Summer Sampler, Pt. 2

Here are more of the books from a recent meeting of Williamsburg Regional Library’s staff book group, books that suggest that appropriate “summer” reading varies greatly depending on the perspective reader.

Melissa from Adult Services brought The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, a young adult fantasy that she liked as much as I did. She also loved Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones, a coming-of-age story about a 13-year-old Australian in 1966, who follows the outcast, mixed-race title character into the woods one dark summer night and sees something horrible that brings his childhood to an end. It’s a suspenseful story about small town prejudice, racial tensions, the Vietnam War, friendship, cricket, and plenty of references to Harper Lee and Mark Twain. Marketed as an adult book in Australia and a young adult book in the U.S., this book is a good choice for all ages.

My selection for the month was Louise Penny’s fourth Inspector Gamache mystery, A Rule against Murder. This time Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are celebrating their anniversary at a lodge near Three Pines (the Canadian village where the series is usually set) when one of the other guests, an unhappy participant in the family reunion that fills the rest of the lodge’s rooms, is murdered in a most unusual way. We have celebrated Penny’s gift for character and setting more than once here at Book Group Buzz and book eight in the series, The Beautiful Mystery, arrives this month, so by all means join in the fun and read one.

Our group leader Cheryl had several fine selections as usual, but her favorite was Paul French’s Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China. It’s nonfiction about the 1937 murder of a young British woman in Peking. She’s left at the base of the famous Fox Tower, mutilated so badly that at first she’s difficult to identify. A joint investigation by the English and Chinese was limited by political dealings, underworld corruption, and the rising threat of Japanese soldiers encircling the city, but Pamela Werner’s father, a former British Consul, stayed on the case, hunting for the killer. French obviously did a lot of his own detective work in piecing together this atmospheric story that captures a fascinating and exotic place and time, and ultimately makes a good case in identifying the murderer.

Connie from Outreach Services finished the meeting with another diverse stack of picks. I’ll highlight two of her favorites. Michael Lewis’s latest is Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, a book in which he looks at the effects of bad loans and the resulting worldwide recession. Most of us know what happened in the U.S. all too well, but Lewis looks at other countries greatly damaged by the collapse: Iceland, Greece, Germany, and Ireland. Lewis picks his anecdotes well, showing how different national cultures reacted to cheap loans and their bad results. His book will introduce mainstream readers to global finance with both thoughtfulness and some humor, helping a lay reader understand why choices in one part of the globe can have such a huge effect elsewhere in our modern world.

Her other favorite was Mathew Dicks’ novel, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. It’s a novel narrated from the perspective of Budo, the imaginary friend of a nine-year-old boy named Max (who readers slowly learn has some kind of autism.) Budo’s in constant danger of Max deciding not to believe in him any longer, so when Max is abducted, Budo must struggle whether to protect his creator or go along with the crime, protecting his own existence. This interesting perspective adds an unusual touch to a quick-reading, emotion-tugging story of friendship, autism, loyalty, and the power of imagination.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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