M&V’s Top Reads for June & July 2015

summer books

Bellweather RhapsodyKate Racculia’s Bellweather Rhapsody is a multi-layered mystery in the tradition of old whodunits that places music delightfully front and center. Hundreds of talented high school students convene for a statewide music festival at the Bellweather Hotel, infamous for a murder-suicide 12 years earlier. When prodigy flautist Jill Faccelli’s lifeless body is found hung in her room and then the body disappears, the search for answers is on. Racculia deftly constructs a motley cast of characters entwined in the plot that is at once dark and witty. The intrigue is made greater by Minnie Graves, who witnessed the murder-suicide as a child and is present at the Bellweather on this next fateful weekend. (Mariner Books, June 2)


let-me-explain-you-9781476789088_hrBelieving he has just ten days to live, Greek immigrant Stavros Stavros Mavrakis sends a derisive email to his ex-wife and three grown daughters, suggesting how they can lead better lives. So begins Annie Liontas’ celebrated debut novel Let Me Explain You, a funny and moving rumination on the beauty and complexity of familial bonds and the immigrant experience. When Stavros disappears, his family and friends must shift their conjecture of a presumed midlife crisis to the possibility that he is really gone. Told from multiple perspectives, including Stavros in his broken English, Let Me Explain You is a page-turner that concludes in an unexpected way. (Scribner, July 14)


Judy BlumeJudy Blume’s first adult novel in 19 years, In the Unlikely Event, is based on eerily improbable actual events—three airplane crashes in the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, within a three-month period in the early 1950s. The tragedies are the backdrop for three generations of people whose lives are deeply transformed by the incidents. Written with Blume’s characteristic ability to dig into the heart of human emotions and relationships, the story pays keen attention to the mid-century setting, from Communist fears and A-bomb panic to Elizabeth Taylor coifs and Nat King Cole ballads. The beautiful and important message that is instilled though the generations is that life goes on. (Knopf, June 2)


The BookshopThe Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald was first published in 1978 in the U.K. and is now available stateside for the first time. Set in the 1950s in the type of small English seaside village that flourishes with eccentricities and small-mindedness, gentle widow Florence Green undertakes an implausible business venture by opening the town’s only bookshop. She contends with a wealthy local art patron who has designs on her building, a resident poltergeist and controversy over stocking her shelves with the just-released literary sensation Lolita. Fitzgerald makes bearable the protagonist’s inevitable downfall with a thread of humor and a prodigious ability to characterize human nature. (Mariner Books, June 9)


The Gods of TangoCelebrated Latin American author Carolina De Robertis bestows an evocative and historically rich narrative in her newest work The Gods of Tango. In 1913 17-year-old Leda departs her Italian village for a future in Argentina. When she arrives in Buenos Aires and discovers her betrothed has been killed, she moves into a tenement and a life of near indigence. Determined to master her cherished father’s violin, and stirred by the tango music that permeates the more illicit side of life in the cabarets and brothels, Leda assumes a male identity in order to join a troupe of musicians. As the troupe angles for a high society audience, Leda’s identity grows more complex and dangerous. (Knopf, July 7)


Modern RomanceAziz Ansari, popular standup comedian and star of the TV hit Parks and Recreation, teamed up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg for Modern Romance, an investigation of the pleasures and hazards of romance today. It is territory that Ansari covers as a comic, and now with an academic at his side, he approaches it from a social science perspective. The book is based on a research project that included hundreds of interviews around the world and insights from sociology leaders. The result is a book unlike anything published before: a memorable, scholarly work, heavy with Ansari’s sharp wit, that illuminates the conundrums of the modern romantic landscape. (Penguin Press, June 16)


The Woman Who Stole My LifeThe Woman Who Stole My Life is a fast-moving novel full of warmth, humor and endearing characters. Marian Keyes offers up a fresh story line featuring Stella Sweeney, a content 40-year-old mother and wife whose life takes a dramatic turn when she is struck with Guillaine-Barré Syndrome. The neurological disease renders Stella unable to move while her mind is completely
intact; she communicates by blinking her eyes. Though her family is ill equipped to handle her illness and recovery, Stella’s neurologist is her bedrock and an integral part of the next pivotal event, when her memoir becomes an international sensation, taking her life from ordinary to extraordinary. (Viking, July 7)


intimacy idiotWriter and performer Isaac Oliver delivers big in his debut Intimacy Idiot, a hilarious collection of personal writings about experiencing love and intimacy as a single gay man in New York City. Hookups and heartbreaks are laid out like a feast for readers, from a romantic interlude with the guy who dresses like a dolphin to pining for strangers on the subway. The details might differ from person to person, but Oliver’s observations and encounters will strike a chord of familiarity with anyone who has been brave enough to search for connections in the urban jungle. Intimacy Idiot might be cringe-worthy but the stories are written with heart and humor. (Scribner June 2)



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