#15 Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller

15814497How reliable is an unreliable narrator? This is the question I asked myself throughout the whole of this page-turner. The premise of Norwegian by Night is an interesting one: Probably senile, recently widowed, Jewish American man moves to Oslo, where he doesn’t know the language or the culture, to live with his granddaughter and her husband. Recently arrived, he witnesses a violent crime and rescues a young boy at the scene; they escape, evading the police, his granddaughter, and those looking for the boy. Do we trust this narrator, and to what end?

While Norwegian by Night is, at its core, a book of suspense, it also provides a fascinating look at Jewish identity, the frailty of memory, language and the ability to communicate without words, war and the effects of violence on the brain, parenting, aging, and death. It’s great. Read it.

#13 Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

31147620Though the premise of this book hinges on a romantic liaison, to call this book “a romance” is misleading. There is no bodice-ripping, no Fabio, no throbbing love muscle. I almost didn’t pick it up because of that label.

Think of “romance” in the best sense, it can be sexy, confusing, satisfying, transformative. A young maid on an estate and a young heir of a neighboring manor engage in a tryst that, in one afternoon, realigns the trajectory of their lives. Her life after this one Sunday is changed forever, setting her on a course of self discovery and exploration. She is awakened to the prospect of a different life, she is changed.

I won’t spoil here what leads to this realignment, for that would reveal the heart of the plot. I will say that the more I read, the more I enjoyed the book. I relished the elegance of the prose, and the hazy briefness, so full of longing and sadness, of their romantic encounter. A lovely read.

#11 A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

22055262I discovered this trilogy by V.E. Schwab on Goodreads and loved the cover treatments so decided to give the books a try.

About the series, from V.E. Schwab’s website: “A fantasy series that takes place in a series of parallel Londons—where magic thrives, starves, or lies forgotten, and follows the last of a line of blood mages and a pickpocket from Georgian London as they combine forces to save the worlds—all of them.”

A Darker Shade of Magic (#1 in the series) is a rollicking good time of a book about a blood magician named Kell, and a kick-ass heroine pickpocket named Delilah. They join forces to defeat those out to destroy Kell and the London he inhabits. Time/space travel, political intrigue and evil plots, spells, adventure, and (you guys!) MAGIC.

#7 Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

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This book was passed along to me by my husband. It won the 2016 Best Translated Book Award for fiction, and the fact that Francisco Goldman calls Herrera “Mexico’s greatest novelist” would suggest that the book is something quite special, a memorable read. I finished it with a “meh” and a shrug. With all the praise this book received, I was left wondering “did I miss something?!”

If you read it and loved it, I’d love to hear your thoughts…

 

#6 Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

24453082When looking for creative inspiration or a jump-start to your craft, look here.

Gilbert (yes, author of Eat, Pray, Love… also the author of the excellent The Last American Man) tackles the doubts and fears that stunt the creative impulse, talks about ideas that just want to be brought into the world and made real, champions doing the creative work because you love the work, and divulges the most fascinating story about how a book idea she was working on left her creative sphere and ended up in Ann Patchett’s.

This book continues to fuel interesting  conversations and I find myself talking about the ideas in Big Magic with anyone who will listen.

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#4 A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Looking for a great book to take on vacation? Or just a great read? Here you go.

This is the funny, poignant story of Ove, an old curmudgeon who trolls his neighborhood looking for miscreants, and lives to follow the rules and expects everyone else to as well. He’s unrelenting, grumpy, and inflexible. Much to his chagrin, when a young family moves in next door his life gets turned upside down, his routines are disrupted, his past is brought back to life, lessons are learned.

This is such a page-turner, and Ove is a character you won’t soon forget.

#2 News of the World by Paulette Jiles

25817493 A galley of News of the World sat on my shelves for almost a year and, for whatever reason, I just didn’t pick it up. But I’m glad I finally did, it’s a charming book.

The premise: “In the aftermath of the American Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this morally complex, multi-layered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.”

At first I was apprehensive that the young girl/older man narrative would veer into cringe-worthy sexual territory, but thankfully it never did. The aging news reader character, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, surprised and delighted me. Kidd’s view of the world is wider than the characters around him, he reads the news aloud to crowds, verbally presenting the world to those who cannot read and/or have no access to newspapers. Because of this world view, his lens positions the story within a bigger historical context and provides insight into that particular time in that part of the Southwest. We get a glimpse of the eradication of Native American tribes, the ramifications of slavery, the appropriation of Mexico, the violent grab for land, power, people, money, all at the complex intersection of new and old, of civilization and wilderness.

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