Adult Summer Reading Reviews

We are nearing the mid-way point for the Literary Elements Adult Summer Reading Challenge. Many of you have signed up and received lots of great prizes. Some of you have gone out of your way to share reviews of books that you have been reading this summer. It was hard to choose, but a few selected reviews are shown below from the ones we have received so far. Thanks to all for participating and sharing your reviews with us!

An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James (Reviewed by Patricia R.)

inquiryintoloveanddeathAs a dedicated reader of fiction– Mysteries and Sci-Fi Fantasy–for over 65 years, this book surpassed anything I have ever heard of or read. From the first page to the last, it is a slow builder of suspense! And yes,fear! This is my first encounter with Gothic, though it is not the gory horror stories that make one ill. Ms. St. James has welded together Gothic, Mystery, and Romance with such great skill that the reader should not be surprised if she experiences goose bumps in the final chapters. Location is England in the early 1900′s, shortly after WW1, in a remote village. Ms. St. James writings are filled with spine-tingling, terrifying characters, but, there is also the beautiful romance with a Scotland Yard Inspector and the discovery of Jillian’s family history. I would share with you that this story is so compelling and intense that I would not choose to read this at night before bed. In some ways, a wonderful, old-fashioned ghost story! Her three books have been reviewed and listed on the NY Times Best Seller List with the 4th one to be released in April, 2015.

The Way of All Fish by Martha Grimes (Reviewed by Cathleen V.)

wayofallfishContract killers who take jobs on the condition that they can decide for themselves whether or not the target is worthy of elimination is an intriguing idea. Even though the inside flap of this novel gives the impression that the hit men are the focus of the tale, there are a large number of other characters who are part of the detailed schemes in this book. Some of the characters have talents, skills, hobbies, and occupations that could make them worthy of novels of their own. The twists, devious manipulations, and humor kept me reading through the points in the story which seemed slow or less relevant to the plot, even a few places where I was not certain I wished to continue on reading. I would say this is all right as one of my first reads of the summer. It requires some attention to keep track of several characters and storylines but is not so challenging that it is frustrating.

Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why it Matters for Global Capitalism by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller (Reviewed by Cynthia W.)

animalspiritsI like to be reading a novel and a non-fiction book at all times. I have lots of opportunities to share good novels with friends and co-workers but I really value this forum to share an occasional non-fiction book. I just finished reading Animal Spirits, a look at classical economic theory and Keynesian theory in light of our questions regarding the recent behavior of our world economy. I have no training in economics so I was a bit nervous but also encouraged by the funny artwork on the cover and the mention of human psychology in the subtitle. The authors, George Akerlof and Robert Schiller, are economists whose names I have seen and heard in the news. While their collaborative style of writing is not graceful or very engaging, it is also not academic or difficult to understand for readers with a good all-round education in other fields. In fact, there is humor to be found in these pages. Beginning with a brief over-view of the work of Adam Smith and his most influential successor John Maynard Keynes, the authors point out the strengths and weaknesses of both theories as they have historically been applied to policy decisions. The “animal spirits” element of Keynes’ analysis, largely ignored by economists since his time, are explained as elements of non-rational human psychology that influence financial and economic decision-making. Since most decisions are made by people who are not following a theoretical ideology but are attempting to make the right decisions for themselves and their society, human psychology plays a greater role than previously acknowledged by theoreticians and scholars. The human considerations examined here are confidence, fairness, corruption and bad faith, money illusion (a new concept for me) and the human propensity to create a narrative story around our lives and circumstances. The effects that these considerations have on individual decisions, relationships and political discussion are easy to see in the world right now. In part 2 the book attempts to answer questions that depend on the economic concepts and human psychology presented in part 1. Questions like “Why do economies fall into depressions?” (lots of history in this one regarding both the US depression of the 1890′s and the Great Depression of the 1930′s that effected the whole world,) “Why are there people who cannot find a job?” (surprisingly, classical theory and the stripped-down version of Keynesian theory do not recognize the existence of involuntary unemployment,) “Why is saving for the future so arbitrary?” (including individual and cultural influences on decisions to save or spend,) and “Why do real estate markets go through cycles?” Animal Spirits is only 177 pages long but I would not call it an easy read. Neither is it too difficult. The insight into the current economic environment gained from this treatise ( the authors do espouse the view that government has a legitimate and vital role to play in economic health and stability) is well worth the effort. I feel more prepared to engage in discussion with the tools to express my own viewpoint and values and without rancor or accusation.

Spot-Lit for July 2014

Spot-Lit

Here’s our list of fiction to look for in July. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction  

Last Stories    Toledo    One Plus One    Tigerman    Care and Management of Lies

Last Stories and Other Stories  by William T. Vollman
How To Tell Toledo from the Night Sky  by Lydia Netzer
One Plus One  by Jojo Moyes
Tigerman  by Nick Harkaway
The Care and Management of Lies  by Jacqueline Winspear

Archival Revivals / New Translations

Echo's Bones    Conversations    Mr Gwyn    Professor    Agostino

Echo’s Bones  by Samuel Beckett
The Conversations  by César Aira
Mr. Gwyn  by Alessandro Baricco
The Professor and the Siren  by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Agostino  by Alberto Moravia

First Novels

Last Night    Sleepwalker's    Dry Bones in the Valley    Man Called Ove    Girls from Corona Del Mar

Last Night at the Blue Angel  by Rebecca Rotert
The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing  by Mira Jacob
Dry Bones in the Valley  by Tom Bouman
A Man Called Ove  by Frederik Backman
The Girls from Corona del Mar  by Rufi Thorpe

Crime Fiction /Suspense

Peter Pan Must Die    Everyone Lies    That Night    Dead Will Tell    Night Searchers

Peter Pan Must Die  by John Verdon
Everyone Lies  by A.D. Garrett
That Night  by Chevy Stevens
The Dead Will Tell  by Linda Castillo
The Night Searchers  by Marcia Muller

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Queen of the Tearling    Half a King    Full Fathom Five    All Those Vanished Engines    House of Small Shadows

The Queen of the Tearling  by Erika Johansen
Half a King  by Joe Abercrombie
Full Fathom Five  by Max Gladstone
All Those Vanished Engines  by Paul Park
The House of Small Shadows  by Adam Nevill

To see all on-order fiction, click here.

Heartwood 4:4 – The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas

The Birds with citationThe Birds is the story of Mattis, a man with learning disabilities in his late 30s, and his sister Hege who takes care of him. They live near the shore of a lake somewhere in rural Norway. Hege knits sweaters almost constantly to bring in the little money that supports the two of them. Due to his general ineptitude, Mattis is unable to secure much in the way of work  – he’s even worn out his welcome as a day laborer, though his neighbors could always use the help at harvest time.

Mattis is afraid of thunderstorms, is spellbound by the habitual flight-path of a woodcock, and sees omens in the two dead aspen that everyone refers to as Hege and Mattis. The story is told from Mattis’s point of view and we quickly discover his enthusiasms and desires as well as his worries and fears. We also come to understand with great intimacy the complex personality that lies beneath his “simple,” slow, and clumsy behavior. Every detail is significant in Mattis’s life and the natural world is especially filled with meanings, both awe-inspiring and frightening.

In one of my favorite scenes, a couple of bikini-clad girls rescue Mattis and his sinking rowboat from an island in the lake. He manages to take charge of the situation, rowing the girls in their boat and towing his empty boat behind as the girls indulge his vanity and chat with him along the way. This success helps convince him that he should offer a ferry service to take people across the lake. But everything changes for Mattis when he brings a lumberjack across who then takes lodging at the house with him and his sister.

I don’t know if I would have ever heard about this tremendous book if I hadn’t been reading My Struggle, the remarkable, multi-volume autobiographical novel by Karl Ove Knausgaard that’s been getting all kinds of coverage in the literary world in recent months. There is quite a bit in Knausgaard about art and music and literature, and somewhere in Book Two he complains about Norwegian fiction of the past fifty years, contentiously claiming The Birds (from 1957) is one of that country’s last successful novels. I love to follow leads like this, what Alan Jacobs calls reading upstream –  that is, finding out who has influenced the writers you admire and then reading the books they have read or enjoyed. Since reading so often shapes a writer, it’s frequently worth taking the bait when an author you like starts dropping names. It definitely worked for me in this case. So, who influenced Tarjei Vesaas? I don’t know yet, but after reading The Birds I’m beginning to think I should find out.

Heartwood | About Heartwood

Spot-Lit for June 2014

Spot-Lit

These June novels are getting a lot of praise in advance reviews. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction  

summer house    Arsonist    Vacationers    Bellweather Rhapsody    Hundred-Year House

Summer House with Swimming Pool  by Herman Koch
The Arsonist  by Sue Miller
The Vacationers  by Emma Straub
Bellweather Rhapsody  by Kate Racculia
The Hundred-Year House  by Rebecca Makkai

First Novels

Antiquarian    Everything    Quick    Fourth of July    People in the Photo

The Antiquarian  by Gustavo Faveron Patriau
Everything I Never Told You  by Celeste Ng
The Quick  by Lauren Owen
Fourth of July Creek  by Smith Henderson
The People in the Photo  by Helene Gestern

Crime Fiction /Suspense

Good Suicides    Better World    Coldsleep Lullaby    Silkworm    Truth About

The Good Suicides  by Antonio Hill
A Better World  by Marcus Sakey
Coldsleep Lullaby  by Andrew Brown
The Silkworm  by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair  by Joel Dicker

SF & Fantasy

Memory of Water    Hard to Be a God    Koko    Madonna    Cibola Burn

Memory of Water  by Emmi Itäranta
Hard to Be a God  by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Koko Takes a Holiday  by Kieran Shea
The Madonna and the Starship  by James Morrow
Cibola Burn  by James S.A. Corey

To see all on-order fiction, click here.

For other notable new fiction lists, try the Indie Next List and Library Reads

For Your Listening Pleasure

Selecting a good audiobook, whether on CD or in digital format, can be a two-step process. There is the first and most obvious step of selecting for the content of the book:  Is it an author you like? Can they write well? Is the subject interesting? If you have listened to audiobooks for a while, you realize there is an important second step: Is the narrator any good? A narrator that you find annoying can really kill the experience no matter how good the content. On the flip side, an excellent narrator can make a book you might not consider at first a fascinating listen. The problem is, how do you find these great narrators.

audies

One way is to check out an award given by the Audio Publishers Association named the Audies. The Audies are given to titles recorded in a given year based in large part on the excellence of the reader or readers. Even better, they are divided into categories (Biography, Fiction, Mystery, Humor etc.) so you can select in the genre you are interested in. This year, the winners will be announced on Thursday May 29th in New York. Until then you can browse this list of all the nominees, complete with audio samples. You may also be interested in viewing the winners from past years for further listen opportunities. To help you get through the rather long list for this year’s ceremony, here is a selection of the nominated audiobooks by category with links to our catalog. Enjoy!

still foolin emI am Malalaeverything storegreat gatsbydoctor sleep

Audiobook of the Year
Still Foolin’Em by Billy Crystal, Read by Billy Crystal
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, Read by Meryl Streep

Biography/Memoir
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, Read by Archie Panjabi
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, Read by Rita Moreno

Business/Educational
The Everything Store by Brad Stone, Read by Pete Larkin
Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan, Read by Jonathan Davis

Classic
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Read by Jake Gyllenhaal
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Read by Armando Duran

Fantasy
Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe, Read by Stefan Rudnicki

Fiction
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, Read by Will Patton
The Good House by Ann Leary, Read by Mary Beth Hurt
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Read by Neil Gaiman

ocean at the end of the lanefrozen in timelets explore diabetesstory of godgoldfinch

History
Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff, read by Mitchell Zuckoff
The Hour of Peril by Danil Stashower, read by Edoardo Ballerini
One Summer by Bill Bryson, read by Bill Bryson

Humor
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris, Read by David Sedaris

Inspirational/Faith-Based Fiction
A Story of God and All of Us by Mark Burnett & Roma Downey, Read by authors and Keith David
Truth-Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock, Read by Gabrielle de Cuir

Inspirational/Faith-Based Non-Fiction
Break Out! By Joel Osteen, Read by Joel Osteen

Literary Fiction
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, Read by David Pittu
The Son by Philipp Meyer, Read by Will Patton, Scott Shepherd, Kate Mulgrew, Clifton Collins

enders game aliveworld war zhes gonebeyond beliefthe telling room

Multi-Voiced Performance
Ender’s Game Alive by Orson Scott Card, Read by full cast
World War Z by Max Brooks, Read by full cast

Mystery
Death and the Lit Chick by G.M. Malliet, Read by Davina Porter
He’s Gone by Deb Caletti, Read by Cassandra Campbell
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman, Read by Judy Kaye

Non-Fiction
Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill, Read by Sandy Rustin
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, Read by Malcolm Gladwell
The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti, Read by L.J. Ganser
Thank You for Your Service by Daivd Finkel, Read by Arthur Bishop

ever afterlongest ridethe martianthe hitsycamore row

Paranormal
Ever After by Kim Harrison, Read by Marguerite Gavin
Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, Read by Benjamin Percy

Romance
The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks, Read by January LaVoy, Ron Mclarty

Science Fiction
Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood, Read by Bernadette Dunne, Bob Walter, Robbie Daymond
The Martian by Andy Weir, Read by R.C. Bray

Thriller/Suspense
The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer, Read by Scott Brick
The Hit by David Baldacci, Read by Ron McLarty, Orlagh Cassidy
Suspect by Robert Crais, Read by Macleod Andrews
Sycamore Row by John Grisham, Read by Michael Beck

Spot-Lit for May 2014

Spot-Lit

In May, this reader is particularly looking forward to the next installment of My Struggle and the books, largely grounded in the written word, History of the Rain, and The Word Exchange. But your tastes may point you toward new books by Michael Cunningham (transcendent emotional inner worlds), Anthony Doerr (intertwined voices in WWII France), or Peter Heller (his second novel, following his popular The Dog Stars). Mystery readers pining for Spenser might try Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage; and for those of you who like western-themed mysteries, definitely take a look at Any Other Name. Thriller fans may want to grab I Am Pilgrim, Natchez Burning, or Prayer. If you go in for the paranormal, check out the zombie thriller Omega Days, or Charlaine Harris’s (of Sookie Stackhouse fame) new series opener Midnight Crossroad. For steampunk fans there’s Highfell Grimoires. And in romance, you’ll find a range from contemporary to chick-lit to urban fantasy to inspirational.

Read more about May’s Spot-Lit picks by clicking on the titles and reading the summaries or reviews.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction 

All the Light  Snow Queen  History of the Rain  Painter  My Struggle

All the Light We Cannot See  by Anthony Doerr
The Snow Queen  by Michael Cunningham
History of the Rain  by Niall Williams
The Painter  by Peter Heller
My Struggle: Book Three  by Karl Ove Knausgaard

First Novels

I Am Pilgirm Book of You  All That Is Solid  Remember Me Like This  Word Exchanbe

I Am Pilgrim  by Terry Hayes
The Book of You  by Claire Kendal
All That Is Solid Melts Into Air  by Darragh McKeon
Remember Me Like This  by Bret Johnston
The Word Exchange  by Alena Graedon

Crime Fiction /Suspense

Natchez Burning  Prayer  Any Other Name  Bred in the Bone Wolverine Bros

Natchez Burning  by Greg Iles
Prayer  by Philip Kerr
Any Other Name  by Craig Johnson
Bred in the Bone  by Christopher Brookmyre
Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage  by Steve Ulfelder

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Midnight Crossroad  My Real Children  Queen of the Dark Things  Highfell Grimoires  Omega Days

Midnight Crossroad  by Charlaine Harris
My Real Children  by Jo Walton
Queen of the Dark Things  by C. Robert Cargill
Highfell Grimoires  by Langley Hyde
Omega Days  by John L. Campbell

Romance

Collide  Somebody Like You Skinny Bitch Gets HitchedBeautiful Distraction  Sparrow Hill Road

Collide  by Gail McHugh
Somebody Like You  by Beth Vogt
Skinny Bitch Gets Hitched  by Kim Barnouin
A Beautiful Distraction  by Kelsie Leverich
Sparrow Hill Road  by Seanan McGuire

To see all on-order fiction, click here.

Spot-Lit for April 2014

Spot-Lit

Lots of good fiction is headed your way this month. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction    

American Romantic    Frog Music    Storied Life    Lovers at the Chameleon Club    Plover

American Romantic  by Ward Just
Frog Music  by Emma Donoghue
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  by Gabrielle Zevin
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932  by Francine Prose
The Plover  by Brian Doyle

First Novels / Fiction

Whiskey Barons    Past the Shalllows    Sedition    Steal the Summer    Skookum

The Whiskey Baron  by Jon Sealy
Past the Shallows  by Favel Parrett
Sedition  by Katharine Grant
Steal the North  by Heather Bergstrom
Skookum Summer  by Jack Hart

Crime Fiction /Suspense

Until You're Mine    Destroyer Angel    Waiting for Wednesday    Cold Nowhere    By Its Cover

Until You’re Mine  by Samantha Hayes
Destroyer Angel  by Nevada Barr
Waiting for Wednesday  by Nicci French
The Cold Nowhere  by Brian Freeman
By Its Cover  by Donna Leon

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Goblin Emperor    Bird Eater    Days of the Deer    Afterparty    Battle Royale

The Goblin Emperor  by Katherine Addison
The Bird Eater  by Ania Ahlborn
The Days of the Deer  by Liliana Bodoc
Afterparty  by Daryl Gregory
Battle Royale – Remastered  by Koushun Takami  

Romance

                            Bet    Hotelles    Far Gone

The Bet  by Rachel Van Dyken
Hotelles  by Emma Mars
Far Gone  by Laura Griffin

To see all on-order fiction, click here.

Book Awards with a Twist

Gold Trophy

Many, many book awards are given out every year, but here are three unique awards you might want to add to your bookmarks.

On the whole, U.S. citizens have very little awareness of non-English language literature; for this reason alone the Best Translated Book Award deserves your attention. The award is offered through the website Three Percent and they recently announced the longlist for the 2014 award. Over the next few weeks they’ll be posting arguments for why each longlisted contender should win. The shortlist will be announced April 15th and the award on April 28th.

EPL currently owns 13 of the 25 BTBA contenders.

Another award that rewards a daily check on the action is the Tournament of Books, now in its tenth year. As described on their About page, “The ToB is an annual springtime event… where 16 or so of the previous year’s best works of fiction enter a March Madness-style battle royale. At the end of the month, the winner of the Tournament is blessed with the Rooster, our prize named after David Sedaris’s brother (because why not).”  This year’s tourney is now in the quarterfinals, but even if you’re late joining in, you can still revisit each bout in the links on the sidebar. In addition to the renowned individual judges who preside over each match, you’ll find great color commentary from the event hosts and a fan base commentariat that engages in lively extended discussions of the books.

EPL currently owns 14 of the 17 ToB contenders.

And finally, a new award is in the works to redress the wrongs of book awards given 50 years ago. The website Bookslut has come up with the Daphnes, and is currently reevaluating books published in 1963. They announced their shortlist last month (here’s the L.A. Times coverage of the announcement). The award categories include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and children’s literature.

EPL currently owns 5 of the 7 Daphne fiction finalists.

One thing all these awards do is remind us that taste is subjective and each of these contenders will be considered the winner in some readers’ eyes; check the lists or follow the action and maybe you’ll discover a new (or new to you) favorite author or book.

Spot-Lit for March 2014

Spot-Lit

Here’s our hand-picked list of fiction titles coming out in March. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place holds.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction  

Bark    Orchard of Lost Souls    Curse on Dost    Blazing World    Boy, Snow, Bird

Bark: stories  by Lorrie Moore
The Orchard of Lost Souls  by Nadifa Mohamed
A Curse on Dostoevsky  by Atiq Rahimi
The Blazing World  by Siri Hustvedt
Boy, Snow, Bird  by Helen Oyeyemi

First Fiction

Redeployment    Burnable Book    Wives of Los Alamos    Precious Thing    Weight of Blood

Redeployment  by Phil Klay
A Burnable Book  by Bruce Holsinger
The Wives of Los Alamos  by Tarashea Nesbit
Precious Thing  by Colette McBeth
The Weight of Blood  by Laura McHugh

Crime Fiction /Suspense

Accident    Disappeared    Why Kings Confess    Black-Eyed Blonde    Watching You

The Accident  by Chris Pavone
The Disappeared  by Kristina Ohlsson
Why Kings Confess  by C.S. Harris
The Black-Eyed Blonde  by Benjamin Black
Watching You  by Michael Robotham

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Man Came Out    Undead Pool    Murder of Crows    Trpoic of Serpents    Code Zero

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain  by Adrianne Harun
The Undead Pool  by Kim Harrison
A Murder of Crows  by Anne Bishop
The Tropic of Serpents  by Marie Brennan
Code Zero  by Jonathan Maberry

Romance

                    Evening Stars          Replacement Wife          Love Comes Calling

Evening Stars  by Susan Mallery
The Replacement Wife  by Tiffany Warren
Love Comes Calling  by Siri Mitchell

To see all on-order fiction, click here.

Spot-Lit for February 2014

Spot-Lit

Lots of good fiction is coming out this February, including many strong debuts. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction 

Still Life Bread Crumbs    I Shall Be Near to You    Unnecessary Woman    Golden State    I Always Loved You

Still Life with Bread Crumbs  by Anna Quindlen
I Shall Be Near to You  by Erin McCabe
An Unnecessary Woman  by Rabih Alameddine
Golden State  by Michelle Richmond
I Always Loved You  by Robin Oliveira 

First Fiction

Spinning Heart    Archetype    Dust    While Beauty Slept    One More Thing

The Spinning Heart  by Donal Ryan
Archetype  by M.D. Waters
Dust  by Yvonne Owuor
While Beauty Slept  by Elizabeth Blackwell
One More Thing  by B.J. Novak

Crime Fiction / Suspense

Runner    Cold Storage    After I'm Gone    Officer and a Spy    Poisoned Pawn

Runner  by Patrick Lee
Cold Storage, Alaska  by John Straley
After I’m Gone  by Laura Lippman
An Officer and a Spy  by Robert Harris
The Poisoned Pawn  by Peggy Blair

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Annihilation    Darkling Sea    Martian    Influx    Red Rising

Annihilation  by Jeff Vandermeer
A Darkling Sea  by James Cambias  (debut)
The Martian  by Andy Weir  (debut)
Influx  by Daniel Suarez
Red Rising  by Pierce Brown  (debut)

To see all the on-order fiction, click here.