Favorite Quotes

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. "

— Charles W. Eliot

Reader's Link - June 2014 Staff Picks Archive


We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Title: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
By: Karen Joy Fowler

I love the explanation the narrator and main character Rosemary Cooke gives for starting her story in the middle. It’s one of the reasons I kept on reading; I knew from the outset that something interesting was being held back for later. What that was, I cannot reveal. You must read the book to find out why it leaves a deep impression.

". . . I made up a friend for myself. I gave her the half of my name I wasn’t using, the Mary part, and various bits of my personality I also didn’t immediately need. We spent a lot of time together, Mary and I, until the day I went off to school and Mother told me Mary couldn’t go.This was alarming. I felt I was being told I mustn’t be myself at school, not my whole self."

This is a psychological novel about a family, with excellent character development. It’s also funny, shocking, tragic, and well-researched.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted by April on June 23, 2014 at 10:18 a.m.

A surplus of suspects

Buzz kill

Title: Buzz kill
By: Beth Fantaskey

Who wanted to kill head football coach Hollerin’ Hank Killdare? Well, apparently lots of people wanted him dead. But there’s only one person high school journalist Millie Ostermeyer is worried about the murder getting pinned on—her father, the assistant football coach. Millie begins her own investigation and gets help from the unlikeliest of people: Chase Albright, the quarterback of the football team. Conducting a murder investigation isn’t easy, though, especially not when Millie has to deal with a testy French teacher, a strange detective, a very supportive librarian, and all the other things that come with being a senior in high school. With help from Chase—and of course Nancy Drew—will Millie be able to solve the murder?

View similarly tagged posts: teen fiction
Posted by pughc on June 16, 2014 at 10:40 a.m.

Wit and wordplay


Title: Adverbs
By: Daniel Handler

Handler is the alter ego of children’s author Lemony Snicket. He calls Adverbs a novel, but it reads like a collection of short stories. The book is full of wit and wordplay about how love is experienced. This is reflected in the chapter titles: Soundly; Briefly; Naturally, etc. There are recurring characters and themes throughout the book. I found myself creating a chart to keep track of them: volcanoes, magpies, people named Andrea or Steve. Many chapters are set in and around San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest. Handler doesn’t take himself too seriously, and as long as you don’t, either, you will enjoy this book.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted by Logophile on June 16, 2014 at 10:17 a.m.
1 Comment

It's not easy

The Weight of Water

Title: The Weight of Water
By: Sarah Crossan

It's not easy moving to a new country, learning a new language, changing schools, making new friends, getting a new name because the teacher can't pronounce your given name. It's especially not easy when you are 12 going on 13 and your father has disappeared, maybe to the country you are moving to. The Weight of Water is a novel for young adults written in free verse. It is a quick read, but it will stay with you long after the last page.

Kasienka and her mother move from Poland to England with nothing but a suitcase and a laundry bag. They abandon the laundry bag on the luggage carousel at the airport because everything is so different and strange. Both mother and daughter have a difficult time adjusting, but the book is written in Kasienka/Cassie's voice. Will they learn English well, or just enough to get by? Will they find Kasienka's father? Do they really want to find him? Will Cassie make friends, be in the right grade in school, join the swim team, learn to love?

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,teen fiction,kids fiction
Posted by ogradyj on June 14, 2014 at 8:30 a.m.

Otherworld of the imagination

The Love-charm of Bombs: restless lives in the Second World War

Title: The Love-charm of Bombs: restless lives in the Second World War
By: Lara Feigel

Lara Feigel investigates the lives of five writers based in and out of London during WW II: Graham Greene, Elizabeth Bowen, Rose Macauley, Hilde Spiel, and Henry Yorke (writing as Henry Green). She begins with a bombing raid in London on September 1940 and continues through the war to postwar Europe. She delves into diaries, letters, historical archives,and the published fiction and other writings of these authors to explore the effects of wartime bombing and austerities on their lives and psyches, especially pertaining to their love lives and marriages. Many were involved with partners they were not married to; and, in some cases, these relationships seemed more meaningful than their marriages. The stress of being under attack caused individuals to live more passionately and take more risks than they would during peacetime. This invested their wartime romance with a powerful attraction that in some cases lasted lifelong. For some, the special qualities of time spent with the partner outside their marriage created a sort of otherworld of the imagination that continued to be important for the duration of their creative, writing life.

"For Elizabeth, there could be no question of leaving Charles, because by this point her entire imaginative landscape was bound up with him. To give him up would be to give up not only seeing him but also writing to him, which would be to renounce a mode of being in which she was never completely alone because she was always living partly in the terms in which she would describe her experiences to him."

This is biography through a particular set of lenses: wartime life, relationships, and writing. It is a work of love and insight, deeply researched and well-written.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction
Posted by April on June 9, 2014 at 8 a.m.

On the continuum

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking

Title: Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking
By: Susan Cain

It is intriguing to read about one’s own traits in a book, especially when the author finds positive value in those traits we find difficult to accept in ourselves. Yet I can’t help thinking that all of us have "introvert" sensitivities and tendencies at least some of the time during our development, or in certain situations. I am coming to think that human natures are all on a continuum; it probably isn’t fair or accurate to say we fall into one basket or the other. In fact, the evolving definitions of introvert and extrovert are among the topics Susan Cain usefully investigates. She traces some of the cultural history that led to the Extrovert Ideal glorified in the United States over the last century, and compares it to other cultures less focused on the individual. She also describes research supporting the need for solitude in order to excel at a task, and research suggesting that brainstorming in a group is not as effective as we have been led to expect.

Cain suggests we need to value the quiet thinkers around us, but I felt the book failed to deliver on the promise of the subtitle: the "power of introverts." And there was some extrovert bashing (or maybe I'm just too introvertedly sensitive; is that my "power"?). My sister, a practicing psychiatrist, pointed out that Cain, a lawyer, is accustomed to thinking in us/them or right/wrong terms. Maybe that’s why the introverts got all the positive adjectives and the extroverts come off as bulls in the china shop. Regardless, it’s a book worth reading and discussing with others to continue the exploration--and perhaps shift our understanding and, eventually, our culture towards a more even-handed appreciation of intro- and extroverts.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction
Posted by April on June 5, 2014 at 9:01 a.m.

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