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Books on the horizon

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"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads lives only one."

This quote from the fifth installment of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series sagely states the reason why many of us are so passionate about reading. We can project ourselves, if just for a little, into the life of a character. This character can take us to faraway lands, introduce us to interesting people, and give us a bit more excitement than we experience in our regular routine. My tastes often gravitate to Fantasy and Science Fiction for that reason exactly. Because just for a few minutes a day it feels good just to be somewhere else. But since finishing such quality Fantasy like "A Song of Ice and Fire" and "The Night Circus," I struggled to find something that kept me engaged.

After reading a page or two of a few books I settled on The Art of Fielding because I thought the author was Jewish, thus giving me a reason to discuss it in Oy!, and because I thought the book was about baseball. I've yet to confirm the author's religion, and can say with all honestly that "The Art of Fielding" is NOT about baseball. Set at the tiny Westish College on the shores of Lake Michigan, the novel follows several characters as they struggle to achieve their dreams and find it’s not as easy as perhaps it should be. My opinions on this book are mixed because the story is great, but the writing a little simplistic. One passage goes on for pages detailing a character's need to clean a dirty pan in her boyfriend's kitchen. Maybe I'm just used to descriptions of Hippogriffs, Niffins, and Valyrian Steel, but to me this was mundane. That said the character's struggles and hidden insecurities are portrayed beautifully and in a manner to which we can all relate, making it a magnetic read. I can't give The Art of Fielding a full recommendation, because it’s not for everyone, but worth a shot if you're looking for some solid, non-fantastical drama.

On The Horizon.  

Normally I discuss books that I’ve read, and only give brief summaries to avoid spoilers, but here are a couple I plan on reading over the next few months. Hopefully enough people will get on board so I won't have to worry as much about spoilers and we can have a real discussion on the books.

The Prisoner of Heaven—Carlos Ruiz Zafon
July 10th—Hardcover
July 17th—Kindle

The author of the beloved The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game continues the saga of the Sempere family in The Prisoner of Heaven. Because I despise spoilers I haven't read one summary or review of Zafon's latest, but it seems it will continue with the story of Daniel and Bea, and so we can assume this is a sequel to Shadow of the Wind. If you're not familiar with Zafon or the novels mentioned here, get on it! Both of his full length novels that have been translated to English are some of my favorite books ever. Published in 2005, Shadow of the Wind begins in Franco era Spain at The Cemetery of Forgotten books, where Daniel Sempere is told to choose one book, however cautioned that it’s more the book that chooses the reader, not vice-versa. As Daniel begins reading he discovers this book is eerily similar to his own life and searches for more books by the author, only to find a mystery surrounds the author and his writing. Daniel pledges to uncover the mystery and learns some valuable lessons about love and friendship along the way. If you've read both Shadow of the Wind and Angel's game I'm sure you're as excited as I am for Prisoner of Heaven. If not, I recommend reading them in that order before picking up the newest installment. If you still haven't gotten enough Zafon after that you can check out his shorter, YA novels The Prince of Mist and The Midnight Palace.

The Casual Vacancy—JK Rowling
September 27th—Hardcover and Kindle

Let me say that again. JK Rowling. That name should speak for itself, but I'll continue. Yes. Harry Potter author JK Rowling is trying her hand at an adult novel in The Casual Vacancy. This non-magical novel will take place in a small town in England where a vacant town-council seat causes war between the residents. Though the description sounds odd, so did Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and based on the hundreds of millions of copies sold and Rowling's $900million net worth, I'd say that went pretty well. Many are skeptical that Rowling can write something great that is neither YA nor fantasy. Personally I disagree. Harry Potter was popular not only for the content, but for the quality of writing. A lot of people can write about wizards and wands and dragons, and not make a billion dollars doing it. Rowling is a genius. She could write about the many uses of sandpaper and it would become a bestseller. I could go on and on, but to be honest I'd be embarrassed to even describe how much I admire this woman, and being merely a Muggle won't allow myself to try. Harry Potter got me hooked on reading, so whether or not Rowling can successfully break into the world of adult novels, I’m not sure, but I know I owe it to her to give The Casual Vacancy a fair shot.

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