This gripping narrative sweeps you off your feet with unexpected revelations, humor, and depth. Leia is a well-known graphic novel artist and has by her own admission “run, not walked,” away from every promising romance in her life. She lives near her seemingly-perfect step-sister, Rachel, with whom she shares a strained but affectionate relationship. After an uncharacteristic one night stand at FanCon, Leia finds that she is pregnant with the son of a man she knows only by his costume – Batman.
At 38, she decides this may be her only chance to have the baby she’s always wanted and decides this pregnancy is a blessing but thinks she has lost all chance of contacting the father. After keeping the pregnancy a secret for some time, she finally steels herself to break the news to her family. Before she can, two family emergencies happen at the same time. Rachel’s picture perfect marriage falls apart, and Leia’s beloved grandmother Birchie is revealed to have a degenerative brain disease.
Leia must head south to the tiny Alabama town her ancestors founded to sort out care for Birchie. In the process, she uncovers family secrets ancient and new, sees with new eyes the underlying racism of small-town America, and discovers a well of strength within herself. Her pregnancy grows and the impending motherhood shifts her long-held perspectives on the world, her art, and her family.
This novel deals with race, small-town life, the cracks and glue which hold a family together, and the strength and power of motherhood…with a healthy sprinkling of very current nerd-culture.
The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
It’s intriguing, though some of the writing is problematic. Quite the mystery, steeped in the real-life history of Communist and modern-day Bulgaria. There is a lot of travel in circles and to me, anyway, unnecessary descriptions. Not finished yet, but I’m giving it a 3-star rating unless the ending is amazing.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
This creepy, oppressive novel tells the story of Lizzie Borden and the murder of her father and step-mother. Set around the time of the murders (and once jumping forward), a picture of a dysfunctional and insular family emerges. It’s a compelling read, uncomfortable in places, but that works to the story’s advantage. This is a book that stays with you after you’ve finished reading. And while the novel doesn’t come right out and say who committed the unsolved crimes, the culprit’s identity is very heavily implied.
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Those of us who grew up with Saturday morning cartoons will enjoy this scary, sci-fi throwback. It’s a bit slow to start, and the style takes getting used to, but once the action starts it gets a lot better!
Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon’s Relentless Madre De Dios by Holly Conklin FitzGerald
If this hadn’t been shelved in the nonfiction, I wouldn’t have guessed this was a true story! This is an incredible, astounding tale of being lost in the Amazon. The author is speaking at the library this month, too!
My “Marple Project”: My husband, Scott, and I watch many of the BBC mysteries, including the Miss Marple series. Having seen all of them, I started wondering which of the Marples–Joan Hickson or Geraldine McEwan–was more true to Christie’s vision of her elderly sleuth (sorry, Helen Hayes and Julia McKenzie, you’re just not in the running). So I read all the Miss Marple novels (there are short stories, too, but my compulsiveness has limits). I loved them all! Great fun, good mysteries, sly humor. And the winner: McEwan. While Hickson’s Marple flutters more (a signature Marple trait), only McEwan’s Marple twinkles, something Christie mentions repeatedly.
And although I’m not usually an audiobook listener, I did listen recently to two recorded Agatha Christies–And Then There Were None
and Murder on the Orient Express–
-both ably read by Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey
). It’s astonishing to think that the playful author of the cozy Marple mysteries penned And Then There Were None
; it is incredibly dark. Murder on the Orient Express
is a Hercule Poirot mystery that demands the reader’s dexterity with something like 10 different accents. Even if you don’t like the story, it’s worth the time to hear someone move so surefootedly (sure-tonguedly??) from character to character.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
I have read a couple of Bryson’s books of the past year and have to say this is by far one of the best books he has written. It deviates from his normal travelogue exploits and takes on all the sciences, from the Big Bang to quantum mechanics. In layman’s terms with some humorous anecdotes about some of the scientists and their discoveries, Bryson engages the reader in the ultimate travel adventure through science. It was the most interesting science book I have ever read.