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What we’re reading in November November 13, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Adventure, Book Awards, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Non-Fiction, Reviews, Uncategorized.
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In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes 

Cover image for Things are starting to look up for Dix Steele.  Looking for a new start in post-WWII Los Angeles he has found a swanky new apartment and reconnected with his old war buddy, now a homicide detective, Brub.  All he needs now is to find love, and he has his eye on his alluring neighbor, an up-and-coming starlet, Laurel Gray.  If he can have Laurel all to himself, he may not even strangle women walking alone at night anymore.  Well that, and if Brub’s nosy wife Sylvia would stop being suspicious of Dix and find him charming and agreeable like everyone else.  An excellent post-war noir that subverts some of the traditional misogynist motifs of the genre.  Megan Abbott, an accomplished noir author in her own right, has written more knowledgeably on how In A Lonely Place accomplishes this in the Paris ReviewTrent

 

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Cover image for This is the source material for the Disney animated movie The Sword in the Stone as well as the Broadway and movie musicals Camelot. It includes four books in one: The Sword in the Stone, The Witch in the Wood, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind. I am still in the first book, so not very far into the story of King Arthur. The fantasy adventure has a comic tone that I was not expecting. I thought the Disney movie was responsible for the funny talking animals and Merlin’s absent-mindedness. However, those aspects are present in the novel. Merlin and the author as narrator make anachronistic references to appeal to readers of the 1950s and 1960s close to the time when the novel was published. In fact there are a couple satiric jabs at current society since it is suggested that Merlin has been to the future and is living backward through time. It is a massive medieval adventure, but so far the chapters move along quickly. At least while Arthur is known as a boy named The Wart in the first book it seems like it is aimed more at younger readers, but I wonder if the tone changes later when Arthur reaches adulthood. I’ll keep reading and find out.  Byron

 

November Road by Lou Berney

Cover image for November road :Frank Guidry, a charming, well-dressed gangster who works for a New Orleans mob boss, has just returned from Dallas after following orders to deliver a blue Eldorado, when he learns that JFK has been assassinated. When Frank receives orders to return to Texas to dump the car in the ocean, he knows that his involvement means he’s next to die and decides to run for his life, a ruthless hitman in hot pursuit.  Meanwhile, Charlotte, mother of two young girls, decides to leave her alcoholic husband in Oklahoma and travel to Los Angeles to find a better life. When these two meet on Route 66, sparks fly and Frank convinces Charlotte to travel with him – the perfect cover – but he soon realizes that he could grow to like this new role.  Evocative and suspenseful, it’s got 60s sensibility, romance, a road trip, seedy motels, neon-lit Las Vegas, diners and Dylan. I listened to the fantastic audiobook version through Hoopla! Dori

 

 Prophecy and Politics: Socialism, Nationalism, and the Russian Jews, 1862-1917  by Jonathan Frankel

Cover image for Prophecy and politics :This is one of the more challenging books I’ve read this year, since there is a lot of information and, unfortunately, the font is small.  I also have traditionally struggled with reading books on history, but I’m giving it another go.  The book, at its best, is fascinating, and it can read like a novel – it is full of letters and speeches and ideas and characters and excerpts from socialist and nationalist literature.  Much of the book is devoted to the Bund, the group of Jewish socialists, founded in Russia in the 19th century, that spread to Lithuania and Poland.  Members of the Bund struggled with their cultural and political identities – how much were they Jews, and should be devoted to Jewish causes, and how much were they Russians, and should be devoted to Russian causes?  The history of the Bund is in many ways a history of the Russian Revolutions in 1905 and 1917, seen from a Jewish perspective, and it’s been fascinating to see figures like Vladimir Lenin interact with prominent members of the Bund.  It is also a history of Israel before Israel became a nation (the competing ideologies for Russian Jewry in the 19th century became nationalism, with roots in Palestine, and socialism, which had roots in Russia and America).  A challenging but worthwhile read. Andrew

 

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor D. LaValle

Cover image for The ballad of Black TomWith only being 151 pages long this book packs quite a punch. The Ballad of Black Tom is a retelling of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook but from the perspective of Tommy Tester. LaValle’s narrative highlights not just the horrors of the supernatural but of the racism and xenophobia as events unfold. The author creates  characters who are grounded in reality who then deal with the swell of the uncanny. You will be caught up in the fast paced narrative and even fans of the lovecraftian source material will have whiplash from the conclusion and epilogue. Greg 

 

 

The Fallen by David Baldacci

Cover image for The fallenEvery once in a while you need an action book with a good guy who you know will win.  That is Amos Decker in this new Memory Man book, The Fallen.  Amos and his journalist friend Alex take a vacation to visit Alex’s sister in a small, depressed Pennsylvania town.  Even when he is not looking for trouble, trouble finds him, and Amos discovers two dead bodies in the neighbor’s house.  It is soon apparent that something big is going on in this little town, and there’s no telling who is a part of it.  After suffering a concussion, Amos’s infallible memory begins to get a little fuzzy and less reliable.  Will he still be able to solve the case or was his memory the only thing that made him an amazing detective?  A quick and easy read that is a bit predictable but enjoyable none the less.  Sara

 

 Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit by Amy Stewart

Cover image for Miss Kopp just won't quitThis novel is based on on actual events and centers around two of them.  Anna Kayser’s husband has her committed to an insane asylum for the fourth time under false pretenses, and deputy Constance Kopp knows she doesn’t belong there.  In 1916, Sheriff Robert Heath is running for congress and a new county sheriff will be elected. The new sheriff has no desire in keeping a woman deputy sheriff on board. He quickly dismisses Deputy Kopp. Robert Heath loses the election and Constance Kopp is unemployed. The fourth entry in the Kopp sisters series leaves lots of loose ends to be worked out, but it’s a quick fun read for fans of historical fiction. Emma

 

 

Warcross by Marie Lu

Cover image for WarcrossEmika Chen is a broke, orphaned eighteen-year-old with a criminal record – one she got from hacking computers. And, like the rest of the world, she’s obsessed with a virtual reality game called Warcross (think Quidditch meets Ready Player One). On the opening day of the International Warcross Championships, Emika is hurting for rent money. When she hacks into the game and attempts to steal an expensive item, she glitches herself into the action and reveals her identity. Emika thinks she’s going to be arrested, but instead, she’s pursued by the game’s creator, heartthrob Hideo Tanaka, to become a spy in next year’s tournament. But the sinister plot Emika uncovers could unravel the entire Warcross empire.   I picked up this book because I wanted to be able to recommend more sci-fi to teens. I am really enjoying the pacing of the book (Marie Lu knows how to write a thriller!) and the diverse cast – Emika, like the author, is Chinese American, Hideo is Japanese, and Emika’s Warcross team captain, Asher, uses a wheelchair. Recommend this NYT Bestseller and its sequel, Wildcard, to fans of The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games, and Divergent.  Lyndsey

 

 

 

 

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BookTalk for Adults September 28, 2018

Posted by Mary in Beach Reads, Biographies, Book Awards, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Debut Author, Fiction, First Novel, Genre Book Discussion, Library Program, Literary Fiction, Mystery, New Books, Non-Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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In case you missed the BookTalk for Adults program today at the library, here is what we talked about….

The Best Books of 2018 So Far. While there are many excellent books that have been penned thus far in 2018, I managed to widdle the list down to ten. The list spans different genres including fiction, literary fiction, mystery, suspense/thriller and memoir. Here is the list of books we discussed –

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
There, There by Tommy Orange
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson
The Woman in the Window by A.J.Finn
When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger
Educated A Memoir by Tara Westover

Our next BookTalk for Adults will be Friday, October 26th at 10AM. Being so close to Halloween we will discuss (you guessed it) Spooky books. Come join us!

What exactly is the New York Times Bestseller List? July 27, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Awards, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fiction, New Books, Non-Fiction, Summer Reading, Top Ten, Uncategorized.
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The first New York Times Bestseller List was published on October 12, 1931.  It only contained five fiction and four non-fiction books for New York City only.  Over time it was expanded and lists for multiple cities were included. A national list was finally compiled in 1942 and published in the New York Times Book Review supplement as it is today. This list is compiled from “reports from leading booksellers in 22 cities,” although the exact data compilation process is a trade secret.

There is much controversy among authors, publishers, and others as to whether the list really represents best-seller status.  Some believe the list can be manipulated by authors, sellers, retailers and wholesalers.  The New York Times has been sued for excluding books from the list, accused of allowing authors to buy their way onto the list, and been criticized for favoring liberal authors over conservative ones (a claim the New York Times denies.) Whether it is fair or not, this list remains prestigious and well known, and according to a  Stanford Business School analysis, the “majority of book buyers seem to use the Times list as a signal of what’s worth reading”.  Here are a few books from NYT Bestseller List for the week of July 29th.  Click, call or stop in today to put a hold on one!

FICTION

1 THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. (Little, Brown and Knopf.) President Jonathan Duncan takes on adversaries at home and abroad.

2 THE GOOD FIGHT, by Danielle Steel. (Delacorte.) Meredith McKenzie embraces and eschews the values of her family of lawyers during the tumultuous 1960s.

3 CLOCK DANCE, by Anne Tyler. (Knopf.) A window into Willa Drake’s life over 50 years and how she adjusts to some of life’s surprises.

4 THE OUTSIDER, by Stephen King. (Scribner.) A detective investigates aseemingly wholesome member of the community when an 11-year-old boy’s body is found.

5 ALL WE EVER WANTED, by Emily Giffin. (Ballantine.) A scandal sends members of two Nashville families into chaos.

NON-FICTION

1 CALYPSO, by David Sedaris. (Little, Brown.) A collection of comedic stories on mortality, middle age and a beach house dubbed the Sea Section.

2 EDUCATED, by Tara Westover. (Random House.) The daughter of survivalists leaves home for university.

3 THE SOUL OF AMERICA, by Jon Meacham. (Random House.) The present political climate is contextualized through the lens of difficult moments in American history.

4 HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND, by Michael Pollan. (Penguin Press.) A personal account of how psychedelics might help the mentally ill and people dealing with everyday challenges.

5 INDIANAPOLIS, by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic. (Simon & Schuster.) A newly researched look into the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, the story of the survivors and the fight to exonerate the court-martialed skipper.

 

 

Reading With My Boys May 21, 2018

Posted by Mary in Adventure, Biographies, Book Awards, Book Discussion, Fantasy, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized.
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One of my favorite things to do with my boys is read together.  We are well beyond the picture books, but my boys & I enjoyed reading together until they hit their teens.  Summer vacation is right around the corner, and me & my 12 year old son have been discussing what books we would like to read together this summer.  The older they get, the more difficult it is to find time to read together during the school year due to homework and extra- curricular activities, but we try to carve out at least 15 minutes in the evening of reading a book together.  Depending on the book, sometimes this 15 minutes can turn into an hour.  During summer break it’s much easier to find time to read together.  Most times we find ourselves on the glider on the back patio, catching up on our most current favorite story.  Summer usually involves a road trip or two, and reading together in the car has been a hit as well.

Now let me be clear, by reading together, I do mean I read the story out loud.  I know, it may seem somewhat juvenile for a middle schooler, but trust me they love it.  I ham it up with accents and lots of emotion in my voice.  With my oldest & youngest, they sat right next me and read along.  My middle guy played nerf basketball while I read away, nonetheless, he was equally engaged in the story.

When my oldest two boys were in high school I would stare at their required summer reading splayed on the coffee table, pretty much untouched. Finally, I picked it up & started reading.  The required summer reading can be great picks, although your high schooler may not agree.  If you read it too,  you can discuss the book with them.  Discussion wasn’t lengthy about a book they couldn’t choose, but it was something to share with your teenager & how often does that happen?

The library Community Read events are fantastic book pics to share with any member in your family.   So much of our family time together has been swallowed up by devices. Even though we all may be sitting in the same room, individually we have our head down, scrolling through our devices.  Put those devices down, pick up a book, read it out loud or share what you’ve read for just 15 minutes each night.  Trust me, you will cherish these moments & remember them forever.

These are some of my favorite books I read with my boys:

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Here are my favorite high school summer reading pics I read along with my boys:

Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family

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How Do You Listen to Audio Books May 14, 2018

Posted by Mary in Audio, Biographies, Book Awards, Book Discussion, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized.
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Are you seeing a pattern here? My third post about audio books. I will admit that this year I am committing myself to more books, and audio books have helped me inch toward my goal.

Did you know that the library offers audiobooks in numerous formats?  I have listened to all my audiobooks through Overdrive – it’s so easy.  I go to my overdrive app, go to Clevenet digital library, peruse their awesome collection, once I’ve chosen a book, I tap borrow, tap on go to loans, go to my bookshelf, tap on title so that download will begin, and listen.

You can also visit Hoopla, another digital media service offered to our  patrons.  You can download the Hoopla site through the main page of the Rocky River library website.  Once you have created an account, you have even more awesome titles to choose from for your next audio pick.

We also offer Play-aways.  Play-away comes pre-loaded and ready use with one audiobook per device, making them super simple for your use. All you need is a set of headphones and a triple A battery.

Last, but not least, lets not forget about the CD’s.  If you have a CD player at home, this is the route to go.  Our CD collection has fiction, nonfiction, biography, new titles, classics – you name it!

Some of my favorite audiobooks I’ve listened to this year are:

 

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Top of the List 2017 December 15, 2017

Posted by Dori in Audio, Book Awards, Book List, Book Review, Debut Author, eAudio, Fantasy, Fiction, First Novel, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, New Books, Non-Fiction, Science Fiction, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2017.
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I must admit that I did not read as many books as is my norm this year. I will not offer up a bunch of excuses (except 2017 was a whopper of a year, wasn’t it?), but will share the best of those I did read, with many gems in the bunch:

lincolnLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I listened to this remarkable Booker Prizewinning book in audiobook form – with its cast of notable actors casting a spell that had me hooked. It was so unique:  moving, funny, weird, and insightful. I think it’s one of those audiobooks that I need to now read in book form. Don’t miss this one.

 

exit - CopyExit West by Mohsin Hamed
Two young people who fall in love in an unnamed country when a civil war erupts escape through metaphysical ‘doorways’. Finding themselves as refugees, they have to come to terms with their pasts and futures. Brutal and ravishing.

 

anythingAnything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
A short story that follows the lives of people briefly encountered in her previous book My Name is Lucy Barton that is just beautifully written and offers glimpses of the wonder of humanity. These are the kinds of books I’m drawn to – seemingly simple but powerful.

 

mountainThe Mountain: Stories by Paul Yoon
Another seemingly simple book. In restrained but exquisite prose, Yoon’s short stories are about people across the world who’ve been molded by tragedy and loss but still put one foot in front of the other and carry on.

 

manhattanManhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Egan delves into straight up historical fiction, creating characters that resonate and enveloping readers in the fascinating world of New York City during the Depression. Not my favorite Egan, but a great example of ambitious historical fiction.

 

allgrownAll Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
This book made me laugh and that was important this year!  Her main character is a single 39-year-old woman who’s living life defying, while worrying about, the expectations of others and society at-large. She might exasperate you, but she sure is someone a lot of us can relate to.

 

leaversThe Leavers by Lisa Ko
This debut about a young Chinese-American boy who’s adopted into a white family after his immigrant mother disappears is a moving look at what happens to those who leave and those who are left behind. Plus it’s an eye-opening look at the effects of U.S. immigration policy.

 

saintsSaints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
Raise your hand if you love a quality dysfunctional family book!  If so, this is one you have to get a hold of asap. Irish immigrants to Boston, family deception that resonates through the next generations – it’s got it all.

 

longwayclosedThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit and by Becky Chambers
My co-worker recommended these to me and I thank her for it! These are the first two in Chamber’s Wayfarers series and they are adventurous, funny and meaningful outer space dramas. Even better as audiobooks!

index (1)On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
This is a short but incredibly important book to read right now! A historian of the Holocaust, Snyder takes lessons from the past to guide us for the future.

 

And a bonus:

fifthThe Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison:
I must admit that I haven’t finished this one – I began listening recently and I’m hooked. It’s the first book in a trilogy – The Broken Earth series – and is set in a post-apocalyptic society. The world building is incredible and the characters, fascinating. I’ll be spending much of my winter with this series.

 

Happy Holidays and best to you and yours!

~ Dori

 

 

 

 

 

Greg’s Top 10 for 2017 December 14, 2017

Posted by gregoryhatch in Book Awards, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Graphic Novel, Horror, New Books, Non-Fiction, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2017, Uncategorized.
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First off is a book I previously reviewed, Books of Blood: Volumes One to Three. As the title describes this is a three books of short stories in one not so compact volume. This had to make my list for the sheer variety it offered fans of horror. Much like Barker’s films there is a balance of psychological and visceral horror. Recommended for the horror fan who needs an introduction to Barker’s writing.
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I know I am cheating a bit with these picks but these two volumes are distinct enough in their tone and their personal achievement to deserve their own spot on this list. A retelling/reworking of the Hercules myth, David Rubin’s graphic novel The Hero breaks new ground in the telling of this millennial old story. An odd combination of ancient and contemporary motifs (there are ancient Greek news casts) Hero keeps the reader on their toes. Book One focuses on the labors and the development of Hercules as hero. Book Two takes a darker tone and starts asking what happens when the campaign is won and yet life, and its tragedies, continue on. A humanizing take on a hero who’s story is told again and again.
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Possibly a very bold claim, but for me, this collection was the work that got me interested in poetry again. I am a working visual artist who has had a desire to investigate poetry but just didn’t seem to be my medium or speak my own creative language. Smith’s work shares many of the research veins that I am interested in and gave me a gateway to the work and the art form of poetry. A Finalist for the National Book Award, these poems are both challenging and enjoyable.
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What can I say, I am sucker for short story collections that explore magical realism. Russell gives us everything from lemon sucking vampires to a silk factory who raw material comes from silkworm/human hybrids. More so than any of the other short story collections on this list Vampires offers the readers stories are truly a mixed bag of setting and tone. I haven’t had a chance to read Russell’s novel Swamplandia! but from how much I enjoyed this work its on my reading list.
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If you are familiar with Sedaris’ work you know that you are in for more of the same awkward, funny, cringe-worthy, and relatable stories. Told in his signature style, Sedaris focuses on the minor (and so minor) faux pas, social foibles, and daily disasters that everyone else will forget about but will mar you for life. Like all his work, I recommend reading before large family gatherings, for perspective.
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If I had to give Gaiman’s work a subtitle it would have to be “Translated for Clarity and Entertainment.” Master storyteller, Gaiman makes traditional Norse and Northern European mythology digestible for a wider audience. If you ever attempted to read traditional translations of Norse sagas you know that they can be a bit dense and at times confusing. This is a great introduction to the Norse religion and for fans of Neil Gaiman’s wider body of work.
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Cover image for The drunken botanist
Maybe too dry (pun intended) for some, I found The Drunken Botanist an informative and intriguing romp into the history of alcohol and the cultures that made them. I enjoyed this book as an audio book while on a long drive to a conference and think it may be its best in that scenario. Filled with moments of “huh didn’t know that” and the science to back it up, Stewart’s work is great material for parties or possible future games of trivia.
Cover image for Wuvable oaf
A subversive and unconventional take on the idea of a romantic comedy. We follow Oaf Jadwiga (former professional wrestler, owner of a cat sanctuary and maker of stuffed animals) as he tried to catch the eye of black metal front-man Eiffel. Now what would be romantic comedy without a few mishaps? Oaf has to deal rival bands, exes (his and Eiffel’s), and cats with emotional problems. With moments of tenderness, gross out humor, and an in your face attitude this book was always surprising.
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If you enjoyed the Alan Moore’s Watchmen’s take on the world of cape crusaders there is a good chance you will enjoy Black Hammer : Secret Origins. Lemire’s take on a super hero team takes a decidedly dark psychological tone. Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien are the a superhero team who have been trapped in a reality that they cannot escape. Rather than Superman’s Phantom Zone, their prison takes the form of a small rural town. This first volume gives us a look into the hero’s previous lives, the baggage they hold, and how they cope in a world where they have little to do but reflect.

2016 Favorites – Top 12 Edition December 16, 2016

Posted by Dori in Book Awards, Book List, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Holiday Books, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2016, Uncategorized.
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2016 was a book lover’s dream – I was like a kid in a candy store. Between reading and listening, I managed to finish a lot of literary fiction, and a few science fiction and suspense titles, but I have some catching up to do into 2017. Here are the books that I relished in 2016, in no particular order:

laroseLaRose by Louise Erdrich
Erdrich is a writer that I never miss and this book sums up what I love so much about her writing: devotion to characters, insightful commentary on American culture, family love and exploration of the mystical.

 

undergroundThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Deserved winner of the National Book Award, this book is a wildly creative and harrowing look at slavery and its legacy. A must read.

 

 

beforeBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley
Hawley, a screenwriter, deftly takes us through a horrific plane crash, exploring the survivor’s guilt and the investigation into the cause.

 

 

mynameMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
This small book packs a punch – mother/daughter relationships, poverty, marriage – are all addressed powerfully and in Lucy’s voice – lovely and sad.

 

 

vegetarianThe Vegetarian by Han Kang
There’s no doubt that this is a weird book – it’s about a young woman whose choice to become a vegetarian impacts her whole family in tragic ways – but it’s also both mesmerizing and beautiful.

 

 

queenQueen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Chee’s historical epic about a 19th century American who becomes a famous Parisian courtesan and opera singer envelops and transports you.

 

 

commonCommonwealth by Ann Patchett
This is my first Patchett novel and I may have to read her earlier books based on this one – who doesn’t love a book about a dysfunctional family that sucks you in and doesn’t let go?

 

 

multipleMultiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra
Zambra is a Chilean author and his books often deal with memory and choice within the framework of Chile’s recent authoritarian history. This one’s in the form of a multiple choice test

 

 

goldenThe Golden Age by Joan London
Maybe my favorite of all, London’s look at how people deal with displacement in their lives takes place during the polio epidemic in Australia after World War II. It’s surprisingly sweet and tender and you’ll fall in love with the characters.

 

 

moonglowMoonglow by Michael Chabon
History, relationships, life, love, rockets! – all in Chabon’s signature style.

 

 

 

swingSwing Time by Zadie Smith
I haven’t quite finished Smith’s latest about two young brown girls growing up in London and the different paths they take based on family, race, class and culture, but I’m entranced so far.

 

 

darker

 

gathering

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
I always like to dip into some great science fiction and I really enjoyed these first two in a series that take us to fantastic parallel worlds.  No. 3 is up next year!

 

BONUS CHRISTMAS BOOK:

fieldsThe Fields Where They Lay by Timonthy Hallinan
I chose this book for my Holiday read and I think I’ve found a new mystery series! It’s funny and clever and the mystery unfolded perfectly.

 

 

 

If` I could keep going, I’d throw these in as well: Debuts The Mothers by Brit Bennett and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, The Yid by Paul Goldberg, To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl, A Great Reckoning by  master of mystery Louise Penney, The Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood and The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

Award Winning Books! April 26, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Awards, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Non-Fiction.
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So many awards, so many choices! As you can see from what everyone said about the book they chose, it was also a crowd pleaser, plus we really covered a whole bunch of genres in this one discussion! Shall we see what everyone had to share?

Megan: Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, winner of the 2015 Eisner Award for Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens, is the story of best friends, summer camp, and monsters. Welcome to Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types! The camp is home to the Lumberjanes scouts. Best friends and fellow campers Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley accidentally witness an old lady transform into a bear, and like any group of curious teens, they follow her into the woods. They quickly learn that the bear-woman is not the only mystery surrounding the camp. These clever campers are determined to use their scout skills to unravel these mysteries. This all-ages, female-led comic series is rollicking good fun. Readers will devour the first three volumes and be eager for more Lumberjanes adventures!

Chris: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 2005 and in that same year was a finalist of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography. In 2007, it was adapted for a Broadway Play and had a successful run. It tells the story of Joan’s husband, John, suffering a massive fatal coronary while their adopted daughter, Quintana, lies in a coma in the hospital. Sadness and grief all around realistically presented in that unique Didion voice. I particularly liked her reminiscences over the many good times and trying times she and her writer husband, John Gregory Dunne, shared throughout their forty-year marriage. She ends her chronicle with a few of John’s words spoken about timing the swell of the ocean just right: “You had to go with the change.”

Carol: In Scottish author Denise Mina’s mystery novel, Garnethill, which won the John Creasey Award for Best First Crime Novel, Maureen O’Donnell’s psychologist boyfriend Douglas Brady has been found murdered in her apartment. Because of her history of mental illness and the fact that she’d just discovered that Douglas was married, Maureen is the prime suspect. With help from her friend Leslie and her brother Liam, Maureen attempts to find out who the killer is—endangering their lives and her own in this gripping, dark and action-packed read.

Emma: In The Nest, Leo, Beatrice, Jack and Melody Plumb’s father funded a hefty nest egg for his four children to be distributed when the youngest, Melody, turns 40. The siblings are anxious to get their inheritance and each has specific plans for the money. With their mother’s permission, money was used when drunken Leo was in a serious car accident. A 19-year-old waitress was badly injured and much of the money was used to settle her medical bills. Leo promises to eventually repay his siblings. Time will tell in this fast-moving often-funny book debut by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

Steve: In Michael Shaara’s classic novel The Killer Angels he takes you inside the minds of the men that fought in the battle of Gettysburg. This work won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and was striking in that it depicted the thoughts of the characters, not just the action and movement of troops and men. This is an excellent novel that humanizes the men and focuses on the leaders, like Robert E. Lee and Joshua Chamberlain.

Lauren: In honor of her latest book, My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem was award the 2015 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The Dayton Literary Peace Prize, inaugurated in 2006, is the first and only annual U.S. literary award recognizing the power of the written word to promote peace. The Prize invites nominations in adult fiction and nonfiction books published within the past year that have led readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view. This memoir recounts Steinem’s nomadic lifestyle from an early age and throughout her life as a writer, activist, and community organizer.

Dori: In The Round House, the second book of a trilogy set on an Ojibwe Reservation in North Dakota, Louise Erdrich brings back Judge Coutts from the first book in the trilogy, The Plague of Doves. The judge is spending a Sunday with his wife Geraldine and their 13-year-old son Joe when Geraldine receives a phone call from work that she is needed. She rushes in but doesn’t return. Joe and his father search everywhere and when they return home, they find Geraldine in the driveway, near death after being assaulted and raped. She won’t speak, won’t accuse her assailant, and her family is devastated. Judge Coutts and Joe go through his case files looking for clues, eventually leading Joe to the probable culprit. Meanwhile, as Joe and his friends live through the summer, meeting girls, riding bikes, and pulling pranks, Joe plans his revenge. Equal parts coming-of-age story, mystery and social commentary, this a compelling and deeply moving novel. The third book in the trilogy, LaRose, is out in May. Winner of the National Book Award in 2012.

Stacey: The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery was a 2015 National Book Award Finalist in the Nonfiction category and also on ALA’s 2016 Notable Books list. This is one of those books that make me equally excited and nervous to read; I can’t wait to find out more about these fascinating creatures but I’m afraid many of them will succumb to a tragic ending. Spoiler Alert: both things happened, I’m now a big fan of this species *and* I used a tissue (or two) while reading. Additionally, the author is able to provide an interesting perspective on how we define the intangible consciousness of any living creature. Be bold, take a risk you might shed a tear, and pick up this winning title!

And next time? We’re headed way out West! If you want to read along with us, you’ll want to select something that evokes a strong feeling of wide open spaces and larger than life characters. Most westerns have a clear hero and villain with the conflict clearly ending with one winner.

Enjoy!
Stacey

Lots of Wordy Books (aka Literary Fiction!) January 26, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Awards, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Literary Fiction.
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We’re starting off the year with the Literary fiction challenge -were you able to find something that was characterized by a distinctive writing style, focused more on character than plot, or prompted a high degree of interaction between reader and book? If so, then you were a successful participant in our first genre discussion! If not, don’t worry -we still have eleven more genre challenges to come. You’ll get ‘em next time!
Are you wondering what everyone had to say about the books they chose? Here we go…

Maureen: In Dostoyevsky’s final and epic novel, The Brothers Karamazov, he weaves an intricate story surrounding the lives of three brothers who each have a reason to want their philandering father, Fyodor, dead. One brother is not given the inheritance he feels he is due from his deceased mother, one begrudgingly leaves his beloved monastery work at the command of his father, and one is just disgusted with the total lack of morals displayed by his father. When Fyodor is murdered one fateful evening and brother Dmitry is implicated, the secrets, motivations, love affairs, scandals, and crimes of all of the brothers are slowly revealed to build the story to its conclusion. The Brothers Karamazov is considered one of the greatest works of Russian fiction. While not a quick or easy read (it took several months!!) it was an interesting look into Russian society of the time. If you find yourself looking for another great Russian work from a bit later time period, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is another fantastic, though far-fetched, literary Russian read that is worth a look.

Chris: Snobs by Julian Fellowes is Julian’s first novel and it gives us an insider’s look at England’s upper class in the 1990s and those who aspire to become part of it. Like Edith, who marries the Earl Broughton one of the most eligible aristocrats around. From the very beginning his mother, Lady Uckfield, knows why Edith has chosen her son. Will the marriage last? Many of their friends and so-called friends play a part in the outcome. So many characters, so much drama. Much like the beloved PBS series Fellowes went on to write, Downton Abbey. With one difference for this reader: He seems to not much care for the Broughton Hall characters (perhaps he was finding his way back then) whereas he loves his Downton Abbey people. Me, too.

Megan: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly is a fictional account of a real life murder. The year is 1906 and sixteen-year old Mattie has big dreams. Desperate to earn money and escape her small-town life, she gets a job at the Glenmore Hotel. There she meets Grace Brown, a young guest who asks Mattie to burn a packet of secret letters. When Grace’s body is found in the lake, Mattie realizes that the letters may prove that Grace’s drowning was not a tragic accident but a premeditated murder. Mattie is the product of Donnelly’s imagination, but Grace Brown and her murder are true crimes. Fans of historical fiction and true crime will enjoy this story set in the Anirondaks.

Lauren: Vendela Vida’s The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty is set in exotic Casablanca, Morocco and lures the reader in with elements of mystery/thriller. A woman—you, as the story is told in second person—travels to Morocco on her own and almost immediately her money, passport, and identification are stolen. She is at first panicked and desperate to go to the police and seek to recover her belongings only to run up against bureaucracy and corruption on top of the challenges of navigating a foreign country. Gradually she comes to see her situation—a woman without an identity—as an chance to become someone else entirely and find true liberation.

Beth: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins takes place in a very plausible distant future semi-relinquished, dried out California landscape. The main characters, Luz and Ray are contently squatting in an abandoned mansion until they cross paths with a child who they bring into their fold. With new found responsibility, they pursue a more sustainable home and discover the ambiguous power of their most treasured relationships.

Dori: In Like Family, a spare, slender novel by Paolo Giordano, a married couple hires a childless widow to care for the wife when she has some problems in her pregnancy. After the baby is born, Mrs. A stays on as a nanny for the baby and as housekeeper for the family. After eight years, however, one day she announces that she’s not feeling well and will not be coming back. Sixteen months later, she has passed away from cancer. The husband, a physicist, narrates, telling us all this within the first few pages of the book. The remainder of the book are his memories of conversations he’s had with Mrs. A, what he learned about her and her life and most importantly, he relays the importance of her to his family. Mrs. A helped them all, smoothing over differences between husband and wife, wholly loving their child, and appreciating and encouraging all of them. Without her, they are all bereft and feeling a hole where she once had been. She had an intimate role within their family, at least from their perspective, even though she was employee; she wasn’t family, but was she? Giordano contemplates the variety of love, the definition of family and the value of relationships, however fleeting, in this melancholy but sweet book.

Emma: In Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, Addie Moore has lost her husband. One day she invites neighbor widower Louis Waters to spend nights with her. Nights are especially lonely. Nosy neighbors quickly find out what’s going on, but Addie and Louis don’t care. Gene, Addie’s son, leaves his son Jamie with her for the summer. He does not approve of the relationship between Addie and Louis, and eventually forbids Addie to have contact with her grandson unless she breaks contact with Louis. A beautiful story even with Addie’s bullying son’s interference.

Carol: In My name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, the title character is a married New York City writer who reflects on her upbringing by chronicling a few days in the 80s, when as a grown woman, she ends up in the hospital for an extended stay. Lucy’s estranged mother comes to visit during that time, and readers learn about their strange and sad family dynamic from what the two reminisce about and the topics they avoid. This short novel about forgiveness and the bonds of family and love is eloquently written and will be remembered long after its last page has been read.

Steve: The Road by Cormac McCarthy is an excellent but bleak work. In a horrible post-apocalyptic world an unnamed man and his young son are striving to make it to the coast against awful odds. Along the way they elude gangs of violent thugs and scavenge for what little food they can find, all in hopes of finding other good guys.

Stacey: One of my favorite fiction titles to make the list of Notable Books for Adults for 2016 was This Is the Life: A Novel by Alex Shearer. Two brothers, who haven’t always had the easiest of relationships, are brought together again when Louis is diagnosed with a brain tumor and his younger brother provides whatever support he can. A small book with a big impact, there really is something in this book that is likely to make readers laugh, cry, and maybe even pick up the phone to call a loved one…

If you want to keep reading with us, you’ll want to go looking for the first novel of an author you’ve never read before! Finding the debut work of a new author can be pretty exciting, so you might want to start your search …now!

enjoy!
Stacey