Blog Posts by lsears

Posted by lsears on 03/09/17
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Lillian Boxfish was always drawn to the thriving energy of New York City and to the lure of poetry and words; her imagination sparked by postcards her Aunt Sadie mailed to her when she was a child. She moved there as soon as she could despite her mother's disapproval. It is now 1984, New Year’s Eve and Lillian is an elderly woman in years but not in her outlook. She is planning to eat dinner alone, her son far away in Maine with his family.
 
As she walks across Manhattan on her way to accept a new friend’s party invitation, she meets several people along the way. Not every encounter is pleasant and she handles it in her direct, no-nonsense manner. Life in her beloved city is told through flashbacks. A journey from the Jazz Age to her work writing advertising for R.H. Macy to being a published author of poetry to her marriage and to her grappling to maintain her identity. 
 
Don’t rush through life seems to be the predominant message but the tone is a little bittersweet to me. I always like a strong female character in a novel who still has vulnerabilities. Her reminiscences reveal how much living can go on in one person's life.
 
Author Kathleen Rooney lives in Chicago, teaches at DePaul University and has written several books.
 
Fiction
Posted by lsears on 02/09/17
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Margaret Creasy has gone missing. Everyone liked her and everyone is worried. The summer of 1976 is hot and people are blaming erratic behavior on the weather, perhaps even her disappearance. Ten-year-old Grace attends church with a grandmotherly neighbor and decides that if she finds God she will also find Mrs.Creasy. She sets out to do this with her friend Tilly. Grace is the main narrator of the story but other neighbors’ viewpoints begin to add to our understanding that something happened nine years ago that has bound this block of neighbors together. Grace has a sweet naïve charm about her, always watching and observing the adults around her.
 
Another neighbor, Walter, has become a pariah. Is there something sinister about him or did the neighbors act without evidence? Is this life in a suburban neighborhood where they know each other too well or is there a bit of mob mentality involved?
 

The writing is lovely, I found myself re-reading sentences, light but direct, with humor interjected, and insightful despite a very serious incident/mystery that affects them all.

 
This is author Joanna Cannon's debut novel.
Fiction
Posted by lsears on 12/10/16
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A political revolution has displaced Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov from his seat of prominence. Because a published poem attributed to him was deemed as a call to action, the Emergency Committee of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs exiles him to the Hotel Metropol in Moscow. Previously residing there in a luxurious suite of rooms his living space is reduced to a mere 100 square feet  in the attic. He is to never leave the grounds of the Metropol. Little does he know that, in time, he may come to consider himself the luckiest man in Moscow.
 
Years pass and Alexander, former aristocrat, is now the head waiter in the hotel’s restaurant. He forms a tight group of trusted friends amid the hotel workers. Here is where his impeccable manners serve him well as the hotel still bustles with activity, foreign visitors, military and political figures, and an enemy amongst the staff. Unexpectedly, a six-year-old child comes into Alexander’s life. Sophia is a breath of fresh air with her youthful innocence and becomes his responsibility when her mother never returns. The hotel also becomes her community as she grows up there.

This novel is about the measure of a person under circumstances out of their control. How can you outwit an adversary or use their predictability to your advantage? Alexander finds himself in a desperate situation that requires a desperate response. The nuances of etiquette and language are used to great effect here. I found Amor Towles' A Gentleman in Moscow to be a very satisfying read, intelligently written, and filled with gentility and manners in an ugly world.
 
 

 

 
Posted by lsears on 11/03/16
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Two half-sisters who never had the chance to meet led very different lives. Effia married a British man and Esi is sold into slavery. The story begins in British-colonized Ghana in the 1750’s and then follows these two women’s children’s lives into contemporary time, each chapter moving forward in the voice of the next generation.

Despite the seriousness of the subject it is beautifully written; it is about weakness and strength, freedom and human rights. Sometimes the story unfolds in a way that simply reports the facts, and I found this unpretentious manner of storytelling to be even more impactful. Parts are raw, undiluted, heartbreaking, troubling and made me uncomfortable but this is exactly why this is a book that should be read. Author Yaa Gyasi carefully researched history for this novel. The Cape Coast Castle referenced in Homegoing still stands today, now as a museum.

I listened to Homegoing on audiobook, the narrator’s authentic accent and pronunciation adds depth to the story.
Posted by lsears on 09/24/16
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Eleven people board a private jet on Martha’s Vineyard that crashes into coastal waters eighteen minutes after takeoff. Only two survive, a forty-something-year-old man and a four-year-old boy.
 
Scott is a starving artist invited on board at the last minute and JJ is the son of the man who chartered the flight. Their struggle in the ocean is harrowing. It is night, there is no land to be seen, one seat cushion keeps the boy afloat and Scott uses the stars to guide him as he swims into the dark. After hours in the water, they wash up on the shore. How can Scott and JJ now survive the media frenzy fueled by one of the unethical, rabid talking heads of the same tabloid cable news channel that just lost its CEO in the plane crash? A brewing NTSB investigation potentially implicates Scott in the cause of the crash raising the question of why he was on board in the first place.
 
Before the Fall is more than I thought it would be as it takes a look at motivations, the arrogance of money, ethics, power, rising from a fall from grace, bonds between people and how we can be lured to deviate into pitfalls and recklessness. At times, the novel moves slowly but as the author takes a look at each passenger and crew member he creates an air of suspense by revealing more details about the people on board.
 
Author Noah Hawley has written several books, is a screenwriter, producer and is involved with the television mini-series Fargo.
 
 
Suspense
Posted by lsears on 08/21/16
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Britt-Marie hasn’t spoken up for herself in decades, losing her self-esteem along the way. This is a sweet story of an older woman with rigid habits, uncomfortable in social situations, who can’t abide clutter, but grows to learn how to make decisions for herself. It is almost like a delayed “coming-of-age” tale. The writing style is simple, clear and depicts exactly what it might be like inside her mind. She returns to work after pestering an employment agency staffer into finding something for her even though it will be temporary. The inhabitants of a very small town, especially the children, grow to care for her and respect her and she begins to feel the same way for them.
 
My favorite quote from Britt-Marie Was Here can be found on page 262: "That is the reason why passion is worth something, not for what it gives us but for what it demands that we risk." Fans of author Fredrik Backman’s other work, A Man Called Ove, will enjoy this story with a woman in the lead role.
 
 
Fiction
Posted by lsears on 07/30/16
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An unspeakable tragedy happens to a family and community. A young boy, Dusty, is accidentally killed in a hunting accident by a neighbor. According to Landreaux Iron’s Native American traditions, if a child of another family dies from your actions, you will make amends by giving them a child of yours. He tells Dusty's parents, “Our son will be your son now . . . it’s the old way”. Except the year is 1999 and it is almost impossible to honor this custom. Yet they try. LaRose Iron, 5 years old, is given to Dusty’s family. Two families anguished by guilt and blame. How can one family give up their child and how can the other family accept?
 
The story is told in a multi-vocal manner by several characters; there are no quotation marks to indicate speech so the words flow as if they are thoughts. LaRose is an exceptional child, wise beyond his years, a healer, and is the conduit toward restitution and atonement.
 
I was fascinated by the main concept and how these ordinary people try to live their lives as best as they can. The topics are heavy yet leavened with hopefulness. I got a glimpse into a culture different from mine. I think that author Louise Erdrich, who shares both Native American and German heritage, interlaces the intricacies of relationships and issues fluidly.
 
The author is the narrator for the audiobook, read with a rich, clear voice.
 
Posted by lsears on 06/19/16
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Chicago is set sometime in the 1970’s when a young man moves in for his first job after college to work at a magazine. The city becomes a proving ground for him as a journalist in training. His apartment building neighbors are as diverse as the city; a community of its own, full of dwellers that look out for each other. Mostly he works and plays basketball and explores the city with some of the apartment building’s inhabitants. Did I mention the talking dog? Please don’t turn away from this anomaly because for this story, I think it works. Think of Edward as an illuminated being (the author’s words) and decide for yourself who or what he represents.
 
The book is a nostalgic recollection of an influential time in his life, a bildungsroman.  Most enjoyable are the many references to landmarks and places and events that embody the city. Most are mentioned only briefly but as a former denizen of the Windy City, they sparked many of my own memories. From the old Ivanhoe Theatre to Comiskey Park to Kingston Mines to the unique neighborhoods to the alewives that wash up on the shores of Lake Michigan. But the narrator is not completely blinded by the beauty of the city, he sees how it lives side-by-side with ugly truths.
 

The writing style is very poetic, descriptive, imaginative, and a little fanciful with long, long sentences that read on and on like the waters of the lake. Only a short time period is covered, five seasons, but author Brian Doyle creates a winsome novel to read, visit and reminisce over.

 
Posted by lsears on 05/14/16
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Readers learn right away that author Paul Kalanithi’s life will be cut short by an aggressive cancer but this is not a despondent story. In college he could have gone into writing or into medicine – it was that close. Medicine won out as he rationalizes that there would always be time to write later.
 
Paul shares details about the grueling demands of his medical training. He writes simply, almost as a matter of record, but his words reveal that he was a rather remarkable man who treated medicine and surgery as a calling, not a job. After the diagnosis, he grapples with making the right decisions. Which treatment should he undergo, should he try to return to surgery, should he try to start a family with his wife and to possibly leave her to carry on alone? To use a quote directly from the book: “In residency, there’s a saying: The days are long, but the years are short.”
 

Every once in a while I like to read a book that makes me think about the meaning of life and its fragility. This one certainly did. Despite the sad outcome, the book is full of life and dignity.

 
memoir
Posted by lsears on 03/19/16
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Zee and Doug are a married couple who move into Zee’s wealthy mother’s carriage house and must share quarters with Zee’s stepfather’s unemployed son, Case, and his wife, Miriam. Several things take place at the same time. Zee is angling to get her husband a job at the university where she works and tries to discredit one her colleagues. Doug is trying to write a monograph about his favorite poet who once visited this same property where Doug now lives when it was an artist’s colony decades ago but is secretly writing for a popular tween girls’ book series. Doug and Miriam plot to get into the attic of the main house. Unusual bad luck happens to Case and is it related to the backstory of the house being haunted by one of its original owners?
 
Working backward in time from 1999 to 1955 to 1929 to 1900, each time frame distinctly introduces us to new characters and a different tone to the story.  As the story goes back in time, the significance of the characters and seemingly mundane objects becomes clear. However, just like in real life, the people in the present never really know all that happened in the past. There are several ah-ha moments that I really enjoyed discovering, no spoilers here, even though I sometimes needed to reread certain sections to really understand what I had just read.
 
Be prepared to work hard to keep track of this story and the details will be revealed. The story contains elements of mystery, some lighthearted humor, has a complex way of building on the story and is richly detailed.
 

Rebecca Makkai is a local author who has written novels and short stories. She will visit the library on April 26 from 7-8:30pm for an author panel discussion.

 

 
 
Fiction
Want recommendations on what to read next? Email advisory@ahml.info and we will be happy to assist you in finding a great book to read.
 
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6.012 Patron-Generated Content

04/27/2011
The Library offers various venues in which patrons can contribute content that is accessible to the public.  These include, but are not limited to, blogs, reviews, forums, and social tagging on the Library’s website and catalog.  Any instance in which a patron posts written or recorded content to any of the Library’s venues that are accessible to the public is considered “patron-generated content” and is subject to this policy.
 
By contributing patron-generated content, patrons grant the Library an irrevocable, royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual right and license to use, copy, modify, display, archive, distribute, reproduce and create derivative works based upon that content.
 
By submitting patron-generated content, patrons warrant they are the sole authors or that they have obtained all necessary permission associated with copyrights and trademarks to submit such content.
 
Patrons are liable for the opinions expressed and the accuracy of the information contained in the content they submit.  The Library assumes no responsibility for such content.
 
The Library reserves the right not to post submitted content or to remove patron-generated content for any reason, including but not limited to:
 
  • content that is profane, obscene, or pornographic;
 
  • content that is abusive, discriminatory or hateful on account of race, national origin, religion, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation;
 
  • content that contains threats, personal attacks, or harassment;
 
  • content that contains solicitations or advertisements;
 
  • content that is invasive of another person’s privacy;
 
  • content that is unrelated to the discussion or venue in which it is posted;
 
  • content that is in violation of the Library’s Code of Conduct or any other Library policy