Fabulous Fiction Firsts #419 and Other Innocents Abroad

Literary critic and journalist Caleb Crain (author profile), in his exquisite debut novel Necessary Errors brilliantly captures the lives and romances of young expatriates in newly democratic Prague.

Just a year too late to witness The Velvet Revolution, recent grad Jacob Putnam (Harvard) arrives in Prague to discover a country at a crossroads between communism and capitalism, and a picturesque city overflowing with a vibrant, searching sense of possibility. As the men and women Jacob meets begin to fall in love with one another, no one turns out to be quite the same as the idea Jacob has of them - that includes Jacob himself.

This coming-of-age novel, "(s)himmering and expansive" makes immediate the turbulent feelings and discoveries of youth as it transits toward adulthood, when chance encounters will grow into lasting relationships. Jacob's sexual identity meets with acceptance, a lonely and secretive life begins to blossom.

"Crain creates a compelling and heartfelt story that captures both the boundless enthusiasm and naïveté of youth... the detailed descriptions of Prague and Czech culture, in general, are sure to please those interested in this fascinating period in Eastern European history. Fans of Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station (another FFF from an award-winner) will find themselves similarly enchanted here."

In Kerrigan in Copenhagen : a love story, (a follow-up to the In the Company of Angels and Falling Sideways) by Thomas Kennedy, while researching for a guidebook about the pubs in Copenhagen, American expat Kerrigan consumes endless drinks that only in part numb his memories of a brutal family tragedy, a situation further complicated by his voluptuous research assistant. "(A) deeply human, Joycean romp through a magical city-its people, history, literature, and culture".

Petite Anglaise : a true story Catherine Sanderson recounts in delightful tone how she dealt with motherhood, a stale romance, and the daily grind of life in the City of Light by starting a blog under the name Petite Anglaise, which became an outlet for her reflections on expatriate life, her most intimate desires, her personal identity, and her quest to integrate her real life and her virtual one.

2013 Sizzling Summer Reads #2 - Feasting on Fiction

Fabri Prize-winner Eli Brown's Cinnamon and Gunpowder opens in 1819 when the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood is kidnapped by ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail. He works miracles in creating culinary masterpieces with the meager supplies on board the Flying Rose, tantalizing her with the likes of tea-smoked eel and brewed pineapple-banana cider as he watches her pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox.

"Brown concocts a clever tale in which history, ethics, action, and romance blend harmoniously." "(S)izzling and swashbuckling".

Susan Rebecca White's A Place at the Table is inspired by the stories of chefs Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, in which she tells the story of 3 troubled souls finding their way and making a place for themselves through the magic of the big city and a love of cooking.

Alice Stone, an African American girl growing up in North Carolina, whose upbringing was marked by racism; Bobby Banks, a gay man from Georgia, is ostracized by his conservative family and friends; and Amelia Brighton, whose privileged life is turned upside down by her husband's infidelity and a mysterious family secret. As the novel unfolds, these three are drawn together at a tiny café in New York City.

"With unforgettable characters, rich detail, and seamless narration,... (it) will long remain in the reader's mind and memory, a gentle reminder of the importance of acceptance in all its forms and the myriad connections that surround us."

Whitney Gaskell's Table for Seven is an entertaining tale of a monthly dinner club. It interweaves the lives of two couples - Fran and Will, Jaime and Mark; Audrey, a young widow; Leland, an elderly neighbor, and the extremely attractive, man-about-town bachelor, Coop.

A series of dramatic crises force the dinner club members to confront their own flaws and work on their lives. "Gaskell has mastered the art of putting the fun in dysfunctional."

Teen Stuff: Winger, by Andrew Smith

In one of my favorite books so far this year, author Andrew Smith introduces us to Ryan Dean West in Winger. Ryan Dean is a 14 year old junior at Pine Mountain boarding school, and he was put in the dormitory for troublemakers, which he isn’t really, but there was that one time, so he’s rooming with others who really do cause trouble. He and his fellow Opportunity Hall dorm-mates are on the rugby team, which is a challenge since he’s considered the runt.

Ryan Dean, self proclaimed “loser,” spends the year playing rugby, fending off his teammates and their antics, trying to survive his roommate Chas’s bullying, falling in love with his best friend Annie who two years his senior, and making friends with a fellow teammate who he learns is gay. The book is a sweet look at the teen boy-brain that is Ryan Dean. He shares his experiences with his friendships, school, rugby, girls, and growing up through his funny illustrations that are strewn throughout the novel.

Winger is a funny-turned-dark coming of age story that is laugh-out-lout funny, honest, raw, moving, and then utterly heartbreaking as tragedy strikes. This book would be a good match for fans of John Green’s style of humorous realistic young adult fiction with strong characters. (Grades 9 and up)

The Adventures of Theater Kids

From the gregarious Glee kids to the harmonious horde of High School Musical, kids these days love their theater! And it’s not just on TV or in music. Check out one of these great books and read about awful auditions, big solos that bring the house down, backstage drama and pursuing your dreams! There’s no business like show business!

Better Nate Than Ever – Unbeknownst to his parents, Nate skips school and runs off to the Big Apple to audition for a fabulous role in E.T. The Musical. Will Nate be the next big Broadway star, or will his parents catch him and drag him back to his mundane small town life?

Starring Jules (as herself) – Jules can’t wait to be on TV! She has an audition for a mouthwash commercial, but everything keeps going wrong! Can Jules land the part, and also befriend the new girl?

Drama – Callie is the stage manager for this year’s big musical, and she is committed to making it the best one the school has ever produced. Enter, the twins, stage right. Justin and Jesse both have amazing voices, as well as a knack for getting Callie into confusing romantic entanglements. What’s a young theater professional to do?!?

Wade's World

Readers of David Sedaris, Chelsea Handler, and Augusten Burroughs (a.k.a. fans of ridiculously funny memoirs) should check out Wade Rouse. Rouse grew up “different” in Missouri, and now lives in Michigan with his partner Gary. He has written several snarky books recounting the dramas of his daily life. From being caught as a kid wearing his grandmother’s high heels, to clearing patches of poison ivy off his property, Rouse’s stories are always a riot. Rouse is a regular contributor on Michigan Radio, and his books consistently appear on a host of “Best Of” lists. Check him out!

Teen Stuff: Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I’ve declared 2013 the year of reading, and I’ve been on a mad tear reading a lot of young adult fiction, and so far Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz, has been my favorite. It is beautifully written, is magically captivating, and I read it in a day.

In January the book won several awards at the Youth Media Awards including a coveted Printz Honor Award, the Stonewall Award, and the Belpré Award.

15 year old Angel Aristotle Mendoza (Ari) is practically an only child with two older sisters and a ghost of a brother who has been in prison for as long as Ari can remember. It’s hard for Ari growing up in a quiet house with so much unspoken regarding his brother and his dad’s past in Vietnam. He has no friends until one day at the community pool he meets a kid named Dante Quintana when he offers to teach Ari how to swim. The boys spend forever laughing when they realize their names are Dante and Aristotle and an immediate bond is formed, just in time for summer.

While they form a strong friendship, Dante's family life is very different from Ari’s. His father is a professor and he and Dante are forever reading and discussing books. It’s not long before Ari gets in on the action as well. The self-assured Dante talks in his unusual way and draws, Ari is an angry sort of quiet and listens, and the boys read and swim and have summer teen adventures, until one day tragedy strikes. What will happen to their friendship as their lives begin to change? It’s a touching, coming of age story about friendship and loyalty, figuring out who you are, discovering family secrets, dealing with tragedy, and just trying to get by in this Universe.

Confessions of an Elder-in-Training

Join this unique interactive take on the passage of time we’re all trying to understand and make the most of. Local musician and workshop leader Jeanne Mackey offers a rare blend of emotional intensity, wry humor, and social commentary as she shares stories, songs, and reflections on the aging process. This adventurous gathering will be at the Downtown Library on Wed., Jan. 30, 7-8:30 pm.

2012 LGBT Books

It seems impossible, but we’re already a couple weeks into the new year. Before 2012 fades into the mists entirely, let’s take a look back at some of the best books containing LGBT subject matter the year had to offer. May 2013 bring us many, many more excellent additions!

The Hunger Angel – The haunting story of a young gay man forced to work in a Soviet gulag just before the end of World War II. Herta Muller (winner of the 2009 Nobel prize for literature) writes with an unmatched intensity and beauty in describing the stark world of her characters.

In One PersonJohn Irving returns to the themes that he writes so well about in his previous novels, namely New England, great writers, and forbidden sex. His latest book tells the story of a boy growing up in an all-male prep school, discovering the true nature of his family and his past.

Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight?Dan Bucatinsky offers his own humorous observations on parenting and family life in a family with two dads.

These Things Happen – Wesley’s best friend gets elected as class president and immediately comes out during his acceptance speech, which is rather a surprise to Wesley. Wesley’s adventures in adolescence make for an entertaining read.

A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful – This autobiography follows the author, a self-proclaimed slacker, as he goes on several pilgrimages around the world in search of his life’s direction.

Mom & Dad.....I'm Gay

Thursday November 29, 2012: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Traverwood Branch: Program Room

When a child confides these words to a parent, they can totally transform the relationship. Whether that transformation results in a closer bond or a broken one is entirely dependent upon the parent's ability to accept, nurture and honor the child, whatever his or her sexual orientation. Join us and author Anne Dohrenwend at the Traverwood Branch as she shares insights from her book, Coming Around. Coming Around is an uplifting resource for understanding and coming to terms with a child’s sexual orientation and maintaining a dialogue between parent & child. With compassion and wisdom, Dohrenwend addresses parents' fears regarding what to say and what not to say, bigotry and social and religious prejudice, the legal issues facing LGBT individuals and how to understand homophobia. Dr. Dohrenwend will be there to sell and sign books as well.

2013 Rainbow Project Nominations

All the nominations are in for the 2013 Rainbow Book List! Each year the Rainbow Books project of the American Library Association selects a list of top-notch books for young people (0-18 years) that contain honest depictions of LGBTQ people and themes. For a complete list of AADL’s holdings, click here. These are a few of my favorites so far.

Batwoman, Volume 1: Hydrology – Kate Kane tracks down a spectral child abductor. Little does she know, she is being tracked herself, by a government agent intent on unmasking Batwoman.

The Song of Achilles – Patroclus falls in love with his friend Achilles and follows him to war. Madeline Miller explores the relationships between several key players of Homer’s Iliad.

Tell The Wolves I’m Home – June’s uncle Finn is her best friend, but he is cruelly taken from her by AIDS. Carol Rifka Brunt deftly examines the simmering tensions and deep love present in any family, especially one dealing with tragedy.

DramaRaina Telgemeier’s graphic novel follows the hijinks of Callie and the theater department as they muddle through puberty, love, and line memorization.

The Rainbow Book List will be finalized in January, so stay tuned to see which books make the cut!

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