I can’t believe August is already here! I feel like I just watched the fireworks for the new year. Down here in the South, the days are long and humid. High noon is spent hiding inside from the worst of the heat and waiting for the cool of the evening. A mint julep, a book, a rocking chair and a porch make for a fabulous August evening. Here are a few picks for this month.
THE TRUE AND SPLENDID HISTORY OF THE HARRISTOWN SISTERS
By Michelle Lovric
From the Publisher:
It’s rural Ireland in the second half of the nineteenth century, the age of the Pre-Raphaelites, when Europe burns with a passion for long, flowing locks. So when seven sisters, born into fatherless poverty, grow up with hair cascading down their backs, to their ankles, and beyond, men are not slow to recognize their potential.
Soon, they’re a singing and dancing septet: Irish jigs kicked out in dusty church halls. But it is not their singing or their dancing that fills the seats: it is the torrents of hair they let loose at the end of each show. In an Ireland still hungry and melancholy with the Great Famine, the Swiney hair is a rich offering. And their hair will take dark-hearted Darcy, bickering twins Berenice and Enda, plain Pertilly, gentle Oona, wild Ida, and fearful, flame-haired Manticory—the writer of their on- and off-stage adventures—out of poverty, through the dance halls of Ireland, to the salons of Dublin and the palazzi of Venice. It will bring them suitors and obsessive admirers, it will bring some of them love and each of them loss. For their past trails behind the sisters like the tresses on their heads and their fame and fortune will come at a terrible price.
Although this book did not end up being my cup of tea, I can recognize it as a well-written novel. The tone is dark but I didn’t care for the narrative style. The sentence structure follows a speech pattern that suggests a simple-mindedness of the narrator.
Signor Bon seated me in front of him so that my view was unimpeded. He rowed, as he explained, ‘alla Veneziana’, standing behind me, stooping rhythmically over a pair of oars. On the back of my neck, I felt the warm air disturbed by his efforts.
It was worth all Darcy’s anger, all Mr Rainfleury’s clucking and even worth keeping a secret from Alexander, the hour I was late for breakfast, the hour I spent as the sun rose above the city being rowed by the photographer around the back canals of Venice, dipping under trailing vines, being enveloped in the sudden shadows of bell towers, following the sugar-scented bakers’ boats. The ferry stops snapped their crisp striped awnings at us. I watched the women throwing ropes into the water to teach their young children to swim. I listened to the happy chatter of the bead-stringers of Castello sorting the treasures in the wide wooden trugs on their laps.
By a mutual understanding, Signor Bon and I did not talk, but at times the pleasure was so great that it needed to be shared. Then I could not refrain from twisting around so that our eyes met. When I did so, he nodded with a solemn smile like a benign priest who has made a convert of an unlikely sinner.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the stunning cover art, which only gets better every time I look at it.
Thank you to Bloomsbury for the review copy. Read via NetGalley.
Length: 480 pp
Imprint: Bloomsbury USA
Dimensions: 5 1/2″ x 8 1/4″
List price: $28.00
THE GHOST BRIDE
By Yangsze Choo
From the Publisher:
Yangsze Choo’s stunning debut, The Ghost Bride, is a startlingly original novel infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists.
Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favorable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors. Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at what price?
Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family.
This story brings together the fantastical and the realistic. How does tradition meet modernity? In Choo’s debut novel, she uses beautiful prose to illustrate the unsettling and engaging story.
The streets became increasingly familiar in a strange way. Parts of them looked nothing like I remembered, yet there was a spatial recognition, some trick of proportion that sang out to me. In some places where there ought to have been buildings, there was nothing but old trees and rocks; in others, there were three or four fine dwellings occupying the same spot. And of course, everything was much farther apart, as though the original streets had been stretched to twice of even thrice their width and length. On one corner, which in the real Malacca held only the shell of a decaying house, there was a grand mansion. From behind the imposing gates came the faint sound of laughter and women’s voices. I shuddered as I passed. ~Pg. 187
Thank you to HarperCollins for the review copy.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 5, 2014)
Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
THE GREAT ABRAHAM LINCOLN POCKET WATCH CONSPIRACY
By Jacopo Della Quercia
From the Publisher:
This historical thriller is an equal-parts cocktail of action, adventure, science-fiction and comedy. The book follows a globe-trotting President Taft and Robert Todd Lincoln in a race to solve a mystery stretching back to the Civil War and the Lincoln assassination. Based on true events, readers will find themselves swept into a vast conspiracy spanning four continents and three oceans during the turn of the century. Fascinating technologies will be harnessed, dark secrets revealed, true villains exposed, and some of the most famous figures in history will take the stage.
From the outset, this book is pure fun. The author begins with an alternate version of events one night at Ford’s Theater in April 1865.
With that last name, Abraham instinctively moved his left hand to his timepiece only to find an empty pocket where his new pocket watch should have been. Abraham looked down at his waistcoat, aghast. A rather magnificent pocket watch, one unlike any he had ever seen or dreamed possible, was missing. ~Loc. 66
It’s a steampunk imagining of the post Civil War era, with Taft in an airship and pocket watches that hold secrets. And, it’s humorous.
Out of modesty, Taft secured the enormous belt on his bathrobe and straightened its lapels like a jacket. had he known there would be a lady present, he would at the very least have put on some pants. ~Loc. 285
It’s adventurous, funny and imaginative.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s for the review copy. Read via NetGalley.
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; First Edition edition (August 5, 2014)
Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
THE ART RESTORER
By Julian Sanchez
Open Road Media keeps hitting it out of the park. They find fantastic gems, many in translation, and bring them to a easy-to-use and stylish platform.
From the Publisher:
Enrique Alonso travels from his new home in Manhattan to San Sebastián, Spain, to attend the reopening of the San Telmo museum, where his ex-wife, Bety, works in public relations. There he meets American Craig Bruckner, a retired art restorer studying the museum’s collection of works by Sert—a contemporary of Picasso and Dalí who worked for the most famous billionaires of his time and whose mural American Progress graces the walls of Rockefeller Center. When Bruckner is found drowned in La Concha bay, Bety suspects foul play and Enrique agrees to help her look into the man’s death. Their investigation reveals a mystery connected with Sert’s checkered past, which provides fertile ground for the new thriller Enrique is writing, and the plot develops in parallel to his research.
Enrique and Bety’s reconstruction of the artist’s clandestine activities during World War II leads them to Paris, Barcelona, and New York, and in the process forces them to face their own past. But they are not the only ones interested in Sert’s work, and it appears there is more to his paintings than meets the eye.
The prose is clean. The plot pushes along at a good pace and doesn’t dwell on complicated relationship of the two main characters (which it could easily descend into). Instead, it focuses on the intrigue of the paintings.
You and I have been to the Prado and many other museums. But when you saw Craig sitting there, along in the nave of the church, staring at one of those paintings for hours, you understood that he was on a different plane altogether. I don’t know what he saw there, but it was clear that was taking in something out of most mortals’ reach. Sometimes he would get close, as if he were trying to prove a theory. Other times he used tools to check the condition of the canvas for restoration. And he was constantly writing in a little spiral notebook. When he was sitting there he looked like … a priest. ~Pg. 337
Thank you to the fabulous editors at Open Road Media for the review copy. Read via NetGalley.
File Size: 1927 KB
Print Length: 345 pages
Publisher: Barcelona eBooks (July 8, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.