As Susannah Cahalan waited in the doctor’s office the painting of Miro’s Carota, with its twisted, unnatural grin, seemed to smile down at her. She would revisit the colorful and distorted face over the next several months as she battled a mysterious neurological illness that almost permanently severed her connection with reality. In her candid and gripping new memoir, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, the New York Post reporter reconstructs in a riveting fashion the journey that carried her to the brink of lunacy.
For twenty-four-year-old Cahalan the illness crept up innocently enough. She believed her flu symptoms were the result of bedbugs in her Manhattan apartment. Once she began experiencing numbness she sought out a doctor. Soon she was missing deadlines at work, and her increasingly erratic behavior now included paranoia and hallucinations. Cahalan and her family worried she was having a nervous breakdown. It was her first blackout at her boyfriend Stephen’s house that “marked the line between sanity and insanity,” she recalled. Doctors were baffled, and on March 23, 2009 she was admitted to the hospital. Eventually, a prominent neurologist's hunch followed by a brain biopsy confirmed that she suffered from rare autoimmune encephalitis. Recovery would take months. Her zombie-like behavior scared people who wondered what was wrong with her. She described running into an old high school friend as a "soul crushing moment." Her rock remained her family, Stephen and her parents, who never wavered.
Cahalan admits writing her story was difficult. With only flashes of memory intact she relied on interviews, medical records, journals, and hospital video footage to complete the picture. Absorbing and fast paced, the book’s short chapters read like a medical mystery that takes an eye-opening look inside the misfiring of the human mind and its ability to repair and emerge from the abyss.
Bird & Squirrel on the Run! is the funny new graphic novel from James Burks. Squirrel accidentally loses his winter supply of nuts while trying to rescue Bird from the Cat. Limited by an injured wing, Bird talks Squirrel into walking south with him to survive the winter. Thus begins a wonderful buddy adventure for the younger reader. While Bird is fun-loving and adventurous, Squirrel is very cautious and nervous. As Bird learns a little bit about responsibility and Squirrel learns a little bit about fun, the two new friends contend with angry bees, scary snakes, waterfalls, dire predictions (from a fortune-telling mole!) and one determined cat on their way to warmer lands. Displaying loyalty and fortitude, the pair faces down one last fearsome, flying foe. Will the friends survive their journey?
Burks’ bright colorful illustrations are easy to follow. Using such details as an acorn helmet for the cautious Squirrel and aviator goggles for the adventurous Bird, Burks’ artwork complements the story well. His lesson of a happy medium between being overly-cautious and carelessly adventurous is subtly conveyed. While the text is simple and very manageable, the story is delightfully detailed. This book could serve as a wonderful transition to chapter books for the newly independent reader… and it’s a fun read!
Prolific children’s author Bruce Coville is back with a fresh serving of the deliciously weird. Welcome to Always October, where the weather is always autumnal and monsters abound. It is a world separate from our own, yet woven into the essential fabric of human dreams and fears. Now the links between these worlds are in danger of unraveling, and the fate of each hangs by a thread.
Sixth grader Jake Doolittle isn’t fond of surprises. In the second grade, his best friend Lily nearly mucked up their friendship by proposing to him in front of the entire class (True story!) In the fourth grade, his adored dad disappeared under mysterious circumstances. So when Jake opens the door one stormy night to find a baby swaddled in black on the front porch, he’s more than a little uneasy. A note left with the baby urges the family to protect Little Dumpling until his guardian can return. Jake’s mother falls in love with the baby immediately, and it isn’t long before Jake himself falls for the smiles and gurgles of his new little brother. But when the light of a full moon hits Little Dumpling, it reveals a bright green furry little monster!
Little Dumpling may be a little monster at times, but he’s still Jake’s brother now and he’s determined to protect LD and get to the bottom of the baby’s transformation. Jake turns to Lily and together the two seek to solve the puzzle of Little Dumpling’s transformation, his unusual ancestry, and the curious link between the baby monster and Jake’s father. Alternating point-of-view narration, snappy dialogue, and quirky characters keep readers on their toes as they follow Jake, Lily and Little Dumpling on their adventure.
"There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark's Eve," Neeve said. "Either you're his true love . . . or you killed him."
Thus begins The Raven Boys, the newest book by New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater. The Raven Boys are the students of Aglionby Academy, a prestigious private school in Henrietta, Virginia. They are easily identified by the raven-emblemed sweaters they wear, as well as the haughty air that drips off them like the millions they are being groomed to inherit. A quartet of boys, led by Gansey, has broken off from the pack in a quest to find an ancient king. Using unorthodox methods, they search for the “lay line” that will connect them to the dormant spirit of the sleeping Welsh King Glendower. Frustrated by a lack of success, they decide to try visiting a local psychic.
Blue Sargent also lives in Henrietta, the only non-seer in a family of mediums. All of her life she has wished for just a fraction of psychic ability, a chance to truly fit in to her strange but loving family. As she attends her aunt Neeve in the graveyard on St. Mark’s Eve, she is shocked when she sees the spirit of a boy moving toward the church. When she asks his name, he replies only “Gansey.” As Blue tries to understand the warning from her aunt predicting love or death, her and Gansey’s worlds collide when the boys arrive at her door.
While the correlating stories of Blue’s lack of ability and Gansey’s quest drive the action, the true delights in The Raven Boys lie in the familial relationships of the novel. The house full of women provides a creative yet chaotic environment for Blue, with a nurturing that borders on overprotectiveness. For Gansey, family is one of his creation, and the misfit group is a unique brotherhood of support without condition. Stiefvater has created a tale that is half coming-of-age story and half ghost story, equally spine-tingling and satisfying. Fans of her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy will find much to enjoy here with more to come, as this is the first of a planned trilogy.
The Evolution of Mara Dyer, the second in Michelle Hodkin’s Mara Dyer trilogy picks up just one day after the first book ends. Mara has been committed to a psychiatric unit after her outburst in a police station, in which she announced that her dead ex-boyfriend was alive, and assumed responsibility for the deaths of her friends and others. This may sound outlandish, but in the world of Mara Dyer, it’s actually true.
The Mara Dyer books are a mix of high school drama, fantasy, paranormal romance, and mystery. Mara is not an average high schooler—she has paranormal abilities, which have caused her heaps of trouble. After realizing the extent of her powers in the first book, Mara has struggled with the knowledge that she has the ability to imagine people’s deaths and cause them to happen. In The Evolution, Mara has to act as though nothing is wrong in front of her family so that she can stay out of the psych unit. Meanwhile she and her boyfriend Noah, who also has powers (albeit different ones), investigate what happened to cause the deaths of her friends, and why they have paranormal powers. As they learn more, the mystery deepens, and they realize their connection goes much further back than high school.
Fans of the Pretty Little Liars series will enjoy the mystery and romance this series has to offer, while those looking for something a bit different will enjoy it as well. The second book in the trilogy is just as suspenseful as the first (The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer). New mysteries appear along the way, and it includes an ending that leaves readers eagerly awaiting the final book of the trilogy, The Retribution of Mara Dyer.
Care for a stroll down memory lane? How about a local history lesson? Check out this trio of books focusing on Bawlmer and its ‘burbs. Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing joins Days Remembered: Iconic Photography of the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore County: Historical Reflections and Favorite Scenes in a remembrance of things past.
Local author, former Sun food columnist, and founder of Baltimore Beer Week, Rob Kasper knows his food and drink. In Baltimore Beer, he traces the growth of the brewing industry beginning with the influence of the German immigrants who brought their craft with them from Europe. Loaded with anecdotes and moving from early biergartens to modern brewpubs, Kasper explores the breweries’ social and economic influence on the Baltimore area. “Ain’t the beer cold?”
Baltimore residents Barton and Elizabeth Cockey teamed up to produce a charming look at ye olde suburbia in their book Baltimore County. Divided into sections such as Transportation, Public Buildings and Schools, and Wars, this book takes the reader on a tour of county peoples and places and offers an informative narrative laced with personal recollections. Instead of photographs, the book is illustrated with artist Elizabeth’s paintings of the area.
2012 marked the 175th year anniversary of the Baltimore Sun. While no longer a “penny paper,” the power of its photographs to inform and inspire remains a constant. Days Remembered is a collection of images from the Sun spanning from the 1901 debut portrait photograph of Judge Sherry of the Maryland Court of Appeals to the Blue Angels flight over Fort McHenry this past summer. Grouped by decade and including pictures of Babe Ruth, marble step-scrubbing, Blaze Starr, the Berrigan brothers, and the integration of Southern High, this visual history perfectly captures the past one hundred-plus years of Maryland living.
One Shot, the ninth book in Lee Child’s bestselling Reacher series, has been adapted for the big screen in a new film called Jack Reacher. A sniper fires six shots into a crowd, leaving five people dead. The prime suspect, a former Gulf War sniper named James Barr, insists that he’s innocent and says, “Get Jack Reacher for me.” Reacher, a larger-than-life ex-military investigator, appears on the scene and concludes that Barr isn’t the shooter. Reacher teams up with a young lawyer to find the truth and uncover the puppet-master behind it all. With its pulse-pounding suspense, it is no surprise that One Shot was destined for the big screen. New fans and long-standing Reacher Creatures (a moniker for Child’s fans) will also want to check out Jack Reacher’s Rules, a new compendium of trivia, quotations, and advice. This definitive guide to all things Reacher is a fun treat for fans and a great way to get to know the world of Jack Reacher.
The filmmakers’ decision to cast Tom Cruise as the 6'5" Jack Reacher was widely criticized by fans of the series. In a recent interview, Child said, “It’s not just about the size. Reacher is also very smart. He’s very intimidating. He’s the coolest guy in the room, and Cruise can do that. On the screen, he nails it.” Can Tom Cruise fill Reacher’s shoes? Decide for yourself! The trailer is available now, and Jack Reacher will be in theaters on December 21.
Kate Riordan, the teenage heroine of Wild Girls by Mary Stewart Atwell, has lived in the depressed, left-behind Appalachian river town of Swan River all her life. Swan River is just not the kind of town that people leave - and there's nothing particularly sinister about that, it's only that Swan River's falling-down shacks, meager businesses, and dark wooded roads inspire little ambition. Kate fears this. She has an older sister, Maggie, whose intelligence and talent might have propelled her out of Swan River for good, but instead Maggie works at the coffee shop and drinks wine coolers in the Tastee Freez parking lot with her girlfriends. And there is something else that Kate fears. Sometimes, in Swan River, a teenage girl will suddenly go wild for a night. Full of furious supernatural power, she may destroy lives and property. Even Maggie had a wild night once, during which she flew out a window and torched the library. Kate’s salvation, if she can avoid falling victim to Swan River’s twin perils of rage and inertia, is her education. Thanks to her mother's job as secretary to the headmaster, Kate attends an exclusive private boarding school called the Academy – although the Academy is not without its own perils.
Prose as sharp and pungent as a red autumn leaf describes Kate's vertiginous passage through her senior year at the Academy. And while Wild Girls touches on a number of themes that have become popular recently - boarding school, magical realism, mean girls - it never feels formulaic. Wild Girls is a great read for teenage girls and grownup girls alike.
Travel back to 1830s Scotland and meet Lady Keira Darby, the young widow at the center of Anna Lee Huber’s gothic debut The Anatomist’s Wife. Keira has been living a quiet life in the secluded castle of her sister and brother-in-law since her husband’s death eighteen months ago. She is recovering from the scandal that she starred in when it was revealed that she illustrated the corpses her husband dissected. But a house party brings the titled society elite to her hiding place, and Kiera is forced to face her past. When one of the guests is murdered, the past bubbles up and all fingers point to Keira. The authorities are several days away and her brother-in-law asks her to help new inquiry agent Sebastian Gage in the investigation. As the two work together, they must deal with danger, lies, and of course a little bit of romance.
While waiting for the next Lady Darby Mystery, enjoy the company of India Black, a saucy, young brothel owner whose business caters to England’s finest civil servants and military men. India Black by Carol Carr introduces this feisty heroine who finds herself in deep trouble when a War Office official dies while visiting one of her employees. She is blackmailed by another British agent, Mr. French, into helping recover important military papers lost at her establishment. The future of Britain is at stake and India is quickly embroiled in a deadly game of intrigue involving diabolical Russian agents. India and French soon find themselves fending off attempts on their lives and fighting their growing attraction. This unique heroine adds to a strong mystery, and the good news for avid readers is that India Black and the Widow of Windsor is on shelves now and India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy is due in January.
Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story by Wyclef Jean is both the biography of Jean and the life story of the Fugees, one of the most successful hip-hop & R&B bands of the 1990s. Originally from Haiti, Jean is the son of a pastor and the grandson of a Voodoo priest. In this revealing new memoir, Jean recounts his early life – from his early years in the LaSerre slum to international superstardom in the 1990s. And finally, he describes his humanitarian work in Haiti and his unsuccessful bid for Haiti’s presidency.
After his early childhood in Haiti, he joined his parents in New York, where he was raised by his no-nonsense grandmother, the family matriarch. It took quite some time to get accustomed to his new life in America. He grew up in tough neighborhoods, often ravaged by drugs and guns. He also faced anti-Haitian prejudice throughout his youth in New York. Jean grew up in a very musical (and religious) household. He refers to his family as the “Haitian-American Partridge Family.” Because his father would not allow him to play secular music, his first band was a Christian rock group. He immersed himself in classic funk and rock songs and modified the lyrics so that the resulting song was a Christian one. Once he finally embraced secular music, there was no looking back. As one of the founding members of the Fugees and successful solo artist, Jean has sold millions of records. Perhaps the most compelling section of the book is the story of the Fugees and the recording of their mega-hit, The Score.
He says The Score is essentially the soundtrack of his relationship with Lauryn Hill. Although the relationship ended badly, it became an all-consuming affair that inspired the beautiful, soulful songs on The Score. After the Fugees broke up, Jean set out on his successful solo career, almost ran for the President of Haiti and is now focused on his family and music. Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story is highly recommended to biography readers. but also anyone interested in the history of hip-hop.