This Sunday in our Booksplus program (Library Room 2B at 2p.m.) we will be discussing Jeannette Walls' rousing true fiction story Half Broke Horses about her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, a feisty woman who grew up in the still wild west of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona in the early years of the last century. You may be familiar with the author's first book The Glass Castle; it made many best books of the year lists when it came out in 2005 and still has a wide readership.
What a gripping opening. A flash flood rips through the family ranch one evening and Lily her brother and sister hear a loud rumbling as the earth shakes beneath them. Lily grabs the youngest and runs for the only tree in the field. They spend a harrowing night hanging on to branches as massive flood waters drown the field. Although Lily is only ten at the time, she keeps both children awake by making them say their math tables, the names of the states, and any other long list she can remember. Read more »
If you have not heard of Suzanne Collins' trilogy, The Hunger Games, I must ask what rock you've been sleeping under? The 2008 Young Adult Bestseller has exploded in classrooms, libraries, bookstores, and on the tongues of everyone I come in contact with (or so it seems). Well after being dogged for not reading this book, I finally gave in and read it, determined not to like it to spite all those people who gawked at me for not yet reading it. Unfortunately, my mission backfired on me. I loved it. Read more »
Not many novels tell the story of a daughter's pregnancy through her father's eyes, and although this is only one of this book's themes, it's very powerful one. In the first half, we follow the story of the very imperfect Paul--critic, college teacher, husband, father, friend, and neighbor who is involved in a feud over the cutting down of trees. Paul himself admits that he has problems, for example, he's too afraid of showing emotion so he does not ask the undertaker to see his mother's body. He lies to his wife, has affairs, and for years has ignored his oldest child. Read more »
To be an American during the 1920s in Paris? What could be more trendy and romantic? Especially, if you’ve just married the dashing young fiction writer, Ernest Hemingway. This absorbing novel introduces you to all the famous ex-pat writers of the time period: everyone from Gertrude Stein ("a rose is a rose is a rose") to Scott Fitzgerald with the wild Zelda on his arms to Ezra Pound and John Dos Passos.
But it’s not primarily a biographical novel about Papa Hemingway; it’s more the story of a marriage between two smart, witty people who each possess an incredible zest for life and adventure. Read more »
I admit to being a streaky reader and will often go through several books on the same subject over the course of a month or so. While not as exotic as reading books about bananas (What? Not exotic either? Well you get the point), I have lately been reading some excellent literary fiction.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett I have read some critiques of this book that there are plot holes and lapses of logic. Upon reflection, I would have to agree with this, however it in no way changes my reading experience. I loved this book and was completely emotionally invested in the characters and outcome of this story. I both devoured the last pages, and didn't want the book to end.Read more »
There are plenty of scary stories out there to keep you shivering beneath the blankets long after you've turned out the lights. But Raven's Gate, by Anthony Horowitz stands out for its great characters and ever mounting action and suspense. Fourteen-year-old orphan Matt Freeman is framed for a violent crime and given the choice of getting locked up or going into a reform program in the rural English town of Lesser Malling. Read more »
This week Tennessee Lady Vol's basketball coach, Pat Summitt, made headlines with her announcement that she had developed Alzheimer's disease. Coincidentally, I was reading this very readable novel on the same subject.
But how do you write a book from the viewpoint of someone suffering from this disease? Not only write it but combine it with a family drama and a murder mystery? This engrossing book does all of these beautifully. Read more »
As a person raised Catholic, I was drawn to the topic of this novel. Who doesn't want to be a kind, caring person? To do good works? To make the world a bit better each day? OK, maybe not serial killers, some Wall Street tycoons, mafia types, mercenaries, etc. but on the whole most people try (at least part of the time) to be good.
This 2001 Nick Hornby novel zeroes in on Dr. Katie Carr, a London wife and mother, who deals with boils and warts and patients struggling to breathe. She's a physician for Britain's National Health Service. She's married to David, a stay-at-home husband who writes an acerbic column for the local paper about all the myriad things that send him into rages, for instance, the elderly not taking their reserved seats in the front of bus and annoying other passengers by tottering when the bus suddenly stops. Read more »
If you've never taken a cruise and are considering one, this novel paints this form of travel in a good light, especially if you are thinking of a transatlantic one. Recently-widowed Violet Hetherington impulsively decides to visit a dear male friend from her youth in New York City and treats herself to a good berth with a balcony. Not only does she describe the foibles and habits of the upper classes, but she also details everyday encounters with the ship's staff. Read more »
I have to admit, even as someone who has great appreciation for short stories, I often find it hard to muster the same kind of enthusiasm for reading them as I do when approaching the pleasant immersion of a novel. But I’ve proven myself wrong so many times, as I take up a book with a sense of duty and find myself thoroughly enthralled instead. Short stories are perfect for those with a hectic schedule (or a short attention span); they offer condensed, pithy prose and plot, and they can often alert you to a new talent before everyone’s going crazy for their debut novel. I was inspired to write this post by Daniel Orozco’s Orientation, which I just read. “Officer Weeps” in particular is one my my favorite short stories ever. His characters are weird and liminal--a woman on a late-night cookie binge, an ex-dictator, a pair of officers falling in love amidst an odd vandalism streak--and he presents them with hilarious and terrible brevity. Here are a few other collections that I really enjoyed, written with a similarly strange focus and an equal blend of heartbreak and humor. Read more »