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Nancy’s Worlds

Nancy’s Worlds

posted by:
July 31, 2012 - 8:30am

Fountain of Age:StoriesIn her latest collection of short stories, Fountain of Age: Stories, author Nancy Kress offers her readers nine glimpses into futures fantastic, paired with human impulses as old as time.

 

In "End Game" an extraordinarily gifted seventh-grade boy named Allen is carried screaming from math class. He has come to a revelation that will alter the focus of his world and the world of those around him, half a lifetime in the future. In "Images of Anna" photographer Ben is increasingly flummoxed when the glamor portrait shots he takes of his latest client turn out to be anything (and anyone) other than he’d expected. In "Laws of Survival" Jill, a shattered survivor of The War, finds the most unlikely means of healing while trapped aboard an extraterrestrial outpost with 19 dogs. In "By Fools Like Me" Hope’s grandmother grapples with the morality of relinquishing a cache of sinful Pre-Crash artifacts to her society, which is hobbled as much by its ignorance of history as by its fear of repeating it.

 

Kress works in the media of human emotions upon the surfaces of extraordinary situations with the subtlety and skill that Andrew Wyeth once applied egg tempera to panel. The stories contained with Fountain of Age are provocative, mildly disturbing, and at times oddly wistful. They represent a curious blend of styles, at one turn reminiscent of O. Henry, at another, Shirley Jackson, yet in every respect distinctly Kress’ own.

 

Kress is recommended for readers who are short on time but crave well-crafted situational tales capable of fully absorbing the imagination. Those who have already read and enjoyed Fountain of Age may also enjoy Orson Scott Card’s Shadow Puppets.

 

 

Meghan

 
 

Beginnings and Endings

Beginnings and Endings

posted by:
July 31, 2012 - 7:55am

Amelia Anne is Dead and GoneWhether graduating from high school or from college, the future is an exciting adventure waiting to be discovered. Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, by Kat Rosenfield, permits readers to share in both of these experiences through its main characters. At the start of the story, Becca has graduated with honors from high school. She has waited her entire life for this moment, when she can finally cut the strings to her small, backward town and move on to a bigger and better life. She only has a few months of summer to endure before starting college in the fall. In alternating chapters, the reader simultaneously experiences the story of Amelia, who has just graduated from college. Amelia is eager and excited about the prospects of graduate school and an acting career beyond that. Both young women are filled with hope and expectations; however one of their stories will be tragically cut short.

 

As stated in the title, Amelia Anne dies, a victim of violent crime. Her beaten body is discovered on an isolated road, not far from where Becca lives. The murder of this young woman traumatizes Becca and suddenly the world seems too frightening to venture out into. Rosenfield has crafted a unique story that is part character study and part mystery, which explores the nuances of small town life, relationships, and the blackness that can dwell in the heart of men. This is a haunting tale that will keep readers spellbound as the story of these two girls culminates in an amazing and unexpected conclusion.

Jeanne

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To Kill a Carolina Parakeet

To Kill a Carolina Parakeet

posted by:
July 30, 2012 - 8:50am

The CoveAuthor Ron Rash hails from the hills of North Carolina and is the chair of Appalachian studies at Western Carolina University so it is no surprise that his novels are steeped in the culture of the Smoky Mountains. Rash’s star is on the rise; an earlier book, Serena, is being made into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and his latest book, The Cove, made the NYT bestsellers list. 

 

In The Cove, Laurel Shelton and her brother Hank live in a gloomy cove outside rural Mars Hill, North Carolina. Their homestead is considered cursed after the untimely deaths of their parents and Laurel, born with a purple birthmark covering her shoulder, is marked as a witch and shunned by the superstitious townspeople. Laurel hopes Hank takes a wife, as a sister-in-law will ease her loneliness. Instead, Laurel finds an injured mute flutist named Walter in the woods and as the Sheltons shelter Walter, a relationship blossoms between the two. At the same time, the Mars Hill residents are infected by the prevailing anti-German sentiment generated by WWI and the hysteria threatens to spill over into the cove even as Laurel begins to suspect Walter of harboring a dangerous secret.

 

Rash’s intimate knowledge of the Appalachian people shines through in this book and he often weaves fact and fiction together. Mars Hill and its college are real, as were the Vaterland cruise ship and the beautiful but hunted to extinction Carolina parakeet. The narrative is rich with colloquial speech, the main characters are well-developed with Laurel especially written well, and the story unfolds in Southern Gothic tradition as a stonecutter quoting Gray’s Elegy says “the paths of glory lead but to the grave.” Readers who appreciate books set in the mountains of the American south might also enjoy author Sharyn McCrumb.

 

Lori

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Love is in the Air

Love is in the Air

posted by:
July 30, 2012 - 8:05am

In the BagTake two single parents, two teenagers, add a European vacation, and some misplaced luggage and you have a delightfully dreamy story: In the Bag by Kate Klise.

 

Daisy is a successful chef who just quit another restaurant. She travels to Paris to clear her head and brings along her daughter, Coco, who is getting ready to graduate from high school. Andrew is on the same flight in order to get to Madrid to oversee the installation of an art exhibit. His teenage son Webb joins him on the trip. Andrew spots Daisy on the flight and is instantly attracted to her. He slips a flirty note in her purse, gives her his email, and asks for a date. Daisy is distinctly unimpressed and fires off a scathing email rejecting Andrew’s offer.

 

Meanwhile, Webb and Coco pick up each other’s bag at the end of the flight. They find each other’s contact information and start an email dalliance. This digital friendship progresses so much that the two arrange for Webb to travel to Paris to pick up his bag and meet Coco in person. Andrew and Daisy are also set to meet the same evening when Daisy is called in as a last-minute caterer for the grand opening of Andrew’s exhibit.   

 

The story unfolds from the unique viewpoints of the four main characters and readers see just how differently men, women, parents, and children think. While working for People magazine, Klise herself was the recipient of a secret admirer note in her carry-on which gave her the spark for this fun trading places story. As a bestselling children and teen author, Klise’s adult debut is a fast-paced, humorous, and romantic gem which will leave readers waiting for a follow-up. 

 

Maureen

 
 

Inside the Information Highway

Tubes: a Journey to the Center of the InternetHave you ever wondered how your email travels all the way from your computer to your mother’s laptop half way across the country in a few milliseconds?  Or how a sports fan with a smartphone in LA can know the outcome of the World Cup in Spain moments before the live TV broadcast?  Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: a Journey to the Center of the Internet, explores how the Internet works as a physical system, full of buried connections, rivers of wires, humming servers, and fiber optic transoceanic cables. 

 

Blum journeys on a pilgrimage to the Internet’s most important data centers and information hubs in an effort to find ‘pieces of the Internet’, and to view the Internet as both a virtual and physical place.  Along the way, he meets with many of the Internet’s unsung heroes and follows his nose to ferret out just where all our data goes when we press ‘send’.  Through his surprisingly personal trek across the world in search of the Internet, Blum grapples with conflicting definitions and perceptions of the Internet that in the end help illuminate its many facets.  With the emergence of cloud storage and wireless everything, it’s refreshing and relieving to realize that even something as amorphous as the Internet is grounded in the physical, real world. 

 

A little bit history, a little bit philosophy, a little bit spiritual, Tubes is great for readers who are curious about the behind the scenes action of the largest connected interface in the world.  Fans of James Gleick’s The Information: a History, a Theory, a Flood and Tim Wu’s The Master Switch will certainly enjoy this thought-provoking new title. 

Rachael

 
 

Arrangements Made

Arrangements Made

posted by:
July 27, 2012 - 8:00am

ArrangedBestselling Canadian author Catherine McKenzie’s second novel, Arranged, is now available in the US, and it’s one that chick lit readers will not want to miss.

Anne Shirley Blythe is named after the character from Anne of Green Gables because her mother is obsessed with the series. Anne reasons that because she is named after a romantic heroine, it’s only natural that she would want her own happily ever after. She has a lot of great things going for her. She has good friends and a loving family. She’s a successful writer who is about to have her first book published. Unfortunately, Anne has a history of disastrous relationships. She keeps getting involved with the wrong men, and she begins to see that they are a lot alike. 

 

After another failed relationship, Anne finds a business card for Blythe & Company, which she thinks is a dating service. The card simply says “arrangements made.” When her best friend gets engaged, Anne makes a momentous decision and calls the number on the card. That’s when she learns that Blythe & Company is not a dating service as she had imagined. It’s an arranged marriage service. Anne finds herself going through the process and is soon on her way to a resort in Mexico to marry a man named Jack who she will meet the day before their wedding. That’s just the beginning of the story, though. 

 

What follows is a story about learning the difference between what you think you want and what you truly need. McKenzie has a real talent for creating characters with depth. Arranged is by turns funny, honest, and heartbreaking. Just when you think you know where the story is going, a plot twist changes everything!

 

Beth

 
 

The Habit of Art

The Habit of Art

posted by:
July 26, 2012 - 8:49am

Flannery O'Connor: The CartoonsIf you like American short stories, chances are you’ve read Flannery O’Connor, whose biting sense of humor, peculiar characters, and hauntingly redemptive tales have made her one of America’s most celebrated writers. But did you know that before she wrote fiction, O’Connor had originally set out to be a cartoonist? The new book Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons explores this iconic author’s lesser-known talent and brings her illustrations together for the very first time.

 

O’Connor began drawing at the early age of five and went on to make cartoons for her high school and college newspapers. These cartoons, with their quirky, almost grotesque style and spot-on commentary about student life in the early 1940s, made O’Connor something of a local celebrity at her Georgia college. Those who have read O’Connor’s classic short story collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find or her 1962 novel Wise Blood will love seeing her trademark humor on display in these early drawings. In one cartoon, two students dance joyfully hand-in-hand while the caption below reads, “These two express the universal feeling of heart-brokenness over school closing.” In another, a lone bespectacled young woman (clearly meant to be the author herself) watches her popular classmates dance at a college social and says to the reader, “Oh well, I can always be a Ph.D.” These speak to O’Connor’s knack for carefully observing the world around her, a process she once described as the habit of art.

 

In addition to a handsomely presented gallery, Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons also features an essay delving into the author’s life and eventual transition to writing fiction. This interesting book has great appeal for O’Connor fans and anyone who enjoys satirical cartoons.  

 

Alex

 
 

Stories to Flip For

Stories to Flip For

posted by:
July 25, 2012 - 8:11am

Balancing ActWinning TeamGold Medal SummerAs the summer games in London heat up, gymnastics is on center stage. For fans yearning to learn more, this popular sport is brought to life in three new children’s books perfect for gold medal dreamers.

 

One girl who achieved her gold medal dream was Dominique Moceanu, the youngest member of USA’s 1996 winning team. She trades the balance beam for a pen with a delightful new series of books for young readers. The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts, co-written by Alicia Thompson, follows teammates on the competitive Texas Twisters. In Balancing Act, Noelle must learn to juggle family, friends, and boys with the time and training required to make it as a star gymnast. Brittany is the focus of Winning Team, following her move to Texas to train with the best. But her teammates aren’t so fond of her, and her coaches are less than impressed. Brittany must learn quickly the true meaning of teamwork. To date, there are four books in the series (the others are Unexpected Twist and Reaching High) and each has storylines familiar to all twelve year olds, combined with the behind-the-scenes rigors of elite gymnastics.

 

Fourteen-year-old Joey is also an aspiring gold medalist and desperately wants to win at this summer’s regional championship. Her hopes and dreams are at the heart of Gold Medal Summer by Donna Freitas. Joey loves gymnastics, but loses some of her focus when events in her life spiral out of control. She gets her first kiss from a very cute boy, her best friend threatens to quit gymnastics, and her parents aren’t supportive. Drawing on her experience as a competitive gymnast, Freitas delivers both a terrific gymnastics story and a classic novel about bending the rules and vaulting to success.

Maureen

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Just Yuck!

Just Yuck!

posted by:
July 25, 2012 - 8:03am

Yuck's Amazing Underpants and Yuck's Scary SpiderYuck's Slime Monster and Yuck's Gross PartyIn Yuck’s Amazing Underpants and Yuck’s Scary Spider, by Matt and Dave, Yuck is a boy determined to harass his sister, Polly Princess. In the first story of the two-title collection, he has cleverly cultivated the mold and germs that are growing in his underpants by wearing them every day for 6 weeks without washing them. When his amazing underpants come to life, he trains them to mess up the house after Polly Princess cleans. The entire story is filled with gross details of his madcap adventure to aggravate his sister.

 

The second story has Yuck adopting a friendly, hairy arachnid who is promptly caught by the school principal. Yuck hatches a plan that involves training spiders to crawl into his sister’s mouth while she is sleeping. He does this in order to sneak them into school to help rescue his new pet, while incriminating his sister in the process. With characters named Tom Butts and Fartin’ Martin, this is not a read-aloud but rather one to give to young readers who enjoy lowbrow humor. Resist the temptation to ask why they are giggling uncontrollably.

 

Yuck has been popular in the UK for a few years, and is just now being published in the United States. Perfect for fans of the Captain Underpants series, it will leave your young reader in stitches. Be sure to also check out Yuck’s Slime Monster and Yuck’s Gross Party.

Diane

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Scully and Mulder Beware

Scully and Mulder Beware

posted by:
July 24, 2012 - 9:01am

UnravelingAn ordinary girl. A mysterious boy. A horrific accident. A countdown to…the end? The truth is indeed out there, and Janelle Tenner is determined to discover it at all costs in Elizabeth Norris’ debut novel Unraveling.

 

Upon leaving the beach where she works as a lifeguard, Janelle is hit by a pickup truck and dies. So why is she still thinking, breathing, and feeling?  Because of Ben, a “stoner” boy who Janelle barely notices until he is standing over her, whispering in her ear and laying his hands on her broken spine. He runs off as the ambulance arrives, and Janelle is convinced that he has brought her back to life.

 

The mystery of Ben is just one part of the puzzle for Janelle. The man who hit her was covered in radiation burns and, according to her father’s files (he is an FBI agent), the man was dead before he struck Janelle. She secretly begins her own investigation to discover the truth of the accident, including the numbers on her father’s files that seem to be a countdown. 

 

In the glut of paranormal and dystopian teen fiction, Unraveling is a refreshing change. Janelle is a fully-drawn character, a girl dealing with family issues as well as her own unexplained return from death. Fans of FBI dramas like The X-Files or young amateur investigators like Veronica Mars will enjoy undertaking this Unraveling.

Sam

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