When this compelling novel starts, Mary Beth Lathem’s biggest problem is taking sass from her truculent teenaged daughter, Ruby. The narrative starts at the beginning of Mary Beth’s busy day as she goes through the house waking up her three children, the eldest daughter and two twins, Alex and Max. Mary Beth owns a landscape business but soon you can tell that her family is the center of her life and passions.
Alex is a soccer jock, immensely talented and popular while Max, his fraternal twin, is a computer nerd with social anxiety problems. Glen, Mary Beth’s husband, is an extremely practical and thoroughly unromantic eye doctor--solid as hardwood--though Mary Beth is not necessarily aware of that. Read more »
This first novel by an Asian-American has already created a lot of buzz. First, it has an intriguing topic: Mississippi after the great flood of 1927. Secondly: the main characters are compelling--they are very poor African-Americans under the yoke of the white inhabitants. Finally, it shows exquisite writing. William Ferris said, “Bill Cheng embraces the region’s 1927 flood, voodoo, blues, and race with breathtakingly beautiful prose.”
Southern Cross the Dogstarts with a group of black children playing “Little Sally Water” in the rain—the rain that caused the great flood. Soon the story focuses on the character of Robert, the second born child of Etta and Ellis. Before long, you discover that his family has just suffered an immense tragedy. White vigilantes had hung the oldest son Billy for loving a white girl.
Bill Cheng captures the chaos and hardship after the flood. Dead bodies floated past. Men with boats offered rides but also stole the food and valuable keepsakes of the displaced families. Robert’s family began this journey together, but ended up in a refugee camp. Because Etta has lost her mind over Billy’s death, she needs constant care. Ellis makes a difficult decision: to send young Robert off with someone to work in another town. Ellis thinks this is the only way all three of them will survive but he mistakenly does not tell his son why he is sending him away. Read more »
In A Guide to Being Born, Ausubel’s narrative voice is strong and unique. She takes chances in her fiction yet unlike some modern authors, she still includes distinct narrative threads. You can tell she is an independent-minded author just from the layout of her collection--four sections titled: Birth, Gestation, Conception, and Love. Notice the order of her subjects, the reverse of what you might expect.
I fell in love with the first story “Safe Passage.” It begins this way, “The Grandmothers—dozens of them—find themselves at sea.” This boat full of older women find themselves adrift with hundreds of crates; they open them to see if any of the items will allow them to save themselves. The story is funny, whimsical, and fantastical all at once. Plus, it conceals a deeper level that you won’t discover right away. The grandmothers find shipping containers full of yellow roses, and they fill their arms with them despite the fact that the thorns leave blood tracks on their hands.
Another fantasy-rich story is “Chest of Drawers.” Toward the end of the wife’s pregnancy, her husband suddenly grows live drawers on his chest, a problem that necessitates many medical appointments and tests. Yet, the compartments come in handy for carrying things such as his wife’s lipstick and a bunch of tiny diversity dolls. Read more »
When we lived in Alaska, every summer we rode the Alaska state ferries past some islands--rocky, bird-filled--that had only one sign of civilization, the bright revolving lighthouse. Each time I wondered about this way of life that had almost faded. This wonderful novel fleshes out what life was like for a family in the 1920s off the east coast of Australia.
If you ever wondered about this vocation, Stedman captures the isolation and the magic of being far from the crowd, the joy certain light house workers found in a solitary working environment where the people you served--the sailors and merchant shipmen--relied totally upon you even though you would never meet.
The Light between Oceansbegins with young Tom Sherbourne riding a boat to Partageuse on the east coast of Australia after having recently been discharged from the military. He'd won some medals in WWI and was now assigned to be a temporary lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. While in town getting his papers processed, he meets Isabel, a girl of nineteen, who invites him to feed bread to the ducks at the dock. When he thanks her later, she says, it's just a silly thing, but he replies that he enjoyed it very much. Tom is scarred by the violence of the war and by his family life before when his mother abandoned him and his father and brother. In fact, Tom refuses to speak to his dad over what happened. Read more »
Warning: this book contains Serious Issues. You've also been warned that there aren't any angels, zombies, vampires, demons, or changelings. No one has supernatural superhero powers. It isn't set in the future and there has not been an apocalypse. Still interested? Yes! I loved this. Shine by Lauren Myracle is a realistic, gritty and powerful coming of age story that is raw and emotional but also completely worthwhile.
After Cat's friend Patrick is brutally assaulted, marked with a gay slur, and left for dead at a gas station in their hometown of Black Creek, NC she decides to figure out who could have done something so horrible. The sheriff is investigating, but seems sure that it was outsiders - just someone passing through. At face value, this book is a mystery. Cat sets out to interview people who were with Patrick the night of the attack to establish a timeline and she tries to determine motive. Patrick was friends with many people in town who were also uncomfortable to some degree with his homosexuality.
But really the heart of this book isn't so much figuring out who did it, but how the characters come to terms with the resolution. Cat also has to face her own demons in this process. I liked that she wasn't a superhero, but a girl who got kind of messed up and is really trying to do the right thing. Read more »
If you're getting antsy for your copy of The Hit to arrive, don't fret, we have some other titles that will entertain you with spies, assassins, and fast-moving fiction. In The Hit--second in the Will Robie series after The Innocent--the U.S. government has hired Robie to track down a fellow assassin who has gone rogue, but in the process of searching for her, he finds some information about immanent threats that would prove very deadly should they occur.
Here are a few suspenseful, plot-driven novels that might keep you biting your nails and imagining dark scenarios while you wait for Baldacci's latest page-turner:
The Lost Symbolby Dan Brown. If you like reading about cryptographers, mysterious secrets, and obscure organizations, try this one. The hero goes to D.C. to give a speech where he discovers that a good friend has been abducted. Follow him as he solves complex puzzles as he searches for his friend.
Lethalby Sandra Brown. There are easier people to run from them the FBI. But when suspected murderer Lee Coburn visits Honor Gillette to find an object left behind by her late husband, Honor and Lee fight a web of corruption to find answers. This fast moving plot involves the trafficking of guns, drugs, and girls. And yes, a romance develops between Lee and Honor. Who can resist steely blue eyes? Read more »
Each year, high school students across the state of Indiana read from a list of around 20 nominees for the Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award (or the Rosie, as it's known). These books are rated by the students, who then vote through their high schools. With voting winding down for the 2012-2013 award, many people are looking forward to spending some time this summer getting to know the new nominees for the upcoming 2013-2014 award.
This novel focuses on the life of Zelda: dancer, writer, and famous flapper who married Scott Fitzgerald. The Fitzgeralds were considered the couple of the twenties. Zelda and Scott spent time in Paris in the same social circle as Hemingway and his wife where the hard-drinking and romances took a toll on both marriages. If you've read about Zelda in Scott's or her own writing, this fascinating, multi-talented person will intrigue you.
If you love Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem "Annabel Lee", this novel about Poe's doomed wife and first cousin, Virginia, will interest you. The Poes married when Virginia was thirteen and E.A. was twenty-seven; her mother signed a document that she was of age. Like Hemingway, Poe was a big drinker, and Virginia had to put up with drunkenness and poverty. Another story of a literary marriage where the wife was both muse and care-giver.
This is often considered the most famous novel of the "Lost Generation", that crowd of artists, musicians, and writers who left the U.S. during the 20s to live an expat lifestyle in Paris and other cities. Jake Barnes, a jaded WWI vet, travelled from the bars of Paris to Spain for the spring bullfights. Hemingway describes the expatriate lifestyle amid the violence, camaraderie, and life and death risk for bulls and men. Read more »
The Pulitzer Prize is an annual awards given to excellence in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition and are administered by Columbia University in New York City. The 2013 awards were announced yesterday. For books, the following awards were given.
Ambitious and inventive, this novel is set in an orphanage in North Korea. Protagonist Pak Jun Do is forced to become a fighting tunnel expert and a kidnapper before he takes his fate into his own hands. Johnson is able to tell the tale of touching humanity set within the backdrop of a brutal regime. Read more »
This summer will be the 150 year anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the deadliest periods of the Civil War. The three days saw record causalities and is also considered one of the turning points of the war. Instead of breaking out a dusty nonfiction tome, consider The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. This fiction book does a good job at adequately describing the events that did occur, but shines at getting into the heads of the major players. We meet Lee, Longstreet and Chamberlain and start to understand their thoughts, positions, opinions and fears as they prepare and head into battle. This is well researched, and really readable. The maps give you a good visual perspective as well.
One of the things I love most about history is not only learning the outcomes and the details of the events that took place, but investigating the other possibilities, thinking about the what-ifs, and figuring out the decisions that went into what really happened. Read more »