Summer’s Almost Gone | What We’re Reading

Where did the time go? As Labor Day looms and autumn approaches,  LJ/School Library Journal staffers squeeze a little more summer reading into the schedule.

The Devotion of Suspect X Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, Reviews, SLJ
I’ve been digging deep into Japanese mysteries. Last week I finished Keigo Higashino’s The Salvation of a Saint (Minotaur: St. Martin’s), a puzzler that centers on a man who is fatally poisoned. The prime suspect, however, is miles away when it happens. Though it was perhaps a bit implausible, I found it addictive. I also just finished Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X (Minotaur: St. Martin’s), another mystery focusing more on how than on who. Yasuko’s sleazy ex-husband shows up at her house and winds up dead. Her next-door neighbor Ishigami, a brilliant math teacher who’s deeply in love with her, finds a way to cover up the crime. Jaded mystery connoisseuse that I am, I thought I knew exactly where this one was going, but it still managed to surprise me at the end.”

AfterworldsKate DiGirolomo, Editorial Assistant, LJ
I just finished Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds (Simon Pulse) under the assumption that it would be some sort of retelling of Pride and Prejudice (the main characters’ names are Darcy and Lizzie). It wasn’t, although the coincidence is charmingly handled. Despite its lack of Austen influence, it was still a fun read! Plus you get two stories for the price of one; the first being that of Darcy, a teenage writer about to have her debut novel published. It’s peppered with Westerfeld’s obvious knowledge of the trials and tribulations of the writing process, dreaded editor’s notes, and book tours, and as someone who yearns to one day pen a book, it was wholly fascinating to me. The second story belongs to Lizzie, the protagonist of Darcy’s YA series and, owing to certain tragic events, a recently discovered psychopomp (someone who escorts the newly deceased to the afterlife). Now, these chapters did not hold my attention quite the same. It falls into the trend of the mysterious, supernatural, beautiful boy and the girl who instantly falls in love with him seen a million times over in young adult fiction. And while this is sort of addressed in Darcy’s parts, it’s still not my favorite. On the upside, it does also present an awesome relationship between Lizzie and the ghost of her mother’s murdered childhood friend, Mindy, which is instantly more compelling.

Lucky UsLiz French, Senior Editor, Reviews, LJ
Last week I wrote about survivor-heroine Courtney in Pamela Moore’s Chocolates for Breakfast (Perennial: Harper); this week’s survivor-heroine is Eva Acton, from Amy Bloom’s new release, Lucky Us (Random). She’s the long-suffering second banana to her half-sister Iris, who drags her along to Hollywood in the 1940s—and then back across the United States to Brooklyn and Long Island, along with their unreliable father and Francisco Diego, a makeup man who becomes chosen family. I enjoyed the book, which does a lot of head-hopping in a very simple way. Chapters alternate among Eva’s first-person narration, some third-person parts, and letters to (written by various characters, including a Zelig-like man who basically lives every aspect of the World War II experience in dizzyingly short order) and from Eva. While I found some of the attitudes toward race and sexual orientation anachronistic, there were plenty of enjoyable and insightful moments.

Here’s Francisco’s rumination on youth and its assets:

He had a soft spot for young people. They had no idea what was coming and how much of it was just dumb luck. They thought every asset they had would last forever and that their flaws could be concealed under fabric or false names or foundation until the lights were turned off.

Ah Francisco, we should have a drink or two together sometime.

Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, SpyAmanda Mastrull, Assistant Editor, Reviews,  LJ
This week I started cultural anthropologist Gabriella Coleman’s Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous (Verso). I’m only about 50 pages in, but her in-depth, firsthand research of the hacking collective is already evident. In the part I’m at now, Coleman is tracing Anonymous’s emergence from 4chan, setting up for an analysis of its transition from general acts of deviant humor and trolling to street demonstrations and hacktivism. With a bit of humor, too—the author, paraphrasing one Anon’s response to publicized reports that they might target U.S. power infrastructures: “That’s right, we’re definitely taking down the power grid. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when all the equipment we use to mount our campaign is rendered completely useless.”

I am the Messenger

Rebecca Miller, Editorial Director, LJS
I had hoped to finish Markus Zusak’s I am the Messenger (Knopf) before hearing his speech at ALA when he accepted the 2014 Margaret Edwards Award, which SLJ sponsors, but I was destined to have it as a summer read. It has kept me up turning the pages. There is so much to like in this unlikely mystery, but I might just love Ed Kennedy’s dog, the Doorman, named for his favorite station by, yes, the door. The start of a library moment after Ed has received a playing card with a list of names on it:

They are writers, I think. They’re all writers. Graham Greene, Morris West, and Sylvia Plath. It surprises me that I’ve never heard of the first two, but you can’t know of everyone who ever wrote a book…..
It’s around seven-thirty when I discover that I’ve only solved part of the problem. I still have no idea where I have to go or what messages I need to deliver
.
I’ll start at the library, I think….

(Here’s the June SLJ profile of Zusak.)

If You Give a Mouse a CookieEtta Verma, Editor, Reviews, LJ
This week I’ve been reading for LJ’s best books extravaganza. I’m not yet revealing either my rejections or my shortlist, so no adult books for WWR for me this week. In between, I did take a break to read about an oddity in the use of Lorem Ipsum placeholder text, and about a horrible failure to use it.
Bedtime reading in our house: this week we’re on Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (HarperCollins), illustrated by Felicia Bond. Nothing profound to say about it; it’s just ridiculous fun, which is fine by me!

 

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Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email: efrench@mediasourceinc.com, Twitter: @lizefrench

Comments

  1. I really enjoyed the smart The Devotion of Suspect X