Friday, January 14, 2011

New Year, New Books Part Two

Our 4th year of Lake Travis Reads is currently underway.  This year it is "Lake Travis Reads Ben Rehder" and we are inviting everyone to read any of his very funny Blanco County mysteries.  Join us here at Bee Cave Public LIbrary on Wednesday, February 9, at 7:00 pm for a visit and talk by Ben Rehder himself (the event is free, there will be refreshments, and he will be signing books!).  I can't wait to hear him in person because by all reports he is a fabulous speaker.  What a great way to spend an evening! 
     Last week I talked about some of the nonfiction books I am eagerly waiting to read.  I wanted to share that the author of one of those books, Rodney Crowell, will be  at BookPeople on  Friday, January 28, at 7:00 pm.  Sure to be a great event.  Kester Smith reviewed Crowell's book on his blog and it included this great line when talking about Crowell's family, "To put it a different way, if Rodney Crowell’s family hadn’t existed, Flannery O’Connor would have had to make them up… and then Johnny Cash would have had to sing about it."  I just love that line!  
     I am not just looking forward to reading nonfiction as I am also awaiting a number of less serious and wonderfully confectionery mind candy fiction titles in January. I think I have shared that I love to read romance novels, particularly those set in the Regency period in England but in the past 5 or 6 years I have enjoyed contemporary romances also.  I am absolutely thrilled that one of my favorite contemporary authors, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, has a new book coming out this month! Her books always make me laugh and for months beforehand I very eagerly look forward to the publication of each book in the American Lady (her new book, Call Me Irresistible, is the third in this series) and Chicago Stars/Bonner Brothers Series. I also can’t wait to read There is Cake in My Future, by Kim Gruenenfelder-it contains a touch of magic to go along with the romance and humor.  
Not that I have forgotten about my beloved Regency period, because I hope I have a nice rainy day to curl up and read Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right, by Kieran Kramer; The Girl in the Gatehouse, by Julie Klassen; and the latest in the Secret History of the Pink Carnation series, The Orchid Affair, by Lauren Willig. Willig’s series focuses on the real and imagined “flower spies” that fought the good fight against Napoleon-check out her very nice Web site.  Her books are flavored with the spiciness of espionage and intrigue, liberal doses of witty dialogue, just the right amount of romance (for my taste), and tasty historical detail.   The historical detail is not surprising as Willig has a Ph.D. in English history from Yale as well as a law degree (magna cum laude) from Harvard.  So who says that romance writers and readers aren't serious scholars? 
     Susan Vreeland’s Clara and Mr. Tiffany continues her fictionalization of the lives of artists but this time she moves away from painters to explore the life of Clara Driscoll, one of premiere glass artists in Louis Comfort Tiffany’s art nouveau studio. If you have ever watched Antique’s Roadshow I am sure  you have seen her work, such as the shade on the famous Dragonfly lap.  I seem to remember that all the works are attributed to Tiffany and not individual studio artists, unlike the works of famous pottery schools.  Vreeland's new book exposes the inequities and hardships that women faced and just how little credit they received for their enduring contributions that resulted in the success of the House of Tiffany.  Vreeland also addressed such shoddy treatment of women n my favorite book of hers, The Passion of Artemisia, which chronicles the interesting life and career (!) of the 17th century Italian female painter, Artemisia Gentileschi.
     I have recently began dipping my toe back into the pool of mysteries and have found that I prefer (no surprise!) the chick-lit romance type (e.g. Lisa Lutz or Harley Jane Kozak) or the more traditional “Agatha Christie like” mystery. I loved Dame Christie’s books growing up. One of the best writers in that tradition is Canadian Louise Penny and I have fallen in love with her exceptionally well-written Chief Inspector Gamache series. I urge you to try these, the first book in the series is Still Life.  After reading the review for the second book in Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series and I decided that it strongly reminds me of Penny’s’ books. So I am going to continue reading mysteries with Griffith’s The Janus Stone.  I also urge you to check out Alan Bradley's precocious heroine, Flavia de Luce, the third book in this delightful series comes out in the next month.
A wild card book, which I am surprised appealed to me at all because I am heartily tired of reading reviews of books that feature vampires (Jane Austen as a vampire anyone?), is The Radleys, by Matt Haig. I have seen it described as an exploration of the modern nuclear family, which just happens to be composed of vampires; quirky and intriguing. My interest in this title was also piqued by the line “We’re middle-class and we’re British. Repression is in our veins” that was quoted in the Booklist review.  I wonder if the title is a reference to the Radley family in To Kill a Mockingbird?   Love the cover too! 

It's a new year, so try one new book in a genre that you usually would not read, you might enjoy it.  I have found that the one problem with branching out on a regular basis is that my "just read" list gets longer and longer.

Happy Reading!

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