As the summer heats up, many of us find that a great way to cool off is to head to the water. The swimming beach at Stephens Lake Park is a favorite place for my family to spend the afternoon, and we also enjoy canoeing at Finger Lakes State Park. In a figurative sense, one can cool off by reading great books about traveling on water, and the library has many that fit the bill. Let’s take a look at a few new and classic titles.
In the spring of 1834, Richard Henry Dana Jr. was a young man recently dropped out of Harvard University because of poor health and looking for something to do while recuperating from his illness. He signed on with the Pilgrim, a ship that launched from Boston. Dana recounted his experience in arguably the greatest work of maritime nonfiction, “Two Years Before the Mast.” The Pilgrim spent a great deal of time on the coast of colonial California, and Dana’s writing about these explorations is one of our best documents of the very early settlement period there. Dana also examines at length the injustices imparted upon common sailors. “The captain, in the first place, is lord paramount. He stands no watch, comes and goes as he pleases, and is accountable to no one,” writes Dana.
Dana was also obsessed, as were most sailors on these multi-year voyages, with the offerings of food and drink. “Food at Sea: Shipboard Cuisine From Ancient to Modern Times” by Simon Spalding is a detailed look at the history of food found on ocean-going vessels. On a ship like the Pilgrim, the fare was described in the following way by a common sailor: “the mush is never cooked, the beans are awful, and the Cape Cod turkey, or in plain English, the codfish, is the meanest mess of all.”
Dozens of books have been written about Ernest Shackleton and his expeditions to the Antarctic, but two stand out in the crowd for their uniqueness. The first is the graphic novel “Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey” by Nick Bertozzi. Historically accurate and concise, grabbing from Shackleton’s and other expedition members’ diaries, this thin volume will delight readers young and old. “Shackleton’s Boat Journey” authored by Frank Worsley, the captain of the Endurance, is also of note. In order to save his crew, Shackleton made a harrowing journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island. Shackleton’s eight men almost miraculously made it across this stretch of the Southern Ocean in a 12-foot boat, mainly due to Worsley’s uncanny skill at navigating by dead reckoning. This ocean journey is an accomplishment with few modern corollaries and was indeed performed near the apex of Antarctic winter. As Edmund Hillary wrote in the introduction: “It only confirmed the view of his friends that Shackleton was ‘the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth, bar none.’”
On a more local level, for a look at the historic navigation of the Missouri River, I suggest “Wild River, Wooden Boats” by Michael Gillespie. Gillespie says: “The untamed Missouri was as close to a living thing as a river could get.” In the chapter “Sudden Death” Gillespie catalogs a whole range of terrible ways that human beings could perish on steamships: “The steamer Big Hatchie blew her boilers at Hermann, Missouri on July 25, 1845. Thirty-five unidentified victims are buried in the cemetery there.”
Modern day Missouri has an incredible network of smaller rivers and creeks perfect for boating. “A Paddler’s Guide to Missouri” offers lots of information about these waterways. This handy guidebook was created by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and it includes a full listing of navigable rivers and streams in the state. It even has mile markers, maps and difficulty ratings for each section of the river run. Happy paddling this summer!
Sports are big business. The athletes are treated as commodities, and they are salesmen. They aren’t just coached on how to play their sport, but also on how to speak to the press. (It’s in cliches and non-answer answers. Really riveting stuff.) Sometimes it seems the true measure of an athlete’s accomplishments isn’t how many rings they win but the number of sponsorships they get.
Beneath this veneer of brand-spokesman blandness, corporate PR and the talking hairdos on 24-hour sports networks, something weird is still going on. The rules are arbitrary, the feats of physical accomplishments are freakish, and this slick business culture is built on a simple obsession over games. Yes, the fans can get obsessive, but the athletes themselves? They need an intervention. Ridiculous salaries for a few can make us forget how many people there are still playing their sport for very little. How many players in the Minor Leagues are sharing small apartments with teammates compared to Major League players with shoe contracts? Or Olympic athletes training early in the morning before work? It gets under their skin, and they have to play the game. Weird.
“The League of Outsider Baseball” captures some of that obsessive weirdness. Author and Illustrator Gary Cieradkowski has put together a collection of beautifully illustrated profiles of baseball players. Some are household names, like Babe Ruth, but most are lesser known or forgotten players, like the ones you meet in the chapter, “The Could-Have-Beens.” Some of these players could have been household names too, but dumb luck or bad life choices derailed their promising careers. Take Pistol Pete Reiser, whose combination of physical skill and unbridled enthusiasm for the game gave him a penchant for playing through serious injuries and running into outfield walls. Once he was knocked unconscious so long a priest performed last rights. The chapter, “The Oddballs” is populated with unlikely contributions to baseball history from a one-armed pitcher, a hunchbacked orphan, one team composed entirely of brothers and another from an apocalyptic sect. This is the scruffy underbelly of baseball, and it’s fascinating reading.
This project started for Cieradkowski as a way of coping with the loss of his father. Swapping stories of obscure baseball players several times a week was one way they stayed connected. When his father died unexpectedly, Cieradkowski realized he didn’t have anyone to share this obsession with. He started a blog, The Infinite Baseball Card Set, to honor that relationship with his father and share his passion for these forgotten players with the rest of the world. Reading “The League of Outsider Baseball” is akin to a friend sharing their prized collection of baseball cards with you.
A few more books that give you a tour of baseball’s scruffy underbelly (The titles say it all):
“Outsider Baseball. The Weird World of Hardball on the Fringe, 1876-1950,” by, Scott Simkus.
The August LibraryReads list – the top 10 titles publishing next month that librarians across the country recommend – includes plenty of novels for summer’s last hurrah. (And for you true bibliophiles out there, columnist Michael Dirda delivers “Browsings,” a charming collection of essays about reading, genre fiction, book stores, famous pets in fiction and even library book sales!)
“Best Boy” by Eli Gottlieb
“What happens when someone on the autism spectrum grows up, and they aren’t a cute little boy anymore? Gottlieb’s novel follows the story of Todd Aaron, a man in his fifties who has spent most of his life a resident of the Payton Living Center. Todd begins to wonder what lies beyond the gates of his institution. A funny and deeply affecting work.” – Elizabeth Olesh, Baldwin Public Library, Baldwin, NY
“The Nature of the Beast: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel” by Louise Penny
“Louise Penny set the bar high with her last two books, but she had no trouble clearing it with this one. All our old friends are back in Three Pines where a young boy with a compulsion to tell tall tales tells one true story with disastrous results. But which story is the truth and why is it so threatening? Exquisitely suspenseful, emotionally wrenching and thoroughly satisfying.” – Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY
“A Window Opens” by Elisabeth Egan
“Alice Pearce has a pretty great life. She has a loving family and works part-time as an editor for a magazine. When her family’s financial situation takes a drastic turn, Alice finds that she needs to step up to the plate and contribute more, and she finds this comes at a cost. I think many women will see themselves in Alice’s character. I recommend this book to moms who need a little time to themselves; they might realize that maybe things aren’t so bad for them after all.” – Rosanna Johnson, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ
And here is the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure! Be one of the first people in line for these anticipated titles.
- “The Marriage of Opposites” by Alice Hoffman
- “Everybody Rise” by Stephanie Clifford
- “The Fall of Princes” by Robert Goolrick
- “In a Dark, Dark Wood” by Ruth Ware
- “Black Eyed Susans” by Julia Heaberlin
- “Lord of the Wings: A Meg Langslow Mystery” by Donna Andrews
- “Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books” by Michael Dirda
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The August 2015 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
Do you like to read weird things? I suspect anyone who has read more than one of this gentleman’s posts probably does. Granted, I write in the conventional, easily parsed and comforting voice of a modern nobleman, but I often recommend novels wherein there is at least a modicum of the weird: perhaps there is a murderous tortilla chip or a ghost delivering a message to the wrong twin or a carnival full of haphazardly genetically modified human attractions. But this time I’m going to get real weird with it: I hereby recommend Southern Reach, the gripping trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.
Is it weirder than murderous snacks? Yes. After all, I sometimes feel, particularly after a sixth sack of candied bacon, that my snacks have it in for me. But I’ve never been on a classified expedition into a mysterious wilderness surrounded by a force-field that obliterates anything that touches it unless it enters through one particular (and invisible) entrance. Once there I’ve never encountered a “tower” that extends underground rather than above it, its walls harboring a massively creepy, moderately comprehensible never-ending sentence etched in otherworldly fungus. Nor have I taken a closer look at that fungus only to inhale a spore which imparts a “glowing” feeling and increasingly takes hold of my mind and body. Likewise, I did not later discover the harrowing extent of the hypnotic cues imparted on me before I began my journey. Never have I discovered that a previous expedition had ended in a bloodbath caused by its highly trained members turning on each other. Not once have I ventured to a lighthouse to find evidence of carnage and a tremendous cache journals whose content is more disturbing even than the fact that there are significantly more of them than the official count of expeditions into “Area X” would account for. And I have not experienced any of the other strange shenanigans that populate the remaining two books in the trilogy and which, as is my custom, I will not spoil.
However, if you prefer to have your reading material more thoroughly examined, I will provide a link to this glowing review. Here, have another. Want someone to more thoroughly elucidate what’s weird about this trilogy? Fine.
The book jackets and reviews compare this trilogy to “LOST.” One of the above reviews says it’s like “LOST” if H.P. Lovecraft had been brought in as a script doctor. And while there is an unfortunate lack of a jump-kicking Matthew Fox, I daresay anyone that enjoyed the show for any length of time will delight in these books. But, again, there is no jump-kicking Matthew Fox; maybe I am wrong.
There is more to recommend this trilogy than its strange and startlingly fun content. For one, there is an abundance of pretty nature writing: nature lovers might be inspired to lace up their nature boots for a more tangible look at nature. It could be argued (and is argued in one of the linked reviews) that there are some fancy metaphors embedded in this series. Also, while other authors harangue their readers for being too eager for the next volume in their massive book series, VanderMeer published this trilogy in two month intervals, which gave readers respites to digest the content and crave more. And, delightfully, at this point all three are published and you need not exercise the same restraint as some doctors recommend be paired with candied bacon.
Usually, when people throw around the term fanfiction (fanfic for short), they mean the stories you find on websites such as fanfiction.net or quotev, pieces written by fans of an original comic/novel/movie/TV show, using characters from that universe, and shared with other fans. The quality of the writing can vary wildly, but the level of enthusiasm remains consistently high. In the past couple of years Kindle Worlds has allowed fanfic authors to garner pay for their work through a licensing structure that keeps everyone on the legal side of the copyright line, something that can be a nebulous issue. Legalminimum supplies some good guidelines for using established fictional characters. Since most fanfic is created out of a desire to celebrate and promote the original, rather than to make money or compete with it, many writers are happy to allow their characters to lead alternate lives.
Though the Internet has helped to popularize fanfiction, storytellers have been borrowing from their forebears for century upon century. Mark Twain wrote fanfiction. Yes, it’s true. In “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” he used recognized characters from Camelot in a new tale of his own. William Shakespeare often repurposed figures from Greek, Roman and Celtic legends to populate his tales. Think of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Tempest.”
In the past fifty years or so, many established authors have found publishing success by continuing this tradition of literary borrowing. “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire takes an adult look at L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz, providing a sympathetic portrayal of the Witch of the West. Totally fanfiction. Similarly, Jean Rhys took up the cause of Jane Eyre’s antagonist, the purportedly insane Mrs. Rochester, in her 1966 novel, “Wide Sargasso Sea.” The continually growing spate of Jane Austen spin-offs contains too many titles too list. Meanwhile, James Deaver and others are keeping Ian Fleming’s James Bond alive.
My point is, if you enjoy reading and/or writing fanfiction, don’t be shy about it. Don’t feel it’s something less worthy than “real” literature. You’re in the company of Mark Twain and Shakespeare, after all.
Note: Why yes, there is a list in our online catalog.
When you hear Judy Blume’s name you probably think of children’s novels.
One of the first Judy Blume books I read to my kids was “Freckle Juice.” From there we progressed to “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” and others. My kids loved the silliness of theses stories, which most always give way to what can be considered a learning moment of the character as well as the reader!
Blume’s newest novel, “In the Unlikely Event,” is her first novel for adults in 16 years. The story is set in Elizabeth, New Jersey during the winter between 1951 and 1952 when three planes crash within 58 days of each other. The story deals with how her 15-year-old protagonist Miri, her family, friends and the community deal with technology failure, tragedy, social change and fear and learn to find the good in all that has gone wrong. If you find yourself looking for something else to read while you wait for your hold, try one of these titles that are also family sagas set during the 1950s.
“Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson
It’s 1956, and Reverend John Ames is 77 years old and in failing health, which compels him to write a letter (that he has been putting off) chronicling three generations to his young son. Ames tells his son about his heritage. He describes his prophet-like grandfather who had a vision that sent him to Kansas to be useful to the cause of abolition, the conflict between his fiery grandfather and pacifist father, the birth and death of Ames’ first wife and child and the legacy of slavery that dates back to the Civil War.
“Cutting for Stone” by A. Verghese
In Ethiopia in 1954, twin brothers slightly joined at the head are born to a British surgeon and an Indian nun who dies shortly after their birth. Their horrified father runs off, leaving them to be raised by the surgeons who separated them. The boys, Marion and Shiva Stone, are raised on the grounds of the mission hospital where both are drawn towards the medical field. As they come of age, they are driven apart by a country in upheaval and the love they have for the same woman.
“The Garden of Evening Mists” by Twan Eng Tan
Seeking solace in her remaining years, retired, ill Chinese-Malaysian judge Teoh Yun Ling leaves Kuala Lampur for the highlands of Malaysia to discover Yugiri, which means the garden of evening mists. While there she reflects on the life she and her sister lived while interred in a Japanese slave labor camp during World War II and decides to build a commemorative garden for her sister with the help of Aritomo, the former gardener for the Emperor of Japan who reluctantly takes her on as an apprentice.
The post What to Read While You Wait for Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event appeared first on DBRL Next.
In keeping with this summer’s superhero reading theme, DBRL will be hosting a book talk on Thursday, July 9 featuring an anthology of poetry about superheroes, “Drawn to Marvel.” Editor and contributor Marta Ferguson and a good-natured band of fellow comics fans will be appearing in costume to give a readers’ theater presentation of many of the poems from Drawn to Marvel, with a brief Q&A to follow. Books will be available for sale and autographing. In anticipation of the event, Dr. Ferguson answered some questions about the anthology.
DBRL: In the editor’s note you mention that when you were the poetry editor at The Missouri Review you accepted superhero themed poetry from two different writers (Bryan D. Dietrich and Nicholas Allen Harp), and that the discussion among the three of you sparked the idea for this anthology. It’s such a niche subject, so was it difficult to find poetry in the superhero genre? Is there a community of poets creating work about superheroes?
MF: Back in 2003, when we began talking about superhero poetry, all three of us knew somebody else who’d written and published at least one poem having to do with superheroes. Bryan’s book of Superman sonnets (“Krypton Nights,” Zoo Press, 2002) had come out the year before, and it was arguably the first really visible collection of all-superhero poems in the academic-literary poetry arena. It won the Paris Review Prize and came out with a hip little press that had a terrifically well connected publication team, so lots of people saw it. However, over in the speculative poetry arena (presided over by the Science Fiction Poetry Association and capped by the annual Rhysling award), there was already lots of superhero energy stirring among poets like Bruce Boston and Marge Simon. And there were already classic superhero poems, like Albert Goldbarth’s “Powers,” which we were lucky enough to get, and Simon Armitage’s “Kid” (Robin), which we weren’t, because of the permissions pricing.
Over the decade that we gathered work, there was always MORE work to gather. In 2013 when we put out a call for superhero poems, we were almost buried under the submissions pile: 800? 1,000 pieces? And we already had about 100 pages? Whoo hoo! At this point, it’s a sub-genre. And we got to be the first anthology to honor it, which feels great.
DBRL: I was excited to see how many of these poems were about female/feminine superheroes, and how several of the pieces analyzed how gender is portrayed in superhero myths. Gender in comic books and in ‘geek culture’ in general has been a hot news topic this year. Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share on this issue?
MF: Comic books themselves have welcomed female authors and characters for a long time. There’s still more cover cleavage than most of us non-illustrated women feel is necessary, but there’s no doubt that women have an established place in comics culture.
I think the controversy you’re referring to is over women in video games and female video game reviewers. There’s a lot I could say on that as well, not much of it suitable for a public forum. So I’ll leave it at this: Boys, it’s time share the clubhouse. If you keep pulling up the rope ladder, we’ll just jetpack in through the windows.
DBRL: The intro, an excerpt from Bryan D. Dietrich’s “A Defense of Superhero Poetry”, discusses superheroes’ place in mythology and superhero poetry’s juxtaposition of the mundane and the super. Would you be able to quickly summarize that for someone who hasn’t yet had a chance to read the book?
MF: Sure, Bryan’s argument, which has been echoed by other critics as well, is that superheroes are the new mythology. Just as the Greeks used their gods to speculate about why the sun came up and how we learned to use fire, superheroes help us explore our relationship to technology, our evolving understandings of race and gender, our increasingly globalized world and our place in the larger universe.
DBRL: DC or Marvel? And do you have a favorite superhero?
MF: I have to be honest, I grew up in the DC universe. My dad collected old fishing tackle, and my brother and I would tag along with him to garage sales. Any box of comics we could negotiate down to a dollar, he’d pay for—and my favorites were always the Batman books. I spent a lot of time just before I fell asleep at night deciding who I’d rather be: Robin? Batgirl? Poison Ivy? The Joker? Funny that I never wanted to be Bruce himself. Since I now write as Barbara Gordon (Oracle/Batgirl), I’d have to say she’s my favorite, though I have an affinity for the entire Cape-and-Cowl set.
DBRL: Have you read any good books recently that you would like to recommend to our readers?
MF: Always! In keeping with the theme, I highly recommend two new superhero poetry collections, both on the shelves at DBRL:
DBRL: Other than Daniel Boone Regional Library, where can readers get a copy of “Drawn To Marvel”?
Don’t miss the “Drawn to Marvel” book talk at the Columbia Public Library this Thursday, July 9 at 7 p.m. in the Friends Room. Due to adult themes and violent content, the event is recommended for mature readers. A free copy of the book will be given to the best-costumed attendee.
Just in time for all of your summer road trips, on May 28 the Audio Publishers Association (APA) announced the winners of its 2015 Audie Awards competition, honoring spoken word entertainment. The top prize – audiobook of the year – went to “Mandela: An Audio History” by Nelson Mandela and narrated by Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and Joe Richman. Here are some of the other award winners available for check-out from your library.
Distinguished Achievement in Production
Neil Gaiman’s full-cast production of “The Graveyard Book“
While this book for young readers was originally published in 2008, this new recording by a group of British all-stars brings Gaiman’s dark tale delightfully to life. Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.
“Not My Father’s Son” by Alan Cumming (narrated by the author)
In his unique and engaging voice, the acclaimed actor of stage and screen shares the emotional story of his complicated relationship with his father and the deeply buried family secrets that shaped his life and career.
“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr (narrated by Zach Appelman)
Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris and is blind by age 6. Her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, so she can memorize it and navigate the real streets. When the Germans occupy Paris, they flee to Saint-Malo on the coast. In Germany, Werner grows up enchanted by a crude radio he finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, which wins him a place with the Hitler Youth. Werner travels throughout Europe during the war, and finally to Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie Laure’s inevitably converge.
“The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism” by Doris Kearns Goodwin (narrated by Edward Herrmann)
Goodwin describes the broken friendship between Teddy Roosevelt and his chosen successor, William Howard Taft. With the help of the ‘muckraking’ press Roosevelt had wielded the Bully Pulpit to challenge and triumph over abusive monopolies, political bosses, and corrupting money brokers. Roosevelt led a revolution that he bequeathed to Taft only to see it compromised as Taft surrendered to money men and big business.
“Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith (Read by Robert Glenister)
This is J.K. Rowling’s second mystery novel written under the pen name of Robert Galbraith. The fast-paced narrative focuses on a missing novelist, Owen Quine, and private detective Cormoran Strike. Quine has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives. That means that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
“Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him” by David Henry and Joe Henry (narrated by Dion Graham)
David and Joe Henry bring Richard Pryor to life both as a man and as an artist, providing an in-depth appreciation of his talent and his lasting influence, as well as an insightful examination of the world he lived in and the influences that shaped both his persona and his art.
The label “Great American Novel” is often applied to a book that captures something essential about American culture and its people, a story grounded in and informed by the American experience. Others use the term to identify a work as the best representative of the kind of literature being written in America during a particular time period. And of course, a great many other readers and critics dismiss the idea of any book being able to capture the diverse experiences and realities of all Americans. Whatever your opinion, this July 4th you can celebrate our nation’s independence with these books that – if the honorific were actually to be awarded – could be contenders for the title of Great American Novel.
“Freedom” by Johnathan Franzen
The Berglunds, the suburban family at the center of this book, appear perfect on the outside, but looks are deceiving. The story follows them through the last decades of the twentieth century and concludes near the beginning of the Obama administration. Their lives begin to unravel when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged. Desire, entitlement, marriage, family – Franzen plumbs these and many other weighty topics in this study of middle class American life.
“Gilead” by Marilyn Robinson
This lyrical and thoughtful novel takes the form of a letter from the dying Reverend John Ames to his son, revealing Ames’ deep reverence for his life, his work and this country. He chronicles three previous generations of his family, including a fiery abolitionist grandfather and pacifist father, both also men of faith. The story stretches back to the Civil War, reveals uncomfortable family secrets and examines the bond between fathers and sons.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
First published in 1960, the racial injustice described in this novel unfortunately has strong echoes in today’s America. Scout Finch, daughter of the town lawyer, likes to spend her summers building tree houses, swimming and catching lightning bugs with her big brother Jem. But one summer, when a black man is accused of raping a white woman and her father defends the man in the courtroom, Scout’s carefree days come to an end. She joins her father in a desperate battle against ignorance and prejudice in their small Alabama town.
The post Three Great American Novels for Your Fourth of July appeared first on DBRL Next.
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.