Posts Tagged ‘Janet M.’s Picks’

Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles

June 26, 2014

Lighthouse IslandIn Paulette Jiles dystopian novel Lighthouse Island, four year old Nadia Stepan is abandoned by her parents in a ravaged society and told “Look to the North Star, and we will always be there…”  With no rain for over century, stealing someone’s water is punishable by death, although the elite secretly revel in warm showers and swimming pools.

Reading gives Nadia hope for a better life and she begins a desperate trek to the fabled “Lighthouse Island,” although others of society’s lower echelons are skeptical of its existence.  Among other multiple dangers she faces, misfits such as her that are deemed attractive are sentenced to ‘public executions.’

On her journey Nadi meets wheel-chair bound mapmaker and demolition expert, James Orotov.  James tries to help Nadia in her quest remotely from his higher level job, until he himself must flee for his life and he sets off to find her.

Although the ending seemed forced and rushed and did not especially work for me, the determined character of Nadia quoting literary passages and her resourcefulness along her dangerous journey did keep me hooked!

Definitely an unsettling dystopian read shadowed with Fahrenheit 451 overtones, Lighthouse Island stays with you long after the last page, especially if you take a sip of water…

Find and reserve this book at the library.

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The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

June 18, 2014

The Word ExchangeAfter reading Alena Graedon’s unsettling debut novel The Word Exchange, I will never think of my cell phone the same way again! In a world where libraries, book stores and printed items themselves are disappearing, handheld “memes” become indispensable, even to the point of ordering food for you when you get hungry and helping you “find the right word.”

In this eerily dystopian future, Anana searches for her anti-meme father who goes missing right before the launch of the final dictionary ever to be printed. Her sole clue is a note that says,” ALICE,” which is the code word Doug had given her if he was ever in danger — along with two vials of blue pills should she ever become unexplainably ill. But when a highly contagious pandemic “word flu” erupts, the symptoms include disorientation, garbled words and potential permanent muteness.

There are so many wonderful subplots (and a great romance!) including hidden clues relating to Alice in Wonderland, secret meetings at the Mercantile Library, evasion of dangerous stalking thugs, and overall, the addictive “Word Exchange” game that creates “new words” and so much more!

I particularly enjoyed the book being told from Anana’s perspective, alternating with her colleague and admirer Bart’s journal entries. An alphabetized word and definition begin each chapter, and while I was on a road trip, I was fully aware of the irony of when, at one point, I caved and used my cell phone to expand the definition of that chapter’s word…

A great selection for fans of dystopian societies!

Find and reserve this title at the library.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

January 21, 2014

This downright amazing read by Jess Walter combines the lure of Italy and the world of
filmmaking with its accompanying celebrity “dramas” in a breathtaking tale I could not put down!

I have always been lured into glimpses into the world of movies and exotic settings and this book definitely did not disappoint.

Set in the early sixties, a dying film beauty from the cast of the movie Cleopatra arrives by mistake on the shore of an isolated island in Italy and meets a young would-be innkeeper struggling to build a stunning hotel to lure tourists.

Especially intriguing to me was the behind-the-scenes glimpses of the drama involved with the production of Cleopatra-both with the production itself and the turbulent relationship of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Their lives are forever changed as thugs from a nearby island try to shanghai the young beauty to their hotel and the innkeepergoes to the set of the movie to right a wrong and find answers to questions surrounding the girl he has fallen in love with.

Spanning fifty years, the private dramas of superbly memorable characters combine to create an epic read never to be forgotten.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

April 18, 2013

“On the boat we often wondered: Would we like them? Would we love them?
Would we recognize them from their pictures when we first saw them on the dock?”

This provocative novel tells the story of a group of young women coming from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago.

Julie Otsuka’s luminous prose shares collective impressions of the women’s first glimpses of their new husbands-often to their dismay.  The reality of the men’s appearance and demeanor compared to the pictures they had been sent was beyond disheartening!

The author’s direct and powerful writing style in these entwined tales subtly augments the stark reality of the women continuing their lives in this new world and their struggles with a new language and culture so different from where they grew up.

Gloriously revealing a sense of time and place for the “brides” experiences ranging from their journey on the boat on through to the arrival of war with Japan in the United States, Otsuka’s book has so many moments which haunt you.  Especially startling for me were recounts of the women’s first nights as newlyweds to men they do not know.

This exceptional title is a wonderful choice for fans of Honolulu by Alan Brennert and those interested in historical fiction and women’s lives.

Also, don’t miss the author’s debut novel, When the Emperor was Divine, which follows the lives of Japanese-Americans as they are forced into internment camps during WWII.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog

The Music of the Speres by Elizabeth Redfern

August 9, 2011

Set in late 18th century London, this riveting historical thriller/mystery is an amazing period piece set during the French Revolution replete with ex-patriate astronomers, lurking spies, and  brutal killer murdering red-haired prostitutes.

While a bizarre set of astronomers (with agendas and secrets of their own!) are searching the skies for a new planet they have named Selene; Jonathan Avery, a Home Office agent, ignores his job duties as he obsessively searches for the murderer of his daughter.

Meticulously researched and mesmerizing, this title is an intriguing choice for fans of Caleb Carr and Ian Pears.

Find and request this book in our catalog.

The Witches on the Road Tonight by Sheri Holman

March 18, 2011
I have always been drawn to stories shifting between different times frames relayed from various character’s perspectives. Toss in Appalachian folklore, a has-been TV Horror Movie host, and a touch of the supernatural, and I am definitively intrigued!
 
The title covers three generations of an Appalachian family over a 70 year period as the action ranges from a Depression-era cabin in Appalachia, a suburban household, and present-day Manhattan.
 
In 1940’s rural Virginia, Eddie Alley is hit by a couple from WPA who guiltily drive him home to make sure he is okay. While the couple is there, Eddie is exposed to old horror movies by the couple, and oh, did I mention his mother is reputed by townsfolk to be a witch!!  An unsettling and eerily sensual witch…
 
Eddie grows into “Captain Casket”, a Horror Movie host who threw me into nostalgic remembrances of myself growing up in Philly swigging Doctor Pepper with my friend Amy and her brother Dave, as we gathered in the living room Saturday afternoons to view old-time horror flicks, hosted by the infamously campy vampire-Dr Shock.
 
Secrets abound including Eddie’s daughter Wallis as she grows up fascinated by tales of her mysterious grandmother, and an abandoned teen Jasper who is taken in by their family.
 
Sheri Holman described her book perfectly to a bn.com interviewer as “a new novel about the ways we pass along fear”…
 
Read this book and I have a feeling you will be passing it along to friends as well!!  I sure did!
 
 Find and reserve this book in our catalog

McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland by Pete McCarthy

March 17, 2011
“It was half past five in the morning as I lurched through the front door of the B&B.  Mrs O’Sullivan appeared just in time to see me pause to admire the luminous Virgin holy water stand with integral night-light, and knock it off the wall. Politely declining the six rounds of ham sandwiches on the tray she was holding, I edged gingerly along the hallway to the wrong bedroom door and opened it.”

 
 It is indeed St. Patricks Day and I would be remiss in not including one of the most interesting Irish travelogue selections I have encountered penned by travel writer and comedian Pete McCarthy.

 
Prowling his mothers homeland, McCarthy revels in the amazing scenery while gleefully and enthusiastically embracing the philosophy of Never Pass a Bar With Your Name On It.” With the name of McCarthy he is surrounded with a gloriously prolific selection of pubs throughout Ireland, and he enjoys it thoroughly and his gleeful joy in his experience is downright fun to experience with him!   He enthusiastically enjoys his chats with the locals and his explorations into local hangouts till the wee hours of the morning. McCarthy also thoughtfully examines changes occurring in modern Ireland, historical sites, and goes on an unexpected pilgrimage to Lough Derg, an ancient penitential retreat.
 
Unfortunately, Pete McCarthy passed on in 2004.  In his obituary, they included a wonderful quote of his-“If you travel in hope rather than with certain knowledge,” wrote Pete McCarthy, “something interesting usually happens”  – and with Pete, something interesting always did!!Along with his fame as a renowned author, Pete will also be remembered for his contribution to alternative theatre and comedy.


 
He discovers is that “In Ireland, the unexpected happens more than you expect.” A fun choice for fans of Bill Bryson and Peter Mayle!
 

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Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by Sixty-Five of North Carolina’s Finest Writers edited by Marianne Gingher

March 16, 2011
A relevant quotation by Fantasy Author Lynn Abbey states: “Short-story writing requires an exquisite sense of balance.”

Short stories have always been a major favorite of mine both for discovering amazing new authors and for the sheer pleasure of  immersing myself in one of the stories – especially on my front porch in the summer! Front porches in the summer just call for the sheer pleasure of taking a break to enjoy a short story (or seven!)

Familiar authors such as Orson Scott Card, Haven Kimmel, Sarah Dessen and Daniel Wallace are included in this eclectic mix as well as many emerging new talents.

An intriguing element of Flash Fiction is that these “short-short stories” must be between approximately 300-1000 words long. This title compiles some short-short stories; in this case none longer than 1,800 words (a little over the “flash fiction” definition at times) and within these tales are breathtaking ranges of intensity, magic, comedy … all the ranges of emotion which keep these stories resonating long after the story is finished.

Discover new authors and experience imaginative fiction at its fullest!

Find and reserve this book in our catalog

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

March 15, 2011

“Everyone has a story…” When an earthquake traps nine people in an Indian passport visa office in an unnamed American city, the roof collapses and the water level begins to slowly rise –  a punk teenager, an African American ex-soldier, a Muslim-American struggling with 9/11, a Chinese grandmother with secrets, two office workers on the brink of an affair and others must band together to survive.

As tensions and panic accelerate, a young graduate student suggests they each share a story, “one amazing thing” from their lives, which they have never told anyone before, to pass the time and get their minds off their perilous situation.

The tales are haunting glimpses into life-altering moments in each storyteller’s life-giving the reader glimpses of the person they are, were once, and might yet become.

Allusions to the Canterbury Tales and Scheherazade combine with this suspense-filled survival tale to make a wonderfully memorable read!  I have enjoyed everything Divakaruni has written, but this is her best yet!

I read it 3 months ago and I still can’t stop telling people about it!

Find this book in our catalog.

How To Live Safely In a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

March 14, 2011

“When it happens, this is what happens: I shoot myself.

Not, you know, my self self. I shoot my future self. He steps out of a time machine, introduces himself as Charles Yu. What else am I supposed to do? I kill him. I kill my own future.”

Once I started Charles Yu’s debut, I had a vicegrip on it whilst house dustbunnies wafted down around me and I was up wayyy too late finishing it!  I have never read anything like it and I am hooked and ready to reread it again already!

Time-machine repairman/protagonist Charles Yu (yup, named after author) is searching for his father who long ago stepped into a time machine and vanished.  Charles has job security due to mankind primarily using time machines to go back into their lives, confident that they can go back and change key moments to shift their lives for the better…instead they end up trapped in alternate universes or adrift in time and Charles must head in to rescue them. “I have job security,” Yu explains, “because what the customer wants, when you get right down to it, is to relive his very worst moment, over and over again.

“Charles Yu’s “universe” includes a sexy/paranoid user-interface TAMMY, a “mostly hypothetical” gloriously lovable dog Ed, and his own mother self-trapped in a one hour time loop cooking the “perfect” Sunday dinner for Charles.Whether Charles is reflecting on his past experiences with his father, or analyzing his present options; this is one of those books which you just cannot predict not only how it will end, but also what may transpire on the next page.

Do yourself a favor and read this book-your future self will thank you!

Find and reserve this book in our catalog


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