Monthly Archives: June 2008

Selected Stories

Title: Selected Stories

Author: Andre Dubus

Summary: For me, summer is a great time to read short story collections: You can pick up a book, read a bit, and then put it down and enjoy the sunshine. That said, I’m not a fluffy ‘beach read’ person – I like intense, realistic fiction. Selected Stories by Andre Dubus fits the bill perfectly. The name might be familiar to you – but this is not a collection by the celebrated author of The House of Sand and Fog, but instead by his equally-celebrated, if lesser known, father.

The most famous story in this book is Killings, which became a movie called In the Bedroom. Most of the stories are set just outside of Boston, and describe the escalation of small (and sometimes petty) dramas into something more profound, from a woman being stalked by her ex-husband, a cadet going through a brutal basic training exercise, a newlywed rejecting her perfect life by gorging on candy, and a devout young man discovering the joys – and limits – of physical affection.

Who will like this book?: Readers of short stories. Fans of regional fiction set in New England.

If you like this, try this: The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III. Tooth and Claw, a collection by another American short story master, T.C. Boyle.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Prince of Frogtown

Title: The Prince of Frogtown

Author: Rick Bragg

Summary: This is the final volume in Rick Bragg’s Americana Saga: All Over But the Shoutin’ and Ava’s Man. Bragg finishes his collection of family stories with a tale about fathers and sons inspired by his own relationship with his ten year-old stepson. Bragg has a great gift for descriptive storytelling.

Who will like this book?: All who enjoy a great memoir.

If you like this, try this: This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolfe. Liar’s Club by Mary Karr.

Recommended by: Cliff, Reference.

The Memory of Water

TitleThe Memory of Water

Author:  Karen White

Summary:  The Memory of Water is a story of family bonds that bend but never break. Marnie Maitland and her sister Diana have not seen each other in 10 years. Not since Marnie went off to college in Arizona and didn’t come back. Growing up, the two girls relied on each other after their father left them and their mother started suffering from bouts of mania and depression. Now Marnie is back in South Carolina. Back to her childhood home on the ocean at the request of Diana’s ex-husband Quinn. Quinn is hoping that Marnie can help his son Gil recover from the trauma he suffered in a sailing accident with Diana. Gil hasn’t spoken a word since the accident and Diana refuses to tell anyone what really happened. Diana blames the Maitland curse that their mother told them about over and over again when they were children. It turns out that the Maitland curse is bi-polar disorder, and Diana is struggling with it also.

What Quinn doesn’t realize is that Marnie has stayed away from South Carolina for a very good reason. Once an accomplished sailor, Marnie is now terrified of the water. You see, Diana’s recent sailing accident was not her first. Sixteen years ago Marnie and Diana nearly drowned in a sailing accident that claimed the life of their mother. Marnie cannot remember everything about the accident, just that afterwards, Diana’s love for her turned to hate. Marnie must uncover the truth about both accidents if she can ever help Gil, and heal herself.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

A People’s History of American Empire

Title: A People’s History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation

Author: Howard Zinn, with Paul Buhle, and illustrations by Mike Konopacki

Summary: It is hard to believe that the groundbreaking A People’s History of the United States is almost 30 years old! Historian Howard Zinn’s classic ‘history from the bottom up’ retold familiar episodes from the point of view of workers, women, minorities and others who were traditionally left out of the American story. In this graphic novel, Zinn, fellow historian Buhle and illustrator Konopacki describe the evolution of what they call the American Empire – the U.S. interactions with and policies towards other nations, beginning with Native Americans and ending with the current war in Iraq.

The story is well-suited to the graphic format, and with it’s haunting vignettes of atrocities and injustice, it is a devastating critique of the American government. It is a serious book, but there are moments of levity and humor. Particularly charming is Zinn’s own story of growing up in Brooklyn during the Depression and how serving in World War II transformed him into a radical thinker.

Who will like this book?: Fans of Zinn and Kenneth C. Davis. Any history buff who likes to find out ‘what really happened.’ Conservatives be advised: This book has a decidedly socialistic/progressive bent.

If you like this, try this: A People’s History of the United Statesby Howard Zinn.  A Cartoon History of the Modern World by Larry Gonick.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Broken Angel

TitleBroken Angel

Author:  Sigmund Brouwer

Summary: Set in a Christian dystopia, in the not-so-far-off future, Broken Angel is the story of religious fundamentalism gone horribly wrong. Caitlin has grown up in Appalachia, an independent country within the United States run by fanatics who have distorted Christianity. Punishments for crimes in Appalachia (including the heinous crime of reading and teaching others to read) range from forced labor to death by stoning. No wonder there is secret network of people, known as the Clan, who help people escape this hell hole. Oops-that probably would have gotten me 5 years of hard labor in the factory.

As Caitlin reaches puberty, her father plans for her escape to the Outside. You see, Caitlin was born with a deformity that they have been able to hide up until now. If this deformity is discovered, she will certainly be put to death. Since everyone’s movements in Appalachia are monitored by the government, escaping is never easy. Caitlin is forced to flee on her own as her father tries to draw the bounty hunters away from her tracks, but she eventually meets up with two other fugitives. Together, they must help each other survive while keeping ahead of their pursuers. Will all three of them make it? What really happened to her father when the bounty hunter caught up to him? Is everyone in Appalachia what they appear to be? What is this mysterious deformity of Caitlin’s? Brouwer does a great job of keeping this a fast paced story with intriguing characters and plot twists.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Skeletons at the Feast

TitleSkeletons at the Feast

Author:  Chris Bohjalian

Summary:  Skeletons at the Feast, the newest novel by Chris Bohjalian, is the story of an aristocratic Prussian family during the final months of World War II. Eighteen year old Anna Emmerich, her younger brother and their mother are desperately trying to reach the American and/or British forces who are advancing from the West. The Russians are advancing from the East and tales of rape, torture and murder by the Russian soldiers have been advancing ahead of them. Traveling with Anna and her family is Callum, a Scottish POW with whom Anna has fallen in love, and Uri, an escaped Jew who has disguised himself as a German soldier.

Throughout their journey, the refugees hear stories of the atrocities committed by their soldiers, and see first-hand the committed by their enemies. The tragedies endured by the innocent people on both sides of the war is heartbreaking. The resilience of the characters throughout the story, to the very end, is amazing. Chris Bohjalian is a wonderful author and a master at character development.

Who will like this book?  Anyone who likes historical fiction.

If you like this try: Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love

Title: Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love

Author: Lara Vapnyar

Summary: A fabulous and creative collection of short stories that revolve around food in the lives of a New York City Russian community. The stories are well written, humorous and witty. Some of the humor is very black, but that bit of gloominess makes the stories more poignant and human. The Russian flavor, vivid descriptions and wonderful prose makes this author and unique and entertaining story teller.

Recommended by: Laurie, Circulation

America’s Hidden History

TitleAmerica’s Hidden History

Author:  Kenneth C. Davis

Summary:   In his new book, Kenneth Davis has highlighted 6 episodes in American history that have been somewhat overlooked but were very important in the development of our nation. All 6 episodes took place before 1790. The first chapter starts with the voyage of Christopher Columbus and other explorers who reached the new world. An interesting fact: Did you know that it is now believed that many of the diseases that devestated the native people of the America’s were spread by the pigs that Columbus brought with him to the New World? They were allowed to forage in the woods, passing diseases on to deer and turkeys…and humans.

In Chapter 3, Washington’s Confession,we learn that George Washington, as a young officer made a fateful decision to attack a group of French soldiers he happened upon during a mission as an emissary for Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia. After the ambush he realized it was a French diplomat’s party that he attacked and he was essentially responsible for the murder of an ambassador. This caused an even greater strain on the relationship between France and England.

Davis does not present an in-depth look at all of these episodes. He does, however, give the reader enough information to understand the significance of the events and perhaps pique the reader’s interest to find and read a more thorough account of these tales from our nation’s past.

Who will like this book?:  Anyone interested in early American history.

If you like this, try this: Don’t Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Stealing Buddha’s Dinner

Title: Stealing Buddha’s Dinner

Author: Bich Minn Nguyen

Summary:This book is unique, entertaining and interesting in it’s perspective on the immigrant (Vietnamese) experience. The setting takes us back to the 1980′s in Michigan. Much of the assimilation experience is relayed through foods such as ice cream, Pringles, and Happy Meals.

Who will like this book?: This memoir is a must for foodie bookworms!

If you like this, try this: Bento Box in the Heartland by Linda Furiya and Fortune Cookies Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee

Recommended by: Laurie, Circulation.

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Title: Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone

Author: Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Summary: A shocking account of life in Baghdad’s Green Zone, a walled-off enclave of posh villas and sparkling swimming pools that was the headquarters for the American occupation of Iraq. This bubble, cut off from wartime realities had a half-dozen bars stocked with cold beer, a movie theater that screened shoot-em-up films, an all you could eat buffet piled high with pork and a parking lot filled with shiny new SUVs – much of it run by Halliburton. Most Iraqis were barred from entering the Emerald City for fear they would blow it up.

A startling portrait of an Oz-like place.

Who will like this book?: All interested in American foreign policy.

If you like this, try this: Fiasco by Thomas Ricks. Assassin’s Gate by George Packer

Recommended by: Cliff, Reference Librarian.