South Branch Staff Picks Category: Adult

La Casa Chica

La Casa Chica coverLa Casa Chica by Mónica Lavín interweaves imagined or re-imagined stories into historical figures from the twenties to the sixties in Mexico. Notable figures such as Frida Kahlo, Conchita Martínez, Lupe Vélez and Emilio “el Indio” Fernández, who led dramatic and often turbulent public lives, are given a reimagined equally dramatic back story, based on, as the author says, “information obtained from various sources, including books, newpapers, magazines, conversations, Internet.” The author recreates their conversations, thoughts and feelings of their romantic lives using what is known about their lives and what she imagines could have happened in parallel. Often tragic and always fascinating, these are stories both about what was and what could have been and together they form, as the author herself points out, a portrait of the Mexico that was and is no more.
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La Casa Chica por Mónica Lavín entrelaza historias imaginarias o re-imaginadas a las vidas de figuras históricas desde los años veinte hasta los setenta. A figuras notables, tales como Frida Kahlo, Conchita Martínez, Lupe Vélez y Emilio “el Indio” Fernández, que tuvieron vidas públicas a menudo dramáticas y turbulentas, se les da una historia re-imaginada igualmente dramática, como nos dice la autora, “basada en información obtenida de diversas fuentes: libros, periódicos, revistas, conversaciones, Internet.” La autora recrea sus conversaciones, pensamientos y sentimientos de sus vidas románticas usando lo que se conoce de sus vidas y lo que imagina que podría haber ocurrido en paralelo. A menudo trágicos y siempre fascinantes, éstas son historias que tratan tanto de lo que fue y lo que podría haber sido, y juntos forman, como nos indica la autora, un retrato “del México que se fue.”
Written by: Rachel L.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

Misadventures of awkward black girlIntroverts rejoice! The self-proclaimed “awkward” Issa Rae is utterly charming and just as hilarious on the pages of  The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl as she is in her comedy YouTube videos (they won a Shorty Award for Best Web Show in 2012).  Looking around popular entertainment and not seeing a “respectable reflection” of herself, Issa Rae prepared to take on the world, one “misadventure” at a time.  Each humorous essay takes readers to a moment in her life that helped her hone her voice as a writer and performing artist.  It’s easy to laugh along with her during her growing pains: youthful forays onto online chat rooms, learning to love her “nap-tural” hair, her dancing abilities (or lack thereof), her love of men, her love affair with food, and so much more. 
Look ahead to Insecure, the new HBO show co-created by (and starring) Issa Rae set to air in October 2016.
(Read alikes Funny memoirs) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, Bossypants by Tina Fey, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants by Jill Soloway, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang.

The Book of Unknown Americans

Book of Unknown Americans coverThe Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez, is a novel written as a series of interconnected stories, each of which could stand on its own. The book tells the story of several immigrant families from Panama, Mexico, Nicaragua and Latin American countries who end up in Delaware. The stories are told in first person and are narrated by different members of the same family. We learn their backstory, what brought them to the United States, and in some cases a little about how they got here, as well as getting a vivid picture of what life here is like for them, living as immigrants in a country with a culture and language so distinct from their own and one in which immigrants are not always openly welcomed.

The families all live in the same apartment complex, owned by another immigrant, and their lives are at once interconnected and often isolated, each family with its own challenges and obstacles to overcome. The core of the stories involve a family who comes to the US to provide educational opportunities to their daughter, who was brain damaged in an accident, and her relationship with the son of another tenant. At the same time, Henriquez interweaves this story with that of the other tenants, who face language barriers, economic hardship, and discrimination, among other challenges.
Hernandez’s writing draws you into the lives of her characters and you feel their disappointments and frustration and their small moments of joy as well. When I finished the book, I was left hoping there would be a second book so I could continue following their stories.
Written by: Rachel L.

The Impossible (DVD)

The Impossible-coverThe movie, The Impossible, was recommended to me by a friend in Spain as the happiest sad movie she had seen in a very long time, and I have to say she was right.

The Impossible is a fictionalized account of the true story of a Spanish family vacationing in Thailand in 2004 when their resort is washed away by the massive Tsunami that devastated that entire region of Asia. The family, happily playing in the pool and oblivious to the pending disaster, is suddenly separated as the ginormous waves wash over the resort, tearing trees out from their roots, washing away entire buildings and creating a landscape of chaos. The cinematography of this movie is outstanding, and it must have been amazing to see it on the big screen. However, even on my 47″ TV, it was still breathtaking, and the story of what happens when the family is separated and the effects of the devastation inflicted on the region by this once-in-a-lifetime disaster will keep you on the edge of your seat. Even knowing the ending (no spoiler here – you’ll have to watch it to see for yourselves) didn’t ruin my enjoyment of this movie and if you want a movie that combines action, adventure and drama all rolled into one, don’t miss The Impossible.
Review by Rachel L.
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Una amiga española me recomendó la película, Lo Imposible, como la película alegre más triste que había visto desde hacía mucho tiempo, y tengo que reconocer que tenía razón.
Lo Imposible cuenta de manera ficticia la verdadera historia de una familia española que está de vacaciones en Tailandia en el 2004 cuando su hotel es arrastrado por el sunami masivo que devastó esa región entera de Asia. La familia, que está jugando todos contentos en la piscina y no tiene la menor idea del desastre que está por venir, de repente está separada cuando las olas gigantescas sacan los árboles por sus raices, arrastran edificios enteros, y crean un terreno de caos. La cinematografía de esta película es impresionante y debería haber sido increíble verla en la pantalla grande. Sin embargo, incluso en mi tele de 47″, fue impresionante, y la historia de lo que pasa cuando la familia está separada y los efectos de la devastación infligido por este desastre único les tendrán al filo de sus asientos. Incluso sabiendo cómo acababa la historia (y no lo voy a revelarlo aquí – tendrán que verla ustedes mismos), todavía disfrutaba ver esta película, y si quieren una película que combina la acción, la aventura y el drama, no se pierdan Lo Impossible.

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Although probably best known for his novels, many of which exceed 400-500 pages, Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of 4 novellas that will keep you reading long past the time you should have turned off the light and gone to sleep. The book opens with the longest of the novellas, “1922”, about a man who kills his wife to protect his land and the devastating repercussions that act has on him and his son and on those around them. The story is reminiscent of the Edgar Allan Poe story, The Telltale Heart and has an ending that readers definitely will not expect.
Cover image for Full Dark, No Stars2 of the stories, “Big Driver” and “A Good Marriage”, have strong female protagonists who suffer horrific experiences and whose responses will leave readers cheering for them. In “Big Driver,” a woman is brutally attacked after doing an author visit at a library. Her self-deprecating sense of humor and resourcefulness in seeking out those responsible for the attack turn her from a victim to a vigilante whom the reader can’t help but root for to be successful in her quest. In “A Good Marriage”, possibly the most disturbing of the stories, a woman finds out her husband is not who he seemed to be, an extreme version of Jekyll and Hyde, and readers are left wondering if they too, would be capable of similar actions if faced with the fact of living a lie after more than 20 years of marriage.
One of the most entertaining and twisted stories of the group is “Fair Extension”, in which a man is offered the chance to reverse his terminal cancer diagnosis for a period of time. But of course, nothing is ever free and so he must chose someone on which to visit tragedy in exchange for the temporary restoration of his previously good life. Who he choses and what happens to that person and his family is treated in an almost comic vein, and while truly awful, the reader never totally loses her sympathy for the protagonist.
Although hard to call stories with such horrific events depicted in them enjoyable, it truly was a great collection of novellas. They are page turners that kept me reading and at the end, wishing there was just one more story in there so that the book wouldn’t end.
Review by Rachel L.
Also available in Large Type and Audiobook.
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Aunque se le conoce mejor por sus novelas, muchos de lo cuales tienen más de 400-500 páginas, Full Dark, No Stars es una colleción de novelas cortas que seguirás leyendo hasta después de la hora que deberías haber apagado la luz y haberte acostado. El libro empieza con la más larga de las novelas cortas, 1922, que trata de un hombre que mata a su esposa para proteger su tierra y las repercusiones arrasadoras que tienen sobre él, su hijo y la gente alrededor de ellos. La historia me recuerda al cuento de Edgar Allan Poe, The Telltale Heart y tiene un final inesperado para los lectores.
Dos de las historias, “Big Driver” y “A Good Marriage”, tienen protagonistas femeninos fuertes que sufren unas experiencias terribles y cuyas respuestas llevan a los lectores a apoyar totalmente sus acciones después. En “Big Driver”, una mujer es atacada brutalmente después de hacer una charla literaria en una biblioteca. Su sentido de humor crítica y su iniciativa para buscar a las personas responsables del ataque la convierten de una víctima a una justiciera, y el lector desea con todo corazón que tenga éxito. En “A Good Marriage”, que es posiblemente el cuento más inquietante todos, una mujer enfrenta el hecho de que su marido no es el hombre que parecía, una versión extrema de Jekyll y Hyde, y los lectores acaban preguntándose si ellos también, sería capaces de acciones similares si tuvieran que vivir una mentira después de casi 20 años de matrimonio.
Uno de los cuentos más divertidos y perversos del grupo es “Fair Extension”, en el cual se le ofrece a un hombre la oportunidad de retroceder su diagnóstico de cáncer durante un periodo de tiempo. Pero, como siempre, no hay nada gratis así que tiene que elegir a alguien sobre el que le caerá la mala suerte a cambio de la restauración de la buena vida que tenía antes. La persona a la que elige y lo que le pasa a esa persona y su famila es tratado casi de manera cómica y aunque lo que pasa es de verdad horrible, el lector no pierde la simpatía por el protagonista.
Aunque puede ser difícil decir que el lector disfrute de la lectura de estas historias tan horrorosas, es una gran colección de novelas cortas. Son cuentos que me obligaron a pasar la página para seguir leyendo y al final, quería tener una historia más en la colleción para no terminar el libro.

Spare Parts (DVD)

Cover of DVD: Spare PartsCalling all teachers, outreach personal, social workers, counselors, and just about anyone who wants to feel inspired. This must-watch movie focuses on four Hispanic boys (based on a true story) with different challenges in their lives that find that innate desire to succeed. All they needed was the push from one teacher that saw their abilities and holds them to nothing more than the highest standards. George Lopez acting as Dr. Fredi Cameron is a substitute teacher that through the mist of his own personal problems finds a way to connect with these four high school students and pushes them to compete amongst the elite colleges in the United States in a robotics competition. The journey to this competition is a success on its own, whether or not they win or come in last I will leave for you to find out.

Review by Maria R.

 

 

Other titles you may enjoy:

DVD cover: McFarland USADVD cover: Million Dollar Arm

Adulterio by Paulo Coelho

Adulterio

“El amor verdadero puede competir con cualquier otro amor de este mundo. Cuando entregamos todo, ya no tenemos nada que perder…..”

Adulterio es el título del libro más reciente del autor Brasileño Paulo Coelho.

La trama de este nuevo libro sale un poco del estilo de escritura del autor, abarcando temas de la vida como pareja, la rutina, los hijos ¿Que te hace ser feliz? ¿Que te hace ser una persona completa?

 

Este título está también disponible en ingles Adultery

Si te gusto Adulterio, puedes leer: Come, reza, ama: el viaje de una mujer por Italia, India e Indonesia por Elizabeth Gilbert  o Demasiada felicidad  por Alice Munro

Gwiazd naszych wina by John Green

Gwiazd naszych wina

Gwiazd naszych wina

Hazel choruje na raka i mimo cudownej terapii dającej perspektywę kilku lat więcej, wydaje się, że ostatni rozdział jej życia został przesądzony już podczas stawiania diagnozy. Spotkanie z grupą wsparcia dla chorej  młodzieży bohaterka powieści poznaje niezwykłego młodzieńca Augustusa Watersa, okazuje się, że jej historia przyniesie jej coś czego nie spodziewała się -radość i wsparcie.

Książka Greena jest wnikliwa, odważna, humorystyczna i ostra, według mojej skromnej opinii, to najambitniejsza i najbardziej wzruszająca powieść tego autora. Autor w błyskotliwy sposób zgłębia ekscytującą, zabawną, a równocześnie tragiczną kwestię życia i miłości. Mimo, że bohaterami książki jest młodzież – książka jest wspaniałą lekturą dla każdego.

Kilka slów o autorze: John Green jest znanym pisarzem amerykańskim – autorem książek dla młodzieży. “Gwiazd naszych wina” przyniosła mu największą popularność i poczytność. Autor jest także laureatem licznych nagród literackich, takich jak: The Printz Medal, Edgar Award oraz Printz Honor.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian

The Martian

Space travel is a dream for most people. Being among the stars, travelling to new and exciting planets, and is something Mark Watney is a part of. He’s part of a team that’s sent up to Mars to do tests and experiments. When something goes horribly wrong, he’s stranded on Mars with little resources. Not enough resources to last him until the next mission can pick him up. Dealing with the harsh Mars climate and natural disasters, and minimal supplies, Mark must find a way to stay alive until the next landing.

The Martian is packed full of adventure, science, and the “what if” we’ve all been thinking. This award-winning book is written for adults with teen appeal. This book is available as an audiobook and as an eBook download as well.

Similar books to The Martian include: The Running Man by Richard Bachman, Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, and When the Devil Dances by John Ringo.

Reviewed by Megan

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

“So she became a symbol of peace, of self-sacrifice in the name of peace, for many people. There was much talk of her ‘Eastern wisdom,’ which she dismissed when it reached her ears. ‘There is no particular wisdom in the East,’ she said to Argalia.  ‘All human beings are foolish to the same degree.’” (286)

A young, golden-haired man shows up at the court of the emperor of Hindoostan with a secret. A secret “which only the emperor’s ears may hear,” and a story that has traveled generations and great continents to arrive…

But what do three boyhood friends from Italy have to do with a legendary princess from East Asia?  Part love story, part history lesson, Salman Rushdie beautifully weaves numerous interconnected stories, richly detailed against the background of 17th century Italy and Eastern Asia.  Though these tales are abundant with beautiful strong-willed women, mysterious world-travelers, and philosophical poet-emperors, there are lessons for all of us, even if it’s just that, no matter how large the world, “All human beings are foolish to the same degree.”

Also available in Large Type, Audio CD, and Ebook.

Review by A.Smith