May 15, 2013
This excellent short novel chronicles one summer in the life of Abbott, a college professor at home with his 2-year-old daughter, as he and his wife await the birth of their second child. Insightful, brilliantly funny, and set in Amherst.
May 8, 2013
Me Before You
Louisa Clark is an ordinary English girl from an ordinary English town who has done very little with her life. Will Traynor is an adventurous, world travelling CEO - until an accident makes him a quadriplegic. When Louisa is hired as his caregiver, things begin to change in unexpected ways for this unlikely pair. A heartbreaking novel about love, hope, and possibilities.
May 1, 2013
City of Women
In wartime Berlin (where all the men but the elderly and the Gestapo are at the front), bombs are falling nightly, informers are everywhere, and everyone has secrets. In this dark and sensual novel by Amherst author David Gillham, Sigrid, a young woman whose husband is fighting on the Eastern front and who lives with her meddling mother-in-law has fallen in love with a Jew and soon must make choices in a world where nothing is what it seems.
April 24, 2013
One evening, two brothers and their wives plan on enjoying a dinner at a nice restaurant. During the meal, as each course passes, we learn more about events in the recent past that bring these two couples together that evening, and the disturbing event that they must confront and discuss. Set in Amsterdam, this surprisingly disturbing novel draws the reader into an unexpected conflict between doing what is right and protecting those one loves.
April 17, 2013
Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
A laugh-out-loud funny account of a family caught up in the privileged, overachieving world of Seattle in the Microsoft era. Brilliant architect Bernadette Fox, her software guru husband, and their beloved daughter Bee scramble to protect their eccentric household as neighborhood feuds, private school battles, and office politics threaten to destroy all they hold dear. Hang on, as there are many unexpected plot twists and turns including a trip to Antarctica!
April 10, 2013
Kate Moore quits her job in Washington DC to move to Luxembourg with her family. While her husband Dexter works for a bank, Kate must find her place into the expatriate community. When another American couple joins their circle, it becomes clear that everyone has secrets. An engrossing thriller with unexpected plot twists and reveals that will keep you in suspense every step of the way.
April 3, 2013
Her: A Memoir
A heartbreaking memoir of loss, survival, and renewal. In stunningly honest and lyrical prose, the author writes about the death of her identical twin sister, a promising UMass graduate student, and her own devastation at losing half of her identity. To carry on, she must confront the overwhelming task of recreating herself as a complete being. The author provides fascinating information about the psychology of being a twin, blended in with her personal story.
March 27, 2013
The Last Runaway
Honor Bright, having left her home and Quaker community in England, finds herself alone on the Ohio frontier of 1850. As she works with the Underground Railroad, Honor must choose between living her beliefs and complying with the demands of others. A beautifully written novel that paints a picture of the place and time, and memorable characters that confront complex issues with strength and integrity.
March 20, 2013
Race: Are We So Different?
Filled with color photographs and personal stories, this book is a fascinating, eye-opening look at the concept of race. The authors marshall overwhelming evidence from science and history to show that the biology of race is a powerful myth. Human beings exist in a broad range of skin tones, and the concept of race is a relatively recent human invention used to justify colonization and slavery. The persistence of this notion has powerful consequences in our own time.
March 13, 2013
In the Garden of Evening Mists
In a style filled with lyrical descriptions of the Malaysian landscape, Tan Twan Eng offers the reader a well written and complex story filled with secrets and twists at every turn as the novel follows the life of Yun Ling from early girlhood to her retirement from the Malaysian Judicial Bench. Yun Ling, interned in a Japanese prison camp as a young girl, manages to survive the Japanese occupation and communist guerilla uprisings that occupy Malaysia's history. The book is brimming with interesting characters, not the least of which is the mysterious Japanese gardener who becomes Yun Ling's mentor.
March 6, 2013
The Art Forger
Reviewed by Linda
The still-unsolved art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum provides the background for this clever novel about the Boston art world. Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, finds herself unexpectedly drawn in to the shadowy world of forgeries and art secrets kept for over a century. Gardner, the museum's brilliant and eccentric founder, is brought to life through flashbacks to the time of the museum's origins. You will be planning a road trip to this gorgeous museum by the time you finish.
Reviewed by Janet
When is reproduced art a forgery and when is it a copy? Artist Claire Roth has had a hard time in the Boston art world, so when a prominent gallery owner brings her a project, it looks as if her luck has turned. Yet as she prepares for this job, she begins to wonder about the painting and its history - and the possible repercussions on her career and reputation. An intriguing look at the art world, love, and betrayal.
February 27, 2013
The Yellow Birds
Written by a combat veteran, this is a short but powerful novel about the impact of war on those directly involved. Parallel narratives describe Bartle's experience on the front lines in Al Tafar towards the end of his tour and his re-entry into civilian life. Via the narratives, Bartle pieces together the story of his buddy Murphy and how the war in Iraq felt from the inside. A compelling and enduring look at this generation's war.
February 20, 2013
Goodbye for Now
Young Sam Elling is a software engineer, now living in Seattle, who has been luckless in love until he starts work developing software for an online dating company. He finds his perfect match and, from there, this engaging story takes the reader on a journey of love and loss, of grief and social networking, while posing probing questions about technology's potential and its limitations in the realm of human interactions and emotions.
February 13, 2013
The Casual Vacancy
I put off reading this book for a long time, as I feared being disappointed by an author I loved. But in the end I was spellbound as she pulled me in to this (nonmagical) British town, where a council vacancy triggers dramatic struggles within and between families. Yes, there are many characters to keep track of--I recommend keeping a list of the members of the eight or so families that the book follows. All come alive in the story, which tackles big themes while keeping you up late turning pages.
February 6, 2013
The Girl on the Cliff
Having fled home to her parents in Ireland after her personal life falls apart, Grania Ryan meets a young girl on the cliffs above the coast. As their friendship develops, it uncovers a parallel story, generations apart, of the fates of these two families have met and intertwined in the past as well as the present. A story of love, life, the meaning of family, and triumph over loss.
January 30, 2013
The Family Fang
Imagine being a child of parents who are radical performance artists, and imagine further that you and your sibling are considered a crucial part of their productions. Annie and Buster's parents create carefully choreographed spectacles in public places, startling and alarming passersby. Author Kevin Wilson examines with humor and compassion how their children can rebel and break free to form their own lives. It's not easy, especially because the parents' most shocking performance will stun even their children.
January 23, 2013
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Hattie leaves Georgia at age 15 and never looks back. Philadelphia brings a new freedom and a new life - though not the one she might have imagined. Each chapter in this book is about a different person from Hattie's life over the years. The reader is able to follow each different thread in the tapestry that is Hattie's experience. Race, marriage, family, religion, and consequences of life choices are all explored in this tender yet heartbreaking novel.
January 16, 2013
Acacia: The War with the Mein - Book 1
Local author Durham grew up loving Tolkien and after writing several highly acclaimed works of historical fiction decided to try his hand at fantasy. His trilogy, set in a richly portrayed medieval world, captivates with its powerful depiction of four siblings, trapped in captivity or exile, trying to avenge the murder of their father, King Leodan. With great skill, Durham draws contemporary concerns - from racism to addiction - into the plot.
January 9, 2013
Bank robber, folk hero, escape artist. Sutton was born in the early 1900s, when banks were the bad guys. War, economic depressions, and being Irish were all obstacles to leading a respectable life. So Sutton didn't. Parallel stories are told, with Sutton recounting his life to a reporter after his release from prison in 1969 alternating with a chronological narrative. An intriguing novel with a look at the shady side.
January 2, 2013
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
A devastating analysis of how we have come to have the majority of young black men in our major American cities locked behind bars or labeled felons for life for drug crimes that are largely ignored when committed by whites. This is one of those rare books that makes you question the "truths" you think you know about your society. Written by a scholar, lawyer, and former supreme court law clerk, this book is receiving a great deal of well-deserved attention.
December 26, 2012
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Clay finds work on the night shift at a very unusual bookstore, where most of the customers borrow esoteric books that make no sense. Intrigued, Clay brings the combined abilities of his oddball friends, 21st century technology, and the power of Google to solve a centuries-old puzzle. A fun and creative story of friendship, self-discovery, and the melding of history and technology.
December 19, 2012
When She Woke
Offering a coming of age story as well as a dystopian morality tale, When She Woke could be seen as a distant relative of Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter or a closer-to-home rendering of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Issues of church and state, faith, family, friendship, class and forbidden love weave throughout Hannah Payne's compelling story which is, at times, moving and at other times, a harrowing and gripping tale of one young girl's fight for her life, literally and figuratively.
December 12, 2012
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
A heart-warming book about a most unusual friendship between an eight-year-old boy with Asperger's Syndrome and his imaginary friend, Budo. The ever-resourceful Budo protects Max from the class bully and makes school bearable for him when he is out of the safety of his beloved Mrs. Gosk's classroom. But when a truly dangerous individual threatens Max, Budo must gather a team of imaginary friends and risk all to save his charge. The book is written by a novelist and award-winning elementary school teacher who understands kids.
December 5, 2012
Imagine waking up in a park, surrounded by bodies in latex gloves, with a letter in your pocket that says "Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine." Myfanwy Thomas, a high-level operative in a secret government agency that protects Britain against supernatural threats, must figure out which colleague is after her while continuing to run her department in spite of her amnesia. This is an entertaining, suspenseful story with just the right blend of fantasy and reality. (P.S. Myfanwy rhymes with Tiffany.)
November 28, 2012
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
British novelist Jeanette Winterson (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, etc.) has written an insightful and courageous account of her struggle to overcome a wrenching childhood. Raised in a working-class industrial city by a mentally ill adoptive mother who forbid her daughter to read books, Winterson found her salvation in literature. Time and again, fiction and poetry rescued her from despair and showed her a way forward.
November 21, 2012
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Harold Fry finds himself compelled to take a 500 mile walk along England's coast. He undertakes this journey in order to save the life of a friend he hasn't seen in 20 years, but who he believes he betrayed those many years ago. Harold meets the most extraordinary of ordinary people along the way, who offer him a faith, of sorts, in humanity. Rachel Joyce creates a narrative that draws the eader deep into Harold's despair, memories, self-discovery, and ultimately, his very humanity. A touching, wise, and engaging tale.
November 14, 2012
The Dog Stars
Hig has somehow survived the flu pandemic which decimated world's population. Using an old airport as his base and partnered for survival with a gun-toting old coot, everyday life is geared toward that one goal. Yet for Hig, there is still hope for more. A realistic postapocalyptic world, described succinctly yet convincingly.
November 7, 2012
In the Shadow of the Banyan
A heartbreaking and lyrical autobiographical novel about a young girl, the daughter of a Cambodian prince, whose idyllic childhood abruptly ends when the Khmer Rouge come to power in 1975. During the four years of terror that follow, Raami must draw upon all of the lessons her parents taught her in order to survive. Always fearful of having her true identity discovered, she hides all signs of her cultured past.
October 31, 2012
The Light Between Oceans
The life of a lighthousekeeper and his family was not an easy one. When a boat comes ashore Janus Island holding a dead body and a live baby, the lives of Tom and Isabel are never the same. Set in Australia in the 1920s, this is a moving novel of choices and consequences, love, family, and the power of forgiveness.
October 24, 2012
The Cutting Season
Caren Gray has come back to manage Belle Vie, the Louisiana plantation where she grew up. Now an historical attraction of antebellum life, the smooth running of Belle Vie is upset when the body of a farm worker is discovered. As the tangled roots of this murder seem to connect with the mysterious disappearance of a former slave in 1872, Caren must search for answers both past and present. An intriguing mystery with a well drawn, unique setting.
October 17, 2012
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
If you are an introvert - or live or work with an introvert - this eye-opening book explains so much! A readable, fascinating look at the value of the introverted person, and the challenges faced in a society that so highly values extroversion. This may change how we look at introverts, and how introverts should see themselves.
October 10, 2012
The Van Meter family is gathering on Waskeke Island for the wedding of eldest daughter Daphne. Encounters with family, in-laws, and friends present and past all provide insight into the lives and expectations of the privileged, and the challenges that arise when all does not go as expected. A funny story that looks at family, love, fidelity, and social class.
October 3, 2012
Shine Shine Shine
A quirky story of two misfits who have managed to keep secret their misfit status. Sunny is a housewife, and Maxon an astronaut. When accidents on earth and in space threaten the status quo, the characters must explore the meaning of success, love, family, and the importance of being true to oneself.
September 26, 2012
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns
Prickly science teacher Galilee Garner works in a Catholic school, and spends her free time breeding roses. Suddenly responsible for her teenaged niece, Gal is faced with the struggles of parenting in addition to her chronic health condition. A heartwarming story of family, friendship, forgiveness, and love.
September 19, 2012
Nominated for the National Book Award in 1961, this novel takes a unrelenting look at suburban life and the thwarted dreams of a young couple. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet starred in the film, which lifted much of its smart dialogue straight from the book.
September 12, 2012
The Keeper of Lost Causes
When gruff, unlikeable detective Carl Mørck returns to duty after an injury, he is put in charge of a new department that investigates unsolved cold cases. Understaffed and underequipped, Mørck undertakes the challenge of a case of a missing politician. Engrossing and suspenseful, with more cold cases to come in this new series.
September 5, 2012
The Things They Carried
Finalist for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize, this autobiographical novel blurs reality with storytelling as a way to explore the wounds of the Vietnam War. The "things they carried" refers to the gear and the talismans that young soldiers carry into war. An uncompromising look at humanity, courage, and survival.
August 29, 2012
A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar
Eva's journal entries alternate with narrative chapters of her 1923 adventure in Kashgar, as well as Frieda's story in modern London, in this compelling novel. The parallel stories explore cultural differences, introduce interesting characters, and ultimately reveal the link between the two narratives. An engaging story, rich with description and fascinating detail of another world.
August 22, 2012
Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and her Father
An illuminating biography of the Alcott family. Beginning with Bronson's early years and ending with the death of Louisa, this book tells stories most of us have never heard. It will warm the hearts of readers who currently struggle with philosophical ideals in the face of financial realities.
August 15, 2012
Adrift in an overloaded lifeboat after a ship sinks on its way back to New York from England, newlywed Grace Winter faces dwindling supplies, no shelter, and conflict between the other castaways. An intriguing story of survival, hard choices, and their consequences that gradually reveals itself through Grace's reflections.
August 8, 2012
Out Stealing Horses
Lovely novel from award-winning Norwegian novelist . Nearing seventy years old, Trond Sander reflects on his life during a personal retreat to the cabin he once shared with his father. Much of his thoughts swirl around the time when his friend Jon urged him to come "out stealing horses".
August 1, 2012
Mission to Paris
This spy novel is historical fiction at its finest, strong on plot,characters and atmosphere. The setting is Paris, the summer of 1938, just before the Nazi invasion of France. The main character, Frederic Stahl, is a Hollywood film actor sent on a mission to make a film but almost immediately engaged in the biggest drama of the time.
July 25, 2012
The Reeducation of Cherry Truong
Following a dangerous escape in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, one branch of a family resettles in France and the other in California. Told from alternating points of view at various points in time, this complex family drama gradually reveals the painful choices, conflicting loyalties, and toxic secrets that come to haunt one generation after another.
July 18, 2012
On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears from their home, leaving Nick under increasing suspicion by the police and the public as days pass without any answers. The story is told in alternating chapters, from Nick's present day and Amy's diary, which gradually reveal facts and details which change the picture. An intriguing thriller with a surprise twist.
July 11, 2012
Code Name Verity
Women pilots, spies, Occupied France - an intriguing combination. Each character reveals her half of the story in this fascinating tale of two British women during World War II, and the roles they came to play. Don't be deterred that it comes from the Young Adult collection - it was hard to put down this engrossing, fast-paced book.
June 13, 2012
Contents May Have Shifted
This novel is an interesting exploration of the narrator's life - both work and personal - via a series of brief vignettes. Through these snapshot views of various scenes and encounters, we can trace common themes and character development through both pivotal and trivial life experiences. Creatively structured, with moments of irony, comedy, insight, and travel stories from around the world.
June 6, 2012
Grace runs into a burning school to save her daughter Jenny, and the resulting injuries send them both to the hospital in comas. This intriguing thriller explores what happens afterwards: to the women undergoing treatment, to friends and family coping with the consequences, and with those investigating this suspicious incident. An gripping story from a unique perspective.