South Branch Staff Picks Category: Adult

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao (La breve y maravillosa vida de Óscar Wao) by Junot Diaz is a fascinating mix of genres and styles, combining fiction, non-fiction, history, science fiction and fantasy that reflects the extremes and absurdity of life under the regime of the dictator of the Dominican Rep. The Brief and Wonderful Life of Óscar Wao (La breve y maravillosa vida de Óscar Wao) by Junot Diaz is a fascinating mix of genres and styles, combining fiction, non-fiction, history, science fiction and fantasy that reflects the extremes and absurdity of life under the regime of the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the country with extreme cruelty from 1930 until he was assassinated in 1961.

The Brief and Wonderous Life of Óscar Wao tells the story of multiple generations of the León y Cabral family and the fukú, or curse, that followed them from their grandfather’s generation to the present day. The story focuses on Óscar, an aspiring writer whose love life is non-existent and who aspires to lose his virginity in an attempt to prove to himself and the world that he is a true Dominican male. The story shifts back and forth between the present and the past, with multiple literary and historical footnotes for those unfamiliar with science fiction-fantasy and/or the history of the Dominican Republic. The story of Óscar and the fukú that follows his family is a fascinating story on its own, and interwoven in the history of the DR, the story draws the reader in even more, as the personality and outrageous acts of violence committed by Trujillo seem even more like they should be a work of fiction than the story of Óscar’s family itself.

In spite of its complexity, the essential story is easy to follow and draws you in with sympathetic, complex characters. You find yourself turning the pages, waiting to see what catastrophic event will fall over the family next and hoping that by the end, somehow the family will find a way to finally rid itself of the fukú, as the DR finally rid itself of Trujillo.

If you like this book, you might also want to try How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez or Por estas calles bravas by Piri Tomas.

Written by: Rachel

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La breve y maravillosa vida de Óscar Wao por Junot Díaz es una mezcla fascinante de géneros y estilos que combina la ficción, la no ficción, la historia, la ciencia ficción, y la fantasía y refleja lo absurdo y extremo de la vida bajo el régimen del dictador de la República Dominicana, Rafael Trujillo quien gobernó el país desde 1930 hasta que fue asesinado en 1961.
 La breve y maravillosa vida de Óscar Wao cuenta la historia de múltiples generaciones de la familia León y Cabral y el fukú, o maldición, que les siguió desde la generación de su abuelo hasta el momento actual. La historia se centra en Óscar, un aspirante a escritor, cuya vida sentimental es un fracaso y que aspira a perder su virginidad para probar a todo el mundo que es un verdadero macho dominicano. La historia alterna entre el presente y el pasado, con múltiples notas al pie de la página tanto literarias como históricas para los que no conocen bien la literatura de ciencia ficción o fantasia y/o la historia de la República Dominicana. La historia de Óscar y el fukú que le sigue a su familia es una historia fascinante en sí, y entremezclado en la historia de la República Dominicana, la historia capta al lector aún más, a medida que la personalidad de Trujillo y las atrocidades que cometió parecen más ficticias que la historia de la familia de Óscar en sí.
 
A pesar de su complejidad, la historia básica es fácil de seguir y te capta la atención con personajes complejos que inspiran simpatía en el lector. Te encontrarás pasando las páginas, esperando para ver la próxima catástrofe que caerá sobre la familia y esperando que para el final, la familia encontrará como sea una forma de deshacerse del fukú, al igual que la DR por fin se deshizo de Trujillo. 
Si le gustó este libro, sugerimos también De cómo las muchachas Garcia perdieron el acento por Julia Alvarez o Por estas calles bravas por Piri Tomás. 
Por Rachel

March Graphic Novel Series (March: Book One, March: Book Two, March: Book Three)

March Book OneMarch book twoMarch book three

As you hear about marches and movements—large and small—happening all over the country, do you wonder how you fit in, what role you might play, or what difference YOU could make? Or maybe you already know: you are active in your community, and online, and you know how to make your voice heard!

In either case, you’ll want to pick up these books.  Any non-violent movement in this country today is a “child” of the Civil Rights Movement, and it’s vital to know where we came from if we want to know where we’re going.

The March books tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s principally through the eyes of John Lewis. Today he’s a congressman for Georgia in the House of Representatives, but in the 1960s he became an important leader in the Civil Rights Movement. The three graphic novels are an innovative collaboration between John Lewis and Andrew Aydin on the writing, and Nate Powell as the artist.

In this immersive vision of storytelling, we bear witness to the late-night strategy meetings, tense phone calls and legendary conferences, as well as the beatings, bombings, and other brutalities suffered by protesters. We are with John Lewis as he grows from joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in college, to preaching sermons and leading marches in the South, and later finds himself elected as the Chairman of SNCC in 1963.  He shares his multiple imprisonments, his dedication to stay nonviolent in protests, and challenges to keeping the movement whole.  Through John Lewis you get to know other key figures you may not have heard about before, and learn about the complicated relationship between the different organizations that guided the Civil Rights Movement.

The whole story is beautifully juxtaposed with President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech in January 2009, such that when he says “I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors,” your heart breaks with the weight of those sacrifices (March: Book Two, pg 176).

Maybe I’m taking on too much by grouping these three in a review together—there’s definitely more than enough to talk about in every single one—but after reading the first, you won’t be satisfied until you’ve read all three!

In case you needed any more motivation to pick these up today…Maybe you’ve already heard about all the awards March: Book Three has won? How about: the Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award, the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young-adult literature, the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, and the YALSA Award for excellence in young-adult nonfiction!

What are you waiting for? Click on the links or pictures above and request a copy today!

Read-a-likes: Maus, Persepolis, V is for Vendetta, any other political graphic novels?

Written by: Allison

Hello, My Name is Doris

Hello My Name is Doris coverGidget’s all grown up in Hello, My Name is Doris, a goofy comedy starring Sally Fields. Doris is an eccentric older woman with a young spirit who lives on Staten Island with her cat and a house stuffed with, well, stuff. When an attractive young man starts to work at her company, Doris takes interest and finds herself stepping outside her shell and living the life she had always wanted. This movie is fun for millennials as well as a more seasoned audience.

If you liked Lars and the Real Girl or Florence Foster Jenkins, then Doris is sure to delight you!

Written by Anique

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