Friday, August 11, 2006

Fantastic Books

I haven't posted in a while, what with family in town, work on the house and other busy summer pastimes. That doesn't mean I haven't been reading, though. In fact, I have read some really terrific books in the last couple of weeks.

The Lost Painting,
by Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action, was an exciting find. I'm a big fan of art history mysteries and true ones are always the best. In The Lost Painting, Harr explores the events and characters surrounding the finding of a long-lost Carravaggio painting. I loved this one because it fully explored the research of the provenance of the painting, academic theories, and the techniques to prove authenticity. Colorful characters from the European art world were delightful to meet and the pacing was quick in what could have been a ponderous outlaying of facts. I highly recommend this book for anyone with even a passing interest in art, or those who enjoyed Harr's style in A Civil Action. This volume, just to note, is considerably slimmer than A Civil Action. :)

I also recently finished reading Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, and I've been recommending it to everyone I see. This book was the buzz of the Book Expo America and has a huge following among independent booksellers. After hearing about it, I had a long wait on my library's holds list! It was definitely worth the wait. This is the touching, exciting, and exotic story of a young man who inadvertantly joins the circus and is forever changed by it. Exploring dark themes of insanity, abuse, and the Depresseion, the novel also has tender relationships and a certain sweetness. It has it all, right? Go pick this up before your summer reading time is up, it's the best thing I read all summer.

Fannie Flagg's newest novel set in Elmwood Springs, Missouri, Can't Wait to Get to Heaven is just as full of sweet and sassy characters as the last couple, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl and Standing in the Rainbow. In this installment, set in current times, Aunt Elner and company ponder the meaning of life after a near-death (or back from death) experience. Without the bite of her previous novels, Flagg still creates rich and humorous characters. Of the trilogy, my personal favorite was the second, Standing in the Rainbow, but I love seeing how Flagg wraps up the lives of these beloved people in the last of the trilogy. It's definitely worth checking out.

Today I picked up the second installment in the Newbery award-winning children's series about Crispin, an orphan in the middle ages. Crispin: At the Edge of the World, by Avi, continues immediately where Crispin: The Cross of Lead left off. Crispin and Bear must flee for their lives when a brotherhood of spies believes that Bear has betrayed them. Bear is injured, and while they are hiding out in the forest, the two meet some colorful and interesting characters who join them in their further adventures. This is a worthy sequel to the first, highly acclaimed volume. Full of compassion, insights, and growth, I enjoyed this newest edition by Avi. While the publication date in my advance copy said September, it appears that the book is on the shelves now, so check it out and pass it along to your young reader.

Happy reading!