Posted on Saturday, January 21, 2012 - 10:25am
Jacob's grandfather told wild stories about the orphanage he'd been in as a child, a home where the children were invisible, or could conjure fire, or fly. In his dying breath, he urges Jacob to "find the bird. In the loop. Tell them what happened, Yakob." Jacob travels to Wales to find the orphanage that was bombed in 1940 and yet somehow still exists, and bring a message to the headmistress who died in the bombing but is very much alive.
Posted on Monday, January 9, 2012 - 12:10pm
Those who loved The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger’s first novel, should be prepared for a different type of story. Rather than two central characters, there are several: twin sisters Edie and Elspeth Noblin; Edie’s husband Jack and their twin daughters, Julia and Valentina Poole; and the other tenants in Elspeth’s apartment building in London – Martin, who suffers from OCD, and Robert, Elspeth’s bereaved lover (the book begins with Elspeth’s death). Under the terms of Elspeth’s will, Julia and Valentina move from Chicago to Elspeth’s flat in London, bordering Highgate Cemetery. Elspeth, now a ghost, learns to communicate with them and with Robert. But Elspeth and Edie have been keeping a secret from everyone for over twenty years, and only a terribly tragic event can bring it to light. Her Fearful Symmetry is, essentially, a ghost story, where neither the living nor the dead can let the other rest.
Posted on Wednesday, January 4, 2012 - 10:34am
If you’re looking for a light, quick, and laugh-out-loud funny read, one of these (or both!) is up your alley – especially for fans of Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, and The Office. Fey and Kaling both write about growing up, how they got into comedy and show business, and their experiences working in the business. Both books are full of funny stories from childhood and the teen years, the authors’ struggles to break into comedy, and stories about their professional and personal lives. Both books are organized more or less chronologically as a series of brief essays; the chapters are short and sometimes unrelated to the chapters before or after. Fey and Kaling write with voices that are personal, witty, conversational, and down-to-earth – Bossypants and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? are hard not to like.
Posted on Thursday, December 29, 2011 - 12:44pm
The end of the year is an excellent time to catch up on ideas for reading. Take a look at the lists below to make sure you didn't miss something great from 2011!
Posted on Friday, December 23, 2011 - 12:39pm
Young adult author David Levithan transitions into adult fiction with a slender, beautifully crafted novel written with a unique structure: each page begins with a word and its part of speech, followed by a “definition” of anywhere from a sentence to a few pages. These definitions tell the story of a relationship between two people, from the first stages of meeting, dating, and moving in together to their perseverance through each other’s mistakes. Levithan transitions effortlessly between tenderness (“yearning, n. and adj.: At the core of this desire is the belief that everything can be perfect”) and humor (“flagrant, adj.: I would be standing right there, and you would walk out of the bathroom without putting the cap back on the toothpaste”). Under “love, n.,” however, he is smart enough to offer only, “I’m not even going to try.”
Posted on Monday, December 12, 2011 - 6:39pm
Shine begins with a newspaper clipping about a teenage boy, Patrick, who was beaten and left for dead - apparently the victim of a violent hate crime. Sixteen-year-old Cat, appalled at the lackluster attempts of the Black Creek, North Carolina law enforcement officials to solve the crime, is determined to find Patrick’s assailant herself – despite having barely spoken to Patrick, or any of her old friends, for the past three years. As Cat digs into the mystery, she begins to overcome a traumatic event in her own past and make connections with her brother and her friends again, realizing that she can’t do it alone. However, Shine is more than just a mystery: it’s a deep examination of a small town and many of the people in it, and an exploration of people’s motivations – why do they do what they do? Cat learns to look past “people’s outsides” and “think about their insides, too” – in other words, she learns appearances can be deceiving, and learns to question some long-held assumptions.
Posted on Friday, December 2, 2011 - 7:33pm
At exactly seven minutes past midnight, the monster comes to Conor's room. There's been a monster in his nightmares, but it's not this one: this is the yew tree from the backyard, come walking to tell him three stories. After three stories, Conor has to tell one in return, and it has to be the truth. It has to be his truth. And it's seven minutes past midnight.
Posted on Friday, December 2, 2011 - 10:23am
This book is really two stories in one, both set around the time of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair: the narration alternates between the story of the architects who built the fair – especially Daniel H. Burnham – and that of serial killer H.H. Holmes. While Burnham and his fellow architects build the “White City” (so called because all of the buildings were painted white), Holmes operates in the “Black City” – the underside of Chicago in the 1890s. This book is superbly well-researched and filled with interesting tidbits (the Ferris Wheel was conceived and first build for the Chicago World’s Fair), but facts are only part of what makes Devil in the White City such a gripping and fascinating read; Erik Larson’s writing brings both stories to life in a way that is vividly real.
Posted on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 12:47pm
Ann Patchett is the author of several previous novels, including Bel Canto, The Magician’s Assistant, and Run. Readers who have enjoyed Patchett’s previous novels will doubtless enjoy State of Wonder as well. Patchett is a master of setting; the places she writes about are vivid and real. The main character, Dr. Marina Singh, must journey from wintry Minnesota to the Amazon jungle in order to track down a fellow research scientist, Anders, who has disappeared. There, Marina finds her old and formidable mentor, Dr. Swenson, who is focused on an amazing discovery and is unconcerned with the fate of Marina’s co-worker. Marina must find out what happened to Anders and convince Dr. Swenson to return. State of Wonder is a tremendous story of beauty, loss, and recovery – a character-driven novel with a plot as powerful and twisting as the Amazon River itself.
Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2011 - 4:30pm
In 2003 author Joan Didion's husband, John Gregory Dunne, dies unexpectedly from a heart attack. The year that follows is a year of "magical thinking," as Didion can't help but expect her husband of 40 years to walk through the door. This touching memoir provides a bittersweet account of Didion's journey and ultimately becomes a celebration of their marraige. Didion's stark account is unembellished and manages to avoid the sentimentality that similar memoirs frequently feature.
For those of you who have already read this book, take a look at Didion's latest, Blue Nights, in which she struggles with the death of her daughter.
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