Summer Reading from Blair: Part I

The pool is open, half of my coworkers are out of the office on holiday, and it’s hot enough to enjoy a glass or two of sweet iced tea (or perhaps something stronger) on the porch. So here are a few of our favorite books to read when you’re taking a break from the real world this summer. Enjoy!

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Murder on Music Row: A Music Industry Thriller
Stuart Dill
2012 IPPY Award winner in the Mystery category

“Remember your first John Grisham? Country music veteran Dill (he served as a personal manager for Minnie Pearl, Dwight Yoakam, and other greats) doesn’t miss a beat in this debut high-adrenaline thriller full of twists and turns.”
—Library Journal, starred review

Judd Nix, a 23-year-old unpaid intern at Elite Management, welcomes the chance to become
the paid assistant of Simon Stills, one of country’s biggest managers, but he soon finds himself a witness to an assassination attempt. When a gunman takes aim at megastar Ripley Graham, Stills’s most important client and the last hope for the troubled recording industry, on stage at the Grand Ole Opry, the shooter misses and seriously wounds Stills instead. Nix and his co-worker, Megan Olsen, decide to investigate on their own, but with music executives plotting a major merger, they can’t be sure whom to trust.

Murder on Music Row leads readers through a maze of twists and turns that connect Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, and London in a behind-the-scenes look at an industry where there are no limits in the pursuit of money, power, and fame.

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God Bless America: Stories
Steve Almond
2012 ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award Honorable Mention

God Bless America is a meditation on the American dream and its discontents. In his most ambitious collection yet, Steve Almond offers a comic and forlorn portrait of these United States: our lust for fame, our racial tensions, the toll of perpetual war, and the pursuit of romantic happiness.

Each of these 13 stories is an urgent investigation of America’s soul, its particular suffering, its injustices, its possibilities for redemption. With deft slight of hand, Almond, “a writer who knows us as well as we know ourselves” (Houston Chronicle), leavens his disappointment and outrage with a persistent hope for the men and women who inhabit his worlds. God Bless America offers us an astonishing vision of our collective fate, rendered in Almond’s signature style of “precise strokes… with metaphors so original and spot-on that they read like epiphanies” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Still not sold on this book? I’ve got two reasons more:

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The Iguana Tree
Michel Stone

This isn’t your typical light read for the summer. This is a book of substance. It is a universal story of loss, grief, and human dignity.

Set amid the perils of illegal border crossings, The Iguana Tree is the suspenseful saga of Lilia and Hector, who separately make their way from Mexico into the United States, seeking work in the Carolinas and a home for their infant daughter.

Michel Stone’s harrowing novel meticulously examines the obstacles each faces in pursuing a new life: manipulation, rape, and murder in the perilous commerce of border crossings; betrayal by family and friends; exploitation by corrupt officials and rapacious landowners on the U.S. side; and, finally, the inexorable workings of the U.S. justice system.

Hector and Lilia meet Americans willing to help them with legal assistance and offers of responsible employment, but their illegal entry seems certain to prove their undoing. The consequences of their decisions are devastating.

If you’re looking for a book that humanizes the agony and elation of illegally entering the United States without politics, this is for you.

“Michel Stone’s first novel, The Iguana Tree, is an astonishing achievement, a daring but plausible leap into a world unnoted by most of us yet close around us daily. This story is at once a page-turner and a moving, psychologically genuine drama.”
—Rosa Shand, author of The Gravity of Sunlight, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year

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Hank Hung the Moon . . . And Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts
Rheta Grimsley Johnson

“Part whimsical memoir, part cultural anthology, Hank Hung the Moon is a celebration of the music, the man, the era, the lore, and the magic of the South’s most beloved songster. If I were stranded on a desert island with only one book that captured everything I know and love about the South, this would be the one.”
—Cassandra King (Conroy), author of The Sunday Wife

The dark story of America’s Pulitzer Prize–winning hillbilly singer has been told often and well, but always with sad country fiddles wailing. This latest Hank Williams paean will make readers laugh as well as cry. Hank hung the moon and left his fans behind to admire it. He transformed the musical landscape, as well as the heavens, with his genius. And that’s a good thing.

More a musical memoir than a biography, Hank Hung the Moon is the author’s evocative personal stories of ’50s and ’60s musical staples—elementary-school rhythm bands, British Invasion rock concerts, and tearjerker movie musicals. It was a simpler time when Hank roamed the earth. The book celebrates a world of 78 rpm records and five-cent Cokes. Hank provides the soundtrack and wisdom for this Last Picture Show of a book.

A Cajun girl learns to understand English by listening to Hank on the radio. A Hank impersonator works by day at a prison but by night makes good use of his college degree in country music. Hank’s lost daughter, Jett, devotes her life to embracing the father she never knew. A newly minted recording artist buys a belt from Hank himself at a Nashville store that country’s first superstar bought to pacify a nagging wife.

Finally, here are stories readers haven’t heard a thousand times before about people—some famous, some not—who loved Hank. This lively little book uses Hank as a metaphor for life. Readers will tap their toes and demand an encore.

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Murder on the Outer Banks
Joe C. Ellis

The perfect beach read!

Newly hired deputy Marla Easton and Sheriff Dugan Walton are amazed at the performance of Dr. Sylvester Hopkins in a local 5K footrace. At age 65, Hopkins posts a world-class time of 17:35, two minutes faster than he has run in the past few years. Walton suspects Hopkins has concocted some new performance-enhancing drug.

A trail of bodies from Frisco to Nags Head, North Carolina, leads Deputy Easton and Sheriff Walton to the discovery of the Methuselah serum—a new drug designed by Hopkins that reverses aging in human cells. A nefarious triumvirate of pharmaceutical CEOs known as “the Medical Mafia” wants the formula at any price. So do the FBI and the president of the United States. But Sheriff Walton believes that he and Deputy Easton have been divinely chosen to guard the formula and serum, and they take their mission seriously—much like the angels posted in Eden to guard the Tree of Life. Their mission turns perilous when Deputy Easton’s seven-year-old son, Gabe, is kidnapped.

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Well, that’s all for today. Want to know what else we’re reading? Check our our staff picks on Pinterest. And share your favorite summer reads with us in the comments section.

Happy reading!

One thought on “Summer Reading from Blair: Part I

  1. Pingback: Summer Reading from Blair: Part I | John F. Blair, Publisher | Sad Country Music

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