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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.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (1948)

This eerie short story will make you question your faith in any long standing traditions. The whole town has gathered for the annual lottery, but no one seems too happy about it. There is a general uneasiness about the crowd which Jackson masterfully cultivates until the final shocking moment. You will never look at your neighbors the same again. Check out The Lottery today.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (2012)

The Age of Miracles is a moving story about coming of age during a time of great uncertainty in the world. Eleven-year-old Julia navigates the trials and tribulations of middle school while the Earth’s rotation has begun to slow. As Julia deals with the loss of friends and the joy of a first love, birds begin to drop dead from the sky and daylight lasts 48 hours. Emily Janice Card does an excellent job of narrating Karen Thompson Walker’s haunting and beautiful prose. This is a must read that will stay with you long after you have finished.

 
 
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The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1895)

Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a ridiculously funny play that will make you laugh out loud. It starts with two English gentlemen (Jack and Algernon) discussing how they each have one identity for the city and an alias for the country. Jack uses his city alias (Ernest) to woo his true love, but he has no money to secure a marriage, and living the double life is starting to catch up with him. Jack decides he may have to “kill” off Ernest, but not before Algernon has a little fun himself. This is a masterpiece of mistaken identities and a lot of fun.
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The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani (2012)

As the development of the characters evolved, I was drawn into the story of Enza and Ciro.  Although The Shoemaker’s Wife was relatively easy to read, the novel was packed with a variety of situations and events. The story flowed and kept me involved as a reader.

We (along with nine other libraries) created a lot of discussions and programming around Adriana Trigiani’s novel capturing the immigrant experience of the early 1900s as part of The Big Read 2013. Visit thebigread.org for more information.

Tell us: What was your favorite Big Read event or favorite part of the novel?

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of those timeless classics that is best read on a dark night. The plot is familiar to most people thanks to television and the movies: Doctor Frankenstein works secretly in his laboratory to bring to life a slow, dim-witted monster. Imagine, if you will, that the monster is not dull, but rather a genius who can move at incredible speed and he is coming after you! Is there any place on Earth that you could hide?

The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman (2013)

Two sisters, Gwen-Laura and Margot, are at crossroads in their lives. Gwen-Laura has been recently and unexpectedly widowed while Margot has gone through a messy public divorce and then lost her money in Bernie Madaff scandal. Deciding to join forces and resources, Gwen-Laura moves into Margot’s penthouse where they take their first steps towards dating.

Check out The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman today.

Devil's Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke (2012)

Had enough of summer heat and humidity? Why not escape to Lake Eden, Minnesota, in February and help Hannah Swensen solve another murder! Hannah’s adventures are intriguing, yet light. That's why the cliff hanger ending at the end of Devil's Food Cake Murder surprised me. Is it finally time for Hannah to choose between her two suitors?

I enjoyed the mystery and my family enjoyed Hannah's delicious Chocolate Euphoria Cookie Bars and Chocolate-Covered Raisin Cookies. Fluke's character uses chocolate to soothe murder induced stress and pry information out of potential suspects.

Check out Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook for all of Hannah’s recipes.

Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin (2009)

I am not usually a fan of medieval historical fiction, but this compelling book held my interest. Set in twelfth century England and Wales, Adelia Aguilar, a doctor and forensic expert, is asked by King Henry II to investigate claims that two skeletons found near the burned Glastonbury Abbey belong to King Arthur and Guinevere. Because of the times, Adelia has to pretend to be assisting Mansur, her servant, when solving crimes. A subplot deals with Adelia’s travelling companion Emma, widow of Lord Wolvercote, who is attempting to win back his lands and castle.

The characters are well developed, and there is a nice balance between historical details and suspense. Grave Goods is the third book in Ariana Franklin’s Adelia Aguilar (Mistress of the Art of Death) series, but you don’t have to read the first two to enjoy this one.

 

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (2011)

Maisie Dobbs is a fearless, independent woman in the 1930s who runs her own detective agency and has taken on an undercover assignment for the British government. Maisie calmly solves mysteries and helps people along the way. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear is the eighth book in the Maisie Dobbs series.