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Box of Galleys

May 24, 2016

In the days leading up to this year’s Book Expo America, I did a bit of moping about on Twitter, since it was in Chicago, and no longer in my backyard, and I’d be missing it for the first time in years. Fortunately, the extremely nice library marketing folks at HarperCollins reached out, and asked the magic question of what I like to read.

Here is my answer:

In general, I’m fond of snappy dialogue and banter, positive outlook (not so much dystopian or dysfunctional families). I’m not too fond of romance, though as a side-plot, it’s fine.
Genre sweet spots:
  • Character-driven mysteries, especially historical or forensic anthropology. My preferred violence level skews more cozy than lurid, but doesn’t need to be pure cozy. (Yes to Miss Fisher, no to The Cat Who)
  • Historical fiction generally (19th century through 1950’s)
  • Character-driven science fiction (Ender’s Game, yes, Hunger Games, less so)
  • Genre blenders and benders: Historical mystery? Innovative urban fantasy? Yes please
  • Foodie lit, whether fiction or nonfiction
  • Narrative nonfiction on a variety of topics. If it feels like I’m reading a novel, and it’s not too sordidly violent, I’m in.
Favorite books have included
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
Forensics by Val McDermid (though some chapters tested my squeamishness tolerance)
The Rest of us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness.
The Billy Boyle mysteries by James R. Benn (because they have a sense of humor and humanity as well as historical mystery)
Armed with the above, Chris sent out a lovely box of books for me to come home to after a long library day.
Displaying IMG_2703.JPGimage of box of books

Let’s see what’s in here!

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay: Elizabeth Sanderson, devastated by disappearance of her 13-year-old son, begins to see shadowy ghostlike appearances, pages of Tommy’s journal appear out of nowhere. And things get spooky/menacing/phantasmagorical

Thoughts: This may terrify me. Possibly, I hope, in a good way?

Eve of a Hundred Midnights by Bill Lascher: “The star-crossed story of two WWII correspondents and their epic escape across the Pacific.”

Thoughts: Sold! You had me at true romance from WWII. I will read this right after I finish a Billy Boyle binge-reread that I am planning to undertake shortly.

The Lost Girls by Heather Young. In 1935, six-year-old Emily disappears from the family lake house, devastating the family. As far as I can tell, the novel tells the story of several generations of tragedy for women in the family who live in it.

Verdict: Dubious. I’m here for a mystery, but this seems more like a family being ground down by relentless misery, which makes me feel like a voyeur, at best.

When The Music’s Over by Peter Robinson- Detective story, connecting a cold case about a poet who was assaulted with the murder of a young girl.

Verdict: Had me at mystery involving a poet. And I bet my Dad will want to read it after.

The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver “In 2029, the United States is engaged in a bloodless war that will wipe out the savings of millions of American families.”

Verdict: No thank you. No way. This one’s a definite misfire for me, sorry Chris. Dystopian near-future scares me senseless. Yes, I think this is meant to read as satire, but still. I’d rather have murder and family tragedy, it’s less frightening. Will hand it off to a friend, and might post a guest review.

Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff. Family secrets spanning World War I and II, as a WWII nurse is stationed at a military hospital in the mansion that was her birth mother’s childhood home.

Verdict: Historical mystery sounds promising, though I’m not sure about the family tragedy.

Mister Monkey by Francine Prose. “A screwball children’s musical about a playfully larcenous pet chimpanzee is the kind of family favorite that survives far past its time. Margot, who plays the chimp’s lawyer, knows the production is dreadful and bemoans the failure of her acting career…told from the viewpoints of wildly unreliable, seemingly disparate characters whose lives become deeply connected.”

Verdict: Honestly, I can’t tell what I’m going to think of this book. I’ll read and see what I think. I have had trouble with Unreliable Narrator books, as my temperament leads me to expect good from people, and to take them at face value. But if this plays out right, it could work.

The Waiting Room by Leah Kaminsky. The adult daughter of two WWII survivors navigates her own anxieties as a doctor, wife, and mother. Having read the back and flipped through this, I can’t tell whether the ghosts are meant to be literal parts of the story, or manifestations of her own mind.

Verdict: I’m more on board for a literal ghost story than witnessing the narrator’s unraveling sanity. I’ll give this at least a few chapters, but I’m not sure it’s my book.

The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Lawrence Leamer. The story of the court cases that brought down the KKK in Alabama, including chronicle of the KKK’s activities in the second half of the 20th century.

Verdict: Promising, well-researched nonfiction, but not sure I can withstand reading the topic. Might hand off to Dad for a guest book review on the blog.

Looking at these books, many of them seem more… harrowing… than I would choose to read unprompted. Maybe I should have talked about my book preference in a way that emphasized my need for getting to see the basic goodness of characters and people? Could I have done a better job of communicating the fact that I work hard to stay optimistic, and my bookshelf reflects it, even the mysteries?

But who knows, I’m willing to give these a shot.

Thank you again, Chris at HarperCollins, and, as ever, all the great people of the publishing world who help keep me Surrounded by Books.


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