Posts Tagged ‘Sisters’

Best ‘New to Us” Books in 2014: Ruth F’s Picks

December 19, 2014

I am a children’s librarian in Holly Springs. Next year, I will celebrate my 40th birthday and will most likely be fitted for my first pair of bifocals. Here are five books, some written by my contemporaries and others about middle age, that I recommend for those of you still able to read small print in dim lighting.

Life After DeathLife After Death by Damien Echols
Author Damien Echols was born just a few months before me and he would have graduated high school the same year I did — had he been born into the same world of middle class privilege that I was. Instead, he spent the first 18 years of his life in and economically depressed Arkansas hamlet. As teenagers, when I was fretting over my SAT scores, he was fretting over the verdict of his capital murder trial.  When I went off to college, he went off to Death Row. Then, after spending his first 18 years of adulthood in prison, Echols and two others incarcerated in connection with the same crime were released when DNA evidence was tested and deemed exculpatory. Shortly after, he landed a deal to publish a memoir based on the journals he kept in prison. I challenge any member of Generation X to read Echols’ story without noticing similar parallels between his life and ours.

Good in a CrisisGood in a Crisis by Margaret Overton
Sometimes, the best books are the ones you most love to hate. When life handed baby boomer Margaret Overton lemons in mid-life, she tried to make lemonade by writing a memoir. But it came out a little tart. I cringed at every supposedly funny story in this memoir about the author’s Internet dating escapades. And yet, I compulsively turned page after page because it is so easy to identify with Overton. For every good choice I have made that she did not, I feel relief that her train wreck of a life can’t possibly be what’s in store for me. And for every stroke of bad luck she endured, I feel a humbling sense that it probably is.

Lean InLean In:  Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
Women like me, on the precipice of converting their households from DINK (double income, no kids) to what New York Times Columnist Pamela Druckerman famously called DITT (double income, toddler twins), will find this book fascinating. The rest of you might not be too interested in how author Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, wishes she had done more to secure reserved parking for expectant mothers at her company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. But you should read this book anyway. If you can overlook the usual gripes about late meetings and early carpools, there is a universal message about setting the terms of personal success and a refreshing new definition of what it means to be a feminist.

SisterlandSisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
This is a fiction story of twin sisters on the brink of 40. They share a psychic connection, but occupy separate sides of the Mommy divide. I’m not sure anybody will see themselves in either sister, but author Curtis Sittenfeld nailed the subtext and sanctimony between the childfree and the parents. The stay-at-home mother in the story, Kate, is affluent and secure. Mothering has given her lots of responsibility and purpose, but very little satisfaction. She is the very definition of a desperate housewife. Her childless sister, Violet, lives on the edge. By that I mean she is reckless, frivolous and completely unmoored. As the sisters decide whether to embrace the DNA that makes them the same or the choices that set them apart, their psychic prediction comes true in a way neither could have expected. Read another review.

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Who among us has not aspired to write the Great American Novel or regretted reaching middle age without having done so? Mark Zusak, that’s who. His 40th birthday is six months from now and his literary masterpiece is 10 years old. The Book Thief has earned a slew of awards, dominated best-seller lists, been canonized on high school required reading lists and been adapted for a movie. But a technicality prevents it from being called my generation’s Great American Novel: the author is Australian and the setting is Nazi Germany. It seems counter intuitive for a book about genocide in World War II Europe to also be about a post-racial American ideal. But Zusak makes it work. In this war story, humanity trumps race or creed. Young or old, Jew or Gentile, German or not, everybody faces a common enemy in the villainous narrator: Death.  Read another review.

Justice for Sara by Erica Spindler

June 9, 2014

Justice for SaraIt’s been 10 years since Sara McCall was murdered and now her sister, Kathleen (Kat), who was falsely accused of the murder, has returned to Liberty, Louisiana. Although Kat was acquitted of the murder, the town still holds her responsible for her sister’s death. Kat could have stayed in Oregon where she has started several successful bakery operations, but the question that has always plagued her was “who killed Sara?”

And so starts Erica Spindler’s latest thriller. Money may be involved in the murder because the McCall’s were wealthy from their oil business and when the parents were killed in an automobile accident, Sara and Kathleen inherited a lot of money. The police department is now being run by Luke Tanner, the son of Stephen Tanner, who may have been in a rush to justice when he accused Kat of the brutal murder of Sara ten years earlier. Kathleen finds Luke much more open to having a new look at the murder (and he is devilishly attractive to boot).

Spindler has spun a new and marvelous tale of deceit, murder and money in Justice for Sara. Small towns like Liberty are not going to easily forgive the person they feel responsible for a horrific crime. But Kat is determined to find the truth about her sister even if it puts her own life in danger.

Find and reserve this book at the library.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

June 5, 2014

Tell the Wolves I'm HomeYou know how awkward it is when you’re in love with your uncle? Okay, maybe not personally, but imagine you’re fourteen years old, too tall, nowhere near as talented as your older sister, and into Renaissance Faires and Medieval clothing. You probably don’t have a ton of friends and you might feel a bit misunderstood. So when your handsome, well-traveled, caring uncle/godfather who has the same interests and sense of humor as you wants to spend time some time with you, well then, how can you not be in love with him? This is the life of June Elbus, niece/goddaughter to Finn, sister to Greta, and orphaned every year from January through April (tax season) by her accountant parents.

And then, Finn dies. It’s the 1980s, and he has AIDS, and June knew that this was the only possible thing that could happen, but it’s still horrible, and June is still all alone. Greta, who is older, prettier, and somehow always knows everything before June does, fills her in on some surprising information – Finn wasn’t single and his “special friend,” the one who gave him AIDS, the one who basically killed Finn, is still out there. June sees him herself, camped outside of Finn’s funeral, shunned by the family.

The unlikely (and highly secretive) relationship that develops between “special friend” Toby and young June is sweet, funny, and sometimes bittersweet. As the two struggle with their shared grief they also learn more about the man they both loved and more about the type of friends they can be to each other. Carol Rifka Brunt’s book is the story of love, heartbreak, and sisterhood, and I highly recommend it.

Find and reserve this book in our library.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

June 3, 2014

sistersbookcover.phpI was first introduced to Curtis Sittenfeld’s work when I read her debut novel, Prep, written in 2005. I was drawn into the sometimes painful world of teenage girls; a coming-of-age story set in a private boarding school, full of intensely felt emotions and young identities in formation. I loved it.

Sisterland is different in all measurable ways. Instead of a 14-year-old protagonist, the story follows two adult sisters – twins – who have little in common except for the Extrasensory Perception that allows them both to see things slightly before they happen, to sense events on the horizon, to anticipate changes in their world.  Far from the iron gates and manicured lawns of a New England prep school, sisters Kate and Violet have lived pretty much their entire lives in Missouri, despite attempts by both of them to leave.

When a minor earthquake hits St. Louis, Violet is struck by a vision of another to come.  The earthquake,  maybe. Kate, who has blocked her “senses” in favor of a normal life; a husband and children and no visions about those around her, starts to get pulled into the frenzy as national news covers the story of her sister’s premonition. As the date of the coming earthquake nears, Kate must come to terms with her and Violet’s shared ESP, and balance personal needs against those of her sister and her husband.

Though Prep and Sisterland share little in the way of plot and storyline, Sittenfeld’s superb writing and character building shine through in both. I’ll continue to read my way through her works!

Find and reserve this book in the library.

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.

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.

How to Murder a Millionaire by Nancy Martin

May 29, 2013

We’re pleased to re-post this book review of the first in Nancy Martin’s Blackbird Sisters Mysteries; we first ran it last year when Nancy was scheduled to visit our libraries, and we’re running it again because she’ll be here this week!

How to Murder a Millionaire

The Blackbird sisters come from an old, respectable, wealthy Pennsylvania family. At least, they did until their parents fled the country. Now they just come from an old family with a somewhat murky reputation. Their parents left a mixed legacy for the three sisters. Libby got the antique furniture, Emma got the artwork, and Nora was left the old homestead. This sounds great, except Nora also inherited the two million dollar tax bill that goes with the land. Of course, like most sisters, they rarely agree and each thinks the others got the better deal.

Nora, the one with the land, has taken a job as an assistant to the gossip columnist of the local newspaper. She’s trying to make a go of it, despite a boss who hates her, when she finds the body of Rory Pendergast. Rory was a close friend to the Blackbirds who also owned the newspaper and gave Nora her job, so Nora is determined to find out what happened to him. Because of the standing of the Blackbird family, the police agree that Nora might be better placed to find inside information about the elite families of Philadelphia.

How to Murder a Millionaire is a fast and fun beginning to The Blackbird Sisters Mysteries. It has an intriguing mystery and the author’s descriptions of fabulous parties and the stylish clothes worn by the well-to-do give you a glimpse into another lifestyle. The historical notes about Philadelphia were also interesting to me. There is a young police detective and a shady character Nora sells some land to who sometimes help her with her investigations.  Both of them are also potential love interests for Nora. In addition, the rivalry between the sisters is very true to life. You can actually want to protect and kill one of your siblings at the same time (not that I am speaking from experience!). I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

Nancy Martin is the author of many mystery, suspense, historical and romance novels. Nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Mystery of 2002, How to Murder a Millionaire won the Romantic Times award for Best First Mystery and was a finalist for the Daphne DuMaurier Award. Nancy has also written the Roxy Abruzzo mystery series.

Nancy will appear at several Wake County Libraries in this week on a mystery author panel hosted by Raven award winner Molly Weston She will be joined by fellow mystery writers Deborah Coonts and Brad Parks.

Find and reserve this book in the catalog.

Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley

March 29, 2013

“She didn’t know that preparing for the end of the world would make it that much more likely to come.”

Amaranth is the first of the fifty wives of the prophet, and mother of two daughters, Amity and Sorrow.  Sorrow is the eldest and holds a special place at their temple.  She is the oracle, the one who transmits the word of God to the congregation.  Amity is the younger sister, less zealous and sweeter tempered, with a gift for healing.

The children don’t go to school, don’t know their address, don’t know how to read, don’t know anything not decreed by the prophet.  This ignorance is encouraged as a way of keeping the group off the radar of outside society, who might object and attempt to intervene, especially when it comes to the children.

But the prophet’s behavior is increasingly erratic, and a police officer does come knocking at the door.  The ensuing confrontation spins out of control and Amaranth, fearing for their lives, takes a car and flees with her children.

It takes all Amaranth’s courage to leave, and she is haunted by the feeling that the prophet is in pursuit.  She is unused to the outside world, not to mention driving, and soon crashes in the area of Oklahoma known as no man’s land.  There they are offered refuge by Bradley, a struggling farmer, and Dust, his ward.

Amaranth struggles to rebuild a life for her family.  This is a hard task, complicated even more by Sorrow’s fury at being forced to leave the only home she’s ever known.  She is determined to return to what she knows is her rightful place as a religious leader and is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve this, no matter the consequences.

The resulting struggle between Amaranth and Sorrow is primal and riveting.  Amity is caught in the middle, which turns out to be a dangerous place.

This is not an easy story, but I found its depiction of life within a cult gripping and memorable.  Peggy Riley’s writing is lean and evocative.  The narrative switches back and forth between the present day and flashbacks of how Amaranth came to join the prophet and what finally made her leave.  The wonder of Amity at the outside world is beautifully conveyed.  The portrait of the world of Amaranth and the prophet gives the reader a taste of a world with few familiar moorings.  A memorable story of faith and redemption.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

October 23, 2012

I am back with another blog about Tayari Jones’s latest book. My last first blog was about her debut novel, Leaving AtlantaSilver Sparrow is told through the eyes of half sisters, Dana Yarboro and Chaurisse Witherspoon. The first line in the book reads, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.” Who can resist an opening sentence like this?

Dana’s mother, Gwendolyn and father, James married in Alabama after she was born, but they are a well-kept secret. James’s friend, Raleigh is the only one who is aware of their existence. Dana and her mother know about Chaurisse and Laverne, yet they have no clue that they exist. Dana and her mother live a modest life and manage to get by without James being a permanent fixture in their household. Wednesday is James’ “poker night” and he and Raleigh always have dinner with Dana and Gwendolyn. James does his best to make sure Gwendolyn and Dana avoid Laverne and Chaurisse. Because of this, Dana is often told she cannot participate in the same activities or attend a particular school because Chaurisse will be doing so.

Chaurisse’s mother, Laverne married James when they were in high school. Laverne runs a hair salon and James owns a small limo service. Laverne is under the impression that her life is close to perfect, yet does she know her husband has another family on the other side of town.

This intriguing story follows sisters, Dana and Chaurisse, from kindergarten through high school. Even though the same blood flows through their veins, the girls lead very different lives, eventually their paths cross and they form a friendship. The anticipation of wondering if or when the cat will be let out of the bag will keep you engrossed to the very end.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog

How to Murder a Millionaire by Nancy Martin

September 14, 2012

The Blackbird sisters come from an old, respectable, wealthy Pennsylvania family. At least, they did until their parents fled the country. Now they just come from an old family with a somewhat murky reputation. Their parents left a mixed legacy for the three sisters. Libby got the antique furniture, Emma got the artwork, and Nora was left the old homestead. This sounds great, except Nora also inherited the two million dollar tax bill that goes with the land. Of course, like most sisters, they rarely agree and each thinks the others got the better deal.

Nora, the one with the land, has taken a job as an assistant to the gossip columnist of the local newspaper. She’s trying to make a go of it, despite a boss who hates her, when she finds the body of Rory Pendergast. Rory was a close friend to the Blackbirds who also owned the newspaper and gave Nora her job, so Nora is determined to find out what happened to him. Because of the standing of the Blackbird family, the police agree that Nora might be better placed to find inside information about the elite families of Philadelphia.

How to Murder a Millionaire is a fast and fun beginning to The Blackbird Sisters Mysteries. It has an intriguing mystery and the author’s descriptions of fabulous parties and the stylish clothes worn by the well-to-do give you a glimpse into another lifestyle. The historical notes about Philadelphia were also interesting to me. There is a young police detective and a shady character Nora sells some land to who sometimes help her with her investigations.  Both of them are also potential love interests for Nora. In addition, the rivalry between the sisters is very true to life. You can actually want to protect and kill one of your siblings at the same time (not that I am speaking from experience!). I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

Nancy Martin is the author of many mystery, suspense, historical and romance novels. Nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Mystery of 2002, HOW TO MURDER A MILLIONAIRE won the Romantic Times award for Best First Mystery and was a finalist for the Daphne DuMaurier Award. Nancy has also written the Roxy Abruzzo mystery series.

Nancy will appear at several Wake County Libraries in September on a mystery panel hosted by Raven award winner Molly Weston She will be joined by fellow mystery writers Deborah Coonts and Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Find and reserve this book in the catalog.

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