Archive for November 2011
Description: In collection of eight linked short stories, the lives of landowners and their workers on the Gurmani family farm in the countryside outside of Lahore, Pakistan are explored.
Review: Mueenuddin takes a critical look at the lives of several social classes in his debut collection of short stories. The eight stories explore relationships among the descendants of the super-rich Harouni farming family, living near Lahore, those who work on the farm, and those who marry (often unhappily) into it. Each stories are slices of life, giving the reader a glimpse of daily life. The stories are full with indigenous detail which had me transported to my last visit in Pakistan along with subtle understanding of their characters’ complex experiences and destinies.
No one is spared criticism and heartbreak in any of these stories. Servants use their years of loyalty working for their masters in hopes of getting support in return. Women expertly use their sensuality to ensnare a well off suitor and try to move up the social and security ladder are fatalistically ironic. Blind justice and characters who can almost grasp happiness are also recurring features in the short stories.
Out of all the stories, my favorites are “Lily” and “Provide, Provide”. In “Lily,” we see the beginning of a budding and promising relationship. Just as the “honeymoon phase” is over, we began to witness its slow deterioration. “Provide, Provide,” features the cunning and ambitious Zainab who insinuates herself among the Harounis, abandoning her weakling and drug addict husband to marry a well-placed household servant, only to lose everything. Mueenuddin is a very skillful and talented writer that left me wanting more. I will definitely pick up his next work.
Readalikes: Interpreters of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Dubliners by James Joyce, Corner Shop by Roopa Farooki
Description: In order to save the family from financial ruin, the Stephenson sisters try to change their destiny. One contemplates a loveless marriage while the other casts a love spell to summon her true love. Kat, the youngest of the Stephenson sisters, comes up with her own plans for her sisters’ suitors after discovering that she has magical powers herself.
Review: Kat, Incorrigible is a delightful read that mixes adventure, mystery, romance, magic, and humor in all the right doses. Readers are transported to Regency England, where the social mores that are present in Jane Austen novels still rule society.Though set in the past, the female characters very much have a 21st century perspective on how they want to live their lives.
Kat is our lovable heroine and narrator. She is spunky, hilarious, adorable, and ready to be unladylike if that means she can save her sister from marrying a cad. When Kat’s plans to disguise herself as a boy and get a job are dashed, she stumbles upon her magic powers, which are very powerful. In addition to saving her family, she also on the radar for a powerful group called the Guardians who are trying to recruit her. Kat’s magic isn’t really explained besides being inherited from her family, but I hope we get more information about this and her late mother in later installments of this series. I loved how Kat interacted with her sisters, which very much rang true as they get into constant arguments and make-up while still doing anything to help each other out.
I also loved the other characters of the story too, which included Kat’s lovable but oblivious father, her prim and proper Stepmama who hates her family’s disreputable history, and the various male suitors for her sisters. I thought they were well developed and came alive. Out of all the secondary characters, I loved Kat’s sisters.
While the plot for Kat, Incorrigible is multifaceted, it does not drag the book down. Each plot thread is woven nicely and I didn’t get bored with any of them because there was plenty of humor and action. The humor of the book reminded me very much of Princess Bride, which is very hard to do.
Despite a quick wrap up of the many plotlines, there is a lot we don’t know about Kat and her world. I can’t wait to find out what mess Kat finds herself in the next book. Tweens, teens, and adults alike will absolutely love this book
If you like this book try: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers, The Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray or The Agency series by Y.S. Yee
Description: Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.
Review: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a delightful book that crosses a wide variety of genres: coming of age, historical fiction, and even feminism. Calpurnia, more commonly called Callie by friends and family, is a spunky, adventurous, and curious girl. You would most likely find her out in the fields with her journal detailing the insects and other species she’d encounter rather than hosting parties at home. Growing up with six brothers in rural Texas in 1899, Callie realizes that her aversion to needlework and cooking disappoints her mother. Still, she prefers to spend her time exploring the river, observing animals, and keeping notes on what she sees. Callie’s growing interest in nature creates a bond with her previously distant grandfather, an amateur naturalist of some distinction. I absolutely loved Callie’s grandfather who is incredibly funny with his one liners and has impeccable comedic timing.
After they discover an unknown species of vetch, he attempts to have it officially recognized. This process creates a dramatic focus for the novel, especially with how Callie mother inspects her to grow up to be: a woman who is to be married and uphold her own family. While the scientific observations are interwoven with the daily life of Callie, the main focus of the book is Callie’s gradual self-discovery as revealed in her vivid first-person narrative. While some become bored with the book’s lack of a plotline, I was immediately taken by Callie’s family and friends. Her bonds with her siblings, the conversations she overhears, and the meddlings that Callie gets herself into are all told wry humor, warmth that allows the characters and its setting come to life. While the book doesn’t dismiss domestic work as unnecessary or demeaning, it allows young girls to realize that they should not restrict their talents and dreams to society’s expectations. Callie is admirable and a role model that I think many young girls would like. I, for one, would love to have her as my friend.
If you like this book try: Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman, Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon, and Xander Cannon
Are you looking for books similar to Hunger Games to read? How about checking out these titles from the library:
The Maze Runner by James Dashner - When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls. No one knows why or how they got to the Glade. Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.
Divergent by Veronica Roth- In a future Chicago, sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.
The House of Scorpions by Nancy Farmer - In a future where humans despise clones, Matt enjoys special status as the young clone of El Patrón, the 142-year-old leader of a corrupt drug empire nestled between Mexico and the United States.
Exodus by Julie Bertagna - In the year 2100, as the island of Wing is about to be covered by water, fifteen-year-old Mara discovers the existence of New World sky cities that are safe from the storms and rising waters, and convinces her people to travel to one of these cities in order to save themselves.
Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness - Pursued by power-hungry Prentiss and mad minister Aaron, young Todd and Viola set out across New World searching for answers about his colony’s true past and seeking a way to warn the ship bringing hopeful settlers from Old World.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver - Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, when she falls in love.
Blood Red Road by Moira Young - In a distant future, eighteen-year-old Lugh is kidnapped, and while his twin sister Saba and nine-year-old Emmi are trailing him across bleak Sandsea they are captured, too, and taken to brutal Hopetown, where Saba is forced to be a cage fighter until new friends help plan an escape.
Gone by Michael Grant - In a small town on the coast of California, everyone over the age of fourteen suddenly disappears, setting up a battle between the remaining town residents and the students from a local private school, as well as those who have “The Power” and are able to perform supernatural feats and those who do not.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card - Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. To make sure humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses — and then training them in the arts of war… The early training, not surprisingly, takes the form of ‘games’… Ender Wiggin is a genius among geniuses; he wins all the games… He is smart enough to know that time is running out. But is he smart enough to save the planet?
Unwind by Neal Shusterman - In a future world where those between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can have their lives “unwound” and their body parts harvested for use by others, three teens go to extreme lengths to survive until they turn eighteen.
Enclave by Ann Aguire - In a post-apocalyptic future, fifteen-year-old Deuce, a loyal Huntress, brings back meat while avoiding the Freaks outside her enclave, but when she is partnered with the mysterious outsider, Fade, she begins to see that the strict ways of the elders may be wrong–and dangerous.
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi - In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld - Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there. But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world — and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher - To free herself from an upcoming arranged marriage, Claudia, the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, a futuristic prison with a mind of its own, decides to help a young prisoner escape.
Summary: Young female celestial wizard Lucy is determined to join the powerful Fairy Tail wizard’s guild, but runs afoul of a lecherous magician instead. Her only hope is a strange fire eating young man named Natsu, who just might also be her ticket into Fairy Tail!
Review: First off, this is not a terribly original series, at least at the get go. The characters aren’t in any way unique (especially if you’ve read Mashima’s other series, Rave Master). In addition, the series is slow to introduce any kind of central mission for the characters (none is visible through at least the first three volumes). That said, Mashima always does a nice job of world building and this is no exception. And while the characters are not original, the writing is strong enough to pull you in and get you caring about them anyway. The end result doesn’t redefine the genre, but if you’re looking for a fun read then look no further.
Read-a-likes: Fans of Rave Master should obviously pick this up. Uses a lot of the same themes and character types? You bet, but I’ve come to feel like Mashima uses them better in this second go round. This will also appeal to readers of Bleach, Black Cat, Naruto and pretty much any other graphic novel featuring a broody uber-tough central character.
Review by Eric.
Description: When Rakhee Singh is ten years old, her mother takes her from their Minnesota home to visit relatives in India. There she discovers a family secret that will haunt her. Only as a woman on the verge of marriage does Rakhee find the strength to confront the events of that summer and face the price of secrets.
Review: The Girl in the Garden is part of a coming of age tale and part of a family drama. As the book opens, Rakhee is an adult and has been recently engaged. One night she decides that she must go to India. She writes a letter to her fiance explaining her abrupt departure and deciding that accepting the marriage proposal was a bad idea. She explains why she has been so evasive to the questions about her mother. Rakhee’s letter soon becomes a confession as she recounts her youth and her travel to India for the very first time.
The Girl in the Garden began nicely, with a quick attention grabber. Nair’s use of Rakhee addressing her fiance, who we never see or get to know, as simply “you” immediately heightens her intensity and desperation. Unfortunately, the novel’s pace slows considerably when we are shown Rakhee’s mundane daily activities as a young child. She sees her parents bicker, become distant, and fears that they may have a divorce. Things slightly get more interesting when Rakhee visits her distant relatives, who are mostly strangers to her, in India. In India she begins to struggle with identifying herself, not quite American nor Indian but walking that fine line but the two cultures. She also learns that her mothers has kept secrets from her and her father. Curiosity gets the best of Rakhee as she tries to connect the little bits of information she gathers from overhearing conversations.
While I enjoyed learning about the culture of South India and getting a sense of its rich ambiance, I couldn’t really connect to any of the characters. The only character that was a bit mysterious was the title character, however, her identity and story were revealed to quickly to make any lasting impression. While I, personally, didn’t enjoy it, I would recommend this book to readers who are interested in reading about India without wanting to be overwhelmed too much by the culture, dialect, and many characters. The book would serve as a good introduction to Indian writers and to the Southeast Asian region.
Readalikes: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri or The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar
Summary: Retired to the country, Sherlock Holmes encounters a mind that, with the right training, could be his equal in deduction and perception. The trouble for the quintessentially smug and misogynistic Victorian gentleman Holmes is that the mind in question belongs to a woman, the teenaged Mary Russell. The joy of finding an equal, however, pushes him past his doubts and Mary is soon caught up in Holmes intermittent pursuit of the ‘Great Game’, with dire consequences that neither can foresee.
Review: Many an author has tried to capture the lightning in a bottle that is the Great Detective, and the result is generally poor. King’s series featuring Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, of which this title is the first, get Holmes‘ unique style of sleuthing right. Purists will likely quibble at the liberties taken with the Holmes cannon and his personality, but those willing to accept the author’s premise of the same subject painted from a different angle and with a new brush are in for a treat.
Read-a-likes: Those looking for other Holmes homages should take a look at the books of Donald Thomas, The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr and the recently released (and authorized by the Holmes estate) The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. The Baker Street Letters books by Michael Robertson and the Holmes on the Range stories by Steve Hockensmith are worth a look as well, though they feature the Great Detective’s techniques and stories rather than the man himself.
Availability: The Lake Bluff Public Library owns this item as a book. Click here to check on the availability!
Review by Eric.
Description: When Garth Hale is accidentally zapped into the ghost world by Frank Gallows, an underachieving ghost wrangler. Frank Gallows, he finds out that he has some awesome super powers. When the evil ruler of Ghostopolis discovers Garth in his kingdom, he desperately searches for the young boy who will allow him to keep a tighter grip in his afterlife world. Will Garth be able to survive and make his way back home? Will Frank Gallows come to Ghostopolis to have save Garth or will it be too late?
Review: Ghostopolis is an enjoyable read. The story is unique and filled with humor as well as heart. The world building of the Ghostopolis is quite good, however, I would have liked a little more of an explanation of how it came to be than what was provided in the graphic novel. There is a balance between narrative panels and wordless passages such as two mummified squirrels fighting for the same acorn that keep readers interested and stay on task with the plot.
While there is a diverse cast of characters, whom I’m sure many readers will like and feel invested in their adventures, I thought they were a bit flat and lacked character development. The book takes its time establishing Ghostopolis and Garth’s plight in finding a way to get back home, however, I thought the ending was very rushed in the end. Even though some loose ties are tied up, I thought some important themes were glossed over and I still had some questions that were unanswered. It’s also hard not to notice the strong religious overtones in the story, however, I enjoyed the dry humor of the book. I think Ghostopolis might be a good step for readers who aren’t ready to tackle the frightening and weird tales of Neil Gaiman. Young readers should dig the graphic novel’s creep factor, adventure, and humor.
Readalikes: Coraline by Neil Gaiman or Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
Paula McClain’s 2011 novel The Paris Wife chronicles Ernest Hemingway’s life in Paris from the perspective of his first wife, Hadley Richardson. The book, McClain’s second novel, has been a bestseller nationally and a runaway hit in Lake Bluff in particular. The five print copies of the book owned by the Lake Bluff Public Library have thus far been checked out 66 times, and the audiobook has circulated 14 times. And that doesn’t even include checkouts of eBooks and eAudiobooks!
While you may have noticed the popularity of The Paris Wife, did you know it also has a Lake Bluff connection? After her divorce from Ernest Hemingway in January of 1927, Hadley continued to live in Paris. In 1933, Hadley remarried to Paul Mowrer, a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. After leaving Paris in 1934 the couple moved around for several years, but settled in 1936 in a colonial house on six acres of land near Lake Bluff! According to Gioia Diliberto’s biography Hadley, “Both Hadley and Paul loved the outdoors, and they spent time hiking, bird watching, and working in their garden. Jack [Hadley and Ernest's only son] attended the Chicago Latin School and passed the weekends fishing in Lake Michigan with his parents.” Hadley and Paul sold the house in 1945, and returned to Paris after its liberation by the Allies. Hadley and Ernest’s only son, John (often called Jack or Bumby) Hemingway served as a member of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Working with the French resistance in October of 1944, he was wounded and captured by the Germans. He was kept at Mosberg Prison Camp until his release in April of 1945. His name appears among those of other Lake Bluff residents who have served in the military during wartime on a monument in the Lake Bluff village square.
Article by Eric Bailey.
Description: Nya, a fifteen-year-old war orphan, becomes a pawn in a bigger political game when her uncanny–and dangerous–ability to draw out people’s pain and then give it to someone else turns out to be the only weapon she has to save her sister.
Review: The Shifter is a fast paced, action-packed fantasy with a strong leading female protagonist. Nya is a Taker, a person who has the ability to take away ones pain but instead of transferring it to an enchanted metal, she can “shift” it to someone else. Her secret ability makes her a hot commodity in the Duke’s dark plans to take over nearby lands. When her sister, Tali, is kidnapped Nya must bargin her ability to save her sister, but how far will she go? If you had Nya’s powers, how would you use them? How do you decide which and whose pain to take? And just because you can take them away, it is the right thing to do? Hardy’s characters ask these tough questions along the way, making the reader wonder he/she would do if he/she were in her characters shoes. The Shifter is an intriguing tale about love, family and choices. There are currently three books out in the Healing War series.