Monday, August 21, 2017

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

My first read by Chamberlain, and it won't be my last.  Chamberlain always has a wide cast of characters, and sometimes the best part of her books is figuring out who has ulterior motives. Great characters, great story, great ending.

Riley MacPherson's father died and she returns to New Bern, NC, to settle the estate. Her brother is there but he is suffering from PTSD and an injury from Iraq. He wants nothing to do with the estate and harbors deep resentment towards their dead sister, Lisa. He feels she destroyed the family. But Riley is discovering secrets regarding her sister. Did Lisa really commit suicide or was she murdered or did she fake her death?

The book follows Riley's search for the truth, interspersed with her sister, Lisa's, story. The story culminates in their collision and reunion, after some pretty major turns in the road.

Recommended by Monica Shine
Click here to view in the catalog.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

This is one of the best books I've read in the past year. A beautifully written tiny story of two people falling in love and building a relationship in a world torn apart by war and the constant migration of people fleeing (or joining) wars.

The use of magical realism--"Doors" appear throughout the world that when you step through them, you are transported to another place far far away--is fantastic. As Hamid said in an interview--if the conventional way of fleeing war was included, the book would have been mostly about that. It is such a cumbersome and time consuming thing that it would dominate. He didn't want that--instead, the dominant line of the story is the relationship between Nadia and Saeed--two young adults who meet and fall in love in a city (unnamed) on the brink of civil war. 

The war, and the devastation of their city and lives, causes their relationship to become intense and all consuming incredibly fast. Are their feelings real or just the intense outcome of the war? When they decide to leave together through one of the doors, the relationship changes. As they continue to migrate--first to Greece, than England, and ultimately Marin California, they inevitably change, as does their relationship.

Hamid's writing is sharp, evocative, and beautiful. This book is fantastic--it has stuck with me and made me think. I hope to read more by this wonderful writer.

Recommended by Cynthia Lambert
Click here to view in the catalog

Morgan (Science Fiction - 2016)

Morgan is the story of what happens when man tries to create artificial life.  It grapples with issues of whether Morgan is a person, or a thing and should man do this.  A strong cast, which includes Kate Mara, Rose Leslie (of Game of Thrones fame), Michelle Yeoh and Paul Giamatti makes Morgan a taut Science Fiction thriller. 

Lee Weathers a corporate risk management officer, a troubleshooter, and she's sent to a top secret location to investigate and evaluate a recent accident, where Morgan (an child created by synthetic DNA) has stabbed one of the company's scientists in the eye in a seemingly unprovoked attack.  Weathers is supposed to be there to find out what went wrong and judge Morgan in terms psychological stability and of the overall profit to the company. 

Lee immediately senses that Morgan might be too dangerous and unpredictable to keep going with. Despite the pleas of other scientists that see Morgan as a daughter, Lee only sees her as an inferior company product that needs to be stopped. Things reach a breaking point when a psychologist (played by Paul Giamatti) pushes her feelings enough to murder him and to try and make an escape. It becomes a cat and mouse chase when Lee follows Morgan into the woods to eliminate her.
This movie was directed by Lee Scott, the son of acclaimed Ridley Scott, and you can certianly feel the father's influence in this movie.  Very much like the Science Fiction/Horror of Alien, this movie will keep you guessing until the very end.

Recommended by Monica Shine
Click here to view in the catalog.

No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts

This is a heartbreaking and honest book about the difficulty of being an adult, the difficulty of staying in the town you were raised in, the difficulty in leaving, and the painful ache of trying to return home if you did manage to leave. Sylvia--her kids, her husband, her sister, her kids friend, her son-in-law, her town--are older than they want to be and not at the places they had hoped to go. Everyone struggles with their burdens. Some of them understand that--everyone has burdens--others think they are the only ones suffering. Just like the burdens, both are true because no matter how much everyone has burdens, yours are your own (and often your own fault) and that isolation makes your suffering very lonely.

The writing is lovely--sharp, detailed, atmospheric, and sad. These people have worked hard, yet here they are, the same place they were. There are universal observations, sly commentary on the economics of small town life, and observant and wise descriptions of the pain we cause ourselves and others, even if we don't mean to hurt anyone. Sylvia is not a character I can say I understood or recognized, but she is incredible and will stay with me a long, long, long time. This is Sylvia's book, but all of the characters are fully formed and feel very real. That characters that are not central to the story, still are carefully crafted, believable, and necessary. It all adds up to a fantastic, heartbreaking, and wonderful story of a family.

Recommended by Cynthia Lambert
Click here to view in the catalog.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Dystopian Fiction is all the rage right now.  From Ender to Katniss Everdeen to Tris Pryor, these characters have made themselves into household names.  Now its time to add another name to that list, Darrow Goodman.  Or should I say, Darrow the Red Helldiver of Mars?  

Our story starts in the distant future where humans want to colonize the planet Mars. But the society on Earth and Mars is much different than it is today.  People are divided into castes based on color.  Reds are the dregs of society, they are in charge of mining Mars for Helium 3 which will allow higher colors to terraform Mars.  Its ghoulish, backbreaking and dangerous work.  Darrow is a Red Helldiver, one who is responsible for working the dangerous drills deep in the mines of Mars.

That is until he discovers that not only is Mars completely terraformed, but higher colors have been living off the Reds' life and death in the mines for centuries.  He becomes involved with the group "The Sons of Ares" in order to create an uprising to free the lesser colors.  To do this he must infiltrate the upper echelon of the society, the Golds.  Golds are everything a Red is not, powerful, vain, and utterly ruthless.  To join their ranks, he must look, act and play the part of a Gold to gain entrance to the elite Institute.  Once inside The Institute, can Darrow convincingly rise to the top of the ranks or will he lose himself in the process?  

This read was un-put-downable, full of action and a social commentary which rings true even today.

Recommended by Monica Shine
Click here to view in the catalog.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō

At first I thought--this is just kooky. Now I think--this is kooky, and has some very good ideas and makes some very good points. 

The kooky I think comes from the fact that Ms. Kondo is Japanese, doesn't speak English, and didn't write this for Americans. If you can get past things like thank your socks for all they have given you, you will see that she is recommending a streamlined life of gratitude for everything in your life, even the things you will now be throwing away. 

I look at organization books the same way I look at diet books--unless you are ready, it won't work. So if you are looking to radically transform the way you live (Tiny House people, you need this book) and seriously downsize the amount of stuff you have, take a look. Her methods are very interesting--especially her thoughts on folding clothing and not buying storage containers.

Recommended by Cynthia Lambert
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