Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Road Trip!

No time to squeeze in a last minute trip before September?  You can enjoy the long weekend with a cornucopia of great road tripping fiction!

Bill Warrington's Last Chance: A Novel - by James King
Bill Warrington is a retired salesman, a widower, and a recently diagnosed Alzheimer's sufferer. His relationships with his children are fraught -- one son is a wanderer, the other estranged; his daughter is a single mother struggling to raise a pigheaded 14-year-old, April. But Bill has vowed to repair these relationships by kidnapping April, driving to California, and leaving clues intended to force his children to overcome mutual distrust and work together. The first part of the plan comes together beautifully, but Bill's increasing mental troubles mean that his grand plan may in fact depend on April, who may be out of her depth. A road trip that delicately balances humor, regrets, and redemption, this debut shouldn't be missed.
How to Read the Air - by Dinaw Mengestu
Comprised of the chronicles of two physical journeys -- the original undertaken by two Ethiopian immigrants to the U.S. and retraced, 30 years later, by their emotionally numb son -- this tale of immigration and the consequences of imperfect communication will appeal to readers interested in the psychological toll taken by immigrating to a new country and culture. Though How to Read the Air centers on Ethiopian immigrants in Illinois and their Americanized son, those enamored of it may also like The Namesake, a similarly literary novel that details the challenges facing an Indian family that has immigrated to Massachusetts.
Kindred Spirits - by Sarah Strohmeyer
Mary Kay, Beth, Carol, and Lynne had bonded during PTA meetings and over martinis, but when Lynne dies, the remaining three find that she'd kept a huge secret from them -- and had left instructions for them to correct her mistakes in a way she never could. Each of the women is battling her own crisis -- an ailing father, a disintegrating marriage -- but they all find that the opportunity for a midlife road trip on behalf of their friend is just what they need to cure what ails them. Pick this one up if you enjoy tales of friendship and life-changing journeys.
The Goodbye Quilt - by Susan Wiggs
Here's another novel sure to appeal to close-knit mother/daughter pairs (tangential pun somewhat intended). Linda Davis is the owner of a local fabric shop that celebrates commemorative quilts; her daughter Molly will soon be off to college. But before she starts her new life, they decide to share one last adventure by driving cross-country together -- and while Molly drives, Linda reminisces...and creates a very special quilt for Molly's dorm room. Contemplative on the subjects of parenthood, empty nests, marriage, and dreams, this character-driven novel is a "classic tale of growing up and moving on" (Library Journal).

Monday, August 27, 2012

Debut Mondays: A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller

In this powerful, intricate debut from a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Julia Keller, a mother and a daughter try to do right by a town and each other before it's too late.

What's happening in Acker's Gap, West Virginia? Three elderly men are gunned down over their coffee at a local diner, and seemingly half the town is there to witness the act. Still, it happened so fast, and no one seems to have gotten a good look at the shooter.  Was it random? Was it connected to the spate of drug violence plaguing poor areas of the country just like Acker's Gap? Or were Dean Streeter, Shorty McClurg, and Lee Rader targeted somehow?
One of the witnesses to the brutal incident was Carla Elkins, teenaged daughter of Bell Elkins, the prosecuting attorney for Raythune County, WV. Carla was shocked and horrified by what she saw, but after a few days, she begins to recover enough to believe that she might be uniquely placed to help her mother do her job.

After all, what better way to repair their fragile, damaged relationship? But could Carla also end up doing more harm than good—in fact, putting her own life in danger?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to School, Back to Books!

If you've never read some of these classics, the start of school is a great time to challenge yourself to do so**! 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Young Scout and Jem Finch explore the adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s as their attorney father defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. The hardcover version, which won a Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into more than 40 languages, and went on to be made into a major motion picture starring Gregory Peck.

Alas Babylon by Pat Frank
When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. . . to burn books, along with the houses in which they were hidden. He had been a fireman for 10 years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames . . . never questioned anything until he met a 17-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think, and Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do . . . .

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
When Johnny Nolan dies leaving his wife pregnant, young Francie, smart and hoping for something better, cannot believe that life can carry on as before. But with her own determination, and that of her mother behind her, Francie moves toward the future of her dreams, completing her education and heading off to college, always carrying the beloved Brooklyn of her childhood in her heart.

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
  Darling socialite Holly Golightly makes her way through the world attending ritzy parties, escorting wealthy men, and living a life of glamour. Aspiring writer Paul Varjak moves into her apartment building, and is being kept by a wealthy older woman. The two become fascinated with each other, but is there any room in their non-committed lives for love?

** Not time to read the classics?  This book will give the best fake out approach.  And even if you have read these beloved masterpieces, you'll be sure to get a kick out of this Web site

Monday, August 20, 2012

Debut Mondays: The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a reclusive orchardist, William Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots as if they were loved ones. A gentle man, he's found solace in the sweetness of the fruit he grows and the quiet, beating heart of the land he cultivates. One day, two teenage girls appear and steal his fruit from the market; they later return to the outskirts of his orchard to see the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, the girls take up on Talmadge's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Just as the girls begin to trust him, men arrive in the orchard with guns, and the shattering tragedy that follows will set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect but also to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.

Transcribing America as it once was before railways and roads connected its corners, Amanda Coplin weaves a tapestry of solitary souls who come together in the wake of unspeakable cruelty and misfortune. She writes with breathtaking precision and empathy, and in The Orchardist she crafts an astonishing debut novel about a man who disrupts the lonely harmony of an ordered life when he opens his heart and lets the world in.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reunions: Family, School, and Otherwise

"If you don't believe in ghosts, you've never been to a family reunion."
~ Ashleigh Brilliant, British-born American humorist
 The Last Time I Saw You - by Elizabeth Berg
Midlife can be tough, but there may be no tougher event than a high school reunion, where reuniting with old classmates isn't usually anxiety-free. And the 40th reunion of Clear Springs, Ohio's high school class of 1960 is no different, with former friends, enemies, and unrequited crushes dealing with divorces, health issues, and other problems while attempting to avoid certain classmates and having designs on others. Told from each of the characters' viewpoints, this novel takes us along for the ride as the popular girls, high school nerds, and the former quarterback meet, mingle, rekindle friendships, and gain some perspective.
Saturday  - by Ian McEwan
A successful, happily married neurosurgeon, Henry Perowne is drawn into a confrontation with Baxter, a small-time thug, following a minor motor vehicle accident on the way to his regular squash game, an encounter that has savage consequences when Baxter, believing that the doctor has humiliated him, visits the Perowne home that evening during a family reunion.  “Dazzling. . . . Powerful. . . . McEwan has shown how we . . . live today.” –The New York Times
The Family Man - by Elinor Lipman
After nearly 25 years of mild, self-imposed social isolation, retired Manhattan lawyer Henry Archer is thrust back into the land of the living when a request for legal help from his ex-wife Denise leads to a reunion with his ex-stepdaughter, Thalia. Soon, Thalia has moved in (she's an aspiring actress whose current role is to play the real-life girlfriend of a bad-boy actor) so that Henry can keep an eye on her, while Denise has set him up on a blind date with the handsome Todd (who hasn't yet told his mother that he's gay). Both light-hearted and moving, this charming tale will delight readers looking for a modern-day comedy of manners.
This Is Where I Leave You - by Jonathan Tropper
When Mort Foxman succumbs to cancer, his wife calls upon her four adult children to sit shiva for seven days. Though the story centers on Judd -- who is living in a moldy basement apartment after walking in on his wife having sex with his boss -- the hilariously dysfunctional members of the Foxman family all play important, memorable roles. Forced together for a week, they must face their failures and each other while they mourn their father. Replete with old resentments and erupting fistfights and leavened by many laugh-out-loud moments (there's a priceless one involving a toilet-training toddler at the dinner table), this is one heartfelt family reunion you won't want to miss.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Debut Fiction: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Farewell, Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy, a newspaperwoman turned best-selling author whose sprawling novels of Ireland portrayed women confronting all manner of adversity, died last week in Dublin.  Her fiction was best known for her humorous take on small-town life in Ireland, her descriptive characters, her interest in human nature and her often clever surprise endings.  Her novels, which were translated into 37 languages, sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, and her death was mourned as the passing of Ireland's best-loved and most recognizable writer.  She was 72. 

To celebrate her life, we're bringing you some of her most lovely quotes. 

“I also believe very, very strongly that everybody is the hero/heroine of his/her own life. I try to make my characters kind of ordinary, somebody that anybody could be. Because we've all had loves, perhaps love and loss, people can relate to my characters”

“I don't have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.”

"You can't lay down laws for what people think and hope"

"We're nothing if we're not loved. When you meet somebody who is more important to you than yourself, that has to be the most important thing in life, really. And I think we are all striving for it in different ways."

Monday, August 06, 2012

Debut Mondays: In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

You are about to read an extraordinary story. It will take you to the very depths of despair and show you unspeakable horrors. It will reveal a gorgeously rich culture struggling to survive through a furtive bow, a hidden ankle bracelet, fragments of remembered poetry. It will ensure that the world never forgets the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, when an estimated two million people lost their lives. It will give you hope, and it will confirm the power of storytelling to lift us up and help us not only survive but transcend suffering, cruelty, and loss.
For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood— the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival.