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Survival Games

Survival Games

posted by:
June 12, 2012 - 7:01am

What They Do in the DarkTrauma in childhood assumes many forms. This message resonates loudly through multiple characters in Amanda Coe’s debut novel, What They Do in the Dark. Two school girls, Gemma and Pauline, live in the same rough Yorkshire neighborhood but inhabit different worlds. Gemma comes from a financially stable yet broken family, while Pauline grows up in abject poverty with an abusive mother.  Through a random playground encounter, the two girls become reluctant acquaintances and find a strange brand of stability in each other.  As the story evolves, however, their partnership becomes more volatile. Other characters’ stories, including those of a child television star and a bullied classmate, become interwoven and, in Lord of the Flies-fashion, tragedy ensues. 

 

A screenwriter, Coe does an excellent job setting the scene. Readers experience the grittiness of a working-class neighborhood in England, witness the cruelty that poorly supervised school-aged children can inflict on one another, and are confronted with the dangers facing any child who lacks a social safety net. The terse and plain-spoken dialogue between the characters also lends to the tension and instability that exist. 

 

This book does take patience. The plot is subtle. The chapters are short and at first provide seemingly random snapshots into the two girls’ and other characters’ lives. But for readers who stick with the book, all of these pieces evolve into a darker and more complex tale. Much like Emma Donoghue’s Room or Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, both of which focus on children raised in violent and dysfunctional environments, this story leaves a strong and unsettling impression. 

Melanie

 
 

Five Wedding Guests and a Bride Named Bee Fee

The SinglesBee Evans is due to marry Matt Fee in a swanky Maryland wedding and wants all of her friends to enjoy themselves with a date. But her single friends have other ideas and return their cards without marking plus one. The Singles by Meredith Goldstein invites you to a wedding weekend filled with guests who are memorable and likeable. 

 

Hannah, Vicki, and Rob went to college with Bee and all three are harboring some deeper emotions. Hannah is nervous about seeing her college sweetheart, Tom, for the first time since he dumped her.  Rob won’t admit his feelings for Hannah, and misses the wedding because of a sick dog.  He is a virtual guest, following the ceremony and reception through phone calls and texts. Vicki suffers from depression and travels with a seasonal affective disorder light. The remaining two singles are not from the gang’s college days. The bride's uncle Joe is not a favorite of the mother-of-the-bride, but is interested in younger women – particularly Vicki. Finally there is Phil, who wasn’t even invited to the wedding. He is standing in for his mother, a friend of the groom’s parents, who is sick and hiding a secret from her son. 

 

The story unfolds from each character’s alternating perspective, and many of the scenes will have you laughing out loud while noting the transformation each character undergoes.  This is a debut novel from Goldstein, the popular LoveLetters advice columnist for The Boston Globe. Her column/blog gets nearly 1,000,000 page hits a month. If you need advice or love reading about others’ romantic entanglements visit here.  

 

Have fun mingling with these singles and start thinking about casting ideas. Film rights have already been sold!

Maureen

categories:

 
 

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Born to be BradYou Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other) chronicles the career of the multitalented and lovely Vanessa Williams. Readers will know her most recently from her appearance on Desperate Housewives, but her earliest claim to fame was in 1983, becoming the first African-American Miss America. She was soon forced to resign when nude pictures surfaced. Recovering from the scandal, Vanessa became a sensation in the world of popular music, theater, movies, and eventually television. Her loving, supportive mother Helen, a retired vocal music teacher, has always been instrumental in her success. Helen herself offers some insightful thoughts on what it is like to raise a famous daughter. You Have No Idea, co-written by mother and daughter, has a light, conversational tone and includes wonderful personal family photographs. It is perfect for fans who would like to get to know Vanessa better, and for anyone looking for an inspirational story of a strong bond between mother and daughter.

 

The compulsively readable Born to be Brad: My Life and Style, So Far, is the first memoir from reality TV show star and fashion icon Brad Goreski.  Best known as Rachel’s assistant on the Rachel Zoe Project, Goreski is immediately recognized for his colorful clothing palate, bow ties, and dark retro glasses. Here he recounts stories from his troubled childhood in Port Perry, Canada, where his sense of glamour made him the odd boy out at school. Who knew styling Barbie dolls would eventually lead to an internship at Vogue? Not only does he dish on his rise to fame, but he also offers fashion tips to readers: items every woman needs in her closet, what to wear when traveling by air, and how to pack for a weeklong vacation in ten minutes.

Doug

 
 

Prelude to a Canticle

Prelude to a Canticle

posted by:
June 8, 2012 - 5:01am

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the FallIt wasn’t dark. It wasn’t light. It wasn’t anything except cold. 

‘I’m dead,’ thought Pete.

But of course, he wasn’t.

 

From the first page and as effortlessly as a beam of light slipping through panes of glass, author Nancy Kress eases the reader into a remarkable narrative of many faces. Simple and compelling, atheistic and allegorical, neither utopian nor dystopian, After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall is a story of humanity in incubation.

 

After (2035): Earth’s fragile population consists of 19 humans living in captivity: five Survivors of the Fall, six genetically mutated and infertile offspring, and seven exquisitely precious Grab children. To each, the smooth walls of the Shell represent a prison and a home. At 15, Pete is among the oldest of the Six and one of the few children born to the original 25 Survivors. In ten minutes time, he will risk his life to save humanity – again.

 

Before (2013): Mathematician Julie Kahn has been collaborating for months with the FBI, tracking a tenuous pattern of mysteriously linked kidnappings and burglaries occurring along the eastern coast of the United States. A few hysterical parents babble incoherently about their babies having been snatched by misshapen teenagers before disappearing in dazzling streaks of light. Their sputtering accounts are largely ignored, except by Julie and Gordon, her FBI contact and onetime lover. Following a complex algorithm she’s devised, the next attempt may be the kidnappers’ last.

 

During (2014): Beneath the soil and all around the world, tiny mutations begin to occur almost simultaneously in the bacteria surrounding the root systems of clover, grass and other diverse plant life. By the time a low swell of awareness of the rapidly increasing dead zones boils into full blown paranoia, it will be too late for the humanity that was.

 

In this Janus-styled tale, Kress weaves together the converging paths of these very different slices of humankind. Juxtaposing contemporary characters such as Julie Khan against those stripped of the context of a complex society, such as Pete, Kress brings an unusual focus to the pause between disaster and rebuilding, after the fall of a society and before its rebirth. One notable trend in the sci-fi genre in recent years has been a tendency to employ near-future settings as narrative backdrops – scenarios which could conceivably come to pass in a generation or so. Here, Kress takes this trend one bold step beyond many of her peers by incorporating a disquietingly immediate future (2014) as the stage for the Fall itself. A cautionary tale as much as a work of science fiction, this title will have widespread appeal among readers of diverse reading habits. Those who have enjoyed Walter Miller’s timeless A Canticle for Leibowitz may particularly appreciate the cyclical nature of Kress’ narrative and her treatment of humanity in stasis, before the cycle begins again.

Meghan

 
 

On Love and Fate

On Love and Fate

posted by:
June 8, 2012 - 1:01am

OverseasOverseas, the sweeping debut novel by Beatriz Williams, begins in France in 1916 where a young woman named Kate is desperately trying to contact a British soldier named Julian Ashford to warn him not to take his patrol. The novel then picks up in New York City in 2007 where Kate Wilson, a financial analyst working on Wall Street, meets Julian Laurence, a legendary young hedge fund billionaire. Their attraction is instant. As Kate falls for Julian, she begins to feel that there is more to him than meets the eye. What follows is a genre-bending novel that smoothly brings history, suspense, and time travel together in a charming love story.

 

Williams says that the story for Overseas was born when the image of a British WWI officer transported to modern Manhattan took root in her mind. How would this man deal with the modern world? How would he handle a relationship with a modern woman? In Overseas, Williams explores the answers to those questions. Fans of Susanna Kearsley and Diana Gabaldon will want to try this exciting debut.

 

Williams has had a life-long interest WWI-era British history. She says that she was fascinated by the time period long before Downton Abbey brought it to the rest of the world’s attention. She read and fell in love with Vera Brittain’s classic war memoir Testament of Youth while she was in college. Williams was intrigued by this Brittain’s experiences as a nurse and her descriptions of the harsh reality of WWI. Read more about how historical facts informed this novel here.    

Beth

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Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

Fahrenheit 451The Martian ChroniclesOn Tuesday, it was announced that legendary science fiction author Ray Bradbury had passed away at age 91. A long-time supporter of libraries and librarians, Bradbury's most famous and sometimes considered controversial work, Fahrenheit 451, remains a perennial choice of summer reading lists, the canon of 20th-century literature, and a target of book banners. Bradbury began writing that celebrated novel in the basement of a library. His writings ranged from short stories, screenplays, and novels such as the haunting Something Wicked This Way Comes and the beloved coming-of-age title Dandelion Wine.

 

Another of Bradbury's classics is The Martian Chronicles, a collection of short stories that, using thinly-veiled references to the Cold War, had people guessing who was colonizing whom. Through science fictional constructs, Bradbury excelled at forcing humans to look at the decisions they make. Elegies have come in from many sources, as far ranging as Neil Gaiman, Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and President Obama.

Todd

 
 

Heroes for All

Heroes for My DaughterHeroes for My SonBrad Meltzer is best known for his popular thrillers, but he is a renaissance man with involvement in various media platforms. Currently the host of the History Channel TV series Decoded, he co-created the television series Jack & Bobby, and wrote the DC Comics Identity Crisis superhero series. If all that isn’t enough, he has a new bestseller, a couple of movies in the pipeline, and a clothing line!

 

In Heroes for My Daughter he collects the stories of 55 extraordinary role models for girls. These varied “heroes” include Abraham Lincoln, Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, Judy Blume, and the passengers of United Flight 93. This powerful book debuted at number ten on The New York Times’ list of bestselling advice books. Surprisingly, the companion title, Heroes for My Son, has been optioned by Adam Sandler’s film production company.  Meltzer wasn’t sure what to expect, “Here was a non-fiction [book] I collected, with Jim Henson, and Rosa Parks and Mr. Rogers in it. I did it out of pure love for my son, but how do you make a story out of that? They found an incredible story in that."

 

Meltzer also launched an apparel company that ties into these inspirational books. Tees for kids and adults feature cartoon versions of inspiring figures such as George Washington, Muhammad Ali, Lucille Ball, and Amelia Earhart.  “It’s nothing I ever thought I’d be doing,” Meltzer says. “I realized this could be a way to change the dialogue about the way people talk about heroes.” Ten percent of the profits from the sales of these shirts at Ordinary People Change the World benefit charity.

Maureen

 
 

Man's Best Read-Aloud Friend

Oh no, George!Zorro Gets an OutfitSilly Doggy!In addition to being man’s best friend, dogs make natural picture book protagonists. A number of newly published works explore the comic side of canine life.

 

Irish designer and illustrator Chris Haughton’s Oh No, George! follows a long-schnozzed pup as he comes face to face with temptations (like an uncovered cake and the dirt in the flower pot) when his owner goes out for the day. George hopes he’ll be good, but can he overcome his instincts? Rendered in charmingly simple, boldly colored digital and pencil illustrations with the repeating question “What will George do?” and the refrain “Oh No, George!”, this humorous tale has the makings of a favorite read aloud.

 

Zorro Gets an Outfit marks the return of a favorite picture book pug. Here Zorro’s owner comes home with a hooded cape for him to wear. Wearing the outfit makes him resemble his heroic masked namesake, Zorro. The poor pug is embarrassed by this get-up, and sadly all the dogs in the neighborhood taunt him on his afternoon walk. However, a new outfit-wearing dog soon arrives at the park, causing Zorro to have a change of heart. Author-illustrator Carter Goodrich’s talent with watercolor brings personality and humor galore to all characters involved, especially Zorro and his housemate Mr. Bud. Fans of their introductory adventure, Say Hello to Zorro! will be thrilled to welcome them back.

 

Little Lily has always wanted a dog. Imagine her joy when she spies a four-legged, wet-nosed furry creature digging through the garbage can in her back yard. She christens him Doggy, throwing her scarf around his neck to act as a leash. Expect youngest readers to squeal with delight as the pages turn in Silly Doggy!, and Lily continues to treat the big brown bear as if he were a dog. Adam Stower does a superb job matching humorous illustrations with simple text as the story winds down to a poignant conclusion. A surprise twist at the very end may find you laughing out loud.

Paula G.

 
 

Criminal Minds From Other Times

Deadly ValentinesDeath in the City of LightLooking for a little history to go with your true crime? Two recent titles provide thrilling accounts of historical murders. One is set in Chicago and chronicles the rise and fall of Al Capone’s chief assassin, Jack McGurn. The other is about a serial killer in World War II Paris. Both are thoroughly researched, emphasizing the mayhem and extremism prevalent in these time periods. In Deadly Valentines: The Story of Capone's Henchman "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn and Louise Rolfe, His Blonde Alibi, Jeffrey Gusfield opens with an account of the infamous Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 Chicago.  Known assassin Jack McGurn and his girlfriend Louise Rolfe are the likely suspects.  But how does a boy from an immigrant family and a middle-class Midwestern girl end up embodying the Roaring Twenties’ hallmarks of excess, liquor, and grisly murder? By tracing their lives from childhood, Gusfield draws a connection between humble beginnings and a gangster lifestyle rife with crime and corruption. 

 

David King’s Death in the City of Light follows the rise of Marcel Petiot, who was regarded as a kindly doctor of the less fortunate until multiple human body parts were found in the basement of his Paris home in 1944.  His subsequent trial quickly devolved into a media circus. The Nazi occupation and government corruption further complicated matters and added to the train wreck of judicial proceedings, leading to a frustrating and perplexing conclusion.Perhaps most fascinating about both books are the unanswered questions.  Was Louise cold-blooded, or just someone unable to live a conventional life?  How did Petiot actually kill his victims? Those who enjoy historical accounts full of drama, danger and mystery (like Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City) will find these books to be satisfying page-turners. 

 

Melanie

 
 

Going Green

Going Green

posted by:
June 6, 2012 - 4:11am

Molly's Organic FarmGrandpa's GardenShare the love of gardening with the little ones in your life. These two books have wonderful stories and really great seasonal gardening tips!

 

Plant a seed with Molly’s Organic Farm, by Carol L. Malnor and Trina L. Hunne.  Based on the true story of a little homeless cat named Molly, who uses her five senses to explore the farm and lead the reader through each page as she assists the farmers in her own special way.  After a season, Molly becomes the farm favorite and a permanent fixture, finally finding her forever home. This charming book follows a planting, growing, and harvest season and makes interesting the many details of running an organic farm. Lively watercolor illustrations show the many facets of farming, including close up details of gardens, vegetables, insects, and Molly.

 

Good things take time in Grandpa’s Garden, written by Stella Fry and illustrated by Sheila Moxley. “Is it spring, Grandpa? Can we begin?” asked Billy. The days are still short and the light is sharp like lemon juice. But here and there green spears have pierced the soil… So begins the growing season for Billy and his grandpa. All year long the pair work on preparing the soil, planting seeds, and tending their crops. Then they wait. Waiting is hard, but the pair are rewarded with a happy harvest and enjoying the fruits of their labor. Soft, colorful illustrations full of detail combine with a beautifully descriptive story. Included are instructions for planning your own vegetable patch, and seasonal preparations for each step of the planting process, from beginning to end.

Andrea