Monday, July 30, 2012

Bend Your Mind

Are you a fan of movies like Inception or Memento, with shocking revelations and plot twists that make you go whoa, what's going on? (In a good way!) Well, then, I have some books you'll love to be confused by!

The Mirage is the new novel by Matt Ruff, author of the hilarious plot rollercoaster Bad Monkeys. It opens with a Homeland Security agent investigating terrorist attacks by religious fundamentalists from an impoverished third-world country. The twist: this agent works for the United Arab States, the dominant world power, and the terrorists come from the backwards, Balkanized region of...America. So that's how this book starts, and it'll just keep twisting your brain into knots as you get further into the story! Read on for more head-exploding books and authors...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Flower Says...

I have always loved flowers.  Walking into a florist shop is such a wonderful experience, from the cool temperatures, to the scents, to the colors.  So I was delighted by The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  This book combines those tactile things about flowers with the intriguing meanings behind them.  In Victorian times people would use the flowers they gave to communicate hidden meanings. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Night Circus

Do you believe in magic? You will after you read this book. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a fairy tale for adults. The circus opens on October 13, 1886. The black and white tents of Le Cirque des Reves appear without advertisement. There is only a simple sign that says "Opens at Nightfall, Closes at Dawn." Reality is suspended. Illusion becomes real. One tent holds a garden made entirely of ice. In another tent, you can relive a happy childhood event. There are illusionists, white tigers, living statues, and performing cats.  As quickly as it comes, the circus disappears leaving visitors with a longing for its return. The time and place of its next appearance is unknown.

The circus, however, is more than entertainment. As the circus evolves, it becomes more and more

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Language of Baklava

I'm always on the lookout for memoirs that use clear, evocative prose to tell fascinating stories of ordinary people. I also seek out books about food (including pie cookbooks, mystery stories set in donut shops, or children's books about budding cupcake enthusiasts) because I like to engage my taste buds' imagination, as well as my brain's. But best of all, I love to read well-written memoirs that use food as a way to convey a narrator's culture, values, and perceptions. And Diana Abu-Jaber's The Language of Baklava perfectly accomplishes that feat.

The Language of Baklava introduces us to a girl who lives with one foot in the United States (her mother's country) and one foot in Jordan (her father's country). The book is constructed as a series of vignettes, each chapter its own story, each story supplemented with recipes that relate to the chapter's themes: tabbouleh, pita bread, Arabic ice cream, and more--including, of course, baklava. Not only do the recipes perfectly coincide with the contents of each chapter, but each word is masterfully chosen, each sentence flawlessly constructed. Abu-Jaber writes about the contrast between stinky elementary school cafeteria food and her homemade bag lunches of spinach pies and grape leaves; about the painful discovery that, in the United States, family barbecues are held in the backyard rather than the front yard; about her father's thwarted attempts to open his own restaurant; about returning to Jordan as an adult and reconnecting with the relatives and the heritage that have helped to shape her. This book begs to be savored, just like a luscious piece of baklava.

~Queen of Books

Monday, July 16, 2012

While You Wait for Gone Girl

I just finished Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, the plotty thriller that everyone and their brother has a hold on this summer. No spoilers: it's as good as they say it is, keep it on your list! Here are some lesser-known titles to tide you over until your hold arrives.

Last year's must-read plot twist novel was Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson. Reminiscent of Memento, the main character wakes up every morning missing most of her memory. She sees a forty-something in the mirror, but the last thing she remembers is being a twenty-something college student. This is not her beautiful house, and certainly not her beautiful husband. If you haven't read it yet, now is the perfect chance to peer into her diary as she tries to piece together the missing years. Read on for more ominous thrillers!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Read and Greet

Our warm welcome goes out to PCPL’s newest branch - Oro Valley Public Library. What better way to meet the staff than to learn their reading tastes? So check out their picks and get to know the Oro Valley team.

Amy recommends Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson.         
Marianne travels to join her twin sister in Edenbrooke for the summer, and discovers romance and adventure when she meets the dashing Sir Philip.

Betty recommends Pip’s Trip by Janet Stoeke. 
After failing to convince her fellow hens to join her for a ride, adventurous Pip climbs inside the farmer's truck only to realize there is no place like home.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gritty Crime Fiction

When Ian Rankin finished up his Inspector Rebus series, I was devastated. I had followed his career over the span of 17 books and almost 20 years. I couldn't imagine another author capturing that same feel - the underbelly of Scotland, the dourness and the grit. I'm thrilled to have found Denise Mina's series featuring Alex Morrow, a tough, female detective inspector. The Glasgow backdrop makes a change from Rankin's Edinburgh and Mina does a great job with the dialog. You can hear the strangulated vowels leap off the page as you read.

Still Midnight, the first in the series, opens with a home invasion and kidnapping. The criminals are inept and unsure of themselves. The situation is almost funny, until an accidental shot ups the stakes. DI Alex Morrow is assigned to the case, but not in the leading role she feels she deserves.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Down and Out

I enjoy character driven novels, especially when those characters live hardscrabble lives. The more "down and out" a character or situation is, the more involved I become. My interest is always piqued when a character's environment - or even his or her internal makeup - presents barriers to that character's advancement. After all conflict is the fuel for storytelling and, to be honest, fuels this schadenfreude reading tendency of mine. So I present three novels with characters that encounter seemingly insurmountable odds.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is the most engaging of the three. Oscar de Leon takes center stage but the story mostly concerns the lives of the people who surround him: his mother and sister, the woman with whom he falls in love, his college roommate and his very estranged father. The story stretches across time and place - from Oscar's mother's youth in the Dominican Republic to his family's modern day immigrant struggles in New Jersey. Oscar is hapless and, while we may cringe at that, very endearing.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

So Long, See You Tomorrow

First, I want to emphatically state that I never pick reading material to complement my geographical location. Yet before heading to farmland in the Heartland, I grabbed this drama played out between tenant farmers in the 1920's and then it grabbed me while I lazed away an afternoon on the porch of a 1910 Sears Roebuck Modern Home.

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell is a telescopic look into a tragedy that claimed the lives of two neighboring farmers. Fifty years after the incident a townie, connected to the deaths through his friendship with the killer's son, reflects on the events that unfolded to culminate in murder and the families' fragmentation.