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— SUMMER 2021 NEW RELEASES / SUGGESTIONS — posted 7/2021

Saved by a Song  -  Mary Gauthier

This book is singer/songwriter Grammy nominated Mary Gauthier unzipped, where she reveals everything and all about her journey away from alcohol, drug, and sex addiction to learning how to, and becoming, a successful songwriter and singer who found herself on the Stage of Success. Mary is one of those few storytellers whose down to earth words ring true and familiar to other creative minds, words that do not proselytize or reek of ego. This is a fine confessional autobiography that has a way of calming the soul as we witness the life lessons Mary picked up along the way. Her voice is strong and enticing. The reader cannot help but feel invited to sit by her side as she takes us onto the ride that is her life story. For the uninitiated, Mary’s voice and messages....and now her book....are not to be overlooked. This moving and honest autobiography/memoir by one of America's most talented singer/songwriters is a must-read. If you've ever wondered how a songwriter's song is born, here’s the answer.

 

The Girls in the Stilt House  -  Kelly Mustian

This book deserves to be up at the top of the list of must-read Southern writers. Remarkably, it's a debut novel! Set in the Natchez Trace of the 1920's, not far from the author's Mississippi childhood home, she painted  vivid pictures of the Trace, not exactly romantic because of the abject poverty in which most of the people lived, but lovely images of the natural environment. I felt an affinity to the two females characters, a single poor abused pregnant young white woman and a headstrong poor Black women, finding myself captivated by the way their disparate, yet sadly similar life stories were intertwined. A distressing story about male chauvinism, racism, and abuse, "The Girls in the Stilt House" is also  moving and truly beautifully written, giving insight into the bonds women are capable of creating despite their cultural, physical, and economic opportunities and differences.

Circe  -  Madeline Miller

I was intimated by this book for nearly a year before actually putting it in my hands. I mistakenly thought it would be a heady intellectual read, required reading for college literature and Greek Mythology courses. Oh, but was I wrong! Madeline Miller ingeniously wove the relationships and stories around the Greek gods and goddesses and mortals into a provocative and suspenseful page-turner. Her colorful writing and portrayal of the larger than life Circe as a feminist in the world of ancient Greek mythology turned this one of my favorite reads this year. No wonder it is still a Bestseller since it’s 2018 publication. Read this book! You’ll thank me!

 

The Dutch House  -  Ann Patchett

Recently I found myself in need of being taken to a certain kind of a place unlike where I'd been spending time with books about climate crisis, pain, and angst. Thank goodness for Ann Patchett, one of my very favorite authors, for her charming and quirky five decades-long story about the Conroy family. Patchett, so adept at character development, painted for her readers relatable, larger-than-life people – perhaps your next-door neighbors. I instantly felt at home with each member of the extended Conroy family, as well as fantasizing about moving into the Dutch House with them. “The Dutch House” is a love affair with the “good” Conroys, as much as it is a love affair with the glorious Philadelphia mansion in which it takes places. I'd love to live with this delightful group of people in the house Ann Patchett created with such great imagination. Now what am I going to read?!

 

Deep Dark Down: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free  -  Hector Tobar

On August 5, 2010 in Copiapó, Chile, thirty-three San José miners became trapped under thousands of feet of rock for sixty-nine days. It took, literally, months of experts worldwide to configure a means to save the starving men, as the world mourned for, and then, witnessed them being brought to surface one at a time from the depths of the mountain at the end of their ordeal. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar received exclusive access to the miners and their stories in this testament to the horrors of imprisonment inside a pitch-black crumbling mountain and the power of the human spirit. Tobar proves his skills as a journalist as he retells the incident in this honest, non-sensational page-turner true story.

When the Stars Go Dark  -  Paula McClain

Page-turner alert! Paula McLain's part-historical tragic suspense novel captured my attention beginning on page one. With breathtaking descriptions of the coastline and woods of Northern California and harrowing images of a desperation for survival, the real-life tragedy of Polly Klass' abduction from her bedroom makes for a nail-biting first-rate novel. Part autobiographical, McLain allows us a glimpse at her own childhood as she uses that memory, along with her imagination, to build a sense of healing and to construct honest-to-goodness good storytelling.       

 

All the Young Men  -  Ruth Coker Burks

This is an incredibly moving and enlightening memoir honoring the work of Ruth Coker Burks who dedicated herself to recognizing and caring for AIDS-inflicted men. Left utterly alone in their hospital or hospice beds, literally battling for their lives during the heinous and ignorant time in America when AIDS patients were viewed and treated as having the cooties, Ruth Coker Burks became their caretaker, savior, advocate, and friend. Burks is not a household name in the history of AIDS, but it should be — her altruistic advocacy led to her advising Governor Bill Clinton on the national HIV-AIDS crisis. Kudos to her sharing her work with us and to the heartache she endured in reaching out to help complete strangers.   

 

Where the Truth Lies -  Anna Bailey

Sad, unbelievably sad, who-dun-it, but a page-turner that I was so drawn in to, I read it straight through in one 6-hour sitting (it helps that I have a hard time sleeping.) We learn at the very start about the beautiful red-head teenage Abigail going missing and we assume she's not coming back — from the dead or wherever she ran off to. Our reading time is spent suffering the racist, homophobic, misogynist, abusive, and out-right despicable bible-thumping residents, who go back generations, of  Whistling Ridge, a small town near Estes Park, Colorado. The kids party, the poverty is deep, and the line between good and evil is strong, especially when all the town's secrets are revealed. I won't give the ending away, but justice does prevail, after lots of spilt blood and spewed wicked anger.

 

What Comes After  -  JoAnne Tompkins

What a story, what a page-turner, what a surprise outcome. The pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you shocking death of childhood best friends and the homeless teenage girl who may or may not have had a part in their deaths makes for a story not to be believed. The girl, pregnant from one of the boys — or not ‑ pretty much adopts one of the boys’ grieving father who has a heart of gold and a need to take care of this girl who appears at his doorstep from nowhere, from the woods of the great Northwest where the story takes place, with no knowledge of where she came from or her history with his son. This is a moving story and a really good cliffhanger. Enjoy and embrace. Love is love.

 

We Begin at the End  -  Chris Whitaker

Looking to get completely lost in a good thick book? Look no further. This tragic story about love, family, honor, and betrayal is chock full of twists and surprises that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Get ready to spend some time with Duchess Day Radley, self-proclaimed Outlaw and bad-ass 13-year old who steals the show in this murder cliffhanger. You won’t regret spending some time with this f****ing awesome girl.

 

The Woman With the Blue Star -  Pam Jenoff

I can't get enough historical fiction that around WWII, and especially anything having to do with atrocities inflicted on Jews. Pam Jenoff's earlier books The Orphan's Tale and The Lost Girls of Paris are high on my list of books that I recommend to friends and Literati shoppers. The Woman with the Blue Star is just as compelling and as emotional and historically accurate, and, now, one I've now added to my list of favorites in the WWII genre. The juxtaposition of the two characters whose lives intersect makes for a strong, heartfelt story: an 18-year Jewish girl and her pregnant mother, in utter fear and desperation as Nazis overtake the Polish Ghetto where they live, jump for safety into a city sewer. When a rich Polish girl, friends to Nazis, happens to discover them, a rare relationship is formed . . . and a beautiful story unfolds.

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