Friday Book Whimsy: 2015 Must Reads

I have read a few 2015 releases already – World Gone By, by Dennis Lehane; Under the Same Blue Sky, by Pamela Schoenewaldt; and A Spool of Blue Thread,  by Anne Tyler, to be specific. I enjoyed all three, and have posted reviews of them all.

But there are a few 2015 books that have either recently been released or are yet to be released that I wouldn’t even think of missing for a variety of reasons.

In no particular order….

Few would argue that To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most important American books of all time. The characters are unforgettable. Scheduled to be released on July 14, Go Set a Watchman is, for all intents and purposes, a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. What makes this book particularly unique is that it was actually written and submitted years before To Kill a Mockingbird. Thought to be lost, the manuscript was found and will be released. Go Set a Watchman features the same characters as To Kill a Mockingbird, but 20 years later.

Sadly, author Kent Haruf passed away last year, but not before completing Our Souls at Night, which was released May 26. Set in the same fictional eastern Colorado town of Holt, Our Souls at Night is the story of two elderly people, both who lost their spouses several years ago, who find friendship and love in their later years amidst the small town gossip. Kent Haruf writes the most unbelieveably beautiful prose imaginable. I have this book sitting on my ebook shelf, and am eagerly looking forward to finishing the books I have borrowed from the library to dig into this one. I’m certain I won’t be disappointed.

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows was released June 9 to much acclaim. Barrows is the author of the much-loved (including by me) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Barrows’ newest novel takes place in 1938 in a small West Virginian town, and tells the story of a young girl forced by her father (a United States Senator) to live in this small town despite her boredom. Boredom that is until she meets the Romeyn family and begins to unravel some family secrets. Sounds very good.

Julia Keller has become one of my favorite authors, and her protagonist Bell Elkins is one of my favorite characters. Last Ragged Breath, which will be released on August 25, is the next in the dark mystery series that also takes place in a fictional town in West Virginia. Her novels are contemporary, however. Keller’s writing is phenomenal and richly realistic. I can’t wait for this book to come out.

Speaking of mystery series, I’m eagerly awaiting Louise Penney’s next book The Nature of the Beast, featuring my beloved Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The mysteries take place in a fictional small town near Quebec in Canada. Penney’s writing is imminently readable, but for me, the series is all about C.I. Gamache. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I want him to be one of my BFFs.

Our favorite bail bondsman Stephanie Plum and her gang of hilarious friends will be back November 17 in Tricky Twenty-Two. I am compelled to include this book, not because it is great literature, but because every single one of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels have been so funny that I am in danger of, well, never mind. There is no way in the world I would miss a single one of these mysteries. The Stephanie Plum books are one of several that I really prefer to listen to as opposed to reading simply because the woman who narrates the books – Lorelei King – is absolutely tremendous.

Author Sue Grafton will be releasing the next in her so-called alphabet series featuring private investigator Kinsey Milhone on August 25. I used to love this series, but as of late, it has began to feel repetitious. Still, there are only so many letters in the alphabet, and this novel, entitled X, is the third from the end. I can’t quit now. For the past 23 books, I have been wondering what Grafton would title the X-book. You know, like A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, L is for Lawless, O is for Outlaw, etc. I haven’t been able to think past X is for X-ray. Instead, Grafton went for simplicity with the title simply being X.  Who knows? Maybe Grafton will start over with double letters. You know, like AA is for Awesome Aardvark.

All the Single Ladies, by Dorothea Benton Frank, is a must-read for me simply because I absolutely love her settings, all of which are the low country of South Carolina, near Charleston. Her books always feature a strong-willed woman facing difficult circumstances and coming out unscathed. I like Frank’s writing. All the Single Ladies was released June 9. The story centers around three women facing the death of a fourth woman. I hate books where characters die, but I will undoubtedly give this one a try.

My new favorite author, Karen White, has a new novel out, released on May 12. The Sound of Glass follows a familiar Karen White theme – a young woman learns she has inherited a family estate that, of course, has a secret attached. The Sound of Glass takes place in Beaufort, South Carolina, which is a draw for me. I’m not sure I’ll get to this novel right away as White is very prolific and I have only recently begun reading her books. But I will definitely read it sometime soon.

Are there books either recently released or soon-to-be-released that you are going to read?

Friday Book Whimsy: Under the Same Blue Sky

under the same blue skyUnder the Same Blue Sky is Pamela Schoenewaldt’s third novel and I have watched her novels get better with each offering.

Schoenewaldt writes about immigrants, or at least has in her three novels to date. Her debut, When We Were Strangers, is the story of a young girl who comes to America from the Abruzzo region of Italy to escape the whims of a lustful father. In Schoenewaldt’s second offering, Swimming in the Moon, her main character, Theresa, comes to America from Naples, Italy, along with her mother who struggles with mental illness.

Under the Same Blue Sky introduces us to a family who emigrated from Germany to what seems to be one of Schoenewaldt’s favorite locations – Pittsburgh. The main character, Hazel, lives with her mother and father who are shopkeepers and they are living a happy life. That is, until World War I breaks out and suddenly the neighbors no longer see American immigrants but instead see evil Germans who are America’s enemies.

In the course of adjusting to their disrupted lives, Hazel learns a devastating secret about her family, and everything changes. She eventually leaves to take a job as a teacher in a small farming community, where she begins to find happiness.

Until, oddly I thought, she discovers she has the ability to heal. Once the community realizes Hazel has the power to cure, she is nearly overcome by people wanting her healing powers and not understanding that not everyone can be healed.

I say “oddly” because once Hazel leaves this small community to learn more about her family secrets, the healing thing just sort of dies down.

Despite this rather strange and (I thought) random part of the book, I found the novel to be simply magnificent. I loved all of the characters and haven’t been able to forget them, despite the fact that I read this book some months ago. The story was interesting and I found I couldn’t put the book down.

One of the things I most liked about the story was getting another perspective about what was really an awful war – World War I. We forget how American Germans (and in World War II, also Japanese) were treated once they became America’s enemies. Interesting and sobering.

My only complaint, once again, is the storyline around Hazel’s ability to heal. I would LOVE to have another story that features her healing abilities and how it impacts her life without getting distracted by another storyline.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend this wonderful book.

Buy Under the Same Blue Sky from Amazon here.

Buy Under the Same Blue Sky from Barnes and Noble here.

The Under the Same Blue Sky from Tattered Cover here.

Buy Under the Same Blue Sky from Changing Hands here.