It's nearly March -- and with it comes spring, along with a whole new crop of books to fill up your to-read list! I'm particularly excited about a couple of these, especially "Bleaker House" and "Exit West." All the book blurbs below are from Goodreads.
My take // I'm always fascinated by books set in the Middle East -- a region so different in many ways from our own -- and I'm completely intrigued by the magical realism aspect!
Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar // An intergalactic odyssey of love, ambition, and self-discovery. Orphaned as a boy, raised in the Czech countryside by his doting grandparents, Jakub Procházka has risen from small-time scientist to become the country's first astronaut. When a dangerous solo mission to Venus offers him both the chance at heroism he's dreamt of, and a way to atone for his father's sins as a Communist informer, he ventures boldly into the vast unknown. Alone in Deep Space, Jakub discovers a possibly imaginary giant alien spider, who becomes his unlikely companion. Over philosophical conversations about the nature of love, life and death, and the deliciousness of bacon, the pair form an intense and emotional bond. Rich with warmth and suspense and surprise, "Spaceman of Bohemia" is an exuberant delight from start to finish.
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel // Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die. After her mother's suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother's mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away. Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
The Lucky Ones by Julinane Pachico // Set during the peak of Colombia’s drug-fueled conflict, and in New York City, this captivating, kaleidoscopic debut novel centers on a group of high school girls and the people whose lives touch theirs -- including their parents, teachers, housekeepers, and the warlords and guerrilla fighters who surround them. Taking place over two decades, "The Lucky Ones" presents us with a world in which perpetrators are indistinguishable from saviors, the truth is elusive, and people you love can disappear without a trace. A prismatic tale of a group of characters who emerge and recede throughout the novel and touch one another’s lives in ways even they cannot comprehend, "The Lucky Ones" captures the intensity of life in Colombia as paramilitaries, guerillas, and drug traffickers tear the country apart.
Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato // Eight-year-old Edgar Fini remembers nothing of the accident people still whisper about. He only knows that his father is gone, his mother has a limp, and his grandmother believes in ghosts. When Edgar meets a man with his own tragic story, the boy begins a journey into a secret wilderness where nothing is clear -- not even the line between the living and the dead. In order to save her son, Lucy has no choice but to confront the demons of her past.
Celine by Peter Heller // From the best-selling author of "The Dog Stars," a luminous, masterful novel of suspense -- the story of Celine, an elegant, aristocratic private eye who specializes in reuniting families, trying to make amends for a loss in her own past. Working out of her jewel box of an apartment at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, Celine has made a career of tracking down missing persons, and she has a better record at it than the FBI. But when a young woman, Gabriela, asks for her help, a world of mystery and sorrow opens up. Gabriela's father was a photographer who went missing on the border of Montana and Wyoming. He was assumed to have died from a grizzly mauling, but his body was never found. Now, as Celine and her partner head to Yellowstone National Park, investigating a trail gone cold, it becomes clear that they are being followed -- that this is a case someone desperately wants to keep closed.
A Bridge Across Oceans by Susan Meissner // February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy. Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a 70-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.
My take // Oooh, I love a good historical fiction dual narrative!
Bleaker House by Nell Stevens // On a frozen island in the Falklands, with only penguins for company, a young would-be writer struggles to craft a debut novel...and instead writes a funny, clever, moving memoir that heralds the arrival of a fresh new literary talent.
My take // I've been looking forward to this memoir since I first heard about it months ago. Frigid setting, novel-writing and penguins -- I'm all about it!
The Idiot by Elif Batuman // The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings. At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan's friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin's summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.
New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson // A new vision of the future of New York City in the 22nd century, a flooded, but vibrant metropolis. The waters rose, submerging New York City. But the residents adapted and it remained the bustling, vibrant metropolis it had always been. Though changed forever. Every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. Through the eyes of the varied inhabitants of one building, Kim Stanley Robinson shows us how one of our great cities will change with the rising tides. And how we too will change.
Writer, Sailor, Solider, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures by Nicholas Reynolds (non-fiction) // An international cloak-and-dagger epic ranging from the Spanish Civil War to the liberation of Western Europe, wartime China, the Red Scare of Cold War America, and the Cuban Revolution, here is the stunning untold story of a literary icon's dangerous secret life -- including his role as a Soviet agent code-named "Argo" -- that fueled his art and his undoing. A literary biography with the soul of an espionage thriller, "Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy" is an essential contribution to our understanding of the life, work, and fate of one of America's most legendary authors.
Himself by Jess Kidd // When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies. His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one in the village -- living or dead -- will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony's certainty that more than one of them has answers. Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence and buried secret
My take // Other than Maeve Binchy and Tana French, I've not read too many books set in Ireland -- a place that fascinates me -- and I'm looking forward to this Irish mystery.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See // A thrilling new novel Lisa See explores the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter who has been adopted by an American couple. A powerful story about a family, separated by circumstances, culture, and distance, "Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane" paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond that connects mothers and daughters.
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck // Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold. Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined.
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti // After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife's hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother's mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past a past that eventually spills over into his daughter's present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks. Both a coming-of-age novel and a literary thriller, "The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley" explores what it means to be a hero, and the cost we pay to protect the people we love most.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (young adult) // The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around -- and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.