Monday, September 30, 2013

September 2013 Book Recommendations by Staff

September 30, 2013

Finishing what Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood started: the final installment of Atwood’s futuristic fiction trilogy

By Margaret Atwood

Let me begin by saying I do not feel qualified to review this book as it is so magnificent, but somebody has to, so here goes…

I cannot overstate the genius of Margaret Atwood. There isn’t anything she doesn’t do well, whether it’s plot, dialogue, or character development, not to mention her mastery of multiple genres of fiction, all packed into one book! There’s the science fiction narrative in which humankind has finally outsmarted itself and been wiped out, save the few that were either too evil to die, uber-prepared or bred to be nearly indestructible. The survivors face obstacles in the form of unnaturally occurring animal hybrids, bio-tech gone awry, and each other. How will the survivors commune with the race of strange blue beings created by the long-gone messianic Crake?

There’s also romance: the tightrope protagonist Toby walks between maintaining her dignified aloof façade and succumbing to jealous pining for Zeb’s guarded heart keeps the reader pulling for her right to the last page. There’s adventure: every time the foraging band of “Maddaddamites” leaves the safety of their compound, the suspense is palpable: will they make it back this time? Plus humor: Atwood’s wry commentary enhances the story throughout, but none more so than during Toby’s patient nightly chronicles shared with the innocently inquisitive Crakers.

Bold, imaginative storytelling at its best. Click here to behold or place on hold.


September 23, 2013

The life of an Irish-American matriarchy in the housing projects of 1970s Boston

All Souls: A Family Story from Southie
By Michael Patrick MacDonald

This is one of those books I get excited about when a patron requests it because I enjoyed it so much. Written in 1999, the author, the seventh son in a large Irish Catholic family, recounts life in a single-mother household in the notorious Old Colony housing projects of South Boston.  Spanning the '70s and '80s, MacDonald presents his imperfect tribe with love and admiration while sparing no detail. Equal parts Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and local author Adrian Nicole Leblanc’s Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx, this true story will reel you in, charm you and break your heart. And if you are a Massachusetts native, chances are you will recognize many of the personalities described.

Most impressively, there’s Ma, mother of eleven, who remains generous,full of fun, and the family's spiritual anchor despite being abandoned by her husband and enduring many ensuing tragedies. Then there are sons Davey, who suffers from schizophrenia; Frankie, a up-and-coming boxer, Ma’s favorite, and the one who is supposed to “make it out”; Joe, the neighborhood mechanic and his twin sister Mary who is as tough as any of her brothers; and Kevin, the precocious entrepreneur. The cast is colorful and you will likely find yourself consulting the provided family tree to keep all the kids straight.

Although the author’s mother-worship borders on corny at times, what saves this memoir from being cliche is MacDonald’s ability to convey how the setting and the times impact the trajectory of each child’s life. The racial violence between neighborhoods during the busing crisis, the influence of Whitey Bulger and results of his introduction of the drug trade into the ghetto, and, of course, poverty read like additional characters in the book.

If you’re looking for a captivating biography, consider this. And if you’ve already read it, try Easter Rising, the continuation of the family’s story set in a broader sociological perspective.


September 16, 2013

In a dystopian London, Paige Mahoney’s sixth sense marks her as an outlaw

The Bone Season
By Samantha Shannon

Samantha Shannon’s novel has been compared to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series with hints of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. After reading this much-hyped debut, I can attest that it does feel like a formulaic blend of traits from teen blockbusters of the last decade. The book is set in a dystopian London in the year 2059. Clairvoyants, or “unnaturals”, are outlaws forced into an underworld of crime. Paige Mahoney, a rare type of clairvoyant, is kidnapped and pressed into slavery by a race of supernatural creatures living outside society. She must learn more about the creatures in order to survive and plan her escape.

The author’s imagination make this book an interesting read. It combines popular story elements such as a strong, moral female protagonist, a dangerous, otherworldly love interest, and lots of magic. Unfortunately, the plot is frequently weighed down by cumbersome invented language and descriptions of the hierarchy of clairvoyant abilities. The author struggles to establish her universe for the reader and it is obvious. The novel alternates between plot and exposition, never settling.

In the end this novel was entertaining, at times quite thrilling, and the series certainly has potential to grow with the author. To see for yourself, place a hold here.


September 9, 2013

The history of a town and a family infused with magic and wonder

One Hundred Years of Solitude
By Gabriel Garcia Marquez

As WPL librarian Christina wrote in her review of The Painted Veil, this is a book that was recommended to me many years ago and which I’ve only just now gotten around to reading. Garcia Marquez tells the story of a town and its preeminent family from foundation to ruin. Flashbacks and premonitions reinforce the central theme of the subjectivity of reality and time.

 Jose Arcadio Buendia is the patriarch of a family of extraordinary and doomed individuals. The book opens with his son, Colonel Aureliano Buendia, facing the firing squad and remembering the time his father took him to see the miracle of ice. With such an opening, the novel quickly grabs the reader before plunging us into a miasma of memories, fantasies and many things in between.

This is the perfect title with which to close the season. The sweltering South American setting, as well as the author’s dreamy tone, complement the last heated days of summer. But don’t mistake this one for an easy beach read! You may need a notepad to keep all the characters, relationships and symbols straight, but if you persevere you will find that your careful reading is rewarded.

Click here to locate or place a hold on this title.


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