Great Reads

Edugyan, Esi. Half-Blood Blues

Edugyan’s Booker Prize shortlisted novel evokes Berlin and Paris during World War II through the eyes of a rag-tag bunch of jazz musicians looking for their big break.  Having achieved some limited notoriety in Berlin during the Weimar era, the Hot-Time Swingers—two black ex-pat Americans, a Jewish pianist, and a couple of Germans, one of whom is black himself—are now struggling to stay alive in a Berlin that has turned against jazz and turned against half-breeds, or mischlings, Jews, and black people of all nationalities.  When a jazz singer from America shows up to find them with word that she represents Louis Armstrong, the band thinks their fortunes are made. But first, they have to get from Berlin to Paris—and not all of them are going to make it. Eventually hitting Paris just in time for the Occupation to catch up with them, the group has to keep their heads down even further while at the same time trying to cut a record—the Half-Blood Blues, an anthem rejecting everything Nazis stand for.  But it’s only a matter of time before the Boots—the Gestapo—catch up with them.

Cutting between 1940 and 1992, Half-Blood Blues is a story of race, friendship, secrets, and betrayal. Showing a side of World War II not often written about—that is, the story of the other, non-Jewish ethnic groups persecuted by the Reich—it is fascinating and textured.

Nesbo, Jo. The Snowman

Nesbo’s flawed but brilliant detective, Harry Hole, faces down Norway’s first known serial killer in this fifth entry in the series.  Dubbed “the Snowman,” the serial killer abducts and, presumably, kills women, one per year, taking his victims on the first snowy day of the winter. He’s been operating for years but because there were no bodies found, it took the police far too long to pick up on the pattern. But now, suddenly, the killer has escalated his efforts, leaving one victim’s head perched on top of a snowman and taking several others out of sequence. Now Harry, Oslo’s only detective to have caught a serial killer previously, must escalate his own efforts to not only determine how the killer is picking his victims, but who the killer is…before more women fall prey to the Snowman.

Fast-paced and littered with twists, red-herrings, and thrills, The Snowman is sure to appeal to mystery fans. Despite being book five in the series, a reader with no previous experience of Harry Hole’s misadventures can enjoy this title from the get-go.

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Rosenfield, Kat. Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone

Becca is on her way to college in just a few short months, finally escaping the claustrophobia of her small town life in conneticut. But only hours after she graduates and her heart is broken by the boy she loves, a body of an young women is found on a dusty road, disrupting the carefully constructed plans she had. With very little evidence and the body yet to be identified, gossip runs wild and Becca becomes strangely obsessed with finding out why this stranger was killed so brutally.

The story is coupled with glimpses of the the victim, Amelia Anne, and her life before her death: her new-found passion of acting, her boredom with her loyal boyfriend and the hopes she has for a new future.  As her story comes closer and closer to the climax, Becca believes she is connecting the pieces of who may have killed Amelia, but sometimes your instincts are not always right. This lyrical mystery has a jaw-dropping ending and should not be missed.

 

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Drabble, Margaret. The Millstone

Before reading The Millstone, I spent years wanting to read a Margaret Drabble novel but never got around to it.  She is what you would call a serious writer.  To quote the LA Times, she is “as meticulous as Jane Austen, and as deadly as Evelyn Waugh.”  So I knew The Millstone would be literary and well-written, and it was.  But what came as a surprise to me was how easily readable the novel was and how much I was completely drawn into the main character’s life.  The novel, one of Drabble’s early works, is set in 1960s London.  The narrator is a young woman who has an unplanned pregnancy as a result of a casual love affair.  This isn’t your typical unplanned pregnancy story; the narrator is highly educated, independent, and strong.  She does not weep for her circumstances nor expects anyone to weep for her.  The Millstone was a wonderful read, and I greatly enjoyed the 1960s London setting.  I will most definitely be reading more of Drabble’s novels.  I hope that you give her a go as well…if you have not done so already.  Also--as an aside-- Margaret Drabble is A.S. Byatt’s sister.   

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Pineiro, Claudia

If you are looking for a page-turning literary novel that you can read in one day, All Yours, a slim crime novel about a woman’s revenge on her cheating husband, is the book for you.  The author, a native Argentinean, tells a gripping tale of domestic conflict and, at the same time, sheds light on Argentina’s class structure and the selfish behaviors of the entitled class.  This author’s crime novels are all bestsellers in Latin America...and for good reason!  All Yours is a great read.   

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