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Books

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Paris by Edward Rutherfurd

Do you like thick (809 p.) inter-generational family stories full of historical details and drama? Read on - this novel is for you. In his research the author discovered fantastic historical street maps, drawings, paintings and models of the city of Paris in the Carnavalet Museum in the Marais and photographs from the Museum of Montmarte. He made use of these details to create an intimacy between the reader and this most beautiful and romantic of all European cities. We see Paris through the eyes of the noble family, the deCygnes and the revolutionists Le Sourds.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

A group of vaguely unpleasant rich people on a vacation to Mallorca: adulterer Jim, food writer Franny, teen daughter Sylvia and adult son Bobby are joined by Bobby's 10 years older girlfriend Carmen, Franny's best friend Charles, and his husband Lawrence on a two-week vacation where secrets are exposed and relationships are changed forever. A quick, enjoyable read; I wanted to know how things would turn out, even though the characters are relentlessly spoiled and unlikable. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts are all part of the book's appeal.

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo has so many people raving about how awesome these books are; I had to give one a try.  This mystery is certainly entertaining but I am currently at page 485 and I am still waiting to get to the plot. It is a book I definitely could put down (though I know many who raced through it). The sexual violence can be a bit hard to suffer through. I am disciplining myself to finish it.

Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara

Desdemona Hart, an aspiring artist, is torn between her loyalty to her father's Shakespeare Theater legacy and her steady but unexciting husband, and the romantic lure of a fellow artist and a successful career in the big city.  These themes are set in the fictional town of Cascade in the 1930s as war clouds gather and the state of Massachusetts decides whether to displace the residents and flood the town to create a reservoir.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Widowed and retired Major Pettigrew leads a quiet life in the small English village of Edgecombe St. Mary. That is, until he strikes up a an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Ali, the widowed Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. While their neighbors, friends, and family members look on mostly with shock and disapproval, these two lonely people from different worlds tentatively explore the possibility of a future together.

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

“Whatever else it was, it was one hell of summer.” That’s Bryson’s excellent summary of the epochal summer of 1927 with its captivating events (Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic; the invention of TV), outsized characters performing deeds heroic (the Babe's pursuit of home run glory) or dubious (Al Capone’s rule of Chicago), cultural faux pas (the popularity of eugenics and the heydey of the KKK), and just plain weirdness (Alvin Kelly establishes a new record by sitting atop a flagpole for 12 days).

Destroyer Angel by Nevada Barr

The most intense Anna Pigeon novel to date (and this is number 18!), this thriller starts when our favorite National Park Service Ranger's short weekend camping trip with friends turns into a fight for survival against kidnappers. As with all Nevada Barr mysteries, the Minnesota wilderness is as much a character as any of the people.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

A man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He wanders into the farmstead of a friend from his youth, follows a path to a duck pond--which may be the ocean--and, begins to remember “everything.”  His friend’s grandmother may be as old as the world. His nanny may be a monster. The pennies in his piggy bank may be gold.

Into the Wilderness (a series) by Sara Donati

If you’re a fan of Diane Gabaldon, and like big historical novels for the summer, here’s a great series for you. Okay it’s not as well written as the Outlander series, but it’s for the beach! The whole series is available as e-books. “Into the Wilderness" (the first of five books in this series) is the story of Elizabeth Middleton, an independent, strong-willed English woman who travels to America in 1792 to set up a school in 'Paradise', a primitive settlement in New York state. Her father has plans to marry her off to a wealthy settler and solve his financial problems.

Hild by Nicola Griffith

Set in 7th century Britain, this coming of age story narrates the early life and young adulthood of the girl who will become abbess St. Hild of Whitby, whose advice was sought by religious and political leaders. Griffith’s telling evokes a richly detailed world that is so different from our own that it’s virtually alien. Born into a pagan world where power is often brokered by marriage alliances between kingdoms,  Christianity is on the rise. Hild’s preternatural observations of human nature and keen political acumen secure her place as her uncle, the king’s, seer and “peaceweaver”.

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