The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

The Good Luck of Right Now tells the story of Bartholomew Neil and his group of eccentric but sweet friends as they take a spiritual journey in the wake of the death of Bartholomew’s mother.  The novel is written in a series of letters to the actor Richard Gere, as his mother was a huge fan.  I feel like it’s hard to provide a description that demonstrates how great this book was.  It was uplifting, it was funny, it was sad.

I loved this book. There were so many great things about it: the characters, the plot, the overall quirkiness, the fact that the spirit of Richard Gere coaches Bartholomew at various times.  There are also quotes from the Dalai Lama used as Bartholomew tries to navigate how to interact with people he encounters.

I highly recommend this book. Matthew Quick is such a great writer. I loved Silver Linings Playbook, and I’m going to check out his YA books also.

The Plover by Brian Doyle

Declan O’Donnell is escaping a messy life (we only learn bits and pieces of the mess, but like most good messes, it involves family) by sailing “west and then west” off the Oregon coast into the Pacific Ocean on his fishing boat, The Plover.  He intends to bob along aimlessly and alone, but right off the bat he is joined by a seagull who follows him out onto the ocean.  Declan doesn’t mind the company, but he doesn’t feel nearly as accommodating when, several weeks later after a quick stop at an island to refuel, he finds himself hosting another two passengers, a father and daughter whom he knew from Oregon.  Declan gets used to his small crew and makes the best of the company, but then, as more passengers are picked up under an assortment of remarkable circumstances, Declan finds his solo journey has transformed into, in Declan’s own words, “a fecking ferry service.”

Declan and all of his various passengers are good people who, sometimes grudgingly, elicit the best in each other; they are by no means perfect, but they are portrayed, in all their quirks and imperfections, as worthy of love, grace, and forgiveness.

There is a beauty and a wholeness to this work that defies easy categorization or description.  The whole world is in or about The Plover.  It is the center of a radius that includes all, from the deepest point of the ocean under the boat up into the sky as far as the eye can see.  Notice is paid to each creature in this bubble — the seagull following the boat is a character in its own right, as are the two timid castaway rats and the warbler with an injured wing who is hiding under the boat’s water tank.  The ocean is treated with its own wholeness — Doyle’s tale doesn’t limit itself to the human-reachable surface, the waves and storms and the sparkling reflection of the sun as they are experienced by Declan and his crew.  The deep crevices and unseeable creatures, the reach of the ocean from shore to shore, the underwater topography — it is all a part of this tale, which is infused with an aura of mysticism or enchantment.

There are moments here that could be considered quite dramatic, as when Declan dives into the ocean on a moonless night to rescue a kidnapped passenger, but even these moments are told in an understated lilt that makes them feel like the stuff of fable. The overall impression is rocking on the waves of the story, drifting where it leads, the world spread out around us, welcoming and whole, and above all, good.

Thirty Girls by Susan Minot

This novel by Minot was a tough read.  You follow two stories: the terror and abuse of a young teenage girl named Esther in Uganda, Africa, who was abducted by rebel leader Joseph Kony’s resistance army, and the account of American journalist Jane, who travels into Uganda to write a story of these abducted children.  It’s a fictional take on actual events that took place in the early 2000s.  I got caught up in Esther’s story, which was more compelling.  It told of the horrors these young girls endured, her escape, and how she had to learn how to live with the memories.  Jane’s story was less appealing to me, but the account of her journey into the country had descriptions of the beauty and wonders of the African culture and landscape, which I did find appealing. I would recommend this read because it is powerful, but also told with grace.

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Have you ever wished for a do-over?  Or wanted to relive your life with the benefit of hindsight?  In Replay, Jeff Winston gets the chance to do just that.  At age 43, he drops dead of a heart attack.  An instant later, he wakes up his 18-year-old self, with the knowledge and memories of his 43-year-old self.

He gets the chance to live his life over, making different decisions, changing the course of his life trajectory.  Everything is going great for Jeff, until he reaches age 43 and dies again, and then once again wakes up in his 18-year-old body, with the knowledge of both lives he’s relived.

I found this book to be well written and enjoyable to read.  The characters were well developed, and the premise is great.  I enjoyed this book and would love to read more with a similar premise.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

I made it a point to listen to this audiobook last June because it had been added to a local summer reading list.  Since I had already been thinking about reading it, I didn’t even feel like I was doing homework as I sometimes do when I am trying to familiarize myself with summer reading titles.  How lovely!  While I am willing to admit that it wasn’t quite what I expected, I was far from disappointed.

Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather’s outrageous stories about strange children with amazing powers — like invisibility, super strength, and levitation — as they looked through pictures from the home in which his grandfather had been raised.  He believed his grandfather when he was very young but, as he got older, started to think that the pictures “proving” their peculiarities looked so fake.  After all, what sane person would believe that there was a girl with a mouth on the back of her head and another who could float like a helium balloon?  Still, it was kind of fun to imagine. That is, until the day his grandfather called him, absolutely terrified about being unable to find his guns when the monsters were coming to get him.  When Jacob found his grandfather’s body in the woods, and saw something he couldn’t explain, he had to decide whether he would choose to believe in the bizarre stories his grandfather had told him or if his grandfather had simply been suffering from delusions or dementia.  And only one thing would set his mind at ease — a trip to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Fans of this book should be happy to learn that movie rights have been sold to 20th Century Fox. According to Ransom Riggs’ blog, Tim Burton is set to direct.    The screenplay with be adapted by Jane Goldman [who also wrote the screenplays for X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, and The Woman in Black].  IMDB has a projected release date of July 31, 2015, but no further information. I, for one, am pretty excited to see how this develops.

Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

Humans of New York

In 2010, Brandon Stanton set out with his camera to capture the spirit and images of the people he came across while walking through the streets of New York City.  Humans of New York is filled with beautiful pictures of the humans that inhabit the city and the stories they share.  I loved this book.  I have always liked portrait photography.  There is something about looking at someone’s photograph that shows you something deeper about a person.  Stanton has a way of getting people to open up to him and share their stories.  Ranging from humorous to serious, we, the reader, get a keen insight to the wide range of emotions that human beings possess.  This book will make you laugh on one page and shed a tear the next.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fford

The Last Dragonslayer

I was initially going to read this by myself, but I had to keep stopping to read things out loud to my son because he kept asking, “What’s so funny?”  After a few chapters he asked me, “Can you just start over and read that book out loud to me?  It sounds really good!”  Well, I couldn’t say no to that!  And, I must say, even though this book is cataloged as YA, it really didn’t have anything in it that made me uncomfortable reading it out loud to an 8-year-old.

Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange works as the manager for Kazam Mystical Arts Management.  Since wizidrical power has been dwindling for quite some time, wizards are reduced to using their power for more mundane purposes, like delivering pizzas and rewiring houses.  Jennifer spends her time and energy trying to find enough work for the Kazam employees, but demand seems to be drying up just as quickly as magic.  Until, suddenly there is a magical surge and people start whispering about the possibility that Big Magic is involved.  When “precogs” start picking up on the impending demise of the last dragon, Maltcassian, everyone in the UnUnited Kingdoms starts going mad about claiming a portion of the untouched Dragonlands — and Jennifer learns that SHE will become the Last Dragonslayer.  Reluctant to believe that she will have to kill Maltcassian, since he hasn’t yet done anything to break the Dragonpact, Jennifer does her best to wield her power as Last Dragonslayer with integrity.  This book has a winning combination of a strong female character with a good moral compass and plenty of wry humor.  I can see this book being a hit for fans of Harry Potter who want a lighter fantasy read.

Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life

Welcome to Three Pines, a community in rural Quebec that could really be any town anywhere, with its dynamic and interesting characters.  This first book in a series introduces Three Pines and the main character, Chief Detective Armand Gamache, who is an interesting and deep character.  Mystery readers will connect with him immediately.  With good plot turns, well developed characters, and crime, Louise Penny’s first novel is deserving of its awards.

The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost

The Paladin Prophecy

I thought this book was kind of like a Da Vinci Code for tween and teen readers.  There is a lot of mystery, tons of action, and a “bigger picture” that readers catch glimpses of throughout the story.  (This is the first in a series.)  Although I feel this book probably could have been edited down to be quite a bit shorter, I think the fast-paced action is likely enough to keep even reluctant readers turning pages. Plus, the movie rights have been bought by Reliance Entertainment and Kintop Pictures, so I have a feeling this book will be in high demand as soon as the trailer starts making the rounds.

Will West’s parents constantly remind him to be as average as possible. They won’t tell him why, but they think it is very important for him to fly under the radar.  So, he stays in the middle of the pack in cross country, he gets average grades, and he doesn’t do much else.  All his careful calculating is wasted, though, when he slips up and scores off-the-charts high on a national standardized test.  As a result, he gets invited down to the principal’s office for a meeting with a woman named Dr. Rollins, who extends an offer for a full scholarship to a secret, elite prep school… and men in black also start following him.  When his mom starts acting like a robot/zombie and his dad sends strange text messages, Will decides he needs to run for it.  With the help of a local taxi driver, who assumes Will is on the run from the police, he makes a mad dash for the airport — where he boards a plane for the secret prep school with the hope that he will soon begin to make sense of what is happening to him.