Recent Reads and Recs: May/June 2013 Edition

Brief thoughts on books you may or may not want to explore on your own.

Care to chat with me more about these books or others? Leave a comment or find me on Twitter – @ProfeJMarie.

I never got around to writing up a review post for May, and I almost decided to skip it altogether and not worry about it, except, I read some really good books, and it seemed a shame to let them go by without telling y’all about them. So, to keep it shorter, I’ve broken May and June up into a Young Adult edition and an Adult one. 

Today’s the adult one. You can read yesterday’s YA installment here.



Cover for Calling Me Home Calling Me Home, by Julie Kibler

I really loved this debut novel of Kibler’s. I remember being somewhat hesitant about it at first as it centers on an interracial relationship set in the 1930s and I wasn’t sure how it might not follow a typical path of hardship. And once I started it, at about halfway through, I found myself avoiding it because I felt certain that an inevitable scene was due to arrive where the black man of the relationship would be beaten and I just could not get myself to read it. My stomach was in knots.

Kibler showed me that I could trust her, however, and while such an event does occur, it does not happen in the way I expected. In fact, most of that part of the plot was not as I expected, which is what makes the story so good. The romance occurs in flashback with the present occurring in a road trip with the 90-year old Isabelle accompanied by the 30-something Dorrie. Their friendship is equally lovely and the end of the book totally gutted me in the best way.


Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan Cover for Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

This was a fun book, but to be honest, probably not because of the primary conflict behind the plot, but because of the supporting details, characters, and the narration. Clay is a young graphic artist/web designer in San Francisco who takes a job at a bookstore as a filler until he can get another job in his field during the tough recession times. Turns out, the bookstore has peculiar customers, ones who are trying to solve a puzzle, to unlock a message for the meaning of life.

The singular concept behind the plot is slightly weak, but Clay’s outlook on it all and how he moves through life and interacts with it is what kept me reading. He dates a woman who works for Google, which becomes instrumental in the potential resolution, but the other minor characters all give fantastic color to the story, too. Cardboard camera scanners, data visualization, and underground tech forums all also add to the fun of this story.


Cover for Twenties Girl Twenties Girl, by Sophie Kinsella

With a story that features a ghost, I wasn’t sure how taken I would be with this story – at least in this genre. However, I really liked Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, so I wanted to finally get back around to trying something else of hers.

Sadie, Lara’s great aunt, has died, but her spirit is sticking around and of course, only Lara can see her. Sadie’s spirit appears in her younger form – her 20s (giving the title a nice double meaning, no?) – and under the guise of needing a necklace that seems to be lost, hangs about with Lara until she can find it. The meaning behind the necklace, of course, is what drives the plot and while I found ghost Sadie to be frequently obnoxious and selfish, she grows on you a bit and ultimately helps Lara out in other ways.

In the Shopaholic series, I always felt a little stressed out, because the main character always seemed like she was on the brink of disaster, but I kept with her, because I always loved how everything turned out. In Twenties Girl, there is a little bit of that, but not quite as dramatic, which is why I enjoyed this story a little bit more than the others I have read of Kinsella’s.


The History of Us, by Leah Stewart Cover for The History of Us

There are some parallels between this novel and one I just finished writing, so that might have influenced my opinion of it, which is quite favorable. Eloise’s sister and brother-in-law die in a sudden accident, and she must take in her sister’s three children. The story shows us this beginning, but the rest of the novel takes place when all of the children are adults and the primary source of conflict is the decision to sell the historic home they live in and Eloise wanting to finally live the more independent life she lost when taking in her nieces and nephews.

The story takes on the point of view of Eloise and all but one of the children, and I really enjoyed being in the kids’ heads. I found Eloise the most difficult character to like, and even though I could understand her desire to finally think of herself before the kids for once, she sometimes came across as downright mean in her selfishness. Stewart manages to pull it all together, though, and the journey they all go through to come upon the resolution is definitely relatable.


Cover for The Night Circus The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

This is the book I heard a lot about, but was never sure I’d be in the right frame of mind to read – all because of the “circus” theme, which is not my favorite setting. However, once again, I was pleasantly surprised and ended up enjoying this book quite well.

The night circus is not quite like the “typical” circus that is often geared towards children. In fact, it is different in that it is only open from dusk until dawn and exists, basically, through magic, though this is not obvious to its visitors. From the book jacket: “…behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.”

There is some time-shifting, which is a little hard to keep track of at first, and a lot of “mystery” as to who is who and why, but the writing is strong and the mystical tone binds it all together. I thought it would end a bit differently than it did, and the actual resolution proved quite satisfying.



Heat Wave, by Richard Castle

This book is super short, and yet I still couldn’t get myself to read through it all. It reads a lot like the show, Castle, which is the point, of course, but this is also why it didn’t work for me. Details were included that were awkward in writing, though it probably would have worked well in a television script. Anyhow, being as it was written as a result of a TV show, it was easy enough to abandon this one.


A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

This novel is a 2-story plot, with a couple in Canada who have discovered a washed up diary of a teenage girl from Tokyo. They suspect that she might have been affected by the tsunami of 2011. The diary entries in the beginning of the novel are sad and don’t have much forward motion – nor does the external story frame with Ruth and her reading of the diary.

The writing is good and I think I might be willing to come back to this book one day because I think I would like to find out what happened to the owner of the diary. I believe my disinterest resulted in timing; it just wasn’t the story for me right now.


Currently I am reading Me, Myself, and Why? by Mary Janice Davidson


More importantly: what are YOU reading? What should I be reading next? Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Leave a comment or send me a shout out on Twitter – let’s chat!

One thought on “Recent Reads and Recs: May/June 2013 Edition

  1. Putting “Calling Me Home” and “The History of Us” on my library list. You know why I think I liked “The Night Circus”? Because it made me really, really wish that such a thing was real and that I could visit it. Right now I’m reading “The God of Small Things” and while it’s too early to be sure, I doubt it will be one I love. I gave a crime series (which I had just about give up on as a genre) a try on vacation. The novels are by Chelsea Cain, and they center on a detective named Archie and his relationship with a female serial killer named Gretchen. It’s sort of a fun twist on the trope, and the tone has the slightest hint of Gone Girl. I find them much more tolerable than the JD Robb or Kay Scarpetta novels.


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