Great Reads

Teen/Adult Summer Reading Week Five: Run!!!

Still on our zombie theme, of course, we imagine that many of us, when faced with a zombie, might just turn and run.  Of course all you brave zombie hunters will have alternative plans.  Your challenge is to consider your zombie plan while reading one of these or other books with the word "Run" in the title (just in case). 

And don't look back!!!

 

Bloom, Elizabeth. See Isabelle Run (MYS)

Clark, Mary Jane. Nowhere to Run (F)

Frost, Scott. Run the Risk (F)

Garber, Joseph. Vertical Run (F)

Lupica, Mike. Bump and Run (F)

Patterson, James. Run for Your Life (MYS)

Pearson, Ridley. Cut and Run (MYS)

Spindler, Erica. Dead Run (MYS)

 

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Mieville, China. Embassytown

In a future so distant that Earth itself is barely remembered, the universe has been colonized by humans, or Terre.  They have encountered multiple strange alien species, and made peace with most of them. Perhaps no species they have found, however, have been as strange as the Ariekei. The Ariekei, called the “Hosts” by those humans who live on their world in an enclave called Embassytown, have two mouths. Their language, called Language with the capital L, is contingent upon the use of both mouths, and therefore both portions of their minds, at once. They are literally unable to comprehend any language spoken by only one mouth and one mind. The Ambassadors of Embassytown are specially-bred identical clones, called doppels, who are trained from birth to be so empathically linked that they are able to speak Language with the Hosts and be understood as two minds speaking one thought together.

Avice Benner Cho, a young woman raised in Embassytown who became an immerser, or space traveler, never thought she’d return to her childhood home.  But when her husband, a linguist, becomes obsessed with the Ariekei and Language, she finds herself back in Embassytown, traveling in the Ambassadors’ social circles.  But trouble is brewing. One faction of the Ariekei have become obsessed with learning to lie—Language is incapable of encompassing anything other than strict, literal truth. Even abstracts like similes must be performed by actors so that the Ariekei can refer to them. But learning to lie would change the Ariekei and their culture, and not everyone is happy with that idea.  In addition, Bremen, the home nation of the colony Embassytown, has its own plan for wresting political influence away from the doppel Ambassadors.  When the plans of the liar Ariekei and Bremen’s agents collide, only Avice and a small contingent of rebellious Ambassadors and Ariekei can save the colony—and the Ariekei species—from total destruction.

A very slow-starting book, the plot neverthless picks up pace dramatically in the second half.  This title will reward those willing to invest the time to immerse fully in the detailed universe Mieville has created. 

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Umrigar, Thrity. The Weight of Heaven

Each of us copes with loss in a different way. For Frank and Ellie Benton the sorrow is huge, occasioned by the death of their young son, Benny. As their marriage falters in the wake of the tragedy, Frank accepts a job offer in India, hoping that the change of scene will heal them. Once there the two face new challenges as Frank’s company deals with labor unrest, and Frank forms a strong but problematic attachment to Ramesh, his cook’s young son.

Soon Frank and Ellie have become surrogate parents to the boy, offering him everything from help with homework to weekend trips his parents could never afford. While Ellie is uneasy about Frank’s fierce attachment to the boy, she is also reluctant to deprive him of the joy the relationship brings. As Umrigar says, a happy family is but an “earlier heaven.”

As Frank seeks to recreate his earlier fatherhood through Ramesh, the villagers cope with losses of their own. Frank’s company, Herbal Solutions, has blocked their access to the medicinal trees many use to earn their living. And, through her work at a local clinic, Ellie becomes increasingly aware of the hardships these families face.

Umrigar deftly sketches in the characters’ past—their courtship and the tragedy that defines them as a couple—while exploring the personal and political ethics of their current situation. Umrigar’s characters are carefully developed, and they face fascinating moral dilemmas. The paths they take as they negotiate these obstacles keep the plot twisting and turning right up until the final, dark resolution. 

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Teen/Adult Summer Reading Week Four: Resident Evil

Sometimes it's hard to determine just who the zombies are. This week's challenge is to read a book about a disfunctional character or family.  As always, we're giving you some suggestions to get you started.

Keep your enemies close!

 

Bartok, Mira. The Memory Palace. (B B288)

Berg, Elizabeth. The Art of Mending. (F)

Cadwalladr, Carole. The Family Tree. (F)

Hopkins, Ellen. Burned. (F)

Karr, Mary. The Liars’ Club. (B K 183)

McMillan, Terry. A Day Late and a Dollar Short. (F)

Meyers, Randy Susan. The Murderer’s Daughters. (F)

Tropper, Jonathan. This Is Where I Leave You. (F)

 

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Russell, Karen. Swamplandia!

Swamplandia! is a somewhat shabby tourist attraction tucked into the depths of the Everglades. Run by the Bigtree clan, it features alligator wrestling and similar performances.  When Hilola Bigtree, the park’s star attraction, dies, it leaves both the park and her family unmoored.  The attraction is failing, and Chief Bigtree—never the strongest business man around—leaves on a trip to the mainland to drum up money to purchase a new breed of alligator for the park. This leaves the three Bigtree children, son Kiwi and daughters Osceola and Ava, alone on their island.  Kiwi, fancying himself smarter and more capable than his father the Chief, leaves as well, only to end up working a dehumanizing minimum-wage job at World of Darkness, a Hell-themed amusement park and Swamplandia’s mainland competitor. This leaves young Ava alone with her increasingly unstable older sister. Ossie has retreated into old-fashioned Victorian spiritualism and believes herself to be in love with the ghost of an Everglades dredgeman. When Ossie, too, vanishes…heading into the swamp to join her lover in the underworld…Ava takes it upon herself to rescue her from death.

Quirky and fanciful, yet always deeply grounded in believable emotion and realistic motivations, Russell’s imaginative first novel is difficult to categorize but impossible to put down. 

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