Jodi Picoult is an extremely popular author here at the library, and, well, pretty much everywhere else. She is one of those authors that has cranked out one book per year for the last fifteen years or so. I started reading her a couple of years ago; the audio versions of her books hooked me because they are all brilliantly performed by a full cast. Her books do follow a bit of a “form:” told from multiple first-person perspectives, about current controversial or hot-button issues, and usually involving legal situations. Picoult fans, used to her books coming out in the Spring of each year, had to wait a bit longer for this latest book, which was released this Fall. But…was it ever worth the wait!
Like most of Picoult’s books, Leaving Time is intricately plotted and emotionally wrought. It deals with a very specific subject many of us know little about: animal behavioral science, specifically of elephants. If nothing else, reading this book will give you great insight into the emotional lives of elephants. What sets this Picoult book apart from others, though, is a delicate balance of science and supernatural. At its core, Leaving Time is a ghost story.
Alice Metcalf, a scientist who studies elephant behavior, has been missing for ten years. One night when Alice’s daughter, Jenna, was a toddler, a late-night altercation at the family elephant sanctuary left one person dead (presumed to be trampled to death by an elephant) and one person – presumed to be Alice – missing. Now thirteen, and still searching for her missing mother, Jenna enlists help in the form of Serenity Jones, a washed-up former celebrity psychic, and Virgil Stanhope, the detective who worked on her mother’s case. As Jenna, Serenity, and Virgil navigate the past, they finds things to be less and less as they appear.
The spooky story winds its way through tales of infidelity, police cover-up, fiercely protective elephants, and the mind of Jenna’s brilliant but mentally-ill scientist father who is languishing in an institution. Picoult keeps us guessing until the end, and I was impressed by the way she tied the story together. If you’re new to Picoult, this would be a good one to pick up, and if you’re a long-time fan, you won’t be disappointed. Leaving Time is a striking book that is not quite like anything out there.
Pub Date: October 2012 Fiction (Adult) 368 pgs. **The Art Forger is the TTL Book Club selection for November. We will meet tomorrow night, Thursday November 6, at 7pm in the library meeting room. All are welcome and refreshments will be served. If you have read this book, please stop by!** I am no artist. I possess little artistic talent, and although I enjoy visiting art museums from time to time, the technicalities and intricacies of fine art don’t interest me greatly. With that said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Art Forger and how much I learned. Claire Roth, a young artist living in Boston, makes a living forging great works of art, legally. She works for a company called Reproductions.com, painting exquisitely accurate copies of famous art works. She is also tinged by scandal, after her affair with her older graduate school professor ended with his suicide and the question of who actually painted his acclaimed new painting hanging in the MOMA. Three years later, Claire finds herself faced with an intriguing prospect. A rich, charismatic gallery owner approaches her to paint a reproduction of a famous painting in his possession by Edgar Degas. A painting that was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. But Claire, with her expert eye, suspects that the apparently stolen painting may be a forgery itself. From here, Shapiro takes on an incredibly interesting ride. Her story is brimming with rich characters and unfolds at a good pace. You will learn a lot about techniques of art forgery, and it’s all fascinating! Shapiro inter-cuts her narrative with juicy letters – alas, wholly fictional – written by Isabella Stewart Gardner herself, as well as flashbacks to Claire’s relationship with her professor, Isaac, three years earlier. She twists together several narratives, throws in some mystery, and it all works beautifully. One of the best parts is the local setting, featuring places with know and love: South Boston, Newbury Street, and especially the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I have actually never been to the museum myself, but after reading this book, I can’t wait to visit. -Becky
I tried to put this book down. I really did. But it was like it was glued to my hands and my fingers were compelled to keep turning its pages. I just could not stop reading, laughing at, and empathizing with Allie Brosh’s hilarious stories accompanied by colorful, brilliant drawings rendered in MS Paint. Although I had heard of her hugely popular blog/webcomic of the same name, I was largely unfamiliar with Brosh’s work. I also don’t read many graphic novels, but after reading this, I may be a convert. There is a lot to like about this book: the tone ranges from light and funny (the many misadventures of her two canine companions, the “Simple Dog” and the “Helper Dog”) to serious and insightful (Brosh’s two-part account of her descent into clinical depression). Those who are already rabid fans of her blog (because it doesn’t seem like there are any other kind) will be happy to know that more than 50% of this book is brand-new content.
In short, this book would be enjoyed by people who like any of the following: dogs, cake, geese, Microsoft Office Suite, scribbling, comics, humor, breathing air. Read it!
Picking up this seminal graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, I was already familiar with the characters and story, being a fan of Terry Zwigoff’s 2001 film adaptation. Reading the original graphic novel after seeing the film left me feeling a little wanting, mostly because Zwigoff’s film did such a marvelous job of portraying the wonderfully oddball characters onscreen, and fleshed out the plot considerably more than the book. However, I think it’s a case of different mediums having different strengths. Clowes’ graphic novel has clout for a reason. At a slim 80 pages, Ghost World tells the story of teenage best friends Enid and Rebecca, two misfits trying to figure things out shortly after their graduation from high school. Enid has tentative plans to attend art school; Rebecca ends up assimilating herself into “normal” society. The humor in the book comes from Enid and Rebecca making snarky comments about everyone they know, but the real heart of the story is the slow dissolution of their friendship as they come of age.
Although the graphic novel’s color scheme is literally muted, figuratively, there is no shortage of colorful characters that inhabit Enid and Rebecca’s Ghost World. Many characters are rendered so expressively that they border on grotesque. They’re meant to evoke a certain fascination, which certainly succeeds. Although after seeing the movie, the storyline felt slightly insubstantial and sketchy to me (mostly because my favorite character was missing–he is actually an amalgam of several minor characters from the book), Clowes’ painfully realistic characters make this book worth picking up. In a genre saturated by superheroes, the antiheroes of Ghost World will strike a chord, especially with high school students.
Pub Date: July 2013
416 pgs. / 12 audio discs
What Alice Forgot:
Pub Date: January 2009
496 pgs. / 13 audio discs
Lately I have been listening to more and more audio books (with a toddler, I would love to be able to sit down and read more often but that is easier said than done!), and recently devoured this double-serving of Liane Moriarty, an author new to me. She is now one of my new favorite authors and I am eagerly looking forward to her next book (Big Little Lies, just published this month!).
I started with What Alice Forgot, on the recommendation of a patron. The narrative follows Alice Love, 29 years old, happily married and about to give birth to her first child. One day she wakes up on the floor of her gym after a fall and a bump on the head. She sees friends and family members she recognizes, but they react to her strangely. Instead of commenting on her pregnancy, they are talking about her three kids, her impending divorce, and her upcoming 40th birthday. What happened to Alice’s life? How did she get here?
What follows is Alice’s attempt to piece together the previous 10 years. Moriarty’s novel is well-paced and by turns funny and poignant, thought-provoking and engaging. Tamara Lovatt-Smith’s narration is delightful. She deftly portrays the point of view of not only Alice, but also Alice’s long-suffering sister Elisabeth and their heartsick grandmother Franny. Not to mention I could listen to her lilting Australian accent all day. I almost couldn’t bear to turn the novel off!
The Husband’s Secret, one of last summers most buzzed-about titles, is three intertwining narratives of three separate women: Cecelia, Rachel, and Tess. Cecelia accidentally comes across a letter written to her by her husband to be opened only in the event of his death. Cecelia’s husband is still alive….and Cecelia can’t stop thinking about the letter. Like Pandora before her, Cecelia opens it. And the consequences for the three women begin.
This was a darker book that has elements of a thriller in parts, but retains Moriarty’s engaging, well-written female (and male) characters and her gift for depicting complicated relationships. The audio version’s narration by Caroline Lee is equally captivating. Fans of Jojo Moyes, Kristen Hannah, and Sue Miller would enjoy Moriarty’s books.
The Aviator’s Wife follows the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and an aviator herself. The story is narrated in the first person by Anne, and Benjamin offers a unflinching, honest look at a complicated marriage. We follow the Lindberghs from Charles’ historic flight and their marriage in the 1920s, to Charles’ death in the 1970s. Benjamin mixes historical details of aviation in the ’20s, Lindbergh’s Nazi ties in the ’30s, and life during wartime, with a deeply personal narrative of Anne Lindbergh’s life at home with her children and with and without Charles.
This was a deeply moving book. Benjamin keeps you fully in Anne’s psyche as she navigates the years of her life that she spends with Charles and their children. You spend a lot of time with Anne, and she is a fascinating, fully realized character. Benjamin offers her readers pieces of information not necessarily readily known to those who’ve heard of “Lucky Lindy.” For example, did you know that Anne herself was the recipient of numerous prestigious aviation medals and awards, and was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame?
The biggest appeal factor of The Aviator’s Wife is character, specifically the characters of Anne and Charles. I devoured this book, both in print, reading in bed at night, and in audio, on my daily commute. (The audiobook is wonderfully performed by Lorna Raver.) The setting and plot also feature here, as several sensational things happen to the Lindberghs, but I would recommend this book to readers wanting to delve into the marriage and personal life of one half of a famous twentieth-century couple.
Pub Date: Oct 2007
Fiction (Young Adult)
Anna Bloom is depressed, so depressed that her desire to attend school is lacking and residing in her own room happens more often. Additionally Anna considers herself to be heavyset and is thereby obsessed with her weight. In desperation Anna’s parents admit her to a mental hospital.
While hospitalized, Anna decides to write letters to her best friend documenting her daily progress. Although the letters are never mailed, Anna’s writings serve as the core narration of her daily happenings at the hospital. Initially she is confused, scared, and distrustful of the staff and hospital environment. But, with each passing day Anna starts to work through her depression and weight issues. In order to experience Anna’s overall development and to see whether she benefits from the hospital stay, please read her story!
Get Well Soon is fast read that will appeal to readers interested in a variety of fiction types: realistic fiction, humor, and “chick lit.” It is even short enough to appeal to reluctant readers too. If you enjoy this book, Halpern’s follow-up novel, Have a Nice Day, tracks Anna’s growth. Fans of Halpern’s novels should also check out Ned Vizzini’s book, It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Both books feature teens admitted to mental hospitals and are written in a similar comical way. Although the two stories share comparable outcomes for each teen, they seem to complement rather than compete with one another.
At The Circle, the gleaming tech workplace of Eggers’ latest drama, “sharing is caring,” and “full transparency” is the ultimate goal. Mae Holland, a young employee just starting out at The Circle, takes these imperatives seriously. After all, through her former college roommate, she’s snagged a job any recent college grad would die for. At first, Mae is taken aback by the level of “participation” her supervisors expect from her, all outside of her normal work hours–attendance at parties and functions, hobbies, interests–and all comprehensively documented via social media. But before long, Mae finds herself adroitly juggling–and documenting—her fun, glamorous life at the Circle, and easily climbs the ranks. But at what price?
Eggers, a quirky author known for both non-fiction (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; Zeitoun) and fiction (What is the What) chooses to make his dystopia friendly and familiar. (It seems to be modeled heavily on tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.) Although there are a few “voice of reason” characters throughout the novel, most employees of The Circle don’t seem to have any problem with it. For those who like a lot of action, this may not be the book for you. However I would argue that the genius of this book is the fact that the characters barely seem to realize they’re in a dystopia. As The Circle’s founders vow, ominously, to “complete the Circle,” everyone cheerfully and willingly relinquishes every bit of their personal information–health, financial, familial, romantic….the list goes on and on. But what happens when the Circle is completed? Eggers shines a mirror on our current hyper-connected state, and the result is a book that got under my skin like one of the GPS tracking devices championed by a Circle employee. If you like creepy, give it a try.