Posts Tagged ‘Orphans’

Best New Books of 2013: Kate H’s Picks

December 6, 2013

Recently, I have enjoyed reading a lot of modern classics and historical fiction. I love to find new reads by browsing award winner lists, especially when I’m trying to find a good non-fiction or science fiction book.
My picks for 2013 are all novels which share themes of change, growth, and renewal, which is fitting during this wonderful transformative time of year!

Harvest by Jim Crace
Set in an ambiguous time period of British history, Harvest documents the decline of a rural town in the countryside struggling against the encroaching presence of industrialism. The close knit, close-to-being-inbred members of this community are forced to accept and eventually become displaced by the changes coming to pass around them. Their reaction to newcomers demonstrates a deep distrust of intrusion into their insular existence. Through his narrator, Walter Thirsk, Crace remains tender toward the members of this community, whilst also hinting at the dangers of a closed (literally and figuratively), society. A novel of many layers, Harvest is Jim Crace at his best.

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell
Probably my favorite book of 2013, The Death of Bees is O’Donnell’s stunning debut in fiction. Set in Glasgow, Scotland, the story follows the lives of sisters Marnie and Nelly who, after discovering their parent’s dead bodies, decide not to report the deaths and instead, bury the bodies in the back yard. The characters of Marnie, Nelly, and their elderly neighbor Lennie who becomes their friend and guardian, are portrayed vividly; and their relationships feel real and touching. Wildly entertaining but also emotional and affecting, I highly recommend this novel which I raced through in a day.

Snapper by Brian Kimberling
Snapper is set in rural Indiana and follows the twists and turns of Nathan Lochmueller’s life. Reading as a series of short stories, or vignettes almost, each chapter portrays an event in Lochmueller’s life which has a lasting impact on future events. They eventually tie together as a bildungsroman of sorts, as Lochmueller comes to accept the past and embrace the present. A very relatable story, Snapper also taught me a lot about bird watching and Indiana, while remaining breezy and funny throughout.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
A novel about growing up, death, and faith, Ordinary Grace documents one summer in a Minnesota town in 1961. Hit with the death of his older teenage sister, thirteen year old Frank is thrust into an adult world of secrets, lies, and betrayal. Ordinary Grace is mysterious and ominous; never fully revealing itself to the reader and refusing to answer so many questions. The characters each portray the various meanings of what it is to have faith, and leaves us questioning its presence and power in our own lives.

The Shelter Cycle by Peter Rock
Combining mysticism with pure realism, Peter Rock explores an unusual part of America’s religious history. The Shelter Cycle tells the story of two children, Francine and Colville, who grew up in the Church Universal and Triumphant, a religion that predicted the world could end in the late 1980s. This book is haunting in its rendering of individuals raised in a cult and how they grow up in their own ways thereafter. A blend of fact and fiction, The Shelter Cycle provokes us into thinking about the nature of religion and family, spirituality and upbringing: how does one inform the other? How can we know what is credible and what isn’t? An unpredictable and beautifully written book.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

August 20, 2013

Jacob and his grandfather have always been close. As a child, Jacob was riveted by his grandfather’s tales of how he was raised. Abe Portman was a child of the Holocaust, and fled Poland, parentless, to wind up at Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

What exactly is a peculiar child? Well, they’re all different at Miss Peregrine’s. Like a feeder school for the circus, Miss Peregrine’s hosts among its ranks a girl who can control fire, an invisible boy, and a little girl who would float away if she weren’t tethered to the ground by heavy shoes. Jacob has grown up seeing pictures of these strange children and vacillates between an unquestioning belief of everything he is told to humoring his grandfather in his old age.

When Abe dies a sudden and violent death with his grandson minutes too late to save him, Jacob begins to realize that there might be more to his grandfather’s tales than meets the eye. With the assistance of his psychiatrist (who his parents force him to see after Abe’s death), Jacob manages to convince his father to take him to the Welsh island that housed the orphanage to find closure there.

Rather than closure, Jacob discovers Miss Peregrine’s Home, and the peculiar friends that his grandfather had made some 70 years before! Using vintage photographs that he collected, author Ransom Riggs brings the peculiar children to life and tells Jacob’s story as he jumps between the children’s world in the 1940s and present day.

I’ll definitely be waiting for the sequel, Hollow City, to come out in early 2014!

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

August 5, 2013

A fascinating novel about two girls growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, The Death of Bees is at once touching and gruesome, heart-rending and macabre.

As the novel opens, sisters Nelly and Marnie have killed their parents and buried them in the back yard. And they’re not telling anybody. If you can handle the cussing, drinking, and general bad behavior of fifteen-year-old Marnie, and the gruesome scenes as the sisters attempt to keep the bodies of their parents concealed, the characters of this novel are enticing and the story riveting.

As a former inhabitant of Scotland, I can also testify to the sense of realism in the language, actions, and scenery of the novel. There is no romanticism here; the sisters quarrel, they are mean to one another. People die and things go wrong. Lennie, the girls’ neighbor who helps to care for them, makes a serious mistake in our introduction to him, but his conduct and thought throughout the rest of the novel not only redeem him, but also force us to question the nature of loneliness and what it can lead a man to.

But through it all there is an enduring message of hope in the relationships between the sisters and the people – namely Lennie their neighbor – that persists throughout the book.

This is a book which you could pick up and read in less than a day, but it is one which lingers long afterward.

Find and request this book in our catalog.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

June 8, 2012

This week we’re featuring some of our favorite Audio Books, just in time for planning your summer road trips. You can also click the Audio Books tag at the bottom of this post or at the top of the tag cloud on the right hand side of our blog’s home page for more great audio book suggestions!

Are you intrigued by the magical city of Venice? Did you love Peter Pan as a child? If so, then the juvenile novel, The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, is a book you’re sure to enjoy this summer, either reading the book to yourself on the beach, or listening to the audio in the car with the entire family. The winner of several European Children’s Book Awards, it is a captivating read both for its story and its immersion into the mysterious and beautiful city of Venice which is, in its own way, another character in this story.

The book follows the story of two brothers, Bo and Prosper, who run away to Venice after their mother dies and they are put in the care of their cruel aunt and uncle who only want to keep Bo, the younger boy. In Venice they are befriended by a group of orphans who are supported by an enigmatic young man who calls himself the Thief Lord. The Thief Lord keeps them sheltered in an old movie theatre and fed by stealing goods from the wealthy homes in Venice and selling them to an unscrupulous shopkeeper. The Thief Lord is soon commissioned to steal an unusual article that leads the story into many twists and turns. Finally, it comes to a magical/fantastical climax on the Isola Segreta where a relic is enshrined that will change their lives forever. I first listened to the book driving back and forth to work and then reread it for a children’s book club selection, totally enjoying it both times. All the children and adults I know who have read it have also felt the same way about this exceptional book – an enjoyable escape.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin

October 18, 2011

When I was a kid I loved catching fireflies.  My love for these denizens of the night has continued into adulthood, even though I don’t catch them so much anymore.  When I saw the title of this book, I had to check it out despite the fact that I knew nothing about the book or the author.  It was a great surprise to me that I liked it so much.  I have read few books that strike an emotional chord with me like this one does.  I venture to guess this will be my favorite book of the year.

Martin’s story revolves around a young boy found wandering alone after having been in a terrible wreck.  He has no identification and no one knows who he is.  He is mute and communicates only by writing and drawing.  His artistic ability borders on genius.  He says his name is “Snoot”. His body bears the scars of terrible physical abuse.  Chase Walker is the reporter assigned to write a story about the boy.

Chase relates to the boy as only another orphan can and the two soon forge a strong bond.  In Chase’s search to uncover Snoot’s identity, he discovers his own true past and the answers to the questions every orphan has about their origins.  This story has it all – mystery, reconciliation, and the amazing power of love.  Read it if you are in the mood for a tearjerker that will also make you laugh a lot.

Find and reserve a copy in our catalog.

Little Princes by Conor Grennan

October 17, 2011

At first Conor Grennan thought his three-month stint volunteering in a Nepalese orphanage would be a fun way to start his trip around the world, an opportunity to get in some good mountain climbing, and, of course, an impressive conversation starter with the babes at the local bars.  But as soon as he arrives at the door to the Little Princes Orphanage, Conor realizes he is totally unprepared—what was he thinking?  He has no siblings, no young cousins, nieces or nephews, has never done any babysitting—he has no experience with children whatsoever!

Conor soon catches on, and, in spite of his bone-wearying exhaustion at the end of each day, he learns to love the experience and the children of Little Princes.

One day, not long before Conor’s scheduled flight out of Nepal, a woman arrives at the orphanage’s door, claiming to be the mother of two of the Little Princes orphans.  It is then Conor realizes that the children of Little Princes are not orphans—they are trafficked.

What follows is a story of adventure, integrity, and devotion told with self-deprecating humor that inspires one to believe that one ordinary person can make a difference in even the most remote and dangerous places.

There is much about the Nepalese culture in Little Princes to provide opportunity for discussion.  There is also a civil war occurring during the events, which facilitated the child trafficking.  Religious traditions (Buddhist and Christian) are briefly mentioned in the book as Conor considers his own spirituality, but this is a very small part of the book.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


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