Archive for January 2012
In rural India, where only sons matter, a young woman saves her daughter’s life by placing her in an orphanage. Moving between two worlds and two families, one struggling to survive in the fetid slums of Mumbai, the other grappling to forge a cohesive family despite their diverging cultural identities, this powerful debut novel marks the arrival of a fresh talent.
Join Librarian Carol Carter and the Tuesday Afternoon Book Club as we discuss Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s debut novel The Secret Daughter on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 1:30 pm in the library’s Spruth Room.
Join librarians Carlen DeThorne and Eric Bailey to hear about books that will grab your interest, are found in our library, and may have fallen under your radar tonight from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm! Carlen and Eric will highlight 4-6 books that appeal to adults in a 30 minute book talk. Tonight’s focus will be Nonficiton. A survey for 2012′s book club selections will be posted on the library’s website following the last Book Talk.
Description: Miki is ready for adventure and romance. She is tired of being a pushover and vows that her senior year of high school will be different. She will be confident and in charge. Her senior resolution is called into question when Miki sets her sights on Hiro, a tall, handsome new boy at school who is determined to be antisocial. Miki thinks Hiro is putting on a show and hiding a dangerous secret, but what is it? Miki is determined to find out.
Review: Miki Falls is exactly what I needed at the moment. After reading a few titles that left me in a “blah” mood, Miki Falls is a fresh of breath air for me and I’m so glad that I picked it up. As the story begins, Miki is both literally and figuratively falling out of a window and possibly in love too. We learn that Miki threw herself outside of a third story window. The reason is not given, however, we think it has to do something with Hiro, the mysterious and distant new boy that enrolled in Miki’s high school as Miki beings to explain on how everything happened.
Miki is a extremely likable teen. She is trying to confront her insecurities and no longer wants to be passive. She wants to take charge of her life, which at times makes her impulsive and stubborn especially when she refuses to be avoided by Hiro. She goes out of her way to be nice to him and to speak to him even though he has continually expressed his disinterest in anyone yet Miki sees a vulnerability in Hiro, a person who is much like herself- a rule follower and not living life.
Hiro is your typical brooding love interest who is hiding a secret. I liked how his revelation is an odd twist and something that I didn’t guess. Crilley does a great job in building suspense and mystery surrounding Hiro’s past and his mood swings. I can’t wait to see how the supernatural aspect of the book develops in the next three series.
I really enjoyed Crilley’s manga-like format. Unlike manga’s the book does not read from right to left nor are the illustrations squeezed into panels. A lot of the illustrations are crisscrossing sequential panels that emphasize art as well as furthering the plot, which allows the story’s emotion, humor, and drama unfold in front of the readers. My favorite part of the illustrations are the focus on the eyes of the characters that are cut in between dialogue to heighten the characters’ sense of vulnerability, confusion, and shock. Crillye’s light shading and unique facial features give the book a softer and romantic feel.
If you are curious about manga but a bit afraid of it’s format, I would highly suggest to pick up the Miki Falls series not only to read a great story but also to experience what reading a manga might feel like. Even though the characters are in their teens, I think this series has a wide age appeal very much similar to the Twilight Saga due to a chaste yet passionate love story. It’s definitely worth checking it out.
If you like this book try: Miki Falls Volume 2: Summer by Mark Crilley
Description: Cassel Sharpe comes from a family of curse workers, people who have the ability to change things such your memory, luck, and emotions with just of a touch of their bare hands. Curse work is illegal and many of them are mobsters or con artists. Cassel comes from a criminal family and he is pretty much the least criminal out of them all. Well, not if you count, him murdering his best friend when he was in junior high.
Now in high school and trying to pretend to ‘fit in’ with the normal crowd, Cassel is sleepwalking and having nightmares where a white cat is trying to tell him something. Not only does that freak him out, he is also noticing his brothers acting strangely around him. Cassel thinks he is part of a con, but he’s not exactly sure what or by whom. All he knows that is somehow related to his best friend’s murder that he can’t forget. To find out the truth, he must outcon the conmen in his life.
Review: White Cat is an urban fantasy mystery that I really enjoyed. Black effortlessly weaves magic with con artistry and even science. Her world building and characters are intriguing. Cassel is a fun character to observe and read about. He is unlike any male, YA character that I have ever met. He is far from an innocent, sweet character. He is a bookie at his high school where students practically bet on anything. He uses his charms and quick wit to create the perfect con. While reading White Cat, I could never pin point his true intentions and I was always weary to trust him in fear that I, myself, would be tricked by him. All of these characters made a great, complex, shady character.
I have talked with some readers who didn’t like White Cat as much as I did mainly due to its slow pace. In my opinion, I think the slow pace was a deliberate move by the author. Cassel explains to the reader on what makes a great con: how to behave, what to and not do, etc. What I loved most about the book is trying to pick away the layers to mystery: what exactly happened on the night that Cassel murdered his best friend? How can he not know what happened? Is Cassel not really cursed or is he just told that he isn’t? As I was reading, I felt that I could predict what would happen next and sometimes I was right, but not completely right. My answers would only be clues to the next con and the next. The layers of cons kept me on my feet and I absolutely loved how the book ended and I can’t wait to see what happens. If you are interested in the characters and plot despite its slow pace, I think White Cat is a very worthwhile read.
If you like this book try: Red Glove by Holly Black (The Curse Workers #2), Heist Society by Ally Carter, Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich
Description: Kimberly Chang and her mother have immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn in the 1980s with the help of Kim’s Aunt Paula. As a result, they are are forced to work for Aunt Paula in a Chinatown clothing factory earning one and a half cent per item they make in order to repay their debts. With barely enough to keep them alive and living in a dilapidated, rodent and insect infested house house without heat, Kimberly is determined to make her and her mother’s life better.
Review: There are many immigrant stories told throughout the years. Their struggles with culture shock and poverty are nothing new, but nonetheless familiar. What sets apart Girl in Translation is the voice and strength of the main character, Kimberly Chang. Kim is a very smart girl who is practical, incredibly intelligent, hard working, loyal, and a dutiful daughter. She knows her limits in terms of her poverty and learning a new culture that is completely different from her own, yet she is resolute in finding a way out of her situation as well as naive. I connected with Kim right away. I understood her desire to grab on to education as her way to gain freedom, both economically and personally. Her dutiful roles and thinking of her family mirrored my own beliefs. Although she has her own share of flaws, Kim never resorts to long term angst and anger towards her mother for their dire situation, which is mainly due to the fact that her mother is doing all that she can to survive. The book is Kim’s odyssey from adolescence to womanhood.
The writing of Girl in Translation is very simple and straightforward. I liked how Chinese proverbs and sayings are interspersed throughout the book. The anguish and plight of the Chang women are well developed and tangible. I couldn’t help but root for Kimberly in her small and large victories. Just when I thought I had the book figured out, there was a big twist at the end that made me cry. Looking at Kimberly’s story and knowing her personality, I don’t think it could have ended any other way but it still broke my heart. Girl in Translation is an immigrant’s story, a story of coming of age, of love and loss, and of dreams to achieve. It is one that you should definitely read and experience.
If you like this book try: A Step From Heaven by An Na, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, or Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
Description: Aliera Carstairs doesn’t fit in any of the cliques in her high school. The only place that makes her feel special and important is her fencing class, however, she seems to be in the spotlight for the handsome, new student Avery Castle. Aliera knows something is not right. Her ordinary and used fencing foil with a large ruby on the hilt that her mother found at a sale is trying to tell her something about Avery and the world around her. What is Aliera’s weapon trying to tell her? Who is Avery and why is he so interested in Aliera?
Review: In Foiled, Yolen has fabulously blended the trivial times of high school with fantasy. Aliera is a strong heroine who minds her own business. She sticks to her routine of fencing practice, homework, and role-playing games. Her main goal is working her way to the National Fencing Championship as she wins her way at defeating those in her class. Aliera seems to be safe in her own skin until she is sidetracked by the cute, new boy at school named Avery Castle. Avery takes interest in Aliera which immediately makes our heroine suspicious because she’s not the type guys fall for. Initially she keeps her distance from Avery and abides her fencing coach’s rule, “Protect your heart”, but Avery’s charms slowly holds her interest.
I kept flipping the pages as Yolen keeps us in suspense about Avery and the uniqueness of Aliera’s weapon. We are given little hints that are sprinkled in the graphic novel. Before reading this graphic novel, I knew next to nothing about fencing and found myself intrigued with learning about the sport, which complimented the banter between Avery and Aliera.
Cavallaro’s artwork demonstrates Aliera’s monochrome existence, both literally and metaphorically. I was pleasantly surprised when the graphic novel bursts to life in color when she finally sees the hidden faerie world. The explanation and importance of Aliera’s status of the faerie world isn’t defined, but it sets up wonderfully for the next installments of future volumes. I can’t wait to find out more! Foiled is a must read for fantasy lovers and those who are big fans of Tamora Pierce’s works.
If you like this book try: Fray or Buffy the Vampire Slayer series by Joss Whedon, Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce
Join librarian Carlen DeThorne for Saturday’s Book Discussion.
When: 2- 3 p.m. on Saturday, January 14, 2012
Where: Spruth Room at the Lake Bluff Public Library
What we will be discussing:
Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty fierce, hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Above all she sought family, particularly the thrill and the magnificence of the one from her childhood that, in her adult years, eluded her. Hamilton’s ease and comfort in a kitchen were instilled in her at an early age when her parents hosted grand parties, often for more than one hundred friends and neighbors. The smells of spit-roasted lamb, apple wood smoke, and rosemary garlic marinade became as necessary to her as her own skin.
Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in h∧ the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; the soulless catering factories that helped pay the rent; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family-the result of a difficult and prickly marriage that nonetheless yields rich and lasting dividends.
Blood, Bones & Butter is an unflinching and lyrical work. Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion. By turns epic and intimate, it marks the debut of a tremendous literary talent. – From the hardcover edition
We hope you will come and join us!
Description: Devastated by her parents’ decision to split up, pressured by her boyfriend to have sex, and saddled with a case of chicken pox, fifteen-year-old Keek finds consolation in her beloved, well-worn copy of Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.”
Review: And Then Things Fall Apart is an intricate character sketch of a teen watching her world fall apart around her and unable to gain any control over any aspect of it. Keek is under house arrest due to chicken pox at her grandmother’s house. She journals her thoughts, connects her life to one of her favorite books of all time, Sylvia’s Plath’s The Bell Jar, to explore her own thoughts, feelings in hopes of making sense of what they really mean on her grandmother’s old typewriter.
Keek’s words and emotions flow onto the page. She neither writes in prose nor in verse, but mixes many different types of writing forms that best illustrate her frustrations and feelings. She also compares her life to that of Plath’s protagonist, Esther in The Bell Jar. The connections aren’t over the top nor do they match exactly, however, they do convey the same spirit and are given enough context which will help readers understand even if they aren’t familiar with Plath’s work.
Keek’s voice is unique, real, snarky at best, making her an instant likeable character. Her problems with her boyfriend, feeling sexually inexperienced yet curious about her own sexuality as well as her family drama make Keek approachable. I couldn’t help but feel as if she were in the same room talking to me as I read the book, a trusted friend who is ready to vent and needing a confidant. Not only is she serious, she is also quite funny and quirky, making jokes and even at times sounding delirious from being sick and stuck inside a house with her grandmother, her father living in the basement, and no means to contact the outside world except a land-line phone.
Arlaina Tibensky’s debut novel makes us realize why some of us love to read: to find ourselves somewhere in our favorite characters and books, to know that we aren’t alone in our own troubles. Rarely are authors able to make ‘stream of conscious’ writing successful and not forceful, but Arlaina Tibensky is able to create a world for Keek in which she is given complete freedom to explore every detail nook and cranny about her life. Readers who enjoy character introspection and experimental writing will surely enjoy And Then Things Fall Apart.
If you like this book try: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner or Paper Towns by John Green
Description: When she drops out of school and struggles to start a career on Broadway in the fall of 1950, seventeen-year-old Kit Corrigan accepts help from an old family friend, Nate Benedict, a lawyer said to have ties with the mob. Kit isn’t all that surprised that Nate asks her to do some favors for him, but she never thought he would ask her to keep tabs on Billy, Nate’s son and Kit’s former sweetheart.
Review: Blundell vividly describes the life and times of the 1950s era. I immediately found myself immersed in Kit’s world. The dialogue, attention to clothes, fashion, and music are perfectly and expertly detailed. There is no denying that Blundell loves history. Fans of history and theater will find a lot of things to appreciate here, but other readers may become a bit bored with the overly descriptive narrative as the story circles back and forth through the years of Kit’s life including her Great Depression childhood and her family’s bootlegging past. Sometimes the narrative became a bit too wordy for me, paragraphs are written where a few sentences could suffice. In fact a lot of the twists and turns in the story were actually anti-climatic as I predicted them before they were revealed.
Besides Kit, the feisty, ambitious teen who wants to rush into adulthood head on, I had a hard time connecting with the other characters. I like to picture myself as a character in the book and to actively participate in the story, with Strings Attached however, I always felt like a stage director watching the scenes unfold from a large distance. The romance between Kit and Billy was there, but I didn’t feel it. I liked that Blundell addressed the prejudices of the time especially with the Irish American community and the beginning of the Red Scare, but this angle wasn’t explored as much as I would have liked. I found myself putting down the book quite a lot and completely forgetting about it.
I actually think Strings Attached would work more as a movie than as a book. Perhaps it would be easier to see the characters and background scenes play out on the screen instead of reading them thus making it a bit more personal and approachable. Nonetheless I would recommend this book for fans of historical fiction and those who love an old fashioned family drama out of the 1950s. I liked this book, but I enjoyed What I Saw and How I Lied much more.
If you like this book try: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Two Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
Description: Eight stories that take the reader from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter and uncover the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers.
Review: My main complaint about short stories is one of its trademarks: brevity. By the time I get comfortable with the plot and warm up to its characters, the story is over and I feel cheated. Perhaps, I’m reading them wrong and should not approach them in the same way as I normally do with any fiction book. Writing a short story must be very hard and it takes a rare and particular talent to write captivating short stories. The author must perfectly craft every word, every sentence, in order to develop character, plot and intrigue in a limited space.
Lahiri’s eight stories featured in Unaccustomed Earth are much lengthier than most short stories I’ve read, but I welcomed them. I felt they gave her much needed room to explore not only the different themes, but also a showcasing the various relationships throughout her stories. Lahiri’s stories always feature characters of Bengali descent who reside in America but they are far from formulaic. In the title and personally my favorite story, Unaccustomed Earth, Brooklyn-to-Seattle transplant Ruma frets about a presumed obligation to bring her widower father into her home, a stressful decision taken out of her hands by his unexpected independence. In another, the alcoholism of Rahul is described by his elder sister, Sudha, who struggles with her own disappointment, guilt, bewilderment and sense of duty. And in the loosely linked trio of stories closing the collection, the lives of Hema and Kaushik intersect over the years, first in 1974 when she is six and he is nine; then a few years later when, at 13, she swoons at the now-handsome 16-year-old teen’s reappearance; and again in Italy, when she is a 37-year-old academic about to enter an arranged marriage, and he is a 40-year-old photojournalist. Lahiri’s stories are surprising, aesthetically marvelous and shaped by a sure and provocative sense of inevitability. Her skill of storytelling is enchanting and I look forward to whatever she publishes next.
If you like this book try: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhmpah Lahiri, Bittersweet by Roopa Farooki