Book Buzz

Bone-Chilling Reads for the Dog Days of Summer

Next Book Buzz - July 25, 2016

Book cover for Winter PeopleThe dog days of summer are upon us. Long stretches of 90 degrees-plus temperatures are the norm. And this being Missouri, it’s not the heat but the humidity that makes it so uncomfortable, right?

Finding a nice place in the shade with a good book is a great way to keep cool. And if that book happens to be set during the dead of winter, that’s even better. Here are some books that will chill you to your core on these hot days!

If a dark and icy-cold New England winter sounds perfect right about now, you should try Jennifer McMahon’s “The Winter People.” Set in a small town in Vermont, the novel recounts the mysterious murder of Sara Harrison Shea outside her home in 1908. A hundred years later, Ruthie, Fawn and their mother move into Sara’s old house. The girls find Sara’s diary hidden under the floor, revealing what may have actually happened to her. This sets into motion a series of horrific events that threaten to destroy their family. McMahon’s writing is spell-binding in this unique approach to the typical ghost story. You won’t want to put this one down!

Book cover for AbominableMount Everest is definitely colder than Missouri right now, making for an awesome book setting. In the 1920s, the world’s tallest peak still had not been summitted. The race to reach the top always ended at best in disappointment and at worst in tragedy, as in the case of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine who disappeared during a climb. In “The Abominable,” Dan Simmons tells the story of a group of adventurers in the late 1920s who set out against nearly impossible odds to reach the top the mountain. Their journey is fraught with difficulties — the cold and snow is expected, but the mysterious person or creature who seems to be pursuing them in the night is not. The book is tense and action-packed, full of nail-biting scenes as the climbers face off against unbelievable terrors. Simmons presents the tale as a “found manuscript,” intricately weaving historical figures and events into a fictional tale that will chill you to the bone.

Book cover for SnowblindOf course, on hot days like we’ve been experiencing, a blizzard doesn’t sound all that bad. Christopher Golden delivers not one, but two blizzards in his terrifying novel  “Snowblind.” Several folks mysteriously die during the worst snowstorm the town of Coventry has seen in years. 12 years later, a new storm is blowing in and the ghosts of those lost seem to be returning. The story is told ensemble-style, which allows readers to fully immerse themselves into the horrors the townsfolk are experiencing, not only from the endless snowfall, but also from the evil the snow has brought with it. This is honestly one of the scariest books I’ve read in a long time.

Happy (and cool) reading!

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Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: Paul Tremblay

Next Book Buzz - July 18, 2016

Book cover for A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul TremblayIf you’re looking for a grim, unputdownable book to block the blistering and incessant shine of the July sun, look no further. Paul Tremblay’sA Head Full of Ghosts” is the sort of book you read in one sitting (assuming you have sufficient free time, or a willingness/compulsion to prioritize pleasure over obligations, and also that you are not a big ol’ chicken (cause it’s scary)).

A Head Full of Ghosts” is about a young girl that is either possessed by the devil or by mental illness. (Evidence mounts for both possibilities, and when you’re certain you’ve got it all sussed out, you’re probably still going to have your mind changed a couple of times.) Her family, exhausted both mentally and financially, agrees to allow a reality television crew to film the devil’s/mental illness’s exploits. (It’s surprising that there isn’t already a “reality” television show about possessions, but this book gives us a pretty good idea of what one would look like.)

More than a decade after the possession debacle and the short-lived but successful television series, the possessed girl’s younger sister is being interviewed by a hotshot writer for a tell-all bestseller. The younger sister’s story is relayed through this framework and intercut with blog posts from the world’s foremost authority on the reality television show made about the possession. (The identity of the blogger is revealed early on, and makes for one of many moments in the book that’ll make you say, “Veritably! Now that’s some fine crafting of fiction. This novel brings me pleasure, and I am glad that I forsook sleep and a supposedly necessary medical procedure in order to find the time to partake of its literary fruits.”)

Another spectacular thingy that happens: very early in the novel a character’s quirk is revealed, a cute detail, but it couldn’t be anything crucial, right? No. Instead it is a key to the novel’s devastating ending. The sort of ending that makes you want to comfort fictional characters and perhaps attempt to construct life-size replicas of the characters so that you can properly hug them and even forge a relationship with the hat-wearing sack of hay that you’ve drawn a face on, a relationship that progresses to the point where you’re asking it to, with horrific consequences, transport you home from your various necessary medical procedures.

Book cover for Devil's Rock by Paul TremblayIf you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, do not read Tremblay’s newest novel, “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock.” It is about a child’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock. It is a sad, tricky book that makes you think one thing is happening until it makes you think another thing is happening, until it tells you most of what is really happening.

Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye,” in addition to being a description of British cuisine (haha, I WENT THERE, rimshot, etc.), is a much different novel. A desperate man signs a contract that makes him an indentured servant for an “amusement park” called FARM, which is where people go to see actual plants and animals, as well as people dressed like animals. This novel is frequently funny, as the author always is in interviews, but it also features a scene that manages to be as simultaneously heartbreaking and disgusting as anything I’ve ever read. Read it; share my burden.

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Categories: Book Buzz

Summer Reading Program Preview: Speed Date with a Book

Next Book Buzz - July 11, 2016

Book photoIn search of a galaxy far, far away: I like a book where anything is possible, including travel through deep space and the kinds of technology we can only dream about. A little time travel is also desired.

The game is afoot! I want a book with a problem to solve, preferably one that gets me using my little grey cells. I prefer twists and turns, with a few red herrings thrown in to keep me guessing.

Looking for my Mr. Darcy! A book will really catch my fancy if it has a nice dusting of romance. Watching two people fall in love is the highlight of my day, especially when it’s opposites attracting!

Do any of these readers sound like you? Have you ever struggled to figure out what to read next or are you curious about trying books that fall outside of what you normally read? Do you enjoy talking with others about books you’ve read? If so, you will want to check out the library’s first ever Speed Date with a Book on Friday, July 15, at 7 p.m. in the Columbia Public Library’s third floor reading room. 

blind date booksThe library is always a good place to find your next favorite read, and this month we want to try a new approach to helping readers find a book they can fall in love with. So, what is a speed date with a book? It’s kind of like normal speed dating, only instead of sharing information about yourself in just a couple of minutes, you get to talk about the books you love with other readers who are looking for something new. Along with the speed dating, we’ll have activities including book charades, a “first impressions” contest (because who hasn’t judged a book by its cover before?) and a chance to go on a blind date with a book. There will also be free book giveaways, door prizes and refreshments. Speed daters who find a book they want to read will have the opportunity to check it out and take the book home to find out if it lives up to expectations.

If you’re on the hunt for for an exciting new read, or just love talking about books with other readers, this is the perfect event for you!

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Categories: Book Buzz

In Memory of Elie Wiesel

Next Book Buzz - July 8, 2016

Book cover for Open Heart by Elie Wiesel“Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.”
~ Elie Wiesel (September 30, 1928 – July 2, 2016)

When, in 1990, at the age of 39, I emigrated from the USSR to the United States, I did not know about Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank and other victims — or survivors — of the Holocaust. In fact, I didn’t even know the term “Holocaust.” And not because I was a bad student who failed to learn it in school, but because the anti-Semitic politics of the Third Reich were not covered in our school curriculum and our mass media — not before or during WWII, or afterwards. As a result, the atrocities that were well known in the West were hardly mentioned in the East. There, coverage of WWII was dedicated to the bravery and suffering of Soviet troops and, until 1956, to Stalin’s military genius. So the mass killings of Jews — in Europe and Ukraine — did not qualify.

This is not to say that the Russian population had it easy. The war was devastating for the USSR. Overall, more than 26 million Russian citizens died during the war, not to mention those who came back as invalids and hopeless alcoholics. Still, the fact that the Jews were systematically exterminated was not revealed in Russia (where casual anti -Semitism was the norm) for a very long time. Well, we knew about concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Treblinka and Buchenwald. In fact, there was a popular song written about the latter, which went like this:

People of the world
stand up a moment
Listen, listen
It buzzes from all sides
It can be heard in Buchenwald
ringing off the bells
ringing off the bells
It’s innocent blood reborn and strengthened
In a brazen roar.
Victims are resurrected from the ashes …

Yet again, we were never told that the main goal of a camp like Auschwitz was the implementation of “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” Historians estimate that among the people sent to Auschwitz there were at least 1,100,000 Jews from all the countries of occupied Europe, over 140,000 Poles, approximately 20,000 Gypsies from several European countries, over 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war and over 10,000 prisoners of other nationalities.

Book cover for Night by Elie WieselWhen I found myself in Columbia, Missouri, and I had learned enough English to start reading, books about the Holocaust were not high on my list. First, I needed to learn about my adoptive country, its history, culture and customs. So, when one day (I was already working at the reference desk of the Columbia Public Library) a teenage girl came to me and asked about “The Diary of a Young Girl,” I had no idea what that book was about. I just looked it up in the library catalog. And later, when another patron was looking for “Night” by Elie Wiesel, I didn’t know anything about that book either. In fact, I had trouble spelling “Wiesel.”

Time went by, and I learned about the Holocaust, about Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel and others. I saw a collection of victims’ shoes in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington (the Nazis confiscated their victims’ belongings and sent valuables back to Germany; the shoes were to be repaired by the camps’ prisoners and reused). And I heard a reading of names of the Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust (1.5 million names in all) in the Yad Vashem Children’s Memorial in Jerusalem, which is housed in an underground cave and lit by candles that, reflected in a system of mirrors, create the impression of millions of little stars. (The complex was built with donations from a family whose two-and-a-half-year-old son was killed in Auschwitz.) And when I read “Night,” I could hardly keep from screaming; for the way I felt, it all could have happened to me, my parents and my daughter.

There are some events so cruel and traumatic that people don’t want to talk about them, even less read about them. In fact, when Wiesel’s “Night” first appeared in print (in Yiddish) in 1954, its publication was hardly noticed. In America, when the book was published in 1960, it wasn’t an overnight success either. Gradually, though, it began attracting more attention, and when, in 2006, Oprah Winfrey presented “Night” to her book club, it became a New York Times bestseller.

Wiesel went on to write many more books and to become a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Above all, he remained a voice for Holocaust victims and survivors – the mission he considered the most important in his life.

“If I survived,” Wiesel said in 1981, “It must be for some reason. I must do something with my life…because in my place, someone else could have been saved. And so I speak for that person.”

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Categories: Book Buzz

Lend Me Your Ears: Outstanding Audiobooks

Next Book Buzz - July 1, 2016

The best audiobooks provide something readers could not create on their own through reading the text from a page. Narrators create worlds with their voices, crafting performances that leave us sitting in our parked cars, hesitant to stop listening. For your next road trip, check out some of these books on CD or downloadable audio to make the miles fly by. Or, make exercise or housework more bearable by entertaining your ears with a good story. (Book descriptions courtesy of their publishers.)

Audiobook cover for All the Old KnivesAll the Old Knives” by Olen Steinhauer (read by Ari Fliakos and Juliana Francis Kelly)
Available on CD and downloadable audio
Nine years ago, terrorists hijacked a plane in Vienna. Somehow, a rescue attempt staged from the inside went terribly wrong and everyone on board was killed.Members of the CIA stationed in Vienna during that time were witness to this terrible tragedy, gathering intel from their sources during those tense hours, assimilating facts from the ground with a series of texts coming from one of their agents inside the plane. Had their agent been compromised, and how?

Dead Wake by Erik LarsonDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson (read by Scott Brick)
Available on CD and downloadable audio
This 100th-anniversary chronicle of the sinking of the Lusitania discusses the factors that led to the tragedy and the contributions of such figures as President Wilson, bookseller Charles Lauriat and architect Theodate Pope Riddle. A dramatic narration brings the details of this tragedy to crisp light.

Book cover for The Knockoff by Lucy SykesThe Knockoff” by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza (read by Katherine Kellgren)
Available on CD
The story of Imogen Tate, editor in chief of Glossy magazine, who finds her twentysomething former assistant Eve Morton plotting to knock Imogen off her pedestal, take over her job and reduce the magazine, famous for its lavish 768-page September issue, into an app. Kellgren expertly captures both Imogen’s elegant tone and Eve’s more fast-paced millennial-speak.

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” by Randall Munroe (read by Wil Wheaton)
Available on CD, downloadable audio and playaway
What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last? In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, and Wheaton’s humorous tone matches the content perfectly.

The post Lend Me Your Ears: Outstanding Audiobooks appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: Arthur Bradford

Next Book Buzz - June 20, 2016

Book cover for Turtle Face and Beyond by Arthur BradfordWhile I’ll recommend the work of a rascal if that rascal’s work is great enough, there are enough brilliant and kind writers out there that I’ve rarely had to resort to that. How do I know if they’re kind? The same way you find out if anyone is kind – you google them, show a picture of them to your neighbor’s hounds, and then carefully observe the hounds’ reactions. With this month’s recommendation, I needn’t confirm the internet’s verdict with a hound test. Arthur Bradford’s gentlemanly nature shows in the big-hearted way he renders his characters and because the good sir is dedicated to helping people. In addition to some film work and two incredible collections of short stories, he’s worked at the Texas School for the Blind, been a co-director for Camp Jabberwocky (a camp for people with disabilities), and he’s currently working in a juvenile detention center. He’s not your typical literary superstar who spends all his time eating figs, drinking brandy and bidding for antique typewriters on eBay.

Bradford writes without the sort of fanciful verbiage, flowery descriptions and unnecessary addenda that this immaculately groomed (wearing the casual cummerbund, because it’s Friday) gentleman so vigorously gravitates toward. His sentences are direct, and they’re hilarious. His characters make mistakes, sometimes constantly, but they’re not trying to hurt anyone, and they’re often trying to help someone.

Turtleface and Beyond” is his most recent collection of short stories, and it’s awesome. The titular Turtleface is an unfortunate young man who, after drunkenly deciding to dive from a cliff to impress his canoeing companions, dives face first into a turtle. Both he and the turtle are in bad shape, but Georgie (the soft-hearted narrator of the entire collection) decides to slap some duct tape on the turtle and nurse it back to health.

There’s a story about an under-dressed man travelling with friend to a wedding. They find a man ailing at the side of the road. He’s been bitten by a snake. He convinces Georgie to suck the poison from his leg. George reluctantly attempts it and ruins an outfit that was already insufficiently formal. There’s one where a reluctant Georgie is cajoled into assisting a boss’s decline into total depravity. There’s one called “The LSD and the Baby.”

When “The Gentleman Recommends” blog post series was first conceived, my primary intent was to highlight books that I like, but I also wanted to further the agenda of the gentleman. That agenda: constant politeness, regular charity, enough hat-tipping/doffing to cause calluses on the fingers you use to tip/doff your hat, always bowing when introduced to someone or when someone you know does something worthy of a bow, and regular snack breaks. I didn’t know that what I really wanted was to recommend a writer who had written a story called “The LSD and the Baby.”

If you like “Turtleface and Beyond,” support the gentlemen’s agenda and buy Bradford’s first collection, “Dogwalker.”

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Categories: Book Buzz

Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The July 2016 List

Next Book Buzz - June 17, 2016

Library Reads Logo

It’s hot and humid, and the LibraryReads recommendations list for July is dripping with twisty, suspenseful and sometimes genre-blending thrillers! Kidnapping, murder on a cruise ship, a mysterious death in an Amish community and a reality show gone seriously awry – there are so many good stories to stow in your beach bag. Here are the top 10 titles publishing next month that librarians across the country love.

Book cover for Dark Matter by Blake CrouchDark Matter” by Blake Crouch

“Once on the fast-track to academic stardom, Jason Dessen finds his quiet family life and career upended when a stranger kidnaps him. Suddenly Jason’s idle “what-ifs” become panicked “what-nows,” as the humble quantum physics professor from a small Chicago college gets to explore the roads not taken with a mind-bending invention that opens doors to other worlds. This fun science fiction thriller is also a thoughtful page-turner with heart that should appeal to fans of Harlan Coben.” – Elizabeth Eastin, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton, NY

Book cover for The Woman in Cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware

“An intruder in the middle of the night leaves Lo Blacklock feeling vulnerable. Trying to shake off her fears, she hopes her big break of covering the maiden voyage of the luxury cruise ship, the Aurora, will help. The first night of the voyage changes everything. What did she really see in the water and who was the woman in the cabin next door? The claustrophobic feeling of being on a ship and the twists and turns of who, and what, to believe keep you on the edge of your seat. Count on this being one of the hot reads this summer!” – Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH

Book cover for The Last OneThe Last One” by Alexandra Oliva

“The Last One tells the story of twelve contestants who are sent to the wilderness in a Survivor-like reality show. But while they’re away, the world changes completely and what is real and what is not begins to blur. It’s post-apocalyptic literary fiction at it’s best. With a fast pace and a wry sense of humor, this is the kind of book that will appeal to readers of literary fiction and genre fiction alike. It points out the absurdity of reality television without feeling condescending. As the readers wake up to the realities of a new world, it becomes difficult to put down.” – Leah White, Ela Area Public Library, Lake Zurich, IL

Here is the rest of the July list for your holds-placing pleasure:

The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The July 2016 List appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Memoirs for Life’s Challenges and Changes

Next Book Buzz - June 13, 2016

Book cover for A Homemade Life by Molly WizenbergI find that the first step in a new challenge for me is often to understand how someone else did it. When I wanted to start running (on purpose!), I didn’t consult a training plan. Instead, I read Haruki Murakami’s  “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” for inspiration. Similarly, when I wanted to cook at home more often, I didn’t check out a cookbook. I read “A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table” by Molly Wizenberg. Sometimes the inspiration works the other way – I read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver because it was a One Read finalist in 2008. It motivated me to eat locally-produced, healthful food more often.

Book cover for Wave by Sonali DeraniyagalaOther times, memoirs help me understand an experience that I hope to never have. Sonali Deraniyagala’s “Wave” recounts the deaths of her parents, husband and children in Sri Lanka during the 2004 tsunami. It is unfathomable to me (and probably to most people) how one could survive such loss, and I have recalled Deraniyagala’s strength many times since I read her memoir. Jean-Dominique Bauby fell into a coma following a stroke, and when he awoke, he found that he suffered from locked-in syndrome. He composed “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death” by blinking his left eyelid – the only body part he could move.

Book cover for The Year of Living BiblicallyNot all memoirs are about such serious topics. A.J. Jacobs has made a career out of undergoing challenges and then writing humorously about such challenges. Jacobs has followed the proscriptions and tenets of the Bible (“The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible”), implemented rigorous health routines (“Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection”), volunteered as a subject of science (“The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as An Experiment”) and attempted to improve his intellect (“The Know-it-all: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World”).

There are plenty of memoirs to help you meet your life challenges – whether self-imposed or circumstantial – at your library. These are just a few.

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Categories: Book Buzz

Three Ways to Celebrate Audiobook Month

Next Book Buzz - June 10, 2016

June is audiobook month, as well as the unofficial start of summer travel season. Spice up that long road trip with some good storytelling with a little help from your library!

1. Check out a 2016 Audie Award winner!

Audiobook cover for The Girl on the TrainNamed audiobook of the year, “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins (narrated by Clare Corbett) was last year’s “Gone Girl.” In this psychological thriller, a woman becomes emotionally entangled in a murder investigation because of something she witnesses on her daily commute. Or try the fiction winner, “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah (audiobook narrated by Polly Stone), which follows French sisters Viann and Isabelle as they resist German occupiers during WWII, each in her own way. If nonfiction is more your speed, pick up the winner in history/biography, “A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts” by Andrew Chaikin (narrated by Bronson Pinchot).

2. Entertain kids with audiobooks in the car.

Audiobook cover for Circus MirandusIf you have little ones in the backseat, check out some family-friendly audiobooks. “Circus Mirandus” by Cassie Beasley is reminiscent of Peter Pan and follows Micah Tuttle who, when he realizes that his grandfather’s stories of an enchanted circus are true, sets out to find the mysterious circus — and to use its magic to save his grandfather’s life. In Chris Grabenstein’s puzzle-filled “Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library,” 12-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero, the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello.

3. Suggest an audiobook selection for your book club. 

Hoopla is a service available from your library that allows you to stream and download audiobooks (as well as eBooks, comics, movies and television shows). Sign up for an account (this quick start guide shows you how), download the app and borrow up to 10 items per month. Everyone in your book club can borrow the same book on Hoopla – there’s no limit to how many people can borrow an item at once! Try Ben Fountain’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Haftime Walk,” Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” or “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown.

Whether you are a long-time fan of audiobooks or new to listening to books, take advantage of your library’s large collection of downloadable audiobooks, books on CD and playaways. Give a book a listen this summer!

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Categories: Book Buzz

2016-17 Gateway Award Finalists

Teen Book Buzz - June 3, 2016

2017 Gateway Award Banner

The Gateway Readers Award honors a young adult novel that is selected by Missouri high school students. To be eligible to vote, students must read at least three of the finalists. Voting will occur at participating schools early next March, so you can use the summer months to get crack-a-lackin’ on this list! The winner will be announced in April 2017.

Red Rising” by Pierce Brown
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Insti-tute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class.

We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart
Spending the summers on her family’s private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her cousins and a special boy named Gat, teen-aged Cadence struggles to remember what happened during her fifteenth summer.

Love and Other Foreign Words” by Erin McCahan
Brilliant fifteen-year-old Josie has a knack for languages, but her sister’s engagement has Josie grappling with the nature of true love, her feelings for her best friend Stu, and how anyone can be truly herself, or truly in love, in a social language that is not her own.

Don’t Look Back” by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Seventeen-year-old Sam seems to have every-thing until she and her best friend, Cassie, disappear one night. Now Sam has returned with amnesia, striving to be a much better person and aware that her not remembering may be the only thing keeping Cassie alive.

The Book of Ivy” by Amy Engel
In an apocalyptic future where girls from the losing faction are forcibly married to boys of the winning faction, sixteen-year-old Ivy is tasked to kill her fiancé Bishop, although when she finally meets him, he is not the monster she has been led to believe.

The Winner’s Curse” by Marie Rutkoski
An aristocratic girl who is a member of a war-mongering and enslaving empire purchases a slave, an act that sets in motion a rebellion that might overthrow her world as well as her heart.

The Young Elites” by Marie Lu
Adelina Amouteru survived the blood fever, a deadly illness that killed many, but left others with strange markings and supernatural powers. Cast out by her family, Adelina joins the secret society of the Young Elites and discovers her own dangerous abilities.

Made for You” by Melissa Marr
Southern small town darling Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital with the frightening ability to see through the eyes of the victims of a serial killer, and realizes that she, too, is a target of the depraved stalker.

Free to Fall” by Lauren Miller
In a near-future world where everyone is controlled by their smartphones, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn suddenly begins listening to the voice within–which kids are taught to ignore– and discovers a terrible plot at the heart of the corporation that makes the devices.

The Kiss of Deception” by Mary E. Pearson
Princess Lia is expected to have the revered gift of sight, but she does not. She knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to a prince she has never met in order to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom. Lia flees to a distant village and settles into a new life. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets, even as she finds herself falling in love.

Nil” by Lynne Matson
Transported through a “gate” to the mysterious island of Nil, seventeen-year-old Charley has 365 days to escape–or she will die.

Torn Away” by Jennifer Brown
In the aftermath of a tornado that has devastated her hometown of Elizabeth, Missouri, sixteen-year-old Jersey Cameron struggles to overcome her grief as she is sent to live with her only surviving relatives.

Call Me By My Name” by John Ed Bradley
Growing up in Louisiana in the late 1960s, where segregation and prejudice still thrive, two high school football players, one white, one black, become friends, but some changes are too difficult to accept.

Since You’ve Been Gone” by Morgan Matson
Quiet Emily’s sociable and daring best friend, Sloane, has disappeared leaving nothing but a random list of bizarre tasks for her to complete, but with unexpected help from popular classmate Frank Porter, Emily gives them a try.

Some Boys” by Patty Blount
Shunned by her friends and even her father after she accuses the town golden boy of rape, Grace wonders if she can ever trust Ian, a classmate who is funny, kind, and has secrets of his own.

Originally published at 2016-17 Gateway Award Finalists.

Categories: Book Buzz

2016-17 Truman Award Finalists

Teen Book Buzz - May 27, 2016

2017 Truman Award Finalists
The Truman Readers Award honors a book that is selected by Missouri junior high students. To be eligible to vote, students must read at least four of the finalists. Voting will occur at participating schools early next March, so you have plenty of time to knock these titles out like a champ. While the winner won’t be announced until April 2017, this is a great list of summer reads for students in sixth through eighth grade.

Pieces of Me” by Amber Kizer
After a car accident leaves her brain-dead, Jessica tries to prevent her parents from donating her organs and tissues, but then follows the lives of four fellow teens who are able to survive because she did not.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek” by Maya Van Wagenen
A touchingly honest, candidly hysterical memoir from breakout teen author Maya Van Wagenen Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder.

Grandmaster” by David Klass
Invited to a parent-child weekend chess tournament, fresh-man Daniel discovers that his father was once one of the country’s leading young players but that the intense competition surrounding the game proved to be unhealthy, a past they are forced to confront when they meet a former rival.

The Body in the Woods” by April Henry
While helping the Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue to seek a missing autistic man, teens Alexis, Nick, and Ruby find, instead, a body and join forces to find the girl’s murderer.

Buzz Kill” by Beth Fantaskey
Seventeen-year-old Millie joins forces with her classmate, gorgeous but mysterious Chase Colton, to try to uncover who murdered head football coach “Hollerin’ Hank” Killdare–and why.

Midnight Thief” by Livia Blackburne
Kyra, a highly skilled seventeen-year-old thief, joins a guild of assassins with questionable motives. Tristam, a young knight, fights against the vicious Demon Riders that are ravaging the city.

Famous Last Words” by Katie Alender
High-school student Willa moves to California and attends a private school. She things that are not really there, like a dead body in the swimming pool, and her visions may be connected to a serial killer that is stalking young girls in Hollywood.

Falls the Shadow” by Stefanie Gaither
When her sister Violet dies, Cate’s wealthy family brings home Violet’s clone, who fits in perfectly until Cate uncovers some-thing sinister about the cloning movement.

Just a Drop of Water” by Kerry O’Malley Cerra
Jake and Sam are best friends, but after the attacks on September 11, their friendship is in danger of crumbling as Sam and his family succumb to hatred for being Muslim American.

I Have a Bad Feeling About This” by Jeff Strand
Everything unathletic sixteen-year-old Henry was dreading about survival camp turns out to be true–or even worse–when armed killers arrive and survival takes on a whole new meaning for the campers.

The Blood Guard” by Carter Roy
Ronan, a seemingly ordinary boy, is swept up in a some-times funny, sometimes scary, but always thrilling advenure, dashing from one danger to the next, using his wits to escape the Bend Sinister, a posse of evildoers with strange powers.

Codename Zero” by Chris Rylander
Carson is a normal teen with a normal life until a desperate man gives him a package with a dire set of instructions. And that package is going to lead Carson to discover that there’s a secret government agency operating in his small, quiet North Dakota hometown.

Originally published at 2016-17 Truman Award Finalists.

Categories: Book Buzz

Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The June 2016 List

Next Book Buzz - May 23, 2016

Library Reads LogoAh, June is coming! We can smell summer from here. Time to stuff our beach bags with a little romantic comedy, fantasy (featuring librarians, naturally), suspense, memoir and microhistory. Here are the books hitting shelves next month that librarians across the country recommend. Place your holds now to have them in hand for your upcoming vacations or staycations.

Book cover for Vinegar GirlVinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler
“The newest entry in the Hogarth Shakespeare series brings The Taming of the Shrew into the modern world. Kate is stuck in a life taking care of her absent minded professor father and her sister, Bunny. When her father suggests a marriage of convenience in order to secure a green card for his lab assistant Pyotr, Kate is shocked. This is a sweet and humorous story about two people, who don’t quite fit in, finding each other. Tyler’s wonderful writing updates and improves on the original.” – Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Book cover for The Invisible LibraryThe Invisible Library” by Genevieve Cogman
“Directed by powerful librarians, agents roam alternate realities searching out special volumes for their mysterious library’s collections. Irene is a spy for the library but something is a little off about her current mission; there’s something strange about her new assistant that she can’t quite put her finger on and worse, the requested volume has already been stolen. Cogman’s engaging characters and a most intriguing imagined world are sure to delight readers, especially bibliophiles.” – Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY

Book cover for Under the HarrowUnder the Harrow” by Flynn Berry
“Nora leaves London to visit her sister, Rachel, in the countryside often. But this trip is different – a silent house, a dead dog hanging from the railing and so much blood. Nora stays, trying to help the police solve the case. She thinks it might have something to do with the unsolved attack on Rachel when she was just a teen but it could be someone new. This story is thrilling and quietly gripping. We become as obsessed as Nora in finding her sister’s killer — what if he strikes again?” – Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

And here’s the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure!

The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The June 2016 List appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: Valeria Luiselli

Next Book Buzz - May 16, 2016

Book cover for The Story of My TeethThe Story of My Teeth” came into existence the way most novels do: at the behest of a Mexican juice company. But rather than merely extol the virtues of juice while spinning a tale about juice bandits who turned to a life of juice thievery due to being criminally deprived nature’s finest nectar during their formative years, Valeria Luiselli chose to tell a better, stranger tale.

The novel, in addition to being a “collaborative translation” with Christina MacSweeney, was also workshopped with workers at a juice factory. She would send a chapter, factor in their feedback, then write the next chapter. The novel’s quality makes it clear that more writers should seek the feedback of factory workers. Indeed, I’m so inspired by her tactics that I’ve taken the liberty of mailing this post to a number of factories. As you can tell, I’ve yet to hear back, but I imagine their feedback will transform this post into something nearly as magical as her novel, at which point I will use their suggested changes for the 10th anniversary edition of this blog post (“Now in 3-D and edited by factory workers!’).

The Story of My Teeth” is mostly narrated by a man known as “Highway.” Highway opens the novel by declaring himself the world’s greatest auctioneer. He’s also capable, if given sufficient quantities of rum, of imitating Janis Joplin. Regardless of his rum levels, he’s able to balance an egg. Highway is also a fiend for collecting things. As a child, he collected over 10,000 of his father’s nail clippings, stored smartly in envelopes. If this wasn’t enough to have you hooked (I speed-read the novel hoping to find a scene featuring an upright egg), there’s also a scene in which four portraits of clowns menace poor Highway.

I may have opened the book expecting slow, laborious descriptions of teething, lost teeth and their corresponding visits from fairies, and dental procedures, but what I got was much more amusing and interesting, if significantly less fairy-laden. Highway was cursed with bad teeth, so once he has a little money in his pocket, he does what most of us would: buys Marilyn Monroe’s teeth and has them inserted. Soon after, he demonstrates his talents as an auctioneer by auctioning off his own freshly plucked and malformed teeth. He’s able to get a great price by claiming they’re from such famous mouths as Plato’s, Virginia Woolf’s or G.K. Chesterton’s. He gives each tooth its own flash fiction origin story, and the reader is left wishing he had more teeth to auction. Highway also wishes he had more stuff to auction, so he decides to auction off himself, with consequences that include paintings of clowns.

“The Story of My Teeth” does things that make book critics talk fancy. You’ll be questioning the narrator’s trustworthiness. There’s a section of the book that is a timeline. Photographs are included. Authors and philosophers are name-dropped. You’ll wonder whether G.K. Chesterton really damaged his teeth due to his affinity for chewing marbles. But ultimately, you’ll just enjoy this clever novel and redouble your efforts to keep your distance from paintings of clowns.

The post The Gentleman Recommends: Valeria Luiselli appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

2016 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees

Teen Book Buzz - May 16, 2016

2016 Teens' Top Ten Collage

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!

Alive” by Chandler Baker
Stella Cross has received a heart transplant, but it has not stopped her emotional suffering.
Then a mysterious boy named Levi Zin comes into her life. Stella’s pain goes away whenever she’s around Levi. However, Stella finds out a terrible secret about Levi. Can it be true?

Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo
Young criminal genius Kaz Brekker is offered the chance to pull off a dangerous theft that can make him rich. He recruits a gang of six dangerous misfits to help him with the heist. The book follows the crew’s crazy adventure and features plot twists, betrayals, and schemes aplenty.

The Darkest Part of the Forest” by Holly Black
In Fairfold, a place where both humans and Faeries live, siblings Hazel and Ben have grown up telling each other stories about the boy in the glass coffin in the woods. The boy has horns and ears pointy as knives, perhaps he’s a prince or a knight. Of course, they’ll never know because the boy will never wake. Then, unexpectedly, he does . . .

The Witch Hunter” by Virginia Boecker
Elizabeth Grey is a witch hunter who is suddenly accused of being a witch. She is arrested and sentenced to burn. The only way for Elizabeth to avoid this fate is to help out her former enemy Nicholas Perevil, the most dangerous wizard around. The book is filled with magic and adventure, action and mystery and features a world full of witches, pirates and ghosts.

The Game of Love and Death” by Martha Brockenbrough
Set in Seattle in the 1920s, a romance develops between Flora, who is African American, and Henry, who is white. Despite some differences, the pair has much in common, including a shared love of jazz music. However, it turns out that Flora and Henry actually are pawns in a game played by two other characters – Love and Death. This book is full of intrigue and is, at times, heartbreaking, and will have the reader racing to the final pages.

Powerless” by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs
In a world full of powerful heroes and villains, Kenna is just a regular, powerless teenager who works in a lab. Then, three villains break into the lab, and Kenna decides to fight back. In the midst of this battle, Kenna is saved by a villain. Suddenly, she is forced to rethink her beliefs.

Mechanica” by Betsy Cornwell
A new take on the classic story of Cinderella. Mechanica uses her wit and her mother’s old engineering textbooks to try to escape her stepmother and stepsisters. Mechanica is a strong, smart, and capable character in a book that has an inspirational message for teenage girls.

You and Me and Him” by Kris Dinnison
Maggie is overweight. Nash is out of the closet. They are the best of friends. But that friendship is tested when they both develop feelings for the same boy, a new kid named Tom.

“The Summer After You & Me” by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Lucy Giordano lives on the Jersey Shore and has a crush on a boy named Connor Malloy, whose family spends many summer weekends at the home next door. The pair eventually shares an unexpected romance. Then, Super Storm Sandy hits and alters Lucy’s life dramatically. Lucy and Connor go their separate ways. But several months later, Connor is scheduled to return to The Shore, which should definitely make for an interesting summer.

The Devil You Know” by Trish Doller
Arcadia, or Cadie for short, is 18 years old and has been longing for something more in life ever since her mother died. Then she meets two handsome boys, cousins to one another, and they invite her and a friend on a camping trip. What seems like innocent fun takes a negative turn when Arcadia discovers one of the boys is hiding a terrible secret.

Charlie, Presumed Dead” by Anne Heltzel
Charlie Price is presumed dead after his plane crashes. However, his body is never found. At his funeral, Lena and Aubrey meet and discover both were his girlfriend. Lena believes Charlie is still alive, and she and Aubrey set out on a journey across Europe and Asia to expose Charlie’s deceit. The girls try to work together, but the secrets they hide could prevent them from finding Charlie.

Illuminae” by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Kady and Ezra have just broken up, and then their planet is bombed by a megacorporation. The pair escapes to a government ship, but must put their differences aside in order to survive and stop a plague that has resulted from the use of a bioweapon.

When” by Victoria Laurie
High school junior Maddie Fynn has special powers that allow her to see numbers above a person’s forehead, which she soon discovers are death dates. She identifies the death date of a young boy, but is unable to prevent his disappearance. Then, Maddie becomes a suspect in a homicide investigation.

The Novice”  by Taran Matharu
A blacksmith’s apprentice named Fletcher discovers he can summon demons from another world. He soon gets chased out of his village for a crime he did not commit, ending up at an academy for adepts, where he is trained to serve as a Battlemage in the Empire’s war against the savage Orcs. Eventually, Fletcher discovers the fate of the Empire is in his hands.

Mark of the Thief” by Jennifer. A. Nielsen
Set in Ancient Rome, a young slave named Nic finds an amulet that gives him magic powers usually reserved for the Gods. After discovering a conspiracy to overthrow the emperor and start a war, Nic is forced to use the magic within to defeat the empire’s most ruthless leaders and save Rome.

All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven
Death plays a big role in the lives of high schoolers Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. He is constantly on the verge of suicide, and she is battling grief after her sister’s death. The Indiana teens come together to work on a project and soon develop a bond, showing each other what it’s like to live.

I Am Princess X” by Cherie Priest
When they were young, best friends Libby and May created a comic character named Princess X. Then Libby was killed in a car accident. Lonely and grieving, May soon discovers an underground culture centered around a web comic at IAmPrincessX.com. The similarities between those stories and Libby’s own stories are striking. Could her friend still be alive?

Hold Me Like a Breath” by Tiffany Schmidt
Penelope Landlow has an autoimmune disease that forces her to remain indoors. She is also the daughter of a notorious crime family that is involved in the black market for organ transplants. Penelope soon gains her independence and is forced to survive on her own in the big city. She learns about love, loss and how to survive in an often dangerous world.

Con Academy” by Joe Schreiber
Will Shea (aka Billy Humbert) is a con man who has scammed his way into Connaughton Academy, an exclusive school for the American elite. He soon meets Andrea Dufresne, who also has conned her way into the school. The pair soon makes a bet to see who can con the school bully, Brandt Rush, out of thousands of dollars.

The Ghosts of Heaven” by Marcus Sedgwick
An epic story about the journey of discovery told in four episodes. The first, takes place during prehistoric times, as a girl picks up a stick and creates some of the first cave drawings. Next, we visit the 17th century and a girl named Anna, whom many believe is a witch. Episode three is set in a Long Island mental institution and features a mad poet who watches the ocean. Finally, a trip to the future, as a spaceship travels to settle another world.

The Glass Arrow” by Kristen Simmons
Set in the future, Aya is a 15-year-old girl who has spent her life hiding in the mountains in order to avoid the fate of most women, who are treated like property and auctioned off for breeding. Then, she is caught. Desperate to escape, she relies on the assistance of a wolf and a mute boy in her search for freedom.

Black Widow Forever Red” by Margaret Stohl
Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, is one of the world’s most lethal assassins, and she once rescued young Ava Orlova from being subjected to a series of military experiments. Now, Black Widow and Orlova, who is 15 years old and living in Brooklyn, team up again to stop Widow’s former teacher, the evil Ivan Somodorov, from wreaking havoc on the children of Eastern Europe.

Every Last Word” by Tamara Ireland Stone
Samantha McAllister seems to have it all: she is beautiful, bright and part of the popular crowd in high school. But looks can be deceiving, and she is hiding the fact she has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Samantha’s life changes after she visits a place at school called Poet’s Corner and she begins hanging out with new friends like Caroline and AJ.

Zeroes” by Scott Westerfeld
Six California teens have special powers that aren’t always welcome. Like Ethan, known as Scam, who has a voice inside of him that will sometimes speak out when it’s not the right time to do so. When that “power” gets Ethan in trouble, the other Zeroes are the only ones who can rescue him. However, the members of this group are not exactly the best of friends.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls” by Lynn Weingarten
June and Delia were best friends who grew apart. Then, Delia commits suicide. Or, at least that’s what others have been told. June believes her former best friend has been murdered, and she goes on a quest to find the truth . . . which, it turns out, is very complicated.

Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon
Maddy is a teenager with a serious autoimmune disease that prevents her from leaving the house. Yet, she seems content to stay home and read books. That is until a boy named Olly moves in next door. The two meet, and their quirky relationship is chronicled through emails, journal entries, IMs and old notes.

Originally published at 2016 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees.

Categories: Book Buzz

2016 Gateway & Truman Award Winners Announced

Teen Book Buzz - May 13, 2016

2016 Gateway Truman WinnersThe winners for the Gateway and Truman Readers Awards have been announced! The recipients for these book awards are chosen each year by Missouri high school and junior high students, respectively. This year, over 8,000 votes were cast by students in grades 6-12.

Gateway Reader Award Winners

Truman Reader Award Winners

Originally published at 2016 Gateway & Truman Award Winners Announced.

Categories: Book Buzz

Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The May 2016 List

Next Book Buzz - April 25, 2016

Library Reads LogoSupernatural thrillers, compelling historical fiction and a boatload of mysteries? Summer reading must be coming! Enjoy this month’s LibraryReads list of books publishing next month that librarians across the country recommend.

Britt-Marie Was Here” by Fredrik Backman
“Britt-Marie is a woman who is used to her life being organized. But when she leaves her cheating spouse and takes a temporary job as caretaker of the recreation center in the tiny town of Borg, her life changes in unpredictable ways. With its wonderful cast of oddball characters and sly sense of humor, this novel is sure to capture readers’ hearts. Highly recommended.” – Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA

Book cover for The Fireman by Joe HillThe Fireman” by Joe Hill
“’The Fireman’ is a novel that will keep you up reading all night. No one really knows where the deadly Dragonscale spore originated but many theories abound. The most likely is that as the planet heats up, the spore is released into the atmosphere. Harper Willowes is a young, pregnant nurse who risks her own health to tend to others.This is her story and I loved it! This is one of the most creative takes on apocalyptic literature that I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended for all Hill and King fans.” – Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, TX

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven” by Chris Cleave
“Set during World War II and loosely based on the author’s own grandparents, this was a strikingly honest look at the changes that war creates on a country’s landscape and its people. These changes were so strongly shown by the progressive style of this novel. Bit by bit, we are privy to each character’s transformation. What a great tribute to what they endured. War gives birth to many endings, also to many beginnings. Bittersweet.” – Lori Elliott, Kershaw County Library, SC

Here’s the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure:

The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The May 2016 List appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

400 Years Gone, Shakespeare Continues to Inspire

Next Book Buzz - April 20, 2016

 Verily, A New Hope“Friends, rebels, starfighters, lend me your ears.” Thus speaketh Luke Skywalker during a rousing oratory in “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.”

400 years after his death, on April 23, 1616, William Shakespeare continues to inspire new generations of writers. Arguably, everyone writing in English has been influenced by him, as he added so many new words and expressions to the language. Many authors have penned books in direct homage to his work.

Ian Doescher, for instance, has rendered the first six “Star Wars” movies into stories written in Shakespearean style. Iambic pentameter has never been more exciting. Action sequences are narrated by a chorus. Just as in the movies, many of the best lines go to C-3PO. “Fear has put its grip into my wires,” the droid laments. Each volume is a quick read and faithful to the related film’s plot.

Book cover for A Thousand Acres by Jane SmileyA Thousand Acres” by Jane Smiley, is a late twentieth-century retelling of “King Lear.” Smiley’s tale is set on an Iowa farm, where Larry Cook has decided to divide his estate among his three daughters. The story is told from the point of view of Cook’s oldest daughter, Ginny. Unlike Lear’s oldest, Ginny is a sympathetic, mostly non-treacherous character (with the exception of one notable episode.) But much like Lear, Larry seems to be losing his mind, perhaps to dementia, perhaps to long-held guilt. “A Thousand Acres” won multiple awards, including the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.

Any guesses as to which Shakespeare play inspired Matt Haig’s 2007 novel, “The Dead Father’s Club”? 11-year-old Phillip’s father recently died in a car accident. Or was it murder, as his dad’s ghost claims? Phillip is tasked with the job of exacting revenge against his uncle, who appears to be making moves on both Philip’s mom and the family business, a pub called the Castle and Falcon. Sounds a lot like “Hamlet” to me. Except contemporary, funny and — if possible — even more tragic in some ways.

Book cover for The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter PalmerIn “The Dream of Perpetual Motion,” Dexter C. Palmer presents a steampunk version of “The Tempest.” Like Ferdinand in Shakespeare’s play, Harry Winslow finds himself stranded with a character named Miranda. But instead of a desert island, the setting is a perpetually orbiting zeppelin. The zeppelin has been designed by Miranda’s father, Prospero Taligent, who mirrors Shakespeare’s Prospero in his possession of abilities beyond the ordinary, creating mechanical beasts and people to do his bidding.

Shouldst thou further wish to pursue literature inspired by the Bard of Avon, look to the reading list contained in yon catalog.

The post 400 Years Gone, Shakespeare Continues to Inspire appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: John Wray

Next Book Buzz - April 18, 2016

Book cover for The Lost Time Accidents by John WrayJohn Wray’s latest awesome novel, “The Lost Time Accidents,” begins with its narrator declaring that he has been “excused from time.” Most readers will assume that he is waiting on a tardy chauffeur or a pizza delivery, but this statement is quickly clarified: Waldy Tolliver is literally outside of time. It’s 8:47 and he’s stuck in his aunt’s apartment, a shrine to the act of hoarding. Towers of newspapers threaten to crush careless occupants, and there are rooms divided into smaller rooms via walls of books with openings only large enough to barely crawl through. But this is more than a book about a man with a lot of a lack of time on his hands being stuck in a super cool house. It’s about his family, and their obsession with time, and the Holocaust, and a fairy that visits one half of a profoundly eccentric set of twins, and physics, and pickles, and the narrator’s doomed love affair with Mrs. Haven, and his father’s prolific career as a science fiction writer, and the powerful cult that his science fiction inadvertently spawned, and whether time is a sphere and other stuff too.

(While reviews for this novel are positive, some downright glowing, there are also a few that, while admiring Wray’s ambition and skill, don’t love its length (roughly 500 pages), nonlinear structure and tendency to meander. This gentleman enjoys a good meandering, though, and Wray’s meanderings are spectacular. Without them we wouldn’t get several hilarious summaries of Waldy’s father’s science fiction or the section written in the voice of Joan Didion. Besides, Wray’s genius needs the space to unfurl. The fellow writes sentences like someone that loves doing so and also owns a top-notch brain.)

The family’s obsession with time began with Waldy’s great-grandfather, Ottokar, an amateur physicist and proprietor of a thriving pickling business. He’d figured out the nature of time just prior to being killed by an automobile. His sons, amateur physicists and heirs to a thriving pickling business, search for clues to Ottokar’s discovery, but he’s left behind little more than some ambiguous and absolutely absurdly alliterative notes. (“FOOLS FROM FUTURE’S FETID FIEFDOMS FOLLOW FREELY IN MY FOOTSTEPS” — this reader thought maybe his sons should have thought about that a little longer.)

Ottokar’s sons, Kaspar and Waldemar, take very different paths. Waldemar becomes an anti-Semite (it doesn’t help that Albert Einstein, forever referred to by the family only as “the patent clerk,” gathered the glory he felt was meant for their father) and just generally insane and evil. He eventually becomes known as “The Black Timekeeper” for his time travel-related experimentation on prisoners during the Holocaust. Waldemar believes time is a sphere, and that with enough willpower, one can transcend it. He vanishes just prior to the destruction of his concentration camp.

Kaspar’s path is loaded with love and heartbreak, continent swapping, fatherhood and eventually a lucrative career as a watchmaker. He raises a set of eccentric twins, who cultivate their own obsession with time, encouraged by the fairy that visits one of them every so often. Those twin girls raise Kaspar’s next child, Orson. Orson loves writing science fiction, and though it tends to the erotic because that’s what sells, he’s pleased to be free of his family’s obsession with time. So of course, one of his novels becomes the text that inspires a time-obsessed cult. Orson’s son, our narrator, is compelled to write the story of his family, in part to free himself from his evil uncle’s shadow. Then he gets “excused from time” and has all the time to write he could ever want. So he uses it to write a family history in the form of a very long letter to a Mrs. Haven. He begins by informing her that he has been excused from time.

The post The Gentleman Recommends: John Wray appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz
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