True Grit by Charles Portis

Book – Many will be familiar with the classic western True Grit thanks to the well-known film adaptations, the first in 1969 starring John Wayne and the second in  2010 directed by the Cohen Brothers. While Charles Portis’s novel is straightforward and at times predictable, what makes True Grit so good is the dialogue and the characters, especially the narrator, thirteen-year old Mattie Ross. Mattie’s pluck and perseverance make her one of the most memorable protagonists I’ve encountered in a while. True Grit’s other lead Rooster Cogburn, is a crotchety and perpetually drunk US marshal hired by Mattie to find her father’s killer. Although Rooster and Mattie are disparate personalities in nearly every way, they both have that rarest of traits: true grit. The relationship between the two is the foundation on which Portis builds a novel that is an effective character study, as well as a tension filled adventure.

The audiobook is narrated by Donna Tartt, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Secret History and The Goldfinch. I sought out the audiobook mainly due to a curiosity about how one of my favorite authors would fare as a narrator. Tartt gives each character a distinct voice, although her best and most convincing depiction is Mattie. I recommend True Grit not only for fans of westerns, but for anyone interested in an exciting story populated by dynamic, engaging characters.

Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhanon

Book – Speaking of Summer is the character driven story by Kalisha Buckhanon told from Cover image for Speaking of SummerAutumn Spencer’s perspective of her missing twin sister, Summer. Autumn embarks on a lonely, determined, and obsessive journey to discover the truth of what happened. We learn of the sisters’ upbringing in small town Illinois and their eventual journey to New York and the unsettling reality of what happens and doesn’t happen, to missing women.

When news of a serial killer who once lived in her Harlem neighborhood surfaces, Autumn delves deeper into whether Summer was one of his victims, or if she fled, wanting to leave love and loss behind her forever. Broken up into four seasons, Speaking of Summer goes by quickly if you are not paying attention. Who survives and how, are a few of the questions revealed in this intriguing tale. Despite minor and easily forgettable literary lapses, Buckhanon writes a beautiful, compelling and poignant story.

Tired of Winter? Check out Speaking of Summer on Hoopla.