Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Reading Resolutions

In one of his many banters, Mark Twain claimed that New Year's Day is the accepted time to make our regular annual resolutions, and that after the first week we can begin "paving hell with them as usual". I may agree with his sarcastic remark when it comes to my fleeting commitment to diet and fitness regimen (no time and, frankly, no desire whatsoever to subject myself to the boredom of a workout routine), but my resolve to devote part of my days —  nights, mostly — to the art of reading, despite the challenges of part-time jobs and full-time motherhood, remains unwavering.

"I am determined to be cheerful and [read] in whatever situation I may find myself", to use the words of a former First Lady: these recent and upcoming releases piqued my interest and 2016 won't be over until I have them neatly stacked on my 'read&reviewed' shelf.

ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART by Ed Tarkington (Algonquin Books, January 5th 2016, 320 pages), a fine debut novel in the Southern Gothic genre. Part coming-of-age, part mystery, this plot-driven, beautifully written story “manages an expert narrative feat--it is somehow both ruminative and remarkably suspenseful. A novel of family and love and class, of beautiful youth and terrible consequences. And of heartbreak, of course, as the title makes plain and life makes inescapable. Readers will be born along on the strength and clarity of Tarkington’s prose, the twists and pivots of his plot. Only Love Can Break the Heart is a truly auspicious debut.” —Michael Knight, author of The Typist

"Welcome to Spencerville, Virginia, 1977. Eight-year-old Rocky worships his older brother, Paul. Sixteen and full of rebel cool, Paul spends his days cruising in his Chevy Nova blasting Neil Young, cigarette dangling from his lips, arm slung around his beautiful, troubled girlfriend. Paul is happy to have his younger brother as his sidekick. Then one day, in an act of vengeance against their father, Paul picks up Rocky from school and nearly abandons him in the woods. Afterward, Paul disappears.

Seven years later, Rocky is a teenager himself. He hasn’t forgotten being abandoned by his boyhood hero, but he’s getting over it, with the help of the wealthy neighbors’ daughter, ten years his senior, who has taken him as her lover. Unbeknownst to both of them, their affair will set in motion a course of events that rains catastrophe on both their families. After a mysterious double murder brings terror and suspicion to their small town, Rocky and his family must reckon with the past and find out how much forgiveness their hearts can hold
." (Goodreads) 

IN ANOTHER LIFE by Julie Christine Johnson (Sourcebooks Landmark, February 2nd 2016, 368 pages) is a story of love that conquers time.  Steeped in the rich history and romantic landscape of rural France, In Another Life is "a novel with an extraordinary sense of place. Fans swept away by Diana Gabaldon's 18th-century Scotland will want to explore Julie Christine Johnson's 13-century Languedoc." — Greer Macallister, author of The Magician Lie

"Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region's quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life--and about her husband's death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think. " (Goodreads)

A TASTE FOR NIGHTSHADE: A NOVEL by Martine Bailey (Thomas Dunne Books, January 12th 2016, 464 pages), the author of An Appetite For Violets. A thrilling historical novel that combines recipes, mystery and a dark struggle between two desperate women, sure to appeal to fans of Sarah Waters and Carolly Erickson. "There is much to admire in this sprawling tale of lies, secrets and puddings. Bailey's prose sparkles...delicious."  The Times (UK)

"Manchester 1787. When budding young criminal Mary Jebb swindles Michael Croxon's brother with a blank pound note, he chases her into the night and sets in motion a train of sinister events. Condemned to seven years of transportation to Australia, Mary sends him a 'Penny Heart'-a token of her vow of revenge.
Two years later, Michael marries naïve young Grace Moore. Although initially overjoyed at the union, Grace quickly realizes that her husband is more interested in her fortune than her company. Lonely and desperate for companionship, she turns to her new cook to help mend her ailing marriage. But Mary Jebb, shipwrecked, maltreated, and recently hired, has different plans for the unsuspecting owners of Delafosse Hall
." (Goodreads)

BE FRANK WITH ME by Julia Claiborne Johnson (William Morrow, February 2nd 2016, 304 pages), a sparkling talent at her fiction debut. This infectious novel combines the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and the page-turning spirit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette. “Witty dialogue, irresistible characters, and a touch of mystery make this sweet debut about a quirky Hollywood family an enjoyable page-turner.” — Booklist

"Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff–style Ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane. When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth graders. As she gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who his father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Full of heart and countless only-in-Hollywood moments, Be Frank With Me is a captivating and heartwarming story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world
." (Goodreads)

ELIGIBLE: A MODER RETELLING OF PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House, April 19th 2016, 512 pages), New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife. Equal parts homage to Jane Austen and bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first century, wonderfully tender and hilariously funny. Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today.  

"This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray. Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving
." (Goodreads)

How about you? Did you make any (bookish) resolution for the new year?