31 May 2011

Last Month in Review: May 2011

I can't remember a gloomier spring in my life, and I think the dark and dank May put a damper (pun intended) on my reading this month.

1. Frost by Mariana Baer.  This YA novel doesn't come out until the fall but I got the ARC from a sales rep.  It's set at a prestigious New England boarding school and the expected themes are present. Though I thought it could have been edited down by at least 50 pages (it runs to over 400), I really liked the ambiguity at the end--the cause of the "big bad" could have been physical, mental, or supernatural. The writing is fairly pedestrian but that's never stopped a YA book from becoming popular and I'm sure that this book won't be an exception.  On sale in September.

2. East of the West: A Country in Stories by Miroslav Penkov.  This collection of stories explores life in Bulgaria, but I was very disappointed in it.  The summary sounds great: "a grandson tries to buy the corpse of Lenin on eBay for his Communist grandfather. A failed wunderkind steals a golden cross from an Orthodox church. A boy meets his cousin (the love of his life) once every five years in the river that divides their village into east and west. These are Miroslav Penkov’s strange, unexpectedly moving visions of his home country, Bulgaria, and they are the stories that make up his charming, deeply felt debut collection." Alas, I thought the writing was stiff and the characters were flat. I will not review this book because it's not worth my time.  It pubs next month from FSG and I received a copy of this ARC at my request.

3. "Legends of the Fall" by Jim Harrison.  I love this novella and I have no idea how many times I've read it.  The other two novellas in the book by the same name are also good, but Legends is one of the best pieces of shorter fiction I have ever read.  Because it is around 100 pages, I feel okay including it here with the books I have read this month--it's longer (and certainly more dense) than many of the middle grade books on these lists. And I ain't above bragging that I have a signed first edition of this book.  Jim Harrison was one of the first authors I ever took an interest in collecting when I started working at the incomparable Lemuria Bookstore

4. A Curtain of Green and Other Stories by Eudora Welty. I hadn't read most of these stories since my college days when I read Miss Welty for the first time.  I picked up a new copy of the book when I was at Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson, MS, last month for my high school reunion.  "Why I Live at the PO" is just as funny as I remember it, but some of the stories I did not remember reading at all--much to my shame.  The writing feels ever so slightly dated now to me, but this first book of Miss Welty's has all of the hints of genius that her writing is known for.  I do not have  a signed first printing of this book, alas.

5. The Help (audio) by Kathryn Stockett, read by Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Jenna Lamia, and Cassandra Campbell.  I really liked this book, but I LOVE the audio.  This was the third time I have listened to it in the last couple of years on my daily work commute.  With the exceptions of a few mispronunciations of proper names (Murrah High School and the Van Devender family are two that I recall at the moment), these women do a pitch-perfect reading of the book.  I can't recommend this audio enough--I'd put it right up there with the best of them, such as Bill Bryson reading his own work and Jim Dale reading the Harry Potter audios. I loved arriving at work, buoyed on these women's voices and stories.

6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  My full review is here, but suffice it to say that this book is among the best I have read so far this year.  I loved the way it made me feel and I love that while reading it, I believed.  It comes out in September of this year.

7.  His Draught of Delicate Poison by Subversa.  This is a novel-length work of Harry Potter fanfiction that takes its story arc from a novel called The Grand Sophy, written by Georgette Heyer, an author known for excellent attention to period detail in her Regency fiction.  After finishing The Night Circus, I tried picking up 3-4 different books and couldn't muster much interest, so I turned to this gem, which I'd read before, to get out of my reading slump.  This fic is very well written, and though it lacks lemony goodness, I highly recommend it.  You can find it here.

8. The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright, illustrated by my DH, Barry Moser.  This book, forthcoming from Peachtree Press in the fall, tells a delightful story of cats, mice, cheese, ravens, and Charles Dickens, all set in Victorian London.  My husband gave me an ARC of this to read and I'm very proud to relate that it was chosen as one of the top 26 best books at BEA this year by Kirkus Reviews!  This book releases in October from Peachtree Press. 

9. The American Heiress  (audio) by Daisy Goodwin, read by ?????  Right now I am a little peeved that I cannot give you the name of the female reader.  It's not on the advance access audio that I have and I cannot find it listed online.   I don't really read a lot of historical fiction with a romantic bent, but two things made me pick up this audio: (1) a blurb on the box compared it to Downton Abbey, which I loved, and (2) it was free.  I find that I'm generally in a better mood when I can listen to a book instead of the radio on my daily commute, and though I did not have any "driveway moments" with this one, I did enjoy the story more than I thought I would.  Think Henry James/Edith Wharton crossed with Nora Roberts, but less well written.  The book releases in June from St. Martin's Press.

10.  I Married You For Happiness by Lily tuck.  Review here.   I received an ARC of this book at BEA last week and it releases in September from Grove/Atlantic.  

Usually I post my Month in Review on the first day of the following month, but who am I kidding?  I'm not going to start and finish a book today, May 31, because I will be at work all day.  So I might as well post it now. Right?


  1. I missed saying good-bye to you (both) at BEA!
    Loved meeting you. Truly.
    *And may I say "Huzzah!" to you for a most erudite (and
    Pippish) blog.

  2. Glad to hear the positive review for the audio version of The Help. I plan to tackle that one later this month.

    Hopefully June will be less gloomy....


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