Favorite Quotes

"In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to lead; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. "

— S.I. Hayakawa

Reader's Link - July 2013 Staff Picks Archive

I want to meet these characters!

Life After Life

Title: Life After Life
By: Jill McCorkle

Where in the world is Pine Haven Estates? I want to meet these characters.

There’s Stanley, the retired attorney feigning dementia to avoid an overly attentive son making up for lost time. Toby Tyler, the retired English teacher who rejected four other homes before finding Pine Haven by throwing darts at a board, who now pulls no punches with her sharp tongue. Joanna, the volunteer hospice helper, who keeps the elderly and dying alive in her little notebook. CJ, tattooed, pierced, and gelled, who does her best to bring back the beauty and grace the inmates have lost thru her deft hair styling, manicures, and pedicures, but makes her own fatal decisions attempting to claim the life she dares aspire to. And Abby,the overweight, dog-grieving preteen, who finds in these older adults the sanctuary and nurturing not found with her youthful, attractive mother and philandering father.

They're all there in the flesh and blood. We learn their quirks, share their joy and pain, and
wish we might spend an afternoon or two in their midst, so remarkable are they; so real, so funny, and so sad.

We can only hope to be as interesting as they are in our waning years. I loved this book.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted by libwolf on July 25, 2013 at 8:50 a.m.

She's got a secret


Title: Breathless
By: Jessica Warman

Katie Kitrell is a swimming prodigy with a secret. Katie’s parents send her to Woodsdale Academy so that she can escape the trouble her brother Will’s growing mental illness has caused her family. But instead of being honest with her new friends, she tells them her brother is dead. For Katie, it’s easier to lie and pretend to move on than to admit that her brother is sick. At Woodsdale, she becomes very close to her roommate Mazzie, who’s hiding secrets of her own, and begins dating Drew, a fellow swimmer. In the back of her mind, Katie is always aware that someone at school could find out the truth about her brother. She’s convinced that the truth could ruin the new life she’s created for herself. If it ever does come out, Katie will have to decide if her loyalties lie with her brother, or with her new friends.

Breathless is a story about the lengths someone will go to protect their family, and about how no matter how hard you try, you can never truly get away from your past.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,teen fiction
Posted by pughc on July 25, 2013 at 8:49 a.m.

Apocalyptic thriller

Ship Breaker

Title: Ship Breaker
By: Paolo Bacigalupi

When whole cities lie beneath the waves and there isn’t a drop of petroleum left on the planet, will the pace of life finally slow and congeal into a more natural order, where family and loyalty are key and sailboats drift lazily across the sea? No way. Bacigalupi’s raw, violent, hyper-capitalist post-apocalyptic vision feels like an all-too-real extrapolation from our current world. Yet there is great hope here in the form of the young protagonists, who surprise even themselves by choosing to uphold inner principles they didn’t know they possessed. Nailer is a scavenger, point man on a “shipbreaking” team of impoverished children small enough to fit down air ducts and pull up precious scrap from the rusting hulls of beached oil tankers. Nailer’s existence is about obtaining profit from ruin and doing so faster than the next gang of scavengers on the beach. One day, Nailer finds a recent shipwreck of incredible value that also contains one small human survivor. The decision he makes that afternoon will change the course of his future, and possibly even the future of the planet.

Ship Breaker is a thrilling, visceral story whose characters and contexts you will not forget.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,teen fiction
Posted by mcgrewfredem on July 25, 2013 at 8:47 a.m.

Drink Me

The Apothecary

Title: The Apothecary
By: Maile Meloy

Move over Harry, Ron, and Hermione; meet Benjamin, Janie, and Pip. But there are no wands here and no parallel otherworlds; just cold, battle-scarred, postwar London... as well as an ancient tome, shadow government, and a secret alchemical tradition in which the exquisite transformation of matter is not only possible but key to countering the cruder science of atom-splitting and world domination. This book is an elixir in itself, a powerfully charged blend of science, magic, politics, suspense, humor, and history in a tincture of superb prose.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,kids fiction
Posted by mcgrewfredem on July 25, 2013 at 8:43 a.m.

Second chances

Second Chance Summer

Title: Second Chance Summer
By: Morgan Matson

This is a story about how one event can change your life, and how everyone deserves to have a second chance. Returning to Lake Phoenix is not how Taylor Edwards wanted to spend her summer. She’s wanted to forget how she hurt her best friend and first crush there five summers before. But now that her father has been diagnosed with cancer, he wants to spend one last summer at the lake together as a family. Taylor now has to deal with becoming closer to her family, who were never close, and facing the people she hurt all those summers ago, people who thought she’d never come back to Lake Phoenix. As the summer goes on, Taylor realizes that while some people may forgive her for what she’s done, she’s still going to lose the one who had always been there for her.

Second Chance Summer is a mixture of funny, heartwarming, and sad. It’s a story about being able to let go, move on, and the tight bond of friends and family.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,teen fiction
Posted by pughc on July 18, 2013 at 3 p.m.

Over the top?

The Making of

Title: The Making of
By: Brecht Evens

Peterson is a moderately successful artist who unwittingly agrees to participate in an installation for a sleepy village’s biennial. The other artists are dabblers and misfits who repeatedly frustrate Peterson’s attempts to make something serious out of the amateur festival.

The story is rendered in lush, painstakingly detailed watercolor illustrations that sometimes derail the plot with their sheer artistry. Each page is a burst of colors and multiple perspectives that has a thrilling, hallucinatory effect These “lapses” actually allow for the careful examination of each panel that is necessary to appreciate that this is as much a cautionary tale of hubris as an exploration of the true purpose of art.

View similarly tagged posts: graphic novel
Posted by lopezm on July 18, 2013 at 2:12 p.m.
1 Comment

Mistress Agatha

Hiss and Hers

Title: Hiss and Hers
By: M.C. Beaton

Hiss and Hers, the 23rd installment of the Agatha Raisin mysteries, celebrates the 20th anniversary of the creation of the series by M.C. Beaton. As she hunts for the murderer of her handsome gardener, George Marston, Agatha meets a stronger adversary for the first time in her career.

The character of Agatha Raisin is not for the faint of heart. Her detective abilities are controversial: “I haven’t the resources of the police, so I usually just blunder about until something breaks.” To promote her detective agency, Agatha always alerts the media prematurely when a case is in a sensitive stage, which has become a constant annoyance to the local police. As a person, Agatha does not seem likable at all, but is rather abrupt, blunt, pushy, and vain.

Behind her hard armored personality, however, there is an abused and lonely heart, and two failed marriages. Decades earlier, she’d left her slum background in Birmingham and marriage to an unemployed drunk and traveled to London with her eyes on two prizes: to be a successful businesswoman, and to settle down in the Cotswolds, a place she’d visited on a childhood family vacation. She’d met both of her goals by selling her successful public relations firm and retiring early to Carsely, a Costwolds village. But, bored with the quiet retirement, Agatha had discovered a dormant detective talent and established a booming little business, the Agatha Raisin Detective Agency.

Agatha can be intensely generous with her circle of friends and her employees. She is also immensely resourceful in her fundraising and her masterful control of the media and public opinion. This is perhaps where the charm of Agatha Raisin lies for her loyal fans.

View similarly tagged posts: mystery
Posted by Hui-Lan on July 18, 2013 at 9:16 a.m.

A unique voice

The Woman Who Walked on Water

Title: The Woman Who Walked on Water
By: Lily Tuck

At the center of Lily Tuck 's captivating novel is Adele, an affluent housewife from suburban Connecticut. Following a “chance” meeting in Chartres Cathedral while on a family vacation, Adele forms a deep attachment to an Indian man who becomes her guru. From that initial encounter, Adele’s life is changed. Despite appeals by her husband and children, Adele is compelled, time and again, to return to India to be in her guru’s presence. While in India, Adele neglects her appearance and lives meagerly while spending lavishly to please her guru.

We learn what we know of Adele through the eyes of the narrator, an unnamed woman who befriends Adele during holidays at a Caribbean resort. Guests and staff of the resort’s restaurant are riveted as Adele ventures out to sea each day, her three Irish setter companions in tow. On one exceptionally stormy day, witnesses are awestruck to see Adele swim out. They are left to ponder Adele’s resolve, her strength, the distance she will swim, when and whether she will return.

This is an elegantly written book that left me wanting to know more about Lily Tuck, an author with a unique voice. Each chapter of the novel is prefaced with a spiritual poem or excerpt from a sacred text. The novel itself reads as a fable or koan, repeating text and raising questions while delivering no obvious answers. Is Adele truly called to seek enlightenment, or is she perhaps slightly mad, spoiled, or delusional? Is her essential longing for self-knowledge dormant in the rest of us?

Immediately after finishing The Woman who Walked on Water, I dove into Siam, Or, the Woman Who Shot a Man. The story of a young bride of a military advisor who moves with her husband to Bangkok on the brink of the Vietnam War, this book was equally dynamic in its emotional appeal and had the signature of the author, who says little in her prose and yet says a great deal more than is obvious. I look forward to reading Tuck’s other novels, which include Matisse: Or, The Woman Who Died Standing Up and The News from Paraguay, which won the 2004 National Book Award for Fiction.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted by Wildruby on July 18, 2013 at 9 a.m.

Win or die

The False Prince

Title: The False Prince
By: Jennifer A. Nielsen

What drew me to the first book of the as yet uncompleted Ascendance Trilogy by newcomer Jennifer A. Neilsen was the cover. (I’ll admit that I do judge books by the cover.) I was doubly intrigued when I read the summary on the inside flap, although I do NOT recommend that you read the it, as it contains a major spoiler. I never would have guessed the twist in this plot had I not read about it in the book flap. So, just read the book, and be surprised!

As for the (unspoiled) plot, the protagonist, a young teen named Sage, is plucked from an orphanage by a deceitful man with a dire purpose. Along with a few boys from other orphanages around the kingdom, Sage must compete for a chance to be placed on the throne of Carthya. Sage doesn’t want to be a prince, nor ever be king, but he is left with little choice when his options are compete and win; or die. This fast-paced book is set in a made-up kingdom, but is rich with true-to-life political scheming and street survival techniques. There is no glossing-over of the violent moments, but they are necessary in the context of the story. Although this is not a happy story, Sage is so likeable that the reader hopes that the trilogy will end well for him, despite all the rough times.

(Editor's note 2014: The final book in this trilogy has now been published, and the whole trilogy is available for hold or checkout.)

View similarly tagged posts: teen fiction
Posted by berlinskit on July 16, 2013 at 2:52 p.m.

Utterly mortal


Title: Goliath
By: Tom Gauld

This retelling of the David and Goliath Bible story is both a darkly funny tragedy and a masterful role reversal. Told largely with images, the story centers around Goliath, the giant, non-violent Philistine administrator who, through bad leadership, is placed in the front lines of war.

The greatest feat of this fractured Bible tale that is by turns philosophical and ordinary is that it turns a two-dimensional villain into a sympathetic and universal character. It’s easy for most readers to align themselves with someone who is sometimes apathetic, often in over his head, frequently misunderstood, and utterly mortal.

Simple-lined illustrations with characters reduced to basic shapes and sparse dialogue belie the depth of Gauld’s work. The contrast between his spare color scheme — black, white and brown — and densely crosshatched panels highlights his subtly profound brand of storytelling.

The misleading simplicity of this graphic novel lends itself well to multiple interpretations. It can be read as a parable of the senseless bureaucracy of war, or just a story about those times when nothing works out the way it should.

View similarly tagged posts: graphic novel
Posted by lopezm on July 16, 2013 at 12:35 p.m.

Gentle cicerone

A Romantic in Spain

Title: A Romantic in Spain
By: Théophile Gautier

Awww, Spain…I remember 1975, waking up early a.m. in the night train from Paris to Madrid, realizing I was now in the land of poor befuddled Don Quixote and the exquisite Alhambra, and feeling an amorphous affinity for the country and its people. And here in this book in the mid-1800s, a French romantic takes you by the hand and opens your eyes to the Spain you have never seen or experienced. Gautier's writing is a manual for the budding writer, a luxurious read with word painting immersing you in his world. It is a Spain still perilous and romantic, in which one risks one’s life at every step with brigands abounding, privations of every kind, and a "heat infernal." And then there is the "hell-broth" of gazpacho. The escorial he deems a "granite monstrocity" and a "monkish necropolis," although to the natives it is indubitably the 8th wonder of the world. He is particularly fond of (and brilliant about) the Moorish Spain he finds in the Alhambra, the mosque of Cordoba, and the cathedral in Sevilla.

A gentle cicerone, he apologizes for his historical digressions, saying he shall soon return to his humble mission of descriptive tourist and literary photographer. And so he does.

There are modern touches, as well. He acknowledges with gentle humor the reserve of the Spaniards, which "soon gives way to a well bred cordial familiarity as soon as they are sure that you are neither commercial travelers, tight rope dancers, or vendors of pomade." Are we not wary in the same way today?

A small confession: I skipped the chapters on bullfighting, though Gautier himself decries the vast chasm between the hordes of attendees at the bullring and the sparse audience at the theaters.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,biography,travel
Posted by libwolf on July 16, 2013 at 11:30 a.m.

True values


Title: Lavinia
By: Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin's Lavinia is a retelling of Virgil's epic poem, the Aeneid. The story is told from the point of view of Lavinia, the native Latin princess whom the Trojan Aeneas marries, but who does not speak a word in the Aeneid. What's interesting about the book is that it doesn't cast Lavinia as a victim, but as an active protagonist.

As daughter of the king, Lavinia plays a central role in the city's religious devotions. Therefore, she's something of a paradox: “a powerless girl yet one who could speak for them to the great powers, a mere token for political barter yet also a sign of what was of true value to us all.” Lavinia is about the power of the seemingly powerless.

Le Guin also emphasizes the traits that separate Aeneas from the other heroes of the Trojan War. Aeneas is portrayed as a modest man who is conflicted over his violent actions in the Aeneid, and who strives to maintain peace during his reign as king.

The poet Virgil shows up as a character in an amusing episode: while lying in a state of delirium on his deathbed, he travels out of his body (and through time) as a “wraith” and meets Lavinia. As they talk, she tells him what he got wrong in his poem, but it's too late for him to make the corrections.

As usual, Le Guin immerses the reader in the world she writes about, and the world itself forces you to confront large philosophical ideas. This time, it's a (well-researched) imagined past rather than an imagined future. This book is a fine example of how Le Guin's writing deals with timeless issues “of what is of true value to us all.”

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted by Xenon on July 16, 2013 at 10:35 a.m.

Tipping pointers

Heads in Beds: a reckless memoir of hotels, hustles, and so-called hospitality

Title: Heads in Beds: a reckless memoir of hotels, hustles, and so-called hospitality
By: Jacob Tomsky

Living in our beautiful town, we have all been affected (infected?) by the tourism industry, voluntarily or involuntarily, for better or for worse. Maybe you've given a lost soul directions to the Boardwalk one too many times, or been late for work because you forgot about the Beach Train. Enter Jacob Tomsky, who feels your pain. His memoir Heads in Beds is full of wit and debauchery, the pitfalls of hospitality, and insights for your next big vacation. You'll understand his plight not only because of where we live, but because he's so honest. Way too honest sometimes, which brings me to my warnings section:

First, he writes almost like he's talking to you, telling you his tale of woe and soul searching over cocktails. Therefore, the language is a little crude. He could have spruced it up for his audience, but this is his voice, and he wanted it that way.

Second, some of the stories cannot be unseen, as in the toothbrush story *shudders*. Remember that even the peons of an industry have some power when they feel belittled and snubbed. You'll start to think back to every interaction you've ever had in a hotel, pondering your own actions, and in some instances inaction (tipping is a recurrent theme).

To read or not to read? I loved it. "It has a tawdry, escapist quality that soothes my nerves" (if you can name the movie, you're my hero). It's a memoir full of character and characters. And you'll glean some nifty tricks for your next run-in with a hotel. Just don't say I didn't warn you. (That toothbrush will haunt my dreams.)

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,biography,travel
Posted by aufdermaurm on July 15, 2013 at 10:21 a.m.

Legend #1

The White Giraffe

Title: The White Giraffe
By: Lauren St. John

The White Giraffe is Lauren St. John’s first children’s book, and the first of a series of four novels now known as “The Legend of the Animal Healer.” The idea for this book came to St. John, who now lives in London, as she recalled growing up on a game reserve in Zimbabwe with a pet giraffe. This early experience with animals fueled her passion for wildlife conservation and adventure, key features in her books for children.

The book begins with the hero, Martine, being orphaned at age eleven in a tragic house fire and then forced to move to the Sawubona game reserve in South Africa to live with a grandmother she scarcely knows. Martine doesn’t think her grandmother likes her or wants her there, but, as the narrative unfolds, we learn there’s more to the story, including family secrets, a white giraffe no one has ever seen except for its footprints, and a mysterious healing power that legend says rests in a chosen one. Feeling isolated as only an orphan can, Martine copes with fears of poachers stalking the great animals of the reserve as well as mundane and terrifying adjustment to a new school and new classmates.

This fast-paced adventure/mystery/fantasy is a read-alike for Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot or Flush or Scat, but with an extra, fantastical twist. Both are quests to find the truth, and both are concerned with wildlife conservation, St. John’s in Africa, Hiaasen’s in the Florida swamplands. Next in the series is Dolphin Song, in which Martine and Ben continue their adventures saving wildlife.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,kids fiction
Posted by madsenarbogastc on July 15, 2013 at 9:58 a.m.

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