South Branch Staff Picks Category: Fiction

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 Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover cover imageThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a book popping up on a lot of different school summer reading lists. For some students, reading is the last thing they want to do when school is out. It can be hard to get your student to read when the nice weather is calling their name. We get it. However, if you’re given a choice on which books to read, this is a great one for students who don’t like to read.

This book is unlike any book I’ve read before. Written completely in verse, there are no more than 50 words on a page. So, just by looking at the pages it doesn’t seem all that bad. It’s a super quick read and the subject matter is very tangible and realistic.

We’re following a pair of twins who are obsessed with basketball, and sometimes girls. Sometimes things are great – you’re winning all your games and you’re getting A’s in all your classes. However, there’s always those times when you’re mom starts making weird dips trying to get you healthy, you’re fighting with a best friend, or your mind just isn’t in the game.

If you like this book, you’ll enjoy Kwame Alexander’s other book Booked, Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes, and Rocket Man by Jan Coates.

Written by: Megan Y.

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.

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

Stink and the World’s Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers by Megan McDonald

Stink and the World's Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers

Stink and the World’s Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers

Did you know there is an exhibit at the science museum called Everybody Stinks? Well there is, and according to Stink Moody, it is amazing! Meet Stink, a second grader and the shortest kid in his class at 3 feet 8 inches tall. During Stinks visit to the museum, he not only discovers incredible facts on smell but learns there is a stinky sneaker contest. With his nose, stink knows he has a chance to win. How you ask? Stink can smell a corpse flower a mile away – gross! Want to know if Stink wins the Golden Clothespin Award? Read Stink and the World’s Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers as Stink and his fellow classmate Sophie of the Elves challenge each other to see who has the best sniffer.

You may also like: Horrible Harry in room 2B by Kline, Suzy; I even funnier by Patterson, James; Mr. Klutz is nuts! by Gutman, Dan

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7s

Counting by 7s

Willow Chance is not your normal everyday 12-year old girl. She a young genius that is obsessed about counting by 7’s, passionate about all medical conditions, and is a strict vegetarian.  But after moving to a new school, Willow is immediately seen as an outcast after being accused of cheating on a test.  To fix the problem, the school district has Willow see Dell Duke, the schools counselor who has issues of his own.  Though she is an outsider at school, Willow loves who she was and loves her life until the day she discovers her parents have been involved in a tragic accident.  Until now, Willow did not need to adjust the outside world but now is forced to adapt.  Her new friend, Mai Nguyen convinces her mom to take Willow in as a temporary guardian which sparks the future for Willow. Counting by 7s is a heartbreaking story that follows Willow Chance through her personal stages of loss, grief, and happiness.

 
You may also like: Wonder by R.J. Palacio; Out of My Mind by Draper, Sharon; Mockingbird by Erskine, Kathryn

Unwindby Neal Shusterman

Unwind

Unwind

Unwind is a dystopian thriller by Neal Shusterman that follows three teens on the run from a government that believes in “unwinding” and body harvesting. This all sounds great and fine on paper, but what happens when you’re the one that’s selected to be unwound? Risa, Connor, and Lev find out. Risa is a ward of the state without any parents and without an overwhelming talent in her selected field; she needs to be unwound to make room in an overcrowded home. Connor is a trouble maker and has always pushed the limits in school and at home. His parents cannot handle an unruly child any longer. Lev is a tithe. He was born and raised as a donation. What happens when they fight back? What happens when they don’t want to be unwound? What happens when they run? This is the first in a series of four. Although controversial in topic, this disturbing novel inspires deep thought about organ donation and one’s personal right to make decisions regarding his or her body

If you like this book, here are some other recommendations: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow and Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro.

By: Megan