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What we’re reading now… January 13, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, New Books, Non-Fiction, Suspense, Uncategorized, Young Adult.
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The Hearth Witch’s Compendium: Magical and Natural Living for Every Day by Anna Franklin

The Hearth Witch's Compendium: Magical and…Not a book designed to be read straight through, The Hearth Witch’s Compendium is much more a resource guide for individuals who wish to include their magical practice into their everyday routine and life. Resource guide might actually be an understatement. This 512 page volume contains dozens and dozens of recipes and remedies addressing jam preserves to making your own self care products to dyeing your own fabric. The instructions are approachable, easy to read (Franklin is a British writer but graciously provides a conversion table in the back for measurements) and clear. There isn’t much magical instruction within all these amazing recipes which was a bit of a let down, but there is a ton of information towards the back to what ruling planets, deities, and celestial phases all the ingredients correspond with. Highly recommended for readers looking for a resource they can return to again and again for ideas on how to handle the pragmatic with a magical flair. Greg


System of the World (The Baroque Cycle #3) by Neal Stephenson

The System of the World by Neal StephensonThis final volume of Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle ties up the myriad storylines that have emerged throughout the series. There is something for everyone in this.  For much of the series, we follow Natural Philosopher Daniel Waterhouse through pre-Enlightenment England as Isaac Newton and the Royal Society pivot from alchemy to science.  If the invention of calculus is not your cup of tea, there is no want of political intrigue among Protestants and Catholics following the restoration of the British Monarchs.  If not that, there is the swashbuckling adventures of Jack Shaftoe, King of Vagabonds or Eliza as she rises through the European elite via machinations involving new inventions in finance.  The breadth of this series is far beyond the size of anything that should work – yet it does.  Trent


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo TolstoyI’ve been reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  It’s an amazing book.  Tolstoy is so incisive about his characters, he knows them so well, and so over time we feel like we really get to know and even love Pierre, Andrei and Natasha (although there are a lot more characters, those are probably the main three).  Tolstoy studied in a very intense way the military campaigns between Russia and France, and then he is able to infuse what he learned with his astonishing imagination.  It seems like he gets every detail right, from the description of what the men and women are wearing in a ballroom, to descriptions of gun smoke in a field during a battle.  He’s able to really zoom in and zoom out in this wonderful way.  Andrew 


Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel  by Marie Benedict

Carnegie's Maid: A Novel by Marie…This is the story of Clara Kelley, a recent immigrant from Ireland, who assumes the identity of a fellow passenger who died during the voyage. She secures a position as lady’s maid to Margaret Carnegie, Andrew Carnegie’s mother. Clara’s goal is to send money back to her struggling family in Ireland. Andrew is attracted to Clara, and they secretly spend time together. Andrew shares some of his business expertise with Clara and welcomes her suggestions until Clara disappears when Mrs. Carnegie learns of her deceptions. For lovers of historical fiction and fiction. Emma


The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air) by…This book marks the author’s return to the land of faeries. Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and her sisters were stolen away to the High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Faerie is all she knows and all she wants is to truly belong. One of her biggest obstacles is Prince Cardin, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. Cardin despises mortals and goes out of his way to make Jude’s life miserable. To earn a place in Court, Jude must go head to head against Prince Cardin. When she does, she finds herself caught in the middle of a political scandal that threatens everyone in Faerie. Can a mere mortal outwit the traitors and save fae? Megan


The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward AbbeyI’m almost finished with this book from the 70s about environmental saboteurs against the industrial complex out west taking the land’s natural resources. To be real the characters, plot, and writing are becoming annoying and I’m just trying to finish it quickly. Next I’m waiting on a hold through Overdrive on my Kindle for Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen and a book on CD from Rocky River of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal. Byron


The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees by Viet Thanh NguyenA captivating and complicated set of short stories that examine identity, family, and romantic love through the eyes of Vietnamese refugees. Realistic elements are mixed with some fantastical ones (for instance, in the first story in the collection, a girl is visited by her brother, a ghost)—a literary technique perhaps intended to shed light on how disorienting and bizarre immigrant life can be.  In the audio book format, Nguyen reads his own stories, and his gentle and lightly accented voice creates an authentic soundscape for the reader. It is no wonder that Nguyen was showered with accolades for his first book, The Sympathizer. His masterful, self-aware prose won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the ALA Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, among others. Lyndsey


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane GayThis was not quite what I expected but a very good read nonetheless. I found the beginning to be a bit scattered and slow at times which made it difficult for me to make a connection with the book.  However, after reading and digesting all her essays I feel that I would like to strive to be a similar feminist to Roxane Gay – someone who is thoughtful, objective, outspoken when necessary and truly unique.  Mary

 


The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola YoonThis story takes place mostly in one very transformative day in the life of two teens, Daniel and Natasha. They meet by chance as they are both on their way to two very different, but equally important meetings that could potentially change the course of their lives forever.  The story is hopeful and sweetly romantic. Beth

 

 


City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty,

The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad…A perfect winter escape, this debut fantasy novel, book #1 in The Daevabad Trilogy, transports readers to mystical Arabia. Nahri, an orphaned young woman living in Cairo by her wits, her cons, and a little bit of magic, has her life upended when she unknowingly calls forth a djinn warrior who recognizes that she’s not entirely human. Chased by demons, they journey to the supposed safety of Daevabad, the city of brass, where political and ethnic strife is swirling beneath the surface and where Nahri discovers the mystery of her origin.  Dori


The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk Man: A Novel by C. J. TudorSwitching between 1986 and 2016, this book takes you through the summer holidays of Eddie and his friends who are growing up and looking for some excitement in their tiny British village.  They sure find it when a game they’ve developed using chalk figure codes leads them to a dismembered body.  Jump to 2016 and the chalk figures are showing up again. It seems like just a prank until one of the old friends turns up dead.  Eddie must figure out what happened years ago in order to save himself and the others. Sara


 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Kate’s Top Ten of 2017 December 15, 2017

Posted by kate in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2017, Uncategorized, Women's Fiction.
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Schoolwork has been taking up most of my time this year but as soon as finals are over I plan to catch up on some reading. Here are the one’s I plan on starting the year with:

life The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman

turtles all the way down Turtles All the Way Down  by John Green

index Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

beartowb Beartown by Fredrik Backman

one of us is lying One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

since we fell Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

camino island Camino Island by John Grisham

heartbreak hotel Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman

swimming lessons Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

breakdown The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

 

 

-Kate

Why Short Stories Work for Me November 21, 2017

Posted by gregoryhatch in Adventure, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Gentle Read, Historical Fiction, Horror, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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Our schedules are demanding. Our obligations overwhelming. How can can we be expected to find any time to read? Especially when there are all those critically acclaimed Netflix series/Atwood Adaptations/Groundbreaking Cable shows demand to be watched.

I do love to read but sometimes it can be an uphill battle to sit down and get through a book. I feel worse when I begin a novel and loose interest a 100 pages in. So how can I actually get a chance to enjoy what I am reading, finish a story, and fit it into my schedule? For me the answer came in the form of short stories.

Short story collections solve many of the obstacles I had to sitting down and getting through a book. Don’t have a lot of time but want to to be able to get through an entire plot? No problem, the story is only 20 pages long. Want to a bit of variety and get to sample many different literary voices? Anthologies are the perfect solution. Have a favorite author but they haven’t released the next book in their big series? See if they have any short story collections or if they have edited and collected the works of other authors. Unable to get through the whole collection before you have to return the book? That’s fine, each story was a world in itself and you haven’t created any cliffhangers for yourself.

Short stories can keep up with your busy schedule while giving you a bonus sense of satisfaction when you get through the whole collection. 300 pages doesn’t seem as bad when it is broken up into 10 stories, each giving you a natural rest in between to recharge and carrier on.

-Greg
Here are a few of my favorite short story collections:

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Time to Talk Turkey About Thanksgiving Movies and Books November 18, 2017

Posted by Dori in Book List, Fiction, Holiday Books, Literary Fiction, Movies, Uncategorized.
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When you work in a library, you usually have at least one display up that corresponds to a current holiday. Thanksgiving is always the difficult holiday; there are just not many books or movies that revolve around Thanksgiving which is surprising, considering that it’s ripe with potential to explore family issues.

Here are a few titles that either take place during Thanksgiving or have a special or funny scene devoted to the holiday:

Movies:

MV5BMTYwMTc2NjA3OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDk1NTc0MQ@@._V1_UY268_CR2,0,182,268_AL_MV5BZTM3ZjA3NTctZThkYy00ODYyLTk2ZjItZmE0MmZlMTk3YjQwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTA4NzY1MzY@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_MV5BNWU0ZDllZWEtNWI4ZC00YjIzLTk3YjMtZmE0MmFiNzg4MmRlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_MV5BNTQ1NzI1MzgtYWM3ZC00YjdhLWE1ODAtMmU0YzQzYjY3MjNiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjk1Njg5NTA@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_MV5BNDQyMDM3MzIyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzUwMDU2NA@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_MV5BMzNiYzQyNGEtYjFiOS00OTcyLTg5YzItMDQ2ZGRmZjE1N2Y4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_MV5BMTU3NDgzNTI1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzcwMjgyMQ@@._V1_UY268_CR4,0,182,268_AL_MV5BMjIwMTk0Njc4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODc5MjkzNA@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_MV5BMjg0YzYzYzktNTY3NC00MDE0LThjMzYtMmY0MWZlNDdiYWY2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDk3NzU2MTQ@._V1_UY268_CR1,0,182,268_AL_

Books:

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Wishing you and yours a very peaceful and Happy Thanksgiving –

~ Dori

 

 

I know a book you would love! I just can’t remember the title… November 10, 2017

Posted by gregoryhatch in Book Discussion, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized.
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I was struck this morning to reread a book I loved as a teen. There was just one problem, I couldn’t remember the title. Worse, I couldn’t even remember the author. As much as we adore our books a lapse of memory is bound to happen. So what do you do? Asking the reference desk here at the library is always a great start but not always possible.  Thankfully there are tools and tricks to help jog that memory and find that book.

If you remember the author of the book you are looking for, finding the title isn’t such a herculean task. When at the library you can put the author’s name into the search bar of the catalog and find all the books your library owns by them. Of course if your library doesn’t own a copy of the book you are seeking this option may not work for you. Luckily many authors working today have a professional website with a list of their work. A bonus is that author sites are a great place to go if you are trying to figure out what book comes next in a series. If the author doesn’t have their own website online book retailers can be another great resource for finding that elusive title.

Now if you are in the same boat I was in this morning you are going to have to do a bit more research. In my mind there are two ways to go about this. You can first try to find the author and then use the suggestions above to zero in on the book you are looking for, or you can try and find the title.  If you know the author is known for a particular series or style of writing the first method can be the quickest.  With the second method you first instinct can be to type in the search bar “book that was about…” or “book set during…”. There is always a chance that you will luck out and the book you are looking for will be one of the top posts. More likely you will get hundreds of websites that you have to search through to find anything that could be helpful. Websites like www.goodreads.com and www.fantasticfiction.com have genre sections which you can browse to help narrow your search. Goodreads offers forums where you can request help from other users. These websites also have the benefit of displaying the covers of the books. The Library of Congress has an amazing page of resources on just this subject:  https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/lost/novels.html which shows other ways to use those sites and many others.

This morning the best resource for me was Goodreads’ forums and I was able to find the book I was looking for:

A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny.ANightInTheLonesomeOctober(1stEd).jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~Greg

 

 

 

 

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.

Fall/Winter Book Goodness October 12, 2016

Posted by Dori in Book List, Debut Author, Fantasy, Fiction, First Novel, Literary Fiction, Non-Fiction, Thoughtful Ramblings.
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Recently, we were lucky enough to have a visit from Amanda Fensch, a representative of Penguin Random House books, who visited the library to buzz about hot new titles. Amanda was an impressive presenter and offered very tempting descriptions of so many books!  As a result, I’ve added a boatload of books to my Fall and Winter reading list.

Here’s a few titles that really struck my fancy:

downloadI’m usually not a reader of nonfiction…so little time, so many books, etc…. but Amanda’s description of Spaceman by Mike Massimino sounded both funny and informative. Massimono, an astronaut who’s appeared on The Big Bang Theory AND repaired the Hubble Telescope, describes his road to becoming both a space traveler and a pop culture hero.

 

rogueAnother non-fiction title is Rogue Heroes by Ben MacIntyre. This untold story is a look at one of WWII’s most important secret military units. MacIntyre was given access to a lot of previously unknown materials, so this should be an eye-opening book. MacIntyre has written some other fascinating histories too, including Operation Mincemeat and A Spy Among Friends .

swingNow, onto fiction, starting with Swing Time by Zadie Smith. It’s been a long time since Smith’s written a novel (her others include White Teeth, On Beauty and NW) and I’m excited to see what insightful fiction she’s come up with this time. This novel is about two friends who dream of becoming dancers though only one is talented enough, the paths they take and how their friendship evolves.

bearI love an adult fairytale – they’re creepy but oh so creative. The Bear and the Nightingale, a debut novel by Katherine Arden sounds like it’s right up my alley. Russian forests, evil step-mothers, monsters, folk wisdom and a heroic young woman. Yes! Did you love Uprooted by Naomi Novik? I’m hoping this one will be similar.

 

allOne more that Amanda discussed – I believe she said it was a ‘must read’ (and that’s all I have to hear), is All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai. It involves time travel – a man in the future travels to the past and must decide whether to stay or return – but don’t let that turn you off, it’s really about love and family and is filled with humor and heart. Check, check, and check – I like all those things!

That’s just a few of the titles Amanda talked about. For more information, feel free to stop in or call. You can also place items on hold through our catalog.  Happiest of all, Amanda will be back in the Spring to talk more books so look for that in the calendar and join us!

Happy Reading!

~ Dori

 

 

 

All the Big Words (are in Literary Fiction!) October 5, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Literary Fiction.
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That’s right, we discussed literary fiction this time! Literary fiction is defined by a multi-layered, experimental, or technical virtuosity writing style. The focus is more on character than plot and will prompt a high degree of interaction between reader and book. When you read what people had to say about their books, you might just find something to suggest to your own book discussion group!

Megan: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood is a deeply moving yet disturbing love story. Wavy, the daughter of a meth dealer father and a mentally ill mother, is taught from an early age to not trust anyone. When one of her father’s thugs wrecks his motorcycle eight-year old Wavy is the only one who sees the accident. Her decision to help Kellen will forever change both their lives. Kellen becomes her friend and protector and she is his constant companion. No one takes notice of the relationship between the strange, silent child and the enormous ex-con with a heart of gold until Wavy becomes a teen. Wavy and Kellen’s story is heartbreaking and engrossing and at times even uncomfortable to read about. No matter what you believe about their relationship, their story will stick with you long after the book is done.

Chris: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. It’s 1991 and Lotto and Mathilde have just married a few months after falling madly in love with each other at first sight. Theirs is romance friends envy because it seems so perfect in every respect. But a decade later, it’s revealed that things are not always as they seem. Yes, there are two sides to every story and this novel is written with Lotto telling his side first followed by Mathilde’s side which is the more interesting. It reveals the secrets that they kept from each other, and it’s these secrets that ultimately kept the marriage together. A fascinating read–A New York Times Best Seller, Finalist for the 2015 Book Award and named Best Book of the Year by many publications.

Beth: Lynda Cohen Loigman’s introduces us to two sisters by marriage and their families as they cohabitate in a two-family home in Brooklyn, NY. The story unravels the complexity of family relationships as it shares their story over 30 years, through the different family members’ perspectives. The Two-Family House leaves the reader pondering on relationships and choices over a short lifetime.

Gina: In J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the story is told by main character Holden; reminiscing on the time in his life that could be considered to be his lowest point. After be expelled from his fourth prep school, Holden went on a journey to New York to find himself. Holden battles with the understanding of innocence, sexuality, and the meaning of life; but through this journey, he finds hope in his sister’s youthfulness. This is a true American coming of age book for everyone to enjoy.

Carol: In The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, Lib Wright is a former “Nightingale” nurse in 1850s London who is sent to a small Irish village in order to investigate the locals’ claim that eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell hasn’t eaten anything in months, but instead is surviving on manna from heaven. Lib is obviously skeptical and when Anna’s health declines during the observation period, Lib finds a hard time avoiding emotional involvement. Is she witnessing a miracle or is Anna in dire need of help? The Wonder is an atmosphere novel with a slow-building suspense that left me completely enthralled from start to finish.

Steve: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is a tense page turner that finds Georgia plantation slaves Cora and Caesar on the run as they escape their horrible lives via a vast physical underground railroad. The two at first find their way to South Carolina and settle into a seemingly progressive town with caring citizens, only to find out that the town is doing experiments with disease and birth control on runaway slaves. The two continue seeking freedom elsewhere, while desperately trying to outrun the brutal slave catcher Ridgeway.

Emma: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway was written in 1952. For 80+ day’s Cuban fisherman Santiago has had a run of bad luck. He’s caught no fish. So Santiago finally travels far beyond the other fishing boats and eventually catches a giant marlin. It takes him two days and nights to bring the fish back to shore strapped to the side of his boat. He loses most of it to sharks on his return trip. The marlin would have fed him for many months or it could have been sold at a good price. This is a rather sad but beautiful long short story.

Dori: In Joan London’s award-winning book The Golden Age, 12-year-old Frank Gold is convalescing at a home for victims of polio after World War II. The child of Hungarian refugees who have unwillingly been resettled in Perth, Australia, he’s an observant, dreamy boy who yearns to be a poet. When we first meet him, he’s wheeling around the hospital with one goal: to glimpse Elsa, the only other child his age and the object of his affections. The book doesn’t just limit itself to Frank and Elsa, though; London is attentive to all her characters and their inner lives. Her writing has a lovely radiance and she’s able to evoke the feelings of displacement, growing up, finding hope and safety and, of course, love.

Sarah: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout is about a young mother, Lucy Barton, who is recovering from a minor operation that became complicated and and kept her in the hospital for months. She and her mother haven’t spoken for years, having become estranged after Lucy’s harsh upbringing in a poverty-stricken small town. Yet Lucy is touched and grateful when her mother comes to visit for five days. She tells Lucy about the town and people of her youth, about their marriages, lives and deaths, as she and Lucy begin to reconnect. However there is an underlying tension as memories of Lucy’s troubled childhood surface, and we are given a glimpse into how complicated family relationships can be. This was a fascinating and engaging story that left me wanting to get to know Lucy Barton and her mother better.

Lauren: The Girls is Emma Cline’s debut novel. We meet Edie Boyd, a shy and lonely teenager living in California during the late-1960s. She meets a group of girls—mysterious and magnetic Suzanne stands out—and is slowly drawn into their isolated world of counter-culture, freedom, sex, and drugs. At the helm is their leader, Russell, whom the girls all seem to worship. Split between the present-day and Edie’s remembrance of the past, a frightening picture is slowly painted as the girls approach a horrific point-of-no-return.

Stacey: Open the cover on To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey and you’ll find yourself spirited away to a different time and place. Multiple storylines are told concurrently with subtle shifts in tone and style to reflect each character, descriptions of the natural world mix easily with mystical elements, and the use of images enhance a reader’s experience. Recording the past as journal entries but calling certain aspects into question through a contemporary correspondence builds one complex story full of subtle, surprising moments. A beautifully crafted book, from the wildly adventurous story to the presentation on the pages, this is a reading experience you won’t soon forget.

Next time we’ll cover the dangerous world of horror fiction! Horror books are written to frighten the reader (obvs?) and are distinguished by supernatural or occult elements, often featuring the power of the natural world gone awry. Turn on all the lights and -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