…And by that, I mean the books I read while we were moving. The books themselves did not, by and largely, particularly move me. I’m just providing a quick synopsis, and, if I felt strongly about a book, my humble opinion. Take it for what it’s worth…not much, but if you’re looking for a really good book, there are several here!
1. Inferno by Dan Brown : I loved Brown’s earlier books, but this just seemed formulaic and, frankly, boring. It read more like a travelogue of Italy, with long and wordy descriptions of the architecture that I thought did nothing to enhance the tale.
In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante’s Inferno.
Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered.
2. The Panther by Nelson DeMille: The latest by one of my favorite writers, this thriller kept me reading late into the night. I enjoy the sarcastic hero, John Corey, as well as the plots of the novels (this is one of several recurring characters in Demille’s books).
Anti-Terrorist Task Force agent John Corey and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield, have been posted overseas to Sana’a, Yemen-one of the most dangerous places in the Middle East. While there, they will be working with a small team to track down one of the masterminds behind the USS Cole bombing: a high-ranking Al Qaeda operative known as The Panther. Ruthless and elusive, he’s wanted for multiple terrorist acts and murders-and the U.S. government is determined to bring him down, no matter the cost. As latecomers to a deadly game, John and Kate don’t know the rules, the players, or the score. What they do know is that there is more to their assignment than meets the eye-and that the hunters are about to become the hunted. Filled with breathtaking plot turns and told in John Corey’s inimitable voice, THE PANTHER is a brilliant depiction of one of the most treacherous countries in the world and raises disturbing questions about whether we can ever know who our enemies – or our allies – really are.
3. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani: I didn’t enjoy this as much as Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap series or Valentine series, but it was still quite entertaining, perhaps more so once I read it was based on her grandparents’ story.
The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza’s family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future.
Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso.
From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the cobblestone streets of Little Italy, over the perilous cliffs of northern Italy, to the white-capped lakes of northern Minnesota, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until, finally, the power of their love changes both of their lives forever.
4. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: Loved it. You should read it right now.
The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.
And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot-searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.
What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion-along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.
Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson: After having this on my nightstand for several years, I was determined to read it. It was actually quite good, and I’ll probably read the others…when I get around to them! I enjoyed the setting, as I’ve read almost no books set in Sweden.
Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there’s always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.
6. Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs: Chick lit, yes, but it kept me thoroughly entertained (I read this while the movers were packing up our house and I could do nothing but sit and watch.).
Shortly before turning 50, TV cooking show personality Augusta “Gus” Simpson discovers that the network wants to boost her ratings by teaming her with a beautiful, young new co-host. But Gus isn’t going without a fight-whether it’s off-set with her two demanding daughters, on-camera with the ambitious new diva herself, or after-hours with Oliver, the new culinary producer who’s raising Gus’s temperature beyond the comfort zone. Now, in pursuit of higher ratings and culinary delights, Gus might be able to rejuvenate more than just her career.
7. Executive Privilege by Phillip Margolin: This edge-of-my-seat murder mystery kept me guessing most of the way through…it was the first I’ve read by Margolin, but won’t be the last.
When private detective Dana Cutler is hired by an attorney with powerful political connections, the assignment seems simple enough: follow a pretty college student named Charlotte Walsh and report on where she goes and whom she sees. But then the unexpected happens. One night, Cutler follows Walsh to a secret meeting with Christopher Farrington, the president of the United States. The following morning, Walsh’s dead body shows up and Cutler has to run for her life.
In Oregon, Brad Miller, a junior associate in a huge law firm is working on the appeal of a convicted serial killer. Clarence Little, now on death row, claims he was framed for the murder of a teenager who, at the time of her death, worked for the then governor, Christopher Farrington. Suddenly, a small-time private eye and a fledgling lawyer find themselves in possession of evidence that suggests that someone in the White House is a murderer. Their only problem? Staying alive long enough to prove it.
8. Molokai by Alan Brennert: Probably my favorite book of the summer journey…a fascinating and lushly written historical novel that I could not put down. I’m reading his Honolulu as soon as I can find a copy.
This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai’i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place—and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.
Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.
With a vibrant cast of vividly realized characters, Moloka’i is the true-to-life chronicle of a people who embraced life in the face of death.
9. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce: We read this aloud while travelling, and it entertained the whole family with its British humor.
When the Tooting family finds an old engine and fits it to their camper van, they have no idea what kind of adventure lies ahead. The engine used to belong to an extraordinary car . . . and it wants its bodywork back! But as the Tootings hurtle across the world rebuilding the original Chitty, a sinister baddie is on their trail — one who will stop at nothing to get the magnificent car for himself.
So there you have it…how I spent my summer vacation (along with moving cross-country, taking a four-week pseudo vacation, and unpacking all of our earthly belongings, of course). And don’t judge me for the lack of substance in these books…winter is the time for heavier literary pursuits, in my eyes!