Tag Archives: Coming of Age

Help for the Haunted

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Title: Help for the Haunted

Author: John Searles

Publisher: William Morrow, Sep. 2013

Summary/Review: Since I am not a fan of ghost stories, I was reluctant to read a book titled “Help for the Haunted” for worry that I would not sleep afterward, but I wanted to conquer my fear of the unknown. Although this book focuses on the paranormal, it becomes clear that you see what you want to see and believe what you chose to believe.

The Masons are quite successful in taming the unusual behavior of those possessed by spirits but are incapable of handling and helping their disobedient older daughter, Rose. When they agree to drive during a snowstorm to meet her in a church to talk, they do not know this encounter will end their lives. As their younger daughter, Sylvie, awaits their return to their car, she ends up being the only witness to the murderer. As Sylvie struggles with the past and present she starts putting together the pieces of her parents’ work and the events preceding their murder, which eventually lead her to the person who pulled the trigger.

“Help for the Haunted” is a good choice for book groups as it features interesting characters, including an evil doll named Penny, and provides several topics for discussion.

Who will like this book: Anyone who enjoys reading about mysteries with dark family secrets.

If you like this, try this: “The Returned” by Jason Mott

Recommended by: Sharyn, Circulation

Summary/Review: “Help for the Haunted” is the story of two girls – Rose and Sylvie Mason – whose parents were helpers of the haunted (I kept thinking of the Warrens throughout).  Sylvie is the “good one”, always responsible.  She plays counterpart to her older sister Rose, whose bad temper, negative attitude, and overall rebellious behavior put a deep strain on the family.  When Sylvie’s parents drag her out of bed to drive to a church to meet Rose, who has left the house angry, she is awakened by gunshots only to find her parents dead in the church.  But what happened?  Who would have killed them?  Why did Sylvie tell the police she knew exactly who it was? And who is keeping the light on in the basement, waiting for her parents’ return?

I started this book, unfortunately, late one night while I was home alone.  What was I thinking?  The first half is extra creepy, laying the foundation for why the Masons became involved with people like Lynch (who Sylvie points to as her parents’ killer) and their pasts.  The book focuses on 14-year old Sylvie throughout, and the second half deals more with her sister, their relationship and past, and her desperation to find the real killer.  I found the book compelling and wanted to know, exactly, what happened to her parents and why.  While the ending didn’t come together as well as it could have (it’s clear Searles is an extremely talented writer, who I will definitely read again), I was pleased to find I was surprised at the unexpected finale.

Who will like this book? : Someone who’s not afraid of a little creepiness.  The book comes out in September and would make an awesome Halloween read.

Recommended by: LB, Library Assistant

If this looks like the type of book you’d like to read when it’s released, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to check availability and place a hold!

What Dies in Summer

what dies in summer

Title: What Dies in Summer

Author: Tom Wright

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co, 2012

Summary/Review: This is a debut novel that is packed with so much emotion and surprises you won’t be able to put it down. The story is narrated by one of the main character James- also known as Biscuit. He, along with his cousin Lee Ann (also known as L.A.), and their Grandma live together in Dallas Texas. They were brought together by unfortunate circumstances. The story begins with the two cousins just doing what normal teenagers do, hanging out and trying to stay out of trouble. They soon discover a dead body in the woods and then everything seems to start spiraling out of control.

Family secrets are revealed, and more dead bodies are found. You will not want to put this book down until you have read the very last page. It brings everything together-family bonding, first love, and terrible secrets.

Who would like this: Anyone who enjoys books with a lot of characters and different stories.

If you like this, try this: Books by Mary Higgins Clark. She always has a bunch of characters but they’re easy to keep straight.

Recommended by: Virginia, Circulation

If you’d like to put a hold on this book and/or see if it’s available, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog!

Canada

canada

Title: Canada

Author: Richard Ford

Publisher: Ecco , May 2012

Summary/Review:  Dell (the narrator) and Berner Parsons are ordinary fifteen year old twins living a somewhat isolated life with their parents in Montana circa 1956.  Their father has failed at a number of ventures in his life but has oddly always envisioned himself as a successful bank robber.   So being a little short on money, he decides to carry out a plan and takes their mother along as his accomplice.  They are undetected for a little while, but one day the police finally come and take the parents away to jail, leaving the brother and sister to fend for themselves.  Mrs. Parsons, fearing they would be caught had arranged for a friend to look after the kids, but by the time she shows up, Berner has left for California on her own.  So she drives Dell to Canada to be taken in by her brother.  The brother turns out to be not at all what he first appears to be and when the reasons he is in Canada become evident it provides a twist in the story. Amazingly, Dell never assigns blame or feels anger and continues to believe that both his parents, though misguided, did truly love him and his sister. What happens in this novel is very unpredictable and leaves you wanting to read more to see what finally happens.  There is some foreshadowing as Dell alludes to events which he has not yet related, but you don’t see how can occur until they unfold. The themes of crossing all sorts of boundaries and the force and effect of corrupt acts make this a thought provoking and absorbing read.

Who will like this book:  Someone who likes thought provoking fiction.

Recommended by:  Jan,  Administration

If you would like to see if this book is available or place a hold, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog [Link will open in a new window]

Age of Miracles

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Title: The Age of Miracles

Author: Karen Thompson Walker

Publisher: Random House, 2012

Summary/Review: Julia is only eleven years old when the earth’s rotation begins to slow. “The Slowing” as it comes to be called, adds minutes to the days and nights. Scientists have no idea why it is happening or when it will end. Though fear creeps into the lives of people around the world, most adopt a “wait and see” attitude and try to adjust.

As the days grow from 24 to 26 to 30 hours long and longer, the slowing starts to take its toll. Gravity and the earth’s magnetic field are altered, wreaking havoc on wildlife and the food supply. Birds can no longer fly, ocean mammals can no longer navigate, and vegetation can no longer survive the long hot days and the long cold nights. People begin to suffer from gravity sickness and radiation poisoning and still the earth continues to slow. The title of this novel refers to the middle school years when bodies are changing and the adult you will become starts to emerge. For Julia, this “age of miracles”, with its typical dramas and hardships, comes with the additional stress of an uncertain future. Relationships are dissolving and people are taking more risks and making questionable decisions. It’s clear that life will never again be the same.

Though this may seem like a science fiction novel, the emphasis is clearly on the effect that the threat of extinction has on human relationships. Some relationships will become stronger and others will wither and die under the pressure of a crumbling future. “The Age of Miracles” is a wonderful debut novel; more than just a coming-of-age story but a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit.

Who will like this? Adults and teens looking for a moving story with unforgettable characters.

If you like this, try this: If you like the theme of nature-driven dystopias, try “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy or “After the Snow” by S.D. Crockett. For dystopias in general, try the wildly popular “The Hunger Games” series (Suzanne Collins), “Never Let You go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, or “Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. For younger ones, “the Giver” is an excellent place to start.

If you’re more attracted to the teenage drama, try “Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd, “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, or “Catcher in the Rye”, J.D. Salinger’s classic.If you like the author’s voice, keep an eye out for more books coming soon, since this is Karen Thompson Walker’s debut.

Recommended by: Sue B, Circulation Coordinator

To check if this book is available and/or to place a hold, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog [link will open in a new window]

Room

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Title: Room

Author:  Emma Donoghue

Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company, September 2010

Summary:  This is a raw, astonishing story of a boy and his mother who live as prisoners in a single, small room. It may be a reminder of headline grabbing kidnapping cases, but as narrated by the child, it is a testament to a mother’s love and resiliency. Sometimes very disturbing, the horror is darkly beautiful as Ma creates a life for her son. Jack’s innocence and curiosity builds as Ma’s desperation forces them both to confront a certain reality. Very inventive and poignant, Jack is so endearing, that his voice will stay with you for a long time.

Recommended by : Cindy B., Children’s Department

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

TitleSaving CeeCee Honeycutt

Author:  Beth Hoffman

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books, January 2010

Summary: Twelve year old CeeCee Honeycut is struggling to find normalcy in her chaotic life. Her mother is suffering from a mental illness and her father stays away from home as much as possible. Ceecee is left alone to care for her mother, confiding in her only friend, Mrs. Odell. When a tragic event turns CeeCee’s world upside down, it’s her Great Aunt Tootie to the rescue. Tootie brings CeeCee down to her home in beautiful Savannah where  CeeCee learns about her mother’s childhood and what it feels like to be unconditionally loved. This is a delightful debut novel that brings to life the beauty of the south and the strength of a family’s love.

Who will like this book? Fans of women’s fiction and anyone who liked The Secret Life of Bees should try this.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Stitches

Title: Stitches

Author: David Small

Summary: David Small grew up in a cold house, with distant, nearly silent parents. He was born sickly – and as was par for the course at that time, his radiologist father gave him plenty of x-ray treatments to strengthen his lungs. When a growth developed on his neck, his parents thought little of it. Four years later, he finally had surgery to remove an aggressive malignant tumor. But no one told young David what was wrong with him, or why he was now voiceless.

That Small grew up to be a renowned artist and picture book illustrator (Imogene’s Antlers, So You Want to Be President?) seems miraculous, given the circumstances of his childhood. In this boldly designed, unforgettable graphic memoir, he pulls no punches. But what elevates this book above and beyond the popular ‘terrible childhood’ subgenre is his refusal to reduce his family to caricatures. A story of family horrors shown through the eyes of a young, creative child, Stitches will make an impact on all who read it.

Who will like this book?: Readers who like redemptive stories about painful childhoods. If you or your children have enjoyed Small’s award-winning picture book illustrations, you will be fascinated by his life story.

If you like this, try this: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.  Why I Killed Peter by Olivier Ka. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

City of Thieves

Title: City of Thieves

Author:  David Benioff

Publisher: Viking, May 2008

Summary: David is a screenwriter who has been asked to write an autobiographical essay for a magazine. He feels his life is not interesting enough to write about so he travels to Florida to interview his Russian grandfather about his life during the siege of Leningrad. The interview lasts a week but focuses on one particular week during the siege when David’s grandfather Lev met his future wife, made his best friend, and killed 2 Germans.

Lev Beniov is seventeen and without family in Leningrad. His father was taken away and his mother and sister fled the city before the Germans surrounded it. He has been living in an abandoned building since the siege and he spends his days keeping watch for fires from the rooftop and trying to find enough food and wood to survive. One evening as he is on fire watch, he and his friends spot a German paratrooper falling from the sky. He is obviously already dead, so Lev and his companions find the body and proceed to take everything they can form the dead soldiers pockets. Unfortunately, the police catch Lev and arrest him for looting. While in custody, Lev meets Kolya, a soldier who has been arrested for desertion. The two are spared by the colonel in charge, but only because the colonel has other plans for them. Their ration cards are taken from them and will not be returned until they accomplish this nearly impossible feat: find a dozen eggs for the colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. Yes, people are starving to death all over the city, but the colonel’s daughter needs 12 eggs for her wedding cake.

Soon after Lev and Kolya set off on this odyssey to find the eggs, they realize they will never find them in city and must travel behind enemy lines if they have any chance of completing this assignment. The story of Lev and Kolya’s struggle to survive and prevail is at times heartwarming and at times heartbreaking. By the end of this book I cared so much for these two characters that it made me sad to finish the book. This is truly one of the best books I’ve read all year.

Who will like this book?  Everyone, especially those who like historical fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Author: Junot Diaz

Publisher: Riverhead, September 2007

Summary: Beware the fuku. This ridiculously good novel is part immigrant family saga, part ghetto epic and entirely unforgettable. The narrative traces the history of the de Leon family, from a doctor living under the brutal dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic to the titular character – an obese, insular, brilliant aspiring sci-fi writer. Peppered with references to fantasy masterworks such as Dune and Lord of the Rings, and narrated in a vibrant, gritty street Spanglish, this Pulitzer Prize winner tells of the fuku – a devastating family curse akin to the evil eye – that has haunted Oscar’s family through the generations, causing misery at every turn.

Can the fuku be thwarted? Oscar’s quest is reminiscent of those made by his fantasy heroes – equal parts bravery and tragedy. This book is as hilarious as it is haunting, describing the horrors of living under Trujillo and the mortification of being Oscar. Junot Diaz is a true original, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Who will like this book?: Readers who are willing to stretch their boundaries. People interested in stories of the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic. Fans of immigrant family dramas.

If you like this, try this: Drown, a collection of stories by Diaz. For more on the Dominican Republic under Trujillo, try In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Title: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Author: David Wroblewski

Summary: I could have lain in the hammock for hours on end with the new book by first-time author David Wroblewski.  What a storyteller! The story takes place in 1970′s Wisconsin at the Sawtelle farm, whose owners, Gar and Trudy breed a wonderfully smart, unique dog — the Sawtelle dog.  But a child is missing in their life and a son is finally born to them. Although Edgar is mute, even as a young boy it is obvious that he is a keen and intelligent observer of people and dogs, and he communicates with both by signing.

Gar’s brother, Claude, shows up at the farm one day (Edgar is now 14) and his father puts Claude to work on the farm. But the tension between the brothers is palpable.  It is clear that two brothers are very different and have unspoken grudges dating all the way back to their childhood. Unexpectedly, Gar, Edgar’s father, dies, apparently of an aneurysm, but Edgar suspects murder. And Claude continues to insinuate himself on the life of the farm and into the affections of Edgar’s mother.  The parallels to “Hamlet” occur throughout the book and culminate in a fantastic scene where Edgar’s dead father appears to him in a sheet of rain.

David Wroblewski has woven together a coming-of-age story, combining fiction and the supernatural to drive you to a pulse-pounding end.  Even though the book is about 550 pages, it is worth the investment.

Recommended by: Susan Z, Reference