So, I have been reading furiously these past two weeks to get in all the books I wanted to read this summer. I have managed to get through all but two of the middle school Virginia Readers Choice books so I can book talk them with the 6th graders during library orientation. Besides those I have read Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner, The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, The Kill Zone by James Dashner and am partway through The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields. I read all of these for myself even though some of them are middle grade or YA novels.
Castle in the Air is actually the second book in the Howl's Moving Castle series by Diana Wynne Jones, but I got mixed up and read them out of order. It turns out not to have mattered much because Howl and Sophie are not the main characters and do not put in an appearance until the last quarter of the book. Their son Morgan is just born in this one and was a toddler in the 3rd book, House of Many Ways but that was the only significant confusion, though it wasn't, in reading them out of order. Jones is a wonderful story-teller. I have quite a few more of hers in my TBR pile. They will be great for winter time in front of the crackling fireplace that does not work.
The day James Dashners' The Kill Order came out I went out to get it. Because it was also a rainy day, I read it the whole book. I was excited to read more about the world Dashner created in The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, and The Death Cure. The story takes place just after the world has been changed by the sun flares. Both the prologue and epilogue take place just before Thomas is dropped into the maze. The book was exciting with many new characters and a close up look at the way the world deteriorated and much of humanity was overtaken by the Flare. However, there really was not much in this book that we do not already know. While I am glad to be "shown" what happened, rather than "told," about this time period, there is nothing really revealingly new, so it was a bit of a disappointment for me. I am wondering if this is the last prequel book, or if we will get a closer look at Teresa and Thomas as they do whatever it is they do to help WICKED plan the maze and what they hope it will accomplish.
Next, I read The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner. I enjoy Weiner's books: they are always entertaining, generally realistic, and usually have a happy ending. (There is nothing wrong with a solidly happy ending.) I also like that they usually take place in the Philadelphia area. This one did not. I am going to give Weiner a pass on the location....this time. The novel is the story of Ruth Saunders who lost both her parents and was seriously injured in a car accident when she was very young. Since then she has lived with her grandmother, who raised her and then moved with her to California when Ruth wanted to try writing for TV. The heart of this story is Ruth's chance to produce a show she has written. If Weiner's details are correct, which I suspect they are, getting a TV show made is about 80% - right place, right time and 20% - talent, good writing, and quality show. The novel is about family, love, and that ever important search-for-self. While I could feel the happy ending coming a long way from the end, I really did not know how it would all work out and was carried along by my desire to see Ruth triumph.
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, is historical fiction about the 1920s silent film actress Louise Brooks, but Louise is not the main character, instead, Cora Carlisle, the chaperone is. Using Cora in the setting of New York City, with a forward thinking and somewhat shocking future star, Moriarty illustrates the turbulence of the time. Just after women have won the right to vote, before the end of Prohibition, and in the heart of a time when conservative, Victorian mores are getting dusty Cora must deal with this flamboyant and decidedly un-traditional teen. Aside from caring for Louise, Cora has agreed to this trip in order to find out more about her own life which began in NYC before she was put on an orphan train and taken to Kansas. While the story of Cora in NYC and after she returns to Wichita is plenty full of interest, the historical details are what drew me in. I love a well-research snapshot of a time period.
Finally, I began reading The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields yesterday. It is historical fiction about the life of Edith Wharton, who is one of my all-time favorite authors. It mainly covers the time in her life in 1907-1911 when her marriage was falling apart and she began an affair with Morton Fullerton. I am not quite half-way through, but so far I appreciate the inclusion of actual letters between the two and between Wharton and others. Though I know how it all turns out, I am drawn in by the author's imaginings of scenes between the two and the details about Paris, Wharton's writing, and her home, The Mount in Lenox, MA.