Posts Tagged ‘Kristen O.’s Picks’

Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos

November 26, 2009

Stephanie Kallos’ first book, Broken for You, touched and haunted me in a way that few books have so when her second book, Sing Them Home, was published, I could not wait to get my hands on it.  I was a bit daunted by its length, 542 pages, but once you start this book it is almost impossible to put down.

The book focuses on the Jones family, particularly the siblings, Larken, Gaelen and Bonnie, all of whom have very unique qualities and personalities.  In addition to the amazing character development (in my opinion Kallos’ expertise), the setting in this book lends great importance to the characters and the story.

The Jones children grew up in Emlyn Springs, Nebraska where the entire community knows everyone else in this small town.  Hope Jones, the children’s mother, has not been seen since a tornado tore the town apart in 1978.  This event, coupled with their father’s distant nature, has shaped their lives.

Larken, the eldest of the siblings moved from Emlyn Springs and is a art history professor.  She has very little life and a constant battle with binging on food.  The light in her life is the daughter of her neighbors, who she gets to spend time with every week.  Gaelen is a weatherman who is obsessed with his physical appearance, but never allows himself to get too close to anyone.  And Bonnie, the youngest, has stayed in Emlyn Springs who combs fields and roadsides for signs of her mother’s disappearance.  All of the details and rituals surrounding their father’s death draw them closer and make them see themselves in ways they never dreamed possible.

Sparked by the death of their father, the reader gets to know this family intimately.   This is a family tale of heartbreak, secrets, tragedy and ultimately redemption.  Sing Them Home is a wonderful, unique and uplifting read.

Click here to find this book in our catalog.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

November 25, 2009

Count on Audrey Niffinegger to surprise you endlessly with her storylines and plots.  We were absolutely blessed with her concept of time travel in The Time Traveler’s Wife and this time, the focus is on the supernatural forces of ghosts.

The novel opens with the death of Elspeth Noblin, who bequeaths her London flat and its contents to the twin daughters of her estranged twin sister back in Chicago. Although they are 20 years old, Julie and Valentina have had no real world experience and seem to be almost childlike in that they dress the same, often sleep in the same bed and only make plans together.

The twins move to London, and Historic Highgate Cemetery, which borders Elspeth’s home, serves as a haunting setting as the twins become entwined in the lives of their neighbors: Elspeth’s former lover, Robert; Martin, an agoraphobic crossword-puzzle creator; and the ethereal Elspeth herself, struggling to adjust to the afterlife.  Niffenegger has you mesmerized by these characters within no time, particularly Robert in my case.  Elspeth’s life as a ghost in the apartment is a bit hard to follow, but if you can suspend your disbelief, it is well worth it.

Valentina begins to develop a relationship with Robert, making Julia jealous, particularly when Valentina also decides to pursue her interest in fashion design independent of Julia.  Elspeth secretly is developing a relationship with Valentina, also based on jealousy but much more deviously than Julia.
Valentina and Julia create a plan (sure to go awry) that will allow Valentina to move forward with her life while at the same time “rescuing” Elspeth.

While the characters are wonderful, the plot unique, the setting haunting, and the writing beautiful, the very confusing ending does take a bit away from this otherwise incredibly creative and compelling story.

Click here to find this book in our catalog.

The Likeness by Tana French

November 24, 2009

Tana French’s debut novel, In the Woods, was published in 2007 to wide acclaim.  Although an American writer, French’s mysteries are set in Dublin and the central figure is detective Cassie Maddox.  Cassie was part of the murder squad during In the Woods, but after a botched investigation she has moved to domestic affairs.

However, in The Likeness, Cassie is drawn back into the world of murder investigations.  The body of a young woman is found in the ruins of an old stone cottage in a village outside of Dublin that has lost its jobs and vitality.  The dead woman and Cassie are virtual twins. The weak link in the story is that the police, lacking suspects or leads, report that the woman is injured but alive.  However, this opens up the entire plot line of Cassie stepping into the dead woman’s life as a Trinity College graduate student and the housemate of four other students.

Despite the tensions of being undercover and her lover Sam strongly objecting to the assignment, Cassie is quickly besotted by her quirky, insular housemates and her new life in a once-grand house, even as the investigation yields little evidence. On the surface, her housemates accept her as the deceased.  As she grows closer to her housemates, some of the clues begin to add up, leading to a climactic ending.

The Likeness has everything: memorable characters, sharp dialogue, psychological games, mounting tension, and wonderful descriptions of the house and surrounding areas such that you can picture them as if they were your own.   All we can hope is that French continues to write more books featuring Cassie Maddox.

Click here to find this book in our catalog.

Good Grief by Lolly Winston

November 23, 2009

Whenever I am asked to recommend a book, particularly to women I must admit, Lolly Winston’s Good Grief often comes to mind within minutes because it has so much to offer. While initially you may think of this as “chick lit”, I can assure you it is not.

The central character, Sophie Stanton, has just lost her husband to cancer.  Although just 36, she is determined to be the role model widow.  The results of her grieving, though, are a bit different – she eats ice cream for breakfast, wears her pajamas to work and has a breakdown.

After losing her job and her sanity, Sophie decides that the only rational thing to do is to move and try to reinvent a life without her husband.  You will both laugh and cry as Sophie moves through her tragedy and works to rebuild her life.

She ends up in Oregon, where at a loss of what to do, decides to open her own bakery.  Along the way, she becomes a big sister for a 13 year old girl who has a fascination with fire.  Add to that an incredibly good-looking actor who leaves no doubt about his interest in Sophie, and her new life quickly becomes complicated.

You will fall in love with Sophie – she’s funny, irreverent, smart, and utterly believable in her imperfections.  While so much of the book focuses on the travel through Sophie’s pain, its ultimate message is one of hope.  Could not recommend this more highly!

Click here to find this book in our catalog.

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

November 23, 2009

In this first of a series set in Reykjavik, Iceland, detective inspector Erlendur Sveinsson finds a long old man murdered in his apartment. Erlendur’s partners in this suspenseful series are Sigurdur Oli and their female colleague Elinborg.

Because Iceland is such a very small community, everyone in Iceland refers to one another by first name. Erlendur is about 50, haunted by the death of his younger brother when they were children, is divorced and has children of his own with drug problems.  (Yes, a bit depressing of a character).

Murder is extremely rare in Iceland and when it is committed, the crime is usually one of passion.  In Jar City, this is not the case, making it extremely challenging for Erlendur and his team.  The killing of the victim, a very elder senior called Holberg, seems to be inexplicable until Erlendur discovers the the series of rapes Holberg apparently committed. The rapes and the deaths of a number of young women may be connected, and the search brings Erlendur to the forensic lab, whose old “jar city,” since disbanded, held research organs. Meanwhile, Erlendur’s daughter, Eva Lind, is pregnant and still using; she flits in and out of his life angrily, but may be crying out for help. Reykjavík’s physicality, and the fact that crimes are relatively rare in Iceland, gives things a defamiliarizing cast.

Click here to find this book in our catalog.


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