Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: Daniel Woodrell

Next Book Buzz - July 21, 2014

Book cover for The Maid's Version by Daniel WoodrellConsecutively devouring ten books by the same author is not without its hazards. That such an undertaking insisted on itself proves it worthy, and surely being squarely in the grip of a master yarn-spinner is nothing to raise a fuss over. But might the immersion in such a distinct style cause a gentleman to subconsciously drift toward a foolish imitation unworthy of the inspiration? Might the constant brutality perpetrated by hill-folk not warp one’s perceptions until they find themselves cowering from anyone with a downhome drawl or countrified attire? Perhaps one would find themselves either desperately craving or spectacularly repulsed by squirrel meat.

Anyhow, at the risk of extending an unkindness to three, I’d venture that seven of Daniel Woodrell’s books are masterpieces. The three I’d omit from this designation make up “The Bayou Trilogy,” his first, third and fourth books. Focusing on the ex-boxer and current detective Rene Shade, these books are fun, fast reads and about as good of a character study as you’ll find filed in the crime section of a place that obsessively segregates their genres. They just don’t pack the wallop of his other works.

I’d judge his second book to pack a mighty punch. “Woe to Live On” is narrated by a Civil War rebel. Despite his allegiance and tendency to murder boys because “pups become hounds,” Woodrell, as great writers do, earns the reader’s empathy.

After completing “The Bayou Trilogy,” Woodrell began writing about the seedier, grislier aspects of his home, the Ozarks. “Give Us A Kiss: A Country Noir” is the blood and booze-soaked ride its subtitle implies. “Tomato Red” chronicles the hazards of vandalizing a golf course and a drifting, meth-dabbling lifestyle. “The Death of Sweet Mister” tells of a particularly troubled spell in a 12-year-old boy’s life, offers maybe my second favorite of Woodrell’s voices, and ends with a devastating sentence I’d like to talk about but for my aversion to goose-pimples. His most well-known book, “Winter’s Bone,” is such in large part because of the award-winning film adaptation. But I’d urge you to read it regardless of your familiarity with the movie. I reckon the dread conjured on its pages cannot be replicated by city-folk and their fancy lights and transparent plastics. “The Outlaw Album” is a collection of short, brutal stories.

His most recent book, the one with my favorite of his voices and the one that lead me down Woodrell’s backwater rabbit-hole, is “The Maid’s Version.” A fictionalized recounting of a real dance hall explosion in a small Missouri town, this novel attached me to characters in a matter of sentences before whisking them away and into pieces. If you’re the sort to deface books, there are sentences worthy of a highlighter. The perils of that act would be facing a dried-up highlighter and a thoroughly emphasized text.

Woodrell’s characters often behave downright ungentlemanly, what with the murder, spousal abuse, robberies and squirrel eating, but this grisliness is rendered in prose poetry so sharp you’ll have a gamy taste in your mouth, a hankering for mid-morning rum and a healthy suspicion of anyone from down Ozarks way. (I’ve read they’re apt to steal your prescriptions.)

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Categories: Book Buzz

What’s New and Local at Your Library: Into the Dark Places

Next Book Buzz - July 14, 2014

Book cover for Everyone Dies in the EndBook cover for The Weight of BloodI could call this post “What’s New and Sinister at Your Library,” as I’ll discuss two Mid-Missouri authors who have decided to lead us on journeys through the dark side.

If you missed Laura McHugh’s author talk in June, you’ll have a chance to catch her at the Columbia Public Library on September 18, when she’ll be leading a book discussion of this year’s One Read selection, “The Boys in the Boat.”  Her own book, “The Weight of Blood” is hyper-local, much of it having been written in the Quiet Reading Room at the Columbia Public Library. The novel centers around two cases of missing persons, a generation apart.

Lucy Dane’s mother disappeared when Lucy was a small child. Rumors about Lila Dane, a mysterious outsider who married a local, have swirled around the tiny Ozarks town of Henbane ever since. Years later, when Lucy is in high school, her friend Cheri vanishes, as well. Unlike Lila, Cheri turns up eventually – dead. In a small town where everyone seems to know everyone else’s business, nobody has answers for Lucy about what happened to either young woman. But she is determined to find out.

McHugh looks at parts of American life that many of us would be happy to ignore. The story is told from multiple viewpoints, both present and past. The tension builds as the two timelines draw together to reveal the scope of what has been, and still is, happening.

Everyone Dies in the End” by Brian Katcher is equal parts dark and funny. Imagine if H.P. Lovecraft wrote a romantic comedy. This young adult novel relates what a student journalist finds when he digs too deep. And by deep, I mean think about undead creatures that dwell underground.

Sherman Andrews has goals, dreams, ambitions. And he packs them all along with him to the Missouri Scholars’ Academy the summer before his senior year of high school. There he becomes involved with an ace library assistant (the love interest) who helps him investigate a series of unsolved deaths and disappearances from the 1930s. There are obstacles, of course – threats from people who don’t want the truth uncovered, a source who might or might not be delusional, the occasional supernatural manifestation…

Both books contain a scare factor as the characters encounter evil in different forms, but both also have characters who stand up to the evil and shine a light into the darkness.

The post What’s New and Local at Your Library: Into the Dark Places appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Tween Recommended Reads

Teen Book Buzz - July 10, 2014

Tween Reading FoxThe Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), has created a Tween Recommended Reads booklist, intended to engage and encourage reading among those ages 10 to 12-years-old. This list has some familiar award-winning titles such as “The False Prince” by Jennifer A. Nielsen as well as some new gems such as “The Lions of Little Rock” by Kristin Levine.

You can pick up a printed copy of this booklist at any of our three branches, or download one directly from the ALSC website. How many have you read? Do you have any personal favorites? Let us know in the comments below.

Almost Home” by Joan Bauer
Sugar and her mother try to make a new start in Chicago, but with unanticipated struggles, they find themselves homeless. Joined by a rescue dog named Shush, Sugar learns to make the most of her new life.

Doll Bones” by Holly Black
Until recently, Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been playing an ongoing game with dolls and action figures. When Poppy takes the queen, an antique bone china doll, she is haunted in her dreams by the ghost of a girl. Can the friends stop the haunting?

Drama” by Raina Telgemeier
Callie has Broadway dreams for her school’s production of “Moon over Mississippi.” Will the drama on and off the stage prevent the show from going on?

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein
Kyle and 11 other 12-year-olds win a contest to spend the night in the brand-new, high-tech library built by famous game maker Luigi Lemoncello. To be able to leave, they learn, they must find a secret escape out of the library using only what’s in it.

The False Prince” by Jennifer A. Nielsen
A devious nobleman engages four orphans in a brutal competition where treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that may prove more dangerous than all of the lies put together.

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms” by Lissa Evans
Great Uncle Tony disappeared 50 years ago, but 10-year-old Stuart picks up the trail as if it were yesterday, and he is soon on a quest to follow the clues to his great-uncle’s fantastic mechanical magic workshop.

The Hypnotists” by Gordon Korman
Jackson Opus is a hypnotist who can make anyone bend to his whim. When Jax joins an elite group of hypnotists, he finds himself part of a conspiracy that has Jax wondering just whom he can trust.

In a Glass Grimmly” by Adam Gidwitz
Princess Jill joins up with cousin Jack and a frog; they set off on a life-or-death quest to find the “seeing glass,” encountering goblins, mermaids, and a monster. Gory, hilarious, smart, and lyrical.

Jinx” by Sage Blackwood
A wizard’s apprentice sets off on a quest through the dangerous Urwald, a magical forest full of witches and were-creatures, and discovers he plays a key role in its survival.

Keeper of the Lost Cities” by Shannon Messenger
Twelve-year-old supersmart Sophie learns that she is actually an elf. Thrust into unfamiliar elven society, she investigates her origins and the deadly fires sweeping the human world.

Liar and Spy” by Rebecca Stead
Georges adjusts to moving from a house to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building.

The Lions of Little Rock” by Kristin Levine
In 1958 school integration was a political battle. Marlee is smart, but terrified to say things aloud in public. Then she befriends—and talks (!) to—Lizzie, the new girl in her middle school. Lizzie abruptly leaves school. Why? Marlee wants her friend back.

Odessa Again” by Dana Reinhardt
Odessa’s dad is remarrying, but shouldn’t that mean marrying her mother again? Stomping around her attic bedroom, she discovers a loophole that allows her to travel back hours in time. What would you do over if you could?

The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate
Ivan is a gorilla who lives at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. When baby elephant Ruby arrives, Ivan realizes they deserve better than their miserable environment. How does a gorilla execute a plan to give Ruby and himself a better life?

P. S. Be Eleven” by Rita Williams-Garcia
The world is changing like crazy in the 1960s. Delphine’s mother reminds her (by mail) not to grow up too fast, to remember to just be 11. But each adult in Delphine’s life has a different idea of what that means.

The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee: An Origami Yoda Book” by Tom Angleberger
Can Sara’s advice, provided by an origami Wookiee, possibly replace Dwight and the all-knowing Origami Yoda at McQuarrie Middle School?

Shadow on the Mountain” by Margi Preus
Inspired by a true story, this adventure set in Norway during World War II tells the story of a young boy who joins the Resistance, must learn whom to trust, and risks his life for the cause.

The Spindlers” by Lauren Oliver
Accompanied by an eccentric, human-size rat, Liza embarks on a perilous quest through an underground realm to save her brother, Patrick, who has been stolen by the evilest of creatures—the spiderlike spindlers.

Splendors and Glooms” by Laura Amy Schlitz
Orphans Lizzie Rose and Parsefall must save their friend Clara from a centuries-old curse that was put upon her by the devious puppeteer Gaspare Grisini.

Starry River of the Sky” by Grace Lin
Rendi, a runaway, lands at a remote inn and reluctantly exchanges his labor for room and board. Only he hears the sky moaning and notices the moon is missing. When storyteller Madame Chang arrives, Rendi faces his problems, and helps solve the village’s problem.

A Tangle of Knots” by Lisa Graff
Not everyone has a “Talent,” but orphaned Cady does; she knows what each person’s ideal cake is, and can bake it perfectly. Her special ability helps solve the interconnected mysteries of her past and present, but it also puts her in danger of losing her special “Talent.”

Three Times Lucky” by Sheila Turnage
In Tupelo Landing, the Colonel, who rescued and adopted Mo when she washed up during a hurricane as a baby, owns a café. But who is Mo’s real mom? All is well—until a neighbor turns up dead, and Mo’s best friend, Dale, is a suspect.

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp” by Kathi Appelt
Twelve-year-old Chap and Swamp Scouts (young raccoons) Bingo and J’miah must wake the ancient Sugar Man in order to save the swamp from a greedy land developer. But he might be really cranky.

Wonder” by R. J. Palacio
Ten-year-old Auggie, born with extreme facial abnormalities, transitions from homeschooling to fifth grade at Beecher Prep. Can his classmates and others get past Auggie’s extraordinary face to see the great, normal kid he is?

Originally published at Tween Recommended Reads.

Categories: Book Buzz

Better Know a Genre: Narrative Nonfiction (Summer of Science Edition)

Next Book Buzz - July 7, 2014

Stacks of books by Thomas GalvezI always knew there were fiction and nonfiction books, but I did not know there were so many genres (and subgenres) beyond that until I started working at a library. Science fiction, slipstream, steampunk, graphic novels, anime, gentle fiction, poetry, memoirs – I could go on and on. And this categorization isn’t limited to books. There are music and film genres as well. So in a much less funny, but perhaps just as informative, homage to Stephen Colbert’s series “Better Know a District,” I will explore these classifications in a monthly blog series we’re calling “Better Know a Genre.”

The first genre I will tackle is a rather broad one: narrative, or creative, nonfiction. If a nonfiction book is described as “reading like fiction,” then it probably belongs to this genre. Narrative nonfiction gives the reader factual information in a storytelling format instead of presenting the information straightforwardly, such as in a cookbook or instruction manual. Authors employ the craft of fiction – such as dialogue, vivid descriptions and characterization – to make nonfiction tales into page turners.

In a public library, much of the collection consists of narrative or creative nonfiction, so chances are you have already read a book from this genre. If you haven’t, then celebrate our Summer of Science by checking out one of these fantastic narrative nonfiction books from our collection.

Book cover for The Immmortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
One of the most-acclaimed science books of recent years, this title was also our 2011 One Read selection. Skloot investigates how the cells taken from a woman in the 1950s have contributed to many medical advancements in the decades since. Skloot inserts herself into the story, so the book is as much about the process of writing as it is about medical ethics.

Book cover for The Poisoner's HandbookThe Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York” by Deborah Blum
I don’t think it’s possible to top NPR’s Glen Weldon’s description of this book:
“Who knew that New York City experienced a surge in murders by poison during the 1910s and ’20s? Blum takes that odd historical footnote and produces a book of exhaustively researched science writing that reads like science fiction, complete with suspense, mystery and foolhardy guys in lab coats tipping test tubes of mysterious chemicals into their own mouths.”

Book cover for Packing for MarsPacking for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void” by Mary Roach
Roach is excellent at reducing complex ideas into manageable chunks of exposition, which alone is a valuable asset. But her books stand out because she combines that talent with a rich sense of humor and a willingness to use herself as a guinea pig. Roach takes on the subject of space travel in this outing – an examination of the lengths humans must take to attempt survival out of the earth’s atmosphere.

photo credit: ToGa Wanderings via photopin cc

The post Better Know a Genre: Narrative Nonfiction (Summer of Science Edition) appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz
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