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Know Your Own Happiness

Know Your Own Happiness

posted by:
November 26, 2013 - 7:00am

Sense and SensibilityIt is a truth universally acknowledged that the legions of Jane Austen fans are devoted to the woman and protective of her literary canon. The Austen Project is treading into this revered territory with the unveiling of a major new series of six authors reimagining all six of Austen’s major works. The project launches with Joanna Trollope, often favorably compared with Austen, and her retelling of Austen’s first published work, Sense and Sensibility.

 

Trollope presents the Dashwood sisters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret, who, along with their mother, are all coping with grief and a dramatic reversal of fortunes following the death of their father. They have been removed from the family estate by the nefarious schemes of their brother’s wife, Fanny. A relative offers a small home on his estate, but they still must adjust to life with no money, no inheritance and no beloved father. As they slowly come to terms with their new situation, the two elder girls embark on relationships. Sensible Elinor is enamored with Edward, Fanny’s brother, who may be playing the field. Beautiful Marianne falls for local hottie and bad boy John Willoughby. While the storylines remain the same, Trollope successfully uses modern accoutrements to give weight to the girls’ struggles. Tidbits of gossip are texted and scandals are revealed via viral videos adding contemporary realism to this timeless coming-of-age story. Another universal truth – when it comes to money and love, some things never change. This comedy of manners will appeal to Trollope fans, Austen devotees and romance readers.

 

Look for future titles in this exciting series to include Val McDermid’s reworking of Northanger Abbey  and Curtis Sittenfeld’s take on Pride and Prejudice, both scheduled for publication in 2014. Learn more about the Austen Project here.

Maureen

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The Curse of the 27 Club

Cover art for 27During an interview following Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994, his mother remarked, "Now he's gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club." Journalists began referring to “the curse of the 27 Club” when writing about the surprisingly large group of musicians whose lives were all cut tragically short when they were 27 years old. Howard Sounes explores this sad coincidence in 27: A History of the 27 Club Through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse.

 

While Sounes lists 50 musicians who died at age 27, he examines the facts surrounding the lives and deaths of the six most iconic in his book. He calls the idea of the 27 Club a media construct and maintains that their deaths at the same age are merely a coincidence. In reality, the common factors in their lives were difficult childhoods, addiction, personality disorders, self-destructive behavior and a fast rise to fame during their early 20s. Given these circumstances, Sounes argues that the fact that each died at such a young age was not surprising. This book is an antidote to the media hype and Internet mythology surrounding the 27 Club. The author brings a measured examination of these stars’ lives and tragic deaths.

 

Sounes recently recounted the events of the final hours of some of these musicians’ lives in this Rolling Stone feature.

Beth

 
 

Tragedy Remembered

Tragedy Remembered

posted by:
November 22, 2013 - 8:00am

Cover art for End of DaysCover art for Dallas 1963Cover art for ParklandFifty years ago the country was rocked by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. His life and tragic death remain a cultural touchstone, and today's anniversary has resulted in a proliferation of published titles on the subject. Three of these new entries shed light on the man, the assassination and his enduring legacy.

 

Award-winning author James Swanson thoroughly documents the day Kennedy was killed in End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy. From the Kennedys’ Texas train trip, to the shooting in Dealey Plaza, to the aftermath awash with confusion, Swanson does not miss a detail. The narrative unfolds hour-by-hour, and the reader is immediately caught up in this riveting account which defines all of the major players, from Jack and Jackie to Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. The research is remarkable, and the accompanying photographs add heft to this absorbing and important account.

 

Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven Davis offers a different take on the assassination by focusing on the city which will become inextricably linked with President Kennedy. In a fascinating study, they describe the sociological and political forces which collided to create a tinderbox of activism, along with the colorful characters who stirred the political pot. Included are profiles of oil baron H. L. Hunt, Dallas Morning News publisher Ted Dealey and provocative congressman Bruce Alger.

 

Parkland by Vincent Bugliosi is a companion to the film of the same name produced by Tom Hanks, released earlier this fall and now available on DVD. Parkland focuses on the aftermath of the assassination by following key players in the hours and days following the shooting. The group of individuals includes the doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital, the chief of the Dallas Secret Service and Abraham Zapruder, the cameraman who captured perhaps the most examined footage in history. Bugliosi, also the author of Helter Skelter, successfully delivers a richly detailed narrative of this circle of men and women involved in the historic tragedy of November 22, 1963.

Maureen

 
 

Without a Trace

Cover art for The SnatchabookCover art for Daisy Gets LostMissing books and a missing dog are the focus of two fabulous new picture books.

 

What is happening to all of the stories in Burrow Down? In The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty, a mysterious creature called the Snatchabook has come to town. This adorable, sad little flying animal has no one to read to him at bedtime. His solution? Steal the books to read by himself. He mends his ways after Eliza the bunny catches him and all of the little animal creatures of Burrow Down let the Snatchabook listen to their bedtime stories. Told in a catchy rhyme with bright colorful illustrations, this celebration of the bedtime story is a true delight and is itself a perfect read-aloud for bedtime.

 

In Daisy Gets Lost by Chris Raschka, Daisy the dog is playing fetch when she is distracted by a squirrel. After a fun game of chase with said squirrel, she looks up and realizes she is lost! Raschka’s amazing watercolor illustrations display the worry and fear in both Daisy and her girl. He perfectly captures their complete joy when, after frantically searching for each other, they are finally reunited. Even the squirrel seems content at the end. Daisy was first introduced to readers in A Ball for Daisy, for which Raschka won the Caldecott Medal. Daisy Gets Lost is a worthy sequel and a treat on its own.

Diane

 
 

National Book Award Winners Announced

National Book Award LogoWinners of the 64th annual National Book Awards were announced last night at a black-tie dinner held at Cipriani Wall Street. This morning, the literary world is abuzz about James McBride’s win in the Fiction category for his novel The Good Lord Bird. With a strong list of finalists, many considered McBride’s novel to be an underdog. McBride seemed shocked by the win. He shared that writing the novel became an escape for him during a difficult season of his life. McBride also expressed his pleasure about the win, remarking, “Had Rachel Kushner or Jhumpa Lahiri or Thomas Pynchon or George Saunders won tonight, I wouldn’t have felt bad because they are fine writers, but it sure is nice to get it.”

 

Mary Szybist was presented with the Poetry Award for Incarnadine: Poems, her second collection of poetry. The award for Young People’s Literature was given to Cynthia Kadohata for her novel The Thing About Luck. George Packer’s The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America won the award for Nonfiction.

 

Congratulations to all the winners!

Beth

 
 

Going Home Again

Going Home Again

posted by:
November 21, 2013 - 7:00am

Cover art for The Hired ManAminatta Forna sets her newest novel, The Hired Man, in a rural Croatian village in the summer of 2007. As she did in her Commonwealth Writer’s Prize-winning book The Memory of Love, Forna again examines people living in the aftermath of conflict and the insidious influence of violence which lingers long after the war has ended.
 

Duro Kolak is a middle-age man; small, quiet Gost is his hometown. He lives alone since the rest of his family, like many of the villagers, has moved away. Duro picks up odd jobs, hunts with his dogs, Kos and Zeka, and occasionally visits the pub. Change comes to Gost in the form of an English family who buy a shabby vacant house as a summer retreat and a real estate investment. Duro knows the house well, as it belonged to childhood friends, and he offers to help Laura and her teenage children repair the house. Duro also becomes the family’s guide to insular Croatian culture.
 

Forna, through Duro, alternates the contemporary story of Duro, Laura’s family, and the house restoration with the tangled back story of Duro and the Pavić family who were the previous owners of Laura’s vacation home. Duro’s reminiscing begins with his friends Krešimir and Anka Pavić with whom he swims and shoots pigeons. Idyllic memories these are not, and as the roof is repaired and an exterior mural uncovered on the Pavićs’ old home, the reader is gradually led into the dark dynamics of altered friendships, a Gost before and during the disintegration of a country and the horror of ethnic cleansing.
 

Forna paces this elegiac work deliberately, allowing the two storylines to slowly coalesce into a narrative of love and war and a search for the truth. The Hired Man is a beautiful and brutal tale, built on the rotten foundation of war crimes barely plastered over by the new peacetime.

Lori

 
 

Paranormal Quest

Paranormal Quest

posted by:
November 20, 2013 - 7:00am

Cover art ofr The Dream ThievesThe Dream Thieves, book two in Maggie Stiefvater’s four-book Raven Cycle series picks up after Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Blue woke the ley lines around the town of Henrietta at the end of The Raven Boys. Things are changing around them in ways none of them would have expected, ways that impede their search for the resting place of the legendary Welsh King Glendower. The second book raises the stakes of their quest and adds to the already richly detailed paranormal world that Stiefvater created in the first book.
 

Throughout the story, each of the main characters is distracted in some way from their hunt for Glendower. Gansey becomes frustrated with developments in his friendships with Adam and Ronan, and his inability to understand them. Adam has started distancing himself from his friends as a result of his personal involvement in waking the ley lines and his fear of being dependent on his rich Aglionby friends. Meanwhile, Blue becomes increasingly concerned about the prediction that her kiss will kill her one true love, which is further complicated by the love triangle forming between her, Adam and Gansey. All the while, Ronan, whose storyline takes precedence in The Dream Thieves, reveals that he can pull things from his dreams. This trait, inherited from his murdered father, is putting his life and the lives of his friends in danger as new evils come to Henrietta.
 

As their storylines seem to diverge from the search for Glendower, readers eventually find that all the stories come together and their quest takes a new and unexpected turn. The Dream Thieves’ many mysteries will keep readers enthralled, and the novel’s cliffhanger will leave them eagerly awaiting the third book in the series.

Laura

 
 

The Story of a Life

The Story of a Life

posted by:
November 19, 2013 - 7:00am

Cover art for SomeoneNational Book Award winner and three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Alice McDermott’s first novel in seven years was definitely worth the wait. Someone is a thoughtful and heartbreaking look at one extraordinarily ordinary woman. Marie is first introduced to readers as a child of the 1930s, living amongst the Irish-American population of Brooklyn, awaiting the return of her beloved father from work. In this simple sketch, McDermott is able to immediately detail Marie’s community and family. In a non-linear framework, the stories which make Marie’s life are slowly pieced together much like mosaics in a stained glass window.

 

Marie lives with her brother Gabe and their parents in a Brooklyn brownstone. Gabe is destined for the seminary and Marie is hoping for a life as a wife and mother. Her only worry is that she will end up alone because of her plainness and quiet nature. Marie’s keen observations and vulnerability reveal the internal life of a fascinating woman. From her brother’s eventual loss of faith to her first heartbreak, from her parents’ deaths to the changing nature of her neighborhood, the reader is invited to experience with Marie the impact everyday events have on a life.

 

Someone was one of 10 titles selected by five judges for this year’s National Book Award long list. This marks another major achievement for one of this country’s finest writers. In McDermott’s hands, this seemingly innocuous and unimportant woman’s life is drawn as a powerful portrait highlighting the fact that each of us has a story to share. This remarkable book is a beautifully written celebration of family, community and history. Readers will long remember and cherish this heartfelt tale which quietly encourages self-reflection, understanding and empathy.

Maureen

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Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Cover art for Yeti, Turn Our the Light!Who could be afraid of some cute little bunnies, birdies and a deer? Well, when they are making strange noises and shadows at night they could frighten anyone, even a big furry Yeti. Authors Greg Long and Chris Edmundson and illustrator Wednesday Kirwan creatively address the common childhood issue of being afraid of the dark in Yeti, Turn Out the Light! As the day comes to an end, Yeti returns home from the forest and gets ready for bed. He gets cozy under the covers and turns out the lights. Even though Yeti is tired, he can’t seem to fall asleep because of the frightening shadows in his room. Is it a monster coming to get him? No! It’s just some of his woodland friends who have joined him for an impromptu sleepover.  Bright illustrations and rhyming text make this an excellent book to share with your little one.
 

To further help your child explore their fear of the dark at bedtime, try Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas. Using bright, cartoon-like illustrations, Thomas shows how a brave cowboy’s imagination gets the best of him as he tries to sing the cows to sleep. Children may also like I Want My Light On!: A Little Princess Story by Tony Ross. When the little princess goes to bed, she insists that the light be left on because she believes there are ghosts in the dark. As it turns out, little ghosts are just as afraid of the dark.
 

Christina

 
 

Barbara Park, 1947-2013

Barbara Park, 1947-2013

posted by:
November 18, 2013 - 11:36am

Cover art for Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly BusBarbara Park, bestselling author of the beloved Junie B. Jones series, among other children’s books, passed away on Friday at the age of 66 after a long battle with ovarian cancer. The series Park was best known for followed the irrepressible Junie B. and her kindergarten (and later first grade) classmates as they encountered everyday situations that vex the average 5- or 6-year-old. Starting with Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, these books have entertained countless first-time readers. Aside from activity books and other related Junie B. material, Park published 28 Junie B. Jones titles.

 

Beyond Junie B., Park also excelled at writing other children’s books. Two of her best-known have been contemporary classics since their publication. Skinnybones follows the smallest kid on his baseball team who unfortunately also has the biggest mouth. For older kids, the tragic story Mick Harte Was Here covers the aftermath of a sister coping with the biking death of her brother. Acclaimed author Judy Blume was among the many who, over the weekend, spoke about Park’s enduring legacy, stating that some of Junie B.’s admirers confused the two: "I'd always say, 'I didn't write them, but I wish I had."

Todd