Four Short Stories: A Great Storyteller at His Best, with Drawings by Henri Matisse by W. Somerset Maugham - I have come to love, love, love W. Somerset Maugham! Fair warning, there is little to smile about in his work....murder, suicide, adultery, alcoholism, it's all there. Maugham puts the dirty laundry of humanity on display.
Once a Spy by Keith Thomson - Mr. Thomson is a patron at my library and he asked me to read a bit of this in manuscript form. I liked the chapter I read and like the book even more! If you loved the film Spies Like Us, you'll love Once a Spy! You'll find it in bookstores March 9th!
The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose - Roose, a student at Brown University, takes a semester off to covertly attend Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. A clashing culture story to rival any in the realm of travel literature and a fascinating glimpse inside conservative, born-again Christianity. Also, Roose ended up getting Falwell's last print interview before Falwell died during Roose's semester at Liberty.
Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin - Benjamin's research into the life of the man who became Lewis Carroll and his young muse, Alice Liddell, is immediately apparent. The plot tends to drag a bit, but overall an interesting look through the looking glass at the germination of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I can hardly wait for the movie on March 5th!
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly - I loved this delightful YA book! When Calpurnia Virginia Tate begins to observe the world around her, questions inevitably arise. Why is this grasshopper different from that? How many birds live in the surrounding woods? Why do these plants grow here and not there? Why is a girl's life restricted to boring needlework and tedious cooking? Will she have to give up her exciting observations to shoulder the mantle of "womanhood"? Questions for the ages...
Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy - an interesting photographic journey into the heart of the Midwest as America's Manifest Destiny spirals into the abyss. Focuses on the town of Black River Falls, Wisconsin between 1890 and 1900, which was home to a regional newspaper AND a photographer with the added bonus of having an insane asylum not too far off. All institutions poised to deal the deteriorating behavior of the population. The documentary film (of the same title) inspired by the book is also quite good!
Jim the Boy by Tony Earley - a boy raised by his mom and three uncles after his father dies shortly before his birth. It's a pretty straightforward, heartwarming coming-of-age tale.
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier - This book ranked right up there with her best for me. Makes a three-point crown with Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Virgin Blue. Sharp-tongued spinster Elizabeth Philpot makes an unlikely friend in commoner Mary Anning as they search the beaches of Lyme Regis for fossil specimens during a time when these items were looked on as evil and women were not welcomed to the scientific table.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout - This book won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. A novel in stories of a small Maine town. Olive Kitteridge is mean, bitter, grumpy, and unforgettable.
Altar of Eden by James Rollins - Classic adventure fiction with quite a bit of genetic experimentation and a whole lot of gore thrown in. Don't listen to the audio, the narrator's attempt at the accents is HoRrIbLe and detract from an exciting and uncomplicated story.
The Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn - Elizabeth I isn't just fighting Spain and Lord Walsingham has something other than spies to deal with. There is the Enemy, otherwise known as the Fair Folk. Some gross details of death, the filthiness of Elizabethan London, and torture. Entertaining but unremarkable.