Thursday, October 12, 2017

scifi, fantasy, and horror

The next Reader’s Advisory Roundtable meeting will be at the East Lake Library on Wednesday, December 13th at 9am and the topic up for discussion is young adult literature!  Fiction or nonfiction, we want to know what books have your teens reading! 

This month, we met to discuss science fiction, fantasy, and horror:

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Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
Haunted by memories of the Great War, failed academic Frank Nichols and his wife have arrived in the sleepy Georgia town of Whitbrow, where Frank hopes to write a history of his family’s old estate—the Savoyard Plantation—and the horrors that occurred there. At first their new life seems to be everything they wanted. But under the facade of summer socials and small-town charm, there is an unspoken dread that the townsfolk have lived with for generations. A presence that demands sacrifice. It comes from the shadowy woods across the river, where the ruins of the Savoyard Plantation still stand. Where a long-smoldering debt of blood has never been forgotten.
Where it has been waiting for Frank Nichols…(amazon.com)
Maura, Trussville

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Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon
Tired of the rat race in New York City, artist Nick Constantine decides that he and his wife and daughter need to consider moving to the country. On a drive one afternoon they discover the small New England town of Cornwall Coombe. The town offers everything Nick has been dreaming about: a house dating from the 1700s for a reasonable price, gorgeous scenery, a close-knit community of down to earth neighbors. What Nick doesn’t yet realize is just how “down to earth” these people are. He gradually becomes aware that this is a town with a secret, one that everyone except him seems to know. There are oblique references to “what no man may know nor woman tell” and it is somehow connected with the upcoming festival of Harvest Home. Unable to restrain his curiosity—and in spite of his fears—Nick is determined to discover the secret behind Harvest Home. And . . . he does. This is a classic example of the “town with a dark secret” horror novel, and there was also a TV miniseries called The Dark Secret of Harvest Home, featuring Bette Davis as the Widow Fortune. A miniseries is the perfect format for a story like this with its slowly accumulating clues and gathering sense of dread.
reviewed by Mary Anne, Southern History

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Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco
There should be an entire sub-genre of horror novels called “Escape from (insert large city of your choice, but it’s usually New York).” In Burnt Offerings, Ben and Marian Rolfe are sick of the noise, heat, and lack of privacy in their New York apartment and think that even a couple of months of a country vacation would do them a lot of good. Marian locates a country house that is billed as possibly being “reasonable—for the right people.” The Rolfes take their son and go to investigate. What they find is beyond Marian’s wildest dreams. The Allardyce estate is huge, a bit dilapidated, but filled with Waterford crystal and Sheraton furniture and art treasures and fine china . . . all decorative items that she loves. Her husband has some reservations about the place but they eventually agree that the rent is amazingly low and they sign the two-month lease, including the agreement that they will look after and prepare food for the mysterious Mrs. Allardyce who keeps to her own rooms. Slowly but surely, the atmosphere of the house breaks apart the family’s relationships and lays a claim on them that will definitely NOT end when their two months of vacation are over. There are many tropes here that would set off the alarm bells for experienced horror readers, but Marasco published Burnt Offerings right around the beginning of Stephen King’s career. At that time, horror novels occupied a lot less space on the bookstore shelves and many of the fixtures of the modern horror novel were fresh and new. Burnt Offerings still packs a wallop after all these years and remains a powerful example of the saying that when something seems too good to be true . . . it probably is.
reviewed by Mary Anne, Southern History

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Curfew by Phil Rickman
Standing on the border between England and Wales, the small village of Crybbe has a centuries-long tradition of ringing a special curfew every night. And they do mean every night. This is part of the rituals that are meant to keep an ancient evil in check, but there are signs that the evil is about to make a comeback. The village is the convergence point for a series of ley lines that channel supernatural energy, and when an ignorant millionaire declares Crybbe the perfect site for a facility to research the occult and paranormal, the stage is set for the dark magic of Crybbe to manifest. Creepy and atmospheric, Curfew is for the horror fan who enjoys the “slow burn” novel that gradually builds to an explosive finale, and this tale is one more convincing reason to stay OUT of small towns with dark secrets. It’s a long but satisfying read.
reviewed by Mary Anne, Southern History

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The Nell West/Michael Flint haunted house mysteries by Sarah Rayne
Sarah’s haunted house series, featuring the Oxford don, Michael Flint and the antiques dealer, Nell West, has received high praise from the critics, and the books have been described as ‘eruditely eerie’. There are six novels in the series, and although they can be read individually, it’s probably a good idea to start with book one, Property of a Lady.

“The haunted-house theme is one of the most venerable in the genre, and Rayne has given it new life in this series, drawing again and again on the secrets (and the horrors) contained within structures built originally to keep us safe…” Booklist

“Rayne perfects the craft of deftly chosen details, simmering suspense and chilling surprises, all woven into a quiet, elegant narrative.” Kirkus (sarahrayne.co.uk)
Holley, Emmet O’Neal

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Property of a Lady
A house with a sinister past – and a grisly power - When Michael Flint is asked by American friends to look over an old Shropshire house they have unexpectedly inherited, he is reluctant to leave the quiet of his Oxford study. But when he sees Charect House, its uncanny echoes from the past fascinate him – even though it has such a sinister reputation that no one has lived there for almost a century. But it’s not until Michael meets the young widow, Nell West, that the menace within the house wakes . . . (amazon.com)

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The Sin Eater
The sins of the past break through to the present in this chilling tale of supernatural suspense. - When Benedict Doyle finds himself the owner of his great-grandfather’s North London house, it stirs memories of his time there as a frightened eight-year-old and the strange glimpses that revealed the darkness in his family’s past, through which runs the grisly thread of an old legend about a chess set believed to possess a dark power. And when Michael Flint, meeting Benedict in Oxford, starts to research his story, chilling facts begin to emerge – facts that suggest the old legend contains a disturbing reality. Could the chess set’s malevolence be reaching out to the present? (amazon.com)

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The Silence
Antiques dealer Nell West is valuing the contents of her late husband Brad’s childhood home, Stilter House. Set on the remote Derbyshire Peaks, there was once a much older property there, in which the notorious Isobel Acton committed a vicious crime. Warned against visiting the house by an elderly aunt of Brad’s, Nell hears mysterious piano music soon after her arrival. It becomes clear that the music is tangled with Isobel Acton’s macabre fate more than a hundred years earlier. A fate whose consequences still menace the present. (amazon.com)

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The Whispering
Fosse House, home of the reclusive Luisa Gilmore, harbours curious secrets - secrets that stretch back almost a century, to the ill-fated Palestrina Choir in its remote Belgian convent.

When Oxford don Michael Flint travels to the house to trace the origins of the long-dead Choir, he is at once aware of the house's eerie menace. Who is the shadowy young man who lurks in the grounds, and why does his exact likeness appear in a sketch from 1917? What is the strange whispering that echoes through the corridors? And why is Luisa so afraid when a storm makes it necessary for Michael to spend the night inside the house?

Back in Oxford, when Nell West uncovers the story of the infamous 1917 'Holzminden sketch' - the lost, legendary drawing from World War I - a dark fragment of the past begins to stir. A fragment that Michael, in the lonely old house, may not be able to resist. (amazon.com)

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Deadlight Hall
A long-ago crime continues to menace the present in this spine-chilling tale of supernatural suspense.

When Michael Flint is asked by a colleague to investigate a reputedly haunted house, he is intrigued. Leo Rosendale’s childhood was blighted by a macabre tragedy in the grim Deadlight Hall – a tragedy that occurred towards the end of World War II, involving a set of twins who vanished. The fate of Sophie and Susannah Reiss was never discovered, and Leo has never been able to forget them.

When Michael, together with his fiancee Nell, begins to explore Deadlight Hall’s history, he discovers that in the 1880s another pair of sisters vanished from the house – and that there may also be much older and darker secrets lurking within its walls.

As Michael and Nell gradually peel back the sinister layers of the Hall’s unhappy past, they are unprepared for the eerie and threatening resonances they encounter – nor for the shocking truth of what took place there one long-ago midnight. (amazon.com)

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The Bell Tower
A 400-year-old crime continues to menace the present in this spine-chilling tale of supernatural suspense.

When Nell West starts extending her Oxford antiques shop, she is not expecting to uncover strange fragments of its past: fragments that include a frightened message scribbled on old plasterwork, dated 1850 and referring to someone called Thaisa.

She also uncovers a mysterious link with a village on the Dorset coast – a village with an ancient bell tower and dark memories of a piece of music known locally as Thaisa’s Song. The sea is gradually encroaching on the derelict tower, but the old Glaum Bell still hangs in the lonely bell chamber and although it was silenced after an act of appalling brutality during the reign of Henry VIII, local people whisper that its chime is still occasionally heard.

As Nell and Michael Flint discover, the tower is mysteriously entangled with the story of Thaisa and a 400-year-old tragedy that has echoed down the centuries. (amazon.com)

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Insight by Santino Hassell
Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate.

Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets—something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.

Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart. (amazon.com)
Samuel, Springville Road

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Witches for Hire by Sam Argent

All recovering drug addict and witch Jeremy Ragsdale wants is to shamble on to the next job without any disasters. Instead, the temp agency saddles him with a fellow witch who hates him, an Amazon one violent outburst away from deportation, and a knight from another world as his boss. Even worse, their jack-of-all-trades magic business stumbles upon a conspiracy to kill Desmond the Great, Atlanta's sexy star magician. Jeremy must prevent it without letting his colleagues know that he not only has ties to the energy vampires behind the plot, but that his past misdeeds might have instigated the attacks.

Despite Jeremy sporting a suit and tie like a good witch, his lies snowball to bite him in the ass. The lack of trust brewing between him and his teammates could cost Desmond his life and Jeremy his progress on the straight and narrow path if his secrets are revealed. Because no matter how much Jeremy has reformed, there's still enough bad witch in him to kill anyone who messes with him or the people he cares about. (amazon.com)
Samuel, Springville Road

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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

An ancient society of witches and a hipster technological startup go to war in order to prevent the world from tearing itself. To further complicate things, each of the groups’ most promising followers (Patricia, a brilliant witch and Laurence, an engineering “wunderkind”) may just be in love with each other.

As the battle between magic and science wages in San Francisco against the backdrop of international chaos, Laurence and Patricia are forced to choose sides. But their choices will determine the fate of the planet and all mankind.

In a fashion unique to Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky offers a humorous and, at times, heart-breaking exploration of growing up extraordinary in world filled with cruelty, scientific ingenuity, and magic. (amazon.com)
Samuel, Springville Road

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The Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists by Angel Martinez (not available in the JCLC system)
A poltergeist haunts Taro, dogging his international travels. It washes glasses, puts dishes away, and even dusts. At least he hopes it's a cleaning-obsessed poltergeist and not his own anxieties burbling over into neat freak fits he doesn't remember. When his property manager suggests he call paranormal expert, Jack Montrose, Taro's skeptical but desperate enough to try even a ghost hunter.

Jack's arrival crushes Taro's hopes of a dashing Van Helsing-style hero. Instead of an invincible hunter, he gets Ichabod Crane. As the paranormal puzzles multiply and Jack begins to suggest the entity might not be a ghostly one, Taro adds a budding friendship with Jack to his pile of anxieties. It's a race to see whether Taro's poltergeist or his relationship with the obviously-not-ace Jack will reach maximum strangeness first. (amazon.com)
Samuel, Springville Road

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The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley
In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg. On the sprawling, crumbling grounds of the old house, something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather's pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.

When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine--essential for the treatment of malaria--from deep within Peru, he knows it's a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who's made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.

Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick's grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical. (amazon.com)
Liz, Pinson

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Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Ten thousand tries, to be exact. Ten thousand lives to “get it right.” Answer all the Big Questions. Achieve Wisdom. And Become One with Everything.
 
Milo has had 9,995 chances so far and has just five more lives to earn a place in the cosmic soul. If he doesn’t make the cut, oblivion awaits. But all Milo really wants is to fall forever into the arms of Death. Or Suzie, as he calls her.

More than just Milo’s lover throughout his countless layovers in the Afterlife, Suzie is literally his reason for living—as he dives into one new existence after another, praying for the day he’ll never have to leave her side again.
     
But Reincarnation Blues is more than a great love story: Every journey from cradle to grave offers Milo more pieces of the great cosmic puzzle—if only he can piece them together in time to finally understand what it means to be part of something bigger than infinity. As darkly enchanting as the works of Neil Gaiman and as wisely hilarious as Kurt Vonnegut’s, Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is the story of everything that makes life profound, beautiful, absurd, and heartbreaking.

Because it’s more than Milo and Suzie’s story. It’s your story, too. (amazon.com)
Liz, Pinson

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The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges

The great Argentine writer assembled this “anthology of fantastic zoology” in another one of his attempts at creating a whole world. Most of the material he wrote himself, some is excerpted from millennia of existing works. A few of the books he uses as source material may be made up. Borges liked doing that kind of thing. All of the collection enchants and compels. The creatures include well known ones such as basilisks, chimaeras and jinns, but most of it will be new to the reader: the kami, the haokah, the fastitocalon, the youwarkee. The bahamut, a creature from the Arabian Nights, is so “resplendent” that “human eyes cannot bear to look upon it.” “In Night 496…we read that Isa (Jesus) was allowed to see the Bahamut, and when this gift was bestowed upon him he fell down in a swoon, and did not awake…for three days.” No, I didn’t know that Jesus was in the Arabian Nights either, but he is, at least in the Richard Burton translation. There are a lot of surprises in this book, and they are all of a high order.
reviewed by Richard, BPL Fiction

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Flashback by Dan Simmons

The United States is near total collapse. But 87% of the population doesn't care: they're addicted to flashback, a drug that allows its users to re-experience the best moments of their lives. After ex-detective Nick Bottom's wife died in a car accident, he went under the flash to be with her; he's lost his job, his teenage son, and his livelihood as a result.

Nick may be a lost soul but he's still a good cop, so he is hired to investigate the murder of a top governmental advisor's son. This flashback-addict becomes the one man who may be able to change the course of an entire nation turning away from the future to live in the past.

A provocative novel set in a future that seems scarily possible, Flashback proves why Dan Simmons is one of our most exciting and versatile writers. (amazon.com)
Jon, Avondale

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American War by Omar El Akkad

An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.

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The Terror by Dan Simmons

The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of triumph. As part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the first steam-powered vessels ever to search for the legendary Northwest Passage, they are as scientifically supported an enterprise as has ever set forth. As they enter a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, though, they are stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness. Endlessly cold, with diminishing rations, 126 men fight to survive with poisonous food, a dwindling supply of coal, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice. But their real enemy is far more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror constantly clawing to get in.When the expedition's leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. With them travels an Inuit woman who cannot speak and who may be the key to survival, or the harbinger of their deaths. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear that there is no escape. The Terror swells with the heart-stopping suspense and heroic adventure that have won Dan Simmons praise as "a writer who not only makes big promises but keeps them" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). With a haunting and constantly surprising story based on actual historical events, The Terror is a novel that will chill you to your core. (amazon.com)
Jon, Avondale

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The Fade Out, Vol 1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Brubaker and Phillips' newest hit series, The Fade Out, is an epic noir set in the world of noir itself, the backlots and bars of Hollywood at the end of its Golden Era. A movie stuck in endless reshoots, a writer damaged from the war and lost in the bottle, a dead movie star and the lookalike hired to replace her. Nothing is what it seems in the place where only lies are true. The Fade Out is Brubaker and Phillips' most ambitious project yet! (amazon.com)
Jon, Avondale

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The universal appeal of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books springs from a life lived in partnership with the land, on farms she and her family settled across the Northeast and Midwest. In this revealing exploration of Wilder’s deep connection with the natural world, Marta McDowell follows the wagon trail of the beloved Little House series. You’ll learn details about Wilder’s life and inspirations, pinpoint the Ingalls and Wilder homestead claims on authentic archival maps, and learn to grow the plants and vegetables featured in the series. Excerpts from Wilder’s books, letters, and diaries bring to light her profound appreciation for the landscapes at the heart of her world. Featuring the beloved illustrations by Helen Sewell and Garth Williams, plus hundreds of historic and contemporary photographs, The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a treasure for anyone enchanted by Laura’s wild and beautiful life.  (amazon.com)
Jon, Avondale

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Zombies: A Brief History of Decay by Olivier Peru, Sophian Cholet, and Simon Champelovier

A vivid and richly illustrated graphic novel, Zombies offers an action-packed tour through an apocalyptic vision of America.

Mankind is no longer at the top of the food chain. Zombies have taken their place, and nothing can stop them. Is this the end of humanity? Perhaps, but for some it is only the beginning.

Six billion living corpses are all that remains of civilization. Among the few survivors is Sam Coleman, a man who owes his salvation to Smith & Wesson and a little luck. Fleeing Seattle at the onset of the zombie outbreak, he was forced to leave his daughter behind. Yet now that silence has fallen over the city, he believes that she may still be alive. And his conscience serves up a constant reminder that to be human in this grim world is to have hope—and to keep fighting. (amazon.com)
Jon, Avondale

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Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius-and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn't know what he's taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren't the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous.

Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them but then they stop playing by the rules. (amazon.com)
Leigh, North Birmingham

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Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice. (amazon.com)
Leigh, North Birmingham

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\Journey’s End by Rachel Hawkins

The town of Journey's End may not literally be at the end of the world, but it sure feels like it to Nolie Stanhope. While Nolie's father came to Journey's End to study the Boundary--a mysterious fog bank offshore--Bel's family can’t afford to consider it a threat. The McKissick’s livelihood depends on the tourists drawn by legends of a curse. Still, whether you believe in magic or science, going into the Boundary means you'll never come back.

…Unless you do. Albert Etheridge, a boy who disappeared into the Boundary in 1914, suddenly returns--without having aged a day and with no memory of the past hundred years. Then the Boundary starts creeping closer to the town, threatening to consume everyone within. Albert and the girls look for ways to stop the encroaching boundary, coming across an ancient Scottish spell that requires magic, a quest, and a sacrifice. (amazon.com)
Laura, Trussville

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The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

There are secrets around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about what happened there that last summer. She and her childhood best friend Callie never talked about what they saw. Not before the trial. And certainly not after. But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth. Only the closer Tessa gets to what really happened, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away. (amazon.com)
Liz, Pinson

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Into the Guns by William C. Dietz

On May Day, 2018, sixty meteors entered Earth’s atmosphere and exploded around the globe with a force greater than a nuclear blast. Earthquakes and tsunamis followed. Then China attacked Europe, Asia, and the United States in the belief the disaster was an act of war. Washington D.C. was a casualty of the meteor onslaught that decimated the nation’s leadership and left the surviving elements of the armed forces to try and restore order as American society fell apart. As refugees across America band together and engage in open warfare with the military over scarce resources, a select group of individuals representing the surviving corporate structure makes a power play to rebuild the country in a free market image as The New Confederacy... (amazon.com)
Jon, Avondale

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Birmingham, 35 Miles by James Braziel

In this haunting and poignant debut novel, James Braziel tells an unforgettable story of love, family, and survival across a world that has already begun to die.…

When the ozone layer opened and the sun relentlessly scorched the land, there was nothing left but to hope. Mathew Harrison had always heard of a better life as close as Birmingham, only thirty-five miles away—zones of blue sky, wet grass, and clean breathable air. But to him it’s a myth, a place guarded by soldiers, off limits to all but the lucky few. Meanwhile Mat works alongside his father, mining only the red clay that the once fertile Alabama soil can offer.

Now, with the killing deserts on the move again and the woman he loves on a Greyhound heading north, Mat has a travel visa and every reason to leave. But his roots in this lifeless soil inexplicably hold him firmly to the past. Torn between hope and resignation, with time running out, Mat must make a fateful choice between a new life and the one that isn’t ready to let him go. (amazon.com)
Richard, BPL Fiction


Thursday, August 10, 2017

parenting and mentoring

Just a reminder that the JCPLA Staff Development Day at Homewood Library will be Friday, August 25th and we hope to see you there!

Our next RART meeting will be Wednesday, October 11th at 9am at the Pinson Library and the topics up for discussion are science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

We took care of the RART yearly housekeeping items today.  I am delighted to serve as RART moderator for another year and have a gander at the great topics on the docket for 2018’s meetings!

February 14 – Scandinavian mysteries & thrillers

April 4 – erotica & clean romance
(The April meeting date was changed from the second Wednesday because of the Alabama Library Association annual conference.  I’m aware that prior commitments mean you may not be able to attend on April 4th.  We’ll look forward to seeing you at another meeting.)

June 13 – short stories

August 8 – recently published (last 5 years) Westerns

October 10 – fiction from an animal’s point of view

December 12 – graphic novels (fic & nonfic) for adults

I’m still waiting on confirmation for one venue, then we’ll be booked in to a great variety of libraries around the county.  Stay tuned!

This week, we talked about parenting & mentoring books as a sort of back-to-school celebration.

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Renowned media scholar Sherry Turkle investigates how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivity—and why reclaiming face-to-face conversation can help us regain lost ground. We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.

We develop a taste for what mere connection offers. The dinner table falls silent as children compete with phones for their parents’ attention. Friends learn strategies to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones. At work, we retreat to our screens although it is conversation at the water cooler that increases not only productivity but commitment to work. Online, we only want to share opinions that our followers will agree with – a politics that shies away from the real conflicts and solutions of the public square.

The case for conversation begins with the necessary conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered: these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. We see the costs of the flight from conversation everywhere: conversation is the cornerstone for democracy and in business it is good for the bottom line. In the private sphere, it builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity.

But there is good news: we are resilient. Conversation cures.

Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do.

The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other. 

Savvy Auntie is the ultimate guide for cool aunts, great-aunts, godmothers, and all women who love kids but have none of their own! Written by Melanie Notkin—America’s premier Savvy Auntie and creator of the popular online community Savvy AuntieSavvy Auntie focuses on everything that parenting manuals generally leave out: namely auntie-ing! This groundbreaking handbook celebrates the 50% of kid-loving American women who aren’t (or are not yet) moms, but have so much to add to the Family Village.

A practical parent-friendly handbook filled with easy-to-do, effective, science-based tips and strategies that can be used in the course of normal everyday routines to boost language skills and instill an enduring love of reading in infants, toddlers, and new readers. Based on cutting-edge scientific research combined with insights author Nancy Newman gained as a teacher and a parent, Raising Passionate Readers sheds light on important underlying ideas and explains how to have fun with children in ways that enhance their ability to listen, talk, read, and write. Newman’s upbeat approach, wise advice, and pragmatic suggestions can be adapted to a wide range of personalities, schedules, and settings.

LEARN
• Why raising enthusiastic readers is easier than most people realize 
• Which popular myths about time, technology, and teachers to ignore
• How infant/toddler communication skills affect IQ and emotional growth
• When early matters (and doesn’t matter) in the reading process
• Which “secrets” turn new, struggling, and reluctant readers into avid readers 
• How to help all children get the most out of technology

Raising Passionate Readers will inform, inspire and empower parents, grandparents, educators, librarians, learning specialists, pediatricians, and anyone else interested in helping children become lifelong readers.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Lisa Damour, Ph.D., director of the internationally renowned Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls, pulls back the curtain on the teenage years and shows why your daughter’s erratic and confusing behavior is actually healthy, necessary, and natural. Untangled explains what’s going on, prepares parents for what’s to come, and lets them know when it’s time to worry.

BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE AWARD WINNER

In this sane, highly engaging, and informed guide for parents of daughters, Dr. Damour draws on decades of experience and the latest research to reveal the seven distinct—and absolutely normal—developmental transitions that turn girls into grown-ups, including Parting with Childhood, Contending with Adult Authority, Entering the Romantic World, and Caring for Herself. Providing realistic scenarios and welcome advice on how to engage daughters in smart, constructive ways, Untangled gives parents a broad framework for understanding their daughters while addressing their most common questions, including

• My thirteen-year-old rolls her eyes when I try to talk to her, and only does it more when I get angry with her about it. How should I respond?
• Do I tell my teen daughter that I’m checking her phone?
• My daughter suffers from test anxiety. What can I do to help her?
• Where’s the line between healthy eating and having an eating disorder?
• My teenage daughter wants to know why I’m against pot when it’s legal in some states. What should I say?
• My daughter’s friend is cutting herself. Do I call the girl’s mother to let her know?

Perhaps most important, Untangled helps mothers and fathers understand, connect, and grow with their daughters. When parents know what makes their daughter tick, they can embrace and enjoy the challenge of raising a healthy, happy young woman.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A Time Top 10 Book of the Year • A San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year
The author of the New York Times bestseller Cinderella Ate My Daughter offers a clear-eyed picture of the new sexual landscape girls face in the post-princess stage—high school through college—and reveals how they are negotiating it.

A generation gap has emerged between parents and their girls. Even in this age of helicopter parenting, the mothers and fathers of tomorrow’s women have little idea what their daughters are up to sexually or how they feel about it. Drawing on in-depth interviews with over seventy young women and a wide range of psychologists, academics, and experts, renowned journalist Peggy Orenstein goes where most others fear to tread, pulling back the curtain on the hidden truths, hard lessons, and important possibilities of girls’ sex lives in the modern world.

While the media has focused—often to sensational effect—on the rise of casual sex and the prevalence of rape on campus, in Girls & Sex Peggy Orenstein brings much more to the table. She examines the ways in which porn and all its sexual myths have seeped into young people’s lives; what it means to be the “the perfect slut” and why many girls scorn virginity; the complicated terrain of hookup culture and the unfortunate realities surrounding assault. In Orenstein’s hands these issues are never reduced to simplistic “truths;” rather, her powerful reporting opens up a dialogue on a potent, often silent, subtext of American life today—giving readers comprehensive and in-depth information with which to understand, and navigate, this complicated new world.



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Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas
Playing off the themes in the Caldecott Medal-winning children's book Where the Wild Things Are, this informative, practical, and encouraging guide will help parents guide boys down the path to healthy and authentic manhood. Wild Things addresses the physical, emotional, and spiritual parts of a boy, written by two therapists who are currently engaged in clinical work with boys and their parents and who are also fathers raising five sons. Contains chapters such as “Sit Still! Pay Attention!” “Deficits and Disappointments,” and “Rituals, Ceremonies, and Rites of Passage.”

Michael Chabon, author of WONDER BOYS and the Pulitzer Prize-wining THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY, has written an autobiographical narrative as inventive, beautiful and powerful as his novels.In these insightful, provocative, slyly interlinked essays, one of our most brilliant and humane writers presents his autobiography and vision of life in the way so many of us experience our own: as a series of reflections, regrets and re-examinations, each sparked by an encounter, in the present, that holds some legacy of the past.What does it mean to be a man today? Chabon invokes and interprets and struggles to reinvent for us, with characteristic warmth and lyric wit, the personal and family history that haunts him even as it goes on being written every day. As a son, a husband and above all as a father of four young children, Chabon's memories of childhood, of his parents' marriage and divorce, of moments of painful adolescent comedy and giddy encounters with the popular art and literature of his own youth, are like a theme played - on different instruments, with a fresh tempo and in a new key - by the mad quartet of which he now finds himself co-conductor.

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The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
Beloved by millions, George S. Clason’s timeless classic reveals the financial principals that hold the key to personal wealth.

THE SUCCESS SECRETS OF THE ANCIENTS—AN ASSURED ROAD TO HAPPINESS AND PROSPERITY

Countless readers have been helped by the famous “Babylonian parables,” hailed as the greatest of all inspirational works on the subject of thrift, financial planning, and personal wealth. In language as simple as that found in the Bible, these fascinating and informative stories set you on a sure path to prosperity and its accompanying joys. Acclaimed as a modern-day classic, this celebrated bestseller offers an understanding of—and a solution to—your personal financial problems that will guide you through a lifetime.

This is the book that holds the secrets to keeping your money—and making more. May they prove for you, as they have proven for millions of others, a sure key to gratifying financial progress.

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Baby Sign Language Basics: Early Communication for Hearing Babies and Toddlers by Monta Z. Briant
Since 2004, Baby Sign Language Basics has introduced hundreds of thousands of families and educators around the world to the miracle of signing with their babies—and left them wanting more! Monta Briant provides more than 300 American Sign Language (ASL) signs, illustrated with clear, easy-to-understand photos and descriptions. Baby-specific signing techniques, songs, and games are also included to make learning fun and open up two-way communication quickly.This book is a must-read for all parents, grandparents, and anyone else who spends time with preverbal children. After all, what parent or caregiver doesn’t want to know what their baby is trying to tell them?

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Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share by Ken Denmead
The ultimate DIY project guide for techie dads raising kids in their own geeky image, in the spirit of The Dangerous Book for Boys. 

Today's generation of dads grew up more tech-savvy than ever. Rather than joining the Little League team, many grew up playing computer games, Dungeons and Dragons, and watching Star Wars. Now with kids of their own, these digital-age dads are looking for fresh ways to share their love of science and technology, and help their kids develop a passion for learning and discovery. 

Enter supergeek, and father of two, Ken Denmead. An engineer and editor of the incredibly popular GeekDad blog on wired.com, Ken has created the ultimate, idea-packed guide guaranteed to help dads and kids alike enjoy the magic of playtime together and tap into the infinite possibility of their imagination. With illustrations throughout, this book offers projects for all ages to suit any timeframe or budget. With Denmead's expert guidance, you and your child can: 

•Fly a night-time kite ablaze with lights or launch a video camera with balloons 

•Construct the "Best Slip n' Slide Ever," a guaranteed thrill ride

•Build a working lamp with LEGO bricks and CDs 

•Create a customized comic strip or your own board game

•Make geeky crafts like cyborg jack-o'-lanterns or Ethernet cuff links

Brimming with endlessly fun and futuristic tidbits on everything from gaming to gadgets, GeekDad helps every tech-savvy father unleash his inner kid-and bond with the next generation of brainiacs.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

literature in translation

RA Roundtable met this week at the Emmet O’Neal Library for a discussion of literature in translation.  Our next meeting is on Wednesday, August 9 at 9am at the Hoover Library and the topic up for discussion will be parenting/mentoring titles.  Also, it will be time to set up meetings for next year.  I’ve already had a request for a repeat of bookgroup picks so think about what you’d like to read and I’ll add it to list of choices!

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 2017 JCPLA Staff Development Day at Homewood!  The keynote speaker is William Ottens, the hero behind the popular Librarian Problems tumblr!

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

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The Case of Alan Turing: The Extraordinary and Tragic Story of the Legendary Codebreaker by Eric Liberge
Alan Turing, subject of the Oscar-winning 2014 film The Imitation Game, was the brilliant mathematician solicited by the British government to help decipher messages sent by Germany's Enigma machines during World War II. The work of Turing and his colleagues at Hut 8 created what became known as the "bombe" which descrambled the German navy's messages and saved countless lives and millions in British goods and merchandise.

Despite his heroics, however, Turing led a secret life as a homosexual. After a young man with whom he was involved stole money from him, he went to the police, where he confessed his homosexuality; he was charged with gross indecency, and only avoided prison after agreeing to undergo chemical castration. Tragically, he committed suicide two years later.

Authors Liberge and Delalande used once-classified information only available in 2012 to create a biography that is scientifically rigorous yet understandable for the lay reader. It's also a meticulous depiction of World War II, and an intimate portrayal of a gay man living in an intolerant world.
Delving deeper into Turing's life than The Imitation Game, this graphic novel is a fascinating portrait of this brilliant, complicated, and troubled man.

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The Department Q series of Jussi Adler-Olsen
Carl Mørck used to be one of Denmark’s best homicide detectives. Then a hail of bullets destroyed the lives of two fellow cops, and Carl—who didn’t draw his weapon—blames himself. So a promotion is the last thing he expects. But Department Q is a department of one, and Carl’s got only a stack of cold cases for company. 

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The novels of Fredrik Backman
Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger and columnist. A Man Called Ove, his first novel, has sold more than 500,000 copies in its native country and has been published in more than twenty-five languages all over the world.

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The novels of Muriel Barbery
Muriel Barbery is a French novelist and professor of philosophy. Barbery entered the École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay-Saint-Cloud in 1990 and obtained her agrégation in philosophy in 1993. She then taught philosophy at the Université de Bourgogne, in a lycée, and at the Saint-Lô IUFM.

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Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano mysteries
ANDREA CAMILLERI is the author of many books, including his Montalbano series, which has been adapted for Italian television and translated into German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Japanese, Dutch, Swedish, and finally, English. He was born at Porto Empedocle, near Agrigento. His style is very particular as he mixes Italian and local dialect without however making it unreadable for those who are not from that part of Italy. Camilleri has won numerous literary awards in Italy as well as in France.
A Nest of Vipers (Aug 2017)
The Pyramid of Mud (Jan 2018)

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The Konrad Simonsen mysteries of Lotte and Soren Hammer
Detective Chief Inspector Konrad Simonsen, faces both life and murder investigations on the basis of his morals. This sometimes has serious consequences. He has a strong loyalty towards his employees, which ever so often clashes with his superior’s loyalties.
The Lake (2017)

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Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole mysteries
Harry Hole (pronounced "Harry HOO-LEH") is the main character in a series of crime novels written by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø. Hole is a brilliant and driven detective with unorthodox methods, a classic loose cannon in the police force.
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Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series
Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the author of six novels, including the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind, and The Angel’s Game. His work has been published in more than forty different languages, and honored with numerous international awards. He divides his time between Barcelona, Spain, and Los Angeles, California.
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Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret mysteries
Jules Amedée François Maigret, simply Jules Maigret or Maigret to most people, including his wife, is a fictional French police detective, actually a commissaire or commissioner of the Paris "Brigade Criminelle" (Direction Régionale de Police Judiciaire de Paris), created by writer Georges Simenon.
75 novels and 28 short stories about Maigret were published between 1931 and 1972, starting with Pietr-le-Letton (Pietr the Lett) and concluding with Maigret et Monsieur Charles. The Maigret stories were also adapted for television and radio.

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Zama by Anonio Di Benedetto
First published in 1956, Zama is now universally recognized as one of the masterpieces of modern Argentine and Spanish-language literature.

Written in a style that is both precise and sumptuous, weirdly archaic and powerfully novel, Zama takes place in the last decade of the eighteenth century and describes the solitary, suspended existence of Don Diego de Zama, a highly placed servant of the Spanish crown who has been posted to Asunción, the capital of remote Paraguay. There, eaten up by pride, lust, petty grudges, and paranoid fantasies, he does as little as he possibly can while plotting his eventual transfer to Buenos Aires, where everything about his hopeless existence will, he is confident, be miraculously transformed and made good.

Don Diego’s slow, nightmarish slide into the abyss is not just a tale of one man’s perdition but an exploration of existential, and very American, loneliness. Zama, with its stark dreamlike prose and spare imagery, is at once dense and unforeseen, terse and fateful, marked throughout by a haunting movement between sentences, paragraphs, and sections, so that every word seems to emerge from an ocean of things left unsaid. The philosophical depths of this great book spring directly from its dazzling prose.

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The Four Corners of Palermo by Guiseppe Di Piazza
Palermo in the 1980s is a perfect place for a young crime reporter to get his start. The Sicilian Mafia is at work, threatening, wounding, and killing anyone who dares to defy their orders. Our protagonist is himself no angel, hardly compassionate, a bit macho and egocentric, but candid in his recounting of what has unfolded in front of his eyes both on the job and in his private life.

Di Piazza, who is also a Sicilian journalist, tells his stories as if he were reporting actual events. His description of the tense bravado of a youth growing up in the midst of Mafia terror is strikingly acute.

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Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrigue
The poet and the artist battle it out in Rome before a crowd that includes Galileo, a Mary Magdalene, and a generation of popes who would throw the world into flames. In England, Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII execute Anne Boleyn, and her crafty executioner transforms her legendary locks into those most-sought-after tennis balls. Across the ocean in Mexico, the last Aztec emperors play their own games, as the conquistador Hernán Cortés and his Mayan translator and lover, La Malinche, scheme and conquer, fight and f**k, not knowing that their domestic comedy will change the course of history. In a remote Mexican colony a bishop reads Thomas More’s Utopia and thinks that it’s a manual instead of a parody. And in today’s New York City, a man searches for answers to impossible questions, for a book that is both an archive and an oracle.

Álvaro Enrigue’s mind-bending story features assassinations and executions, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bawdy criminals, carnal liaisons and papal schemes, artistic and religious revolutions, love and war. A blazingly original voice and a postmodern visionary, Enrigue tells the grand adventure of the dawn of the modern era, breaking down traditions and upending expectations, in this bold, powerful gut-punch of a novel. 

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Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan
A wry, affecting tale set in a small town on the Indonesian coast, Man Tiger tells the story of two interlinked and tormented families and of Margio, a young man ordinary in all particulars except that he conceals within himself a supernatural female white tiger. The inequities and betrayals of family life coalesce around and torment this magical being. An explosive act of violence follows, and its mysterious cause is unraveled as events progress toward a heartbreaking revelation.

Lyrical and bawdy, experimental and political, this extraordinary novel announces the arrival of a powerful new voice on the global literary stage.

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Oblivion by Sergei Lebedev
In one of the first twenty-first century Russian novels to probe the legacy of the Soviet prison camp system, a young man travels to the vast wastelands of the Far North to uncover the truth about a shadowy neighbor who saved his life, and whom he knows only as Grandfather II. What he finds, among the forgotten mines and decrepit barracks of former gulags, is a world relegated to oblivion, where it is easier to ignore both the victims and the executioners than to come to terms with a terrible past. This disturbing tale evokes the great and ruined beauty of a land where man and machine worked in tandem with nature to destroy millions of lives during the Soviet century. Emerging from today's Russia, where the ills of the past are being forcefully erased from public memory, this masterful novel represents an epic literary attempt to rescue history from the brink of oblivion.

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Ladivine by Marie NDiaye
On the first Tuesday of every month, Clarisse Rivière leaves her husband and young daughter and secretly takes the train to Bordeaux to visit her mother, Ladivine. Just as Clarisse’s husband and daughter know nothing of Ladivine, Clarisse herself has hidden nearly every aspect of her adult life from this woman, whom she dreads and despises but also pities. Long ago abandoned by Clarisse’s father, Ladivine works as a housecleaner and has no one but her daughter, whom she knows as Malinka.

After more than twenty-five years of this deception, the idyllic middle-class existence Clarisse has built from scratch can no longer survive inside the walls she’s put up to protect it. Her untold anguish leaves her cold and guarded, her loved ones forever trapped outside, looking in. When her husband, Richard, finally leaves her, Clarisse finds comfort in the embrace of a volatile local man, Freddy Moliger. With Freddy, she finally feels reconciled to, or at least at ease with, her true self. But this peace comes at a terrible price. Clarisse will be brutally murdered, and it will be left to her now-grown daughter, who also bears the name Ladivine without knowing why, to work out who her mother was and what happened to her. A mesmerizing and heart-stopping psychological tale of a trauma that ensnares three generations of women, Ladivine proves Marie NDiaye to be one of Europe’s great storytellers.

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Margarito and the Snowman by R.E. Young
RE Young ‘s latest features a nation buried in snow and ice in an obligatory 365 days a year Christmas celebration, a tribe of Mayan warriors in comedy troupe disguise, an existentially challenged hero known as the Snowman on a quest that takes him south of the border down ol’ Mexico way, and a B-grade movie director named Boone Weller with his own agenda. Is it a book? A movie? Told in a shoot from the hip Texas style, Margarito and the Snowman is loose, rangy, battered with an attitude and bound to offend everybody.


The Nina Borg myseries by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg has dedicated her life to helping those underserved by society—but her do-gooder tendencies often lead her into situations beyond the law’s protection.
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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy's funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor―there's not much else to do in a dying small town that's almost beyond repair.

You certainly wouldn't open a bookstore. And definitely not with the tourist in charge. You'd need a vacant storefront (Main Street is full of them), books (Amy's house is full of them), and...customers.
The bookstore might be a little quirky. Then again, so is Sara. But Broken Wheel's own story might be more eccentric and surprising than she thought.

The Bible has been translated into many languages from the biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

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Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Two hundred years ago, two young German librarians by the names of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published a collection of tales that would become one of the most influential works of folklore in Germany, Europe, and eventually the world.

Between 1812 and 1857, seven editions of their tales appeared, each one different from the last, until the final, best-known version barely resembled the first.

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Aesop’s Fables
Some may say that Aesop is infamous for the life he led over 2000 years ago and mostly for the hundreds of fables that have been attributed to his name since. Aesop’s fables have reached countless generations since he is reported to have been alive, and they continue to be a part of the lives of many. Not every fable, however, that has been linked to Aesop is his own original material. In actuality, there are many fables attributed to Aesop that, for a variety of reasons, couldn’t possibly be his own. In many ways the unclear authorship of the fables is at the fault of the storytelling tradition, many details are naturally lost and/or altered. However the storytelling tradition is also responsible for the survival of the Aesop Fables—if story telling didn’t exist, neither Aesop nor his fables would have survived.

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The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo
Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations.

Paulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago's journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat.  Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo.  As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

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The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
Opening the flaps on this unique little book, readers will find themselves immersed in the strange world of best-selling Haruki Murakami's wild imagination. The story of a lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plotting their escape from a nightmarish library, the book is like nothing else Murakami has written. Designed by Chip Kidd and fully illustrated, in full color, throughout, this small format, 96 page volume is a treat for book lovers of all ages.

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The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem
I first discovered this book in high school (through a wonderful teacher whom I cannot thank enough) and it remains one of my favorites. The Cyberiad chronicles the adventures of two “constructors” (inventors) named Trurl and Klapaucius. The best term for their relationship would be frenemies because they are constantly competing to invent more and more wonderful devices and their exchanges are frequently vitriolic, but can also be tinged with affection and mutual respect—even if they happen to be yelling at each other. They also happen to be robots.  When they are not trying to outdo each other in inventive genius, they are often hired for tasks requiring their constructing and problem-solving skills, such as “How Trurl Built a Femfatalatron to Save Prince Pantagroon from the Pangs of Love, and How Later He Resorted to a Cannonade of Babies.” How could I not want to find out what that was all about? But my favorite of the stories is “Trurl’s Electronic Bard,” in which Trurl creates a machine that can write poetry on demand, on any subject, in any form. When challenged to write a tragic six-line poem about a haircut, in which every word begins with the letter “s,” the machine obliges with this:

Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
Silently scheming,
Sightlessly seeking
Some savage, spectacular suicide.

If the text can jump through these kinds of hoops in English, what must it have been like in the original Polish? Kudos to Kandel for his translation on this one. He keeps the prose lively and engaging, and I can hardly imagine the stories any other way, especially since I can’t read Polish.  According to Kandel himself, “The original Lem is so much better, worlds better, than Lem in Kandel’s English. This is our punishment for trying to build a tower that reaches heaven.” But I am more than willing to take his word for that, since his word is literally what I have and I couldn’t have read Lem’s work without it.

Interview with Michael Kandel


Initially rejected by Verne’s editor as being a much too grim view of the future, Paris in the Twentieth Century languished forgotten until its discovery and publication in 1996. The protagonist, Michel Dufrenoy, has the misfortune to have artistic and poetic inclinations in this future society which values nothing more than technological advances. We can see which way the wind is blowing for him early in the novel, when he is practically laughed off the stage during Prize Day at the Academic Credit Union because he has earned First Prize for Latin Verse. As he describes himself:

“Here I am abandoned on the high seas; requiring the talents of a fish, all I have are the instincts of a bird; I want to live in space, in the ideal regions no longer visited—the land of dreams from which one never returns!”

Be careful what you wish for, indeed. Dufrenoy is pathetically ill-suited to his society and is eventually ground down very fine by its demands; however, part of the fascination of this novel for any fan of Jules Verne is seeing what he predicts and how true to life his predictions would be. Here as in other novels he is uncannily accurate on many points: widespread electric lighting, automobiles (“gas cabs”), high-speed trains, fax machine transmissions, and execution by electricity. Seeing Verne work his prescient magic is reason enough to visit Paris in the Twentieth Century. The novel is available for download in both English and French:


And just for fun:

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The Dinner by Herman Koch
It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

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The Vanishing by Tim Krabbe
When Saskia Ehlvest, a young Dutch girl, disappears from a rest stop along a highway in rural France, her lover, Rex Hofmann, cannot accept her disappearance and embarks on an obsessive search for her that spans years.

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The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.

When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.

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The Dirty Dust by Mairtin O'Cadhain
Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s irresistible and infamous novel The Dirty Dust is consistently ranked as the most important prose work in modern Irish, yet no translation for English-language readers has ever before been published. Alan Titley’s vigorous new translation, full of the brio and guts of Ó Cadhain’s original, at last brings the pleasures of this great satiric novel to the far wider audience it deserves.

In The Dirty Dust all characters lie dead in their graves. This, however, does not impair their banter or their appetite for news of aboveground happenings from the recently arrived. Told entirely in dialogue, Ó Cadhain’s daring novel listens in on the gossip, rumors, backbiting, complaining, and obsessing of the local community. In the afterlife, it seems, the same old life goes on beneath the sod. Only nothing can be done about it—apart from talk. In this merciless yet comical portrayal of a closely bound community, Ó Cadhain remains keenly attuned to the absurdity of human behavior, the lilt of Irish gab, and the nasty, deceptive magic of human connection.

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Graveyard Clay by Mairtin O'Cadhain
In critical opinion and popular polls, Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s Graveyard Clay is invariably ranked the most important prose work in modern Irish. This bold new translation of his radically original Cré na Cille is the shared project of two fluent speakers of the Irish of Ó Cadhain’s native region, Liam Mac Con Iomaire and Tim Robinson. They have achieved a lofty goal: to convey Ó Cadhain’s meaning accurately and to meet his towering literary standards.

Graveyard Clay is a novel of black humor, reminiscent of the work of Synge and Beckett. The story unfolds entirely in dialogue as the newly dead arrive in the graveyard, bringing news of recent local happenings to those already confined in their coffins. Avalanches of gossip, backbiting, flirting, feuds, and scandal-mongering ensue, while the absurdity of human nature becomes ever clearer. This edition of Ó Cadhain’s masterpiece is enriched with footnotes, bibliography, publication and reception history, and other materials that invite further study and deeper enjoyment of his most engaging and challenging work.

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Billie by Anna Gavalda
A number 1 bestseller in France and translated into over twenty-five languages, Billie is one of the most beloved French novels to be published in recent years. A brilliant evocation of contemporary Paris and a moving tale of friendship, Anna Gavalda’s new novel tells the story of two young people, Billie and Franck, who, as the story opens, are trapped in a gorge in the Cévennes Mountains. Billie begins to tell stories from their lives in order to calm herself and Franck as darkness encroaches. In alternating episodes, the novel moves between recollections of the two characters’ childhoods and their dire predicament.

Franck’s life has been impacted by a childhood spent with a perennially unemployed father who toyed with Christian extremism and a mother aestheticized by antidepressants. A bright kid, Franck’s future was menaced at every turn by the bigotry surrounding him. As for Billie, her abiding wish as an adult is to avoid ever having to come into contact with her family again. To escape from her abusive and alcohol-addled family, she was willing to do anything and everything. The wounds have not entirely healed.

At the heart of Gavalda’s moving story lies a generosity of spirit that will take readers’ breath away, and an unshakable belief in the power of art to lift the most fragile among us to new vistas from which they can see futures full of hope, love, and dignity. Billie is a beautifully crafted novel for readers of all ages and from all walks of life that conveys a positive message about overcoming life’s trials and tribulations.