Every reader knows that once in a while, you come across a strange word, often from another language. This word may take hold of your imagination because it looks or sounds so weird, or you might be exposed to it over years and years in the most disconnected contexts, until you just have to look it up. Such is the word Bildungsroman. Read more »
I’ve worked in libraries for years including a few in Texas, so it is a wonder that I’ve never read a western. Part of the problem then with reading your first book in a genre is that you lack the language to properly describe it or make comparisons. Now I wonder if I shall ever read another for the fear that the next one won’t hold up to The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt.
It is the gold rush years and the infamous Charlie and Eli Sisters are riding from Oregon City to San Francisco on orders from the Commodore to kill Hermann Kermit Warm. There is trouble with horses, whores, a red bear pelt, excessive brandy drinking, a man named Mayfield, a witch and a mysterious magical formula. Large sums of money come and go. The characters are unique, but without a lot of overall development. Is this usual for a western? Is the level of violence similar to other westerns? Is this a parody of the genre, a homage or both?
These days not many people are familiar with the work of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. During her life (she died in 2001) she was most famous for her relationship with her husband, pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh, the first person to fly between New York and Paris, to cross the Atlantic solo. There was also much publicity and notoriety about her firstborn’s kidnapping and murder in 1932.
Against Wind & Tidebegins with Anne roiling with the news that she is pregnant for the seventh time. She’s in her forties and her whole spirit rebels against another pregnancy. Yet, unless she has a physical reason for an abortion, she does not feel that can be an option. Much of the book is about motherhood. Charles once asked Anne what she believed the most important relationship in life to be—he said between husband and wife--but Anne said the relationship between mother and child was paramount. However, even as a rich woman who could afford a housekeeper and a cook, she often felt divided between parenting demands and her own writing. Yet what a wonderful mother her letters show her to be. She relates to each child differently, extremely aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses, and always encouraging each to be his or her best.
Anne was an amazingly gifted writer and though she wrote extended book-length essays and fiction, she excelled at detailing the personal struggles and explorations of an individual. She did that throughout the 20th century. Anne’s writing is deeply contemplative. She does not skim the surface of life but burrows into it both seeking and answering some of the hard questions. Read more »
This terrifying book is based on the diary of Shin Dong-Hyuk, who was born in a brutal labor camp in North Korea. In Escape from Camp 14journalist and writer Blaine Harden tells this young man’s story—the only person born in a labor camp to ever escape from one.
The writing in this book is mesmerizing, but warning: this is not a book you will want to read while enjoying a cool glass of lemonade or munching an apple. It’s horrifying on so many levels. The first being that camps such as these still exist where people are forced to do slave labor even as children, where torture is routine, and where almost everyone including the guards are starving. These camps have existed far longer than Soviet gulags but they are less well-known. Read more »
Warning – Don't look for these books in the Young Adult section! These are "Adult Books," written for adults. Teens beware!
Ok, now that I've got your attention, let me also say that these books are just great for teens. So great, in fact, that the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) made an award just for them, and named them after a famous Baltimore librarian – sort of. Her name was Margaret A. Edwards, but her friends called her Alex, and that's where we get the Alex Awards. The 2012 Alex Awards feature ten books written for adults, but with special appeal to teens. Read more »
If you’ve been following the lovely No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency mysteries set in Botswana, you’ll be familiar with the detective guidebook that Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi have used for years as their guidebook. Whenever they are flummoxed in an investigation or when a particularly conniving criminal seems to be getting away with breaking the law and harming innocent people, they have always searched The Principles of Private Detection for advice on how to crack a trying case.
And now in the latest of the series, TheLimpopo Academy of Private Detection, guess who has just arrived in town? None other than Clovis Andersen himself, the esteemed American author of this detective manual. When Mma Ramotswe, the head of the No. 1 Detective Agency, asks her husband garage mechanic, J.L.B. Matekoni, to guess what famous person has come to town, he immediately (to Mma’s great disappointment) guesses Clorox Andersen. Despite the misnaming, how did he know?
Clovis, recently widowed, has been invited to Africa by a librarian who probably has a romantic interest in him. And when he drops by the detective agency both women sleuths are quite star struck. Read more »
Ida Mae Jones is a young African-American woman living with her family in Louisiana. Her father who taught her to fly a small crop duster has passed away, and her brother has signed up to serve in World War II. It is not surprising that Ida Mae feels caught between her family obligations and her love of flying. She learns about the Women Airforce Service Pilots – a civilian organization that served to fly airplanes under the military with the goal of freeing up qualified men to serve in combat. The WASP pilots transferred planes and equipment from assembly plants to military bases and often trailed targets in the air for anti-aircraft artillery practice.
Not only was the WASP a highly selective group that underwent rigorous training, but Ida Mae faces even more difficulty because she knows she can’t sign up as a black woman. Her fair skin allows her to pass for white, but the stress of this combined with the training proves difficult. On the positive side, the friends Ida Mae makes in WASP training are fantastic and provide support for Ida Mae even if they don’t know her secret for sure. Read more »
A graphic novel about Jeffrey Dahmer? I am not a true crime reader. I am not even a fake crime reader, so I didn't think I would be interested. Boy, was I wrong. Last week I took My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf home based on a few coworker recommendations. I started reading fairly late one night and didn't put this book down until I was finished.
This book is sad, surprising and gross. But there is more than just morbid entertainment here. Backderf went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer in Ohio in the 70s. His personal insight combined with meticulous research and interviews create a story that isn't really sympathetic, but does feel complete and informative. Backderf is a career comic artist, so the black and white illustrations feel like a natural way for this story to be told. He also includes some original drawings of Dahmer that he had done in high school. This isn't an easy read, but it is more than just shock value. Read more »
Recently, I had to do some long-distance driving so I did something I rarely do, listen to a book. I chose A Deeper Sleep, a mystery by Dana Stabenow. I wanted something both absorbing and light while I was negotiating the long interstates of Illinois.
This book was spot-on. It’s set in and around Denali National Park. If you like your sleuths both tough and appealing, Kate Shugak is the detective for you. She’s part Aleut, has lived on the outskirts of the great national park all her life and has a good deal of street (or should I say trail cred) with the natives, most of whom are her relatives.
Near the small community of Niniltna, an evil guy, Louis Deem, has killed his wife and attacked several girlfriends—one way to get rid of your exes. Kate and Trooper Jim Chopin work together to locate the evidence that will seal his fate. But though they manage to arrest him several times—he’s a sly, cagey murderer, and a jury (swayed by an excellent Anchorage defensive attorney) releases him. Read more »
The premise is simple. Wealthy doctor, Richard invites his estranged sister, Angela, her unemployed husband and their three children to share a vacation house in the Welsh countryside knowing she cannot pay for a trip on their own. Joining Richard is his new wife and her willful teenage daughter. Their trip initially brims with the hope of forgiveness and family bonding, all nicely tucked away in a cozy modern pastoral setting. But secrets, resentments, pain and confusion – both old and new – follow everyone. The complicated dynamics of this family and their often awkward attempts to set things right are at the crux of this novel. Can’t we all relate? Being in a family is hard.