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Tapestry

Tapestry

posted by:
June 14, 2012 - 8:30am

GlowHistorical fiction offers a window into the past for readers to experience the lives and circumstances of people during a previous era. The pleasure of acquiring a more comprehensive knowledge of an earlier time period has fans of this genre always on alert for the next great book. Glow, by Jessica Maria Tuccelli, is just such a book. Set in the remote mountain region of Hopewell County, Georgia, the novel chronicles both the childhood of Amelia McGee and her family’s story from before the War of Northern Aggression to the outbreak of World War II. This is an all-encompassing family saga told from multiple perspectives, and the reader will appreciate the family tree included at the beginning of the novel.

 

In the Takatoka forest, once occupied by the Cherokee, Indian legends are as commonplace as Bible stories. The community is made up of whites, freed slaves, half-breeds, mulattos, voodoo practitioners, and the occasional ghost. Glow is an intricately woven tapestry of folklore and heritage, rich with the colloquialisms of this unique region. Tuccelli spent several years exploring Northeastern Georgia to soak up the local flavor and she utilizes beautifully descriptive and jargon-filled vocabulary to paint an authentic portrait of bygone days. 

 

At the core of this character-driven story is love, especially the joy and the heartbreak associated with everlasting love and the strong bonds which mothers and fathers share with their children. The classic theme of family and friendship engages readers of all genres and leaves them with the feeling of having personally been woven into the author's tapestry. This is one of those books that you don’t want to end.

Jeanne

 
 

The Ties That Bind

Father's DayThe Bar Mitzvah and The BeastExploring the bond between fathers and sons requires time, and sometimes great distance. Two authors travel across the country through the peaks and valleys of an emotional roller coaster toward accepting their children for who they are. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Buzz Bissinger peels back his life’s raw layers in Father's Day: a Journey into the Mind and Heart of my Extraordinary Son. The father of adult twins, Bissinger deals openly with self-pity, guilt and the disappointment at having an intellectually challenged son. He desperately wants to know twenty-four year old Zach better as they embark on a cross-country road trip to all the places Zach has lived. The journey is not easy for either. Bissinger is frustrated by shortcomings they both possess, including his own psychological failings. To tell Zach's story, Bissinger shifts back and forth from present day to past recollections. He authenticates his son's voice by omitting punctuation to capture Zach's enthusiastic ramblings. In doing so, he defines a voice he as a father comes to appreciate as happy, contented and worthy of celebration.

 

Another journey takes place in Matt Biers-Ariel's The Bar Mitzvah and the Beast: One Family’s Cross-Country Ride of Passage by Bike. The author's 13 year old son, Yonah, has been an atheist since kindergarten days; there are no plans for a bar mitzvah here. Instead, to mark Yonah’s rite of passage, Biers-Ariel suggests an ambitious cross-country cycling trip that becomes a family affair. Add to the journey a social action petition on global climate change, overly stuffed panniers, a temperamental used tandem bicycle called "the beast," and relentless convection oven heat for much of the trip. Biers-Ariel is quick to share his awe of nature and spiritual and environmental self-reflection with his son. In the end this travel memoir is a poignant coming of age story sure to please adults and teens alike.

Cynthia

 
 

Father of Mine

A Good ManA Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver, is a love letter to a man who was constantly referred to as “A Good Man” at the time of his funeral in 2011. His son Mark Shriver wanted to explore what made so many friends, journalists, and family members talk about his father in those terms. This memoir brings Sargent Shriver to light through episodic remembrances. Mark Shriver freely admits that he needed a village of former colleagues as well as his own family and friends to unearth the memories that he didn’t realize were still buried in his mind. While the list is long, this is largely a son’s fond thoughts about the man who made him who he is today. This is a personal look into the man who worked hard for what he believed in, yet remained a humble, beloved father to his five children.

 

Founder of the Peace Corps, Head Start, and along with his wife Eunice, the Special Olympics, Sargent Shriver was one of the larger-than-life figures of the last century. His accomplishments are legion. Jacqueline Kennedy even asked him to take responsibility for planning JFK’s funeral.

 

Documented with two inserts that include many Shriver and Kennedy family photos, the book is a nice addition to the canon of books that explore what many consider “America’s Royalty”. Particularly moving is the sad decline into dementia and Alzheimer’s that felled Sargent Shriver, and the situation his wife and children dealt with in its wake. But this is mostly a celebration of a good man and a good father, well told by a son who is rightfully proud of his dad.

Todd

 
 

Quack Open a Good Book

Quack Open a Good Book

posted by:
June 13, 2012 - 9:30am

Duck Sock HopKaty Duck Makes a FriendJust Ducks!Ducks have always entertained us, and in these three new books featuring our avian friends, the reader encounters more feathers, more webbed feet, and even more quacking! Duck Sock Hop, by Jane Kohuth, illustrated by Jane Porter, is a musical, rhyming cacophony. The ducks of various colors and varieties (fancifully patterned in ways never seen in the wild) come together in their love of fancy socks and energetic dancing. When their socks begin to unravel from overuse, it’s not a problem, as the Duck Sock Shop is just down the road to obtain new footwear. This will soon become a story time favorite.

 

For children just starting to read, the Katy Duck series is a good place to begin. Her latest adventure, Katy Duck Makes a Friend, features Katy needing a new partner to dance with when it’s time for her little brother to nap. Fortunately Katy’s new dog neighbor Ralph soon appears, but his interests don’t initially match Katy’s. Henry Cole’s sweet illustrations of duck and dog in motion make this entry in the series likely to be as popular as the previous installments.

 

A newly popular concept is the hybrid fiction/nonfiction picture book. Not all are successful, but Nicola Davies’ Just Ducks! works beautifully. Mallards, often the first wild ducks children recognize, are featured. The story of a young girl viewing and noting the habits of a duck pair is counterpointed (in a different font) with notable facts about mallards and ducks in general. Salvatore Rubbino’s soft watercolors portray the ducks accessibly and accurately. Particularly well-illustrated and amusing are the renderings of the mallards in a favorite position: heads underwater, tails up!

Todd

 
 

Lost and Found

Lost and Found

posted by:
June 13, 2012 - 8:59am

Litttle Dog, LostA lost dog howls in the night and Mark is sure he hears it calling his name. In Little Dog, Lost, by Marion Dane Bauer, Mark desperately wants a dog, but his mother refuses. Buddy is a dog who runs away from her new owner after her boy’s family had to give her away.  Mr. Larue is a quiet, misunderstood old man in a big house with a large locked gate willed to him by his former employer. The townspeople are wary of lonely Mr. Larue.

 

Little Dog, Lost is a heart-tugging story of loneliness and need.  Told from all three viewpoints, the reader will empathize with Mark, Buddy and Mr. Larue. When Mark decides the town needs a dog park, he approaches the mayor with his idea. Unfortunately, the mayor is his mother and she has other priorities. Mark gathers his friends and their pets to lead a protest march to the town meeting.   If he can’t have a dog, at least he could play with his friends’ dogs. 

 

Buddy decides to take matters into her own paws and escapes from her lady’s yard to look for her boy, but she can’t find him. It’s a scary new world for the little dog. Should she go back to the lady? Mr. Larue takes care of his big old house with the same love and devotion he showed his previous employer, “his lady”. He doesn’t understand why the town avoids him. He just wants someone to say “hi” to him. When his house catches fire, will anyone help? 

 

This charming book, written in free verse, engulfs the reader in the characters’ longing for companionship and cleverly teaches the lesson of how appearances can be deceiving. While the text is enough to melt a stone heart, the illustrations by Jennifer Bell will make the reader want to reach into the book to hug all of the characters. The three stories converge in a climactic conclusion that will completely satisfy the reader.

Diane

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The Illéan Bachelor

The Illéan Bachelor

posted by:
June 12, 2012 - 9:00am

The SelectionIn The Selection by Kiera Cass, North, Central, and South America have merged into one country called Illéa. The country has a rigid caste system, and the various castes are referred to by number.  When it is time for an Illéan prince to marry, a process called The Selection occurs. One girl is selected from each of the 35 provinces to come to the castle and compete to marry the prince. The girl he chooses and her family will all become Ones, which is a dream come true for those in lower castes who are struggling to survive. 

 

America Singer, a Five, is one of the girls competing to marry Prince Maxon of Illéa. America isn’t sure exactly how she ended up in The Selection, but she is willing to stay because the compensation she receives for participating will help her family. She loves Aspen, a boy from home who is a Six, but Aspen thinks that they can never be together. After a disastrous first meeting, America and Prince Maxon develop a friendship. She offers to advise him about the girls in the competition if he keeps her there longer. Over time, America’s feelings for Maxon become less clear, and she finds that she may really be competing for his heart.

 

The Selection is a frothy, fun retelling of a fairy tale. The political unrest and disparity among the castes serve as background to the competition taking place in the castle, so this may not be a story for readers who love true dystopian novels. Cass hints that those elements will be more fully developed in the second book in the trilogy.

 

The book is being compared to a cross of The Hunger Games and ABC’s The Bachelor. In a recent Entertainment Weekly interview, Cass said that she was really inspired by Cinderella and the Biblical story of Esther. The Selection is currently being adapted into a series for the CW network, and Cass is hard at work on the next two books in the trilogy.

Beth

categories:

 
 

Survival Games

Survival Games

posted by:
June 12, 2012 - 8:01am

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 - 6:01am

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