2017 Spring into Reading

Fiction:

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 painting Christina’s World is haunting. The woman is crippled and in a field with her back to us. What is she thinking? Wyeth met Christina Olson in 1938. She was middle aged, unmarried and suffering from a debilitating disease. He painted her for twenty years in various situations. Kline introduces us to the woman behind one of the most acclaimed paintings of the century. Book Passage

Celine by Peter Heller

Working out of her jewel box of an apartment at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, Celine has made a career of tracking down missing persons, and she has a better record at it than the FBI. But when a young woman, Gabriela, asks for her help, a world of mystery and sorrow opens up. Gabriela’s father was a photographer who went missing on the border of Montana and Wyoming. He was assumed to have died from a grizzly mauling, but his body was never found. Now, as Celine and her partner head to Yellowstone National Park, investigating a trail gone cold, it becomes clear that they are being followed – that this is a case someone desperately wants to keep closed. Combining the exquisite plotting and gorgeous evocation of nature that have become his hallmark, with a wildly engrossing story of family, privilege, and childhood loss, Peter Heller gives us his finest work to date. Book Browse

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

Jubilee Jenkins has a rare condition: she’s allergic to human touch. After a nearly fatal accident, she became reclusive, living in the confines of her home for nine years. But after her mother dies, Jubilee is forced to face the world – and the people in it – that she’s been hiding from.

Jubilee finds safe haven at her local library where she gets a job. It’s there she meets Eric Keegan, a divorced man who recently moved to town with his brilliant, troubled, adopted son. Eric is struggling to figure out how to be the dad – and man – he wants so desperately to be. Jubilee is unlike anyone he has ever met, yet he can’t understand why she keeps him at arm’s length. So Eric sets out to convince Jubilee to open herself and her heart to everything life can offer, setting into motion the most unlikely love story of the year. Amazon

Edgar & Lucy by Victor Lodato

Raised by strong a strong mother and grandmother, Edgar,8, is an unusual child. His father died of suicide the year before and bound by their grief, the women attempt to provide for Edgar as best that they can. Eight-year-old Edgar Fini’s loyalty is torn between the two women in his life. There’s his mother, Lucy, who, though she has moments where she loves him, mostly disappears at night with her various “suitors.” And then there’s his grandmother, Florence, who dotes on him to the point where she is at a loss when he isn’t around. Since his father’s suicide, Florence and Edgar’s relationship has become obsessive, each fully dependent on the other. When Florence suddenly dies, Lucy is thrown into the role of main caretaker and doesn’t know how to handle her new job. But as Edgar and Lucy adjust, they must also deal with Ron, a local butcher who wants to court Lucy, and Conrad, an unsettlingly attentive adult whose intentions are at one more sinister and more innocent than Edgar could ever know.

After Conrad separates Edgar from his mother, the man and the boy form a home life of two, isolated deep in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, an arrangement that is not at all one-sided, even as Lucy, their hometown, and as time goes on, a wider world hunts for the boy. Beautifully written…Book Passage & Amazon

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time. Amazon

Harmless like Us by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Written in startlingly beautiful prose, Harmless Like You is set across New York, Connecticut, and Berlin, following Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki’s son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront his mother’s abandonment of him when he was only two years old.

The novel opens when Yuki is sixteen and her father is posted back to Japan. Though she and her family have been living as outsiders in New York City, Yuki opts to stay, intoxicated by her friendship with the beautiful aspiring model Odile, the energy of the city, and her desire to become an artist. But when she becomes involved with an older man and the relationship turns destructive, Yuki’s life is unmoored. Harmless Like You is a suspenseful novel about the complexities of identity, art, adolescent friendships, and familial bonds that asks—and ultimately answers—how does a mother desert her son? Literary Hub link to books.wwnorton.com

Harmless like You is a story of how hurts can be inherited, that people just pass on hurt and pain? Buchanan said in an interview with Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR, “but I think another way of looking at that is that the people who hurt us are rarely evil. Most people are trying their best with the pain that they’ve been given.”Intriquing. Scott Simon Weekend Edition, 2/25/17

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.  At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan’s friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin’s summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.

With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman’s fiction is unguarded against both life’s affronts and its beauty–and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail. Amazon & BookBrowse

 

Ill Will by Dan Choan

A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears the news: His adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. The trial came to epitomize the 1980s hysteria over Satanic cults; despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning. Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients has been plying him with stories of the drowning deaths of a string of drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses his patient’s suggestions that a serial killer is at work as paranoid thinking, but as the two embark on an amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence. Soon he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries—and putting his own family in harm’s way.

Scarred by the gruesome crimes of his past, psychologist Dustin Tillman, is drawn to an unsolved creepy murder in his present life. Told by different characters’ views, the tension rises as the chilling story of evil unfolds and touches every person in this story. Book Passage/ Amazon

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman who combines the genius and ferocity of Lisbeth Salander with the ruthless ambition of Walter White.

The Crenshaw Six are a small but up-and-coming gang in South Central LA who have recently been drawn into an escalating war between rival drug cartels. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six appear to be led by a man named Garcia … but what no one has figured out is that the gang’s real leader (and secret weapon) is Garcia’s girlfriend, a brilliant young woman named Lola. Lola has mastered playing the role of submissive girlfriend, and in the man’s world she inhabits she is consistently underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter – and in many ways tougher and more ruthless – than any of the men around her, and as the gang is increasingly sucked into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, her skills and leadership become their only hope of survival. Lola marks the debut of a hugely exciting new thriller writer, and of a singular, magnificent character unlike anyone else in fiction. BookBrowse

The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent

“Be careful, Fran,” the man said quietly. “About what you think you know.” 

In a dilapidated farmhouse out in the vast waterlogged plains of the English Fenlands, Fran awakes groggily to her baby’s cries one February night and finds the bed empty beside her. Her husband, Nathan, is gone.

Moving uneasily through the drafty rooms, searching for her husband, Fran soon makes a devastating discovery that upends her marriage and any semblance of safety. As she tries desperately to make sense of what happened to Nathan, Fran is forced to delve dangerously into the undercurrents of his claustrophobic hometown and question how well she knew him in the first place. Fran, increasingly isolated, grows paranoid – but Nathan isn’t the only one hiding something. Though she can’t tell a soul, Fran is shielding a damning secret of her own: a hazy, dreamlike memory from the night of Nathan’s disappearance that might be the key to it all. From the bestselling author of The Crooked House comes an utterly gripping psychological thriller spanning the traditions of Daphne du Maurier and S. J. Watson. Christobel Kent’s The Loving Husband is spooky and skillfully written, dragging readers deep into the unsettling world of the Fens and into a marriage of half-truths and past lives, where no one can be trusted–especially not your spouse. Amazon

 

Mister Memory by Marcus Sedgwick

In Paris in the year 1899, Marcel Després is arrested for the murder of his wife and transferred to the famous Salpetriere Asylum. And there the story might have stopped. But the doctor assigned to his care soon realizes this is no ordinary patient: Marcel Després, Mister Memory, is a man who cannot forget. And the policeman assigned to his case soon realizes that something else is at stake: For why else would the criminal have been hurried off to hospital, and why are his superiors so keen for the whole affair to be closed?

This crime involves something bigger and stranger than a lovers’ fight, something with links to the highest and lowest establishments in France. The policeman and the doctor between them must unravel the mystery – but the answers lie inside Marcel’s head. And how can he tell what is significant when he remembers every detail of every moment of his entire life? For fans of Scarlett Thomas, Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Patrick Suskind, this is a captivating literary mystery about memory, history and fate. Book Browse

 

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens

Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband, Andrew, was sent to jail and Lindsey started over with a new life. Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with her own business and a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When Andrew is finally released from prison, Lindsey believes she has cut all ties and left the past behind her. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her, tracking her every move. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed. Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But has he really changed? Is the one who wants her dead closer to home than she thought? Amazon

 

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Introducing an instant classic―master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths. Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki―son of a giant―blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman―difficult with his beard and huge appetite―to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir―the most sagacious of gods―is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again. Amazon

 

The Ocean Night by Paul La Farge

Marina Willett, M.D., has a problem. Her husband, Charlie, has become obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft, in particular with one episode in the legendary horror writer’s life: In the summer of 1934, the “old gent” lived for two months with a gay teenage fan named Robert Barlow, at Barlow’s family home in central Florida. What were the two of them up to? Were they friends–or something more? Just when Charlie thinks he’s solved the puzzle, a new scandal erupts, and he disappears. The police say it’s suicide. Marina is a psychiatrist, and she doesn’t believe them.

A tour-de-force of storytelling, The Night Ocean follows the lives of some extraordinary people: Lovecraft, the most influential American horror writer of the 20th century, whose stories continue to win new acolytes, even as his racist views provoke new critics; Barlow, a seminal scholar of Mexican culture who killed himself after being blackmailed for his homosexuality (and who collaborated with Lovecraft on the beautiful story “The Night Ocean”); his student, future Beat writer William S. Burroughs; and L.C. Spinks, a kindly Canadian appliance salesman and science-fiction fan — the only person who knows the origins of The Erotonomicon, purported to be the intimate diary of Lovecraft himself. As a heartbroken Marina follows her missing husband’s trail in an attempt to learn the truth, the novel moves across the decades and along the length of the continent, from a remote Ontario town, through New York and Florida to Mexico City. The Night Ocean is about love and deception — about the way that stories earn our trust, and betray it. Book Browse

 

Quicksand by Malin Persson Gioloto

Named the Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year! A mass shooting has taken place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb. Maja Norberg is eighteen years old and on trial for her involvement in the massacre where her boyfriend and best friend were killed. When the novel opens, Maja has spent nine excruciating months in jail awaiting trial. Now the time has come for her to enter the courtroom. But how did Maja, the good girl next door who was popular and excelled at school, become the most hated teenager in the country? What did Maja do? Or is it what she didn’t do that brought her here? Book Browse

 

Say Nothing by Brad Parks

Judge Scott Sampson doesn’t brag about having a perfect life, but the evidence is clear: A prestigious job. A beloved family. On an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, he is about to pick up his six-year-old twins to go swimming when his wife, Alison, texts him that she’ll get the kids from school instead.

It’s not until she gets home later that Scott realizes she doesn’t have the children. And she never sent the text. Then the phone rings, and every parent’s most chilling nightmare begins. A man has stolen Sam and Emma. A man who warns the judge to do exactly as he is told in a drug case he is about to rule on. If the judge fails to follow his instructions, the consequences for the children will be dire.

For Scott and Alison, the kidnapper’s call is only the beginning of a twisting, gut-churning ordeal of blackmail, deceit, and terror; a high-profile trial like none the judge or his wife has ever experienced. Their marriage falters. Suspicions and long-buried jealousies rise to the surface. Fractures appear. Lies are told. Through it all, Scott and Alison will stop at nothing to get their children back, no matter the cost to themselves … or to each other. Book Browse

 

The Sleeping Giant by Sylvain Neuvel

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction? Amazon

 

Swimmer Among the Stars by Kanishk Tharoor

In one of the singularly imaginative stories from Kanishk Tharoor’s Swimmer Among the Stars, despondent diplomats entertain themselves by playing table tennis in zero gravity – for after rising seas destroy Manhattan, the United Nations moves to an orbiting space hotel. In other tales, a team of anthropologists treks to a remote village to record a language’s last surviving speaker intoning her native tongue; an elephant and his driver cross the ocean to meet the whims of a Moroccan princess; and Genghis Khan’s marauding army steadily approaches an unnamed city’s walls.

With exuberant originality and startling vision, Tharoor cuts against the grain of literary convention, drawing equally from ancient history and current events. His world-spanning stories speak to contemporary challenges of environmental collapse and cultural appropriation, but also to the workings of legend and their timeless human truths. Whether refashioning the romances of Alexander the Great or confronting the plight of today’s refugees, Tharoor writes with distinctive insight and remarkable assurance. Swimmer Among the Stars announces the arrival of a vital, enchanting talent. Book Browse

Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

The Akha tribe grows rare and coveted tea in a remote area of China. Li-yan is a young girl who inspired by a teacher is destined to move to the outside world until she gets pregnant. The tribal rules dictate that fatherless children be killed. Li-yan with the help of her mother, hides her pregnancy, gives birth and journeys to a another place to leave her child with a”tea cake”. The baby girl is adopted by a California couple. They live worlds apart but are bound by tea. Book Passage

 

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey

In an age of space exploration, we search to find ourselves. In four years, aerospace giant Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshihiro Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they’re the crew for the historic voyage by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation ever created. Constantly observed by Prime Space’s team of “Obbers,” Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei must appear ever in control. But as their surreal pantomime progresses, each soon realizes that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. The borders between what is real and unreal begin to blur, and each astronaut is forced to confront demons past and present, even as they struggle to navigate their increasingly claustrophobic quarters—and each other.

Astonishingly imaginative, tenderly comedic, and unerringly wise, The Wanderers explores the differences between those who go and those who stay, telling a story about the desire behind all exploration: the longing for discovery and the great search to understand the human heart. Amazon

 

Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold. Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship. Amazon

 

Non Fiction:

 Bleaker House by Nell Stevens

A girl, a laptop, and a waddle of penguins. In this witty and genre-defying memoir, a young writer can travel anywhere she wants to finally finish her novel—and ends up on a frozen island at the bottom of the world.

Twenty-seven-year-old Nell Stevens was determined to write a novel, but life kept getting in the way. Then came a game-changing opportunity: she won a fellowship that would let her live, all expenses paid, anywhere in the world to research and write a book. Would she choose a glittering metropolis, a romantic village, an exotic paradise? Not exactly. Nell picked Bleaker Island, a snowy, windswept pile of rock in the Falklands. There, in a guesthouse where she would be the only guest, she could finally rid herself of distractions and write. Before the spring thaw, surely she’d have a novel.

And indeed, other than sheep, penguins, paranoia, and the weather, there aren’t many distractions on Bleaker. Nell gets to work on a charming Dickensian fiction she calls Bleaker House—only to discover that total isolation and 1,085 calories a day are far from ideal conditions for literary production. With deft humor, the memoir traces Nell’s island days and slowly reveals details of the life and people she has left behind in pursuit of her writing. They pop up in her novel, too, and in other fictional pieces that dot the book. It seems that there is nowhere Nell can run—an island or the pages of her notebook—to escape the big questions of love, art and ambition. Terrifically smart, full of wry writing advice, and with a clever puzzle of a structure, Bleaker House marks the arrival of a fresh new voice in creative nonfiction. Amazon

 

Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler

The Nazi regime preached an ideology of physical, mental, and moral purity. But as Norman Ohler reveals in this gripping new history, the Third Reich was saturated with drugs. On the eve of World War II, Germany was a pharmaceutical powerhouse, and companies such as Merck and Bayer cooked up cocaine, opiates, and, most of all, methamphetamines, to be consumed by everyone from factory workers to housewives to millions of German soldiers. In fact, troops regularly took rations of a form of crystal meth—the elevated energy and feelings of invincibility associated with the high even help to explain certain German military victories.

Drugs seeped all the way up to the Nazi high command and, especially, to Hitler himself. Over the course of the war, Hitler became increasingly dependent on injections of a cocktail of drugs—including a form of heroin—administered by his personal doctor. While drugs alone cannot explain the Nazis’ toxic racial theories or the events of World War II, Ohler’s investigation makes an overwhelming case that, if drugs are not taken into account, our understanding of the Third Reich is fundamentally incomplete. Carefully researched and rivetingly readable, Blitzed throws surprising light on a history that, until now, has remained in the shadows . Amazon

City of Light City of Poison: Murder, Magic and the Frist Police Chief Paris By Holly Tucker

The fascinating story of Nicolas de La Reynie, the first Police Chief of Paris.Appointed to conquer the “crime capital of the world,” the first police chief of Paris faces an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s. Assigned by Louis XIV, Nicolas de La Reynie begins by clearing the streets of filth and installing lanterns throughout Paris, turning it into the City of Light.

The fearless La Reynie pursues criminals through the labyrinthine neighborhoods of the city. He unearths a tightly knit cabal of poisoners, witches, and renegade priests. As he exposes their unholy work, he soon learns that no one is safe from black magic?not even the Sun King. In a world where a royal glance can turn success into disgrace, the distance between the quietly back-stabbing world of the king’s court and the criminal underground proves disturbingly short. Nobles settle scores by employing witches to craft poisons and by hiring priests to perform dark rituals in Paris’s most illustrious churches and cathedrals. As La Reynie continues his investigations, he is haunted by a single question: Could Louis’s mistresses could be involved in such nefarious plots? The pragmatic and principled La Reynie must decide just how far he will go to protect his king.

From secret courtrooms to torture chambers, City of Light, City of Poison is a gripping true-crime tale of deception and murder. Based on thousands of pages of court transcripts and La Reynie’s compulsive note-taking, as well as on letters and diaries, Tucker’s riveting narrative makes the fascinating, real-life characters breathe on the page. BookBrowse

Gizelle’s Bucket List: My Life with a very Large Dog by Lauren Fern Watt

Lauren Watt took her 160-pound English Mastiff to college – so of course after graduation, Gizelle followed Lauren to her first, tiny apartment in New York. Because Gizelle wasn’t just a dog; she was a roommate, sister, confidante, dining companion, and everything in between. Together, Gizelle and Lauren went through boyfriends, first jobs, a mother’s struggle with addiction, and the ups and downs of becoming an adult in the big city. But when Gizelle got sick and Lauren realized her best friend might not be such a constant after all, she designed an epic bucket list to make the absolute most of the time they had left.

Bursting with charm, this unique, coming-of-age story of a girl making her way through life is a testament to the special way pets inspire us to live better, love better, and appreciate the simple pleasures. Gizelle’s Bucket List is the humorous, poignant lesson our pets teach us: to embrace adventure, love unconditionally, and grow into the people we want to be. Book Browse

 

The Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson

The true story of the greatest mystery of Arctic exploration – and the rare mix of marine science and Inuit knowledge that led to the shipwreck’s recent discovery.

Ice Ghosts weaves together the epic story of the Lost Franklin Expedition of 1845 – whose two ships and crew of 129 were lost to the Arctic ice – with the modern tale of the scientists, divers, and local Inuit behind the incredible discovery of the flagship’s wreck in 2014. Paul Watson, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was on the icebreaker that led the discovery expedition, tells a fast-paced historical adventure story: Sir John Franklin and the crew of the HMS Erebus and Terror setting off in search of the fabled Northwest Passage, the hazards they encountered and the reasons they were forced to abandon ship hundreds of miles from the nearest outpost of Western civilization, and the decades of searching that turned up only rumors of cannibalism and a few scattered papers and bones – until a combination of faith in Inuit lore and the latest science yielded a discovery for the ages. Amazon & Book Browse

Inferno by Steven Hatch, MD

Dr. Steven Hatch first came to Liberia in November 2013, to work at a hospital in Monrovia. Six months later, several of the physicians Dr. Hatch had mentored and served with were dead or barely clinging to life, and Ebola had become a world health emergency. Hundreds of victims perished each week; whole families were destroyed in a matter of days; so many died so quickly that the culturally taboo practice of cremation had to be instituted to dispose of the bodies. With little help from the international community and a population ravaged by disease and fear, the war-torn African nation was simply unprepared to deal with the catastrophe.

As Dr. Hatch notes, while Ebola is temporarily under control, it will inevitably re-emerge – as will other plagues, notably the Zika virus, which the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency. Book Browse

 

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and Business of Keeping us Hooked By Adam Alter

Welcome to the age of behavioral addiction—an age in which half of the American population is addicted to at least one behavior. We obsess over our emails, Instagram likes, and Facebook feeds; we binge on TV episodes and YouTube videos; we work longer hours each year; and we spend an average of three hours each day using our smartphones. Half of us would rather suffer a broken bone than a broken phone, and Millennial kids spend so much time in front of screens that they struggle to interact with real, live humans.

In this revolutionary book, Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, tracks the rise of behavioral addiction, and explains why so many of today’s products are irresistible. Though these miraculous products melt the miles that separate people across the globe, their extraordinary and sometimes damaging magnetism is no accident. The companies that design these products tweak them over time until they become almost impossible to resist. On NPR Alter was interviewed and his stories of young adults staying up 46 days straight to play video games and the need for treatment delivered by a center in Seattle.

By reverse engineering behavioral addiction, Alter explains how we can harness addictive products for the good—to improve how we communicate with each other, spend and save our money, and set boundaries between work and play—and how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being, and the health and happiness of our children. Amazon

 

One of the Boys by Daniel Margariel

A powerful story of brotherly love and the unforgiving nature of addiction. A riveting and emotionally harrowing debut about two young brothers and their physically and psychologically abusive father—One of the Boys is 176 perfect, stunning pages by a major new talent. The three of them—a twelve-year-old boy, his older brother, their father—have won the war: the father’s term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their Kansas home and drive through the night to Albuquerque, eager to begin again, united by the thrilling possibility of carving out a new life together. The boys go to school, join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. But soon the little missteps—the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters—become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching their father change, grow erratic, then violent.

Set in the sublimely stark landscape of suburban New Mexico and a cramped apartment shut tight to the world, One of the Boys conveys with stunning prose and chilling clarity a young boy’s struggle to hold onto the dangerous pieces of his shattered family. Harrowing and beautiful, Daniel Magariel’s masterful debut is a story of survival: two foxhole-weary brothers banding together to protect each other from the father they once trusted, but no longer recognize. With the emotional core of A Little Life and the compact power of We the Animals, One of the Boys is among the most moving and remarkable debut novels you’ll ever read. Book Passage & Book Browse

 

Other Minds: The Octopus, The Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith

Although mammals and birds are widely regarded as the smartest creatures on earth, it has lately become clear that a very distant branch of the tree of life has also sprouted higher intelligence: the cephalopods, consisting of the squid, the cuttlefish, and above all the octopus. In captivity, octopuses have been known to identify individual human keepers, raid neighboring tanks for food, turn off lightbulbs by spouting jets of water, plug drains, and make daring escapes. How is it that a creature with such gifts evolved through an evolutionary lineage so radically distant from our own? What does it mean that evolution built minds not once but at least twice? The octopus is the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien. What can we learn from the encounter?

In Other Minds, Peter Godfrey-Smith, a distinguished philosopher of science and a skilled scuba diver, tells a bold new story of how subjective experience crept into being―how nature became aware of itself. As Godfrey-Smith stresses, it is a story that largely occurs in the ocean, where animals first appeared. Tracking the mind’s fitful development, Godfrey-Smith shows how unruly clumps of seaborne cells began living together and became capable of sensing, acting, and signaling. As these primitive organisms became more entangled with others, they grew more complicated. The first nervous systems evolved, probably in ancient relatives of jellyfish; later on, the cephalopods, which began as inconspicuous mollusks, abandoned their shells and rose above the ocean floor, searching for prey and acquiring the greater intelligence needed to do so. Taking an independent route, mammals and birds later began their own evolutionary journeys.

But what kind of intelligence do cephalopods possess? Drawing on the latest scientific research and his own scuba-diving adventures, Godfrey-Smith probes the many mysteries that surround the lineage. How did the octopus, a solitary creature with little social life, become so smart? What is it like to have eight tentacles that are so packed with neurons that they virtually “think for themselves”? What happens when some octopuses abandon their hermit-like ways and congregate, as they do in a unique location off the coast of Australia? Amazon

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

Karen Neulander, a successful New York political consultant, has always been fiercely protective of her son, Jacob, now six. She’s had to be: when Jacob’s father, Dave, found out Karen was pregnant and made it clear that fatherhood wasn’t in his plans, Karen walked out of the relationship, never telling Dave her intention was to raise their child alone.

 

But now Jake is asking to meet his dad, and with good reason: Karen is dying. When she finally calls her ex, she’s shocked to find Dave ecstatic about the son he never knew he had. First, he can’t meet Jake fast enough, and then, he can’t seem to leave him alone.

With just a few more months to live, Karen resists allowing Dave to insinuate himself into Jake’s life. As she tries to play out her last days in the “right” way, Karen wrestles with the truth that the only thing she cannot bring herself to do for her son – let his father become a permanent part of his life – is the thing he needs from her the most. With heart-wrenching poignancy, unexpected wit, and mordant humor, Lauren Grodstein has created an unforgettable story about parenthood, sacrifice, and life itself. Book Browse

 

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true. Levy picks you up and hurls you through the story of how she built an unconventional life and then watched it fall apart with astonishing speed. Like much of her generation, she was raised to resist traditional rules—about work, about love, and about womanhood. “I wanted what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can’t have it all.”

In this profound and beautiful memoir, Levy chronicles the adventure and heartbreak of being “a woman who is free to do whatever she chooses.” Her own story of resilience becomes an unforgettable portrait of the shifting forces in our culture, of what has changed—and of what is eternal. Amazon & NPR

 

The Stranger in the Woods: Extraordinary Story of the last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? what did he learn?—as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded. Amazon & Bookmarks

Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World By Benjamin Reiss

Today we define a good night’s sleep very narrowly: eight hours in one shot, sealed off in private bedrooms, children apart from parents. But for most of human history, practically no one slept this way. Tracing sleep’s transformation since the dawn of the industrial age, Reiss weaves together insights from literature, social and medical history, and cutting-edge science to show how and why we have tried and failed to tame sleep. In lyrical prose, he leads readers from bedrooms and laboratories to factories and battlefields to Henry David Thoreau’s famous cabin at Walden Pond, telling the stories of troubled sleepers, hibernating peasants, sleepwalking preachers, cave-dwelling sleep researchers, slaves who led nighttime uprisings, rebellious workers, spectacularly frazzled parents, and utopian dreamers. We are hardly the first people, Reiss makes clear, to chafe against our modern rules for sleeping.

A stirring testament to sleep’s diversity, Wild Nights offers a profound reminder that in the vulnerability of slumber we can find our shared humanity. By peeling back the covers of history, Reiss recaptures sleep’s mystery and grandeur and offers hope to weary readers: as sleep was transformed once before, so too can it change today. BookBrowse

 

Young Adult

Blood Family by Anne Fine

Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, this dark and gripping novel tells the tragic story of a smart, sweet child poisoned by circumstance as he struggles to escape the horrors of his childhood. Edward is four years old when he is locked away with his mother by her abusive, alcoholic partner, Harris. By the time an elderly neighbor spots his pale face peering through a crack in the boarded-up window and raises the alarm, he is seven.

Rescue comes, but lasting damage has been done. Sent to live with a kind foster family, and then adopted, Edward struggles to adapt to normal life. Even as a smart and curious teenager it’s still clear to his new family and schoolmates there’s something odd about him. Then in a science museum, Edward sees an image that shocks him to the core and robs him of his hard won sense of safety. Can anyone’s past truly be left behind? And could it be that, deep down, another Harris is waiting to break out? Amazon

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. But now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, a powerful judge is pressuring the district attorney to open up a criminal investigation. Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a “goodbye day” together to share their memories and say a proper farewell.

Soon the other families are asking for their own goodbye day with Carver – but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these goodbye days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or – even worse – prison? BookBrowse & Amazon

 

Maid of The Kings Court by Lucy Worsley

Clever, headstrong Elizabeth Rose Camperdowne knows her duty. As the sole heiress to an old but impoverished noble family, Eliza must marry a man of wealth and title – it’s the only fate for a girl of her standing. But when a surprising turn of events lands her in the royal court as a maid of honor to Anne of Cleves, Eliza is drawn into the dizzying, dangerous orbit of Henry the Eighth and struggles to distinguish friend from foe. Is her glamorous flirt of a cousin, Katherine Howard, an ally in this deceptive place, or is she Eliza’s worst enemy? And then there’s Ned Barsby, the king’s handsome page, who is entirely unsuitable for Eliza but impossible to ignore. British historian Lucy Worsley provides a vivid, romantic glimpse of the treachery, tragedy, and thrills of life in the Tudor court. BookBrowse

Thanks for looking at my book recommendations! All the summaries came from:

Book Passage, Book Browse, Amazon, NPR, Literary Hub, Bookmarks or me! Go to my blog to catch up on previous book lists and reviews:

Tracys2cents@wordpress.com

Tracy

2017 Winter Reading

Fiction:

Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson

Mary B. Addison killed a baby. Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary? Amazon

His Bloody Project by Graeme MaCrae

A brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. What would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path? And will he hang for his crime?

Presented as a collection of documents discovered by the author, His Bloody Project opens with a series of police statements taken from the villagers of Culdie, Ross-shire. They offer conflicting impressions of the accused; one interviewee recalls Macrae as a gentle and quiet child, while another details him as evil and wicked. Chief among the papers is Roderick Macrae’s own memoirs where he outlines the series of events leading up to the murder in eloquent and affectless prose. There follow medical reports, psychological evaluations, a courtroom transcript from the trial, and other documents that throw both Macrae’s motive and his sanity into question.

Graeme Macrae Burnet’s multilayered narrative—centered around an unreliable narrator—will keep the reader guessing to the very end. His Bloody Project is a deeply imagined crime novel that is both thrilling and luridly entertaining from an exceptional new voice. Book Browse

The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer

In this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life. She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning. Now, she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They’ve killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon. When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it’s her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous. Resolving to meet the threat head on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life, but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of. In this tautly plotted novel, Meyer creates a fierce and fascinating new heroine with a very specialized skill set. And she shows once again why she’s one of the world’s bestselling authors. Amazon

The Hollow Man by Rob McCarthy

Dr. Harry Kent likes to keep himself busy – juggling hospital duties with his work as a police surgeon for the London Metropolitan Police – anything to ward off the memories of his time as an army medic.

Usually the police work means minor injuries and mental health assessments. But teenager Solomon Idris’s case is different. Idris has taken eight people hostage in a fast-food restaurant, and is demanding to see a lawyer and a BBC reporter. Harry is sent in to treat the clearly-ill teenager … before the siege goes horribly wrong.

When Solomon’s life is put in danger again at a critical care ward, it becomes clear he knows something people will kill to protect. Determined to uncover the secret that drove the boy to such desperate action, Harry soon realizes that someone in the medical world, someone he may even know, has broken the doctors’ commandment to “do no harm” many times over. Book Browse

Kill the Next One by Frederico Axat

Ted McKay had it all: a beautiful wife, two daughters, a high-paying job. But after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor he finds himself with a gun to his temple, ready to pull the trigger. Then the doorbell rings.

A stranger makes him a proposition: why not kill two deserving men before dying? The first target is a criminal, and the second is a man with terminal cancer who, like Ted, wants to die. After executing these kills, Ted will become someone else’s next target, like a kind of suicidal daisy chain. Ted understands the stranger’s logic: it’s easier for a victim’s family to deal with a murder than with a suicide.

However, as Ted commits the murders, the crime scenes strike him as odd. The targets know him by name and possess familiar mementos. Even more bizarrely, Ted recognizes locations and men he shouldn’t know. As Ted’s mind begins to crack, dark secrets from his past seep through the fissures. Kill the Next One is an immersive psychological thriller from an exciting new voice. Book Browse

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever. Book Browse & Amazon

The Private Life of Mrs Sharma by Ratika Kapur

Renuka Sharma is a dutiful wife, mother, and daughter-in-law holding the fort in a modest rental in Delhi while her husband tries to rack up savings in Dubai. Working as a receptionist and committed to finding a place for her family in the New Indian Dream of air-conditioned malls and high paid jobs at multi-national companies, life is going as planned until the day she strikes up a conversation with an uncommonly self-possessed stranger at a Metro station. Because while Mrs. Sharma may espouse traditional values, India is changing all around her, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if she came out of her shell a little, would it? Book Browse

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie’s Frankel

When Rosie and Penn and their four boys welcome the newest member of their family, no one is surprised it’s another baby boy. At least their large, loving, chaotic family knows what to expect.

But Claude is not like his brothers. One day he puts on a dress and refuses to take it off. He wants to bring a purse to kindergarten. He wants hair long enough to sit on. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn aren’t panicked at first. Kids go through phases, after all, and make-believe is fun. But soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.Laurie Frankel’s This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again; parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts; children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever. Book Browse

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

A beautiful, unsettling novel about rebellion and taboo, violence and eroticism, and the twisting metamorphosis of a soul

Before the nightmares began, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary, controlled life. But the dreams—invasive images of blood and brutality—torture her, driving Yeong-hye to purge her mind and renounce eating meat altogether. It’s a small act of independence, but it interrupts her marriage and sets into motion an increasingly grotesque chain of events at home. As her husband, her brother-in-law and sister each fight to reassert their control, Yeong-hye obsessively defends the choice that’s become sacred to her. Soon their attempts turn desperate, subjecting first her mind, and then her body, to ever more intrusive and perverse violations, sending Yeong-hye spiraling into a dangerous, bizarre estrangement, not only from those closest to her, but also from herself. Amazon & Book Browse

Non Fiction

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

“I’ve always believed that everything you need to know you can find in a book,” writes Will Schwalbe in his introduction to this thought-provoking, heartfelt, and inspiring new book about books.

In each chapter he makes clear the ways in which a particular book has helped to shape how he leads his own life and the ways in which it might help to shape ours. He talks about what brought him to each book – or vice versa; the people in his life he associates each book with; how each has led him to other books; how each is part of his understanding of himself in the world. And he relates each book to a question of our daily lives, for example: Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener speaks to quitting; 1984 to disconnecting from our electronics; James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room to the power of finding ourselves and connecting with one another; Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea to taking time to recharge; Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird to being sensitive to the surrounding world; The Little Prince to making friends; Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train to trusting. Here, too, are books by Dickens, Daphne du Maurier, Haruki Murakami, Edna Lewis, E. B. White, and Hanya Yanagihara, among many others. A treasure of a book for everyone who loves books, loves reading, and loves to hear the answer to the question: “What are you reading?” Book Browse

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Noah Trevor

This memoir isn’t the funny book you’d think a funny man would write. Nor do you read it just for the rags to riches journey, though what a journey — from a South African township to The Daily Show host chair. You read it for the remarkable perspective of someone born between categories: a biracial kid spit out into an apartheid regime in which marriage between whites and blacks was illegal and his existence a crime. When you go back to watching The Daily Show, the jokes sound better. NPR, reviewed by Gregory Warner, correspondent

Crown of Blood by Nicola Tallis

“Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same.” These were the heartbreaking words of a seventeen-year-old girl, Lady Jane Grey, as she stood on the scaffold awaiting death on a cold February morning in 1554. Minutes later her head was struck from her body with a single stroke of a heavy axe. Her death for high treason sent shockwaves through the Tudor world, and served as a gruesome reminder to all who aspired to a crown that the axe could fall at any time.

Jane is known to history as “the Nine Days Queen,” but her reign lasted, in fact, for thirteen days. The human and emotional aspects of her story have often been ignored, although she is remembered as one of the Tudor Era’s most tragic victims. While this is doubtlessly true, it is only part of the complex jigsaw of Jane’s story. She was a remarkable individual with a charismatic personality who earned the admiration and affection of many of those who knew her. All were impressed by her wit, passion, intelligence, and determined spirit. Furthermore, the recent trend of trying to highlight her achievements and her religious faith has, in fact, further obscured the real Jane, a young religious radical who saw herself as an advocate of the reformed faith – Protestantism – and ultimately became a martyr for it.

Crown of Blood is an important and significant retelling of an often-misunderstood tale: set at the time of Jane’s downfall and following her journey through to her trial and execution, each chapter moves between the past and the “present,” using a rich abundance of primary source material (some of which has never been published) in order to paint a vivid picture of Jane’s short and turbulent life. This dramatic narrative traces the dangerous plots and web of deadly intrigue in which Jane became involuntarily tangled – and which ultimately led to a shocking and catastrophic conclusion. Amazon

The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile by Daniel Beer

It was known as ‘the vast prison without a roof.’ From the beginning of the nineteenth century until the Russian Revolution, the tsars exiled more than one million prisoners and their families beyond the Ural Mountains to Siberia. Daniel Beer illuminates both the brutal realities of this inhuman system and the tragic and inspiring fates of those who endured it. Here are the vividly told stories of petty criminals and mass murderers, bookish radicals and violent terrorists, fugitives and bounty hunters, and the innocent women and children who followed their husbands and fathers into exile.

Siberia was intended to serve not only as a dumping ground for criminals but also as a colony. Just as exile would purge Russia of its villains so too would it purge villains of their vices. In theory, Russia’s most unruly criminals would be transformed into hardy frontiersmen and settlers. But in reality, the system peopled Siberia with an army of destitute and desperate vagabonds who visited a plague of crime on the indigenous population. Even the aim of securing law and order in the rest of the Empire met with disaster: Expecting Siberia also to provide the ultimate quarantine against rebellion, the tsars condemned generations of republicans, nationalists and socialists to oblivion thousands of kilometers from Moscow. Over the nineteenth century, however, these political exiles transformed Siberia’s mines, settlements and penal forts into a virtual laboratory of revolution. Exile became the defining experience for the men and women who would one day rule the Soviet Union.

Unearthing a treasure trove of new archival evidence, this masterly and original work tells the epic story of Russia’s struggle to govern its prison continent and Siberia’s own decisive influence on the political forces of the modern world. In The House of the Dead, Daniel Beer brings to light a dark and gripping reality of mythic proportions. Amazon

Kookooland by Gloria Norris

Gloria Norris grew up in the projects of Manchester, New Hampshire with her parents, her sister, Virginia, and her cat, Sylvester. A snapshot might show a happy, young family, but only a dummkopf would buy that.  Nine-year-old Gloria is gutsy and wisecracking. Her father, Jimmy, all dazzle and danger, is often on the far side of the law and makes his own rules—which everyone else better follow. Gloria’s mom, Shirley, tries not to rock the boat, Virginia unwisely defies Jimmy, and Gloria fashions herself into his sidekick—the son he never had.

Jimmy takes Gloria everywhere. Hunting, to the racetrack, to slasher movies, and to his parents’ dingy bar—a hole in the wall with pickled eggs and pickled alkies. But it is at Hank Piasecny’s gun shop that Gloria meets the person who will change her life. While Hank and Jimmy trade good-humored insults, Gloria comes under the spell of Hank’s college-age daughter, Susan. Brilliant, pretty, kind, and ambitious, Susan is everything Gloria longs to  be—and can be, provided she dreams big and aces third grade like Susan tells her to.

But, one night, a brutal act changes the course of all their lives. The story that unfolds is a profound portrait of how violence echoes through a family, and through a community. From the tragedy, Gloria finds a way to carve out a future on her own terms and ends up just where she wants to be. Gripping and unforgettable, KooKooLand is a triumph. Amazon

Once we were Sisters by Sheila Kohler

When Sheila Kohler was thirty-seven, she received the heart-stopping news that her sister Maxine, only two years older, was killed when her husband drove them off a deserted road in Johannesburg. Stunned by the news, she immediately flew back to the country where she was born, determined to find answers and forced to reckon with his history of violence and the lingering effects of their most unusual childhood—one marked by death and the misguided love of their mother.

In her signature spare and incisive prose, Sheila Kohler recounts the lives she and her sister led. Flashing back to their storybook childhood at the family estate, Crossways, Kohler tells of the death of her father when she and Maxine were girls, which led to the family abandoning their house and the girls being raised by their mother, at turns distant and suffocating.  We follow them to the cloistered Anglican boarding school where they first learn of separation and later their studies in Rome and Paris where they plan grand lives for themselves—lives that are interrupted when both marry young and discover they have made poor choices. Book Browse

Mercies in Disguise by Gina Kolata

The phone rings. The doctor from California is on the line. “Are you ready Amanda?” The two people Amanda Baxley loves the most had begged her not to be tested–at least, not now. But she had to find out.

If your family carried a mutated gene that foretold a brutal illness and you were offered the chance to find out if you’d inherited it, would you do it? Would you walk toward the problem, bravely accepting whatever answer came your way? Or would you avoid the potential bad news as long as possible?

In Mercies in Disguise, acclaimed New York Times science reporter and bestselling author Gina Kolata tells the story of the Baxleys, an almost archetypal family in a small town in South Carolina. A proud and determined clan, many of them doctors, they are struck one by one with an inscrutable illness. They finally discover the cause of the disease after a remarkable sequence of events that many saw as providential. Meanwhile, science, progressing for a half a century along a parallel track, had handed the Baxleys a resolution–not a cure, but a blood test that would reveal who had the gene for the disease and who did not. And science would offer another dilemma–fertility specialists had created a way to spare the children through an expensive process.

A work of narrative nonfiction in the tradition of the The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Mercies in Disguise is the story of a family that took matters into its own hands when the medical world abandoned them. It’s a story of a family that had to deal with unspeakable tragedy and yet did not allow it to tear them apart. And it is the story of a young woman–Amanda Baxley–who faced the future head on, determined to find a way to disrupt her family’s destiny. Book Browse & tracys2cents@wordpress.com

Pumpkinflowers by Matti Friedman

It was just one small hilltop in a small, unnamed war in the late 1990s, but it would send out ripples that are still felt worldwide today. The hill, in Lebanon, was called the Pumpkin; flowers was the military code word for “casualties.” Award-winning writer Matti Friedman re-creates the harrowing experience of a band of young Israeli soldiers charged with holding this remote outpost, a task that would change them forever, wound the country in ways large and small, and foreshadow the unwinnable conflicts the United States would soon confront in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

Pumpkinflowers is a reckoning by one of those young soldiers now grown into a remarkable writer. Part memoir, part reportage, part history, Friedman’s powerful narrative captures the birth of today’s chaotic Middle East and the rise of a twenty-first-century type of war in which there is never a clear victor and media images can be as important as the battle itself. Raw and beautifully rendered, Pumpkinflowers will take its place among classic war narratives by George Orwell, Philip Caputo, and Tim O’Brien. It is an unflinching look at the way we conduct war today. NPR & Amazon

The Red Parts by Jane Nelson

Late in 2004, Maggie Nelson was looking forward to the publication of her book Jane: A Murder, a narrative in verse about the life and death of her aunt, who had been murdered thirty-five years before. The case remained unsolved, but Jane was assumed to have been the victim of an infamous serial killer in Michigan in 1969.

Then, one November afternoon, Nelson received a call from her mother, who announced that the case had been reopened; a new suspect would be arrested and tried on the basis of a DNA match. Over the months that followed, Nelson found herself attending the trial with her mother and reflecting anew on the aura of dread and fear that hung over her family and childhood–an aura that derived not only from the terrible facts of her aunt’s murder but also from her own complicated journey through sisterhood, daughterhood, and girlhood.

The Red Parts is a memoir, an account of a trial, and a provocative essay that interrogates the American obsession with violence and missing white women, and that scrupulously explores the nature of grief, justice, and empathy. Book Browse

 

Victoria the Queen by Julia Baird

When Victoria was born, in 1819, the world was a very different place. Revolution would threaten many of Europe’s monarchies in the coming decades. In Britain, a generation of royals had indulged their whims at the public’s expense, and republican sentiment was growing. The Industrial Revolution was transforming the landscape, and the British Empire was commanding ever larger tracts of the globe. In a world where women were often powerless, during a century roiling with change, Victoria went on to rule the most powerful country on earth with a decisive hand.

Fifth in line to the throne at the time of her birth, Victoria was an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary role. As a girl, she defied her mother’s meddling and an adviser’s bullying, forging an iron will of her own. As a teenage queen, she eagerly grasped the crown and relished the freedom it brought her. At twenty, she fell passionately in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, eventually giving birth to nine children. She loved sex and delighted in power. She was outspoken with her ministers, overstepping conventional boundaries and asserting her opinions. After the death of her adored Albert, she began a controversial, intimate relationship with her servant John Brown. She survived eight assassination attempts over the course of her lifetime. And as science, technology, and democracy were dramatically reshaping the world, Victoria was a symbol of steadfastness and security—queen of a quarter of the world’s population at the height of the British Empire’s reach.

Drawing on sources that include fresh revelations about Victoria’s relationship with John Brown, Julia Baird brings vividly to life the fascinating story of a woman who struggled with so many of the things we do today: balancing work and family, raising children, navigating marital strife, losing parents, combating anxiety and self-doubt, finding an identity, searching for meaning. Book Browse

You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris

On November 13, 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène Muyal-Leiris, was killed by terrorists while attending a rock concert at the Bataclan Theater in Paris, in the deadliest attack on France since World War II. Three days later, Leiris wrote an open letter addressed directly to his wife’s killers, which he posted on Facebook. He refused to be cowed or to let his seventeen-month-old son’s life be defined by Hélène’s murder. He refused to let the killers have their way: “For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom.” Instantly, that short Facebook post caught fire, and was reported on by newspapers and television stations all over the world. In his determination to honor the memory of his wife, he became an international hero to everyone searching desperately for a way to deal with the horror of the Paris attacks and the grim shadow cast today by the threat of terrorism.

Now Leiris tells the full story of his grief and struggle. You Will Not Have My Hate is a remarkable, heartbreaking, and, indeed, beautiful memoir of how he and his baby son, Melvil, endured in the days and weeks after Hélène’s murder. With absolute emotional courage and openness, he somehow finds a way to answer that impossible question: how can I go on? He visits Hélène’s body at the morgue, has to tell Melvil that Mommy will not be coming home, and buries the woman he had planned to spend the rest of his life with.

Leiris’s grief is terrible, but his love for his family is indomitable. This is the rare and unforgettable testimony of a survivor, and a universal message of hope and resilience. Leiris confronts an incomprehensible pain with a humbling generosity and grandeur of spirit. He is a guiding star for us all in these perilous times. His message – hate will be vanquished by love – is eternal.  Book Browse & Amazon

 

Kids’ Fiction: Grades 5- 9th

The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge–with dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Deadly birds with uncertain intentions flock nearby. A volcano, quiet for centuries, rumbles just beneath the earth’s surface. And the woman with the Tiger’s heart is on the prowl . . .

The author of the highly acclaimed, award-winning novel The Witch’s Boy has written an epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to be a modern classic. Amazon & Book Passage

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

A National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.  Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of a brand-new series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.

Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.

Ghost has a crazy natural talent, but no formal training. If he can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all starting with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who blew his own shot at success by using drugs, and who is determined to keep other kids from blowing their shots at life. Amazon & Book Passage

Young Adult

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

What was the Queen of Hearts like before she became heartless? Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. Amazon & tracys2cents

The Replica by Lauren Oliver

From Lauren Oliver, New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy, comes an epic, masterful novel that explores issues of individuality, identity, and humanity. Replica is a “flip book” that contains two narratives in one, and it is the first in a duology. Turn the book one way and read Lyra’s story; turn the book over and upside down and read Gemma’s story. The stories can be read separately, one after the other, or in alternating chapters. The two distinct parts of this astonishing novel combine to produce an unforgettable journey. Even the innovative book jacket mirrors and extends the reading experience.

Lyra’s story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape.

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family’s past and discovers her father’s mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.

While the stories of Lyra and Gemma mirror each other, each contains breathtaking revelations critically important to the other story. Replica is an ambitious, thought-provoking masterwork. Amazon

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The dazzling new novel from Nicola Yoon, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything (in theaters May 2017!), will have you falling in love with Natasha and Daniel as they fall in love with each other!

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true? Amazon & Book Pasage

 

Reviews are by Book Browse, Book Passage, Amazon, NPR

& me @ tracys2cents@wordpress.com

The Soul of the Octopus:A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

 

book-soul-of-an-octopusThis is my favorite non fiction book of 2015! I talked so much about it that I forgot to write a review. Before I explain what is so wonderful about the book, let me share a story told to me by a friend, Suzanne, a science teacher who happened to be working at the Steinhardt Aquarium in San Francisco, CA. She described that one summer over several weeks fish began to disappear from different aquariums, not just one. They put extra security on the shifts when viewers came to visit the aquarium in case that it was people who were somehow stealing the fish. No luck. Finally after two months they decide to put cameras up to find out what was happening to the missing fish. The answer was an Octopus. The camera shows the Octopus getting out of its aquarium and wandering down the hall, looking at the different aquariums for prey. It would climb into an aquarium, pick a fish and return to his aquarium to eat it. Truly amazing.

Montgomery’s the Soul of an Octopus is a great read about the facts and myths about Octopuses (yes, they are called Octopuses in the plural, not Octopi). But even more importantly it is about Montgomery’s relationships with Giant Pacific Octopuses in Seattle and Boston Aquariums and her excellent writings about these curious, sensitive, intelligent, affectionate, shape shifters! She even goes to a convention where people who house octopuses as pets meet to share information and tell stories of play, puzzles and intelligence. Sy Montgomery says it best in this excerpt from her book:

“Her name was Athena, but I didn’t know that then. I knew little about octopuses—not even that the correct plural is not octopi, as I had always believed (it turns out you can’t put a Latin ending—i—on a word derived from the Greek, like octopus). But what I did know intrigued me. Here is an animal that has venom like a snake, a beak-like a parrot, and ink like an old-fashioned pen. It can weigh as much as a man and stretch as long as a car, yet can pour its baggy, boneless body through an opening the size of an orange. It can change color and shape. It can taste with its skin. Most fascinating of all, I had read that octopuses are smart. This bore out what scant experience I had already had; like many who visit octopuses in public aquaria, I’ve often had the feeling the octopus I was watching was watching me back, with an interest as keen as my own.

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How could that be? It’s hard to find an animal more unlike a human than an octopus. They have no bones. They breathe water. Their bodies aren’t organized like ours. We go: head, body, limbs. They go: body, head, limbs. Their mouths are in their armpits—or, if you prefer to liken their arms to our lower, instead of upper, extremities, between their legs. Their appendages are covered with suckers, a structure for which no mammal has any analog.” Excerpt from: The Soul of An Octopus by Sy Montgomery.

The prose is beautiful and the information astounding. The people who care for the creatures in the aquariums are wonderful and see the individuality of their wards. There is one volunteer at the aquarium who is an “Anaconda whisperer”. Won’t say another word about that because everyone should pick up this book. One warning: after reading this book, you might never eat an Octopus again, I sort of hope so!

That’s my two cents….Tracy

 

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Mercies in Disguise: A Story of Hope, a Family’s Genetic Destiny, and the Science That Rescued Them by Gina Kolata

Blessings from Tragedy
In life there are many trials and tribulations. Mercies in Disguise by Gina Kolata delivers this message in her new medical thriller. It reminds me of a song called “Blessings”by Laura Story that highlights the theme of this story that there are “mercies in disguise”. Mercies are blessings or gifts that come from despair, suffering, and hardship. We can be positively changed by our tragedies.
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This true story focuses on one extended family that seeks to understand what their degenerative disease of the central nervous system is and partners with medical science to define and research this protein gene abnormality. The Baxley family is a Christian family in South Carolina who are tested in love, faith and determination to persevere in the face of a terrible genetic disease. When finally there is a diagnosis, the next question is: do you get tested to find out if you carry the debilitating brain disease that killed your father, aunt, uncles, grandfather and possibly you? It is a suspenseful tale as it transcends countries, time and many different people who are all committed to solving this tragic medical dilemma. Publishing date: March 2017 & Reviewed on Book Browse, November 2016……..That’s my two cents! T

2016 Fall Books to Read

Fiction

All is not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, struggles to pretend this horrific event did not touch her carefully constructed world.

As Tom and Charlotte seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town – or perhaps lives among them – drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax

“The mother begins to destroy the child the moment it’s born,” wrote the founder of behaviorist psychology, John B. Watson, whose 1928 parenting guide was revered as the child-rearing bible. For their dangerous and “mawkish” impulses to kiss and hug their child, “most mothers should be indicted for psychological murder.”

Behave is the story of Rosalie Rayner, Watson’s ambitious young wife and the mother of two of his children. In 1920, when she graduated from Vassar College, Rayner was ready to make her mark on the world. Intelligent, beautiful, and unflappable, she won a coveted research position at Johns Hopkins assisting the charismatic celebrity psychologist John B. Watson. Together, Watson and Rayner conducted controversial experiments on hundreds of babies to prove behaviorist principles. They also embarked on a scandalous affair that cost them both their jobs – and recast the sparkling young Rosalie Rayner, scientist and thinker, as Mrs. John Watson, wife and conflicted, maligned mother, just another “woman behind a great man.”

With Behave, Andromeda Romano-Lax offers a provocative fictional biography of Rosalie Rayner Watson, a woman whose work influenced generations of Americans, and whose legacy has been lost in the shadow of her husband’s. In turns moving and horrifying, Behave is a richly nuanced and disturbing novel about science, progress, love, marriage, motherhood, and what all those things cost a passionate, promising young woman.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty – and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job – even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.Book Browse and Amazon

The Book That Matters Most by Anne Hood

Ava’s twenty-five-year marriage has fallen apart, and her two grown children are pursuing their own lives outside of the country. Ava joins a book group, not only for her love of reading but also out of sheer desperation for companionship. The group’s goal throughout the year is for each member to present the book that matters most to them. Ava rediscovers a mysterious book from her childhood?  One that helped her through the traumas of the untimely deaths of her sister and mother. Alternating with Ava’s story is that of her troubled daughter Maggie, who, living in Paris, descends into a destructive relationship with an older man. Ava’s mission to find that book and its enigmatic author takes her on a quest that unravels the secrets of her past and offers her and Maggie the chance to remake their lives. Book Browse

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together. Book Browse, Amazon

The Doll House by Fiona Davis  (historical fiction)

The Dollhouse… That’s what we boys like to call it… The Barbizon Hotel for Women, packed to the rafters with pretty little dolls. Just like you.”When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong – a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist – not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed. Book Browse

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

A richly mythic, colour-saturated tale which explores the violently primal bond between mother and daughter.I have been sleuthing my mother’s symptoms for as long as I can remember. If I see myself as an unwilling detective with a desire for justice, is her illness an unsolved crime? If so, who is the villain and who is the victim?

Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant – their very last chance – in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis.But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia’s mother’s illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sofia’s role as detective – tracking her mother’s symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain – deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community.

Hot Milk is a profound exploration of the sting of sexuality, of unspoken female rage, of myth and modernity, the lure of hypochondria and big pharma, and, above all, the value of experimenting with life; of being curious, bewildered, and vitally alive to the world. Book Browse

Mischling by Affinty Konar

Pearl is in charge of: the sad, the good, the past.Stasha must care for: the funny, the future, the bad. It’s 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood. As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele’s Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain.

That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but clings to the possibility that Pearl remains alive. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, she and her companion Feliks–a boy bent on vengeance for his own lost twin–travel through Poland’s devastation. Undeterred by injury, starvation, or the chaos around them, motivated by equal parts danger and hope, they encounter hostile villagers, Jewish resistance fighters, and fellow refugees, their quest enabled by the notion that Mengele may be captured and brought to justice within the ruins of the Warsaw Zoo. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it. A superbly crafted story, told in a voice as exquisite as it is boundlessly original, MISCHLING defies every expectation, traversing one of the darkest moments in human history to show us the way toward ethereal beauty, moral reckoning, and soaring hope. Book Browse & Amazon

Night of the Animals by Bill Broun

Over the course of a single night in 2052, a homeless man named Cuthbert Handley sets out on an astonishing quest: to release the animals of the London Zoo. When he was a young boy, Cuthbert’s grandmother had told him he inherited a magical ability to communicate with the animal world – a gift she called the Wonderments. Ever since his older brother’s death in childhood, Cuthbert has heard voices. These maddening whispers must be the Wonderments, he believes, and recently they have promised to reunite him with his lost brother and bring about the coming of a Lord of Animals … if he fulfills this curious request. Cuthbert flickers in and out of awareness throughout his desperate pursuit. But his grand plan is not the only thing that threatens to disturb the collective unease of the city. Around him is greater turmoil, as the rest of the world anxiously anticipates the rise of a suicide cult set on destroying the world’s animals along with themselves.

Meanwhile, Cuthbert doggedly roams the zoo, cutting open the enclosures, while pressing the animals for information about his brother. Just as this unlikely yet loveable hero begins to release the animals, the cult’s members flood the city’s streets. Has Cuthbert succeeded in harnessing the power of the Wonderments, or has he only added to the chaos – and sealed these innocent animals’ fates? Night of the Animals is an enchanting and inventive tale that explores the boundaries of reality, the ghosts of love and trauma, and the power of redemption. Book Browse

 

Nutshell By Ian McEwan

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home—a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse—but John’s not there. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb. Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.

McEwan writes one of his best novels as an original and loose retelling of Hamlet, just in time for the commemoration of 400 years anniversary from Shakespeare’s death. The unique vision comes from the narrator, a fetus in the last few weeks of his in utero life stage. Trudy (Gertrude) and Claude (Claudius) have murder on their minds. Trudy betrays her husband, John, with, you guessed it, his brother Claude. A poet and an owner of small publishing house which not going very well; John has inherited an old but valuable mansion which is enough to spark the murderous imagination of the two lovers. The unwilling witness to the wicked schemes is the unborn baby of Trudy and John, the unnamed Hamlet. From his mother’s womb, he hears and feels everything.Amazon/Adina R review, SF Chronicle- Book Review: 9/18/16

 

The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan

Zoe Maisey is a seventeen-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ. Three years ago, she was involved in a tragic incident that left three classmates dead. She served her time, and now her mother, Maria, is resolved to keep that devastating fact tucked far away from their new beginning, hiding the past even from her new husband and demanding Zoe do the same.

Tonight Zoe is giving a recital that Maria has been planning for months. It needs to be the performance of her life. But instead, by the end of the evening, Maria is dead.In the aftermath, everyone – police, family, Zoe’s former solicitor, and Zoe herself – tries to piece together what happened. But as Zoe knows all too well, the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see. Book Browse

 

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

From the author who wrote the Snow Child comes this historical novel- In the winter of 1885, Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester sets out with his men on an expedition into the newly acquired territory of Alaska. Their objective: to travel up the ferocious Wolverine River, mapping the interior and gathering information on the region’s potentially dangerous native tribes. With a young and newly pregnant wife at home, Forrester is anxious to complete the journey with all possible speed and return to her. But once the crew passes beyond the edge of the known world, there’s no telling what awaits them.

With gorgeous descriptions of the Alaskan wilds and a vivid cast of characters – including Forrester, his wife Sophie, a mysterious Eyak guide, and a Native American woman who joins the expedition – To the Bright Edge of the World is an epic tale of one of America’s last frontiers, combining myth, history, romance, and adventure. Book Browse

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl. Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, The Wonder works beautifully on many levels–a tale of two strangers who transform each other’s lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil. Amazon

 

Non Fiction

All at Sea by Decca Aikenhead

On a hot, still morning on a beautiful beach in Jamaica, Decca Aitkenhead’s life changed forever. Her four-year-old son was paddling peacefully at the water’s edge when a wave pulled him out to sea. Her partner, Tony, swam out and saved their son’s life – then drowned before her eyes.

When Decca and Tony first met, a decade earlier, she was a renowned Guardian journalist, profiling leading politicians of the day; he was a dreadlocked criminal with a history of drug dealing and violence. No one thought the romance would last, but it did – until the tide swept Tony away, plunging Decca into the dark chasm of random tragedy. Exploring race and redemption, privilege and prejudice, All at Sea is a remarkable story of love and loss, of how one couple changed each other’s lives, and of what a sudden death can do to the people who survive. Book Browse & Amazon

American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin

The story of Patty Hearst , daughter of a wealthy family, kidnapped in 1974Transfixed the nation. Self styled revolutionaries, SLA ( Symbionese Liberation Army), kidnapped her during the stormy times of the 1970”s and later Patty Hearst appeared to have collaborated with the group in many of their criminal activities. After shw was rescued there was a trial. The question then was: brainwashed or true convert? People magazine 8/29/16 & Amazon & NPR Fresh Air

 

Counting the Days While my Mind slips Away by Ben Utecht

After five major concussions, NFL tight-end Ben Utecht of the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals is losing his memories. This is his powerful and emotional love letter to his wife and daughters—whom he someday may not recognize—and an inspiring message for all to live every moment fully.

Ben Utecht has accumulated a vast treasure of memories: tossing a football in the yard with his father, meeting his wife, with whom he’d build a loving partnership and bring four beautiful daughters into the world, writing and performing music, catching touchdown passes from quarterback Peyton Manning, and playing a Super Bowl Championship watched by ninety-three million people. But the game he has built his living on, the game he fell in love with as a child, is taking its toll in a devastating way. After at least five major concussions—and an untold number of micro-concussions—Ben suffered multiple mild traumatic brain injuries that have erased important memories. Knowing that his wife and daughters could someday be beyond his reach and desperate for them to understand how much he loves them, he recorded his memories for them to hold on to after his essential self is gone.

Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away chronicles his remarkable journey from his early days throwing a football back and forth with his father to speaking about the long-term effects of concussions before Congress, and how his faith keeps him strong and grounded as he looks toward an uncertain future. Ben recounts the experiences that have shaped his life and imparts the lessons he’s learned along the way. Emotionally powerful, inspiring, and uplifting, Ben’s story will captivate and encourage you to make the most of every day and treasure all of your memories. Amazon

 

The Dragon Behind the Glass by Voigt

A young man is murdered for his prized pet fish. An Asian tycoon buys a single specimen for $150,000. Meanwhile, a pet detective chases smugglers through the streets of New York.Delving into an outlandish realm of obsession, paranoia, and criminality, The Dragon Behind the Glass tells the story of a fish like none other: a powerful predator dating to the age of the dinosaurs. Treasured as a status symbol believed to bring good luck, the Asian arowana is bred on high-security farms in Southeast Asia and sold by the hundreds of thousands each year. In the United States, however, it’s protected by the Endangered Species Act and illegal to bring into the country—though it remains the object of a thriving black market. From the South Bronx to Singapore, journalist Emily Voigt follows the trail of the fish, ultimately embarking on a years-long quest to find the arowana in the wild, venturing deep into some of the last remaining tropical wildernesses on earth.

With a captivating blend of personal reporting, history, and science, The Dragon Behind the Glass traces our modern fascination with aquarium fish back to the era of exploration when intrepid naturalists stood on the cutting edge of modern science, discovering new and wondrous species in jungles all over the world. In an age when freshwater fish now comprise one of the most rapidly vanishing groups of animals on the planet, Voigt unearths a paradoxical truth behind the dragon fish’s rise to fame—one that calls into question how we protect the world’s rarest species. An elegant exploration of the human conquest of nature, The Dragon Behind the Glass revels in the sheer wonder of life’s diversity and lays bare our deepest desire—to hold onto what is wild. Amazon

 

Irena’s Children by Tilar J.Mazzeo

In 1942, one young social worker, Irena Sendler, was granted access to the Warsaw ghetto as a public health specialist. While there, she reached out to the trapped Jewish families, going from door to door and asking the parents to trust her with their young children. She started smuggling them out of the walled district, convincing her friends and neighbors to hide them. Driven to extreme measures and with the help of a network of local tradesmen, ghetto residents, and her star-crossed lover in the Jewish resistance, Irena ultimately smuggled thousands of children past the Nazis. She made dangerous trips through the city’s sewers, hid children in coffins, snuck them under overcoats at checkpoints, and slipped them through secret passages in abandoned buildings.

But Irena did something even more astonishing at immense personal risk: she kept secret lists buried in bottles under an old apple tree in a friend’s back garden. On them were the names and true identities of those Jewish children, recorded with the hope that their relatives could find them after the war. She could not have known that more than ninety percent of their families would perish. In Irena’s Children, Tilar Mazzeo tells the incredible story of this courageous and brave woman who risked her life to save innocent children from the Holocaust—a truly heroic tale of survival, resilience, and redemption.

Patient H.M. By Luke Dittrich

In 1953, a twenty-seven-year-old factory worker named Henry Molaison – who suffered from severe epilepsy – received a radical new version of the then-common lobotomy, targeting the most mysterious structures in the brain. The operation failed to eliminate Henry’s seizures, but it did have an unintended effect: Henry was left profoundly amnesic, unable to create long-term memories. Over the next sixty years, Patient H.M., as Henry was known, became the most studied individual in the history of neuroscience, a human guinea pig who would teach us much of what we know about memory today.

Patient H.M. is, at times, a deeply personal journey. Dittrich’s grandfather was the brilliant, morally complex surgeon who operated on Molaison – and thousands of other patients. The author’s investigation into the dark roots of modern memory science ultimately forces him to confront unsettling secrets in his own family history, and to reveal the tragedy that fueled his grandfather’s relentless experimentation – experimentation that would revolutionize our understanding of ourselves.

Dittrich uses the case of Patient H.M. as a starting point for a kaleidoscopic journey, one that moves from the first recorded brain surgeries in ancient Egypt to the cutting-edge laboratories of MIT. He takes readers inside the old asylums and operating theaters where psycho-surgeons, as they called themselves, conducted their human experiments, and behind the scenes of a bitter custody battle over the ownership of the most important brain in the world. Patient H.M. combines the best of biography, memoir, and science journalism to create a haunting, endlessly fascinating story, one that reveals the wondrous and devastating things that can happen when hubris, ambition, and human imperfection collide.Book Browse & Amazon

Swimming in the Sink by Lynne Cox

Lynne Cox is an elite athlete who broke many world records, among them swimming the English Channel at fifteen, being the first woman to swim across Cook Strait (eighteen miles), and being the first to swim off Antarctica in 32-degree water—for twenty-five minutes!—all without a wetsuit. And that’s where Swimming in the Sink begins—at a laboratory at the University of London, with Cox’s hand in ice-cold water, hooked up to thermocouples and probes, with three scientists trying to make sense of her extraordinary human capabilities. The test results paved the way for new medical and life-saving practices.

As an athlete, Cox had put her heart into everything she’d ever accomplished. In turn her heart gave her great physical strength and endurance. In the midst of becoming the embodiment of a supreme endurance athlete, Cox took care of her elderly parents, both of whom passed away in quick succession, followed by the death of her beloved Labrador retriever, leaving Lynne in shock from loss and loneliness and soon literally suffering from the debilitating effects of a broken heart.

On the edge of a precipice, Cox was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib). As the prognosis went from bad to worse, Cox was in fear of living out a lesser life as an invalid with a pacemaker and a defibrillator and the real possibility of her own death was before her. Cox writes of her full surrender to her increasing physical frailty, to her illness, her treatment, her slow pull toward recovery. In Swimming in the Sink we see Cox finding her way, writing about her transformative journey back toward health, and slowly moving toward the one aspect of her life that meant everything to her—freedom; mastery; transcendence—back to open waters, and the surprise that she never saw coming: falling in love. Book Browse

 

A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder

Tracy Kidder, the “master of the nonfiction narrative” (The Baltimore Sun) and author of the bestselling classic The Soul of a New Machine, now tells the story of Paul English, a kinetic and unconventional inventor and entrepreneur, who as a boy rebelled against authority. Growing up in working-class Boston, English discovers a medium for his talents the first time he sees a computer.

As a young man, despite suffering from what would eventually be diagnosed as bipolar disorder, he begins his pilgrim’s journey through the ups and downs in the brave new world of computers. Relating to the Internet as if it’s an extension of his own mind, he discovers that he has a talent for conceiving innovative enterprises and building teams that can develop them, becoming “a Pied Piper” of geeks. His innovative management style, success, and innate sense of fair play inspire intense loyalty. Early on, one colleague observes: “Someday this boy’s going to get hit by a truck full of money, and I’m going to be standing beside him.” Yet when English does indeed make a fortune, when the travel website Kayak is sold for almost two billion dollars—the first thing he thinks about is how to give the money away: “What else would you do with it?” The second thing he thinks is, What’s next?

With the power of a consummate storyteller, Tracy Kidder casts a fresh, critical, and often humorous eye on the way new ideas and new money are reshaping our culture and the world. A Truck Full of Money is a mesmerizing portrait of an irresistibly endearing man who is indefatigable, original, and as unpredictable as America itself.

 

Literary Graphics

Mooncop by Tom Gauld

“Living on the moon . . . Whatever were we thinking? . . . It seems so silly now.”

The lunar colony is slowly winding down, like a small town circumvented by a new super highway. As our hero, the Mooncop, makes his daily rounds, his beat grows ever smaller, the population dwindles. A young girl runs away, a dog breaks off his leash, an automaton wanders off from the Museum of the Moon.

Mooncop is equal parts funny and melancholy. capturing essential truths about humanity and making this a story of the past, present, and future, all in one. Like his Guardian and New Scientist strips, as well as his previous graphic novel, Goliath, Mooncop is told with Tom Gauld’s distinctive, matter-of-fact storytelling and dry humor ― an approach that has earned him fans around the world. Amazon

 

Young Adults:

The Call by O’Guillen

...You have three minutes to save your life . . .

THREE MINUTES…You wake up alone in a horrible land. A horn sounds. The Call has begun.

TWO MINUTES Sidhe are close. They’re the most beautiful and terrible people you’ve ever seen. And they’ve seen you.

ONE MINUTE

Nessa will be Called soon. No one thinks she has any chance to survive. But she’s determined to prove them wrong. TIME’S UP Could you survive the Call?A genre-changing blend of fantasy, horror, and folklore, The Call won’t ever leave your mind from the moment you choose to answer it.

Lucy & Linh by Alice Pung

Gilmore Girls meets Fresh Off the Boat in this witty novel about navigating life in private school while remaining true to yourself. Lucy is a bit of a pushover, but she’s ambitious and smart, and she has just received the opportunity of a lifetime: a scholarship to a prestigious school, and a ticket out of her broken-down suburb. Though she’s worried she will stick out like badly cut bangs among the razor-straight students, she is soon welcomed into the Cabinet, the supremely popular trio who wield influence over classmates and teachers alike.Linh is blunt, strong-willed, and fearless – everything Lucy once loved about herself. She is also Lucy’s last solid link to her life before private school, but she is growing tired of being eclipsed by the glamour of the Cabinet.

As Lucy floats further away from the world she once knew, her connection to Linh – and to her old life – threatens to snap. Sharp and honest, Alice Pung’s novel examines what it means to grow into the person you want to be without leaving yourself behind.

 

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

Sammie McCoy is a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as possible. Nothing will stand in her way – not even the rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly steal her memories and then her health.

So the memory book is born: a journal written to Sammie’s future self, so she can remember everything from where she stashed her study guides to just how great it feels to have a best friend again. It’s where she’ll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime-crush Stuart, a gifted young writer home for the summer. And where she’ll admit how much she’s missed her childhood friend Cooper, and the ridiculous lengths he will go to make her laugh. The memory book will ensure Sammie never forgets the most important parts of her life – the people who have broken her heart, those who have mended it – and most of all, that if she’s going to die, she’s going to die living.This moving and remarkable novel introduces an inspiring character you’re sure to remember, long after the last page. Book Browse

 

Middle School

Ghosts: a graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier

From School Library Journal

Gr 4–8—Catrina and her family have just moved to Northern California. Bahía de la Luna is different from Cat’s hometown—for one thing, everyone is obsessed with ghosts—but the sea air makes it easier for Cat’s younger sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis (CF), to breathe. Carlos, a new friend and neighbor, introduces the girls to a different perspective on the spiritual world. Ghosts, he says, aren’t frightening; they’re the spirits of loved ones. Cat has her doubts—especially after a ghostly encounter puts Maya in the hospital—but as Day of the Dead celebrations draw closer, she starts to reconsider. Readers will relate to these realistically flawed characters. Maya is frank about her illness and optimistic despite her awareness that her prognosis is poor, while Cat struggles, feeling intensely protective of her sister, anxious about her illness, and resentful about the limitations that Maya’s condition places upon the whole family. Themes such as the sibling bond, death, and culture are expertly woven throughout. As Cat comes to terms with the existence of ghosts, she also navigates her background (her father is white, while her mother is Mexican). Telgemeier employs the cheerful cartoon artwork that fans of Smile, Drama, and Sisters know and love, but her palette is more muted in places, fitting the book’s somewhat serious and somber themes. VERDICT A can’t-miss addition to middle grade graphic novel shelves; hand to fans of the author and newcomers alike.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal –This text refers to the Library Binding edition. Found on Amazon

 

Thanks for reading my list. If interested in past lists go to my website:

tracys2cents@wordpress.com

Book summaries above are by BookBrowse, Goodreads, Amazon, NY Times, Oprah Magazine, Book Passage and me!

 

 

2016 Late Summer Reading

Fiction

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs–the painter–and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members–including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot–the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.

Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together. Amazon

 

The Girls by Emma Cline

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged – a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction – and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become. Book Browse

Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi

A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.Book Browse

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko: A Novel by Scott Stambach

The Fault In Our Stars meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. For the most part, every day is exactly the same for Ivan, which is why he turns everything into a game, manipulating people and events around him for his own amusement. Until Polina arrives.

She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her.She is exquisite. Soon, he cannot help being drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. Before, he survived by being utterly detached from things and people. Now, Ivan wants something more: Ivan wants Polina to live. Amazon

 

Lily & the Octopus by Steven Rowley

When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.

The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without. For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all. Remember the last book you told someone they had to read? Amazon

The Merman by Carl-Johan Vallgren, translated by Ellen Flynn

Set in a town on the Swedish coast. A Merman transforms the lives of a young brother and sister. The siblings are in a troubled family situation and a school bully. Then they encounter the merman in a friend’s fishing hut and then…. ( New Yorker, April 2016)

Montery Bay by Lindsay Hatton

In 1940, fifteen year-old Margot Fiske arrives on the shores of Monterey Bay with her eccentric entrepreneur father. Margot  has been her father’s apprentice all over the world, until an accident in Monterey’s tide pools drives them apart and plunges  her head-first into the mayhem of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.

Steinbeck is hiding out from his burgeoning fame at the raucous lab of Ed Ricketts, the biologist known as Doc in Cannery Row. Ricketts, a charismatic bohemian, quickly becomes the object of Margot’s fascination. Despite Steinbeck’s protests and her father’s misgivings, she wrangles a job as Ricketts’s sketch artist and begins drawing the strange and wonderful sea creatures he pulls from the waters of the bay.

Unbeknownst to Margot, her father is also working with Ricketts. He is soliciting the biologist’s advice on his most ambitious and controversial project to date: the transformation of the Row’s largest cannery into an aquarium. When Margot begins an affair with Ricketts, she sets in motion a chain of events that will affect not just the two of them, but the future of Monterey as well.

Alternating between past and present, Monterey Bay explores histories both imagined and actual to create an unforgettable portrait of an exceptional woman, a world-famous aquarium, and the beloved town they both call home. SF Chronicle, 7/17/16 & Amazon.

Never Missing, Never Found by Amanda Panitch

Some choices change everything. Scarlett chose to run. And the consequences will be deadly. Stolen from her family as a young girl, Scarlett was lucky enough to eventually escape her captor. Now a teen, she’s starting a summer job at an amusement park. There are cute boys, new friends, and the chance to finally have a normal life.

Her first day on the job, Scarlett is shocked to discover that a girl from the park has gone missing. Old memories come rushing back. And now as she meets her new coworkers, one of the girls seems strangely familiar. When Scarlett chose to run all those years ago, what did she set into motion? And when push comes to shove, how far will she go to uncover the truth … before it’s too late? Book Browse

Perfect Days : A Novel by Raphael Montes

A twisted young medical student kidnaps the girl of his dreams and embarks on a dark and delirious road trip across Brazil in the English-language debut of Brazil’s most celebrated young crime writer.

Teo Avelar is a loner. He lives with his paraplegic mother and her dog in Rio de Janeiro, he doesn’t have many friends, and the only time he feels honest human emotion is in the presence of his medical school cadaver—that is, until he meets Clarice. She’s almost his exact opposite: exotic, spontaneous, unafraid to speak her mind. An aspiring screenwriter, she’s working on a screenplay called Perfect Days about three friends who go on a road trip across Brazil in search of romance. Teo is obsessed. He begins to stalk her, first following her to her university, then to her home, and when she ultimately rejects him, he kidnaps her and they embark upon their very own twisted odyssey across Brazil, tracing the same route outlined in her screenplay. Through it all, Teo is certain that time is all he needs to prove to Clarice that they are made for each other, that time is all he needs to make her fall in love with him. But as the journey progresses, he digs himself deeper and deeper into a pit that he can’t get out of, stopping at nothing to ensure that no one gets in the way of their life together. Both tense and lurid, and brimming with suspense from the very first page, Perfect Days is a psychological thriller in the vein of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley—a chilling journey in the passenger seat with a psychopath, and the English language debut of one of Brazil’s most deliciously dark young writers. Amazon

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

England. A century ago, give or take a few years. 

An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real.

An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government.  Three young people who learn everything they’ve been taught is a lie – knowledge that could cost them their lives. A grand estate where secrets lurk in attic rooms and hidden laboratories. A love triangle. A desperate chase. Revolutionaries and secret police. Religious fanatics and coldhearted scientists. Murder. A London filled with danger and wonder. A tortured relationship between a mother and a daughter, and a mother and a son. Unexpected villains and unexpected heroes. Cool reason versus passion. Rich versus poor. Right versus wrong, though which is which isn’t clear.This is the world of Smoke, a narrative tour de force, a tale of Dickensian intricacy and ferocious imaginative power, richly atmospheric and intensely suspenseful. Book Browse

The Tea Planter’s Wife: A Novel by Dinah Jefferies

In this lush, sexy, atmospheric page-turner, a young Englishwoman, 19-year-old Gwendolyn, marries a rich and seductively mysterious widower, Laurence Hooper, after a whirlwind romance in London. When she joins him at his Ceylon tea plantation, she’s certain she’ll be the perfect wife and, someday, mother. But life in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected. The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbors, and her new sister-in-law, treacherous.

Gwen finds herself drawn to a Singhalese man of questionable intentions and worries about the propriety of her husband’s connection to an American widow. But most troubling are the terrible secrets in Laurence’s past that soon come to light and force Gwen to make a devastating choice. What happened to his first wife? And will the darkness of his past destroy their marriage and Gwen’s chance at happiness? Book Browse

The Trap by Melanie Raabe, Translator Imogen Taylor

For 11 years, the bestselling author Linda Conrads has mystified fans by never setting foot outside her home. Haunted by the unsolved murder of her younger sister–who she discovered in a pool of blood–and the face of the man she saw fleeing the scene, Linda’s hermit existence helps her cope with debilitating anxiety. But the sanctity of her oasis is shattered when she sees her sister’s murderer on television. Hobbled by years of isolation, Linda resolves to use the plot of her next novel to lay an irresistible trap for the man. As the plan is set in motion and the past comes rushing back, Linda’s memories–and her very sanity–are called into question. Is this man a heartless killer or merely a helpless victim? Book Browse/ Amazon

This Must Be the Place: A Novel by Maggie O’Farrell

An irresistible love story, an unforgettable family. Best-selling author Maggie O’Farrell captures an extraordinary marriage with insight and laugh-out-loud humor in what Richard Russo calls “her breakout book.” Perfect for readers of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex–film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Claudette was once the most glamorous and infamous woman in cinema before she staged her own disappearance and retreated to blissful seclusion in an Irish farmhouse. But the life Daniel and Claudette have so carefully constructed is about to be disrupted by an unexpected discovery about a woman Daniel lost touch with twenty years ago. This revelation will send him off-course, far away from wife, children, and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

“O’Farrell’s prose manages to be both intimate and expansive and keenly perceptive in its insights about the complexities of marriage.  Beautiful and bittersweet, THIS MUST BE THE PLACE will make O’Farrell’s longtime fans swoon while prompting new readers to wonder why they’ve only just discovered her.” Amazon & Book Browse

 

Underground Airlines by Ben Winters

It is the present-day, and the world is as we know it: smartphones, social networking and Happy Meals. Save for one thing: the Civil War never occurred.

A gifted young black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service. He’s got plenty of work. In this version of America, slavery continues in four states called “the Hard Four.” On the trail of a runaway known as Jackdaw, Victor arrives in Indianapolis knowing that something isn’t right–with the case file, with his work, and with the country itself.

A mystery to himself, Victor suppresses his memories of his childhood on a plantation, and works to infiltrate the local cell of a abolitionist movement called the Underground Airlines. Tracking Jackdaw through the back rooms of churches, empty parking garages, hotels, and medical offices, Victor believes he’s hot on the trail. But his strange, increasingly uncanny pursuit is complicated by a boss who won’t reveal the extraordinary stakes of Jackdaw’s case, as well as by a heartbreaking young woman and her child who may be Victor’s salvation. Victor himself may be the biggest obstacle of all–though his true self remains buried, it threatens to surface.

Victor believes himself to be a good man doing bad work, unwilling to give up the freedom he has worked so hard to earn. But in pursuing Jackdaw, Victor discovers secrets at the core of the country’s arrangement with the Hard Four, secrets the government will preserve at any cost. Underground Airlines is a ground-breaking novel, a wickedly imaginative thriller, and a story of an America that is more like our own than we’d like to believe. Book Browse

Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Neurosurgeon Eitan Green has the perfect life–married to a beautiful police officer and father of two young boys. Then, speeding along a deserted moonlit road after an exhausting hospital shift, he hits someone. Seeing that the man, an African migrant, is beyond help, he flees the scene.

When the victim’s widow knocks at Eitan’s door the next day, holding his wallet and divulging that she knows what happened, Eitan discovers that her price for silence is not money. It is something else entirely, something that will shatter Eitan’s safe existence and take him into a world of secrets and lies he could never have anticipated. WAKING LIONS is a gripping, suspenseful, and morally devastating drama of guilt and survival, shame and desire from a remarkable young author on the rise. Amazon, The Guardian

Non Fiction

Chancers: Addiction, Prison,Recovery, Love, by Susan Stellin and Graham Macindoe

A heartrending dual memoir told from the perspectives of a reporter and photographer whose love story is cut short by heroin addiction only to be given a second chance when one of them is jailed on Rikers Island. Sandy Harris says, “This book will resonate with anyone whose life has been touched by drugs, prison or immigration problems. I highly recommend the stark reality shared on its pages.” Amazon

The Gene : An Intimate History By Siddhartha Mukherjee

“Even before the beginning of human history, people recognized that parents transmit something — call it “likeness” — to their children, and the children to their children, and so on down the generations. But how?

In the sixth century B.C., Pythagoras theorized that male semen conveyed the information into female bodies, which provided nourishment. Two hundred years later, Aristotle, observing that some Greeks resembled their mothers and grandmothers, proposed that women as well as men carry their likeness, in the blood. (We still speak of bloodlines and blood relatives.) Aristotle said, rightly, that creatures must pass along not just material, like wood for a carpenter, but a message: “the shape and the form.”

During the next two millenniums, little more was learned. When Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” in 1859, he was uncomfortably aware that his entire theory of evolution rested atop a foundation that could not be seen. A theory of heredity was yet to come. This missing science we now know as genetics. Its elusive fundamental particle, the essential unit of biological information, we call the gene. First the idea of the gene had to be invented. Then the physical entity, present in each cell of our bodies, in every living thing, had to be discovered. The story of this invention and this discovery has been told, piecemeal, in different ways, but never before with the scope and grandeur that Siddhartha Mukherjee brings to his new history, “The Gene.” He fully justifies the claim that it is “one of the most powerful and dangerous ideas in the history of science.”

As he did in his Pulitzer ­Prize-winning history of cancer, “The Emperor of All Maladies” (2010), Mukherjee views his subject panoptically, from a great and clarifying height, yet also intimately. Framing his story are pieces of his own family history: His cousin and two of his uncles “suffered from various unravelings of the mind,” and the specter of mental illness, presumably inherited or inheritable, haunts his family and his imagination. The books form a magnificent pair. “The Emperor of All Maladies” is, as Mukherjee notes, the story of the genetic code corrupted, tipping into malignancy. The new book, then, serves as its prequel.” NY Times by James Gleickmay 12, 2016

Grit by Angela Duckworth

In this must-read book for anyone striving to succeed, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows parents, students, educators, athletes, and business people—both seasoned and new—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently noted her lack of “genius,” Duckworth, now a celebrated researcher and professor, describes her early eye-opening stints in teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a unique combination of passion and long-term perseverance. In Grit, she takes readers into the field to visit cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, teachers working in some of the toughest schools, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll. Here are some of the topics:

*Why any effort you make ultimately counts twice toward your goal

*How grit can be learned, regardless of I.Q. or circumstances

*How lifelong interest is triggered

*How much of optimal practice is suffering and how much ecstasy

*Which is better for your child—a warm embrace or high standards

*The magic of the Hard Thing Rule

Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference. Amazon & Book Passage

Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation by Anne Sebba

Paris in the 1940s was a place of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation, and secrets. During the occupation, the swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower and danger lurked on every corner. While Parisian men were either fighting at the front or captured and forced to work in German factories, the women of Paris were left behind where they would come face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis, as waitresses, shop assistants, or wives and mothers, increasingly desperate to find food to feed their families as hunger became part of everyday life.

When the Nazis and the puppet Vichy regime began rounding up Jews to ship east to concentration camps, the full horror of the war was brought home and the choice between collaboration and resistance became unavoidable. Sebba focuses on the role of women, many of whom faced life and death decisions every day. After the war ended, there would be a fierce settling of accounts between those who made peace with or, worse, helped the occupiers and those who fought the Nazis in any way they could. Book Browse

Look at you now by Liz Pryor

In 1979, Liz Pryor is a seventeen-year-old girl from a good family in the wealthy Chicago suburbs. Halfway through her senior year of high school, she discovers that she is pregnant – a fact her parents are determined to keep a secret from her friends, siblings, and community forever. One snowy January day, after driving across three states, her mother drops her off at what Liz thinks is a Catholic home for unwed mothers – but which is, in truth, a locked government-run facility for delinquent and impoverished pregnant teenage girls.

In the cement-block residence, Liz is alone and terrified, a fish out of water – a girl from a privileged, sheltered background living amid tough, street-savvy girls who come from the foster care system or juvenile detention. But over the next six months, isolated and in involuntary hiding from everyone she knows, Liz develops a surprising bond with the other girls and begins to question everything she once held true. Told with tenderness, humor, and an open heart, Look at You Now is a deeply moving story about the most vulnerable moments in our lives – and how a willingness to trust ourselves can permanently change who we are and how we see the world. Book Browse

The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by  Andres Resendez

Between 1670 & 1720 exported more Indians out of Charleston South Carolina than Africans into it. Tens of Thousands of Indians were sold for labor on plantations in Carribean. Indian slavery was illegal but the slavers were able to slip under the law for four centuries. Thorough account of that period in our history. SF Chronicle review by Greg Sarris, April 24-30, 2016

Thank you for looking at my booklist!

All reviews are from Amazon, Book Browse, Book Passage, SF Chronicle Book Review or me.

Tracy

 

A Deadly Wandering:A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention by Matt Richtel

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A must read for our times. The story is true, an Utah College student, Reggie Shaw, has a car accident on a morning driving through Montana.. It is about this deadly distraction,”texting while driving” and sadly,the facts are he killed two scientists.

A Deadly Wandering from Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Matt Richtel, a brilliant, narrative-driven exploration of technology’s vast influence on the human mind and society, dramatically-told through the lens of a tragic “texting-while-driving” car crash that claimed the lives of two rocket scientists in 2006.

The story has two levels. It explores the neuroscience of attention and makes a readable, understandable case that we are “addicted” to technology. Richtel explains the scientific findings regarding human attention and the impact of devices like phones and computers on people. But the other level is looking at the families effected by this accident and the investigation, prosecution, and trial that follows. Ultimately, Reggie finds redemption and ends up becoming a leading advocate against “distracted driving”. The narrative written by Richtel is also an interesting commentary on the lawyering up and the silence of the accused which fuels the rage of the families of the deceased who want answers and are stonewalled until the trial and even afterwards.

“It isn’t preachy and it isn’t dry, instead, Richtel combines the story of a Utah boy who killed two rocket scientists while he was driving his car while texting with the scientific research surrounding attention, focus and our modern technology. Richtel delivers the history of cognitive neuroscience, from its origins in World War II, helping pilots and radar operators save lives by not being overwhelmed by the technology in front of them, to later M.R.I. brain studies of multitasking and what came to be called attention science.” The book is unsettling, “The intimacy of smartphones is, if not addictive, then certainly seductive. Not all distractions are created equal: The impairment of drunken driving, for instance, is consistently huge, while the impairment of texting is ­arguably more intense but shorter in duration. The researchers Richtel quotes have found that drivers are impaired for up to 15 seconds after they text — far longer than most drivers would ever think.”NY Times review of Deadly Wandering / Kolker Sept. 25, 2014

Ordinary people do not intentionally set out to do bad things  but the simple tasks of texting while driving can lead to tragic consequences. Reggie’s story  confirms that and more, the healing that comes with admission and taking responsibility. Kolker had the perfect things to say about “A Deadly Wandering” by Richtel so thus my reference to his review. Thank you, and please read “A Deadly Wandering” as it so applies to our times.

Tracys2cents