I like to think that he saw me, the loosened ends of my long bandages and the wispy tangled curls of my hair reaching out to the wind, the skirt of my nightgown billowing in the melodic waves. I like to think that he watched as I climbed over the side of the rickety widow’s walk, my toes perched on the ledge, my fingers clasped lightly to the railing behind me. Perhaps he noted, with quiet irony, that never before had anyone more resembled an angel. I like to think that he marveled at the mass of bandages that unraveled completely and tumbled to the ground, and at the pair of pure white wings, large and strong, that unfolded from my shoulder blades.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is about love: unrequited and impossible, elation, loss, and suffering; in the midst of it, a girl is born with wings. First, readers follow the relentless suffering of Ava's immigrant family over the course of three generations. This chronicle culminates in her birth. Set in 1950s Seattle, Ava's mother and grandmother shelter winged Ava from the community in order to protect her. However, as any blossoming teen, Ava longs to fit in with her peers. In this novel, Leslye Walton writes about a teenage girl's exploration of self and her place in an unexplored world.
I absolutely LOVED this book! It’s beautifully written with incredible imagery. I felt as if I opened the book and walked right into the scenes described. Walton delivers a rich and full story that provides the context for Ava's plight; she weaves together stories across generations à la Marquez. I also adored the characters and was invested in their outcome. I liked the dark, traditional fairy tale/fable feel of the novel - sobbed at the end of it, but strangely hopeful and satisfied despite tragedy. If you like magical realism or emotional stories, this is a must read!
The first day of class at Northwestern University's Medill school of journalism and three brilliant students are chosen for a special class investigating cold case files.
The enigmatic Jake, Sarah and Ian are tasked by professor Z to look into past files, but Jake already has one chosen, he has had a cryptic message sent to him leading the three to a case, but the problem is the killer is already dead.
The three are drawn into a case where another body turns up and interest in the three becomes a dangerous game where trust is tested, and police corruption and deception leads to the students being the hunted. A fast, intriguing new book by Chicago author Michael Harvey who wrote the Chicago Way and 3 other in the Michael Kelly series.
In The Sun and other Stars, author Brigid Pasulka crafts a story of family and community that will captivate you with an easy sense of familiarity. Pasulka, an English teacher in Chicago, understands and embraces the familial conflicts and intergenerational obligations that shape our personal growth. She has lived in Russia, Germany, Italy, and Poland, where she went in search of her own heritage.
In this story, twenty-two year old Etto is in unfathomable grief after losing his mother and twin brother. His deepening isolation creates a rift between him and his father as he struggles to repair his broken life. He meets two people who help him rekindle his desire to live, and Italy's favorite pastime, soccer, becomes a source of salvation for him.
Brigid Pasulka pens stories of genuine people we can relate to. Love, loss, family, friendship, and community dominate her themes. She writes from the heart, and she will touch your heart with her words. After you read this, check out her first novel, A Long, Long, Time Ago and Essentially True, another tour de force of multi-generational magic.
Right before the first of the year I stumbled across an interview with two-term poet laureate of the United States, Billy Collins. In it he referred to poetry as "the spinach of literature". I found that quote to be interesting, funny, and, at least for me, entirely true. Spinach is good for you and is also an acquired taste. If I had a choice between spinach and ice cream, I would choose ice cream even though spinach is the better choice. So, in addition to the usual promises one makes at the new year, I decided to make one of my New Year's resolutions to read more spinach, or should I say, poetry.
I felt I owed it to Mr. Collins to start with one of his collections. He was after all my motivation. I chose his newest book, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems. Aimless Love combines over fifty new poems with selections from four of his previous books. And not only did I read it, but I also listened to him read in on audio CD. It did not disappoint. Ranging from serious to laugh out loud funny his poems are about everyday life and cover a range of emotions. I found them to be conversational and reader friendly.
How are you doing on your New Year's resolutions? It's not too late to add one more. I suggest that you too read your spinach!
It’s always fun to watch a movie and see a neighborhood you’ve lived in or a building you’ve visited. It’s even more fun to recognize geographical goofs—like when Harry and Sally leave from Hyde Park for New York, but are shown driving south on Lake Shore Drive through the City. Hundreds of movies have been filmed in Chicagoland; here’s a list of some of the best, according to Chicago Magazine.
If you are looking for a book that is "un-put-downable, Dave Eggers' The Circle is it! This is the kind of book that you feel compelled to discuss with people--it would be great for a book discussion with its exploration of themes such as privacy and democracy.
Mae Holland is hired to work for a powerful tech company called "the Circle". Imagine if Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Yahoo all merged and became one huge internet company . . . . that's The Circle. As Mae joins the company she is excited and impressed by all the Circle offers like high-tech modern facilities, employee dorms, thematic parties, and even health insurance for her ailing father. It seems to be a utopian workplace. But soon, Mae becomes entrenched in the Circle culture and the launch of new inventions like SeeChange cameras that can be planted anywhere to see what people are doing. Mae also agrees to wear a camera around her neck that provides a live feed of all that she is doing every minute of every day. Political leaders are encouraged to wear these cameras and become transparent as well.
As the novel progresses, the reader is confronted with the idea that all this technological progress doesn't align with personal freedom and privacy. One of the Circle's taglines is " Privacy is Theft." But, what if nothing was private anymore? Is complete transparency the answer? Can technological progress be a bad thing?
If you still haven't placed a hold on Boxers or Saints yet after watching the above clip, I'll try and convince you now. I've only read Saints, but it was so uniquely told, informative, funny and horrifying, that I am eagerly waiting to read Boxers. The Boxer Rebellion occurred in China over 100 years ago and this 2-volume set of graphic novels by Printz award winning author and illustrator Gene Luen Yang, sheds light on the complicated events of this bloody period of the world's past. Yet the genius of this book is that it makes these events that happened such a long time ago seem vivid, understandable and totally engrossing as the author crafts genuinely believable characters, whom the reader ends up caring greatly about their plights.
China at this time was weakened and the government in shambles. European missionaries began to emerge and flex their influence throughout the country and the result was a nationalism-inspired backlash by the 'Boxers' against these 'Saints'.
Bloodshed and chaos ensued.
It all sounds so violent and terrible and certainly at times it is. But the story is filled with humor, as the character's facial expressions are so expressive, including the young teenage protagonist, an unwanted fourth-born daughter named ... (ahem) 'Four Girl'. Four Girl is a Chinese Christian teenager who struggles with her faith. She hatches all types of odd plans to cope with the confusion and turmoil surrounding her, including my favorite plan of hers: in order to be feared and respected, she walks around endlessly with her "devil face" on. This face needs to be seen to be believed and is laugh out loud funny. Four Girl's struggles with her faith and whose side to fight for, come across as gut-wrenching, endearing and are acutely conveyed. Teens, adults should all dive into this amazing work of art.
Winnie the Pooh is not the only character that got his nose caught in the honey jar. Take the background story of Bernie Gunther - before the war started, he was a highly respected homicide investigator in Berlin. Once the Nazis took control, Bernie had to swallow his pride and political beliefs in order to survive. His comfort level went from a possible 10 to well below zero.
Gunther's goal became to stay below the radar of the maniacal regime that was slowly destroying his world. He was forced to wear a uniform and become part of the military machine. He went from being the Berlin Bull to the Wehrmacht Wimp.
In March of 1943, the Wehrmacht High Command sends their prized criminal investigator to Smolensk to verify if thousands of Polish officers were executed and buried in a frozen field. Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, smells a possible public relations coup. If Goebbels can get proof that the Russians mass-murdered thousands of defenseless enemy officers, the world's spotlight, fixed on the Nazi nation's atrocities, will dim drastically.
The last thing that Gunther wants is to be anywhere near the spotlight. He has positioned himself well offstage and only wants his world back - as it once was. When he lands in Smolensk, no one is happy to see him...not the Germans in command of the invasion force, nor the Russians aiding them. Even the Gestapo resents an "outsider" being assigned to investigate a matter that appears to have no major consequence in the Fatherland conquering Mother Russia.
Resentment leads to murder and cover-up. Gunther is forced to make some difficult decisions to remain breathing; however, he finds time to fall hopelessly in love with one of the forensic team sent to aid his investigation. . .but even that small prize has its steep price tag.
Philip Kerr has written several books in this series. It is not important to read them in order, since the outcome of WWII is well documented. The writing is rich and the characters are complex. If historical fiction is what you are looking for and you haven't tried Kerr yet, it is well worth the experience.
I was looking for a book to snap me out of this never ending winter and an escape to the Wild West seemed like just the fix. The Outcasts is a true, old fashioned western complete with Texas marshals, horse thieves, outlaws, buried treasures, and brothels. From the first chapter I was hooked into the lives of young Nate Cannon, Dr. Tom, and Captain Deerling, lawmen on the hunt for a notorious outlaw. At the center of the story is Lucinda, a young woman who escaped from a brothel and entwined herself with the ruthless outlaw McGill. As the lawmen chase Lucinda and McGill across the bayou, the tale unwinds in dramatic fashion, ending with an epic battle in New Orleans. The gritty novel was an engaging read that sweeps you into a different time.
If you are a fan of historical fiction, Kahtleen Kent has written a two other novels. She is a wonderful storyteller and weaves historical events into the fictional characters’ lives. I will definitely check out her other titles!
HHhH(2012) is the mesmerizing story of Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, recruited by the British Secret Service to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, also known as " The Butcher of Prague". Heydrich, often called the Architect of the Holocaust, was responsible for the deaths of countless Jews during World War II. French author Laurent Binet has crafted an intricate tale: part historical and part glorious imagination that actualizes this transformative event in the history of the Holocaust.
But there is more to this brilliant narrative than the documentation of this important historical event.Binet's postmodern approach reminds us to be skeptical in our analysis of historical events and to rely on our own clarification of events. His attention to detail and to the maintenance of historical integrity elevate this novel to the status of a postmodern classic.
This story digs deeply into historical significance while maintaining the suspicious eye of an author writing in a postmodern, post-9/11 world. The writing is engrossing, elegant and graceful, and the thrilling narrative will keep you interested till the end. We can only hope that Laurent Binet will continue to delight us with his exquisite storytelling skills.