Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Lost Mother by Mary McGarry Morris

In The Lost Mother, life in rural Vermont during the Great Depression is challenging in too many ways for Thomas (age 12) and Margaret (age 8). After their mother abandons them, they are forced to live in a tent with their father, Henry, when the bank forecloses on their home. Henry, an itinerant butcher, must often leave them alone as tries to provide for his family. His feelings of loss over his wife and his struggle to make ends meet leave him short-tempered with his children. Besides the stress of living so impoverished, they are surrounded by some very dysfunctional adults and stumble from one misfortunate circumstance to another. They have the fortune of having one person in their life they can count on to be empathic and their hope, though stretched thin, is never lost. Morris provides rich detail in this Great Depression story and reminds us how resiliency carries many people through traumatic times.


The Princess and the Pea in Miniature by Lauren Child, illustrated by Polly Borland

In The Princess and the Pea in Miniature, Lauren Child retells this classic tale with the lively, contemporary phrasing that her fans love. She has created small stages out of cereal boxes, and decorated them to depict rooms or gardens, upon which she places her paper character cut outs. Polly Borland has photographed each scene to provide beautiful illustrations. Readers as young as four will enjoy hearing this tale and gazing at the pictures, while older readers will enjoy this version of a familiar story.


Me vs. Me by Sarah Mlynowski

Life is full of making decisions; sometimes you make the right one and sometimes you don't. So wouldn't it be nice if you could test what your life would be like in each scenario before you made your choice? That's what Gabby Wolf would like to do in Me vs. Me by Sarah Mlynowski.

Gabby has to make the most important decision of her life. Should she stay in Phoenix and accept the proposal of her long time boyfriend whom she truly loves or move to New York and accept the job of her dreams? How can anyone possibly make a decision like that? And, what if she makes the wrong one?

Looking to the only thing she can think of to help her, she wishes on the first star she sees that night. Gabby wishes she didn't have to make a decision; that she could have it all. But, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for because when Gabby wakes up the next morning, suddenly she does have it all. Gabby finds herself living every day twice; once in Phoenix planning a wedding with her domineering future mother-in-law and again in New York as a successful TV news producer.

Now, is this what she really wants?

Mlynowski's first person narration will pull you in and you'll find yourself just as torn in helping Gabby make a decision as she is herself. A funny, entertaining read that will have you laughing out loud.


An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina

Make no mistake, Paul Rusesabagina is no ordinary man. This is an extraordinary accounting from a self-described ordinary man, of how he was able to use his position and talent with words to save 1,268 fellow Rwandans from slaughter during the 100 day genocide in 1994.

Rusesabagina gives a short introduction on his involvement in saving fellow Rwandans in the genocide. Then he begins the full story by rendering the complexity of Rwanda's cultural and political history. We learn of his early family life in rural Rwanda as the son of a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother and the serendipitous finding of his career as a hotel manager. With this insightful information, the reader then is thrust into Rusesabagina's anguish and subsequent heroic actions as the genocide begins. Rusesabagina is driven by his belief that all human life is inviolable and that his position as a hotel manager required him to take care of his guests no matter the peril to himself. Rusesabagina ends his book with a visit to a church outside Kigali, where thousands were massacred and where a multilingual sign-cloth reads, "Never Again." He warns that until Rwandas learn to sit down together and talk that the phrase is without conviction and that genocide is likely to happen in Rwanda's future again.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Eragon and Eldest by Christopher Paolini

If J. R. R. Tolkien had been an agnostic, this is what LOTR might have looked like! Christopher Paolini began his Inheritance Trilogy at the age of 15 (!) and, while he has selectively incorporated elements from many traditions, his narrative stand on its own, and is, in its own way, spellbinding. Eragon is the first volume, and tells a picaresque story of a young farm boy who finds a dragon's egg in the Spine--a haunted wilderness--and is chosen by the dragon within to be her Rider, resurrecting the nearly-forgotten order of Riders to oppose the evil King, Galbatorix. The second installment, Eldest, continues the saga and reveals who Eragon really is, as well as the secret of who is his elder brother. The third and final volume is yet to be written. However, Paolini continually surprises the reader, and creates a believable and enchanting world that has coherence and sustainability that is far above similar efforts by Anne McCaffrey and others. Eragon is appearing in cinematic form December 15, 2006, which should generate renewed interest in these books.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dublin Noir edited by Ken Bruen

Dublin Noir (The Celtic Tiger vs. the Ugly American) is the sixth in Akashic Books wonderful noir series, in which locals and outsiders are invited to write about a city, in the best crime noir fashion. 18 authors take their turn in well-crafted short stories to deliver on their commission. Thankfully, there are at least 10 more noir series books forthcoming.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road is an amazing, spectacular and intensely harrowing tour de force. Most readers know Cormac MCCarthy for his Border Trilogy—especially its first installment, All the Pretty Horses, winner of the 1992 National Book Award. McCarthy has always been fascinated by the dimensions of human evil (for example, his searing 1985 work, Blood Meridian), but The Road is another thing altogether.

The Road is an exploration of a post-Apocalyptic world, locked in the depths of a nuclear winter: a nameless father and his young son are on a journey to the Sea, on a pilgrimage out of the frozen mountains to what may be the Gulf of Mexico. In sere, stark prose that is reminiscent of the best of Hemingway, McCarthy narrates his tale, rendered without use of quotation marks, so that speech and thought intermingle, and he tells a masterful story indeed. Yet underneath the narration there is a genuinely biblical rhythm or pulse.

For the boy radiates light.

It was not clear to me until the last couple dozen pages that McCarthy wishes to convey some sense that the radiance emitted by the boy—it is a radiance that his father literally witnesses near the end of things—may mark something more than mundane. This is the story of an Epiphany—quite literally. There is even an appearance of a character who may be the Prophet Elijah.

The Road is the story we have none of us wanted to tell or read about the end of the world. It is the story of what we have done to the planet that we did not want to have to read. It is a story I for one found impossible to put down. Powerful, thought-provoking and unforgettable. (COntributor: gmf)