summer reading from last year

I kept not finding time to review these, and now I’m several months behind…. So, here’s summer 2008, in which August was well-read due to an actual vacation.

    June Books

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen : Essentially, Gossip Girls in turn-of-the-century Manhattan (19th century, that is). Scandal, back-stabbing betrayal, scheming, blackmail — this book has it in spades. This was a fun story, and I thought the plot set-up was very well-done. And I really enjoyed the historical New York setting.

Safe House (1-800-Where-R-You) by Meg Cabot : Part of a series featuring a girl with a psychic ability to find people who are lost. With “suits” after her to try and use the ability she’s claiming she’s lost, Jess is trying to find a missing girl without giving herself away, and trying to fit in with the in-crowd. She’s an intriguing and complex character with both personal conflict and a role to play.

    July Books

The Thieves of Faith by Richard Doetsch : I’ve discovered a fondness for these historical thrillers that usually have to do with some sort of religious artifact or other obscure piece of archaeology. And I’ve managed to still not read The Davinci Code in the midst of all that. I enjoy novels by Steve Berry and A.J. Hartley, and Doetsch’s book fits in well with those. This book is the second to feature ex-thief Michael St. Pierre who attempts to find the gold box known as the Albero della Vita, the tree of life, hidden in Ivan the Terrible’s secret treasure trove buried beneath the Kremlin and keep it from a madman intent on using it for his own purposes. An intriguing adventure with powerful themes.

    August Books

The Undead Next Door by Kerrelyn Sparks : Book 4 in the Love at Stake series. Vampires. Fashion and design. A dark and forbidden love. Everything one expects in a paranormal romance. She wants to design fashion; he’s a famous designer, but also a vampire trying to lie low — together they will defeat his enemy and try to work out their day vs. night schedule so they can live happily ever after. The tongue-in-cheek sense of humor is charming. The story would probably be a more fun read if one had read the earlier books as it seems several of the secondary characters are the featured couples in those books.

Dark Needs at Night’s Edge by Kresley Cole : Book 4 (yes, another book 4 in a series) of The Immortals After Dark. The interesting thing in this one is the heroine, a ghost that was a famous ballerina betrayed and murdered by the lover she spurned. The hero is, yes, another vampire, but he’s imprisoned by his brothers who hope he will regain his sanity if they keep him from giving in to bloodlust — in a mansion they don’t know is haunted. Even if some of the secondary characters (Valkyries, witches, werewolves) start to give the world-building an everything and the kitchen sink sensibility, the chemistry between the characters is very well-handled.

Conspiracy in Death by J.D. Robb : Thanks to Lou once again for continuing to loan me books in this series. This brings me up to #8 (the about-to-be-released Promises in Death is #34 so I’ve got a ways to go). The balance between the mystery and the Eve/Roarke relationship continues to be the challenge of these books. Going a little deeper into the backstory of the characters throws their chemistry into relief against their need to come to terms with their pasts and solve the crime.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill : This book came with a lot of buzz. And the writing certainly lived up to it. The characters Jude and Georgia were also suitably dysfunctional. The ghost story is as macabre as one might wish, if perhaps exactly what one might expect with few surprises. The ending was a bit muddy, but it was otherwise a tense and involving read. Page-turning, for sure.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen : A charming novel with a subtle magic that brings to life the dreams of the characters in a family that has inherited a spellbinding legacy. When Sydney, the black-sheep sister, returns, fleeing an abusive marriage, she and her daughter cause a dynamic change in the settled life of Claire who stayed in the small town and was contented with the family’s place on the outskirts. Effective and compelling.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson : This is a truly awe-inspiring volume, both for its length and its depth. The world-building and the philosophical aspects were provided in a level of detail that made this a read that seems to become somewhat consuming. However, while the Publishers Weekly review said: “a heady mix of antecedents that makes for long stretches of dazzling entertainment occasionally interrupted by pages of numbing colloquy” — I found quite the opposite to be true. The internal mechanisms of the book as well as the cultural conflicts were a lot more compelling to me than the plot, which did not have the same depth and dexterity as evidenced in other aspects of the book. So, while I have very much enjoyed this author’s work in the past (particularly Cryptonomicon and Snowcrash, with the Baroque Cycle only trailing a bit behind those), I just didn’t fall in love with this book as much as I wanted to, despite its ambition to live up to its literary antecedents.

The Bone Key by Sarah Monette : Since I did my senior thesis in college on H.P. Lovecraft, this collection of stories really took me back. Kyle Murchison Booth works in a museum and traces his roots to a mysterious family with an unfortunate history. He becomes involved in various tales that show the influence of both Lovecraft and M.R. James (as claimed by the author). Evocative and creepy.

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