Island is peopled with the most unique characters beyond the quirky bookstore owner - the policeman who is 'not a reader,' the idealistic publishing agent, the irascible author and his long-suffering wife, and the 'package' who arrives on A.J.'s doorstep. All I can say is...do not miss reading this book, seriously - it would be such a loss. For those of us who are lovers of books, addicted to stories, and believers of the power of literature, this book will satisfy every fiber of your being.