Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Vacation Reading Stack, In Slightly More Detail (Part II)

Reading on the beach

I don't know if you ever venture over to my "Books Read" page, but if you do you notice that my "In Progress" section is always changing. I know there are people who begin a book, and by golly they finish it before they read anything else -- whether or not they enjoy it. I am very much the opposite of that. My reading material changes from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour. A book may disappear from my "In Progress" list, only to reappear in two months (as in the Pretty Little Liars series book #5, Wicked, which seemed too light back in March, but perfect for the beach yesterday).

As a result, when I travel I need lots of options. I showed you the picture of my packed books last week, then went into a little more detail yesterday. Today, part two of what I brought with me to the beach. (Thank goodness we drove! Otherwise I might have had to edit severely.)

Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton: This chef memoir has been hailed by all chefs and foodies as the best. I love a good memoir, and I definitely love food (half the blogs I follow are foodie blogs, not book blogs). I began it last night, and I already can see why Anthony Bourdain wrote in his blurb that it is "simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever. . . . [This book] is the work of an uncompromising chef and a prodigiously talented writer." The book also received praise from Iron Chef Mario Batali, who said that he would "read this book to my chilren and then burn all the books I have written for pretending to be anything even close to this. After that I will apply for the dishwashing job at Prune [ostensibly, Hamilton's restaurant] to learn from my new queen." High praise indeed.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell: NPR says that "[s]tripped down, Swamplandia! is one more young writer's saga of a dysfunctional family. But Russell is a rare talent. . . . Russell's setting, the outlandish and fading coastal Florida theme park from which the book takes it title, is inhabited by a clan of "Bigtrees," a self-invented showbiz tribe who have no Seminole or Miccosukee blood but adopt the costumes of buckskin vests, headbands, feathers and gator "fang" necklaces nonetheless. . . . She is as agile at describing the creatures and characters of swampland Florida as she is at offering accounts of Ava's youthful yearnings and Kiwi's humiliating low-level job at a competing theme park. . . . Powered by Russell's vivid wordplay and imaginative energy, Swamplandia! is a continuously alluring phantasmagoria." If NPR likes it, I'm willing to try. I have read about 90 pages so far, and have loved Russell's lyrical writing but not so much the storyline.

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin: Actually, I originally picked this book up for my mom. In case you've missed me talking about it, my brother and his family are currently living in Tanzania, Africa, and my parents went to visit them last fall. They flew into Kigali, Rwanda, where my brother picked them up, and I thought my mom would be interested in reading some fiction that depicted that area. Now, however, I am going to Africa myself next month, so I've kept the novel to read! More on my Africa trip later, and more on this book right now. USA Today reviewed the novel, saying that "Baking Cakes contemplates the difficult lives of the survivors of genocide, the unrelenting poverty and African women's struggle for independence in a straightforward yet touching way." I'm hoping to read this one in the next couple of weeks.

The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls: Despite the fact that I live in a (very) small town, our library shelves are always well-stocked. The librarian obviously does an excellent job of both purchasing fabulous books and participating in our region's swap, in which new titles are circulated between rural libraries. Regardless, whenever a book is making waves on the blogosphere, I can be sure that at some point it will come available on my library's New Book shelves. This novel appeared last week, and I snapped it up. Mari at Bookworm with a View just reviewed the book yesterday: "This is a cute summer read. Told in two parts, before Bess finds out that Rory has been married eight times, and after. Rory has a voice in the novel, spending complete chapters on the courting and marriage of each wife. I really liked him, I may not understand eight wives but it all made sense." Mari also posted that there is an interview with the author at Book Club Girl, which is interesting, I'm sure. Sounds like a great summer read.

The Recipe Club: A Novel About Food and Friendship by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel: In an act of overwhelming idiocy, I bought this novel twice -- accidently, of course. One is the paperback version I have with me on vacation; the other is a hardback with color photos of the recipes included. Suffice it to say, I really think this book sounds like something I want to read. Book Addiction says, "I loved the format of the novel – it was done almost entirely in letters, emails, and recipes. It made for a very quick read, and while it somewhat kept the characters at arm’s length, I still felt that I got to know Lilly and Val pretty well. . . . The Recipe Club was not perfect in my eyes, but I still found it to be a fun, engaging story about friendship and the recipes that kept that friendship alive. And the bonus is that I now have another cookbook to add to my collection!" The novel includes more than 80 recipes. Good Morning America offers an excerpt from the book if you'd like to try before you buy (twice, if you're me). On a positive note, I may offer the paperback version for giveaway soon!

The Wreckage by Michael Robotham: I've loved everything I've read thus far from new imprint Mulholland Books. I'm a tad bit unsure about this novel, as it incorporates the war in Iraq and I usually shy away from war-related reading. I will admit that this interview between Robotham and author Mark Billingham has convinced me to at least give it a try. Author David Baldacci has sung the praises of this novel, saying that he has "seldom read a more chilling and suspenseful tale. Robotham makes you see the sand, smell the burning oil and feel the bullets flying past. Most thrillers are lucky to have one great character; Robotham has given us at least four. They sweat, bleed and cry with such raw emotion that you can barely catch your breath and the words on the page feel like a million needles beneath your clenched fingers. This is a writer who will give you a slice of the Middle East you will never see on CNN or Fox. Robotham is the real deal and we can only hope he will write faster." So, yes. I will be diving in at some point.

The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers: I have wanted to read this book for some time. It appeared on Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea's 2010 top 10 list for audiobooks. I have the paperback, but I'm sure it will probably be just as good. Diane says that the novel "is an excellent debut novel that examines the long lasting effects of domestic abuse on the children who witness it. It asks the question, can one ever truly forgive the individual who has brought so much emotional pain into their lives?" The novel was also a Target Book Club Pick, which (low-brow may it be) I usually enjoy thoroughly.

So now you know what paperback and hardback books I packed (and a little more than just pictures of them). Tomorrow, some notes on the audio books and e-books I've been reading this week. Until then, happy reading! Hopefully, you've added to your to-read list with my posts on vacation reading.


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