The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
(Hachette Books, 2008, 384 pages)
I was initially turned on to Lauren Groff thanks to Fates and Furies. After reading it I remember making a note that I wanted to read her debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton, but the book summary didn’t really sound like “me.” There’s a lake monster (seriously, that was enough to give me a moment’s hesitation) and then a journey through the history of a small New England town. Even though I hesitated to grab this, I’m so glad I finally decided to give it a go because I thoroughly enjoyed it. As I was reading I found myself comparing Groff’s writing style to John Irving, which is high praise (especially coming from me who would essentially follow Irving anywhere #literarycrush).
The novel is told from the perspective of Willie Cooper who has returned home after an affair with her archaeology professor. While she tries to lay low at home her mother reveals to her that the story of Willie’s conception she’d been raised to believe was true (scandalous though it was) was a lie. Now she has to unravel her family history to try and uncover her real father. She appreciates this challenge and is surprised to find how much she discovers about her family tree and the history of the town.
If you’re looking for a unique story with fantastical elements interspersed in the history of a small town The Monsters of Templeton won’t let you down. Also, if you’re just a fan of Groff and/or good fiction, this is a book for you.
The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, 288 pages)
This book jumped up on my to-read list after I was going through potential titles for our campus book club. The Fortunes is told from the perspective of four different characters at four different points in American history. Through their eyes we see the reality of the Chinese American experience in this country. The book begins shortly after the Gold Rush when Chinese immigrants were recruited to build railroads and ends in the present-day with a couple in China in the process of adopting a child.
The Fortunes was an engrossing read that inspired me to want to learn more about the issues and people that were portrayed in the book. I definitely recommend it to those who are fans of literary fiction, historical fiction, multi-generational novels, the immigrant experience, American history… you get the picture 🙂
Saga, Vol. 8 by Brian K. Vaughan; art by Fiona Staples
(Image Comics, 2017, 146 pages)
The saga continues… ha! But seriously, I’m ready for volume 9 and I wish I didn’t have to wait until October for its publication.
The family drama continues as Hazel and her parents try to survive in the midst of a chaotic universe. The social commentary in Vaughan’s work combined with Staples’s amazing artwork make this a series not to be missed. I’d definitely recommend Saga if you haven’t already picked it up. Sure, there are parts that are graphic, but there’s so much packed into each volume!
Practical Houseplant Book by Fran Bailey and Zia Allaway
(DK Publishing, 2018, 224 pages)
I’m always looking for ways to give my house a homier feel. Since I managed to kill the last houseplant I had this seemed like a book that was right up my alley. Things are broken down into sections so you get a feel for how to organize plants, what plants are best suited for different environments, tools you’ll need, and crafty things you can do yourself. It was helpful that this was such a visual book (you can always count on DK for that). I think I got the most mileage out of the section that breaks plants down based on type and highlights the level of difficulty for their care. I now have an incredibly long list of plants I would love to nurture in my house!
I wasn’t a huge fan of the craft section BUT it did help me to see that some of the looks I might go for are things I can try and do on my own. If you’re a houseplant novice this is a great introductory text for you. I’m excited for my next visit to Fahr Greenhouse to see what catches my eye… if you see more houseplant books on the blog in the near future you’ll know I’ve been moderately successful 😉
The Forgotten Road by Richard Paul Evans
(Simon Schuster, 2018, 272 pages)
The Forgotten Road is the second book in the Broken Road Series by Richard Paul Evans.
Below is the Goodreads description:
Chicago celebrity and successful pitchman Charles James is supposed to be dead. Everyone believes he was killed in a fiery plane crash. But thanks to a remarkable twist of fate, he’s very much alive and ready for a second chance at life—and love. Narrowly escaping death has brought Charles some clarity: the money, the fame, the fast cars—none of it was making him happy. The last time he was happy—truly happy—was when he was married to his ex-wife Monica, before their connection was destroyed by his ambition and greed.
Charles decides to embark on an epic quest: He will walk the entire length of Route 66, from Chicago to California, where he hopes to convince Monica to give him another shot. Along the way, Charles is immersed in the deep and rich history of one of America’s most iconic highways. But the greater journey he finds is the one he takes in his heart as he meets people along the road who will change his perspective on the world. But will his transformation be enough to earn redemption?
I found this second book in the series to be very similar to The Walk Series which was also written by Richard Paul Evans. I honestly was a little bored reading the first half of The Forgotten Road with all the little known facts about Route 66 in each town that Charles James walked. The story did get more interesting after Charles began meeting people on his journey on Route 66 to California. I didn’t realize that Route 66 starts in Chicago and ends in Santa Monica, California. Now I am looking forward to reading the third book which doesn’t yet have a release date.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee
(Mariner Books, 2018, 288 pages)
I grabbed this book as soon as I saw it sitting on the “New Books” shelf at my public library. I feel like there was so much buzz about this book prior to its publication that I couldn’t not pick it up. This collection of essays reads as more of a memoir since it essentially chronicles Chee’s path to becoming a writer. The essays are beautifully written and I fully understand why there was so much pre-pub buzz.
The end of the Goodreads summary reads, “By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.” I’d definitely recommend this, especially for those who love literary fiction and enjoy reading memoirs by writers.
The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro
(St. Martin’s Press, 2017, 400 pages)
I had been hoping to pick up Fierro’s first novel, Cutting Teeth, from the library but it was checked out when I got there so I was able to grab her more recent book. The Gypsy Moth Summer is set on Avalon Island (which is meant to be an offshoot of Long Island) in the early 1990s. The same summer that Leslie Day Marshall moves back to her hometown is also one where Avalon Island is beset by gypsy moths. Leslie came from a prominent family in Avalon and it’s somewhat scandalous that she’s returning with a black husband and mixed children in tow.
As Leslie reasserts her presence in town various factions of Avalon are battling to stay relevant. There are gangs, love stories, racial issues, betrayal… all matter of things go down in the infested heat of that summer. This is a novel that keeps your attention as you try to figure out where Fierro will take the story next.
A number of reviews compared The Gypsy Moth Summer to The Great Gatsby. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to finally getting my hands on a copy of Cutting Teeth.