Jenn’s February Favs

There are books that make you think, and books that make you feel. Then there are those that do both. Chris Cleave’s Little Bee not only does this, but does it on a level beyond anything I read in 2008. This book just about tore my heart out, and the twisting, turning, edge-of-your-seat one moment then sighing-with-relief the next ending left me staring blankly at the last page, trying to process it all. It will shift your perspectives, tickle your funny bone, light up dark corners of society, then pull you into further darkness before finding the light again.

Script and Scribble is a fascinating look at the history, evolution, and current state of handwriting. Tracing it from the earliest cave scribblings to the Palmer Method of the boomer generation to the text-message-composed novels of today, Kitty Burns Florey gives us entertaining stories, intriguing tidbits, and a chuckle-provoking examination of the ‘to loop or not to loop’ dilemma. A great read for anyone who has ever agonized over their signature, wondered what the slant on their l’s means, or deplored the state of penmanship in today’s typing world.

Spell-binding and macabre, Dan Simmons’ Drood introduces us to a never-before-seen Charles Dickens and his London, both hiding dark secrets. Wilkie Collins is an engrossing narrator, alternately adoring and dismissing his friend and mentor, unable to extricate himself from the developing web of Dickens’ strange schemes yet never fully crediting what is happening before his own eyes. A magnificent blend of literary fiction and unsettling thriller, Drood will keep you up at night.

Elegantly composed, The Rose Variations is a beautiful ode to life in all of its complexity. Reminiscent of the classics — Austen and Tolstoy in particular come to mind — it captures the epic nature of life as it evolves, no matter how mundane the details. Marisha Chamberlain follows Rose MacGregor from her first successes as an up-and-coming female composer in the late 1970s, through the trials and tribulations of lust, love, and loss as she struggles to balance her career with a life lived fully. Chamberlain’s prose is crisp, her characters fully fleshed, and the novel utterly engrossing — a lovely debut.

If you’ve read Chaim Potok or Michael Chabon, you owe it to yourself to pick up Jonathon Keats’ The Book of the Unknown. The tradition of the Lamedh-Vov (or more popularly Lamed-Vov) has always been a favorite of mine. What’s not to love about a secret order of saints responsible for keeping the world in existence? Kind of like the Qabalic version of the Justice League! Keats’ folklore-inspired tales are pitch-perfect, and utterly re-readable.

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