Monday, June 30, 2014

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Is love enough, or does it take more to make a marriage work?

When a chance at her dream job interferes with Christmas, sitcom-writer Georgie's husband and kids go on to Omaha without her. That leaves her free to work - or does it mean that Neal just left her? Everybody's got their own theory.

Which all leaves Georgie a bit out-of-sorts. Neal's not answering his phone, her battery's gone kaput, and her Mom wants her to come over for a sympathy dinner. Georgie finally reaches Neal's mother's house in Omaha from her old bedroom at her mom's house, but something seems ... off.

This adult novel by YA wundkind Rowell is a fluffy bit of fiction with the kind of real-world, flawed and relatable characters she does so well. Georgie's certainly not perfect - but do you have to be perfect to deserve love?

Rainbow Rowell's books make me want to curl up in a quilted cloud and get lost, uninterrupted until I've turned the final page. 2013 was certainly the year her star exploded, but I think so far we've only seen the tip of her talent's enormous iceburg.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

After high school, some graduates bolt for the city limits while others hunker down to start adult lives right where they are. This book is about five small town friends, about the underlying pull of home, and about friendship and adulthood.

Beautifully written and full of emotion, Butler's book is full of real people with real troubles in a rural northwestern Wisconsin town. Hank and Beth got married and live on a dairy farm with their kids. Ronnie ran the rodeo circuit until injuries forced him out. Kip made it big in Chicago before returning to inject some money into the dying downtown. And Lee became an indie rock superstar. Chapters alternate between the friends, and we come to understand the group's dynamics and history through their memories and perspectives on current events.

I could NOT put this book down, and I have barely stopped talking about it since the moment I turned the first page. Butler's got a real way with words, and his nuanced characters act and speak in the familiar way of Midwestern small-town stoics. I kept reading passages aloud to my husband because it's just written so, so beautifully.

Highly, HIGHLY recommended!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Before we kiss

by Susan Mallery

Absolutely hilarious. 

Sam and Dellina live in a very small town that's filled with all the expected gossip.  Following one spectacular night, Sam spends all his time avoiding her.  Why?  It's his impression that there is something seriously wrong with a woman whose home is filled with wedding gowns. 

It's a reasonable explanation if only someone could get him to listen.  Luckily, she's the best in her business - which has nothing to do with those gowns - and his company needs her. 

It would seem that's the perfect ending to just about any romance novel.  However,  she unwittingly hires his mother, a sex therapist, to speak at the major function she's planning.  Sam's parents, Lark and Reggie, make this book unforgettable.  Without them, it's a sweet, charming story with plenty of chemistry.  Sam's longtime friends thoroughly enjoy his parents antics, but will Dellina?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel and Bret Witter

Largely forgotten by history, the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives officers of World War II's Allied Forces worked to make sure important cultural relics were not destroyed during fighting, coordinated proper repairs where necessary, and helped track down and reclaim paintings, sculptures, important papers, and other objects of note stolen by Nazi officers all over Europe.

This amazing book recently served as inspiration for a movie starting George Clooney, and our library book club has chosen to read it for discussion later this fall. (We'll also be spinning several other adult-programming events in conjunction with the discussion.)  I cannot wait for the conversation. What an astounding book!

Edsel follows a handful of MFAA officers from the group's haphazard organization through the war and into their vital post-war restitutions work. We learn a bit about these "monuments men" and what drives them - why each was uniquely qualified for their mission, and how it the war affected their later careers.

I have to additionally note that I listened to the audiobook of this one and the narrator, Jeremy Davidson, was stunning. He did character voices, accents, dramatizations ... it's hard to believe it was just one guy, reading all of this so, so well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries by Jon Ronson

New age zealots, the Alaskan townspeople who write Santa's return letters, and a horrifyingly large number of people who go missing from cruise ships - these are just a few of the interesting people you'll learn about in this book of stand-alone essays by British reporter Jon Ronson.

Ronson is a freelance journalist who gets to pursue crazy stories and fantastical personalities. He made a bit of money when a previous book, The Men Who Stare At Goats, was made into a movie starring George Clooney, so in these tales he travels the world and hunts down bizarre and unbelievable characters. Most of this volume's articles were previously published in The Guardian.

Many of the stories are funny and heartbreaking at the same time. Several of the people he meets would incite anger - if they weren't ultimately such sad, pathetic souls at the core of it: he takes a cruise with celebrity psychic Sylvia Browne, he hangs out backstage with the Insane Clown Posse, he gets profiled by the consumer target marketing company Experian, and he meets a guy who split atoms in his kitchen.

It's a fun book, but Ronson avoids drawing any real conclusions - you're left to ponder your own thoughts on the matter, in the end.