Home (2012) , by Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning author Toni Morrison, is a perfect book to read this holiday season.
This is a story of survival, and we follow veteran Frank Money in his efforts to adjust to civilian life as he returns home following the Korean War. He wrestles with his demons inside and the forces of society that threaten to diminish his safety and security. Frank is a man looking for his identity in an unforgiving world filled with prejudice and misconceptions. Everything changes as he is compelled to help his sister Cee survive her own desperate ordeal. In order to help her heal, they must return to the small, racist town in Georgia they called "home".
Toni Morrison is known for her deep,complex prose, but in this novel she uses her beautiful words sparingly to create a major impact. Above all, there is hope and redemption, and the belief that people can rise to their challenges and emerge triumphant. Inspire yourself this holiday season with a story by a true American classic, Toni Morrison.
Blue Heaven is a fast-paced thriller by C.J. Box and is a stand-alone from his Joe Pickett series. Annie and William, a 12 and 10 year-old sister and brother, leave their house to go fishing after a fight with their Mom over her low-life boyfriend. Sadly for them, they witness four men murder someone and are spotted by one of the killers. Their nightmare begins.
The two, led by a determined and strong Annie, evade the killers and find refuge at a loner ranchers' home. The rancher, Jess Rawlins, is having his own problems and he provides a safe haven for them and also wants to find out who the killers are. It turns out that the men are retired cops from L.A. who are bound together by a large robbery they pulled off in L.A. and not even two children are safe from them.
This is a suspenseful and fast paced-mystery and it reminds me of the classic movie Night of the Hunter. It has a great setting and Annie and Jess are well developed characters and the bad guys are really bad.
William Bellman has always lived a charmed life. He is handsome, intelligent, strong and energetic.Even though he didn't know his father, who left William and his mother when he was small, he isn't resentful. He shares a close relationship with his sweet mother and is close with his cousin. He seems to get whatever he wants with minimal effort, every task is easy to him, he makes friends quickly with people from all social spheres and he has no problem attracting the attentions of beautiful women. He isn't spoiled by all of this good fortune. He works hard and loves accomplishing things.
The only blemish on his gilded life is an incident in his childhood. He and his friends were playing with their sling-shots and through a seemingly-miraculous shot, William strikes and kills a raven. The boys are amazed by the feat and go to see the gorgeous bird. Their awe is soon replaced with the macabre playfulness of young boys as they flap the lifeless wings and taunt each other. Will is unsettled. However, he quickly forgets the entire affair. He forgets it so completely that he barely notices how black birds haunt his dreams, and crows and ravens seem to appear out of nowhere whenever he loses someone dear.
William Bellman's perfect life starts to unravel as his begins to be visited by the mysterious Mr. Black. But Black may be just what Bellman needs.
A mysterious and beautifully descriptive homage to the spirit of the raven, told through a suitable moody Victorian tale.
Plank is one of those people you've never heard of, but whose influence is everywhere. He's best known as the producer/engineer for many classic "krautrock" bands in '70s Germany (Kraftwerk, Neu!, Cluster, etc.), but also worked on albums by Eurythmics, Devo and Ultravox. Brian Eno approached Plank to produce U2, but Plank decided he couldn't work with Bono and turned the project down. CDs 1-2 are a nice sampler of his production/engineering work (although it's a shame that Kraftwerk and a few other bands aren't included). CD 3 has some poorly-recorded but ultimately compelling live material with collaborators Dieter Moebius (of Cluster) and Arno Steffan. CD 4 is remixes/reworks, a few of which work well (especially "Broken Head"), the rest of which are pretty forgettable. There's also a booklet with plenty of details about Plank's life and reminiscences from musicians he worked with. Interested in more background on "krautrock?" Check out the book Krautrock: Cosmic Rock and Its Legacy, or view this brief documentary about an event in appreciation of Plank at the Goethe Institut in London, in October 2013:
I can't remember the last time a debut novel made me smile as much as this one did. With characters that are appealing and quirky, The Rosie Project made me laugh out loud at times and wish that it was way longer than 295 pages.
Don Tillman is a socially awkward and brilliant professor of genetics. He freely admits that he only has two friends in the world and decides that it is high time to find himself a wife. So of course he goes about the task in the way he does everything: in an extremely logical and orderly manner. He develops a sixteen-page scientifically based survey and refers to it as The Wife Project. While he has never even had a second date before, he is convinced that his survey will find him the perfect partner, filtering out all of the smokers, drinkers, vegans, and women who habitually show up late to things.
When he meets Rosie, an unconventional and outgoing bartender, he doesn't even have to administer the survey to realize that she does not qualify as a candidate for his wife. Yet as he helps her try to identify her biological father and finds his very ordered life being turned upside-down, he can't deny that there is something very appealing about her. And truthfully, is the person who is perfect on paper always the right person for you?
“The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure.” -Christopher McCandless
As humans, we each have instilled within us a desire to explore the unfamiliar and to live as thoroughly and as memorably as possible. Should routines begin to dull, we are prompted to examine our own lives and passions, and to reinvigorate ourselves by pursuing the likes and interests that propel us to a new sense of meaning and purpose.
The true story of Chris McCandless, the son of a well-to-do family and his solo venture to the Alaskan wilderness, is a tale of identity, independence, and an unquenchable pursuit of the self through the simplest, albeit most unforgiving force—nature. A modern-day Thoreau, Chris McCandless escapes a tense family life and sheds all familiarity in order to cultivate a path for himself. He drops his family name and takes on the persona of “Alexander Supertramp,” as he aimlessly travels what is unfamiliar to him and lives off the land. As always, the road to adventure points West, as Chris meets a host of characters on his hitchhike throughout the nation.
Ill-equipped, yet an idealist, Chris does not survive his journey. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler. It's fact.) Journalist Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild retells the story of Chris McCandless through Chris’ postcards and journal, as discovered with Chris’ body. This is not a tale of death, but rather, a philosophical question of why Chris needed this journey, who he met along the way, and how he influenced others. To this day, adventurers, curiosity-seekers, and free spirits alike continue to visit the “Magic Bus” in which Chris died, along the rough Alaskan Stampede Trail.
I highly recommend this text to anyone with a penchant for travel, memoirs, or tales of adventure. Additionally, I encourage a viewing of Sean Penn’s film by the same title.
As the holiday season is upon us and the hustle and bustle of life ramps up, I decided I wanted something light and heartwarming to read. I love a good literary challenge, but what I really needed was a book that would let me escape the chaos. Lorna Landvik's Welcome to the Great Mysterious is the perfect book to curl up with and relax.
Geneva Jordan is a middle-aged self-centered Broadway star who has just been dumped by her boyfriend and is fast approaching menopause. Just then Geneva's twin sister Anne asks Geneva to come stay and babysit her teenage son while Anne and her husband take a much-needed vacation. Geneva grudgingly agrees and heads to Minnesota to babysit her 13 year old nephew, Rich, who has Down Syndrome. Rich and Geneva forge a relationship and learn about life and love together. Together they find an old scrapbook from Anne and Geneva's childhood, titled The Great Mysterious. The Great Mysterious scrapbook contains questions and answers from Anne and Geneva's teen years and explores the great mysteries of life such as finding true love, facing your fears, and the bond of family.
'Tis the season to be baking, fa-la-la-la! Is there anything sweeter than the smell of freshly baked cookies wafting through the house? Well, aside from eating them of course! We all have our traditional family recipes as well as some "tried and true" favorites, but why not try something new this holiday season? Here's a sampling of some of our holiday cookie books to get you started. Who knows, you might start a brand new holiday "tradition" this season. So break out those cookie sheets and let's get baking.
Enjoying dark comedy or gallows humor (as it was originally referred to) is an acquired taste. It is said that when the condemned man climbed to the top of the gallows, where the noose was placed around his neck, he was asked if he had any last words--he quickly responded: "...Look at all this rotted wood. I don't think it's safe up here..."
Violet & Daisy is a dark comedy. It has been placed in the "Action" genre in the stacks, but this is misleading. Sure, there are a couple of shoot-'em-up scenes; however, they play mostly for comic effect. The gunplay just enhances the absurd world that our two heroines exist in.
Violet is played by Alexis Bledel, who grew up starring in "Gilmore Girls" for seven years on TV. She is the brains and brawn of a pair of professional hit-men. Daisy is the younger, less experienced partner, who is played by Academy Award-nominated actress, Saoirse Ronan. Together, the two are hired by Danny Trejo to take out sad sack Michael, who has such a strong death wish that he double-downs on his likelihood to die.
Michael is played by James Gandolfini, the actor who died last June at the age of 51. Michael is trying desperately to atone for his bad behavior as a widowed father, and ameliorate his teenage daughter's resentment. His wife, (her mother), passed away years back and Michael failed in his fatherly responsibilities...or at least failed in his daughter's eyes.
Violet & Daisy are motivated by high fashion and a lack of conscience. The contracts they fulfill buy them pretty clothes. The secret to their success seems to be that they never have to have any contact with their victims. Who knows what would happen if they ever had to make eye contact or worse yet, speak to their victims before "poppin'em." Maybe a movie might be made about that!
What would you do if your loved one, long gone from your life, suddenly returned from the dead? The Returned is the debut novel by Jason Mott that explores the emotional reaction as the dead suddenly return to the living. Set in the small town of Arcadia, North Carolina, The Returned focuses on a family who lost their eight-year-old son in a tragic accident 50 years ago. Suddenly, Jacob shows up on their doorstep, just as “the returned” start reappearing all over the world looking to reunite with family. The book explores how seeing long lost loved ones stirs up forgotten feelings fear, loss, and regret.
As the number of the returned increases, the government and military attempt to control the situation. Intertwined in the human emotions are questions of politics and religion. The chilling story grabbed my attention from the first chapter and I kept reading to find out what will happen to the returned. The book provokes questions about death, grief, and acceptance. The Returned has been optioned for a TV show on ABC, titled Resurrection set to air in March 2014. The Sundance Channel is currently airing a French drama set around a similar topic, also titled The Returned. I’ll be tuning in to see how this haunting book plays out on the small screen.