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  • Cristina Merrill 8:38 pm on 2018/11/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , carly bloom, , , , , , , , , katee robert, , , , , , , , roundups,   

    Romance Roundup: Master Vampires, Wyoming and Texas Ranchers, and Naughty Widows 

    This week’s Romance Roundup includes a desperate heiress who needs to pay off a blackmailer, a Wyoming rancher and single dad who gets some much-needed help, and a high-society widow who falls for the deliciously wrong kind of man. Plus: lots of vampires.

    Wyoming Legend, by Diana Palmer
    Micah Torrance may be a handsome, rugged man built to run a Wyoming ranch, but underneath that chiseled exterior is a guy who needs a bit of help. He’s got his energetic little daughter, for one, and, well, running a big Wyoming ranch is tougher than it sounds. Fortunately, he gets help from Karina Carter, a champion ice skater who is having a bit of R&R after an accident. She is eager to get back to the ice, but then she gets to know Micah and his kid and realizes that everything she truly, madly, deeply wants is much closer than she thinks. Will Micah find, ahem, enthusiastic ways to express his budding love for Karina? And will Karina realize that Micah is WAY better than any gold medal? This is the eighth book in Palmer’s Wyoming Men series. (Available in hardcover, paperback, and NOOK.)

    Unhinged, by Helen Hardt
    The love saga between ER nurse Erin Hamilton and vampire Dante Gabriel continues! Long story short: Dante bit Erin and became addicted to her blood and they now have a crazy-hot chemistry that would resuscitate a maiden aunt’s long-lost libido. The thing is, Erin isn’t sure she wants to buy into the whole vampire thing, even if Dante constantly makes her want to ditch her scrubs and bare herself to him body and soul. (Oh, Erin, please don’t fight the feelings that Dante makes you feel!) Still, they can’t stay away from each other, so now they’re going to decipher the Vampyre Texts and dodge a gang of vampire thugs. Dante also needs to deal with some major dark energy. Here’s hoping they manage to defeat all of the negative forces in their lives and just focus on each other! This is the second book in Hardt’s Blood Bond Saga series. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    First Snow, by Nora Roberts
    Two stories in one! In “A Will and a Way,” Pandora McVie ends up having to spend Christmas in the Catskills with the very hunky Michael Donahue. He is the co-beneficiary of her late uncle’s will, who clearly wanted to hook these two youngsters up. Pandora is NOT a happy camper. (Um, Pandora, no offense, but Michael is gorgeous and I just did a Google image search of the Catskills and WOW they’re beautiful—so open your eyes!) In “Local Hero,” single mom Hester Wallace is working hard to make ends meet while raising her son in a Manhattan apartment. (Totally feel you, Hester! Keeping oneself alive in a Manhattan apartment is no easy feat.) Her neighbor Mitch Dempsey offers to help her out, which melts our gal’s heart. (Mitch, would you please walk my dog while you’re at it?) Will this be the last holiday season they spend unattached? (Available in paperback.)

    Love in Catalina Cove, by Brenda Jackson
    Vashti Alcindor faced a major teen pregnancy-related crisis when she was younger, so she left her hometown of Catalina Cove determined to never return. Fast forward ten-plus years, and our gal has inherited a bed and breakfast from her aunt. The establishment is in major need of some HGTV-level renovation, and Vashti decides to fix it up and give life in Catalina Cove another whirl. (Vashti, you are our inspiration!) Oh, she also meets and falls for Sawyer Grisham, the new sheriff who recently pulled her over for speeding, proving that romance can flower in the most inconvenient of circumstances. Things are going quite well until some painful secrets start to come out. Vashti, stay strong and don’t let anyone ruin your new life! And Sawyer, make sure to stick by her side throughout all of the drama – and forgive her for speeding! This is the first book in Jackson’s Catalina Cove series. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    Shades of Wicked, by Jeaniene Frost
    New series alert! Master vampire Ian makes no apologies for his controversial but smoldering, sexy existence. (Yep, we’re all totally fine with this.) And as for our vampire law-abiding gal, Veritas, her job is to make sure that guys like Ian, who live by their own set of rules and don’t really listen to vampire society, doesn’t get TOO out of line. (Oh, but Veritas, Ian can be so good when he’s bad!) Still, both Veritas and Ian have a bone to pick with a demon named Dagon. (We’ll put it this way: Dagon is so bad that even Veritas is willing to get a bit dirty if it means his downfall.) Ian and Veritas will need to join forces if they’re going to defeat Dagon. And if it means that she’ll occasionally get to put her hands all over Ian’s body then, well, good for you, Veritas! This is the first book in Frost’s Night Rebel series. (Available in hardcover, paperback, and NOOK.)

    The Thief, by J.R. Ward
    Sola Morte used to be on the wrong side of the law (think cat burglary and safecracking), but now she’s gone clean and is focused on taking care of her granny. She hasn’t forgotten Assail, though. He’s a vampire, and let’s just say that futures between vampires and human women are NOT looking too bright. She needs to stay away from him. Then Assail ends up in a coma, and his cousins ask Sola to chill by his bedside and give him a reason to keep going. (Oh, that we all had that chance!) Then she finds herself in the middle of a war that involves vampires and vampire enemies and lots and lots of fangs and teeth. Here’s hoping she manages to survive this vampire war—and that she and Assail figure out their future together ASAP! This is the latest book in Ward’s extensive Black Dagger Brotherhood series. (Available in paperback.)

    Archangel’s Prophecy, by Nalini Singh
    Elena Deveraux was a mortal who was turned immortal and became the consort of Archangel Raphael, and because of this she has a pretty sweet pair of wings that, ya know, allow her to live up in the clouds with him. (The ability to fly AND a hunky man to boot? Elena, you are one very lucky lady!) A major problem is brewing, though, which is that Elena is regressing and becoming more human again. She and Raphael need to figure out what the problem is ASAP before their future together becomes truly doomed. Oh, and major catastrophes are taking place around the world, and Elena and Raphael need to deal with them, too. Elena and Raphael, you can do this! We have faith in you! And when the drama is over, you should seriously consider booking a couples’ massage! This is the latest book in Singh’s Guild Hunter series. (Available in paperback, audiobook, and NOOK.)

    Barbarous, by Minerva Spencer
    Lady Daphne Davenport is a respectable widow, which means she should NOT be falling hard for the steaming hot privateer, Hugh Redvers. She’s a lady and he’s just not the kind of man she should be courting in public. She also needs to keep her distance because she miiiiight have cheated him out of lands and a title and so forth—not that Hugh knows it. (Daphne, you bad girl! We can’t wait to hear all of your juicy secrets!) Still, Daphne wouldn’t mind being pillaged and plundered by Hugh, because he puts all of those high-society dandies to shame. As for Hugh, he can’t resist our tough, beautiful gal. Here’s hoping that Daphne comes clean about everything, and that Hugh isn’t too upset with her. (Just take it inside, you two! And by “inside” we mean “to the bedroom!”) This is the second book in Spencer’s Outcasts series. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    Too Far Gone, by Allison Brennan
    Special Agent and total badass Lucy Kincaid is eager to enjoy some quality time this summer with her hunky husband, Sean, and her husband’s son, Jesse. Trouble is, a respected scientist whose personal and professional life was in tatters just went haywire, kept a bunch of innocent people hostage, and then died in a shootout with the FBI. Lucy needs to get to the bottom of this, but soon it seems as if someone might be out to get her. She and Jesse get into a major car accident, and other things just start to unravel from there. Will our gal be able to crack this case? Will she and her loved ones make it out safely? And when the drama is over, will she and her husband and stepson finally be able to relax and enjoy their summer? This is the latest book in Brennan’s Lucy Kincaid series. (Available in paperback, audiobook, and NOOK.)

    American Drifter, by Heather Graham and Chad Michael Murray
    Yup, you read those author names correctly! The romance writer and actor have teamed up to create a story about River, a U.S. Army veteran with PTSD. River has some major demons, so he decides to get lost in Brazil and just drift around with no end in sight. (Oh, River, we’d love nothing more than to find you and provide, ahem, comfort!) He meets a very special lady by the name of Natal, and instantly feels attracted to her, but she is the mistress of a gangster, and so he needs to tread carefully. They escape the area together, with the drug lord and his gang in pursuit. Oh, and the Brazilian government might also be involved. River and Natal, you two lovebirds just focus on escaping to a safe place, and then maybe also focus on making sweet, sweet love in a beautiful and remote mountain cabin! (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    Beautiful Sinner, by Sophie Jordan
    Cruz Walsh was recently released from prison. He was accused of a crime he didn’t commit, so now he’s quite intent on making sure he only surrounds himself with people he trusts. (Good for you, buddy!) Then he gets stuck in a supply closet with Gabriella, an old high school acquaintance who looks WAY different from the days when people called her “Flabby Gabby.” (Gabriella, as far as we’re concerned, you are—and have always been—Ms. Fabulous McFabulous!) She is trying to land a major scoop that will help her career get wings—and help her get the heck out of her teeny, tiny town. But being stuck in a supply closet can be a surprisingly sexy situation that makes you want to slow things down and reevaluate your life, especially with a guy like Cruz. Here’s hoping they both get the fresh start they’re looking for! This is the fifth book in Jordan’s Devil’s Rock series. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    The Runaway Princess, by Christina Dodd
    Miss Evangeline Scoffield is a sophisticated, mysterious woman—or so she would have everyone believe. She is really an orphan who recently inherited some money, so she’s intent on having a fun summer filled with expensive gowns and travel, all while pretending to be a beautiful, mysterious lady. A Very Sexy Man who is also A Crown Prince sees her and immediately realizes that she’s actually the Princess of Serephina. Oh, and she’s also supposed to be his fiancee, which didn’t totally fit in with her plans at first. (Evangeline—or is it Your Highness?—we’re all for you having a bit of fun and freedom, but have you had a chance to see this guy nekkid?) He is eager to win her over, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes. (Yes, yes, and yes!) Will he manage to win her over? And will they be able to rule together in harmony? This is the first book in Dodd’s Princess series. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    The Bastard’s Bargain, by Katee Robert
    Keira O’Malley always fantasized about her wedding day, but she never imagined said wedding day would involve marriage to Dmitri Romanov. He’s a major power player in New York City who is known for his ruthless focus when it comes to taking care of business. As for Keira, she agrees to marry him only because her family is in danger. (Keira, call us delusional, but we’re actually feeling optimistic about this situation!) She doesn’t want to make marriage easy for him, but even she can’t deny that she wouldn’t mind licking a happy trail of chocolate off of his body every night. (Totally understandable, Keira. Totally understandable.) They’ll need to work together if they’re going to defeat their enemies. And when it’s over, they just might realize they actually like each other and want to stay married. Let the games begin! This is the sixth book in Robert’s O’Malley’s series. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    Big Bad Cowboy, by Carly Bloom
    Travis Blake experienced a lot of heartbreak in his hometown of Big Verde, Texas, so he escaped to Austin, intending to never return. Then his nephew calls him, and he’s very much in need of Travis’ help. Travis goes back, and figures he’ll sell the family ranch while he’s at it. But a very special lady by the name of Maggie is in his way. Maggie is so NOT falling for any of Travis’ charms, mainly because he is playing a role in the demise of her business. (Oh, Maggie, let’s be fair and give a shirtless Travis five minutes to explain himself! Actually, make that 10 minutes. Plus 20. A whole half hour of Travis explaining himself shirtless. Yes, that will work!) Then Maggie starts to see that Travis is actually A Good Guy and falls for him. Here’s hoping they work out a beautiful life together! This is the first book in Bloom’s Once Upon a Time in Texas series. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    First Earl I See Tonight, by Anna Bennett
    David Gray, Earl of Ravenport was just jilted by his fiancee, so he’s pretty sure he’s over the whole marriage thing. Then he gets a marriage proposal from heiress and artist Miss Fiona Hartley. She wants to get married pronto because she needs her dowry to pay off a blackmailer. That blackmailer wants to destroy her sister’s reputation, and Fiona is a nice sister who does NOT want to see that happen. (Fiona, we admire your bravery and determination to protect your family!) Fiona ends up spending a week at David’s estate, which is in need of some major TLC. David is positive being in a rundown place will drive Fiona away, but she’s no delicate miss. Oh, and they both soon realize that they can’t ignore the hot chemistry between them. David and Fiona, please open your eyes to the possibilities! And get rid of that blackmailer! This is the first book in Bennett’s Debutante series. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    Wolf Rising, by Paige Tyler
    SWAT officer Jayden Brooks doesn’t believe in soulmates or The One or true love or any of that stuff THAT REALLY DOES EXIST! (Seriously, Jayden, open up that heart that lies beneath your chiseled pecs!) Then he rescues high school teacher Selena Rosa. She was being held hostage, and one whiff of this beautiful, sweet-smelling lady has Jayden rethinking his priorities. (Excuse me, Selena? What perfume were you wearing when you met Jayden? Please let us all know. Thanks!) As for Selena, one look at Jayden reminds her that she may be super duper buttoned up, but she is still a natural woman. They end up making out and Selena bites him, which unleashes her wolf gene. (That’s right, Selena! You unleash your inner wolf!) She starts to transform, and her wilder, more uncontrollable tendencies start coming out. Will the strong, devoted Jayden be able to keep her on track? This is the eighth book in Tyler’s SWAT series. (Available in paperback, audiobook, and NOOK.)

    The post Romance Roundup: Master Vampires, Wyoming and Texas Ranchers, and Naughty Widows appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 5:00 pm on 2018/03/09 Permalink
    Tags: , anita hill, , , , , children of blood and bone, , diary of anne frank, dread nation, erika l. sanchez, , , , , i am not your perfect mexican daughter, inspiring stories, , jessica spotswood, justina ireland, kate moore, , , , love hate and other filters, march forward girl, margot lee shetterly, meet cute, melba patillo beals, my beloved world, my own words, , nicola yoon, , option b, piecing me together, , , renee watson, roundups, , ruth bader ginsburg, samira ahmed, she persisted, sheryl sandberg, , sonia sotomayor, speaking truth to power, , , the radical element, the scarlett letter, tomi adeyemi,   

    25 Must-Reads for Women’s History Month 

    It’s Women’s History Month, so to celebrate the women who have shaped our history, written characters we loved, lived lives we admired and learned from…here are twenty five books you should read this month!

    Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
    An essential collection of essays perfect for women’s history month reading about feminism in the modern world, all from the perspective of writer and activist Roxane Gay. The intersections of race, gender, body politics, and much more collide in a poignant, funny, and striking collection.

    Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
    Told through poetry, the story of an African American girl’s journey through adolescence stings with the remains of Jim Crow and follows her through the Civil Rights Movement. But it’s also the story of a writer coming into her own, learning the power of words, and overcoming a childhood struggle with reading.

    March Forward, Girl, by Melba Patillo Beals
    Another memoir about a courageous, young black girl living in a racist, segregated society, this one will inspire you to action in your own life. You may know of Melba Patillo Beals as one of the legendary Little Rock Nine, but her story begins before that…and leads her to a lifetime of resilience.

    I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sanchez
    Olga was perfect. She did everything her parents wanted. But then she died, and Julia has no chance of being the perfect Mexican daughter her sister was. That is, until she learns her sister may not have been so perfect after all. A story of family, Mexican culture, the American Dream, and much more.

    Hard Choices, by Hillary Clinton
    Not the memoir you expected, but an important one: one of history’s most influential women and former Secretary of State details her life experience in politics and during her time in the Obama administration.

    She Persisted, by Chelsea Clinton
    Like mother, like daughter! Chelsea’s picture book about women throughout history who have persisted during difficult times is inspiring and informative. Learn the stories of women such as Ruby Bridges, who triumphed during the Civil Rights Movement; Helen Keller, who owned her identity as a disabled woman and refused to let others define her abilities; Oprah Winfrey, media mogul and the first black female billionaire, and more!

    Love Hate and Other Filters, by Samira Ahmed
    Another story about young women loving their families and yet, defying the cultures they come from. Maya wants to go to film school, live in New York, and be with a boy who isn’t Muslim. But her parents want the opposite. Can she reconcile the life they want for her with the life she wants for herself?

    My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor
    Yes, you need to read the book by the first Latina Supreme Court Justice! Sonia grew up in the projects in the Bronx and wound up on the most senior court in the land. How did she get there? By overcoming adversity, relying on family, and learning to love herself.

    My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
    If there is a more incredible woman to learn from…well, we can’t finish that sentence, because there isn’t. RBG has seen it all, and in this collection of essays on everything from her early career, being a woman, the law, and much more, she shares her wisdom with us.

    Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
    The book that became a box office smash is a must-read. The story of the NASA mathematicians—and African-American women—who changed the face of the race to space was lost to time and whitewashed history. But now you can read about the brilliance and ambition of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and Gloria Champine.

    Radium Girls by, Kate Moore
    A new product hit the market that people all across the country used for beauty and medicinal purposes. We now know this dangerous product for what it really is: radium, and while people were using it to make themselves more beautiful and healthier, the truth was glistening beneath the surface. When the girls working in the radium factories got sick, it exposed an industry’s dark underbelly of corruption, abuse, and more.

    The Radical Element, by Jessica Spotswood (and others)
    The subtitle of this anthology tells you everything you need to know: daredevils, debutants, and other dauntless girls throughout history finally have their stories told. From some of the best YA authors come twelve short stories about everything from girls secretly learning Hebrew in the US South, to living as a second-generation immigrant, and much more.

    Meet Cute, by Nicola Yoon, Nina Lacour, and other authors.
    Another anthology written by women! Why this for Women’s History Month, you ask? Because the stories touch all intersections of love: interracial relationships, trans love, bisexual love, and so much more.

    Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank
    The haunting story of a girl’s innocence touched by the violence and hatred of the Third Reich has a message that still persists to this day: love one another, before it is too late.

    Shrill, by Lindy West
    For centuries, society has demanded women be small, warm, sexually open (but not too open), good mothers, good wives, smart but not too smart….the list goes on and on, but the one thing women are not supposed to be, is shrill. This memoir is about all the things women are, and more importantly, what we could be if we were set free.

    The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
    Starr is a girl living two lives: the one with her black family, in a neighborhood struggling with systemic racism, poverty, gang violence and police brutality…and as a student at a private school with white friends and a white boyfriend who are often insensitive when it comes to matters of race. But when her childhood best friend is maliciously gunned down by police, Starr bridges her two worlds with a message that all need to hear: black lives matter.

    We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Based on an essay by the same name, this book tackles the issue of feminism head on. Exploring everything from race and gender to sex and power dynamics, this incredible book is perfect for those just starting to break down the definition of feminism and how it applies to their lives.

    Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg
    When her husband died, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was faced with a choice: lose herself to her grief, or turn to option B and try to find a way forward. She chose the second option, but she did not do so alone. This book examines grief, and the multitude of ways human beings process it, and how to find happiness again “when option A is not available.”

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
    Don’t miss the unforgettable story of Henrietta Lacks, a woman whose cells were taken from her during cancer treatment…and without her knowledge, consent, or compensation, provided essential information to cancer research. Those cells are still alive today, and in them, her legacy lives on.

    Speaking Truth to Power, by Anita Hill
    The #MeToo movement has had many starts and stops, and one of them was no doubt spurred by the testimony of Anita Hill, who alleged that her former boss—and Supreme Court Justice nominee—Clarence Thomas, had sexually harassed her. The message in this book rings loud and clear: to be a woman in a man’s world, you must get comfortable standing up for yourself and what you believe to be true.

    Piecing Me Together, by Renee Watson
    To live the life she wants, Jade has to get out of her bad neighborhood…and its not enough that she already goes to a private school far away from home. But she’s not sure the way out is through the opportunities given to black girls from “at-risk” backgrounds, either. A moving portrait of living in systemic racism, about loving who you are, and wanting everything out of life.

    Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
    A fantasy inspired by the lore and culture of West Africa, this YA novel is one of the buzziest books of the year. Zéli’s mother was murdered, as were so many other maji, by a king who feared the magic they possessed. But now she has a chance to restore her kingdom to glory…if she can align herself with a princess, and outsmart a prince.

    Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
    This story of a family of women bonded while the patriarch of the family is off at war has lasted generations for its timeless message of love, sisterhood, and fighting for what you want in life.

    The Scarlett Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    The book that explored the stigma of the fallen women has inspired many stories since. Hester has been branded with a Scarlet A to wear on her clothing a symbol of her sin: having a child out of wedlock, and refusing to name the father.

    Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland
    Jane McKeene was born during the Civil War…but when zombies start rising from the dead, the war becomes something else entirely. Indigenous and black kids are forced to learn how to eradicate the monsters. This one publishes in April, but you should pre-order it for Women’s History Month today.

    What books are you reading in honor of Women’s History Month?

    The post 25 Must-Reads for Women’s History Month appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2016/06/23 Permalink
    Tags: , roundups, , , travel destinations,   

    10 Awesome Summer Vacation Destinations Inspired by Books 

    This post is sponsored by Rosetta Stone.

    Studies have shown Americans take less vacation than just about any other country on the planet. Far from lazy, we Americans work way too hard, and studies have shown there’s a severe psychological cost to not taking enough time away from our stressful jobs. Books have always offered an imperfect solution—a “vacation for the mind”—but sometimes books can go on to inspire a real flesh-and-blood vacation, when you read a great story set in an exotic locale that makes your heart beat a little faster with the excitement of actually going there. Whether it’s to trace the fictional steps of a character through a city, or to see with your own eyes the dazzling sights the author describes, here are ten books that will inspire you to book some plane tickets and pack your most comfortable pants.

    A Fine Balance, by Robinton Mistry
    Location: Mumbai, India
    Mumbai is a sprawling, beautiful, tragic city of nearly 19 million people, an economic and cultural engine for India as a whole. It’s also a city battling endemic poverty while boasting the country’s highest saturation of billionaires. Mistry never actually names Mumbai in the book, but it’s clearly the setting for his story about four Mumbaikar who are drawn together by the tumultuous events of India’s mid-1970s Emergency period. His beautifully detailed descriptions will make you experience every crowded train, every soaring skyscraper, and every pungent scent—leaving you with the burning desire to go and see this incredible city for yourself.

    The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson
    Location: Small-town America
    Bill Bryson’s easygoing humor is sharp and smart, and his travel books are always effective at inspiring new vacation plans. After living in England for more than a decade, Bryson returned to America after the death of his father and wrote his first travel book after being inspired to take a road trip of nearly 14,000 miles through the country’s small towns, avoiding tourist areas and seeking out less-traveled areas. The end result is a humorous book that will have you tuning up the car to replicate this ultimate road trip through the hidden treasures of your own country.

    Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata
    Location: Japan
    This novel won the 1968 Nobel Prize for Literature, and describes a region of Japan many Westerners aren’t aware of, an area in the West where climactic conditions bring incredible amounts of snow every year—enough to cut towns off from the rest of the country. Many people think Japan is Tokyo, crowded and urban, but reading this book brings home the silence, isolation, and incredible beauty of this desolate area, and should inspire anyone who reads it to book a trip to discover a region of the world that is as lonely as it is beautiful.

    Ulysses, by James Joyce
    Location: Dublin
    It’s rare to have the opportunity to literally follow in the footsteps of a fictional character, but James Joyce rendered his beloved Dublin so thoroughly in his complex, maddening classic novel that you can in fact trace Leopold Bloom’s path through the city, and you can even matchsome of his surprisingly clear-eyed descriptions of key buildings with structures that are still standing today. Bloomsday comes around every June 16, so you can start planning your 2017 walking tour of Dublin early.

    Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie
    Location: Europe in Luxury
    Not so much a destination as a way of travel, the Orient Express was once a luxurious and languorous way to travel from London to Athens, Istanbul, Vienna, and a dozen other destinations that were often difficult or dangerous to get to otherwise. The trains that made up the original Express became shorthand for luxury, and reading Christie’s novel gives a glimpse of what it’s like to take your time and enjoy yourself while en route somewhere, as opposed to dealing with your tray table and the screaming kid sitting behind you. Assuming, of course, that no one is murdered while you’re traveling.

    My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
    Location: Naples, Italy
    Ferrante is quickly approaching cult status across the globe as her Neapolitan Novels set in and around Naples, Italy, grow in popularity. Ferrante’s characters hail from a particular neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, and the politics, culture, and limitations of life in that small spot are the engine that drive her stories’ conflicts. The richness of life and the humming electricity Ferrante imbues Naples with make anyone reading the books want to go and find a room just to be a fly on the wall for a while.

    The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
    Location: New Zealand
    Although set more than a century in the past, Catton’s descriptions of New Zealand and the tiny town of Hokitika (pop: 876 circa 2006) are lush with natural beauty and a harsh, unforgiving climate. New Zealand is, of course, an incredibly beautiful spot—if you need proof, just go rewatch the Lord of the Rings films. Catton’s haunting descriptions will have you booking your 20-hour flight immediately.

    The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman
    Location: Australia and Loneliness
    Janus Rock, the isolated island lighthouse where Tom and Isabel Sherbourne live in Stedman’s amazing, lyrical novel, doesn’t actually exist. But it might have been inspired by a number of isolated lighthouses on islands off the coast of Australia—notably Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, which is spectacularly beautiful. Stedman’s dense descriptions of the beauty of the Sherbournes’ surroundings will no doubt have you Googling lighthouses around the world for the sort of trip that could heal souls.

    The Two Faces of January, by Patricia Highsmith
    Location: Athens, Greece
    Patricia Highsmith’s view of traveling through Europe and the Balkans may be a bit dated, and her stories invariably focus on murder, blackmail, and other less-than-savory aspects of human behavior, but this 1964 novel captures the allure of Greece despite some shady goings-on (which, yes, include blackmail and murder), and reading it makes you feel like you, too, could simply show up one day, book a room, and wander around Athens soaking in the intense history and local beauty.

    Various Books
    Location: The Solar System
    This is the 21st century, after all. Why not daydream about booking the next flight to Mars, so you can experience the silent, freezing isolation of Mark Watney? Or a trip to the moon, where you can imagine the Loonies plotting sedition? Or a warm welcome on Venus? Or sky-diving more or less infinitely to your death on Jupiter? Travel technology may not allow you to hit these destinations today, but it never hurts to dream.

    Summer is here, people. The time to make your vacation plans is now. Grab a book for inspiration and start booking rooms.

     
  • Ester Bloom 3:45 pm on 2015/06/22 Permalink
    Tags: , , , roundups   

    5 Great 2015 Books You May Have Missed 

    2015 has already been a great year for books. With so much to celebrate from big-name authors—Judy Blume! Toni Morrison! Nick Hornby!—you’d be forgiven for missing a few of the lower-profile, oddball novels. Yet some of them are just as surprising, engaging, and thought-provoking as the big guys. Here are some of the best.

    The Blondes, by Emily Schultz
    The sky is falling, the sky is falling! Or so novels and movies keep telling us: there’s a war coming, or a famine, or a flu; maybe it will be climate change, maybe zombies, but something is going to wipe most of us out, and those who survive will be tasked with surviving postapocalypse.

    No one’s catastrophic theory is as interesting, as intellectual, or is as much fun to watch play out, as Schultz’s in The Blondes, which introduces a particular, vicious sickness that turns fair women rabid. From the attack scenes — on subway platforms, in airports — to the efforts to quarantine certain populations, Schultz proves herself an adept chronicler of tense, even terrifying, situations. The Blondes stands out, in part because its author is as good at capturing small, perfect details as she is at maintaining her sense of humor.

    The Life And Death of Sophie Stark, by Anna North
    Few great novels have been written about artists or filmmakers, and for good reason. It’s hard to capture the power of a visual medium through a written one. Sophie Stark is the story of a difficult director—is there any other kind?—and in telling it, North manages to do the improbable: she makes us understand both what makes a genius so maddening and what makes her, and her art, so compelling.

    Like Sophie’s various lovers, friends, and family members, from whose points of view her story is told, we become invested in Sophie as we learn more about her. We want to fix her, to hold her in place, to indulge and complete her; we want the talent without the damage, the love without the consequences. But Sophie refuses to compromise, and, appropriately, the novel refuses to compromise either, telegraphing its mission from the title and remaining true to it no matter what. This is a book about how people are rather than how we would like them to be. Its beauty cannot be ignored, even while its fury kicks at your heart.

    A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
    Speaking of beauty and the kicking of hearts! A Little Life is the saddest book you will read this year, or maybe ever. It’s a book so all-encompassingly sad the last 50 pages should be nothing but tissues, so sad it will invade your dreams and your Facebook conversations, and yet you will not want or be able to put it down because it simultaneously just that good.

    A Little Life is a story of abuse and cruelty, much of it visited upon children, of pain that cannot be made sense of, rationalized, or loved away. Equally, though, it is a story about human connection and the ways in which we cannot stop ourselves from trying to help each other. It’s a story of friendships that span decades: relationships that cannot fix the past but can, and do, make the present worth living.

    Yanagihara has created something as stunning and well-constructed as a cathedral, and, like a cathedral, it will be admired for generations.

    Get In Trouble, by Kelly Link
    Too much realism can be, well, too much sometimes. At those moments, there’s nothing like relaxing into a narrative where anything goes. Perhaps a family of generally benevolent but occasionally vicious fairies lives up the street. Perhaps you’re a poor, awkward teenager living among superheroes. Perhaps the astronauts floating through space, being taken care of by their ship, have a very different mission than the one they thought they signed up for.

    In this collection of Link’s short fiction, sci fi tropes flow into fantasy ones, and YA merges with both; pointless genre distinctions collapse altogether and something much more surprising takes their place. Like George Saunders, Link is an expert at capturing the lived experience of social and economic class in America, and she tweaks everyday life to make a point about its absurdity.

    Especially at first, these stories can seem a bit opaque. Yet Link’s writing is so capable, her prose so assured and her understanding of her own worlds so complete, that you feel confident she knows what’s going on—with the Invisible Boyfriends and the Demon Lovers and the people born with two shadows—even when you don’t. Following her into the darkness is worth it every time.

    The Love Song Of Miss Queenie Hennessy, by Rachel Joyce
    If you were lucky enough to encounter Joyce’s sweet-tempered and generous first novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fryyou’re familiar with Queenie Hennessy, the dying woman and old friend for whom retiree Harold Fry sets out to walk across England. This second, equally lovely novel tells Queenie’s story.

    Although Queenie has late-stage terminal cancer and is in hospice care, she is hardly passive: she’s no princess in a tower, waiting to be rescued by her knight. Similarly, though she’s languishing with only nuns—no partner or child—to take care of her, she’s no object of pity. Through a letter to Harold that she takes great pains to write, we learn about the choices she has made, her experiences and her regrets, the fullness of a life as reflected on by someone wise enough to appreciate both its flaws and its value. And while we keep her company, she continues to grow, refusing to be stunted by mortality the same way, in her earlier days, she refused to be limited by convention.

    Queenie doesn’t mean to be inspiring, but she is anyway—to the other people in the hospice, to Harold Fry, and to us.

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  • Tori Telfer 3:43 pm on 2015/03/20 Permalink
    Tags: , johanna spyri, kenneth grahame, , leaves of grass, on the banks of plum creek, p.g. wodehouse, , robert james waller, roundups, , , , walt whitman,   

    10 Pastoral Reads For the First Day of Spring 

    Spring is here—or so sayeth the calendar—and that means lots of leg shaving, swimsuit buying, seed planting, and covertly snipping branches of frothy apple blossoms from your neighbor’s tree in the dead of night.

    After all that, when you’re in more of a lounging mood, dive into a hammock with a mug of the cherry blossom tea and a thick book in hand—preferably one in the pastoral genre. Totally forgotten what pastoral means? It’s usually used to describe books that show country life in an idealized light; think shepherds gently herding pure white sheep around rich green pastures and undisturbed lakes. Today, the pastoral genre has gone quiet—we’re a cynical folk and prefer to read books about time-traveling serial killers—but if you’re ready for a quick return to nature, here are a few springtime reads to get you in that “new life is sprouting around us” mood.

    Heidi, by Johanna Spyri
    You haven’t experienced spring until you’ve experienced spring in the Swiss Alps, and buying a really nice hardcover version of Heidi that you can re-gift to your niece later is cheaper than a round-trip ticket. 

    Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, by Pablo Neruda
    If for nothing else, read this collection solely for the line, “I want to do to you what spring does to the cherry trees.”

    On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    Living in a dugout wasn’t necessarily the highlight of the Ingalls girls’ lives, but it certainly was one way of communing with nature.

    Spring Fever, by P. G. Wodehouse
    Spring is typically the time when plants and animals go a little wild. Throw in a few lovesick Americans and suave British butlers and you’ll see that it happens in human nature, too.

    As You Like It, by William Shakespeare
    This classic pastoral romp through the woods features lots of melodramatic lovers and a healthy dose of cross-dressing.

    The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, by Tennessee Williams
    Williams’ first novel follows an aging actress to Rome where she strikes up with a gigolo. Spoiler alert: it’s no Eat, Pray, Love.

    Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
    Whitman’s delight in nature is addictive. This is the perfect exuberant read to get you in the mood for spring, a.k.a. nature dressing herself up as a bride in her wedding finery or whatever metaphor you prefer.

    The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
    This children’s novel pairs fantasy (talking animals!) with a delightful pastoral setting. Mr. Toad is a beloved character for the ages.

    The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller
    Nature and the countryside play a significant role in this novel—especially nature that’s conveniently positioned around bridges—and its theme of forbidden (if slightly sappy) love is perfect for spring.

    Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
    Yeah, yeah, you were assigned it in high school but only read the SparkNotes version. Perhaps this spring is the right season in your life (GET IT?) to curl up with Walden, preferably by the banks of some idyllic yet controversial pond.

    What are your favorite books to spring forth with?

     
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