Spring has at last arrived, and with it brighter, and hopefully warmer days. Depending on where you live, you may be trapped inside by an April shower, or lounging in the sunshine. Whatever the case, celebrate the season of rebirth by checking out these fresh reads.
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Commencement, J. Courtney Sullivan’s first novel, drove me nuts. I went back and forth, alternately liking and hating her characters until the last page. This is a sign of a great novel. But compelling characters are not only one reason I’m excited about her second release. Maine is a story about grappling with the present and revisiting the past via a family vacation cottage – making this a perfect read to transition into summer time. Another reason Maine appeals to me is the place itself. Maine is a state of stereotypes – to other New Englanders, it’s the hick state of the northeast. To tourists, it’s a lighthouse and lobster-filled paradise. And to Mainers, well, it’s the way life should be.
American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar
When traditional values meet modern beliefs struggle is inevitable. In American Dervish, the traditional involves main character Hayat and his Muslim family. Reconciling the Pakistani family’s beliefs with modern America is only the beginning. When Hayat falls in love his mother’s best friend, the conflict deepens. The clash of religion and today’s somewhat value-starved society is one to which readers from all walks of life can relate. I’ll be purchasing this first novel by Ayad Akhtar, and, I suspect, eagerly awaiting his next.
I Knew You’d Be Lovely by Alethea Black
Every spring reading list needs a good collection of short stories. But Alethea Black’s collection, I Knew You’d Be Lovely is better than good. I’ll confess I’ve already broken into these (after all spring has already started). Her matter-of-fact dealing with raw human emotion will draw you in without bringing you down. Still, the roller coaster of love, pain and the human spirit in this book are a perfect match for an early spring read, when Mother Nature has yet to make up her mind.
11/22/63 by Stephen King
Where were you when…? Chances are, if you were around in 1963, you know exactly what you were doing when you found out that President Kennedy had been shot. This Stephen King book centers around one of the most pivotal and heartbreaking moments in American history. If you’re thinking that you don’t normally read Stephen King books, let this be the novel that changes your mind. An undeniably gifted writer, King links the present to that fateful day that shook America, and its idealism, to the core. The book’s hero, a teacher, has the opportunity to do something many of us wish to do: change history. And for King-lovers, there is apparently an added treat, as characters from previous novels make appearances. This one is next on my “To Read” list – that is if my husband, a devoted King reader, doesn’t snatch it first.
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
I don’t think I’m too behind the times for wanting to read this first book in the Gregor series. Before Suzanne Collins gave us The Hunger Games trilogy, she gave us Gregor. And while many may not have taken notice until now, I believe that the series might be just as addictive. The book was originally recommended to me by parents of a student I taught. They were reading it out loud with their seven and ten-year old children, and like their children, had fallen under the spell of Collins’ storytelling. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this is light kids’ reading. The plot promises lots of action, as Gregor, responsible for his little sister, must battle with an underworld that he didn’t know existed. As in The Hunger Games, Collins deals with adult themes, such as single parenting, war, and children that are forced to grow up too quickly. This will be a great read to share with kids not quite ready for young adult fiction, but interested in action and fantasy.
These books are available in print or as eBooks, through Amazon.com and BN.com. Also check your local bookseller.