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The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani is a light book (not quite chick lit) but wonderful in that it explores a traditional arranged Indian marriage in modern day Beverly Hills. Quick read, really fun. According to Publisher's Weekly, “the novel's charm derives in large part from grounded details about the immigrant experience.”
I have two suggestions of classic novels for people who love nineteenth-century books like Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1857), Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (1875-1877), and Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest (1895). And if you haven't read these great novels, let's just say that Wisteria Lane has nothing, absolutely nothing, on the worlds created by Flaubert, Tolstoy, and Fontane!
My suggestions take readers not from France to Russia and then Germany, but straight to Spain. The greatest nineteenth-century Spanish novel is La Regenta (1885), or "The Judge's Wife," written in just a few months by Leopoldo Alas, who published under the pseudonym Clarín. Beautifully written and chock full of withering portraits of the provincial upper class, this is Spain's answer to Madame Bovary . Also interesting is Fortunata and Jacinta (1886-1887), by the incredibly prolific Benito Pérez Galdós. Set in Madrid at the time of the restoration of Spain's monarchy, Galdós intricately weaves contemporary history into the lives of his characters. Both La Regenta and Fortunata and Jacinta , which can be found in excellent English translations, will provide readers with hours of delight. I enjoyed La Regenta so much that I read it twice in one week, and, to date, more than 20 times more!
For aficionados of more contemporary literature but still with a historical setting, I'd recommend looking at the novels of another Spanish author, Arturo Pérez Reverte, who writes rich fictions of detection. Perhaps the most ambitious is The Club Dumas , a clever and beautifully written novel that was made into the disappointing film The Ninth Gate by Roman Polanski. Reverte has a new series of detective novels with a historical setting featuring Captain Alatriste. The first of these novels, Captain Alatriste and Purity of Blood have recently appeared in English.
Brooke McDonough: Both of my favorite Hot Reads this year were picks from The Friends Drop-in Book Club.
A Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus is based on the fictional premise of a contract between President Grant and Chief Little Wolf, of the Cheyenne nation, for the United States government to provide 1,000 white women as brides to the Cheyenne tribes in order to assimilate the “savages” into the white culture. It's a fascinating look at the two cultures during the western expansion of one culture and the downfall of the other. The strong and memorable characters keep the readers engaged in both sides of the ultimate struggle.
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult explores the issues of genetic selection and the morality of creating a child as a donor to save her sick sister. It's a portrait of a family spinning out of control and heading straight to an unimaginable disaster. It is emotional and thought-provoking. Bring tissues.
For a hidden treasure, I rescued Martin Amis's powerful novel Time's Arrow from the remainder bin. It's the story about Tod A. Friendly, a doctor who was involved in the medical experiments in Auschwitz. The story is told in reverse, from the doctor's death to his birth so the horrible events of his life are replayed are backwards (told through the point of view of his unknowing soul traveling back time) — like a fascinating nightmare.
A Perfect Stranger and other stories by Roxanna Robinson. She is a beautiful writer who manages to immediately draw the reader in. Her stories are so real you think she's talking to you. They cover a wide range of subjects from families to friendship and love. It was written in 2005 and I found it through a great review in The New York Times book review.
By Force of Arms by James Nelson (This is a series of four books the others are The Maddest Idea , The Continental Risque , & All the Brave Fellows)
This summer on Martha's Vineyard an islander recommended to me a Revolution at Sea Trilogy , historic fiction by James Nelson of New England. I was hunting for a birthday book for my husband who loves maritime history and these came my way. My husband absolutely loves these so much so that he's told me he's trying to read them slowly. They are similar to the beloved Patrick O'Brien historic fiction series chronicling the Napoleonic Wars except that they are the American counterpart. For anyone on your list who loves maritime history, these are great and not so well known.
A Gesture Life by Chang-Rae Lee (A New York Times Notable Book of the Year) is a beautifully written narrative of a man from Japan who makes a new life for himself in New York. He is known and respected as Doc Hata in the community. As the story of his life unfolds, the reader is brought into his world of challenges. Doc Hata lives life from an emotional detached perspective. Publisher's Weekly summed it up as a resonant story of an outsider striving to become part of an alien culture.
A recent favorite is Straight Man , by Richard Russo. It is about a New Hampshire
English Professor who is in a bit of a mid-life crisis. He rebels against the authority of his English Department and neighbors with comic results. The main character could be Dave Barry.
For a hidden treasure, Richard Llewellyn's 1939 international best-selling novel, How Green Was My Valley, stands the test of time as a literary classic. Set in a Welsh coalmining village in the last quarter of the 19th century, its themes of spiritual longing and soaring opposed to physical yearning and bondage are developed in a language that combines Shakespeare's richness and Hemmingway's freshness. The author delights readers with incisive ways of observing everyday phenomena that make them seem timeless, as indeed they are. This is what it takes to make a writing transcend generations. More than a good read, it feeds the soul now as it did when it dominated the best-seller lists in the midst of World War Two.
Jane Tevnan (and husband Gene):
The Orientalist by Tom Reiss is a fascinating uncovering of a mysterious native of Baku, a Jew who escaped the Russian Revolution, transformed himself into a romantic Islamic writer and international celebrity and author of the national novel of Azerbaijan.
Stiff by Mary Roach is a wide-ranging and humorous exploration of the use of human cadavers.
Birds Without Wings by Louis de Berniers is a prequel of sorts to Corelli's Mandolin --the unraveling of the muti-cultural Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I.
Istanbul-Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk--a memoir of the city during the youth of Pamuk in the 1950's and 1960's. Heavily illustrated with period pictures, and much more accessible than his acclaimed novels, My Name is Red & Snow
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini-- This book is a real page turner...not for the faint of heart. I know it is fiction, but I found myself so emotionally involved; I wanted to seek justice for the atrocities experienced by many of the main characters. I could not stop thinking about this book .
On a lighter note, I am really enjoying a cookbook I found in the Duxbury Free Library. It is called Boston Tea Parties: Recipes from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston . It is available for $20 at mfashop.com. It is a beautiful soft cover book with many paintings from the collection and recipes related to the "gracious tradition of serving afternoon tea."
Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a favorite book because of the cross-race, cross-cultural interactions of the characters, who survive the all the curve balls that life throws at them. I thought the writing was beautiful.
The Constant Gardener by John LeCarre–a little different than some of his others, this book explores life in mid-continent Africa and the long reach of the international pharmaceutical industry. Interesting that it is soon to be released on film.
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Books for teens - Ellen Snoeyenbos
Anderson, M.T. , Thirsty : Dark humor plays out in a gothic story of hero, Christopher, Chad, the Celestial Being and a bevy of vampires in western Mass. The language can be boyishly crude but the story is a page-turner. Read this with:
Rees, Douglas , Vampire High , another wickedly funny vampire book set in western Mass.!
Cabot, Meg - Anything by her will be a hit with a girl who likes gentle but witty romance.
Mediator Series, 1-800-where-are-you series, Princess Diaries, Avon Romances All-American Girl books
Collins, Susan , Gregor the Overlander (3 books in series). Gregor and his little sister fall through an air vent and find themselves in a subterranean world where Gregor is transformed into a warrior who leads a battle against an army of rats.
Feinstein, John, Last Shot : Two teenage winners of a writing contest win a free trip to the Final Four college basketball tournament and an opportunity to cover the games. Friction between the pair quickly turns to camaraderie when they overhear one of the players from fictional Minnesota State being coerced into throwing the title game.
Flanagan, John , Ranger's Apprentice : Book 1 of The Ruins of Gorlan
Will is nervous about Choosing Day, when each of them will be assigned to a different master for training. Though his dearest wish is to enter the Battleschool, his small stature prevents it. Instead, Will is apprenticed to the grim-faced, mysterious Ranger. Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings.
Giovanni, Nikki, Paint Me Like I Am : teen poems from Writerscorps: WritersCorps works with disadvantaged youth. These young people have a lot to say in these honest and sometimes raw poems.
Gliori, Debi , Pure Dead….Magic, Wicked,Brilliant J. K. Rowling meets Lemony Snicket in a high-tech setting. There's so much going on in this debut novel, it's hard to know where to begin. Let's see, the three children of the Strega-Borgia family--Titus, Pandora, and baby Damp--are bemoaning the disappearance of their father, and their mother is going back to Witch's School to support the family, leaving them in the care of a newly hired nanny, a dragon, and assorted other beasts.
Gonick, Larry , The Cartoon History of….the Universe Part I
Monty Python meets Attila the Hun. Gonick is a riot and fairly accurate in his descriptions. License must be given for the humor. Both guys and girls loves these books.
Hale, Shannon, The Goose Girl , Princess Academy : A new but instantly popular writer, Hale draws from standard fairy tale material to weave a wonderful story of heroism, betrayal, and hidden identity. Girls are devouring these!
Harrison, Lisi , The Clique : (series of four books)
This is the book the movie, Mean Girls , could have be based on. Nasty back-stabbing behavior abounds and teens can't get enough of it! The series of 5 books has tons of holds on it!
Hoffman, Alice , Green Angel , Beautifully written prose fills this first-person narrative of a teen whose world is turned around in an instant. This is both a survival story and an homage to the need to cherish life's moments. For an older teen.
Horowitz, Anthony , Raven's Gate : book 1 of the Gatekeepers.
Enormously popular thriller writer, Horowitz, starts another series to everyone's pleasure.
Jones, Diana Wynne, Howl's Moving Castle : Eldest of three sisters in a land where it is considered to be a misfortune, Sophie is resigned to her fate as a hat shop apprentice until a witch turns her into an old woman and she finds herself in the castle of the greatly feared wizard Howl. Tongue is placed firmly in cheek!
Lawrence, Iain, The High Seas Trilogy : The Wreckers, The Smugglers, The Buccaneers
The story is very exciting, and somewhat graphic and violent, with many twists and surprises. Each chapter ends on a suspenseful note.
Lubar, David , Dunk . Chad sees an amazing display of verbal showmanship and wants to be a “bozo” (the king of the dunktank) on the boardwalk of Atlantic City. The voice, the setting, the characters are believable and yet the plot is anything but expected. An author to watch.
Mowll, Joshua , Operation Red Jericho , The Guild Specialists Book 1, Thrilling adventure story featuring a unique "faux-journal" format and archival elements including elaborate diagrams and maps, vintage photos and illustrations, documents with stamps, seals, and watermarks, four full-color gatefolds, and extensive appendices and notes.
Peters, Julie Anne , Define “Normal”. Through high school peer counseling, Jazz and Antonia go from wary classmates to friends who support and help one another.
Rahlens, Holly-Jane , Prince William, Maximilian Minsky, and Me :
A brainy girl's first crush — on a certain British royal — leads to unexpected discoveries about life, loss, love, and loyalty in this hilarious, poignant, award-winning novel set in modern Berlin.
Rennison, Louise, Angus, thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging , ?" A Bridget Jones for the younger set, Georgia records the momentous events of her life--and they are all momentous--in her diary, which serves as a truly hilarious account of what it means to be a modern girl on the cusp of womanhood.
Stroud, Jonathan, The Amulet of Samarkand : The Bartimaeus Trilogy Book One ,
Nathaniel is a young magician's apprentice, who masters one of the toughest spells of all: summoning the all-powerful djinni, Bartimaeus. But summoning Bartimaeus and controlling him are two different things entirely.
Sutcliff, Rosemary, Black Ships Before Trot, The Wandering of Odysseus Brilliant retelling offers readers an exciting introduction to the heroes of ancient Greece while providing the complete story of the battle of Troy & Story of Odysseus.
Tashjian, Janet , The Gospel According to Larry , Josh starts a web site under the pseudonym “Larry” on which he rants against consumer culture and its obsession with celebrities. But as Larry's popularity grows, Josh's identity becomes impossible to hide, forcing him to reevaluate his medium for instigating change.
Whelan, Gloria , Listening for Lions : In 1919, in British East Africa, 13-year-old Rachel loses her missionary parents during an influenza epidemic. When she turns to her English neighbors for help, the Pritchards ensnare her in a shocking, ill-intentioned scheme.
Zahn, Timothy, Dragon and Thief : A Dragonback Adventure: Fourteen-year-old orphan Jack Morgan, former small-time thief, is on the run, framed for theft from megacorporation Braxton Universis. Hiding out on an unoccupied planet, his only companion an artificial intelligence programmed with the personality of his con man uncle Virge, Jack witnesses a battle between incoming spaceships.
GRAPHIC NOVEL WINNERS:
Blain, Christophe, Isaac the Pirate : Isaac is a young, talented painter in pre-Revolution France. He lives with the beautiful Alice and dreams of making enough money from his art to marry her. But he leaves her to go on a sea voyage, not so much because it offers good wages but because it promises to show him new things to draw. He soon learns his captain isn't just a pirate; he wants to become famous by sailing to the South Pole. Alice, meanwhile, tries to remain true to Isaac while struggling with poverty and dealing with the attentions of a handsome though featherheaded admirer, Philip.
Gaiman, Neil, Marvel 1602 : superhero comic that transfers Marvel's classic characters to the Elizabethan period. Nick Fury is still a lethal government operative, but now he's an adviser to Queen Elizabeth. Her Majesty is equally reliant on magician and doctor Stephen Strange.
Hosler, Jay , C lan Apis : Opening with a creation myth and working through the biological, sociological, and ecological changes affecting the life of Nyuki the bee, the text is a combination of authoritative science; appealing, detailed black-and-white drawings; and dialogue replete with humor, pubescent angst, political sloganeering, and more. A classic.
Smith, Jeff , Out of Boneville series of 9. The Bones look like a cross between Snoopy and the Schmoo, and there are three of them: Fone Bone is honest and brave; Phoney Bone is a cross between Scrooge McDuck and the Grinch; and Smiley Bone is the village idiot personified. They are the stars in what is, in my opinion, the best graphic novel series of the past fifteen years.
Satrapi, Marjane , Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood Marji tells of her life in Iran from the age of 10, when the Islamic revolution of 1979 reintroduced a religious state, through the age of 14 when the Iran-Iraq war forced her parents to send her to Europe for safety. Extremely moving, for older readers.
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Books for Children - Nancy Denman
For the Younger Set:
Even More Parts by Ted Arnold (jK-3 ARN)
My Daddy is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste (jK-3 BAP)
Honey, Honey---Lion! A Story of Africa by Jan Brett (jK-3 BRE)
10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carole (jK-3 CAR)
Carl's Sleepy Afternoon by Alexandra Day (jK-3 DAY)
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert (jK-3 EHL)
The Best Part of Me* by Wendy Ewald (jK-3 EWA)
Traction Man by Mini Grey (jK-3 GRE)
City 1 2 3 by Zoran Milich (jK-3 MIL)
Zen Shorts by Jon Muth (jK-3 MUT)
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson (jK-3 NEL)
The Great Fuzz Frenzy by Janet Stevens & Susan S. Crummel (jK-3 STE)
Fiction for the Elementary and Middle School Crowd…
Skellig * by David Almond (jFic ALM)
Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson (jFic AND)
Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You by DiTerrlizzi (jFic DIT)
Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (jFic FLA)
Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going (jFic GOI)
Among the Enemy by Margaret Haddix (jFic HAD)
Sixth-Grade Glommers, Norks, and Me by Lisa Papademetriou (jFic PAP)
Magyk by Angie Sage (jFic SAG)
Danger Boy: Dragon Sword by Mark Williams (jFic WIL)
Adam Canfield of The Slash by Michael Winerip (jFic WIN)
Information Can Be Fun…
Are You Psychic?The Official Guide for Kids by Helaine Becker (j133.9 BEC)
My Light by Molly Bang (J537 BAN)
Dragonology* (j398.2 DRA)
Big Bang! The Tongue-Tickling Tale of a Speck That Became Spectacular by Carolyn DeCristofano (j523.1 DEC)
Into the Volcano A Researcher at Work by D O'Meara (j551.21 OME)
Shark Life: True Stories About Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley (j597.3 BEN)
Crochet: Fantastic Jewelry, Hats, Purses, Pillows & More by Jane Davis (j746.43 DAV)
Run, Jump, Hide, Slide, Splash: the 200 Best Outdoor Games Ever by Joe Rhatigan (j796 RHA)
Read a Rhyme, Write a Rhyme (j811.54 REA)
Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook by Shel Silverstein (j811 SIL)
Guts: the True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books by Gary Paulsen (jB PAULSEN)
Leon's Story* by Leon Walter Tillage (jB TILLAGE)
A Treasure to Give:
The Twelve Gifts of Birth by Charlene Costanzo (jK-3 COS)
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