Posts Tagged ‘Award Winner’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Keith H’s Picks

December 31, 2014

They say too many books will spoil the broth, but they fill my life with so much, so much love.  I read primarily science fiction and fantasy, with a dose of comics and science fiction/fantasy for kids and teens.  I’m pretty well rounded.  These are my favorite science fiction and fantasy books that were new to me this year.

MMistbornistborn: the Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
Vin is a street urchin who gets wrapped up with a gang attempting to overthrow the imperial Lord Ruler. She lives in a world  divided into  commoners and  allomancers, who are sorcerers able to ingest certain metals to give them a specific power.” Coinshots” can use steel to propel metal through space. “Tineyes” use tin to enhance their senses. “Thugs” use pewter to enhance their strength. Most allomancers can only use a single metal but the most feared are Mistborn, who can use the powers of all metals. Sanderson’s writing became increasingly well-known after he was selected to finish Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series. I prefer Sanderson’s own works, which are still epic fantasy with thorough world-building, but considerably less sprawling. (Trilogies instead of 10+ book epics)  Mistborn: The Final Empire is the first book of the Mistborn trilogy.

The Hundred Thousand KingdomsThe Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
After Yeine Darr’s mother dies, she is called to the imperial city by her grandfather, the emperor. Her upbringing as a barbarian leaves her outcast in imperial society. She soon finds that she has been chosen to compete for the throne against two cousins who are immeasurably more well-versed in magic and backstabbing than her. To top it off, gods made incarnate are also meddling with the competition. I read this initially because it was compared to Octavia Butler, but Jemison creates her own unique universe in this innovative work. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the first book in “The Inheritance” trilogy.

The Knife of Never Letting GoKnife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Todd lives on a planet recently settled by humans. Unfortunately, a native virus has killed all of the women and given men the curse of “Noise”, constantly hearing each other’s thoughts. Todd learns a secret which causes him to flee their settlement with his dog, Manchee. Todd can also hear his dog’s thoughts. Manchee’s dog voice has replaced the voice of Dug, the dog from “Up”, in my imagination of what dogs sound like while speaking English . This story is told in a dialect that takes some initial getting used to, but becomes second nature quickly. This brutal, face paced story was published as a teen book but due to some disturbing themes, I wouldn’t give it to anyone under 15.

The Golem and the JinniThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
A historical fiction, immigration story with a fantastic twist: the immigrants are magical beings. Chava is a Golem, a lifelike woman made of clay by an outcast rabbi who practices Kabbalistic magic. Ahmad is a Jinni, a fire spirit born in the deserts of Syria, recently released from being trapped inside a copper flask. They meet while trying to find their places in the chaos of late 1800s New York City. The details of Jewish and Arab mythology and culture are well-researched and intriguing. Watching Chava and Ahamad become friends and soul mates was a pleasure straight to the end.

Among OthersAmong Others by Jo Walton
A seemingly unreliable narrator describes her life as the daughter of an evil fairy. After fleeing to her father’s home, Morwenna is promptly sent away to a boarding school in the English countryside. As an avid reader, she finds solace by joining a science fiction book club at the local library. Any speculative fiction fan will enjoy the club’s discussions of the great authors of SF:  LeGuin, Delaney, Heinlein, Asimov, et al. This book is like a love letter to SF combined with an awesome to-read bibliography.  Among Others was the winner of the 2012 Nebula and Hugo awards for Best Novel.  Read another review.

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Radhika R’s Picks

December 30, 2014

Albert Einstein said  that “Imagination is more important  than intelligence!”  Books fire that imagination for me! Books make me think, laugh, empathize and take me through a gamut of emotions. I travel around the world from the the comfort of my couch!  Here are a few of them which I enjoyed reading.

MadoMadonnas of Leningradnnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
A story of love, suffering and helplessness. Marina is rendered helpless when she is affected by Alzheimer’s. While she has difficulty remembering her children or grandchildren, she remembers clearly the 40 day siege of Leningrad, and how she overcame it. As a museum docent, she helped to hide countless priceless works of art from the invading Nazis, all the time creating a “memory palace” in her mind in which to cherish their beauty. These memories and those of the works of art she saved are juxtaposed with the present, where she regularly forgets her own granddaughter. A very sad, poignant story of an Alzheimer’s patient and how the caretakers the family members stand by helplessly while their loved one’s mind is slowly shutting down on the immediate present. A very touching read.  Read another review.

Burial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent
This book explores the grey areas in life. Not every situation can be put into boxes of right or wrong. It makes us think and ponder and feel gut wrenching emotions for all the characters. It is a true, but fictionalized story of the last beheading in Iceland. In 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is sentenced to death by beheading for the brutal murder of two men. Because there are no local prisons, Agnes is sent to the remotest village to await her execution while living with a farming family. The family is wary of Agnes and takes time to adjust to her presence. The farmer’s wife, slowly thawing towards Agnes, comes to hear her story and is devastated when she realizes there is nothing that anyone can do to save Agnes. The story is told compellingly in different voices and makes you feel the pain and the helplessness of the circumstances.

Defending JacobDefending Jacob by William Landay
Andy Barber, happily married to Laurie and a district attorney in a small New England town, is at a crossroads of his life. He is investigating the murder of a young teen boy, Ben, despite the fact that there might be a conflict of interest – Ben was his son Jacob’s friend, and attended the same school. From here starts the real roller coaster journey! When Jacob is accused of the murder, Andy and Laurie’s world reels. This book explores questions many will never ask. How much do we know about our children? Where does love end, and practicality begin? How do we even begin to imagine what the truth is, whether our child is capable of taking a life… a parent’s worst nightmare come to the fore! What will it take a parent even to accept that it is a possibility? Why is it that when tragedy strikes, all relationships start to unravel? An intriguing piece of fiction where legal implications mesh with family emotions.  Read another review.

The Garlic BalladsThe Garlic Ballads by Yan Mo
This novel is the Nobel Prize winner in Literature for the year 2012, and it is rightly so. The angst, worry, fear hope and helplessness of poverty is so well portrayed that we can actually envision ourselves in the pages of the book and live with the characters, wondering how they survive in those circumstances! The farmers of Paradise County have been leading hard, miserable lives for centuries when the government asks them to plant garlic. The farmers do so, but find it hard to sell. At the mercy of corrupt government officials, the farmers are forced to pay money they don’t have in order to sell their wares, but find that after paying the various taxes and tolls, their crops remain unsold. This is the breaking point for many of the farmers, leading to riots and arrests, followed by inhumane conditions in jail, torture and beatings. An old bard sings the song of tyranny throughout this book, and is killed for it. This book is not just about human suffering and despair, but also filled with tales of family love, loyalty and hope! In the midst of desolation, each character finds a reason to live. This is truly an amazing read, where depths of despair and the upliftment of spirit reside side by side

I am MalalaI am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christian Lamb
Most of us have read about Malala and may feel we know her story. This book made me think differently. Malala was born to parents who were strong supporters of women’s rights and had a school of their own for girls. Raised with this mindset, Malala was determined to do her part, and her parents supported her decision. All of them knew that Malala’s bravery would ultimately mean facing the wrath of the Taliban when it took over their Swat Valley. Her parents, who knew the danger their child faced every day, made the difficult choice to support her, and Malala chose to stay the course despite unimaginable pressure. You know the story – Malala was shot – but thankfully, she survived to become a spokesperson for the rights of girls to an education. This review is a salute to all the young girls and women who have fought against the Taliban atrocities for the right to a just life and education, and paved the way for Malala to bring their cause to the attention of the world. Kudos to Malala, a brave young girl who took such a bold, courageous step to improve lives of other girls and fight for their right to education! It is rightly said that the strength of human spirit always humbles you!

Best ‘New to Us” Books in 2014: Farida B’s Picks

December 24, 2014

I love a variety of books in adult and children’s collection. I love reading Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Humor, Romance and gentle clean reads. Here are “New to Me” books that inspired me most this year. I hope you can include some of these books in your 2015 reading list.

Death of a Travelling ManDeath of a Travelling Man by M. C. Beaton
This is Beaton‘s eighth mystery featuring Scottish police constable Hamish MacBeth. Hamish has been promoted against his will and as Sergeant, he makes more money, but must suffer more work as well, as well as the enthusiasm of his new helper, Police Constable Willie Lamont. Willie Lamont has less talent for police work and more talent for cleaning, polishing, and scrubbing. His insistence on keeping the police station spotless and super clean is driving MacBeth crazy. It all starts when a suspicious drifter Sean and his girlfriend Cheryl park their van behind the minister’s manse. This “devastatingly handsome” drifter Sean charms four women out of their money and harasses Hamish’s ladylove, Priscilla. If you like to read light mysteries filled with humor and action then this is definitely going to be your choice!  See my full review.

Murphy's LawMurphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen
Murphy’s Law is the first book in the Molly Murphy mystery series. Molly Murphy, the main character in this story, is a spunky, 19th-century Irish heroine. Molly always ends up in trouble no matter where she goes. She is outspoken, strong independent lady. She commits a murder in self-defense, so she has to leave her cherished Ireland and her identity for the unknown shores of America. In London she meets Kathleen O’Connor. Kathleen has two small children and tickets for a ship to America, where she plans to join her husband. But she has tuberculosis, so she knows that she will not be allowed on the ship to America, so she persuades the desperate Molly to take her children to America instead of herself and use her identity on the ship. Molly agrees to this plan since she wants to be in a new place and start a new life. After the landing at Ellis Island, O’Malley is found stabbed to death. Police detective Daniel Sullivan questions Molly about it since lots of people had seen Molly slap O’Malley on the ship. Molly becomes the prime suspect along with a young man whom she had befriended. See my full review.

Running Out of TimeRunning out of Time by Margaret P. Haddix
Jessie lives in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana in 1840. When diphtheria strikes the village and the children of Clifton start dying, Jessie discovers that Clifton is actually a 1996 tourist site under secret observation by heartless scientists. Jessie’s mother sends her on a dangerous mission to bring back help. But outside the walls of Clifton, Jessie discovers a world even more alien and scary, and soon she finds her own life in danger. Can she get help before the children of Clifton and Jessie herself run out of time? This is a young adult book which is appealing to adults as well. It is one of my favorite books, written by a good author.  It has won multiple awards, including the YALSA Best Book for Young Adults.

Miss Julia Speaks Her MindMiss Julia Speaks her Mind by Ann Ross
This book is the first in the series. Miss Julia is a strong willed, independent, proper church-going lady. Recently widowed, she is trying to settle down with her new life, including the substantial estate left by her late husband, Wesley Lloyd Springer. Everything is peaceful until Hazel Marie Puckett arrives at her doorstep with her 9 year old son Little Lloyd. Guess what? Little Lloyd is Wesley’s son. Miss Julia receives a shock of her life! After 44 years of marriage to pillar of the church and community Wesley Lloyd Springer, she discovers that he was having an affair with Hazel Marie Puckett. She had assumed he was working late at the family bank, but instead he was engaged in more carnal pursuits. The worst thing was that the whole town knew about this affair. Read my full review.

UnwindUnwind By Neal Shusterman
In America after the Second Civil War the “Bill of Life” permits the parents to get rid of a child between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, through a process called “unwinding.” Unwinding ensures that the child’s life doesn’t really end by transplanting all the organs from the child’s body to different important recipients who quote the highest bid. This is a story about three teens – Connor, Risa and Lev – who become runaway Unwinds. Their escape and survival stories interweave as they struggle to avoid harvest camps. All the characters live and breathe in the story. Neal Shusterman’s Unwind has won many awards and honors, including being included on ALA’s Top Ten Picks for Reluctant Readers and Best Books for Young Adults lists. It is a book written for young adults, but I really enjoyed it and I am sure lots of adults will like reading it too! It has breathtaking suspense and is a sure page turner to find out if the three teens avoid their untimely ends.

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Amy W’s Picks

December 16, 2014

According to this post, it seems I only read coming of age literary novels and hard-hitting non-fiction. But really look at it this way, I have spent a summer on an Ojibwe Indian reservation and in a small Midwest town both faced with terrible crimes, followed a Civil Rights icon on our nation’s path to equality, lived in rural Mississippi a few days before Hurricane Katrina hit and examined the day to day life of soldiers returning home with PTSD and/ or traumatic brain injury. I learned a lot, not just facts, but also about the human spirit.

The Round HouseRound House by Louise Erdrich
This book grabbed me in the first paragraph. The narrative is compelling as Joe, his tribal judge father and his community try to process the violent crime committed against his mother. The investigation is complex since his mother, traumatized, is unable to provide details and the laws governing the reservation and state laws strangle any chance of justice with red tape. Joe and his friends decide to take matters in their own hands. Erdrich balances this story nicely, with humor and excitement but also a serious examination of justice. This book also makes a great book club discussion.

Thank You for Your ServiceThank You for Your Service by David Finkel
Journalist David Finkel follows members of the US 2-16 Infantry Battalion as they return home from service in Iraq. The soldiers often hear the sentiment “Thank you for your service” from appreciative Americans. However, that appreciation, no matter how heart-felt, has no real impact on their day to day life at home after returning from war. Many of the soldiers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injury. Their families are at a loss when it comes to caring for them, the public cannot seem to grasp the pain of invisible injuries and veteran assistance, when available, can also require great sacrifice ultimately adding to the stress of daily life. A notable book of 2013, Thank You for Your Service is a close look at the tragedy of a war that never ends for members of the armed forces.

The Devil in the GroveDevil in the Grove by Gilbert King
The Pulitzer prize-winning book is Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King and it is much more than an account of the trial of three young African-American men accused of kidnapping and raping a white woman in rural 1948 Florida. It is a detailed glimpse in the complex machinations of the Civil Rights Movement as played out in the courtroom. Marshall’s landmark case Brown v. Board of Education (1954 Supreme Court decision disallowing school segregation) was the result of years of planning and small victories that ultimately overturned Plessy v. Ferguson. I just had no real understanding of the complex planning it took to make it to that one important case. Thurgood Marshall (chief counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund) and the NAACP frequently took on lots of cases like the Groveland Boys. Their strategy was never acquittal but to kick the case up to higher courts through appeals with a decision that not only acquits the innocent but also has broader significance to civil rights with each case building on top of one another. If you think this book sounds like a somewhat interesting, but probably overly detailed academic snooze fest you are wrong. Devil in the Grove is a well-written, accessible and at times, a page-turner.  See my full review.

Ordinary GraceOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Life is idyllic in a small, northern Minnesota town during the summer of 1961 until the town is rocked by a series of murders. 13 year-old Frank Drum gets caught up in the the excitement as he and his friends speculate about who may have committed the sinister acts. Frank’s amateur investigations reveals the complexities of life in a simple, small town as those around him struggle with their life decisions. Ordinary Grace is a beautifully written, compelling page turner.

Salvage the BonesSalvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
It wasn’t that the Batiste family decided to stay in their home while Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, it was that they had bigger battles consuming their lives. Every chapter moves the storm one day closer with some chapters the storm is not mentioned at all. Having never recovered from the death of their mother, Esch (the narrator), her brothers and her alcoholic father live a hand to mouth existence in rural Mississippi. As the storm approaches, their lives become unraveled. Esch, is fifteen, pregnant and alone with her secret. At a time Esch needs a mother the most, the memories of her mother fade all too quickly. This 2011 National Book Award winner is a tough read. Sometimes I find a book so incredibly heart-breaking, I struggle to turn the page and consider closing the book. Ward, growing up in the rural Gulf Coast did not have a chance to turn the page either or close the book on her life. Instead, she put words to paper creating a beautiful novel, rich in hope.  See my full review.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

August 25, 2014

Salvage the BonesIt wasn’t that the Batiste family decided to stay in their home while Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, it was that they had bigger battles consuming their lives. Every chapter moves the storm one day closer. In some chapters, the storm is not mentioned at all.

Having never recovered from the death of their mother, Esch (the narrator), her brothers and her alcoholic father live a hand to mouth existence in rural Mississippi. As the storm approaches, their lives become unraveled.

Esch, is fifteen, pregnant and alone with her secret. At a time Esch needs a mother the most, the memories of her mother fade all too quickly. She finds examples of motherhood in her brother,Skeetah and his pit bull, China, who has just given birth to a litter of puppies. Skeetah cares for China fiercely and is completely devoted to her well-being. China and Skeetah both care for the newborn pups who will be sold for dog fighting and the money used to support the Batiste family’s existence and endeavors to rise above their poverty. Esch narrates the story of her family with lush and poetic language interwoven with the classical mythology tale of Medea. Much like in mythology, all the battles, both real and emotional, are epic.

Jesmyn Ward deals in dualities making this book true to a life that is never simply black or white. The Batiste family (and their friends) live in poverty but have a richness of spirit making them resilient. Hurricane Katrina decimates the Gulf Coast, but reins in the family, forcing them to exist in one place and making them stronger. Skeetah and his pit bull, China, have a relationship built on the deepest filial love and brutally savage violence.

This 2011 National Book Award winner is a tough read. Sometimes I find a book so incredibly heart-breaking, I struggle to turn the page and consider closing the book. Ward, growing up in the rural Gulf Coast did not have a chance to turn the page either or close the book on her life. Instead, she put words to paper creating a beautiful novel, rich in hope. If you enjoy this book, I also recommend her highly acclaimed 2013 memoir, Men We Reaped.

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Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

July 7, 2014

Geek LoveTo save their traveling carnival, Al and “Crystal Lil” Binewski experiment with drugs and radioactivity during Lil’s pregnancies to chemically breed their children into their own “freaks”. They do not see the harm in doing this. Mrs. Binewski compares her children to beautiful hybrid roses. As a result, Olympia Binewski, a bald albino hunchback dwarf, and her equally unique siblings are forced to go through life as carnival attractions, both admired and abhorred by society.

Five children make up the Binewski Fabulon. Arturo (the Aqua Boy) is missing limbs. Through manipulation, Arturo creates a cult following of people who have their own limbs removed so that they too will be special. Elly and Iphy are Siamese twins who are naive and pretty. The baby of the family is Chick, who appears normal, but has telekinetic powers. Geek Love is told from Olympia’s viewpoint.

The book’s graphic scenes and dark humor may not be for everyone. This National Book Award finalist, while tragic, is also very humorous and the plot is so fantastical that the book is a treat to read.  Katherine Dunn’s thoughtful and humanistic view of life outside of society’s accepted norm will leave readers thinking that there just may be a little freak in all of us. Those who liked Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman or fans of author Chuck Palahniuk may like this book.

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Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

April 29, 2014

Moon Over Manifest by Clare VanderpoolMoon Over Manifest is a children’s fiction novel that appeals to all readers who enjoy adventure in a true American historical setting. This first novel written by Clare Vanderpool won the John Newbery Medal for excellence in children’s literature in 2011. However, adults, too, can savor the first-person account of young Abilene Tucker literally jumping from a life of riding the rails with her father into intrigue and challenge in Manifest, Kansas in 1936. With eccentric characters like “The Rattler,” a menacing spy; Miss Sadie, a mysterious Hungarian diviner; or Pastor Shady Howard, who takes Abilene into his home at her father’s request, there is much for the reader to relish as the story unfolds.

There are several storylines in the novel. Besides Abilene’s story, there is one of a boy named Jinx who faces bigotry and prejudice in 1917 Manifest. Another is the rise and decline of Manifest itself. Miss Sadie, whose home lies at the end of the “Path to Perdition,” over time discloses the story of Jinx and Manifest to Abilene. Abilene’s discovery of letters, mementos and newspaper clippings also lead to the recognition of who Jinx becomes.

I enjoyed the book very much for its rhythms and pacing, its historical atmosphere, and its unfolding mysteries. There is hope and humor as Abilene perseveres in her efforts to understand her father. She thinks he has abandoned her, and she yearns to feel connected to family. Abilene makes friends, accepts people in all their diversity, and treasures what she discovers. She, as well as Jinx earlier, begins to belong to Manifest, this tired, but worthy, town.

This novel has been a selection of both youth and adult book clubs. You may well enjoy this story of loss and devotion set in a captivating time and place in America’s history.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Kate B’s Picks

December 27, 2013

Though I haven’t reviewed a lot of books for the blog this year, I certainly have read many!  Although I read a broad variety of fiction, I tend to gravitate toward suspense and mystery titles, as well as any book that pays a lot of attention to the narrator’s thoughts and “inner life.”  I also enjoy reading nonfiction, especially memoirs and focused history.  My favorite “new to me” books of 2013 definitely reflect these reading preferences, and here they are in no particular order!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
One morning, recently-retired Harold Fry is surprised by a letter from a friend he hasn’t heard from in more than twenty years.  Queenie Hennessey, an old colleague, is in hospice care in Berwick-upon-Tweed – about as far from Harold’s town of Kingsbridge as you can get.  Touched by Queenie’s letter, Harold pens a reply and, donning a light anorak and his leather yachting shoes, sets off for the mailbox.  He passes two, then three mailboxes… and as he walks farther and farther from home and his wife Maureen, Harold wonders why he doesn’t just go to Berwick-upon-Tweed and deliver his letter to Queenie personally.  By the end of the day, Harold has convinced himself that as long as he keeps walking north to his old friend, she will survive her illness.  Joyce writes a sparse, allegorical narrative that is told almost entirely within the confines of Harold’s mind.  I listened to the audiobook on a six-hour road trip.  Jim Broadbent’s narration is top-notch, and the story itself is perfectly suited to a long drive.

Still Life by Louise Penny
I’m a sucker for a good detective series, and had been meaning to give Louise Penny’s Agatha Award-winning Armand Gamache series a try for a couple of years.  Three Pines is a sleepy town outside Montreal, unremarkable to all but those who inhabit it.  The police force doesn’t have much to do… until early one morning, the elderly but spry Jane Neal is found dead on a quiet path where she usually walks her dog.  Although it first seems that a hunting accident was the cause of her death, but the more Gamache and his team investigate, the less things add up.  The book is atmospheric with a flavor that is both autumnal and decidedly Quebecois, making it an excellent companion to a hot beverage and a warm blanket!

Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson
Pots, pans, stoves, and ovens might seem like the most basic of kitchen equipment to us.  But after reading this history of kitchen technology, you’ll marvel at the ingenuity of the people who figured out that by putting something between food and flame, and by containing the heat, we can improve flavor and get different resulting textures.  This book is full of moments where the reader is invited to think about the origins of everyday kitchen objects that have shaped the way we cook, the way our homes are structured, and ultimately, how we live our lives.  For foodies, technology junkies, and history buffs alike, this is a must-read that’s divided into manageable chunks.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This is a classic in the suspense genre that somehow, I hadn’t gotten around to reading until this year.  It was well worth the wait!  The unnamed heroine has just married Maxim de Winter, a wealthy and kind widower with whom she is deeply in love.  Everything seems perfectly ordinary until she moves into Manderley and meets Mrs. Danvers, the rather sinister housekeeper who seems to spend the majority of her time ensuring that everything in the house is exactly as it was on the day Rebecca – Maxim’s first wife – died.  It’s not difficult to see why Alfred Hitchcock chose this book as one of his first film adaptations.  The book’s slow start and emotional climax are hallmarks of Hitchcock’s work and help add to the inherent creepiness of the story!

Mimus by Lillie Thal
As a young adult novel set in a Middle Ages without magic, dwarves, witches or unicorns, Mimus is unique from the start!  In a peace negotiation gone wrong, King Philip is kidnapped by a rival kingdom’s army, and later so is Philip’s son Prince Florin.  In a cruel act of humiliation, the enemy ruler assigns Florin to be a fool, studying under the court jester Mimus.  If Florin doesn’t perform the songs, jokes, and impressions his mentor writes, it will mean torture and punishment for him and his father – but every song mocks his father and every joke has his homeland as the punchline.  Can Florin let his guard down long enough to learn who Mimus really is – and how he can save his home kingdom?  Packed with philosophical conversations between Florin and Mimus, along with several action sequences, this book will appeal to adult fans of historical fiction as well as teenaged ones.

Tenth of December by George Saunders

November 20, 2013

tenthdec“Having felt that abyss, I basically said, ‘O.K., capitalism, I have seen your gaping maw, and I want no trouble with you.’ ” – George Saunders
My heart leaped when I saw that George Saunders had a new story collection coming out this year. Ever since reading his story, In Persuasion Nation, back in 2005, my love for his work has continued unabated and I urge you, blog reader, to grab a copy of Tenth of December immediately.
For those unfamiliar with Saunders, his work uses satire and the surreal to capture the strangeness and unrelenting brutality of modern American corporate culture where cruelty is wrapped in management speak. His stories are dark and sharply funny, yet carry a deeply moral bent. In Escape from Spiderhead,a human test subject experiences a series of increasingly ruthless Milgramesque experiments to which he must decide to comply or resist. While in The Semplica Girl Diaries, a father struggles with providing for his family. When he wins the lottery he fulfills his daughter’s dream of having a set of Semplica Girls, which turn out to be a type of living lawn ornaments that reflect our ever growing globalized economy. The title story is a lovely showstopper combining the crossed paths of a man seeking suicide after his cancer diagnosis and the nerdy boy who sets out to save him.

Though many of Saunders’ characters seem to be caught in situations without escape, there is an undercurrent of grace and hope that persists despite the characters’ bleak situations.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

November 6, 2013

I have long been a fan of dystopian literature written for adults. From Huxley’s Brave New World to Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, I love to read stories about our world gone wrong. In recent history, it has become more socially acceptable for adults to be caught reading kids/teen fiction. Since Suzanne Collins published the Hunger Games, there have been a slew of imitators churning out teen “coming of age/romance in the apocalypse” drivel. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Hunger Games, but there was a little too much angsty adolescent love for my taste. The Gale/Peeta dichotomy was an annoying distraction from the violent social commentary.

Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, while featuring a teen protagonist, is at its bones a story of survival while attempting to maintain a moral code in a brutal world. The story is set in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in a time when the world’s supply of oil has run dry. Scavengers have created an industry of stripping derelict oil tankers of any usable commodities when they wash up on shore. The main character, Nailer, spends as much time as he can away from a miserable home life. His amphetamine addicted father regularly beats him and spends their savings on booze and drugs. One day, Nailer finds a beached clipper ship in a nearby cove. It contains opulence like he has never seen which, by finder’s rights, is now his to claim. While exploring the ship, he also finds a teenage girl, half-dead trapped under the bed of the stateroom. He is faced with a choice: free her and try to get her to safety or let her die and be the wealthiest member of his community.

Bacigalupi creates a believable, brutal world full of desperate and dangerous characters. This book has just the right combination of sci-fi action and compelling characterization…and no sappy teen romance!

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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