Nerdy Special List May 2015
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
We have a full list this month. After a couple of lackluster reading months, I was happy to read some strong books in April and to see my blogging friends did, too. Hope you find something on this list that piques your interest.
From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:
Dry Bones by Craig Johnson (Viking, May 12)
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones do make for a good old-fashioned mess in Absaroka County, Wyoming. Craig Johnson’s eleventh Walt Longmire novel involves the discovery of a Tyrannosaurus rex named Jen, the death of an Indian—who just happened to own the land the dinosaur was discovered on—and the fight between three different groups over who exactly has the rights to this priceless pile of dry bones.
Life is never easy and rarely quiet in the least populated county in the least populated state in the Union. Johnson continues to keep this series fresh and unpredictable, and readers can count on his wonderful sense of humor; rich, dynamic characters; and great plot twists. The atmosphere and setting take their silently powerful supporting roles in Walt’s “Save Jen” story line as Craig Johnson spins another astounding yarn.
This daring debut is a wonderful mix of satire, mystery, adventure, and feminist fiction. Using a morbidly obese protagonist and a terrorist group known only as Jennifer (don’t ask me, I have no idea what the deal is with my name this month), Sarai Walker examines society’s objectification of women.
Alexis “Plum” Kettle has battled her weight all her life. She’s tried diet after diet and only succeeded in making herself fat and miserable. Now she’s decided to have weight-loss surgery, convinced this will be the turning point in her life. Her procedure is scheduled and she’s ready to go, until she meets Verena Baptist and her cadre of women working in various ways to empower women.
About the same time Plum meets Verena, Jennifer starts targeting institutions and individuals around the world who harm and debase women. Plum unwittingly finds herself tangentially tied to this group and must make some of the hardest decisions of her life.
Dietland is bold and passionate. Any woman who’s ever felt shunned because of arbitrary definitions of beauty will appreciate and empathize with Plum’s plight. Any person who hasn’t felt this way needs Dietland even more. It’s a powerful message wrapped in witty storytelling. Sarai Walker has a winner and is one to watch.
From Rory at Fourth Street Review:
Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler (Thomas Dunne Books, May 5)
Last year I had the privilege of reading the wonderful Shotgun Lovesongs. While the novel never got the attention it fully deserved, I’m hoping the release of Beneath the Bonfire will change that. In Nickolas Butler’s new short-story collection, he again examines complex friendships that arise in small towns, the bonds between men, and a love for rural landscapes.
Highlights include “The Chainsaw Soiree” (my favorite), which tells the tale of a beloved annual party, the last of which is truly life altering; “Morels,” where mushroom hunting and the bonds of friendship take an unexpected turn on one particular hunt; and “Beneath the Bonfire,” the story of a complicated relationship between two scuba divers set against the backdrop of a bonfire on a frozen lake.
This is the best short-story collection I’ve read in a long time. I’d recommend it to lovers of good literary fiction—and maybe that readers give Shotgun Lovesongs a chance, too.
From Erin at In Real Life:
The Fall by John Lescroart (Atria Books, May 5)
The Fall begins quite literally when a young woman plunges to her death from an overpass in San Francisco. The expected questions abound—was she pushed? Did she jump?—but that’s where this story stops being predictable.
The woman in question, Tanya, had a difficult, tragic life, but she had begun to persevere in the face of great adversity. As we meet the people in her life, the answer to who might have wanted to do her harm is anything but clear. Hidden agendas and muddy motivations abound, and they make for a fascinating journey.
John Lescroart is one of those rare series author who brings fresh eyes to each of his legal thrillers. This time, Dismas Hardy’s daughter, Rebecca, takes the lead in the case arising from Tanya’s death.
But this book is much more than a courtroom tale; it includes insightful social commentary as it explores a number of timely social issues, and it lets readers spend time with characters who are a pleasure to know, whether they’re old friends or new acquaintances.
From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:
Rumrunners by Eric Beetner (280 Steps, May 12)
For generations, the McGraw men have worked as transporters for the Stanley crime “syndicate” in southeast Iowa, a tradition about to come to an end. Calvin is 86 and grumpily retired in Nebraska, son Webb is in his sixties and pulling a few last jobs, and grandson Tucker rejected the McGraw outlaw genetics and became an insurance salesman.
But when Webb goes missing with $12 million of Stanley drug money, the generations come together to find him in order to repay the boss. What’s billed as “Smokey and the Bandit meets Justified and Fargo” doesn’t disappoint, and Beetner has written a full-throttle ride filled with car chases, fistfights, and fights with everything from power tools to broken glass.
Rumrunners keeps you on your toes, mixing light and funny with vicious and bloody. You definitely want to call “shotgun!” for this ride.
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery (Atria Books, May 12)
The account of her relationship with several octopuses (not octopi, I learned) at the Boston Aquarium is a dazzling look at the intricacies and depth of octopus intelligence and communication, both within its natural environment and, more remarkably, with humans.
Displaying individual character traits, varying reactions to individual humans, and complex problem-solving skills, octopuses teach us a valuable lesson in not selling the mindfulness of other species short. Montgomery deftly weaves scientific facts into an incredible story of love and friendship that’s not to be missed. (Click here for Lauren’s full review.)
Disclaimer by Renée Knight (Harper, May 19)
Catherine Ravenscroft starts reading a thriller titled The Perfect Stranger one night and recognizes herself as the novel’s villain. The story references events that happened to her twenty years earlier. Since she’s never told anyone about what happened then, it seems impossible for the book’s author to know certain personal details about her. She must track down the writer and soon, because in Stranger, things don’t end well for the Catherine-like character.
Disclaimer alternates between the POVs of Catherine and the person who self-publishes the damaging novel within this novel. The characters are not easy to like, but keep reading because the ending is quietly devastating. It also capsizes any presumptions readers might have about the characters, reminding us not to rush to judgment when we don’t know the whole story.
Which May releases are you looking forward to?