Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

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.

 

11/22/63 by Stephen King

January 11, 2013

11/22/63If you had the chance to go back in time and change history to prevent a national tragedy, would you? That is the chance given to Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Maine. Al Templeton, the owner of a local diner, lets Jake in on a secret: there’s a “rabbit hole” in his storeroom that leads back to 1958. Al has a plan to go back and stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing President Kennedy. But, Al is now dying of lung cancer, so he needs Jake’s help to complete his self-appointed mission to save the country by changing its history.

Jake also teaches adult GED classes and he read a theme written by his school’s janitor on “the day that changed my life.” It seems that there was a very gruesome and horrible event in Harry the janitor’s childhood – something that has scarred him for life, both physically and mentally. Jake’s not quite sure what to make of this time travel stuff, but decides that if it’s for real, he’s also going to try and change the course of events that led to this personal tragedy, in addition to trying to stop Oswald from killing Kennedy.

Of course, no story this good (and yes, it really is a good as everyone has said) would be so simple and straightforward. We learn that the past is obdurate. Don’t worry, I had to look that word up too. It means “unmoved by persuasion, pity, or tender feelings; stubborn; unyielding.” Basically, when you try to change the past, the past tries to stop you. The larger of a change you are making, the more the past will try to stop that change. And stopping Oswald from assassinating Kennedy is a mighty big change.

What makes Stephen King‘s novel so great is not just the premise (a fairly neat twist on the time travel idea), but the story itself and the characters about whom we come to care so much. Since the “rabbit hole” dumps Jake out in Maine in 1958, and Kennedy’s date with destiny is in Dallas in 1963, that leaves Jake with five years of living to do – as well as making sure that Oswald really did do it and acted alone. Along the way he gets a job teaching, meets a librarian named Sadie, and falls in love.

Does Jake stop Oswald? What would happen to our history if Kennedy had lived? What about Jake and Sadie? You don’t really want me to tell you, you really want to pick this book up and discover its wonder yourself. I’ll just end by saying that I’m not what you’d call a crying man, and it’s rare for a book to bring me to tears, but this is one of two books I read in 2011 that did just that.

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Lit by Mary Karr

June 15, 2012

If there was an award for most meaningful short book title I would nominate Lit, the third installment of Mary Karr’s critically acclaimed autobiography (following The Liar’s Club, which was previously blogged by another reviewer, and Cherry). That small three letter word can be interpreted in several ways; there are at least three ‘lits’ in the life of Mary Karr.

One is literature. Her love of words began in childhood and found expression in her poetry (her latest collection is Sinners Welcome) and prose. The second is her taste for alcohol. Unfortunately, her appetite for liquor becomes an uncontrollable craving to get ‘lit’ as often as possible. As you can imagine, this creates problems, both professional and personal. She discovers a third ‘lit’ when she seeks to control her addiction and she finds faith in a higher power (she has described herself as a “black belt sinner”).

Mary Karr is unflinchingly honest in her portrayal of a talented woman battling to overcome her own self doubts and weaknesses. She writes movingly of her love for her son, her failed marriage, her complicated relationship with her mother and the kindness shown her by others when she reaches out for help. Beautifully written, unsentimental and, in parts, screamingly funny, Lit delivers what great autobiographies always do–a chance to experience the life of another from the inside out.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


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