Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat (2013)

The title character is a 7-year-old girl whose mother died giving birth to her, “so her birthday was also a day of death,” a day to visit the cemetery every year. Claire goes missing in the first chapter and stays missing until the very last pages, but the novel goes on to portray characters whose lives intersect with Claire and her father Nozias.

Through this fictitious Haitian village, we are brought to an understanding of life on this island nation with its extremes of poverty and excesses of wealth.

Moving back and forth through time but returning at the end to the night of Claire’s birthday, Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light has a fable like quality and is beautifully written…but it is ultimately about loss so not an easy read.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (2005)

Percy is a twelve-year-old dyslexic boy who doesn’t fit in, his mother lives with an abusive stepfather, and he has just been expelled from his sixth school in six years. Life is frustrating, and the future seems bleak, when he suddenly learns the truth: his father is one of the Greek Gods! This, of course, means that Percy is half a God, and it opens up a whole new world full of danger, but also hope. The Lightning Thief is the first book in Rick Riordan’s young adult series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and it will make you wish you paid attention more in high school when you were studying mythology. This is a fun book with a Herculean quest, prophecies, and plenty of action.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones (2012)

This novel which at first appears to be an elegant comedy of manners takes a turn for the better to become a ghost story. The story takes place in a manor house somewhere near Manchester, England, in April 1912 on the eve of Emerald Torrington's 20th birthday. Preparations are being made, guests invited, and but for The Great Central Railway everything would have gone on as planned. A dreadful accident throws the household into confusion and misbehavior.

The combination of rich with period detail, well-imagined characters and a pleasing resolution makes The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones worth picking up for a quick read.

The Big Strike at Siwash by George Fitch (1909)

This short story is one of my favorites. Written in the style of a tall tale, it follows the football team at Siwash College and the daring exploits of star player Ole Skjarsen, a lad built of sturdy Scandinavian stock. He could dismantle most teams single-handedly, until the day he decided not to play anymore, leaving the entire university in turmoil. Find out how the fans cope with this great calamity. The Big Strike at Siwash by George Fitch is free at books.google.com.
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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (2012)

Robin Sloan’s book has all of the elements of wonderful and unforgettable story. There are a quirky set of characters led by the clerk of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Clay Jannon. With help from his roommates, childhood friend, and new girlfriend, Clay attempts to figure out what is really going on at the unusual bookstore.  He unknowingly stumbles on a 500 year mystery and embarks on an epic journey. Humorous and well written with a great narrator, this is wonderful novel to listen to.

After Her by Joyce Maynard (2013)

When Rachel and Patty were kids, their dad was the detective hot on the trail of the Sunset Strangler, a serial killer who preyed on young women in their neighborhood. Thirty years later, Rachel is still searching to capture the killer. This is a can’t-put-down whodunit and a story that explores deep family bonds in a coming of age tale. Check out After Her by Joyce Maynard.

The Dinner by Herman Koch (2012)

The Dinner is alarming…a novel which makes you think twice. It takes place over the course of a dinner meeting between two couples, two brothers and their wives, at a high-end restaurant in Amsterdam (although it could be anywhere). Through careful revelations by its unreliable narrator, Paul Lohman, Herman Koch unravels the threads that bind. It is a novel in which the disclosure of secrets tells the tale and, though not an easy read, its twists and turns keep you reading.
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The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (2013)

In this beautifully written and heartbreaking gem, Jodi Picoult tells the story of Sage Singer. Sage is a young woman who befriends an elderly gentleman (Josef) in her grief support group. As time progresses and their friendship grows, Sage learns that long ago Josef was a Nazi officer. Josef begs Sage to not only forgive him for his past sins, but also to help him die. The Storyteller is a very intense novel that grabs you from the very beginning and does not let you go.
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First Frost by James Henry (2013)

Have you enjoyed the Touch of Frost mystery DVDs? Frost’s exploits first appeared in a series of books by R. D Wingfield in the 1980s. This year, Frost’s story is continued in a prequel by James Henry entitled First Frost. Frost is just as rumpled, irascible, and brilliant as in the original books and TV series as he solves crimes on the perpetually understaffed Denton Police Force.

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

The first thing you will notice about this book is the excellent writing. I think Ray Bradbury could write a book about paint drying and make it come to life. Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a futuristic world where firemen exist not to put out fires, but rather to start them. In particular, all books and all literature are hunted down and burned while people mindlessly stare into television screens all day.

Until recently, Guy Montag was happy being a fireman, but when his wife attempts suicide and his neighbor disappears mysteriously, Guy secretly begins hiding books. When he is discovered, he must run for his life.
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Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012)

WOW! This is a beautifully written first novel. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a coming of age story, yet it is incredibly complex.

In the 1980s, June, the 14-year-old narrator, is dealing with the death of her uncle Finn, who was her closest friend and confidant. He has died from AIDS.  Finn was an artist and leaves as a legacy a painting which is at the center of the novel. It is a portrait of two adolescent girls… sisters. It is this portrait that reveals the relationships that are the heart of this novel.

I found this to be a very moving novel, but not in any way sentimental. Carol Rifka Brunt is spot on in moments like this when June says: “I knew the way lost hopes could be dangerous, how they could turn a person into someone they never thought they’d be.”
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The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)

Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth is a word lover’s paradise which both children and adults can enjoy. The story follows Milo, a boy with not much interest in anything, through a mysterious tollbooth into a magical land where he must try to reconcile the differences between the land of Dictionopolis (which holds words most dear) and Digitopolis (a kingdom ruled by numbers). Only by rescuing the princesses Rhyme and Reason can Milo end the discord dividing the kingdoms. It is a fun adventure for everyone as Milo learns to find delight in the world around him.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (2006)

This scary psychological novel will stay with you long after you turn the last page. In Sharp Objects, a young reporter from Chicago travels back to her hometown in Missouri to try to find answers concerning two recent murders of young girls. It’s very hard to put down between chapters, and of course, comes complete with a surprise ending. Creepy!

Check out all of Gillian Flynn’s novels at the library.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (2002)

The story takes place in an alternate 1985, where Thursday Next, intrepid Special Operative battles an arch-villain who's kidnapping characters from classic literature. As a member of the Literary Detective Division of the Special Operations Network, she pursues literary crimes such as forgery, plagiarism, manuscript theft, and the abuse of literary characters.

In Japser Fforde’s world, matters of literature receive the kind attention we reserve for professional sports or Hollywood celebrities. The novel is fun and diverting with a great arch-villain and an intrepid heroine.

Full of literary allusions, this is a good novel for readers of classic fiction. People are able to pop themselves into novels, while fictional creations are able to escape into the real world. There is also a funny bit where a production of Richard III is done with boisterous audience participation à la The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The Eyre Affair is the first of seven in the Thursday Next series (the next is Lost in a Good Book).

Defending Jacob by William Landay (2012)

The book shows family relationships, teenager’s lives, teen violence, law procedure, and a “killer’s gene.” Author William Landay is a former district attorney.  The dialogue in Defending Jacob is excellent (I may compare it to Ernest Hemingway’s dialogue, as he is famous for that).

Other staff enjoyed this novel as well – last summer, Elizabeth and Denise reviewed the book.