Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Martha S’s Picks

December 29, 2014

I enjoy reading realistic fiction, with some humor thrown in from time to time, and and occasional work of nonfiction.  These are my favorites books discovered this year, but published prior to 2014:

LookawLookaway, Lookawayay, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
Meet the Johnstons: Jerene and Duke are the heads of a socially prominent, highly dysfunctional Charlotte family. Duke is an ardent Civil War reenactor; Jerene is the manager of the Jarvis trust, her family’s collection of landscapes by minor American artists. They are the parents of Annie, an outspoken, brash real estate person on her third marriage, minister Bo, gay son Joshua who is not officially out of the closet, naïve daughter Jerrilyn. There is also Jerene’s outrageous, dissolute brother, Gaston Jarvis, who has squandered his literary talent on a series of Southern potboilers. This is a blisteringly funny satire of just about any contemporary Southern thing you can think of.  Read another review.

The PostmistressThe Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Three women’s lives intersect after Frankie Bard, a reporter from wartime London during the blitz, meets a doctor in an air raid shelter who asks her to deliver a letter to his wife in Massachusetts. The postmistress of the town in Massachusetts also has a mission from the same doctor to deliver a letter to his wife in the event of his death. This is a gripping story of the war in London, its effect on the three women and other people in the small town in Massachusetts.

The Language of FlowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
After a childhood spent in foster care, Victoria has nowhere to go and has no people in her life. Through luck she finds work in a florist’s shop and is able to expand her knowledge of the language of flowers that she has been interested in since childhood. Victoria is able to help others with her skill with flowers while she struggles with her own past.

 

TransatlanticTransatlantic by Colum McCann
The novel uses three events that actually happened as the basis for his novel; Frederick Douglass’s visit to Ireland in 1845, the 1919 flight of British aviators Alcock and Brown, and the attempts by U.S. senator George Mitchell to broker peace in Northern Ireland. One of the fictional characters, Lilly Duggan, who is first seen in the Frederick Douglass chapter boldly leaves all behind and immigrates to America, becoming the mother of a long line of descendants in America, some of whom return to Ireland in later times. Fascinating and brilliantly written.

The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman is a brilliant, but socially awkward professor of genetics at an Australian university. Nearing his 40th birthday, he decides to find a wife and devises a questionnaire to rule out all unsuitable candidates. Soon Rosie Jarman enters the picture and Don mistakenly believes she has submitted a questionnaire and been vetted by his coworker. Rosie and Don hit it off in spite of the fact that she fails to meet some of his requirements. Rosie does not know who her biological father is, so together they embark on the Rosie Project to attempt to learn his identity. Hilarious and heartwarming events ensue.  Read another review.

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

December 22, 2014

I read both fiction and non-fiction.  I prefer books that have rich characters, who feel like people I know by the time I finish the book.  Here are the best books I read in 2014.

Ten Things I've Learnt About LoveTen Things I’ve Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler
Alice is a wanderer, unable to decide on a career.  She has a strained relationship with her family, but has returned to England to be with her father during his final days.  Daniel is a middle aged homeless man on the streets of London, who uses found items to make small, transient art pieces.  He is also searching for the daughter he has never met.  The chapters in this amazing debut novel, alternate between Alice’s and Daniel’s voice, as events lead them inexorably towards each other.

The Death of SantiniThe Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy
Pat Conroy returns to his troubled relationship with his father in this excellent biography, where he also explores the dynamics between he and his siblings, particularly his sister Carol.  In the prologue, Conroy says that he has been “writing the story of my own life for over forty years…but I must examine the wreckage one last time”.  He does, using soaring language, and descriptions that are both tragic and hilarious.  The picture Conroy paints is not always pretty, and at times he is especially brutal in describing his own actions.  However, Pat Conroy is the ultimate storyteller, and that amazing talent shines in this retelling of his life.

March, Book OneMarch, Book One by John Lewis
I am not generally a fan of graphic novels.  However, this is perhaps the most powerful book I have read this year, and I think the format is an excellent way to describe the Civil Rights struggles.  Congressman Lewis recounts his early meeting with Martin Luther King, which led to his commitment to the non-violence movement.  Illustrator Nate Powell’s images help bring to life the incredible bravery and determination of the young men and women who risked their lives to right the horrible wrong of segregation.

The Other TypistThe Other Typist  by Suzanne Rindell
New York City in the 1920s:  women’s roles are changing, Prohibition is in full swing, and crime is hidden right in front of you.  Odalie Lazare is the new member of the typing pool at a police precinct.  Beautiful, mysterious, sometimes charming, sometimes cold, she fascinates the staid, reliable typist, Rose Baker.  Odalie pulls Rose into her world of intrigue with the promise of friendship and excitement.  Told in Rose’s voice, this satisfying tale will leave you asking, “what just happened?”

Guests on EarthGuests on Earth by Lee Smith
Evalina Toussaint, an orphan, arrives at Asheville, NC’s famed Highland Hospital, in 1936. Her mother has died, her father is unknown. she is alone, abandoned and has virtually shut down.  Dr. Carroll, the hospital administrator, and his wife, a concert pianist, take Evalina under their wings.  Part patient, part ward of the Carrolls, Evalina lives at Highland on and off over the next several decades, as she struggles to find a life for herself.  Smith has not only written a well-crafted novel, but she has also explored the changing attitudes about mental illness, and its treatment, using the factual story of Highland Hospital and the tragic fire that killed its most famous patient, Zelda Fitzgerald.  Zelda has a cameo role in the novel, providing a fleeting, but enduring influence on Evalina.

Best New Books of 2014: Kerri H’s Picks

December 15, 2014

I read everything… fiction, nonfiction, short stories, young adult fiction. Happy books, sad books, disturbing books, thought provoking books. I try to round out my reading experience each year with a variety of genres and themes.

RedeploymentRedeployment by Phil Klay
This is an important, thought-provoking, disturbing and humbling collection of stories. They are written by a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Iraq during the surge. Each story is told from the viewpoint of a different character… a chaplain, a Foreign Service Officer, a Mortuary Affairs Marine and many others. Descriptions evoke the grit, stench, claustrophobia, nonsensical situations, and collateral damage both physically and emotionally found in twenty-first century war.

Best to LaughBest to Laugh by Lorna Landvik
You will laugh at the quirky cast of characters and fun storyline. Candy Pekkalo is living a non-descript life in Minnesota when her cousin calls to see if she would like to sublet her Hollywood apartment. Once there, Candy thrives. She meets a diverse group of neighbors who become family, and works an odd, yet interesting, assortment of temp jobs. She even succeeds in the male dominated stand-up comedy world of the late 1970’s. You’re going to have fun living Candy Pekkalo’s life vicariously.

Dept. of SpeculationDept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill
If you’ve ever experienced infidelity, bedbugs, motherhood, or feel like your brain goes from one random thought to another… this book is for you.  Written from the perspective of “the wife” it’s a collection of random thoughts and famous quotes.  It sounds disjointed, but it flows together perfectly.  It’s also about teaching college students, ghost writing, general discontent and hope.

JackabyJackaby by William Ritter
This young adult novel enraptured me. I read this fast-paced mystery with evidence of the supernatural in two nights.  In 1892, Abigail Rock arrives alone in New England from Ukraine via a boat from Germany. She’s in need of a job, room and board. After applying to an advertisement for an investigative assistant, she begins working for the eccentric R.F. Jackaby. Together they investigate a series of murders. This is a funny, rollicking read about a serial killer. I know it seems strange to call a book about a serial killer funny; but trust me, there are some hilarious scenes and dialogue in the book. This is the first book in a series. I anticipate this will be the next big young adult series.

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
An autobiography in verse which resonates with readers is an amazing feat! Jacqueline Woodson elegantly portrays her childhood; evoking the love her family poured on herself and siblings. She perfectly distills the reality of the civil rights movement and her experience being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. These poems merge to form a fluid and beautiful story.

Best New Books of 2014: Martha S’s Picks

December 11, 2014

I enjoy reading realistic fiction, with some humor thrown in from time to time, and and occasional work of nonfiction.  These are my picks for best books of 2014:

Chestnut StreetChestnut Street by Maeve Binchy
The final work by the late Maeve Binchy, Chestnut Street is not strictly a novel, but short  stories about a variety of characters who all have a connection to Chestnut Street in Dublin. Binchy’s trademark gentle storytelling and likeable characters combine for an enjoyable read.

 

My Accidental JihadMy Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer
Soon after Krista Bremer moved from California to Chapel Hill, she met Ismail, an older man from Syria. Though from very different cultures, they became a couple, eventually marrying. This is the story of their marriage. She is spiritual, he is a devout Muslim. The differences between them are mainly cultural and she describes them with humor and sometimes frustration. The growth of their relationship and the compromises they make, and the growth of Krista as a person make for very good reading.

ByrdByrd by Kim Church
This is the tenderest of books with an unforgettable main character. Addie’s botched abortion means that the baby survived and he is placed for adoption. She names him Byrd and from the time of his birth until she is in her forties, Addie writes letters to Byrd that tell him how much she loves him. Meanwhile, Addie forms a life of meaning, despite her longing for Byrd. Familiar locations in Raleigh added to my enjoyment of the book.

Getting LifeGetting Life : An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace by Michael Morton
Michael Morton was convicted in Texas on flimsy evidence for the murder of his wife. Twenty-five years later he was exonerated by DNA evidence and the efforts of the Innocence Project. Two things stood out for me in this book; he was seen as innocent by all his fellow prisoners and he wrote the book himself. Morton occupied his time wisely in prison, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in literature. A spellbinding account of how the justice system can fail.

All I Have in this WorldAll I Have in This World by Michael Parker
Marcus and Maria who both have messy histories and who have now ended up in a town in Texas, meet over the hood of a much-used Buick Electra, which has its own history. They buy the car together and it succeeds in helping each of them toward their individual destinies.

 

Grown Folks Business by Victoria Christopher Murray

October 17, 2014

Grown Folks BusinessSheridan meets Quentin while serving as an intern at her doctor’s office; it’s love at first sight. Sheridan marries Quentin right out of college despite her parents’ objection. They have two beautiful children, Tori, nine years old and Chris, sixteen, and live a perfect life as a family.

But Sheridan and Quentin’s seventeen years of marital bliss collapse all of a sudden when Quentin gives a shocking announcement that he is in love with someone else, and that someone else is a man, a close family friend named Jett.

Quentin moves in with Jett. Sheridan now deals with how to inform their kids about their father’s new lifestyle, but Chris finds out anyway, and that begins a new drama in Sheridan’s household. Chris changes his name to Christopher fearing that Chris could be a girl’s name. He makes several changes in his life just to prove he is nothing like his father. Tori and a few family members accept Quentin’s new life while others find it unforgivable.

Sheridan receives emotional and spiritual support from her close friend, her parents, and her church pastor. At her pastor’s office, she accidentally runs into a UPS driver, Brock, when she is not ready for love but Brock will not let her rest until she finally falls for him.

Sheridan and Quentin come together in order to help their son, Chris, out of his own life crisis that leads to a rebirth in the life of Deja, his girlfriend.

I enjoyed this book because it’s an easy read, it’s full of love and support, disagree to agree, and friendship.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Money Can’t Buy Love by Connie Briscoe

September 15, 2014

Money Can't Buy Love by Connie BriscoeLife is not so grand for thirty-something Lenora Stone, she’s struggling to pay her bills, despises her boss and her long time beau just won’t pop the question. Lenora is a photographer for the Baltimore Scene, a magazine that features Baltimore’s elite. Lenora could only wish for the life that her clients live. Lenora faithfully plays the lottery and one day she actually hits the jackpot, her life is definitely about to change.

Lenora is in a state of shock that she is millionaire. She holes up in her home and refuses to go to work until she can come to terms with her new found wealth. Lenora’s adjustment period is short lived; she quits her job and purchases a luxury vehicle, and a mini mansion in an exclusive neighborhood and Gerald is finally ready to propose. Everything seems to be going well for her.

After quitting her job, Lenora decides to go into business for herself and purchases a space for a studio. Ray Shearer, a handsome landscaper, is Lenora’s first client. She met Ray on a previous assignment and sparks fly immediately. This is obviously a problem since she is engaged. Lenora’s romantic relationships may be heating up but her friendship with longtime friends, Monica and Alise are on shaky ground. Lenora claims they are treating her differently because she won the lottery and thinks she has changed for the worse. Lenora has a lot going on in her life and is not quite sure how to handle it. Will Lenora make the right decisions, or will everything fall apart?

This is a great read for the beach or a lazy afternoon. Connie Briscoe does a great job of reminding us that money does not ensure happiness. You will enjoy following Lenora through her journey of ups and downs.

 Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

June 23, 2014

AmericanahIfemelu is a teenager in Nigeria when she first meets Obinze.  Immediately, sparks fly, and from that moment forward they are inseparable.  However, the political reality in Nigeria works against them.  While at university, teacher strikes keep interrupting their education for long stretches.  Finally, Ifemelu is convinced by her family to try and finish her education abroad.  She is accepted at a school in Pennsylvania and travels to America to live with her Aunt.

Ifemelu tries everything to find a job to help pay her way in America, both legally and illegally.  No one is hiring, though, and out of desperation she answers a shady ad that is not what it seems.  Shame fills Ifemelu about what happens, so she cuts off contact with Obinze.  If she cannot forgive herself, she assumes that he will not forgive her either.  For 13 years she lives in America.  She finishes her degree and finds a job that will pay her way.  However, it’s just a job and she doesn’t really find her passion until she starts a blog.  The blog discusses issues of race from the perspective of a Non-American Black person.  The popularity of the blog astonishes her. She is able to live off her advertisers and speaking fees.  Yet something still seems to be missing in her life.

Meanwhile, back in Nigeria,  Obinze finishes his schooling and attempts to immigrate to England.  His life does not go quite as smoothly, and he is deported for working illegally.  Disillusioned and depressed, he returns to Nigeria an unemployed man. His luck changes finally, when through contacts of a friend, he is given an investment opportunity set up by a powerful man.  By the time Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, Obinze is wealthy, married, and a father.

The story of these two people is interesting, but where the book really shines is its witty commentary on people, immigrants, race, politics, and everything in between.  Not just American society, but also English and Nigerian. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is funny and insightful, moving from scenes of a dinner party with wealthy academics, to a poor immigrant hair salon with ease.  I enjoyed this story very much.  I liked the characters, and was fascinated by the look into Nigerian society, as well as the experience of a foreigner here in America.  I definitely want to read another of her books!

Find and reserve this book in the library.

Best New Books of 2013: Marcy H’s Picks

December 2, 2013

While I work primarily in Youth Services, for pure pleasure I mostly read adult contemporary fiction.  I have read quite a few new books published this year and here are my list of favorites.  I hope you’ll enjoy them too!

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
This is the fictionalized story of Anne Morrow Lindberg and her marriage to Charles Lindbergh.  This well-written novel is filled with historical information in the context of a deeply moving story about Anne’s journey to find herself and her voice through the tragedies of her life and the difficulty of her marriage to America’s hero.

Insane City by Dave Barry
Wildly entertaining and seriously funny, this wild romp through Miami with Seth Weinstein on the eve of his wedding has everything from pirate, illegal immigrants, an orangutan, a snake, and medicinal brownies…a crazy plot that could easily be envisioned as a successful movie (think Hangover or Bridesmaids).  This book is pure escapism but with enough social commentary to give it a little substance as well.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
This is a story of first love between two 16 year old misfits who by happenstance have to sit next to each other on the school bus. What starts out as awkward indifference to each other transcends into a sweet, and endearing loving relationship that helps each other cope with the realities in their lives. You will find yourself reliving your own teenage angst while rooting hard for these two characters.

The Supremes at Earl’s All You Can Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore
While not in the genre of highbrow literature, this delightful book takes you into the world of three engaging middle class African American women, Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean, as they deal with life and death issues over the course of one year’s time.  The three have been fast friends since high school days when the proprietor of the local hangout christened them “The Supremes,” hence the name of the book.  Warm, witty and intelligently written, this book was a page turner that didn’t disappoint and one I was sorry to see end.

Z:  A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler
This fictionalized autobiography of Zelda Fitzgerald is a very compassionate, well-written book that fleshes out this oft-maligned wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  This book shows us a fully-formed, somewhat flawed individual filled with dreams and aspirations of her own that were never fully realized due to the intensity and volatility of her relationship with her husband and the excessive lifestyle they lived.  A well-researched book that immerses the reader into the lives of these larger than life characters.

To Timbuktu by Casey Scieszka

October 15, 2013

For years I have wanted to study abroad. I yearn to learn to speak a foreign language fluently from the natives, adopt their cultural habits, and become one of the local crowd. I imagine myself chatting with my new neighbors over tea, forming a bond, and proving that not all American travelers fit our boorish reputation. And when I have finally returned home, my new friends will tell everyone about their cool American friend.

Unfortunately, my study abroad days are behind me. But now I can live vicariously through Casey Scieszka’s journal describing her multi-national travels as a young college graduate.

Casey and Steven meet each other in Morocco during a semester abroad. They bond over their love of foreign travel and decide to spend six months teaching English in China after graduation. Now, you might be thinking (and rightly so), “What are they thinking—a year stuck abroad with someone you just met?” But this book has a decidedly playful tone.

In China, Casey and Stephen learn:
• how to live together (and how to enjoy time apart),
• the joys of haggling using a loud voice and lots of hand waving as a substitute for foreign language mastery,
• how to teach English to milk-throwing first graders when you have no plan and no prior experience,
• and much, much more!

Their adventure continues when Casey is awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study religious education in Mali, with a tour of Asia, France, and Morocco on the way. Throughout their travels, Casey journals cultural missteps, small triumphs, and poignant moments with honesty and humor. Hundreds of Steven’s quirky drawings pepper the book, adding comic-book appeal.

While the entire experience sounds pretty fabulous, Casey is honest about the dark moments, too: the weary battle against a mysterious illness that drags on and on; the inevitable strain of isolation on Casey and Steven’s relationship; and the terror of being jailed in a foreign land. But the joyful times far outweigh the miserable ones.

This book definitely helped this armchair tourist satisfy her wanderlust. And I predict it will leave every reader with a spirit of adventure and a longing for the freedom to act on it.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White

September 25, 2013

Tilly is an English widow gardener living in Chapel Hill.

Her gardens are masterpieces but not the overly planned, symmetrical, stuffy English gardens. Oh, and she hates bugs—so maybe she is a bit stuffy.

James is the son of a farmer who hates dirt, and questionable ice cream cones, and is adept at hopping from dandelion to dandelion avoiding the cancerous earth.

Wait, what?!

No, this is not the book of a madwoman.

This is a beautifully written novel by local author Barbara Claypole White.

You see, both James and Tilly are relying on their intuition. Tilly uses hers to create beautiful gardens, solace from the pain and guilt of losing her husband Robert (and father to her young son Issac) way too soon. James, on the other hand, uses his intuition to imprison himself in a world of superstition and compulsion.

James needs Tilly to create a garden for him but Tilly insists that she is a nursery wholesaler, not a landscape designer. Plus, this guy is going to be a lot of trouble and a lot of work. She refuses and refuses, only to escape to England for a family emergency.

James and Tilly are damaged people who need each other to make sense of reality.

Unfinished Garden is a poetic page turner. Not only is the language lush, but the cast of supporting characters are colorful, giving the reader a break from the intensity of Tilly and James as well as giving Tilly and James a break from themselves.

Barbara Claypole White along with several other local authors will be at South East Regional Library on September 27th, please visit our website for more details.

 Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

 


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