In this debut memoir, Feldman gives readers a fascinating glimpse into her life growing up in the extremely religious Satmar Hasidic community as well as her eventual escape from that life. The daughter of a mentally unstable father and gay mother, who also decided to leave the extremely orthodox community as a young woman, Feldman was raised by her grandparents who firmly adhered to the religious and social customs of their culture. As she grew up, she struggled with the increasing expectations of her community to marry while her only real desire was to indulge in English language literature in her home where only Yiddish was allowed. When Feldman is married to a nice Satmar boy, she believes he will be the perfect husband, one that will allow her to explore her interests which most of the community would frown upon. Unexpectedly however, their first year of marriage is a disaster; full of difficulties with their sex life along with crippling anxiety for Feldman.
When Feldman finally becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, she finds the courage to step outside her community for the first time. She aggressively pursues a college education while planning her escape from her disappointing marriage and a community where she no longer belongs. Intriguing and extremely personal, this memoir explores the striking metamorphosis of young woman.
The desert city of Gujaareh is a place of peace, dedicated to the dream-goddess Hananja. Hananja’s peace is kept and maintained by the priests of the Hetawa who heal the sick, give peace and safe passage to the dream-world to the old and dying, and Gather the souls of those judged corrupt. Gatherers gather the mystic dreamblood of those sleeping in Hanaja’s city, and the Sharers use that dreamblood in their magical healing. Gatherer Ehiru is known as the most gifted Gatherer of his generation, strong and wise and full of faith. But his faith is shaken to the core when a Gathering gone wrong lands him in the middle of a corrupt conspiracy that has wormed through and undermined the entire structure of his society, his religion, and his government. Now he and his apprentice Nijiri must fight to do as their religion demands—the right thing, the peaceful thing—even though it may mean toppling their entire civilization.
A fascinating, non-Western-inspired, and richly detailed setting and culture; engaging, appealing, and realistic characters; and an entirely fresh take on magic and religion elevate this fantasy to the top of its genre. Highly recommended.
Goolrick’s second novel (after A Reliable Wife, 2009) is an Appalachian folk ballad given life. It’s just after WWII and Charlie Beale drives into the small Blue Ridge town of Brownsburg, Virginia, looking for something. A place to call home, a place to put down roots. Brownsburg, where no crime has ever been committed and where the landscape makes Charlie’s heart sing, seems to be the perfect place. He offers his services to the local butcher, Will Haislett, buys up land, and begins to settle in. But even as he finds his way in the town, he remains an outsider. The locals love him, but do not socialize with him much. And Charlie makes mistakes, too. He visits every church in town before finding a spiritual home in the African-American Episcopal chapel; he buys more land than he truly needs; he begins to feel like a second father to Sam, Will Haislett’s 5-year-old son; and most dangerously, he falls in love with Sylvan Glass, the young beautiful wife of local small-time plutocrat Harrison Glass, who looks at Sylvan more as an investment than a wife. Sylvan is an outsider like Charlie; born in a small backwoods hollow, she nevertheless dreams of Hollywood and dresses and acts like a movie star. As their affair progresses toward the inevitable explosive climax, poor young Sam struggles to understand something far beyond his young experience and is altered irretrievably by what he witnesses.
Told in alternating viewpoints, this is a timeless tale of illicit passion and violence that builds slowly to a haunting climax. Fans of Goolrick’s first novel will not be disappointed.
Eddie LaCrosse is a self-described “sword jockey,” a private investigator for hire in a world of kings, queens, missing princesses, murder most foul, and magic of all stripes. He’s initially hired to find a missing princess, but along the way finds himself enlisted to solve the case of a particularly heinous murder and prove the Queen accused of the crime innocent. Unfortunately for Eddie, the King who’s hired him is Eddie’s long-lost best friend and part of a past Eddie’s been running from for most of his life. The solution to the mystery, too, lies in a part of Eddie’s past he’d rather forget. But circumstances force him to confront the tragedies he’s been hiding and come to grips with his own guilty conscience.
A spirited blend of sword-and-sorcery fantasy with hard-boiled-noir, The Sword-Edged Blonde is a fast-paced, one-liner-littered delight. It’s only the first in a series featuring the wise cracking sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse, so look out for Burn Me Deadly, the second Eddie adventure.
Pulitzer finalist Millet begins a loosely connected trilogy with this deliberately paced character study of a novel. Real estate developer T. has always been obsessed with money; he was the first boy his age to have a bank account and he found creative ways to fill it. As a young man, he is already a success, building retirement resorts in the desert and vacation resorts on remote islands. But his entire world is shaken when he first falls in love with a woman and then unexpectedly loses her to a car accident. Now lost and alone except for his increasingly senile mother, his competent but distant secretary, and his secretary’s brash paraplegic daughter, T. becomes obsessed with things that are lost and things that are last…specifically, on animals close to the brink of extinction. He begins a series of late-night commando break-ins of zoos, trying to be close to the animals so he can attempt to understand how they feel and therefore, how he feels. When he visits his holdings in South America and attempts to track down the endangered jaguars living on a preserve nearby, his quest comes to a definitive conclusion as he is forced to come face-to-face with his deepest and most bare self.
A lyrical, vivid meditation on self vs world, self vs others, and humanity vs nature, Millet’s novel is involving, disturbing, and insightful.
Laurel Shelton is a lonely young woman. Living alone save for her brother Hank in an isolated, deeply shadowed cove in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, she is shunned by the townspeople of nearby Mars Hill and feared as a witch because of a large purple birthmark on her shoulders. Hank has only recently returned from WWI missing one hand and he is fixing up the farm with the help of a neighbor, intending, Laurel believes, to propose to a local girl and bring her to live with them. Living in darkness and shadow and loneliness as she does, Laurel still dreams of sunlight and beauty, having had ambitions to become a teacher and move away from the cove—ambitions thwarted by her mother’s death and father’s long depression and illness. But when she finds a strange man in the cove, sick and feverish with hornet stings, and nurses him back to health, Laurel begins to dream once more—of love, and a life outside the cove. The man, Walter, plays flute like an angel but is otherwise mute, a note in his pocket claiming childhood illness. He falls into step with the siblings, helping Hank about the farm and playing his flute and falling in love with Laurel as she has fallen for him. However, Walter is not all he seems and harbors secrets of his own—secrets that could prove explosively dangerous to his new friends. Meanwhile, a cowardly and bombastic recruiter in town, Chauncey Feith, tries to prove his true worth by exposing supposed “Hun” spies in their midst. When the fires of xenophobia he has stoked collide with cursed Laurel, disabled Hank, and silent Walter, tragedy can be the only result.
Atmospheric, taut, and expertly realized, The Cove is a tale of passion, fear, and superstition with clear parallels to the overheated political rhetoric of today.
Retiree Mr. Ali is at loose ends, knocking about the house aimlessly and annoying his wife. She is happy, then, when he decides to start up a marriage bureau to assist families looking to set up arranged marriages for their children. Contemporary India has modernized in many ways, but it is still considered inappropriate for people to make their own matches, or love marriages, and after a slow start, Mr. Ali’s Marriage Bureau for Rich People begins to do a lively business—so much so that he takes on an assistant, young Aruna. Aruna herself has marriage woes; her family is suffering financially and her father refuses to entertain any matches because he will not be able to pay for a large wedding and a good dowry. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Ali are fighting to keep their son, a young man now and a political activist, safe—but he defies their wishes and leads demonstrations against the government on behalf of India’s poor farmers.
Often mentioned as a readalike for Alexander McCall Smith’s Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the comparison is a fair one. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People shares the interconnected-vignette style, charmingly wise and understated tone, and emphasis on culture and community seen in McCall Smith’s series. Though the characters have their problems, nothing very terrible happens to anyone, and the reader is swept quietly along as the characters go about their daily lives in modern India.
In a graphic novel series billing itself as “a new vampire for a new century,” Western outlaw Skinner Sweet is accidentally transformed into a vampire when the blood of an old European-style vampire splashes across his mortally wounded body. No one realizes that Sweet is undead in his grave—until years later when graverobbers dig him up and get a terrifying surprise. Sweet is a different breed of vampire than his creators; he is stronger and faster, powered by the sun and thus able to walk and hunt by day, able to transform horribly with a distended jaw and huge talon-like fingers, and with a different set of weaknesses. He proceeds to set about feuding with the old breed European vamps, mostly rich old men who seek to keep American industry under their thumbs as they did European, as well. Not until decades later does Sweet create another of his kind, and he inexplicably chooses a spunky young wanna-be actress in 1920s Hollywood, Pearl Jones, who has been abused horribly by the European vamps in charge of the studios. As the series progresses, Pearl becomes one of the focus characters, as do the descendants of the sheriff who originally sought to put Skinner Sweet behind bars—and later, in his grave.
Vibrant, colorful, and dynamic illustrations contribute effectively to this compelling new spin on the vampire story. Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones make a perfect odd-couple of protagonists as each deals with becoming a monster in a very different way, drawn to one another despite themselves. A lot of fun!
Former seminary student Travis O’Hearn inadvertantly unleashed a demon straight from Hell when he stumbled across an ancient invocation hidden instead a set of candlesticks. He’s not actually a fan of being in control of an extremely powerful demon, and has spent most of the last 70 years trying to get Catch to stop eating people—or at least to only eat criminals and other nasties. But now Travis—who still looks 20-something thanks to the demon Catch’s graces—is closing in on a solution to his problem in the small town of Pine Cove, California. He lost the candlesticks all those decades previously and has come to believe that the second candlestick contained the invocation to send Catch back to Hell. And he's finally located the woman who took the candlesticks from him, now a grandmother in her 90s, living in Pine Cove. Now Travis, along with a motley crew of Pine Cove’s losers, eccentrics, and petty criminals—along with one aeons-old King of the Djinn—have one last chance to get rid of the demon once and for all, before Catch can break free of Travis’s control and destroy the world.
Funny, irreverant, clever, and fast-paced, Moore’s first novel already displays his trademark wit. Those who enjoy Practical Demonkeeping won’t want to miss the other Pine Cove novels, The Stupidest Angel and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove.
You may have noticed last week that the Readers Advisors desk was missing two of its regular librarians. We headed off to New York City to meet with hundreds of other librarians, along with booksellers, publishers, authors, and bibliophiles of all stripes at this year’s Book Expo America conference. Held every year in June, BEA is a great way to keep up with what’s happening in the world of books, from forthcoming hot titles to book club reading suggestions to those pesky eBooks and how libraries and publishers can work together to make them available to patrons. A highlight is always getting to meet the authors themselves, of course, and get books signed! We came back with piles and piles of great forthcoming books that we think you’re just going to love. Here are just a few of the great titles you have to look forward to!
Diaz, Junot. This is How You Lose Her, September 2012.
Evison, Jonathan. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, August 2012.
Jacobson, Howard. Zoo Time, October 2012.
Jakobsen, Mette. The Vanishing Act, September 2012.
Millet, Lydia. Magnificence, November 2012.
Powers, Kevin. The Yellow Birds, September 2012.
Roorbach, Bill. Life Among Giants, November 2012.
Shapiro, B.A. The Art Forger, October 2012.