Title: They Used to Call Me Snow White… But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor
Author: Gina Barreca. She is the author of several works of non-fiction focusing on women.
Readers: Stay-at-home mom Marina, prosecutor Rochelle, retiree Sulyn, teacher Ninian and publishing professional Gigi.
Summary: Snow White became an instant classic for both academic and general audiences interested in how women use humor and what others (men) think about funny women. Barreca, who draws on the work of scholars, writers, and comedians to illuminate a sharp critique of the gender-specific aspects of humor, provides laughs and provokes arguments as she shows how humor helps women break rules and occupy center stage. Barreca’s new introduction provides a funny and fierce, up-to-the-minute account of the fate of women’s humor over the past twenty years, mapping what has changed in our culture and questioning what hasn’t.
Our Take: This re-release is definitely more of an academic feminist tome than a light romp. Our readers were intrigued but wish the new edition had more current examples in it.
Title: If You Could Be Mine
Author: Sara Farizan. This is her first novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Readers: Stay-at-home moms Marina, Katie and Colleen B.; attorney Elizabeth H. and non-profit director Kimberly.
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Our Take: This debut novel shows promise and takes a unique look at a teenage romance. Some of our readers found it rewarding but others thought it didn’t live up to its premise.
Title: Approaching the Speed of Light
Author: Victoria Lustbader. She is the author of two previous novels, including Stone Creek. Before becoming a writer she was an editor of science-fiction novels.
Genre: Commercial Fiction
Readers: Professor Michal, prosecutor Rochelle, project manager Andrea and stay-at-home moms Dana and Megan V.
Summary: Jody is a likable young man getting by in New York City at the turn of the millennium. On the surface, he seems to have it together, with friends, family, a decent job, and a steady string of girlfriends. But a secret history has left Jody scarred and broken inside, lacking faith in the future or himself. Like the ceaseless pull of a black hole, his buried secrets hold him back, defining him, until his trajectory crosses the path of three very different women, who, in their own ways, hold out the tantalizing possibility of healing, connection . . . or self-destruction.
Our Take: A strong and resonant novel with complex characters that explores real emotional depth. Not a terribly light or happy read, but most of our readers found it worth their while.
Title: Lookaway, Lookaway
Author: Wilton Barnhardt
Genre: Commercial Fiction
Readers: Blogger From Grind to Whine Stacey, lawyer Abby R., research assistant Rosie T., stay-at-home mom Emry and small business owner Samantha.
Summary: Jerene Jarvis Johnston and her husband Duke are exemplars of Charlotte, North Carolina’s high society, where old Southern money—and older Southern secrets—meet the new wealth of bankers, boom-era speculators, and carpetbagging social climbers. Steely and implacable, Jerene presides over her family’s legacy of paintings at the Mint Museum; Duke, the one-time college golden boy and descendant of a Confederate general, whose promising political career was mysteriously short-circuited, has settled into a comfortable semi-senescence as a Civil War re-enactor. Jerene’s brother Gaston is an infamously dissolute bestselling historical novelist who has never managed to begin his long-dreamed-of literary masterpiece, while their sister Dillard is a prisoner of unfortunate life decisions that have made her a near-recluse.
As the four Johnston children wander perpetually toward scandal and mishap. Annie, the smart but matrimonially reckless real estate maven; Bo, a minister at war with his congregation; Joshua, prone to a series of gay misadventures, and Jerilyn, damaged but dutiful to her expected role as debutante and eventual society bride. Jerene must prove tireless in preserving the family’s legacy, Duke’s fragile honor, and what’s left of the dwindling family fortune. She will stop at nothing to keep what she has—but is it too much to ask for one ounce of cooperation from her heedless family?
Our Take: This is one of those books that depends a lot on the reader. Either you connect with the characters and enjoy the book, or you find them insufferable and you don’t like the book. It’s a bit of a crap shoot, but if a novel about a dysfunctional Southern family sounds up your alley you may want to give it a try.
Title: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy
Author: Elizabeth Kiem. This is her first novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Readers: Professor JoLee, copyeditor Lori, lawyer Cait, day care teacher EMarie and retiree Sulyn.
Summary: Marina is born of privilege. Her mother, Sveta, is the Soviet Union’s prima ballerina: an international star handpicked by the regime. But Sveta is afflicted with a mysterious second sight and becomes obsessed with exposing a horrific state secret. Then she disappears.
Fearing for their lives, Marina and her father defect to Brooklyn. Marina struggles to reestablish herself as a dancer at Juilliard. But her enigmatic partner, Sergei, makes concentration almost impossible, as does the fact that Marina shares her mother’s “gift,” and has a vision of her father’s murder at the hands of the Russian crooks and con artists she thought they’d left behind.
Now Marina must navigate the web of intrigue surrounding her mother’s disappearance, her ability, and exactly whom she can—and can’t—trust.
Our Take: Definitely a YA with crossover appeal and a unique story to tell. A couple of our readers wanted more, but the overall verdict is it’s a tight and fun thriller.