Posted in Book Reviews

Marie’s Reading: “The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley” by Hannah Tinti

twelve livesLoo and her dad have lived an unsettled life.  Always moving from place to place.  Loo’s dad, Hawley, has a mysterious past, represented by twelve different scars all over his body–all from bullets.  At last, when Loo is a teenager, she and her father settle in Loo’s late mother’s hometown in Massachusetts.  It’s not an easy adjustment, however–Loo has a lot to learn about navigating the world, and she also has to confront the not-so-warm welcome she and her father get in Olympus.

The story goes back and forth in time.  One part of the book focuses on Loo trying to get her footing in her new town, and her attempts to uncover her family’s secrets.  The novel also explores her father’s criminal past, one chapter for each bullet he took.  Tinti structures the novel very well.  The past sections are interspersed at precise moments in the story to either illuminate or to underscore what’s happening in the present.  And when the past finally catches up toward the novel’s climax, the storylines merge.

I really enjoyed Loo as a character.  She’s tough and maladjusted, as you’d expect.  Yet her relationship with her father is the absolute center of her universe, for good and bad.  The revelation of his past misdeeds seems to come as no surprise to her, and certainly doesn’t shock her.  Instead, there’s the sense that there’s a new depth and understanding between them.  As the story unfolds you realize that Loo and her dad are deeply flawed and not entirely sympathetic–but at least they’re deeply flawed together.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is a great mix of coming of age tale, crime story, and exploration of a father/daughter relationship.  Tinti’s style is very descriptive, and she puts together scenes for maximum effect–whether it’s thrilling, frightening, or, sometimes, sweet.  The sense of place is amazing, whether describing a shootout at a hotel or the woods of New England.  If you like gritty books where characters aren’t always good but have their own brand of morality, you might enjoy this one.  Fans of Donald Ray Pollock should take a look, too!

–Marie

Posted in Booklists, Reading Challenges

TBR Challenge 2017 Update #5

After the last update, I’ve decided I’ll spare you all the duds from my list and just share the books I like!  This will help with tallying how many books I actually manage to *read* off of my TBR list, and not just sample.  Also, it will keep the atmosphere here at the Readers’ Corner a bit more chipper, I think!

For this, the fifth update, I realized I’ve been doing that thing.  That thing where I have already started books and then forgot about them.  I picked up a couple during this round and quickly realized I’d begun them before.  Some I kept, some I did not.

Here are the books I read!  For-real read, all the way through!  Or nearly there, in the case of the last one.

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor.  A tightly focused novel in seven stories, this book tells the story of both a neighborhood and different black women who live there.  I enjoyed reading about these people, and Naylor’s style is simple but beautiful–there are some amazing descriptive passages here.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill.  I’m combining this challenge with Horror Month prep!  I loved this collection of short stories, and it is most definitely part of this year’s scary book installment!

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz.  Oh yeah, my mid-century cooking and food phase!  Child was cool and is fun to read about.  I enjoyed this biography very much!

Somebody With a Little Hammer by Mary Gaitskill.  A collection of essays, including a lot of book reviews.  Gaitskill’s writing is elegant, and she’s deeply intelligent.  I especially enjoyed the title piece, which is about Chekhov’s short story Gooseberries.  The one about Bleak House is also great, as is the piece about the movie Secretary (you can tell I gravitated toward the book and movie reviews!).

The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen.  I’ve had this on my list ever since I read his collection The Boilerplate Rhino.  I finally suggested it for my nonfiction book club.  The book is all about island biogeography (namely, the study of distribution of species).  There’s historical background, contemporary science, and a broader message about how ecosystems are decaying and species are disappearing all over the world due to human activity.

There!  I have 795 titles on my TBR list now.  I’m not terribly optimistic about the next set–looking forward, I see lots of nonfiction.  However, there’s also Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone (about Louise Brooks, and soon to be a major motion picture!).  A couple of new titles that I’ve had on the list since I first heard about them are also coming out soon, so those will count!

–Marie

Posted in Summer Reading Program

Adult Summer Reading: Read Globally, Discuss Locally

Adult-Summer-Reading-2017-212x300

It’s summer reading time again, friends!  And we’re doing something a little different this year!

We’re still playing bingo, but we’ve got a new element!  This year we’re participating in a state-wide read of two books chosen by Maine author Monica Wood. It’s called “Read ME,” and it’s sponsored and organized by the Maine Humanities Council and the Maine State Library.  Learn all about it here!

Our theme this year is “Read Globally, Discuss Locally.”  All of the bingo squares reflect the theme, with topics such as “A book set in a country you have never visited” and “A book translated from another language.”  There’s some local flavor as well, with “A book by a Maine author” and “A book by an author speaking at the library this summer.”  The Read ME titles are good for a bingo square too.  For more, check out our website, here.

We’ve got the cards here at the circulation desk, so come on down and pick one up!  Fill four rows and get a prize!  Complete more than one row or the whole card, and get another prize!  You can keep track of the books you read on the back of your bingo card.  There’s also space to review your favorite, and that review becomes your ticket for the grand-prize drawing at the end of the summer!

Happy Reading!

Agent-Dale-Cooper-comes-town-investigate-he-whole-lot-character
Good luck, participants!
Posted in Booklists

“Twin Peaks” Readalikes!

Did I tell you that I recently discovered David Lynch’s Twin Peaks?

Well, I did, and I love it.

Agent-Dale-Cooper-comes-town-investigate-he-whole-lot-character

So when I saw this article today, I immediately thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”  Lincoln Michel over at Vice has put together a great list of books you might want to try if you enjoy Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks is weird and quirky, but sweet.  It’s scary, but funny.  It’s surreal and out there, but also grounded in small-town dynamics.  The tone is a tough one to capture.  Each of the books Michel picked fits some aspect of the show.  And goodness knows it’s got a plethora of plots, ideas, and characters in the mix, so lots of very different readalikes present themselves.

something-delightfully-off-about-haunting-intro

One of my very favorites, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, is top of the list.  I’d suggest any Shirley Jackson if you enjoy Twin Peaks–her stuff is loaded with the macabre, the supernatural, and the weird, but always grounded in the everyday.  She also had a knack for quirky characters and humor, as well as a slightly foreboding tone underneath it all.

Log-Lady-cares-deeply-about-her-log

Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy made the list, as did Duplex by Kathryn Davis and The Shining by Stephen King (all great choices).  I learned about quite a few books I’d never heard of before thanks to Michel’s article, and ones I definitely want to try (surrealist Leonora Carrington’s work, for a start).

Here’s the link to Weird Books You Should Read If You Like Twin PeaksGive it a look, if you’re a David Lynch and/or Twin Peaks fan!

Man-From-Another-Place

–Marie

(and thanks to PopSugar for the gifs!)

 

Posted in Book Challenge, Reading Challenges

TBR Challenge 2017 Update #4

I’ve hit the wall, folks.

Why, why do I have all this nonfiction on my TBR list?  What was I thinking? I read nonfiction sooooo sloooooooowly!  It’s insanely frustrating.  I’ll be five years completing my to-reads at this rate.  Ugh.  Also 100 pages before I give up?  Why on earth did I feel the need to be so generous?  Particularly with 820 books to read?  Sorry, dumping that guideline, too.

Gloves are off.  I need to deal with this list Kondo-style because life is too short to have a TBR list this long.  I will focus on the books that make me spark with joy and can be vertically folded and stored in a dresser.

Whining out of the way, here’s the update:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.  I’m glad I finally got around to this one.  I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed the movie.  And yet, it still left me a little cold.  There are some inspired passages, but on the whole it didn’t do much for me.

The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy by David Cannadine.  I just couldn’t!  I’m sorry!  It’s huge and I’m slow and I have a life to live!

A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer DuBois.  I’m not sure why this was on my list, to be honest.  I mean, it looks like a novel with an interesting hook, good characters, and from what I read it’s got a nice style, but it’s just not my thing, and it didn’t grab me.  The story is about a woman whose father wrote a letter to a Russian chess champion, and never received a reply–so she sets out to find the chess champion to get her father’s questions answered.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones.  I remember why this one was on the list.  It got a ton of attention and positive reviews when it first came out, with a lot of praise given to the cracking dialogue and inventive storyline that gets wilder and wilder.  I could not get into it at all, I’m afraid, even though it has the tone and feel of Edward Gorey.

Young Lonigan by James T. Farrell.  Another case of why did I want to read this?  Did I hear about it because it influenced another book?  Was I reading a lot about tough neighborhoods in the early 20th century?  Because it was considered an offense to morals when it was published and I was curious?  Never mind, it doesn’t matter–it didn’t grab me at all.

So yeah.  Sorry to be a Debbie Downer this time around, but man.  No wonder some of these have been on my list for so long.  I’ll give Mark Haddon’s The Red House a try next, along with a biography of Julia Child called Dearie.

According to Goodreads I’ve got 819 books to go.  I have lost track of which ones I’ve actually read, which ones I didn’t like and gave up on, and which ones I’ve just booted without a second thought.  I’ll tally at the end of 2017 and not bother thinking about it now.

Surely I must be coming up on books I’m just dying to read!  Or happy surprises!  I really do want to read more than I discard.  We’ll see how it goes.

–Marie

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Marie’s Reading: “New Boy” by Tracy Chevalier

new boyNew Boy: Or, Much Ado About a Pencil Case.

I kid.  Kind of.

New Boy is Chevalier’s entry in the Hogarth Shakespeare Project. Hogarth has commissioned novelists to retell selected works of Shakespeare.   This is a retelling of the story of Othello, and while knowing that adds a fun layer to the story, you can also enjoy it all on its own, on its own merits.

Here’s the set-up: Osei, a diplomat’s son from Ghana, relocates to Washington D.C. in the early 1970’s. He makes an immediate connection with Dee, a white girl from a strict household.  Ian, the class bully, takes immediate offense at this newcomer for a lot of different reasons, and decides he’s going to bring him down.  Mimi, Ian’s girlfriend and Dee’s friend, finds herself in the middle as an unknowing pawn in Ian’s scheme.

The action takes place over the course of one school day, from playground to lunchroom and back.  The stakes seem a lot higher when all of the events play out over a single day.  It’s also a nice choice given the age of the characters–for a sixth-grader, school is your life, and the schooldays really are packed with drama.

I love how immediately engaging the writing is.  There’s a simple clarity to the prose, one that allows the characters to shine.  It’s also nice that the adults are all on the periphery, so that the young characters can exist on their own terms, with their own concerns and issues.

This isn’t just a retelling of Othello.  It’s also a commentary on the themes of the story.  Here, the racial climate of 1970’s America hits home for a reader in a way that a Moorish Venetian general in Cyprus might not.  And since the characters are pre-teens, the raw emotions and overreactions play a lot better than they might otherwise.  It’s awfully hard to map such a tragedy onto a bunch of kids, and some moments work better than others, but it’s still a good effort. The ending, though different, offers a suitable shock and a feeling of nothing really being resolved.

Chevalier has interpreted the characters in her own believable way.  Their motivations and desires all ring true, both in the context of this new story and as interpretations of the characters presented in Shakespeare.  Definitely worth a look!

–Marie

Posted in Book Reviews

Marie’s Reading: “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman

EleanorEleanor Oliphant is fine.  Completely fine.  Or at least, that’s what she tells herself, when the loneliness starts to be too much or when she has yet another awkward encounter with another person.  As quickly becomes clear in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Eleanor Oliphant is not completely fine.

Eleanor is in her early thirties and she lives a solitary life.  She’s held the same office job for almost a decade.  She gets a weekly phone call from her volatile mother.  She’s socially inept, with real difficulty reading cues and interacting with other people.  She keeps to a strict daily routine and her weekends are a blur of vodka-haze.  Day after day, week after week, this is Eleanor’s life.

Until one day when she and a co-worker happen upon an elderly stranger who needs assistance.  From there, Eleanor’s routines are upended, and she suddenly has plans for the future and more human contact than she’s used to.

There’s a dark layer in this book that I wasn’t expecting.  Eleanor’s got a terrible, sad secret in her past, one that is uncovered as the book goes on.  She’s solitary and disconnected for a good reason.  However, this darkness makes the light at the story’s end that much brighter–there’s real weight and import in Eleanor’s growth as a person.  She’s not quirky.  She’s struggling to cope and to heal.

Which does not mean that she isn’t fun to read about.  This is a very amusing book, and extremely heartwarming, too.  There’s catharsis and change, but there’s also always a sturdy friend and hope for the future.  Her voice is original and perfectly individual.

Eleanor’s relationship with Ray, the scruffy IT guy from her office, is gold.  Ray is a kind, affable guy, and his patience with and affection for Eleanor is great to read about.   Their friendship shows how much kindness can make a huge difference.

If you liked The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, or A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, give this one a try!

–Marie