Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

jacketCAF9XH41 $14.00, 336 pages, Christian Fiction

A plane crash forces strangers Ben and Ashley to work together to save their lives.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

The Examiner

Book Reporter

A snowstorm cancels many outgoing commercial planes in the Salt Lake City area.  Dr. Ben Payne charters a small single-engine plane in an attempt to quickly get home.  He befriends Ashley in the airport terminal and invites her to hop a ride with him as she is desperate to get home for her wedding festivities.  The plane crashes and an incredible story of survival unfolds as relationships are questioned and lives are at stake.

I love a good survival story and was not disappointed in this book from Charles Martin.  I especially enjoyed the dynamics between Ashley and Ben and how they worked together to overcome insurmountable odds.  A tad far-fetched, the ending developed with a bit of a twist.

Appeal Factors: Fast-Paced, Plot-Driven,  Suspenseful

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include: Broken Wings by Terri Blackstock, The Note by Angela Hunt and The Princess by Lori Wick (accessed May 4, 2013).

Book Reading Guide

I chose this book after it was recommend by a close friend.  She loved the story and thought I would, as well.  A fan of Christian fiction, I welcomed the opportunity.

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Mice by Gordon Reece

41t4142W7zL $24.95, 336 pages, Mystery-Fiction

Shelly and her mom seek privacy after a bullying incident…and yet, they are attacked once again.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

The New Yorker

After being horrifically bullied by classmates, Shelley and her mom begin a new life in the countryside.  The parents divorce, Shelley is left with deep scars, and the teenager and her mom start life anew.  Homeschooled and with a simple routine, Shelley’s new life seems both protected and secure….until she and her mom are visited by a stranger one night.  What unfolds is a suspenseful story of fear, horror and working to protect the ones you love.

I really enjoyed this book and was quite surprised.  I have never been drawn to stories about bullying as I find it despicable how mean kids can be to one another.  And yet, I was drawn to Shelley and found myself rooting for her, her mother and their new life together.

Appeal Factors: Character-Driven, Issue-Oriented, Suspenseful

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Godless by Pete Hautman and Bystander by James Preller (accessed May 4, 2013).

Reading Guide

I selected this book after I saw it on our library district’s website.  I was intrigued by the suspense and mystery angle.  Having never heard of the author, I was curious to try something new.

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Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

51-TsC7KuxL $26.00, 320 pages, Women’s Fiction- Medical

Two women befriend one another and learn their paths were meant to cross.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

USA Today

Book Reporter

When Beth and Olivia meet by accident and befriend one another, they discover that their relationship was meant to be.  Olivia has found her way to Nantucket after the loss of her son and when her marriage is on the fritz.  Olivia is rediscovering her love for writing after she leaves her unfaithful husband behind.  When a character in Olivia’s manuscript embodies the son Beth lost, the connection becomes very real for them both.

I found this story a bit far-fetched and as a result, I was somewhat disappointed in this latest from Lisa Genova.  I cannot fathom the pain and grief that must accompany the loss of a child.  I felt such emotion for Beth and I rallied for Olivia as she left her cheating husband.  And yet, the means by which the two ultimately connected was just a bit too coincidental for me to believe.

Appeal Factors: Character-driven, Sobering, Bittersweet

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include: Until the Real Thing Comes Along by Elizabeth Berg, Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller and Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard  (accessed May 4, 2013).

Reading Guide

I chose this book as I have read another book by author Lisa Genova.  I was excited to see a new title being released by her and promptly placed my name on the hold list at my library.

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Screwjack by Hunter S. Thompson

jacket$15.00, 64 pages, Short Story

Author Biography

Reviews:

Salon

Simon and Schuster

From Hunter S. Thompson comes this small book that contains three short stories.  The first is titled “Mescalito” and describes a wild night of drinking and use of mescaline for the first time in a hotel room.  The second is “Death of a Poet” and finds Thompson dealing with the death of a friend after he visits a trailer park complex.  The final story is titled “Screwjack” and is a wild ride through Thompson’s head and imagination.

Bizarre.  Truly the best way for me to describe this trio of stories.  I had heard Hunter S. Thompson’s writing was a little out there, however, this was my first experience.  I found the short stories very hard to follow.  I felt as though I was reading a short segment from Thompson’s own personal diary after a mescaline infueled drug encounter.

Appeal Factors: Melancholy, Offbeat, Violent

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include:  Hit Parade by Lawrence Block, Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King and Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (accessed May 4, 2013).

Study Guide and Discussion Questions

I chose this book because I receive a plethora of requests for books by Hunter S. Thompson at the library where I work.  Ever curious, I thought it wise to begin my foray into Thompson’s works with something short.

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The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

jacket $19.99, 240 pages, Graphic Novel

Author’s Website

Reviews:

Grovel

Book Drum

The goal of this graphic novel involves the attempt of a wizard to capture Death.  And yet, in the process, it is actually Dream (or Morpheus), who is captured.  Dream is the younger brother of Death.  The graphic novel is divided into a series of shorter chapters and stories in which characters often represent much more.  Morpheus travels throughout the graphic novel in an attempt to retrieve the items lost to him while he was away for some 70 years.  Multiple characters are introduced which will eventually create the need for additional volumes of the Sandman series.  Gaiman’s writing introduces elements of life and death, mythology and Biblical references, as well.

This graphic novel was very dark and disturbing to me.  I found the vignettes or short stories hard to follow and often filled with multiple meanings.  When not struggling with the text, I often turned to the visuals for guidance.  Perhaps if I read more of the volumes of the Sandman series, I would understand the storylines a bit more.

Appeal Factors: Character-driven, Gruesome, Moody

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include:  Y, the Last Man by Brian Vaughan, Black Hole by Charles Burns and Finder by Carla Speed McNeil (accessed May 4, 2013).

Sandman Series Summary

I read this book after it was selected as required reading and discussion for our Readers’ Advisory class.

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The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

51IdHczmJgL $26.99, 400 pages, Women’s Fiction

An aspiring TV producer takes on Hollywood with her 70-year-old grandmother in tow!

Author’s Website

Reviews:
Kirkus Review

USA Today

Ruth Saunders has endured enough pain for a lifetime.  She was raised by her grandmother after an accident claimed her parents and left her with facial scars and pain.  Saunders aspired to produce a television show and moves to Hollywood with her grandma to try to make it happen.  This story is one of perseverance, laughter, heartache and love.  Saunders finally gets her show, The Next Best Thing, picked up.  And yet the vision she had for her show does not mirror what is created by the studio.  Ruth’s life is suddenly filled with uncertainty both professionally and personally.

I really enjoyed this book and found myself rooting for Ruth, her grandma, the two Daves and other characters.  I was frustrated when Ruth was frustrated….smiling when Ruth was smiling and cheering for love when Ruth doubted it would ever find her!  I love Weiner’s writing style and her approach to relationships, love and life!  In my opinion, yet another chick lit winner from Weiner.

Novelist recommends the following read-alikes: Danielle Steel’s One Day at a Time, Susan Mallery’s Already Home and London is the Best City in America by Laura Dave (accessed March 4, 2012)

Book Discussion Questions

Appeal Factors: Heartwarming, Leisurely-Paced, Romantic

I chose this book because I fell in love with Weiner as an author when I read her first book, Good in Bed.  The story is endearing, the characters real and the plot quite often brings a smile to my face.

See what Jennifer is reading: Author’s personal blog.

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The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

51oUfbkjM-L $14.99, 288 pages, Christian Fiction

An Amish woman learns life-altering news just before her wedding.

Author’s Website
Reviews:
Customer Reviews at Barnes and Noble
Amazon.com Customer Reviews

The story of a young woman growing up in an Amish Plain community in Pennsylvania.  The color of her hair is unique and sets her apart from her family and others.  She loves music but must deny this form of entertainment or make confession to her church.  While she is prepping for her marriage to the local Bishop, questions surface which make her doubt everything about her life.  Will she remain Plain, marry the widower Bishop and raise his 5 children or….be shunned?

I really enjoyed the story, characters and challenges faced by young Katie Lapp.  Always fascinated by the Amish lifestyle and community, I struggled with the limitations set forth.  So much was demanded and I empathized as Katie struggled with personal feelings, music and the rigorous structure.  The plot was somewhat predictable and slow in parts, however, Lewis’ story was endearing.
According to Novelist, read-alikes for this title include: Wanda Brunstetter’s A Sister’s Test, Who Do I Lean On? by Neta Jackson and Cindy Woodsmall’s The Hope of Refuge. (accessed March 5, 2013)

The Shunning was awarded the ECPA Gold Book Award (500,000 sold) in 2002 and the ECPA Platinum Book Award (1,000,000 sold) in 2008, according to BeverlyLewis.com (accessed March 5, 2013).

Appeal Factors: Inspirational, Homespun, Character-driven

The Shunning is the first in a trilogy. See the other books available by Beverly Lewis:
The Heritage of Lancaster County Series

I chose this book because I have enjoyed Christian fiction in the past. I had never read a selection by Beverly Lewis and regularly saw books by her.

Interesting Note: This book was made into a television movie for The Hallmark Channel: http://hallmarkchannel.com/theshunning

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Sweet Hell on Fire: A Memoir of the Prison I Worked In and the Prison I Lived In by Sara Lunsford

41OIQG10bPL $14.99, 288 pages, Biography

Stories and memories of a former female prison correctional officer from Kansas.

Author’s Website

Reviews:
Herald Standard Review and, Killeen Daily Herald News

This book provides a fascinating glimpse into the real-life work of a prison correctional officer.  Sara Lunsford worked in a Kansas prison and details many graphic stories of life inside medium, maximum and segregated units.  The language is rough and the job is one she is unable to leave at work.  While she succeeds as a well-respected sergeant at work, life at home is anything but successful.  After her marriage fell apart, Lunsford began to drink more and more and see her children less and less.  Desperate to make a change, Lunsford must decide what is truly important in life.

I enjoyed some of the glimpses Lunsford offered into the Kansas prison.  While maintaining a solid work ethic and respect from the inmates, I was frustrated that Lunsford didn’t carry this level of performance over to her personal life.

Appeal Factors: Disturbing, High-Drama, Violent

This book appealed to me as I work in a correctional facility.  Many of the inmates I work with eventually head to prison.  I was able to relate to many of the stories.  I chose the book to learn how the career impacted Lunsford’s personal life.  I found the book at a local bookstore while perusing the true crime section.

Interesting Fact: After leaving life as a correctional officer, Lunsford did begin her career as an author.  Today, she writes paranormal romance, urban fantasy and erotica under the name: Saranna Dewylde.

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Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir by Bill Clegg

41w1F2RwQqL $23.99, 240 pages, Biography

Publisher’s Website

Reviews:
NY Times

The Independent

A raw memoir detailing a crack addiction that took over Clegg’s body, career and relationships.

Literary agent Bill Clegg writes of his escalating crack cocaine use in his memoir.  A successful entrepreneur in a relationship, Clegg learns the hard way that he cannot casually use drugs.  Holing up in hotels throughout Manhattan, Clegg subsists on crack and vodka while his partner and business friends fight to get him help.  The memoir continues as Clegg attempts to maintain his professional life while using.  The end result is another stint in rehab.

As a fan of memoirs, I enjoy reading stories where the writer has overcome hardships, addictions or struggles.  This memoir of crack addiction turned very ugly very quick.  The writing is very raw with incredible detail of drug binges, sex and a life spiraling out of control.  I found myself rooting for the author less and less as he continued to make careless and reckless decisions.

Appeal Factors: Character-driven, Graphic, Gritty, Disturbing, Fast-Paced

This book appealed to me as I often read memoirs involving addiction in an effort to connect with my patrons who also struggle with addictions.

If you like this book, consider: Tweak by Nic Sheff, The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll or Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs, according to Amazon.com (accessed March 3, 2013)

I chose to read this book after checking out Clegg’s follow-up book, Ninety Days, to patrons.

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Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

jacket $14.95, 232 pages, Graphic Novel-Autobiography-Nonfiction

A nonfiction graphic novel in the form of a memoir in which the author recounts her childhood and the role of her father throughout.

Alison Bechdel’s website

Reviews:
The Simon

Powell’s

NY Times

Bechdel’s memoir of growing up is unique in its graphic novel format.  Her family runs a funeral home,  father struggles with his sexuality and she begins to question her feelings and role through it all.  When Bechdel’s father faces criminal charges stemming from his encounters with young men, the tone changes considerably.  While Bechdel attempts to maintain a relationship with her father through a love for prose, his suicide alters everything.  Bechdel explores her sexuality while away at college and eventually comes out when bringing her partner home to meet the family.

This graphic novel is quite unique.  Overall, I enjoyed the memoir portion and appreciated Bechdel’s observations and commentary.  I loved the glimpses of shared experiences through reading that smattered the book.  I did discover that for me personally, some images are best left to the written word.

Novelist recommends the following as read-alikes in the nonfiction graphic novel genre: Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson, Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi and Little Things: a Memoir in Slices by Jeffrey Brown. (accessed March 5, 2013)

Some of the Awards for Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic from Bechdel’s website, www.dykestowatchoutfor.com:

Fun Home won the 2006 Publishing Triangle’s Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award, a Lambda Book Award, an Eisner award, and the Stonewall Book Award-Israel Fishman Nonfiction Award from the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table. It was also nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Time, 12/25/06, #1 Best Book of the Year New York Times, 12/3/06, 100 Notable Books of 2006 Entertainment Weekly, 12/22/06, Best Books of the Year, #1 Nonfiction People, 12/25/06, Top 10 Books of the Year USA Today, 12/21/06, Best Graphic Title of 2006 Los Angeles Times, 12/10/06, Favorite Books of 2006, Fiction and Poetry San Francisco Chronicle, 12/17/06, The Year’s Best Books New York Magazine, 12/18/06, Best Books of the Year, #7 Time Out New York, 12/06, Favorite Books of the Year Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/24/06, Best Books of 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12/3/06, Best Books of 2006 The Plain Dealer, 12/10/06, Outstanding Books of 2006 Salon, 12/12/06, Best Debuts of 2006, Nonfiction The Capital Times, 12/12/06, 2006 Favorites Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/15/06, Best of Year Out, 12/2006, 100 Most Intriguing People of 2006 Amazon.com, Editor’s Choice, Top 50 Books of 2006, Top 10 Memoirs of 2006 Oregonian, 12/31/06, Best Books of 2006, #2 The Advocate, 1/07, Best Book of the Year The Guardian (UK), 11/26/06, Pick of 2006 New York Blade, 12/29/06, Literary Stand Outs of 2006 PW Comics Week, Critic’s Poll, Best Comic Book of 2006 Publishers Weekly, Best Books of the Year 2006 Times (UK), 12/16/06, Best Books of 2006, #10 Newsday, 1/2/07, Favorite Books of 2006 The Village Voice, 25 Favorite Books of 2006

Appeal Factors: Bittersweet, Fast-Paced, Nostalgic, Somber

Discussion Questions were developed for this book: Study Guide Questions

I chose this book as my first foray into the graphic novel genre.  I thought that by choosing a nonfiction selection, it might help me associate the visual images with the storyline.

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