|I was that weird kid who always had her face buried in a book -- walking around the house, in the car, at the park, in the lunchroom. Other children were alright, but I'd rather be reading. (All of the early warning signs of an English major.) My mom used to force me to "go out and play." I would pout about it, then hide a book under my shirt and sprint into the backyard thinking she was a real sucker. Some things never change. The leaning towers of unread books in my house are a sure indication of my addiction, but I've learned to live with it, and I now know I am not alone. (The picture is of me at Mother Goose's grave in Boston.)|
Pay attention, because the details are key: it's 1927, the Mississippi River is about to overflow its banks, Prohibition is the name of the game, and two revenuers have just dropped off an orphaned baby with the wife of the bootlegger they are looking for in the rural town of Hobnob, Mississippi just over the flood line...but they don't know it yet. Got it? Don't worry. Husband and wife team Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly explain it much better than I can.
The revenuers in the novel, Ted and Ham, are the Starsky and Hutch of Prohibition in Mississippi. They are summoned to a private/secret meeting in the car of a cross-country train for a meeting with President Coolidge. He's got a bootlegger making his legislation look bad in Hobnob, Mississippi, and the two revenuers to whom he originally gave the assignment are mysteriously missing. On the way to their assignment, Ted and Ham stumble across the bloody aftermath of a burglary gone wrong. The only survivor is a crying baby sitting in a pool of blood on the floor of the burgled mercantile. It's hard to track down bootleggers with a baby in tow, so they've got to get rid of it asap. The most qualified candidate is Dixie Clay Holliver - a woman who lost her child to illness a year before, and married to the very same bootlegger for whom Ted and Ham are looking. Throughout the book I continued to be unable to fathom how two writers can so seamlessly write a novel together. I've stopped wondering, and all I want to know next is when they will do it again! This one is not to be missed by fans of fast-paced historical fiction.
I wanted to read this in one sitting, but work got in the way! Flora is our 10 year old cynic with a penchant for superhero comic books. She sees her neighbor accidentally suck a poor little squirrel up into a vacuum, and immediately snaps into superhero-mode. She brings him back with CPR, and immediately names him after the machine that was almost his demise: Ulysses. Ulysses isn't the same squirrel he was before he had his brush with suction though. He now has the ability to both fly, and write poetry. Naturally, Flora doesn't want word of her air-born poet friend to spread, for fear of what might happen to him, so she cooks up a plan. Her mother doesn't think much of her plan, and has her sights on putting the "vermin" out of its misery, but her father is more open to the idea. Since her parents have recently separated, Flora decides that spending some extra time with her father and Ulysses might be the best course of action. The hijinks that ensue are so sweet and funny, you'll want to give it to every kid 8 and up that you see. Full color pictures scattered throughout add to the charm.
Ron Rash has a quote on the cover. It says, "Like Flannery O'Connor, McCorkle's genius is to give us both philosophical speculation and a riveting narrative filled with unforgettable characters. Great writing, poignancy, humor, wisdom-all are in abundance here. Jill McCorkle is one of the South's greatest writers; she is also one of America's." I wouldn't even attempt to say it better. I'll only add 4 things. 1: This is a beautifully woven story with characters from 12-85 that stay with you long after the reading is over. 2: I can not think of a single reader who would not appreciate this tender novel. 3: The readers who have been waiting for a new novel from McCorkle for over 17 years will not be disappointed. 4: If Ron Rash loves it, don't you think you should give it a read?
My absolute favorite read aloud of 2013 so far. It's perfect for ages 4-7, but I've seen high school kids giggling over it as well. This is a cautionary tale about why one animal should never follow another animal home for dinner, with an unexpected twist. Guaranteed giggles and surprises on the last 2 pages. ...and oh yes, there is a new Gerald and Piggie book coming out May 21st! (A Big Guy Took My Ball - pre orders available now!)
I cried. My heart aches for not only the bonobo apes of the Congo, but also for it's people. 16-year-old Sophie is caught in a struggle to survive when Civil war breaks out in the capital city of Kinshasa. She thinks that she will be safe at her mother's bonobo ape sanctuary miles away, but violence finds you everywhere in a country where neighbors a take up machetes against other neighbors every time the political climate shifts. Sophie learns about navigating within the bonobo culture and the different villages of the Congo on a trek to reach her mother. The tension of her situation along with the need to know what happens to Otto, Sophie's bonobo ape, keeps you turning the pages as fast as possible.
Tina Fey is one of the leading ladies of comedy, and rightly so. Her memoir depicts a woman who appreciates seeing the humor and the absurd in the every day. She is eloquent about what it means to be "the boss," and why it does not involve marching around saying "I am the boss! I am the boss!" the way she thought it might when she was 10. Pieces of her childhood, along with her adult life mix together into one of the most introspective, entertaining, and inspiring books of the decade. Thank goodness Fey reads the audio herself. Now I want to listen to it all over again.
A novel of scandal and ice, Lighthouse Road is an exceptional work. Peter Geye's second novel is a tale of love, betrayal, hope, and loss. It runs the gamut of human emotion, immersing the reader into a complicated relationship between an older woman and a younger man in the 1890s. I guarantee most readers will close the book with a bang and immediately pick up the phone to call someone to talk about it. Perfect for book clubs!
Can you imagine what you would have learned about adults if you could have grown up listening to patrons in your father's bar through a vent in the back wall? When Tom Harry finds out that his son, Rusty, has been living with his ex-wife's sister and her bothersome children, he has a dilemma. Should he attempt to raise his son alone while he tends and runs his bar, The Medicine Lodge, or leave him in the care of his ex-sister in law? He makes the decision to bring his son to live with him, and it's the best thing that ever happened to either of them. Father and son reunite and get to know one another through a series of awkward fishing tournaments and miscommunications that all serve to make their bond stronger. This is yet another Ivan Doig novel that manages to be brilliant, entertaining and heart-warming without any of the flash and splash of many of today's current novelists. I adore Ivan Doig's writing, his characters, and the simple way that he conveys the flawed beauty of the human experience.
A retelling of a Russian folktale, this is the story of Jack and Mable struggling to understand if the little girl in the woods, Faina, is real or part of their imagination …or is she something else entirely? 1920s Alaska creates the stunning backdrop for this tale of a wild girl who appears the day after the couple builds a snowman in their backyard. In the morning a trail of footsteps lead away from where the snowman was, and the couple start seeing a little girl and a red fox in their woods. Charming, imaginative, and heartfelt. Quite possibly in my top 10 of all time.
I know that someday Ron Rash will write a book that does not make me fall all over myself gushing about what a beautiful writer he is ... but that day has not come. Once again, a tremendously beautiful book with shadowy characters as dark and complex as their setting, an Appalachian cove. There is not a single character left undeveloped, no narrative less than captivating, and no shadow illuminated into obscurity. His writing is, as always, flawless and lovely. To call this a Southern Gothic would fence the novel into too narrow a genre. It is literary fiction / historical novel / mystery / social commentary. I loved every page and had to read it as fast as possible to find out who the skull at the beginning of the book belonged to. Yes, you read that right.
Everything you loved about Homer (the battles, the love triangles, the gods and goddesses) without the archaic language of the originals. Let's face it, the Iliad was a fantastic steamy soap opera, and The Song of Achilles is the wonderful story of Achilles and Patrocles' role within the tale. Heart wrenching, and beautifully wrought; I loved it.
After reading Tomato Girl, the most accurate phrase I can think of to describe it is heart-wrenching. To watch the ugliness of a mother's mental illness unfold, through the eyes of her 11 year old daughter, is both enlightening and terrifying. When you come out on the other side of this novel, you feel as though you have an understanding of how light can come out of a horribly dark situation. I found Ellie to be an insightful narrator, struggling to understand an adult world that is far from normal. Good for those who liked Southern gothic authors Carson McCullers and Kaye Gibbons.
If you don't know David Rakoff from appearances on NPR's This American Life, I'm sorry. You've been missing a brilliantly sarcastic storyteller. It's not too late though! David's book Don't Get Too Comfortable takes stabs at everything from "fasting for enlightenment" to the Log Cabin Republicans. Witty, hilarious, and politically poignant - I think he's a genius!
Clothes you would actually wear, which is a real problem for me when I look through any 'make your own clothes' books. This one has the most great ideas I've seen in one collection. There are darling tops, great tips about sizing, and great dresses for every season. There are two sections I haven't found anywhere else: making t-shirts, and using the clothes you already have to make patterns. The writing is concise, and I can't wait to try it out myself. It's so inspiring, that I now have confidence that this one will keep me from looking like a walking ad for "Don't try this at home."
One of the best endings I’ve ever read! (and you know how that can make or break a book) Edgar evoked a lot of emotion. First, I ached for Edgar and his injury. Later, my heart broke for him and all of the loss and injustice in his life. I kept yelling in my head, “It’s Just Not Fair!” By then end, I was cheering for Edgar, and everything in his situation that I hoped he could rise above. This is a truly exceptional read.
Enzo is the charismatic narrator of The Art of Racing in the Rain. He has struggled since his puppyhood with the fact that monkeys got opposable thumbs and dogs did not. It just isn't fair. Why does the canine have a wonderful, imaginative, innovative mind, and not have the physical means to open a refrigerator door? He stays home and watches television while his owner (a down-on-his-luck racecar driver) and family are away. The Weather Channel, we learn, is not about the weather, but about the world. Unfortunately, things get very rough for the family and Enzo is there through the pains of that real world. Just the way a good dog ought to be. The best ending I've read in quite some time.
Fun and fast, with a straightforward voice, this is a nice romantic comedy with some pretty steamy love scenes. Grace is our witty heroine, suffering with undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Every morning begins with a trip to the coffee shop, where she sits in the same seat, has a muffin, and uses the number of poppy seeds on her muffin to determine how many bites she will take to eat the entire muffin. One morning, her table is occupied, and she is forced to sit with, look at, and talk to….Seamus. Jordan has created a wonderful exploration of both the comic and tragic life of someone living with OCD.
I read it because Laurie King used a pen name and I had to have it. Then *gasp* I liked it! Set in the not so distant future; a man-killing virus has swept across the globe. Men only make up 1/3 of the population and must be protected at all costs. Marriage is a luxury, reserved primarily for women who can afford it. In the midst of such global change, a woman named Dian sets off on a journey to change the course of a new world's history. (Think The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, without the graphic abuse scenes toward the end.)
You met Jeannette's maternal grandmother in her memoir, "The Glass Castle," but you probably wanted more. Now we have it! Jeannette published this book as a novel, but it is entirely based on the life of her strong-willed grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. This is a woman who rode 500 miles on horseback to get her first teaching job... at 15 ...all alone. It has been called "Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults," and I agree. Heartfelt, adventurous, and inspiring.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a completely engrossing novel set on the plains of Northern Wisconsin. Edgar Sawtelle is a little boy who comes into the world without a voice. But he doesn't need a voice to communicate with his dogs. The Sawtelles raise dogs, not for their withers height or by any other AKC point system. The Sawtelles are looking for something else; character, heart, and a compatibility with people. They find all of this and more in Almondine, Edgar's dog. It is epic. It is heartbreaking. It is wonderful.
“When they spoke to each other, they sounded like birds.” Almost identical, three stunningly beautiful sisters share an imaginary secret world and a secret language. It sounds like a charming and whimsical tale on the surface. Unfortunately, the eldest sister has created an imaginary world for her sisters, in order to escape the traumatic events of this world. Alice Hoffman delivers a coming-of-age story that drifts to the reader through a haze of dark events that shape the fate of these three sisters’ lives. One of her best.
If you plan to visit the small mountain town of Blackwell, there are some landmarks you won't want to miss. First, dessert. Either have a slice of apple pie with apples made from the famous apple tree in town that the villagers swear was planted by Johnny Appleseed himself, or have a slice of the local, dark and mysterious Apology Cake. Next, take a bottle of brew from the local Jack Straw Bar and Grill down to the Eel river late at night, and try to catch a glimpse of the girl in blue, nicknamed "The Apparition," by the town. Finally, make a visit to the local museum for a look at the famous, although threadbare, bat collection that is said to have resided there from the time the structure was built. More than just a book of short stories,The Red Garden is the history of a small mountain town told through the trials and tribulations of the people who founded it and their long ancestry. Hoffman takes the reader from Blackwell's unhappy and unlikely beginning up to the present day. I loved my visit, although it was brief, with the village. The characters are rich, the setting vivid, and your heart aches for all of the sorrow that the red garden has seen. If I could, on my way out of town, I would be sure to stop by the garden itself to dig my hands into the blood red dirt to see for myself if it really stains
"Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive, drawing attention to himself at the milk counter of Starbucks. But life wasn't always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And although he doesn't know it, that book also survived: it crossed oceans and generations, and changed lives." Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that book. She has her hands full keeping track of her little brother Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah) and taking copious notes in her book, How to Survive in the Wild Volume Three. But when a mysterious letter arrives in the mail she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.
More of an introduction. There is a wonderful "Basic Techniques" chapter that includes choosing seams, and fabrics that are best suited to each pattern. The patterns are enclosed in a tidy envelope at the front of the book, and the spiral binding allows you to leave the book open while you go back and forth from your work to the book. Quite a handy reference to have for more formal and office attire. (Wonderful and Funky Spring Jacket on page 98.)
George Pemberton is the ruler of his Appalachian timber empire. In 1929 he returns from a trip with a wife. The dark and lovely Serena. The mystique surrounding Serena grows around the lumberjack camp with each of her accomplishments. This is a woman who looks at a tree and accurately quotes the amount of timber it will yield; a woman who saves her husband from being mauled by a bear; a woman who hunts rattlesnakes with her trained hawk. Amazing narrative, wicked characters, thrilling plot. It is the perfect fall book.
A true classic, with the storytelling style of writers like Betty Smith. Quite frankly, I thought I was going to be uncomfortable with the subject matter, but the story unfolds with such tenderness, I couldn’t help but love it. The writing is wonderful, the characters are so very true to life, and the narrator is a gentle guide through his vulnerable experiences. Extraordinary.
Meeting Hunter S. Thompson and taking a wild car ride with Fran Leibowitz are just two of the many highlights from Wendy Werris's long book career. Her book is a fast paced, engaging glimpse into not only how the book industry has changed in the past 10-20 years, but the subtle ways life has changed as well. I loved it -- and I'm not big on memoirs.
One brutal night changes the lives of two 12 year old twin sisters forever. One of them saw something that made her lose the ability to speak. Shenandoah will protect her mute sister Woody at all costs, but it would be a lot easier if she knew what Woody saw the night their mother disappeared. Their heartbreaking loss would be hard enough, but adding to their troubles is their heavy-drinking, heavy-handed father. A superior court judge. As the story progresses, you can’t help but wonder, “How heavy handed is he?” Shenny is our protagonist and shows incredible strength and humor while dealing with incredible pain. She is full of one liners you will want to remember like, “That boy was so dumb he could fall on the ground and miss.”
I heard Auslander’s short story “Waiting for Joe” on NPR’s This American Life, and I was hooked. I needed to read more. What I found were some unexpected philosophical takes on religion, and an enourmous amount of irreverent wit. I still can’t decide if I liked the book because it was thought-provoking, or if I liked it because it made me laugh out loud. Either way, it’s edgy and fantastic.
A fast-paced story of integration, that tugs at the heart strings. Let’s say you have to drive a bleeding white man to the doors of a hospital in 1960, in the south, and you are a 10 year old black boy. Should you deliver him to the “white side” or the “black side” of the hospital? Such are the everyday dilemmas for the people of Revere, Mississippi where race is the ultimate decision maker. With fully realized characters and a wonderful sense of place, Johnson captures the spirit of the small southern town.
Gritty, well, yes…Look, I’m not going to lie, there is a lot of graphic, gross stuff in this book, but there is also one heck of a mystery. Our detective has a condition known as synesthesia, a condition where sensory impressions are translated into overwhelming odors and tastes. So, he tastes and smells what he hears, which makes him a fantastic detective, but a horribly troubled man.When a decomposing body is unearthed at the scene of a relatively routine car accident, Detective Lapslie begins to uncover a series of murders. We know the inner workings of the murderer’s mind, and we can see exactly how careful Detective Lapslie needs to be. The last 35 pages have you whispering, “Careful, careful.” Page. Turner.
Do not read the jacket description about this book! (It makes it sound sappy and goofy. Well, maybe it is a little bit sappy, but it is too well written to be described that way.) It is a story about decisions that change lives, but it is also heartbreakingly romantic in places. Hoffman’s novels almost always have a supernatural element to them, and this one did too, but it surprised me this time. She remains a favorite.
Ron Rash's latest collection of short stories may very well leave you breathless. Rash's characters can be desperately cruel, and hopelessly naive at the same time, drawing the reader into their tangled lives. The stories are meant to be separate, yet there is a ribbon of authenticity binding the stories together, tugging at the commonality of human struggle, pulling the Appalachian community to light. Stories like “Back of Beyond,” touch on the heartbreaking realization of what happens when family members are too far gone to save, and the sacrifices that are made to save those around them. Rash's writing is stunning, with a clarity that breaks through the barrier between reader and story.
The imagery in this novel is fantastic. I re-read several passages. Learning the history of the drum is a story within the story. It was like reading an old legend, and it was my favorite part of the book. Interesting how some horrific experiences can be so softly explained.
"Little Bird of Heaven" by Joyce Carol Oates. I know, I know, I can't keep my mouth shut about this book, but I just don't want anyone to miss it. (September 15 release date.) The writing is simply wonderful. Every phrase, every sentence, every word is just exactly the way it should be. With the care Oates takes creating her stunning prose, I am floored by the fact that she has the time to craft rich, full characters as well. This upstate New York tale is told from the point of view of two small town children. One child is going through her parents divorce, following the accusation that her alcoholic father murdered the local temptress, Zoe Kruller. The other is Zoe's son, trying to figure out what life is like when your mother is murdered, and quite possibly by the father of the girl you are in love with. It is lyrical and poetic, without any of the stumbling blocks in tempo that normally come with such writing.
Remember “She sells sea shells down by the seashore?” This novel is the story of the woman behind that tongue twister, Mary Anning. In the seaside town of Lyme, just outside of London, fossils and friendships are uncovered. At a time when Jane Austin is in her heyday and the bible is seen as historical fact, fossils don’t exactly fit into fashionable society. The discovery of skeletons from extinct animals, are the cause of scientific furvor and controversy. Mary is right in the middle of it. Mary Anning’s lifelong journey with fossils began as a common way to make ends meet for her family, and gradually developed into a scientific exploration unlike anything the world had seen.
More than likely, if you have been into the store in the past few years, you know how I feel about author Ron Rash. I just discovered this 2004 novel by him, which is as magically wonderful and well-written as all the rest. Set in Appalachian South Carolina, along an untamed and wild stretch of mountainside, a young girl is lost to the raging waters of the majestic Tamassee River. This is a tale of environmentalism vs. emotional morality (which I know sounds like an oxymoron, but if you read it, you will understand) where a federally protected river holds the body of a dead 12 year old girl whose father wants her buried elsewhere. No one does "sense of place" like Rash (well, Mary Relindes-Ellis is a close second), and the rich narrative made me crave vinegar- based barbeque when I don't even like pork. The winding, and at times tumultuous tale, echoes the bends and eddies of its eerily quiet main character, the Tamassee River.
I read this book in 2004, and I have not read a contemporary novel that I feel so strongly about since. When I got to the ending, I wanted to start over with page 1. The narrative style is reminiscent of Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, and there is a sense of place that only Jim Harrison can match. There are some books that capture your heart and you fall in love. This is one of them.
For those who can appreciate good literature, this is a tenderly written story, spanning three generations of a Greek American family. I especially enjoyed the rich storytelling about the history of Detroit.
Every time I opened Final Exits, I learned something new and I wanted others to share in the "fun." I became particularly fond of annoying those around me by blurting out things like "Did you know that bees and wasps cause 6,000 deaths a year?" or "Look, here's a guy who specialized in killing landladies!" and "Ewww! Listen to what it says about cockroaches!" Am I the only one who finds these things fascinating?
Jess Walter has me roaring with "The Financial Lives of the Poets." I can not remember the last book I read that actually made me laugh out loud while reading. All you need to know is in the first chapter. Late 30s, laid off, and 6 days from losing his home, Matt Prior needs a break. He is supposed to go to the 7-11 to get milk for his sons' cereal the following morning. Instead he ends up happily smoking pot with some local college kids, and setting into motion a scheme that will either sink him or save him from the dismal situation in which he finds his life. Contemporary, witty and smart. (Sept. 22, release date)
It’s easy to sum this book up in one word: lovely. Nothing sensational happens in Rich Boy, which makes it hard to describe, but I will try. This is a prime example of solid writing, rich characters, and the growth of a character from his adolescence into adulthood. Robert is a loveable, but fallible character, and you root for him until the very end. Whether he was causing trouble in his tiny Pennsylvania neighborhood, or running with the "A-crowd" in college, I couldn't wait to go back to this book when I got home to see how the saga continued. I was engulfed by his world and transported to the New York and East Coast every night. Robert wants to "make something of himself," and no matter how misguided he may be, you will want that for him too. Sharon is a University of Michigan grad, and has made me a firm believer that whatever they are doing down there must be a good thing, because the writers that come out of that MFA program are solid storytellers.
We only get one weekend with this New York City couple, and it just isn't enough. On the morning of their open house, their dachsund takes ill, and a man takes a taxi hostage in the middle of rush hour traffic. They rush off to the vet, listening to the radio all the while, trying to beat the traffic back to their apartment in time for the showing. Needless to say, things get chaotic. The writing is charming and you find yourself rooting for the couple to get a good bid on their apartment, or to get their dog back in good health, or to wind up happily ever after. I can't tell you if they do, but I can tell you it's a great journey. And no, the dog doesn't die.
Johnny will do anything to find out what happened to his twin sister Alyssa, who disappeared when they were 12. Johnny’s mother numbs her pain with drugs, while he relentlessly searches for her every single day and night. Events from this small North Carolina town’s past are slowly revealed, and they change everything. I get the feeling that John Hart wants to be as commercial as John Grisham. The only thing holding him back is that his writing in better! Fast, intriguing, and well written.
This is simply the perfect book to pick up when you want a guaranteed “good read.” Wendy is the epitome of a wonderful storyteller, and it’s all in her genes; the Vanderbilt genes that is. As the great, great, great, great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, one would expect a wealth of historical information, and one would not be disappointed. One would also expect a certain sense of propriety…but one would be mistaken. Wendy shoots straight from the hip in what could be a bitter, self-aggrandizing memoir. It is anything but. It may be strange, but I laughed out-loud at the same time that my heart ached for a little girl surrounded by self-medicating alcoholics so insulated by their wealth that they could not connect with the rest of the world. It is a stunning memoir filled with honesty, pain, but most of all, humor. As Emily Sailers said, “You have to laugh at yourself sometimes. You’d cry your eyes out if you didn’t.”
Charming. British. The whole time I was reading, I could picture the movie. The quirky characters are at the root of what makes this novel so brilliant. There is a lot of slapsick or physical comedy moments in this book where comedic timing on film would be absolutely brilliant! If you can slow down and read it at the pace it deserves, while savoring the silliness and the heart-warming moments, you will be sure to get hooked.
You know this little girl is in trouble when her drug-addicted mother overhears a fortune teller tell her that she has The Gift. Marina is used by her mother to tell fortunes to anyone she happens to bring home. It’s a great way to make some extra cash, but not such a great way to grow up. Especially since Marina is faking. Once she is free of her mother’s controlling hand, Marina continues to make a living by telling people what they want or need to hear. Then, she meets Gideon and everything changes. Gradually, the intertwined lives of her clients turn dark with lies and deceit. Marina begins to see things that her clients do not want to hear. Before her grift can turn into a gift, someone wants her to die.
Remember the bible story of Abraham taking his son Isaac up the mountain to kill him because God asked for a sacrifice? Well, if you don’t think that a conversation on the way back down the hill (when God said, “Nah, I can tell you mean it. Don’t kill him.”) is funny, then this is not the book for you. Each of these stories is about 5 pages or less, and I laughed every single time I opened it. THE perfect book to have on hand when you only have a second to read, but want the satisfaction of a beginning, middle, and end.
The only girl on a trip from Connecticut to Ireland, Sophie is our main character. The story is told through her journal entries and the journal entries of her cousin, Cody. This book has many layers. The story of Sophie crossing the ocean is a wild ride of literal ups and downs on the waves. However, you also get a glimpse into the tough emotional things Sophie has had to deal with in her family…but no one knows that she has quite so many things on her mind. A wonderful ending to a beautiful, adventurous story. Bound to be a classic. Best for ages 9 and up.
This is the book for all of the women whose mothers made them read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Now it's your turn to give one to mom! Contemporary instead of historical fiction, this is a beautifully written, emotionally complex novel based on the Asian American woman's experience. To celebrate her mother's 80th birthday, Irene Shen covertly plans to take her on a trip to visit her daughter and sister in China, bringing her other 2 daughters unwillingly along. These 6 women, from 3 generations drive the novel. You want to know more and more about them, and you spend a great deal of the book hoping against hope for a resolution or bond of some kind to bring them all out of their individual sadness. A beautiful book about what it means to be family.
Conor Grennan is the most self-effacing author you will ever read. Admittedly, Grennan heads to Nepal in order to feel good about himself, excuse a decadent trip around the world, and have a great conversation starter with girls at the bar. He gets more than he bargained for. If you have ever worked with children, you will be instantly drawn to the boys and girls of the Little Princes Orphanage in Godawari, Nepal. However, this is more than another story about "doing good." This is an adventure story in the spirit of Jon Krakauer's, Into the Wild; an epic launch into the unknown culture of how another country's government functions and how to get inside that government to make a real change. With Grennan as your narrator, you will be taken from skeptical bystander to trail-trekking adventurer within the first 50 pages. An exemplary story for every walk of life.
Two girls are living very separate lives. Dana and Chaurisse are only months apart in age, but their families are very different. Dana and her mother live a quiet solitary life with intermittent visits from Dana's father and his brother for Sunday dinners. Chaurisse is Dana's sister, but she doesn't know it. Chaurisse lives a cookie-cutter, normal life...or at least that is what she thinks. She meets Dana, and strikes up a friendship with her, without knowing what they have in common. James Witherspoon (their father) is the common denominator, but also the weakest link in both families. One father, two families, and an intertwined future. Jones' writing is stunning, and captures day to day life with a crystal clear quality reminiscent of Twain.
Hugo Hippo has a great idea. He and Bella Bird should go to the fairy tale costume party dressed as the Princess and the Pea. The only problem is that Bella doesn't want to be a pea. As matter of fact, she tells Hugo that if he wants to go so badly, HE should be the pea. After a very funny back and forth, Hugo and Bella come to a surprising compromise and learn about what it means to do something for a friend. Good for 2 and up.
Sisters Clare and Anne haven't had anything to do with one another for over 10 years; and for good reason. Clare was sent to jail for attacking Anne's husband. She was protecting Anne from her abusive husband, and trying to defend her niece and nephew, but when her sister takes the stand, she doesn't stand up for Clare. In fact, she lies for her husband and is the reason that Clare goes to jail. Convicted for assault, Clare serves two years in jail, and when she returns to regular society nothing feels the same. Alone, and struggling, Clare's passion for birding which she does in the hidden wilds of Central Park and surrounding New York City, is the one thing that brings her peace and fulfillment. She is trying to put the pain of her sister's betrayal behind and move on with her life when a note from Anne's daughter turns up on Clare's doorstep, with the daughter following shortly behind. Once again, everything in Clare's life changes. A refreshing take on how families deal with bitter events from the past. (I will confess, I was skeptical about reading a Luanne Rice novel and finding enough "substance" for my liking. I was so glad to be wrong!)
Stunning, lovely, and a must read for fans of Richard Russo and Ann Tyler. A son, a husband, and a father - Leo Frankel died on assignment in Iraq. One year after his death, the family will have a memorial for Leo. The intent is to commemorate the loss of an incredible man; the result is not as straight-forward. His two sisters and their families, his parents, and widow and son are a complicated lot, who are left with the loss of their brother/son. What does a family do with such hurt and sorrow? How to they continue on with their lives? Leo's mother and father have decided to get a divorce; one of his sisters is a devout Muslim, and encounters controversy with her family at every turn; his widow has a secret of her own; his other two sisters don't know how to deal with who they are now that Leo is gone. With a family as diverse as all of our own, this is truly a story of what it is like to lose a family member to war and gives a new meaning to the 4th of July.