It doesn’t take long to guess the story line of this book, as page one takes you into a courtroom where T.J. Hill, a thirty-year old teacher, is on trial for having a sexual relationship with one of his female students. And it gets a little more interesting when the student, Morgan, enters the courtroom with her parents and proceeds to leave them behind and sit on her teacher’s side.
From there, Riggle takes you into each character’s story, from the perspectives of the three women-Morgan, Dinah & Rain. Morgan is a seventeen-year old honors music student, with thoughts of leaving her small town behind to go to college. Morgan’s family is slowly coming apart at the seams, especially after her scandal becomes public. Dinah is Morgan’s overbearing mother, fighting to keep her business afloat and still manage Morgan’s twin brothers, who are constantly struggling academically and socially due to developmental delays. Rain is T.J.’s slightly hippy yoga instructor wife, who is crumbling under the pressure of trying to get pregnant and fulfill her dream of motherhood. Despite the allegations made against T.J., Rain is fiercely protective of her husband. The author provides a glimpse into each woman’s world in the midst of chaos, possibly providing answers to why someone would act or react a certain way to this crazy situation. How can one man’s actions control so many lives? And how well do you really think you know your kids? This book was inspired by a true story.
Lawrence Wright’s journalistic writing is the perfect voice for the subject of Scientology. In the hands of most other writers, Scientology would float into the ether, a dark and unfathomable history left unread by sensible readers. That said, though Wright offers Scientology an even-handed approach, his book is full of strange stories, made stranger when compared to the seemingly (sometimes) sane and healthy lives of people who are associated with Scientology.
Wright’s aim, he tells us, is to “learn something about what might be called the process of belief.” He describes in detail the experience of Scientology members, its origins, its development into a religion with tax-exempt status and its great wealth. Most fascinating are the people who remain Scientologists despite awful treatment and the descriptions that suggest why such an incomprehensible choice was made. This book would appeal to anyone who shares Wright’s curiosity about belief. That normal people get involved with an organization steeped in crazy sauce is perhaps the question to answer, and Wright gives it a fantastic effort.
I’m generally proud of myself when I successfully make it home after a Saturday stop at my local wholesale store, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the fantastical adventures that ensue during this run to the corner store for milk.
Mom is out of town for a few days, so dad is tasked with keeping the house in order. Breakfast is delayed while he spends an inordinate amount of time venturing out to replenish that most important complement to breakfast cereal and British tea — the milk. Dad finally returns with a larger than life tale that features aliens, dinosaurs in hot air balloons, ponies, wupires, and (my favorite) a little time travel to save the day! The story is so entertaining, who cares if dad is just making up excuses?
Each page has a fun visual element, whether it’s an image or playful typography. Skottie Young’s illustrations capture the story with an edgy whimsy, perfect for a Neil Gaiman story. It’s a quick read — the fast-paced tale has no need for chapters — that will appeal to readers young and old.
Fans of cozy mysteries will enjoy Murder at the Altar, by Veronica Heley. The story actually begins with the climactic moment when the murderer is advancing towards Ellie. Suddenly: “Too late… The murderer took a step forward.” (p. 1)
Back in time we go. Newly widowed Ellie Quicke is finding life sad, confusing and almost more than she can bear. For years, she waited on her husband and his elderly aunt, meekly accepting their dictates and their opinion that she was unfit for any other role. With Frank’s death, Ellie is forced to find her own place in the world. Her grief-fogged existence is besieged with greedy relatives and needy neighbors. Ellie sees herself as unable to cope, but the reader is shown a different view. Whether it is as a surrogate mother for lonely boy, or marriage counselor to an abused spouse, it is Ellie to whom villagers turn to for help.
A body is found in front of the altar of the Parish next door. When the police suspect her missing neighbor, Ellie decides if she doesn’t find the truth for herself, no one will. The mystery behind the murder is entertaining, but the real challenge is Ellie’s awakening to her own potential. The characters are very British and a cup of tea is the panacea of choice. (If that doesn’t work, there is always sherry.) Readers will cheer the widow on as she confronts a daughter who would happily commit elder abuse if Ellie would just lie down and take it, and deals with an in-law who may be elderly, but is certainly not as needy as she would like everyone to believe. Ellie’s attempts to master her husband’s computer and a rather tipsy first driving lesson provide some much needed humor.
I am looking forward to reading more of this series.
Like his most recent work, At Home, travel and history writer Bill Bryson uses a loose premise to explore all of the quirky nooks and crannies of history with his trademark humor and insight. Bryson covers the more eventful happenings in the summer of 1927, like Charles Lindbergh’s flight, the advent of flappers, and Babe Ruth’s spectacular, record-breaking season, but also finds the strange bits of trivia that connect them. Did you know the Lindy Hop was originally called the Lindbergh Hop, coined after Lindbergh’s fateful flight over the Atlantic? Or that Babe Ruth gained and lost over two and half tons of weight over the course of his career…and most of that was probably stadium hot dogs?
Informative and funny, this book is sure to please existing Bryson fans and fans of popular non-fiction. However, this book is better at giving a sense of American life in the Roaring Twenties than giving a comprehensive lesson in it. Just like in At Home, the narration drifts from topic to topic with only the loosest logic, from trans-Atlantic flights to baseball to Prohibition, in a way that is enjoyable but meandering. Having both read the book and listened to the audio book (narrated by Bryson himself) I think I prefer the audio. Bryson’s dapper voice–equally good at delivering dry witticisms and complicated accounts of baseball games, flood devastation, et cetera–makes the wandering subject matter of the book seem natural and conversational, almost as if he was telling you all these stories from a leather armchair with a fire nearby. And that, more than anything, might sum up Bryson’s appeal–his unique viewpoint, his humor, and above all, his affable geniality–all of which are on display in One Summer.
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What makes life worth living? Will Traynor is struggling with this very question since an accident left him paralyzed from the shoulders down and often in excruciating pain. Confined to a wheelchair and dependent on others to assist with even the most basic tasks of daily life, Will isn’t sure life is worth living. Then his mother hires Louisa (Lou) Clark as his daytime assistant/caregiver. Two very different personalities, Will and Lou get off to a rocky and stilted start.
As they spend more and more time together Will realizes that Lou has very little experience outside of her small circle of family and friends and has little in the way of experience outside of their little hamlet. Prior to the accident Will was a thrill seeker in his business and his personal life, spending vacations participating in extreme sports all over the world. He wants Lou to see all the future has to offer her if she will only look farther than the small circle where she is so comfortable and unchallenged. Lou sees that underneath the grumpy, caustic and negative exterior that Will wears like armor is an interesting, vital and courageous man who is chafing at the confines of his disability.
While Lou sets out to convince Will that life, regardless of mobility, is worth living, Will sets out to make sure that Lou has some experiences and looks outside her comfortable circle. While each is convinced they are right, in the end Will has to make the choice and Lou has to live with it.
There is much to think about and discuss in this engaging and thought provoking novel.
Almost seven score and ten years ago on November 19th, the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA was dedicated to those Union soldiers who fought and died during the three day battle there. It was at this event that President Abraham Lincoln gave perhaps his most well-known speech of his political career: the Gettysburg Address. At less than 280 words long, it is a speech that many Americans have had to memorize at one time or another in the years since.
Like many, I grew up knowing the Gettysburg Address was important, but I never really knew the history behind it, that there was more to the address than I had been taught. Borrit, being a Lincoln scholar, provides substantial resources and accounts to show that Abraham Lincoln put more thought into the Gettysburg Address that the history myths say. But with that he isn’t afraid to say that we just don’t know what Lincoln thought or did. I found it fascinating that this speech, moments after being given, was largely forgotten by the American people until the 1880s when, in an effort to bring together the North and South, it was brought back from obscurity. I thought for sure that there had been a greater impact at the time.
What else interested me regarding this book was that I learned more about the time period than just the Gettysburg Address. I saw how a small town dealt with the horrific aftermath of the battle, becoming a national symbol of endurance and bravery. How people across the union came to Gettysburg to help the wounded and bury the dead. I learned small snippets of history that I had not known before. That, for instance, right after giving the Address, President Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November 1863 (by the way making this coming Thanksgiving the 150th). These things slightly detract from the main narrative at times, but for the most part they also help place context on the impact the Gettysburg Address has had these last 150 years.
The Gettysburg Gospel is a great read for the casual Civil War buff wanting just a little more to his history. Available in both book and CD Audio formats.
Parents: if you’re looking for a few hours of uninterrupted time to yourself, check out Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney–for your kid. NoveList, an online database the Library subscribes to, is a great resource for books. It lists the minimum reading level for this book at 2nd grade and the maximum reading level at 8th grade. I’d agree that’s about right. If you’ve got a 7-year-old Human Reading Vacuum, a 14-year-old reluctant reader, or anyone in between, it’s a good bet they’ll become engrossed in this book.
I let our seven-year-old Human Reading Vacuum stay up way past her bedtime the other night so she could finish reading it. She had begun reading it that morning before getting ready for school. I don’t understand kids today. I used to watch cartoons on TV before getting ready for school. Then, as soon as she got back home, she hurriedly finished her homework, grabbed a lollipop and cracked open the book again. By bedtime she had just a few more pages left, so I let her stay up.
She wanted to read it during dinner but I told her she needed to put it down and talk to me for a few minutes. Guess what we talked about? The book.
Greg and his best friend Rowley are sixth grade middle-schoolers. Because of their small size they are picked on by the bigger, more popular boys. Then, to Greg’s dismay, Rowley gets more popular. Greg has to figure out what he’s going to do.
That’s just book one. There are eight books in the series, so if you need lots of time to yourself, put a hold on all eight copies for your kiddo and enjoy your quiet home.
When seventeen-year-old Tana wakes up hungover from a wild party at a remote farmhouse, surrounded by dead classmates, she thinks things can’t get any worse…until she discovers a mysterious vampire named Gavriel chained up in the same room as her bitten ex-boyfriend Aiden, who is about to turn into a full-fledged bloodsucker at any moment. Acting on impulse, she saves Gavriel and Aiden from the horde of vampires responsible for the massacre, and prepares to drive them to Coldtown–the quarantine zone where vampires mingle with humans in decadent parties that last for years, all broadcast on the web for the world to see. Tana is determined to get Aiden inside before he kills somebody. And the possibly insane but incredibly beautiful Gavriel wants to enter the walls for an unknowable agenda of his own. There’s only one problem: once you enter Coldtown, you can’t leave. At least, not alive.
Young Adult paranormal veteran Holly Black reinvigorates the vampire mythology with this shot of delightfully atmospheric horror. Black manages to capture the terrifying essence of vampires–their non-humanity, their unending thirst for human blood–and mix it with the Anne Rice-ian fantasy of gorgeous dresses and burning candles, not to mention eternal (and doomed) love. Black’s well-crafted writing brings her complex characters and settings to vivid life, making suspension of belief easy and fun, and the combination of splatter and atmosphere will satisfy even the diehard vampire fans. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a definite read for adults and teens alike, although those made squeamish by blood might want to leave this one for those with stronger stomachs.
Face is a book of poetry for anyone that’s suspicious of poetry, like I am. Alexie’s writing style is clear, straightforward, and without excessive literary devices. This allows the thought he’s trying to convey in his poem to take center stage, instead of the opaque poetics that frustrate so many readers (including myself). The poems are honest, funny, and affecting, on topics from Alexie’s personal background and history, to heroes, to the dead animals that one finds when cleaning out the crawlspace. If you’re the kind of person who thinks they don’t like poetry, give Sherman Alexie fifteen minutes and I bet he’ll change your mind.