2017 Reads

 If your’e feeling anything like I am, and you need an escape after the start of 2017, There is no better escape then a book. Time to read a story that takes you on an adventure, or that that makes you think, questions, and try to be better. These are the books I’ll be reading this year (and re-reading, because Saltwater Buddha and Shadow of the Wind I read once  a year eeek)  So grab a bottle of red wine and some marcona almonds and let your mind wander.

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Saltwater Buddha
Fed up with teenage life in the suburbs, Jaimal Yogis ran off to Hawaii with little more than a copy of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha and enough cash for a surfboard. His journey is a coming-of-age saga that takes him from communes to monasteries, from the warm Pacific to the icy New York shore. Equal parts spiritual memoir and surfer’s tale, this is a chronicle of finding meditative focus in the barrel of a wave and eternal truth in the great salty blue

The Huffington Post

“Jaimal’s story is, in part, an adventure story in which the sea is a powerful antagonist, at once the siren and the ogre, irresistible and terrifying in its sheer, monstrous power. For this author, it’s a voracious and demanding lover, and he is skilled at summoning its ever-changing presence.”

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The Mothers
The Mothers is an absorbing and powerful novel about motherhood, female friendship and finding love with a broken heart. Brit Bennett will captivate you with her characters – who are hurting, flawed and trying to navigate the unsteady transition into adulthood. Seventeen year old Nadia Turner has her world turned upside down when her mother commits suicide and shortly thereafter, she discovers she’s pregnant with the pastor’s son’s child. Nadia finds a safe harbor in her best friend Aubrey, but as the years go by, her past decisions invade the present, ushering in a new wave of wounds. The Mothers ambitiously tackles heavy circumstances, but the hope of these young black women and Bennett’s ability to convey the ferocity of what it means have a mother, to be a mother, and to want a mother, make this novel a resoundingly magnetic and essential read. –Al Woodworth, The Amazon Book Review

The New York Times – Carmela Ciuraru

Suicide, abortion, grief, religion, female friendship and first love are bold themes to tackle in a debut novel, but 26-year-old Brit Bennett seems admirably repelled by caution…Ms. Bennett allows her characters to follow their worst impulses, and she handles provocative issues with intelligence, empathy and dark humor. Her risk-taking pays off.

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Salvage the bones

Winner of the 2011 National Book Award-A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch’s father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn’t show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn’t much to save. Lately, Esch can’t keep down what food she gets; she’s fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull’s new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child’s play and short on parenting.

As the twelve days that make up the novel’s framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family–motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce–pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real

Salvage the Bones is an intense book, with powerful, direct prose that dips into poetic metaphor . . . We are immersed in Esch’s world, a world in which birth and death nestle close, where there is little safety except that which the siblings create for each other. That close-knit familial relationship is vivid and compelling, drawn with complexities and detail.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times

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Shadow of the wind
In the postwar calm of 1945 Barcelona, ten-year-old Daniel Sempere awakes from a nightmare and, to his horror, realizes that he can no longer remember the face of his deceased mother. In an effort to divert his son’s attention from this sharply felt fear and loss, his father, a rare-book dealer, first swears Daniel to secrecy, then takes him to a clandestine library where Daniel is allowed to select a single book.

Entranced, Daniel picks a novel, The Shadow of the Wind, written by the enigmatic Julián Carax, who is rumored to have fled Spain under murky circumstances, and later died. As Daniel begins to search for other works by his favorite new author, he discovers that they have all been destroyed — torched by a mysterious stranger obsessed with obliterating Carax’s literary legacy from the face of the earth.

Though Daniel’s copy of Carax’s novel is the last in existence, he’s unwilling to part with it at any price and dedicates himself to revealing the truth about Carax. Aided in his quest by the good-humored Fermín Romero de Torres, a former beggar whose “difficult life-lessons” enable him to keep a step ahead of trouble, Daniel begins to uncover a tale of murder, madness, and secrets that might best be forgotten. And as he wends his way through Barcelona society, both high and low, he comes to realize that his own part in The Shadow of the Wind is more than that of a mere reader

The New York Times

The melodrama and complications of Shadow, expertly translated by Lucia Graves, can approach excess, though it’s a pleasurable and exceedingly well-managed excess. We are taken on a wild ride — for a ride, we may occasionally feel — that executes its hairpin bends with breathtaking lurches. — Richard Eder

The Nix

The Nix

From the suburban Midwest to New York City to the 1968 riots that rocked Chicago and beyond, The Nix explores—with sharp humor and a fierce tenderness—the resilience of love and home, even in times of radical change.

It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson—college professor, stalled writer—has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn’t seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s re-appeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help.

To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye’s losses but also his own lost love, and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother, and himself.

The New York Times Book Review – Teddy Wayne

The Nix, Nathan Hill’s ambitiously panoramic and humane debut novel…sounds dizzying, but the multiple story lines are dexterously juggled and well paced…Hill has so much talent to burn that he can pull off just about any style, imagine himself into any person and convincingly portray any place or time. The Nix is hugely entertaining and unfailingly smart, and the author seems incapable of writing a pedestrian sentence or spinning a boring story.

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The Girls
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction—and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.

“Emma Cline has an unparalleled eye for the intricacies of girlhood, turning the stuff of myth into something altogether more intimate. She reminds us that behind so many of our culture’s fables exists a girl: unseen, unheard, angry. This book will break your heart and blow your mind.”—Lena Dunham

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Biggle Little Lies

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

Big Little Lies tolls a warning bell about the big little lies we tell in order to survive. It takes a powerful stand against domestic violence even as it makes us laugh at the adults whose silly costume party seems more reminiscent of a middle-school dance.”—The Washington Post

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A Monster Calls
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

There’s no denying it: this is one profoundly sad story. But it’s also wise, darkly funny and brave, told in spare sentences, punctuated with fantastic images and stirring silences. Past his sorrow, fright and rage, Conor ultimately lands in a place – an imperfect one, of course – where healing can begin. A MONSTER CALLS is a gift from a generous story­teller and a potent piece of art.
—The New York Times

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The Wonder

In the latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels—a tale of two strangers who transform each other’s lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

The New York Times – Sarah Lyall

…fascinating…The book is set in the mid-19th century, but its themes—faith and logic, credulity and understanding, the confused ways people act in the name of duty and belief and love—are modern ones. While the wonder of the title refers to many things, at its core it’s an examination of the mysteries of reason, responsibility and the heart…Like Ms. Donoghue’s best-selling Room, the novel ultimately concerns itself with courage, love and the lengths someone will go to protect a child. Holding Anna tight, Lib knows that “she’d give her the skin off her body if she had to, the bones out of her legs.” The feeling is heartbreaking and transcendent and almost religious in itself.

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