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What We’re Reading {October 15 2010}

This week’s What We’re Reading brings you five of October’s best sellers. Something for every age group.

The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan — Heroes of Olympus will be a five-book series. It is set in Percy Jackson’s world, and Percy has an important role to play in the series. At different points in the series, you will get to catch up with most of the characters from the first series, but The Lost Hero also features a new cast of main characters, so Riordan has been careful not to call it a “Percy Jackson series.” It’s a little bit more than that. And it’s not really a “Camp Half-Blood” series either. Because it’s a little more than that too. All of you Percy Jackson lovers out there, this new series will pull you in quickly and you’ll find yourself eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson — The late Steig Larsson’s final mystery, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, begins one page after The Girl Who Played With Fire ends, so readers will be completely lost if they have not read the earlier book. It’s not just that the action of the earlier book sets up what’s going on, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest also gives us the grisly circumstances that turned Lisbeth into who and what she is. Some people might call her a monster, including some who deserve that label themselves. Some people might even be right. This is NOT a book for the squeamish, which is made clear in the opening pages where a drunk surgeon operates on the main character, Lisbeth, and every gruesome detail of that surgery is graphically depicted.

Cutting for Stone: A Novel by Abraham Verghese — I absolutely loved this book. The writing was spectacular, but the story was also incredible. Though I will admit that the first 50 or so pages were a little hard to get through–I realize the first part of the novel set the stage for the rest of the novel, but it was so descriptive and history loaded that it made for slow reading. Cutting for Stone is the story of Marion and Shiva Stone, twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. This is a wonderful story, an unforgettable story, of love, betrayal, medicine, miracles, and the unbreakable bond between two brothers. 

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris — I fell in love with David Sedaris’ writing during a writers workshop I took at Stanford a million years ago (1997), his second book, Naked, was assigned reading for the class. Sedaris’ sense of humor is a little dark, a little devious, and slightly ridiculous. And I think that’s what I love so much about him. This book, his typical collection of essays, caught me a little off guard. In a good way. The essays in Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk tell very human stories, bearing strong resemblance to everyday life, through animals. In “Hello Kitty,” a cynical feline struggles to sit through his prison-mandated AA meetings. In “The Toad, the Turtle, and the Duck,” three strangers commiserate about animal bureaucracy while waiting in a complaint line. And in “The Squirrel and the Chipmunk,” a pair of star-crossed lovers is separated by prejudiced family members.

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks — Before I share my review of this book, I have to be honest, in the past I haven’t been a big Nicholas Sparks fan. This book might just have changed that. Billed a romance writer, Sparks tends to write heart-string tugging novels. This story was less heart-strings and more thriller, and I’ll admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Safe Haven begins with a mysterious woman named Katie appearing in the small North Carolina town of Southport. Her sudden arrival and the fact that she keeps to herself leads to questions about her past. Katie seems determined to avoid forming relationships or establishing ties to this small town, that is until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships, one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. But as these relationship develop, Katie continues to struggle with a dark secret that haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, and at times shattering, journey across the country, to the tiny oasis of Southport. Safe Haven explores the two paths Katie can take: life as a transient or love.

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