This summer we’re exploring heroes, from crime-fighting superheroes to everyday folks just making a difference in their communities. Heroes can also be found within the pages of great literature. Historical fiction, which often chronicles the imagined experiences of real-life events, is a genre that is especially filled with heroes. I will admit I’m partial to stories of women in these historical settings. I know my own life is very different than those of the women who came before me. In fact, the life I lead has been very much shaped by those brave women from earlier centuries. The heroic women of historical fiction provide a glimpse into the challenges women of the past faced and how their bravery shaped today’s world. Here are a few of my favorite historical novels featuring strong women.
The years before the Civil War were tumultuous, especially in the Kansas Territory where abolitionists struggled to gain a stronghold and help the state enter the Union as a free state. Jane Smiley’s “The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton,” features a Midwestern young woman who finds herself thrust into the upheaval of “Bleeding Kansas.” Lidie heads out to the territory with her abolitionist husband and (to be frank) completely unrealistic expectations of what the Kansas prairie will be like. The story, filled with Lidie’s dry wit, is at times laugh-out-loud funny, and at others is quite sobering in its portrayal of the horror of slavery and violence of those years. I think Missouri residents will find this read especially interesting given all the Missouri locales that Lidie visits during her travels.
The experience of Chinese immigrants in WWII-era Los Angeles features in Lisa See’s “Shanghai Girls.” Pearl and May are sisters living exciting lives as models in glamorous Shanghai. When WWII breaks out, they find themselves in arranged marriages to sons of a Chinese-American merchant. Pearl and May are forced to leave China for the United States, landing first in the Angel Island Chinese immigration station and then in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. The sisters, bearing the weight of their own painful secrets, struggle to adjust to life under a domineering father-in-law and a society that is highly prejudicial against Asian-Americans. See’s novel, based in part on her own family’s experiences, provides a captivating look at the immigrant experience in this country.
A small town’s struggle to survive during the Plague is chronicled in Geraldine Brooks’ “Year of Wonders.” The story is based on actual events — a small Derbyshire town called the village of Eyam quarantined itself in 1666 in order to prevent the plague from spreading further. Anna, a young maid, finds herself tasked with learning herbal remedies and midwifery when her village is overcome by the devastating disease. She becomes an important healer but faces many challenges, including the superstitions of the very people she is working to save. The novel is a beautifully written journey of self-discovery as Anna realizes strength and determination she did not know she possessed.
The Gateway Readers Award honors a young adult novel that is selected by Missouri high school students. Even though this award is administered by the Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL), it is the responsibility of Missouri teens to vote on the actual winner. These titles will be voted upon by students in March 2016; the recipient of the award will be announced in late April 2016 at the annual MASL Spring Conference. There is a great assortment of genres represented in this year’s list of nominees, so have fun choosing among historical fiction, realistic fiction, and, of course, dystopian literature.
“In the Shadow of Blackbirds” by Cat Winters
As influenza and World War I take their toll, Mary Shelley Black watches mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort. Despite her scientific leanings, she is forced to consider if ghosts are real when her first love returns after being killed in battle.
“Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson
At age eight, David watched as his father was killed by an Epic, a human with superhuman powers. Ten years later, he joins the Reckoners, a group of rebels trying to kill the Epics and end their tyranny.
“The Naturals” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Seventeen-year-old Cassie, who has a natural ability to read people, joins an elite group of criminal profilers at the FBI in order to help solve cold cases.
“The Rules for Disappearing” by Ashley Elston
High school student “Meg” has changed identities so often she hardly knows who she is anymore. Despite her ever-changing persona, she always remembers the two rules of witness protection: be forgettable and do not make friends. However, in her new home, a boy named Ethan is making that rather difficult.
“All Our Yesterdays” by Cristin Terrill
Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain. Meanwhile, Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future.
“Thousand Words” by Jennifer Brown
Talked into sending a nude picture of herself to her boyfriend while she was drunk, Ashleigh became the center of a sexting scandal. Now in court-ordered community service, she finds an unlikely ally, Mack.
“I am the Weapon (Boy Nobody)” by Allen Zadoff
Boy Nobody, an assassin controlled by a shadowy government organization, considers sabotaging his latest mission because his target reminds him of the normal life he craves.
“Escape from Eden” by Ellisa Nadler
Mia has long lived under the iron fist of the preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical followers. In Edenton, a supposed ‘Garden of Eden,’ everyone follows the Reverend’s strict rules – even the mandate of whom to marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out.
“Proxy” by Alex London
Syd’s life is not his own. As a proxy he must pay for someone else’s crimes. When his patron Knox crashes a car and kills someone, Syd is branded and sentenced to death. The boys realize the only way to beat the system is to save each other.
“Out of the Easy” by Ruta Sepetys
Josie, the 17-year-old daughter of a French Quarter prostitute, is striving to escape 1950 New Orleans and enroll at prestigious Smith College when she becomes entangled in a murder investigation.
“The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey
Cassie Sullivan, the survivor of an alien invasion, must rescue her younger brother from the enemy with help from a boy who may be one of them.
“Winger” by Andrew Smith
Two years younger than his classmates at a prestigious boarding school, Ryan Dean West grapples with living in the dorm for troublemakers, falling for his female best friend who thinks of him as just a kid, and playing wing on the varsity rugby team.
“Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits. They are both smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
“All the Truth That’s in Me” by Julie Berry
Judith can’t speak. But when her close-knit community of Roswell Station is attacked by enemies, Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice.
“The Program” by Suzanne Young
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in “The Program,” the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; she knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through “The Program” returns as a blank slate. While their depression is gone, so are their memories.
Originally published at 2016 Gateway Award Nominees.
The superhero. The origin story, the nemesis, the team up, the world-saving, etc. Oh, and the reboot. Never forget the reboot. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again. The superhero is an enduring trope that has permeated pop-culture. Inevitably, writers and artists started creating comics that critique, satirize and subvert the idea of the superhero. What might have started as efforts to tell a new story in a well-worn genre morphed into creative examinations of the concept of the superhero. Despite any high-minded genre dissections, the basic thrill of superhero stories is in these titles. These creators work in the genre because they ultimately love it, warts and all.
In 1986 two series premiered which are now touchstones for the re-imagining of the superhero story: Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns. The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller tells the story of a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne who must return from retirement (spoiler alert!) as Batman. Gotham has turned into a bit of a dystopian nightmare in the 10 years since Batman retired. Batman is not so nice and not very stable. His reemergence brings some of his arch rivals out of retirement as well, which adds to the chaos in Gotham. In addition to being a different take on an iconic character, “The Dark Knight Returns” satirizes the media and political atmosphere of the 1980s.
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons also offers a critique of the 1980s, specifically the Cold War hysteria of the time. It examines political themes buried in comics, such as the line between vigilantism and fascism, and what a government might really do with superpowered beings. Moore’s original idea started as a murder mystery involving characters from Charlton Comics, which DC Comics had just purchased. Although Moore was persuaded to create original characters for the story, it maintained it’s very meta take on comics, what Gibbons referred to as “a comic about comics.”
An unfortunate trend followed the success of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Many comics appeared that tried to replicate their success with darker, more violent superhero stories, but they lacked the substance that made those comics lasting works. However, some darker comics followed whose quality is comparable.
The series Marshal Law by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill first appeared in October 1987, when the final issue of Watchmen was published. It’s a darkly satirical story where the superheros are misguided government experiments and shell-shocked war vets wreaking havoc in a crumbling San Francisco, now called “San Futuro.” Marshal Law is a legally sanctioned superhero hunter (“I’m a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven’t found any yet,” is his tag line). He’s trying to round up all the rogue heroes to make the city safer. From superheros.
The Boys by Garth Ennis also deals with out-of-control superheros with a dark, satirical tone. In this case the superheros are an amoral and entitled variety that play a public role as “heroes” while in reality show a complete disregard for others. The Boys are a CIA-backed group who have lost loved ones, or otherwise had their lives ruined, by the negligence and misbehavior of superheroes. They are given injections of the same compound that creates superheroes and tasked with holding the “‘supes” accountable. They do so with a vengeance.
The series Irredeemable and Incorruptible by Mark Waid tell two sides to the same story. Irredeemable is the story of Plutonian, a god-like superhero from another world (like Superman) who loses it. He lays waste to much of the world, and the survivors live in terror of him. The story traces the cause of his meltdown, while also following the uphill battle surviving superheros have in their attempt to stop the most powerful being on Earth.
Incorruptible follows super villain Max Damage after Plutonian’s meltdown. The horror inflicted by Plutonian and the state the world is in give Max a crisis of conscience. The series follows him as he tries to change his ways and do right in this broken world.
Daniel Clowes‘ The Death Ray examines the “with great power comes great responsibility” line from Spider-Man, asking “what might a misfit teenager really do if he had superpowers?” Andy is growing up in 1970s Chicago and suffering at the hands of bullies. He discovers that smoking cigarettes gives him super strength. Naturally, he arms himself with a ray gun and looks for revenge. Andy is neither good nor evil but a realistic portrait of a mixed-up kid given some unrealistic abilities. The story is told with the mix of melancholy, humor and cynicism that has made Clowes one of the most critically acclaimed cartoonists of our time.
Can we all just agree to take the month of July off to sit around in our hammocks sipping iced tea and reading until our eyeballs break? The LibraryReads list highlighting books publishing next month (and inspiring librarians across the country to entertain similar fantasies) includes not only the expected breezy romances but also a new historical fiction from Paula McClain (“The Paris Wife“) and a confident debut that will delight foodies with an appetite for character-driven novels. Bon appétit!
“Kitchens of the Great Midwest” by J. Ryan Stradal
“This novel is quirky and colorful. The story revolves around chef Eva Thorvald and the people who influence her life and her cooking. With well-drawn characters and mouthwatering descriptions of meals, ‘Kitchens of the Great Midwest’ will appeal to readers who like vivid storytelling. Foodies will also enjoy this delicious tale.” – Anbolyn Potter, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ
“Circling the Sun” by Paula McLain
“I couldn’t stop reading this fascinating portrayal of Beryl Markham, a complex and strong-willed woman who fought to make her way in the world on her terms. McLain paints a captivating portrait of Africa in the 1920s and the life of expats making their home there. Highly, highly recommended.” – Halle Eisenman, Beaufort County Library, Hilton Head, SC
“Kiss Me” by Susan Mallery
“As always, Ms. Mallery has given us a fantastic read. As soon as I pick up her titles, I can’t put them down until I have finished them. They are feel-good, heartwarming — I need more synonyms. I love seeing all the previous characters, the friendships and families that have formed since ‘Chasing Perfect’ came out five years ago. Thanks, Ms. Mallery, for another amazing read.” – Jenelle Klavenga, Marshalltown Public Library, Marshalltown, IA
Here is the rest of the July list with links to the library’s catalog. Place your holds now!
“Second Chance Summer” by Jill Shalvis
“Speaking in Bones” by Kathy Reichs
“Those Girls” by Chevy Stevens
“Maybe in Another Life” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
“Crooked Heart” by Lissa Evans
“Love Lies Beneath” by Ellen Hopkins
“Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day” by Leanne Brown
I was excited to read “A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall” because the story of a brave giant is almost certain to be exciting. To my brief disappointment, the title isn’t literal. But my disappointment was curtailed because the story is riveting. We begin with water polo star Owen Burr, his days infused by one of four colors (obviously: peridot, gamboge, ultramarine and carmine) that correspond to the general feel of the day, and of course, a Greek god. Owen is to participate in the Olympics until a savage blow from from a decidely ungentlemanly opponent obliterates one of his peepers. While most people, after losing an eye, turn to a life of pillaging on the high seas, Owen’s plan is slightly less ambitious. Eyepatch donned, Owen bravely abandons college, steals his father’s prized copy of “The Odyssey” and leaves his goodbye on a post-it note. He journeys to Berlin to become an artist and discover which half of his life would be wasted.
Once there, he meets one tremendous scoundrel, several lesser scoundrels and some people that aren’t scoundrels. When the tremendous scoundrel, a famous artist whose work is often exploitative and disgusting, offers to collaborate with Owen, some dreadful things occur. I haven’t been this outraged by the actions taken against a character since watching any Game of Thrones episode. But Owen has no swords or dragons or lofty titles, only a dashing eye patch and a desire to create.
Meanwhile, Owen’s father, a professor at a fancy college, is distraught about his son. He begins searching for him and finds saying radical things leads to notoriety which might lead to Owen finally responding to an email or perhaps sending a telegram. Joseph Burr’s search leads him to Athens, where he makes a speech about Scarface and philosophy and whatnot. Someone rushes the stage and hands the professor a Molotov. Joseph is trying to spare the crowd a good burning when he lofts the explosive at the Parthenon. Alas, his toss isn’t widely viewed as the good deed it was. Fear of imprisonment ushers him out of Greece and onward on his trek to find his son.
Owen is also on the run now, having done a very bad thing to a man who very much deserved it. I’ll cease the plot talk here, as much of a delight as it is — I’ve already spoiled more than I consider gentlemanly, but sometimes an honorable man wants to write about a professor throwing Molotovs at the Parthenon.
Will Chancellor is a gifted writer, and there is a bounty of delightful sentences in store for anyone who takes this recommendation. Here are some words from the writer John Warner, who did a superior job of recommending this novel.
“…What I loved about the novel is the kitchen-sink quality of its ideas and obsessions. At one point or another Chancellor touches on: Plato’s allegory of the cave; remote-controlled boats; postmodern performance art; postmodern political theory;…Icelandic myth; the inevitable upselling of camping gear; campus politics; and the particular genius of Hungarian water polo.
…I fell in love with the book because it is one of a handful of books I will read in a given year that remind of the potential of literature to mine our obsessions and share them with others…A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall is the most “alive” book I’ve read this year. I don’t delude myself as to the size of this megaphone, but I hope someone’s listening.”
It’s the mid-part of the 20th century. A beauty contest at Mizzou inspires a protest consisting of 300-700 students. The entire town of Columbia is in upheaval over the possibility of renaming Columbia’s Providence Road and a blonde woman in a trench coat replacing Daniel Boone himself on MU’s parking permits. All of these events took place because of a mysterious cartoon woman. That woman is Miss Mizzou, a fictional character in Milton Caniff’s famous comic strip “Steve Canyon.” Local author and artist J.B. Winter did some investigation into our local history to create his book “Miss Mizzou: A Life Beyond Comics.” He was nice enough to answer a few questions for DBRL Next before his talk at the Columbia Public Library on June 15.
DBRL: This is a really interesting story that, at least in the past few decades, hadn’t gotten much attention prior to the publishing of your book. How did you discover Miss Mizzou and Milton Caniff’s connection with Columbia?
JBW: I came across the character on a blog post and started researching from there. Cartoonist Milton Caniff was a big name in his day, so I wanted to see why he would have created a character related to Columbia. I had no idea I had come across such a unique and interesting character.
DBRL: Miss Mizzou is a college-aged woman who spends time with students at the university, though she herself is not a student, but a server at a local restaurant. How much do you think the University of Missouri and the town of Columbia actually inspired this character?
JBW: If Caniff had not taken a liking to how the word “Mizzou” sounded, I doubt he would have created the character. Once Caniff had the character name, he created a back-story to the character that was rooted in his memory of his short visit to Columbia. You can see evidence of this by the various references to Columbia landmarks in the strip. However, he repeatedly denied basing the character off any waitress he met in Columbia.
I think Caniff was fascinated by the Midwest in general, and that worked its way into the character. He was from the small town of Hillsboro, Ohio, and he’d often throw characters who had small town backgrounds into his comics. It added a lot of realistic background texture that played off of the more fantastical elements in the strip.
DBRL: Do you think a character like Miss Mizzou would be as popular, or cause as much controversy, if she were created today (perhaps in a different incarnation, such as in web comic or as a television character)?
JBW: The specific character traits of Miss Mizzou probably wouldn’t resonate as much with a modern audience as they did back in the 1950s. I think the character had some heavy ties to Marilyn Monroe’s popularity and that Monroe archetype is probably a little too dated at this point to get as much notice.
The idea of some modern character catching on in small town America seems possible–many small towns today are still eager for opportunities at national recognition. However, modern media as a whole (television, comics, movies, etc.) seem to devalue characters with ties to real small towns, and I think this was a central part of Miss Mizzou’s popularity.
The whole promotional aspect of Miss Mizzou emphasized that bond citizens had with their local newspaper. Caniff would occasionally give a nod to a city where the newspaper directly bought his strip; it was just a good public relations move for everyone involved. The cash flow in the modern media landscape doesn’t work like it used to, and as a result, I think that emphasis on specific small town locales gets written out of most stories in favor of larger cities or nameless small towns.
So in short, while it’s possible that some character could gain popularity and/or cause controversy in a small town like Miss Mizzou did, I don’t think it would happen very easily given the modern media landscape.
DBRL: In addition to writing this book, you also create your own comics. Would you care to tell us a little about your comic art?
JBW: I tend to do experimental comics. Sometimes I play around with conventions of the form, illustrating with unique constraints in mind. Other times I have drawn some regular comics, but have done them on a unique canvas like a sidewalk or tortillas. To me it’s all about pushing the boundaries of comics.
I’m probably most known for my 50 state comic. For that project, I used contributions from 50 artists from 50 different states in a collaborative jam comic that featured my character Izzy the Mouse. The idea was that Izzy toured America and in each of the 50 panels Izzy visited a different state. The results were published as a mini-comic when I was done.
DBRL: Have you read any good books lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?
JBW: If you’d like to learn more about Milton Caniff, I’d highly recommend the current “Steve Canyon” reprints currently coming out from IDW & Library of American Comics. You can start out with Miss Mizzou’s first adventure in “Steve Canyon: 1951-1952,” or read the latest volume, “Steve Canyon: 1955-1956.” Caniff has never been reprinted with such care and attention to detail.
There were a lot of great graphic novels released last year, but one of my favorites I’d recommend is “Seconds” by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It’s his first book after the highly successful “Scott Pilgrim” series, and it really shows an organic growth in style and approach from his last effort. It has all the elements I like to see in a story: good relateable characters, fantastical situations, experimental storytelling, etc.
The Truman Readers Award honors a book that is selected by Missouri junior high students. Even though this award is administered by the Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL), it is the responsibility of Missouri teens to choose the actual winner. These titles will be voted upon by students in March 2016; the recipient of the award will be announced in late April 2016 at the annual MASL Spring Conference. As summer kicks into high gear, consider bringing along one of these titles to enjoy poolside.
“Rapunzel Untangled” by Cindy C. Bennett
For one thing, Rapunzel has a serious illness that keeps her inside the mysterious Gothel Mansion. And for another, her hair is 15 feet long. Not to mention that she’s also the key to ultimately saving the world from certain destruction. But, then she meets a boy named Fane, who changes all she has ever known, and she decides to risk everything familiar to find out who she really is.
“Tandem” by Anna Jarzab
Sasha lives a quiet life with her grandfather in Chicago, but dreams of adventure. When her long-time crush, Grant, asks her to prom, she is thrilled. That is, until is turns out he is abducting her to a parallel universe to impersonate a princess.
“A Matter of Days” by Amber Kizer
On Day 56 of the pandemic called BluStar, Nadia’s mother dies, leaving her responsible for her younger brother, Rabbit. They secretly received antivirus vaccines from their uncle, but most people weren’t as lucky. Their deceased father taught them to adapt and survive whatever comes their way. That’s their plan as they trek from Seattle to their grandfather’s survivalist compound in West Virginia.
“Pivot Point” by Kasie West
Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or, so she thought.
“The Testing” by Joelle Charbonneau
The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But, to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.
“Mila 2.0” by Debra Driza
Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.
“Rogue” by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Kiara has Asperger’s syndrome, and it’s hard for her to make friends. So whenever her world doesn’t make sense—which is often—she relies on Mr. Internet for answers. But there are some questions he can’t answer, like why she always gets into trouble, and how do kids with Asperger’s syndrome make friends?
“Marie Antoinette: Serial Killer” by Katie Alender
Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots. But, a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. As she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.
“SYLO” by D.J. MacHale
SYLO, a secret branch of the U.S. Navy, informs Pemberwick residents that the island has been hit by a lethal virus and must be quarantined. Tucker Pierce believes there’s more to SYLO’s story, and only he holds the clues that can solve this deadly mystery.
“Inhuman” by Kat Falls
America has been ravaged by a war that has left the eastern half of the country riddled with mutation. Many of the people there exhibit varying degrees of animal traits. Crossing from west to east is supposed to be forbidden, but sometimes it’s necessary. Sixteen-year-old Lane’s father goes there to retrieve lost artifacts—he is a Fetch. It’s a dangerous life, but rewarding—until he’s caught and Lane agrees to complete this father’s job.
“Prisoner B-3087” by Alan Gratz
Based on the life of Jack Gruener, this book relates his story of survival from the Nazi occupation of Krakow, when he was eleven, through a succession of concentration camps, to the final liberation of Dachau.
“The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die” by April Henry
She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know where she is, or why. All she knows when she comes to in a ransacked cabin is that there are two men arguing over whether or not to kill her. And, that she must run.
Originally published at 2016 Truman Award Nominees.
Let the summer reading begin! Some readers turn to lighter fare in June, wanting books with breezy plots they can finish in a long afternoon, fast-paced thrillers that make miles of travel fly by or fantasy novels into which they can escape. Others use hard-earned vacation time (I’m waving at you, teachers!) to dive into hefty works of literary fiction or narrative nonfiction. Whatever reading mood summer inspires, we’ve got a hot-off-the-presses recommendation for you from LibraryReads. Here are the top 10 titles publishing in June that librarians across the country love and recommend.
“Eight Hundred Grapes” by Laura Dave
“Take your time and savor the family dynamics. Enjoy the romantic twists in this tale of a career-minded young woman circling back to her roots at a California winery. The appeal is broader than that of a romance since it delves into the complexities of various relationships — parent to parent, parents and children, even winery and owner. This is an excellent summer read!”
– Joan Hipp, Florham Park Public Library, Florham Park, NJ
“The Truth According to Us” by Annie Barrows
“It is 1938 in a rural West Virginia town and a young woman arrives to write the town’s history. Layla doesn’t really know what to expect from the town, and the town doesn’t know what to make of her. This is the heart of the South, the soul of small towns, where everyone looks out for you and knows your history. A sweet story tailor-made for fans of Billie Letts, Fannie Flagg, Pat Conroy and Harper Lee.”
– Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX
“The Book of Speculation” by Erica Swyler
“A roller coaster of a read! This is the story of a librarian from a splintered family with a tragic past who is gifted a mysterious book that leads him to dive deep into his family’s history, all while his present life seems to be falling to pieces around him. If you loved Morgenstern’s ‘The Night Circus’ or Kostova’s ‘The Historian,’ this is a book for you.”
– Amanda Monson, Bartow County Library System, Cartersville, GA
“The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George
“Quirky and delightful, Nina George’s book focuses on Jean Perdu, owner of the Literary Apothecary, a floating bookshop. When a new tenant in his apartment building sets in motion events that force Jean to re-evaluate his past, he finds himself floating off down the rivers of France in search of lost love, new love and friends he didn’t know he needed.”
– Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY
And here’s the rest of June’s best with links to the library’s catalog so you can place your holds on these forthcoming books.
- “The Invasion of the Tearling” by Erika Johansen
- “In the Unlikely Event” by Judy Blume
- “The Rumor” by Elin Hilderbrand
- “The Precipice” by Paul Doiron
- “My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrik Backman
- “Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship” by Robert Kurson
As a regular reader of the thriller genre, I was excited to finally give Karin Slaughter a try. I was familiar with her name — her novels are often bestsellers that fly off the shelves. I was immediately drawn to her strong writing. Slaughter’s style is dark and gritty. She’s not afraid to expose the dark side of her characters (even those that you’re rooting for)! Although many crime novels are set in more urban areas, Slaughter takes readers into small, Southern towns, where horrific crimes are bubbling just under the surface. And when they explode into visibility, it becomes clear that even idyllic small towns are not safe from the darker side of human nature.
Her most recent series (starting with the twist-filled thriller, “Triptych“) features Will Trent, a special agent for the Georgia Bureau of investigation. I learned that some of the characters who show up in the Will Trent stories were first featured in her “Grant County” series. I’m a bit of a stickler for reading things in order (gotta avoid spoilers!), so I set out to read the earlier series first.
The “Grant County” series features Dr. Sara Linton, town pediatrician and coroner, as well as her ex-husband (and chief-of-police) Jeffrey Tolliver. Sara and Jeffrey’s troubled relationship plays out over six books as they work together to solve several horrific crimes. The series also includes troubled officer Lena Adams. Lena is Jeffrey’s protogé, and the vicious murder of her twin sister Sybil opens this series in “Blindsighted.” In the next two novels — “Kisscut” and “A Faint, Cold Fear” — the trio find themselves drawn into cases involving a family’s dark secrets and a series of suicides at the local college. A personal favorite of mine from the series is “Indelible,” which features an incredibly tense hostage situation. This book also provides a glimpse into the early days of Sara and Jeffrey’s relationship, as well as their involvement in the possible cover-up of a crime. In “Faithless,” Sara and Jeffrey look into a murder that may be connected to a local religious cult, while Lena struggles to maintain a grip on both her personal and professional lives. And, in “Beyond Reach,” the series’ final book, Sara and Jeffrey journey to Lena’s hometown after she is accused of murder, leading to repercussions none of them could have imagined.
Slaughter knows how to write a taut thriller, but she truly excels in developing complex characters and exploring their even more complex relationships. I found myself pulled into not only the story of how Sarah, Jeffrey and Lena solved the crimes, but also the drama in their ever-evolving relationships. The “Grant County” series is truly an engaging saga, with each novel building on the events of the previous one. And lucky for us readers, Slaughter gets better with each book.
The post Suspense in a Small Town: Karin Slaughter’s Grant County Series appeared first on DBRL Next.
It can be great fun to read about villains, whether it’s because they command an army of monkeys (Wicked Witch), or they’re a great cook (Hannibal Lector) or they make you feel better about your own ethical shortcomings (Martha Stewart). But when you often read about such indisputably inhuman monsters, it’s good to be reminded that not everybody that does bad things is evil, and sometimes they are elephants. “The Tusk That Did The Damage” reminds us of this. In this sad and lovely and sometimes scary little novel, the elephant known as “The Gravedigger” witnessed the murder of his mother and the removal of her tail, and, after an often horrific existence marked by cruelty, isolation and a stint in the entertainment industry, begins murdering people and covering their corpses with leaves. Hence his catchy nickname.
“The Tusk That Did The Damage” rotates among three perspectives: the aforementioned homicidal elephant, a young woman working on a documentary about a veterinarian running a rescue center for elephants and the younger brother of a young elephant poacher. While each narrative is worthy of my esteemed recommendation, getting inside the head of a mad elephant is the highlight for me, and I’d gladly read any excised material should the publisher wish to reward me for the sales boost I’m currently providing.
Tania James has given us a novel that raises a lot of questions, like: Why is the world set up so that the poverty stricken often have little choice but to step outside the law if they want their children to have cool stuff like plentiful food and maybe a toy? Why are humans so quick to kill things because pretty stuff is attached to their victims? And why can’t mosquitoes carry around little sacks of ivory so we don’t have people murdering intelligent creatures so they can make really pretty pianos? (You would be like, “Ouch, it hurts to slap a sack of ivory,” but then you’d be like, “It’s cool though cause I’ll just run this conveniently packaged ivory down to my local ivorysmith and he’ll turn it into a fancy trinket and give me some folding cash and maybe I’ll buy a little ivory glove from him so it doesn’t hurt to kill mosquitoes.”) Maybe you’ll get to thinking about the poacher’s brother’s insight that his community is “neither poor enough nor princely enough to appear on Western screens.” I’m grateful to see it on Western pages.
The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list of recommended reading sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association. Sixteen young adult book clubs from libraries across the country are responsible for narrowing down a list of nominees for teens to vote on nationwide. Below is this year’s full list of Top Ten nominations. Don’t forget that the library offers print, eBook and audiobook editions of many of the these titles!
“Let’s Get Lost” by Adi Alsaid
As Leila struggles to come to terms with her new life, she grasps for the only thing she knows is real, the northern lights. On her cross-country trip to see them, she meets four people that not only change her, but change because of her. She helps them in ways they didn’t know they needed, and they help her more than she realizes.
“Don’t Look Back” by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Samantha’s mind is a blank slate after she disappeared with her best frienemy, Cassie. However, when Cassie’s dead body turns up, Samantha’s memories are the only clue to what happened that night. Unfortunately, Sam not having any memories may be the only thing keeping her alive.
“Midnight Thief” by Livia Blackburne
Kyra is a thief. A talented one at that. When the leader of the mysterious Assassin’s Guild offers her a job, she isn’t sure. Tristam of Brancel is a Palace knight. When his best friend is murdered by the Demon Riders, a clan of fierce warriors who ride on bloodthirsty wildcats, he vows to take them down. Each time, he is thwarted by a talented thief, one who can easily slip past the Palaces defenses. When they are thrown together on a raid, they realize that their best-if only chance at survival is to join together. Loyalties are tested and a surprising secret is learned about Kyra’s past-one that threatens to reshape their lives.
“Mortal Gods” by Kendare Blake
For the first time ever, Cassandra and Athena have a mutual goal: to kill the remaining gods and goddesses that have taken refuge on Mount Olympus. If they could just figure out how to work together, they might be able to accomplish it.
“The Bane Chronicles” by Cassandra Clare
Magnus Bane, the mysterious High Warlock of New York, has been alive for a long time and has a mysterious past unknown to most of his companions. In this thrilling novel, secrets and stories are revealed, of lovers, of adventures, and of friendships.
“The Inventor’s Secret” by Andrea Cremer
In a steampunk world, after the British Empire won the Revolutionary War, a young Patriot named Charlotte finds a boy in the woods, running from British war machines. When he claims he cannot remember anything, she and the other rebels with her decide to find his true origin by going to the heart of the Empire: New York.
“Love Letters to the Dead” by Ava Dellaira
After the death of her older sister, Laurel tries to cope with her feelings of guilt and anger with what starts out as an English assignment: write a letter to a dead person. As Laurel adjusts to high school and makes new friends, she continues writing letters to her idols. They become more detailed and thoughtful as she tries to grieve over her sister and works up the courage to finally be able to talk about the secret of her death.
“Into the Dark: The Shadow Prince” by Bree Despain
Haden, the disgraced son of Ren Hades, King of the Underworld, has been chosen to go to the surface and bring back Daphne Vince, his boon. Daphne’s alcoholic rock star father is giving her the chance she has dreamed of to further her music career, but in California, further away from home than she’s ever been. Their fates are entwined, and they’re about to meet for the first time.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han
Lara Jean has a teal hatbox under her bed filled with all her precious things, old feelings, and memories that should be buried forever. In that box, there are letters Lara has written to all the boys she has ever loved with no intention of ever sending them. One day, the hat box goes missing, marking the beginning of a series of confrontations she never thought she’d have to face.
“Unhinged” by A.G. Howard
Finally back in the “real world” all Alyssa has left is to ignore her darker side and enjoy the normality of high school and her life with Jeb. But does Wonderland leave her alone? Can the Red Queen let Alyssa get away with what she has done? Everything would be easier if Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest.
“The Young Elites” by Marie Lu
Adelina Amounteru is a survivor of the plague, a Malfetto, a freak to the rest of society. The treatment of abuse over the years has caused a darkness to brew inside her. She believes there is hope for her yet as there is a group of other Malfettos, called the Young Elites. The Young Elites have not only survived the plague, but have developed unexplainable abilities. Is refuge with these people what Adelina always wanted, or are they just going to end up using her like everyone else?
“Heir of Fire” by Sarah J. Maas
Celaena, the King’s Champion, has faced many challenges throughout her life, but none compare to what she must now face. As the King of Adarlan seeks to destroy all that she cares about, Celaena must learn to control her powers while deciding who should fight back: Celaena the assassin or Aelin the Fae princess.
“Since You’ve Been Gone” by Morgan Matson
Emily and Sloane are the bestest friends having an amazing summer, until one day Sloane disappears. Sloane leaves behind a to-do list of 13 tasks Emily would normally never try without Sloane by her side. With the help of Frank Porter, and a few other friends, will Emily finish the list?
“The Shadow Throne” by Jennifer A. Nielsen
War is on the horizon in Carthya, and Jaron needs to protect his country. However, the ruler of Avenia has also captured Jaron’s best friend and love, Imogen. Jaron needs to save both his friend and his country, but everything that possibly could go wrong, does go wrong.
“My Life with the Walter Boys” by Ali Novak
As the perfect girl who had everything scheduled, always looked nice and studied hard, Jackie couldn’t predict her parents’ accident. She also didn’t see her future consisting of moving from New York to Colorado and living with twelve boys. How can she cope with her parents’ death, a dramatic change in lifestyle while still being the perfect girl she was?
“The Kiss of Deception” by Mary E. Pearson
As Lia tries to run from her bounty hunters, she begins uncovering one of her kingdoms deceptive secrets, hidden by the years passed. Meanwhile, she begins falling in love with two men who are not who they seem to be…
“The Winner’s Curse” by Marie Rutkoski
Kestrel is a noble of the vast empire Valoria. She only has two choices for her future: to become a military officer or get married. What she really wants is to be a musician. Her choice for her future becomes more complicated when she buys a slave named Arin who is in on a plot to free his people from enslavement.
“Fire & Flood” by Victoria Scott
Tella Holloway thought her life was bad. When she gets an invitation to save her brother Cody’s life, she learns what bad really is. Tella fights for not only Cody, but herself, her Pandora, and her growing love of a contender. It’s a fight for life, but will Tella die trying?
“I Become Shadow” by Joe Shine
Ren Sharpe was abducted at fourteen, chosen by the mysterious F.A.T.E. Center to become a Shadow: an unstoppable guardian of a future leader/world changer. After four years of training, she is assigned to protect Gareth Young, one of these future beings, an easy assignment, until a team of trained and armed professionals attempt to abduct him in broad daylight. With nowhere else to turn, Ren breaks F.A.T.E. rules and tracks down the only person she can trust; a fellow Shadow named Junie Miller, and decides that her kidnappers may be able to see the future, but they are unprepared for the killing machines they’ve created.
“Grasshopper Jungle” by Andrew Smith
Grasshopper Jungle is a coming of age story revolving around three teenagers, told in layers, exploring the pitfalls and wisdom of history, complex issues of friendship and sexual confusion, and, of course, the story of how six-foot-tall man-eating praying mantises from Iowa, brought on the end of the world.
“The Geography of You and Me” by Jennifer E. Smith
Lucy and Owen get stuck in an elevator in a New York City blackout. When they finally get out of the elevator, they spend the night looking at the stars. Soon after the blackout, Lucy moves away to Scotland while Owen heads out west. With that night in-grained into their minds, they try to stay in touch with each other while trying to figure out what that night truly meant for both of them.
“Boys Like You” by Juliana Stone
Monroe and Nathan are alike in so many ways. Their “one mistake” has hurt both of them and the ones they love. Can Monroe accept herself and help Nathan to do the same?
“We Should Hang Out Sometime” by Josh Sundquist
Josh is a boy who’s good with math, but not with girls. He has the best pickup line- We should hang out sometime- but he never really gets a relationship out of it. Now, after many girlfriendless years, he tries to figure out why.
“Lies We Tell Ourselves” by Robin Talley
As if being one of the first black students to attend Jefferson High School wasn’t enough, Sarah Dunbar has to worry about keeping her secret. Linda Hairston, is the daughter of one of Davisburg’s most vocal opponents to integration in schools. She too has a secret. When these two very different girls are forced to work together on a school project, both are forced to confront the harsh truths about race, power and love.
Originally published at 2015 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees.
Sara Gruen’s latest bestseller is “At the Water’s Edge.” After humiliating themselves and their families in the states, three spoiled, rich Americans — Maddie, her husband Hank and his best friend Ellis — arrive in Loch Ness during the middle of World War II in search of the famed monster. While Hank and Ellis spend their days drinking and hunting Nessy, Maddie is left alone to get a job, do chores and bond with the town folk who teach her the culture of the area. As the days turn into weeks, Maddie is transformed from “brat” into an independent young woman able to look at the truth about herself, her marriage and her family. If you find yourself waiting to read about Maddie, you might enjoy one of these other stories about personal change.
“I Still Dream About You” by Fannie Flagg
From the outside, it looks like Maggie has it all. As a 60-something former Miss Alabama, beautiful, charming and a real estate agent at a local firm, Maggie thinks her life is a failure. This sure wasn’t the life she dreamed about as a child. Struggling with disappointment and ready to commit suicide, Maggie postpones her “date with doom” when she lets a friend talk her into going out for a one-night-only entertainment event. As she tries to reschedule her “date,” business and life further interrupt her plans. Maggie lands the listing of a historical mansion (beating out Babs, a rival realtor), finds a kilted skeleton in the attic, campaigns for the first black mayor and is involved in an auto accident, leading her to surprising discoveries and lessons in friendship.
“Skeletons at the Feast” by Chris Bohjalian
This novel is based on a true life diary of a desperate escape from Germany during the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich. As the Russian army advances, the Nazis increase their violence on women and children to try to maintain the illusion of control. Anna, a Prussian aristocrat, her lover Callum, a Scottish POW, and Uri, a secret-filled escapee from an Auschwitz-bound train all journey across the iced-over Vistula River as the Reich falls. Tension is high between the lovers and this stranger as they flee from the war-ravaged cities.
“Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver
Dellarobia is an unsophisticated, chain smoking, restless young mother, stuck on a sheep farm in rural Tennessee. She got married at 17 instead of going to college, and now she feels unhappy and stuck, about to begin an affair with a telephone lineman to bring her back to life. On her way to said fling, she is waylaid by a magnificent sight, a “lake of fire” created by millions of monarch butterflies in the pasture owned by her in-laws. This amazing phenomenon is a disruption of the butterflies’ normal migratory route. As scientists, media and tourists converge on this impoverished area of the country, Dellarobia is awakened to the realities of her poverty-stricken life. She is given the opportunity to work alongside the scientists, expanding her horizons. Now, she is faced with the choice of keeping the status quo or perhaps finding personal fulfillment.
The post What to Read While You Wait for At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen appeared first on DBRL Next.
Local author and professor Steven Watts be giving a talk at the Columbia Public Library this Thursday about his book “Self-Help Messiah.” The book documents the life and times of Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and the dynamic era in which he rose to fame. Here is an interview with the author for a sneak preview of the event.
DBRL: What inspired you to write this book?
SW: Over the last 20 years or so I have been writing biographies of major figures in the shaping of modern American culture, a group that included Walt Disney, Henry Ford and Hugh Hefner. In particular, I have been interested in exploring how a mainstream modern creed of consumerism, personality and self-fulfillment replaced an older Victorian standard of producerism, character and self-control. After completing the Hefner book, I was looking for a new subject when Dale Carnegie rose to the surface. I had taught about him for many years in a couple of my classes at MU, focusing on his popular advice literature in the twentieth century, and his ideas always had formulated vigorous debate, as some students loved him and others hated him. When I looked at the literature, I was surprised to see that no one had written a full-scale biography of this crucial figure in modern American life. So he seemed like a natural choice for my next project.
DBRL: As a library employee, I see “How to Win Friends and Influence People” circulate regularly, which surprises me considering that the book was written almost 80 years ago. Why do you think the book has stayed relevant for so long?
SW: “How to Win Friends,” some historians have suggested, is one of the three or four best-selling non-fiction books in the entire sweep of American history and probably stands in the top dozen or so for books of all kinds. The figures I have seen support that contention. Its enormous popularity is no accident. Carnegie, with his anecdotal style and perky personality, supplied Americans with a compelling and easily digestible handbook on how to succeed in modern society. (What Horatio Alger was to the nineteenth century, Carnegie was to the twentieth.) His advice is brilliantly tailored to meet the demands and expectations of a modern bureaucratic society and a consumer culture, particularly for white-collar workers. Since that basic structure still stands in place in the United States, and indeed seems to be spreading inexorably around the world with globalization, the advice is still relevant. People respond to it viscerally, I think, and sense immediately that its principles can be applied effectively to their daily lives.
DBRL: How pivotal do you think Carnegie was? Do you think he was in the right place at the right time, and that someone else would have filled this cultural role had he not? Was this shift already on the verge of happening? Or do you think our culture would have looked much different today had he not published this book?
SW: This “what if” kind of question is always difficult for a historian to answer because we will never know what might have happened. We can only speculate, and my speculation is this. Famous people, I always tell my students, are usually individuals who stand in the right place at the right time with the right idea. It is partly a matter of context and circumstance and partly a matter of individual perception and talent. Carnegie is just such a figure. American culture was in the midst of large-scale change in the early twentieth century, so, yes, that process would probably have gone on and ended up in roughly the same place without Carnegie. At the same time, however, his efforts played an important role in formulating and systematizing vague notions of personality development, consumer striving and success that were floating around in the cultural atmosphere. He took what was nascent and made it concrete. So Carnegie does strike me as a pivotal figure whose unique talents help define and push forward a broad process of cultural change that has shaped our modern world. While it would have gone on without him, of course, I believe that he played a very important role in giving it the particular caste it has taken on.
DBRL: In her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan Cain pinpoints Dale Carnegie as one of the most influential people in America’s shift from a culture that values a person’s character to one that places more value on an individual’s personality. Do you agree with that assessment?
SW: I agree completely. In fact, this shift from “character,” with its stress on internalized moral qualities, to “personality,” with its stress on the projection of attractive images to others, is one of the main arguments in my book. It describes not only the broader shift in American culture that is first glimpsed in the 1890s before building much steam in subsequent decades, but also Carnegie himself, whose paeans to the power of personality are key to his success advice.
DBRL: Have you read any good books lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?
SW: I do a lot of reading in non-fiction, as you might imagine, particularly in American history but also in ancient Roman history, which has been a kind of intellectual hobby of mine for many years now. In the former area, I would recommend Robert Dallek’s “Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House,” an interesting exploration of the key figures who surrounded JFK in the creation of the New Frontier in the early 1960s. In the latter area, I have just finished “The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination,” by Barry Strauss, which presents a colorful and insightful account of the murder of Julius Caesar and its role in the decline of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.
Don’t miss Steven Watt’s book talk at the Columbia Public Library from 7 – 8:15 p.m on Thursday, May 14. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” So advised Dale Carnegie, the father of self-help in the United States. His book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” was first published in 1936 and still occasionally generates a waiting list here at the library. This is no small feat in an age when the Next Big Thing crops up approximately every 12 hours.
Carnegie’s life story is as American as it gets. He was a Missouri farm boy turned cultural phenomenon, arriving at that status via a series of sales jobs, stints teaching public speaking in night school, the launch of a leadership training franchise and eventually his best-selling book. He played a major role in the shaping of U.S. society as we know it today, some say for the better and some say for the worse. The truth is probably a mix of the two. Warren Buffet claims to have gained a lot from Carnegie’s teachings, but so does Charles Manson. It may be a case of appropriate versus inappropriate use of tools.
That’s what Carnegie aimed to provide – tools for social interaction. His initial target audience consisted of professionals who struggled with people skills. “How to Win Friends…”contains an agreeable mix of aphorism and anecdote. Along with bits of his own wisdom, the author includes quotes aplenty from other sources: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Buddha, Henry Ford and more.
The book is so entrenched in our cultural consciousness, it continues to inspire spin-offs for readers of all ages. Some contemporary variations are: “How to Win Friends and Influence People for Teen Girls,” “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age” and a children’s book titled “How to Win Friends and Influence Creatures.”
If learning from the master is not enough and you also want to learn about the master, you’re in luck. Steve Watts has written a biography about Carnegie, “Self-Help Messiah,” and will be giving a talk on May 14 at the Columbia Public Library. The event will take place in the Friends Room from 7:00-8:15 p.m.
The post Classics for Everyone: How to Win Friends and Influence People appeared first on DBRL Next.
For this edition of Ask the Author, I am excited to introduce the library’s very own Svetlana Grobman! If you’re a regular DBRL Next reader, you may have already heard about some of her travel adventures or teared up while reading her post about how libraries can change lives.
Grobman has just published her first full-length book, “The Education of a Traitor,” a memoir describing her experience as a Jewish child coming of age in Russia during the height of the Cold War. The book has been described as “An intimate look at a young woman’s struggle to find her own truth in a repressive society.”
DBRL: In “The Education of a Traitor” you tell of your fear and painful sense of isolation as a child. How much of this fear and pain do you think arose from the prejudice you felt growing up Jewish in an anti-Semitic country, and how much from a family life that might be considered dysfunctional by present-day American standards?
SG: The sense of isolation came from both sources, but it was the society that did most of the damage. As for my family, growing up I never thought about it as dysfunctional. Even now I believe that we were a very average family for that time and place. On the bright side, feeling lonely made me a voracious reader.
DBRL: So much of this memoir is vividly told, with compelling details of touch and smell and taste. Considering how many years have passed and how distant you are now, geographically, from your childhood in Russia, why do you think these sensory memories stayed with you?
SG: I think that children feel more acutely than adults, taste wise especially. That’s why children like bland food, and as we age, we need more and more spices. Also, nothing smells as good as it did when you were a child. For example, I planted a lilac tree in my American yard, but it just is not as fragrant as the lilacs from my childhood – or that’s how I feel.
Another thing about children is that the sense of fairness is ingrained in their psyche. As adults, we no longer expect things to be always fair. We have seen so much unfairness in our lives that we no longer react to it as strongly as we used to. This is not the case with the children. To them, things that are “unfair” really traumatize them. On top of that, children have no power to change things. This by itself is enough to feed your worst memories.
Also, there is this about memory. As we age, things no longer come to us in chronological order. What we remember the most are the things that shocked or pleased us the most. The rest fades into the background.
DBRL: Your book relates the many ways schoolchildren and the public were indoctrinated to believe in Soviet superiority in all matters. When did you first begin to suspect this wasn’t true?
SG: There’s one story in my book called “The Young Pioneer.” That story is one of the examples of brainwashing school children into believing that nothing is more important than their country and its morals – not even their families. That story stuck in my mind because that was the first time I, then 9 years old, realized this cannot be true, at least not to me. My family was more important to me than my country, although, at that time, I believed that the reason for that was my personal weakness.
Later, I began paying attention to the messages of our mass media, which were strikingly different from my everyday experiences. For example, our agriculture was “the best” in the world, but we had to import wheat and other products from abroad. Our textile industry was doing great, but the only clothes I saw in the stores were dowdy, etc. It happened slowly, but by the time I turned 13, I had no doubt that everything that the Soviet regime told us was a lie.
DBRL: Can you comment on your choice of title for your memoir?
SG: I’ve been called a traitor several times in my life. The first time, it was my school principal. He called me a traitor because I wanted to transfer to another school. Later on, when I finally decided to leave Russia, many people called me that: people at work, neighbors and especially Soviet officials. In this country, a person can decide to live anywhere she wants, but in Russia in those days, it was considered to be a treacherous act. So, this is the origin of my book title.
DBRL: Have you read any good books recently that you would like to recommend to our readers?
SG: I am a non-fiction reader by far. Just recently, I ‘discovered’ Beryl Markham’s “West With the Night,” which, apparently, impressed even Hemingway. When I read fiction, I mostly go for historical fiction, like “The Greater Journey” by David McCullough, “The Aviator’s Wife” by Melanie Benjamin, etc. However, I just recently read “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman, and I’d definitely recommend it.
Don’t miss Svetlana’s author talk on Thursday, May 7th at 7 p.m. in the Friends Room at the Columbia Public Library. There will be copies of her book available at the event for purchase and signing. You can also buy a physical copy or an ebook on Amazon. If you can’t make it to her talk on May 7th, be sure to visit her website to find out about her other events.
The post Ask the Author: An Interview With Svetlana Grobman appeared first on DBRL Next.
SYNC, a service of AudioFile Magazine, offers free young adult and classic audiobook downloads during the summer months. Through this program, you can download two free audiobook titles each week from May 7 through August 13.
This summer’s lineup includes “Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers and “Rose Under Fire” by Elizabeth Wein. The classics available for download include works by Daphne Du Maurier, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker, Louisa May Alcott and many more!
These audiobooks download directly to your tablet or smartphone using the Overdrive app. View a list of devices compatible with this service. To get started, simply sign up to get notifications of when the free audiobook downloads are available at www.audiobooksync.com. The best part is that these audiobooks are yours to keep forever and ever once you’ve downloaded them!
Originally published at Free Audiobook Downloads From SYNC.
April 30, the final day of National Poetry Month, is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Unlike most novels, a poem fits neatly in a wallet or pocket and can be easily shared with a coworker, friend, family member, grocery clerk, barista or anyone else you encounter during your day. A few well-chosen words can shine like crystal or feel like sharp truth. Verse can lift you up and make you see your world with new eyes. Poems can make you laugh or weep. They can make you feel less alone.
Observe Poem in Your Pocket Day by choosing your favorite lines and carrying them with you to read and share. Or post them on your Facebook page. Tweet them 140 characters at a time (don’t forget the hashtag #pocketpoem). How you celebrate is up to you.
What? You DON’T HAVE a favorite poem? Well, your friendly neighborhood library can help you out with that.
You can go old school and romantic with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?/ Thou art more lovely and more temperate.” You can celebrate nature with Mary Oliver. “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is./ I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,/ how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,/ which is what I have been doing all day.” Visit the surreal with Mark Strand. “There is no happiness like mine./ I have been eating poetry.”
Want more? Check out any of these poetry collections from DBRL:
- “Face” by Sherman Alexie
- “The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems” by Billy Collins
- “Valentines” by Ted Koozer
- “Dog Songs” by Mary Oliver
- “Jelly Roll: A Blues” by Kevin Young
- “180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day“
April showers bring May flowers and a whole crop of titles you are going to want to add to your holds list. New books from Jane Smiley, Naomi Novik, Kate Atkinson and the late Kent Haruf hit the shelves next month, and there is something here for every type of fiction reader. Whether you want a grown-up fairy tale or historical fiction, sci-fi or a thriller, this month’s list delivers. Here are the top 10 books publishing next month that librarians across the country love.
“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik
“A young girl is unexpectedly uprooted from her family and becomes involved in a centuries-old battle with The Wood, a malevolent entity that destroys anyone it touches. Fast-paced, with magic, mystery and romance, Novik’s stand-alone novel is a fairy tale for adults.” – Lucy Lockley, St. Charles City-County Library, St. Peters, MO
“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas
“The human world is in peril. Feyre, a semi-literate girl, hunts for her family’s survival. After she kills an enormous wolf, a fierce fey shows up at her doorstep seeking retribution. Feyre is led to beautiful eternal springs, but the journey is not without danger. Maas masterfully pulls the reader into this new dark fantasy series which feels like a mix of fairy tales, from Beauty and the Beast to Tam Lin.” – Jessica C. Williams, Westlake Porter Public Library, Westlake, OH
“A God in Ruins” by Kate Atkinson
“In ‘A God in Ruins,’ we become reacquainted with Teddy Todd, the beloved little brother of Ursula from Atkinson’s last book. As with ‘Life After Life,’ this novel skims back and forth in time, and we see the last half of the 20th century through Ted’s eyes and the eyes of his loved ones. At times funny and at others heartbreaking, Atkinson revels in the beauty and horror of life in all its messiness.” – Jennifer Dayton, Darien Library, Darien, CT
And here is the rest of the list with links to our catalog so you can place holds on these books hitting our shelves in May.
- “The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi
- “The Knockoff” by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
- “Early Warning” by Jane Smiley
- “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson
- “The Ghost Fields” by Elly Griffiths
- “Our Souls at Night” by Kent Haruf
- “Little Black Lies” by Sharon Bolton
A little while back three people recommended the same book to me over the span of about a month. These folks thought I’d enjoy the latest book by Jean Kwok, author of the previous bestseller “Girl in Translation.” In fact, I had picked up “Mambo in Chinatown” earlier and put it down as ‘not my type’ and so, after the first recommendation, I just said thanks, without comment. After the second recommendation, I had to share a laugh and explain what was going on, but after the third recommendation, which came via e-mail from a casual acquaintance, I decided I was supposed to read this book, my ‘type’ or not! The novel proved to be an entertaining look at ballroom dance, as well as the conflicts inherent in growing up the child of recent American immigrants.
Ever since I took up ballroom dance as a pastime, I have been on the lookout for good books about dance. I recently found one that fit the bill for me. “Astonish Me” by Maggie Shipstead brings to life the story of Joan, an American woman who, in 1977, falls in love with a Soviet ballet dancer, Arslan Rusakov—who is a clearly a fictional version of Mikhail Baryshnikov. Told in time jumps and multiple points of view, this is a story of unrequited love played out in the highly political, passionate world of professional ballet. Written with complexity of character and an intriguing plot and an ending twist that may or may not come as a surprise, the book is highly readable for dancers and non-dancers alike.
The world of ballet apparently offers a lot of fictional fodder. “Dancer” by Colum McCann is a colossal literary work that brings to life the extravagant world of Rudolf Nureyev, the Russian peasant whose genius propelled him to become an international ballet legend. Inspired by biographical facts, the story is told through a wide variety of voices, including Nureyev and his contemporaries, from the celebrated to the unknown. Beginning with Nureyev’s youth in Stalin-era Soviet Union and ending with his days of wild abandon in eighties’ New York, “Dancer” encapsulates the legendary artist in a way that captures his true essence, as well as his dazzling façade.
It turns out that our predictions for the 2015 Gateway and Truman award winners were pretty close. John Green is the recipient of this year’s Gateway Readers Award for his book, “The Fault in Our Stars.” Sixteen-year-old Hazel, a stage IV thyroid cancer patient, has accepted her terminal diagnosis until a chance meeting with a boy at cancer support group forces her to reexamine her perspective on love, loss and life. The library has this title available in print, eBook and audiobook. In fact, we even carry the feature film with Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. But, be warned, you will have to supply your own tissues.
Congratulations also goes to S.A. Bodeen who is this year’s Truman Readers Award recipient for her book, “The Raft.” Robbie’s last-minute flight to the Midway Atoll proves to be a nightmare when the plane goes down in shark-infested waters. Fighting for her life, the co-pilot Max pulls her onto the raft, and that’s when the real terror begins. This is another amazing survival story written by one of the best suspense writers in YA lit, but that’s just my humble opinion.
Originally published at 2015 Gateway & Truman Award Winners Announced.