South Branch Staff Picks Category: Fiction

Books to read if you are soon going to be on island time

The Beach House trilogy by Mary Alice Monroe

All these books are set on the shores of South Carolina and interweave stories of family, love, loss, environmental causes (sea turtles), and friendship. Each can be read on its own or as part of the trilogy. However, for those who enjoy reading books in order, Beach House Memories is actually the prequel to The Beach House. The characters are richly developed and the books well researched, bringing these books to life for readers and engaging them with the story.

Any of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janet Evanovich’s number series features bounty hunter Stephanie Plum and her always entertaining sidekick Lula, along with a regular cast of characters including her fearless Grandma Mazur, on again/off again boyfriend Joe and the mysterious and sexy Ranger. Her misadventures in tracking down missing criminals and the comic and ridiculous situations she finds herself mixed up in with each book will not win awards for great literature but they are always entertaining and a great quick read for the beach or any summer getaway.

Anything by David Sedaris but especially….

David Sedaris’s beloved holiday collection, Holidays on Ice, is new again with six more pieces, including a never before published story. Along with such favorites as the diaries of a Macy’s elf and the annals of two very competitive families, are Sedaris’s tales of tardy trick-or-treaters (“Us and Them”); the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to the French (“Jesus Shaves”); what to do when you’ve been locked out in a snowstorm (“Let It Snow”); the puzzling Christmas traditions of other nations (“Six to Eight Black Men”); what Halloween at the medical examiner’s looks like (“The Monster Mash”); and a barnyard secret Santa scheme gone awry (“Cow and Turkey”). Be sure you are up for funny looks from strangers if you read this in public because this collection will make you laugh out loud for sure!

 

 

Books written by parenting bloggers and in particular,

The Unofficial Guide to Surviving Life with Boys: Hilarious & Heartwarming Stories About Raising Boys from the Boy Mom Squad edited by Tiffany O’Connor & Lyndee Brown is wonderful collection of vignettes will make all parents of boys nod their heads in agreement and for parents of both boys and girls it will make you laugh out loud at the exploits and experiences narrated by this talented group of humorous parenting bloggers. A funny and heartwarming book.

 

 

 

For something a little more weighty yet still engrossing, try best-selling Spanish author Maria Dueñas’ first novel…

In The Time in Between, Sira Quiroga begins life as the daughter of a humble seamstress in Madrid, but bad luck, fate, and the  crooked path toward true love all lead her to a life of dizzying glamour, adventure, and high-stakes espionage. When she is abandoned by her lover in Morocco, she is forced to reinvent herself as a sophisticated dressmaker to the expatriate community during the Spanish civil war. Her work brings her into contact with powerful men, compelling women, and a man she believes to be a journalist and perhaps the love of her life. When the British government asks her to return to Madrid to spy for them, she reluctantly agrees, and in doing so becomes a heroine. The first-person perspective makes this long novel seem short, and the rich narrative includes many important figures and incidents from history.

They have THAT at the library? Cringeworthy book titles

  1. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

Although the title of this book makes it hard to imagine that it could be taken seriously, in The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning , artist Margareta Magnusson, with Scandinavian humor and wisdom, instructs readers to embrace minimalism. The idea is to clear out unnecessary belongings from your home before others have to do it for you.

  1. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

If you thought this title was going to be about farming, you would be mistaken. In this quirky book for pre-teens, author Kelly Jones tackles a serious subject. Sophie Brown has had a series of setbacks and finds herself feeling like a lonely outsider in a new town. Told in letters to Sophie’s abuela, quizzes, a chicken-care correspondence course, to-do lists, and more, Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer is as much a story of grieving and finding your place as it is about poultry.

  1. I Heart My Little A*holes

If you have not read the Baby Sideburns blog on parenting, you are in for a treat. And if you are a faithful reader of Baby Sideburns, you are also in for a treat. A collection of super funny, tell-it-like-it-is blog posts/articles on parenting: the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between.

  1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

If you didn’t think you could put swear words in a book title, think again. This book is author Mark Manson’s antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up. Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better.

  1. Book

So, when a book starts out with this in the following paragraph:  “So Ill give it to you straight. This book doesnt suck” you know it’s going to be entertaining, especially when it’s from one of America’s funniest actors/comedians, Whoopi Goldberg.

  1. Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome

Seeing the title of this audio book leads you to wonder if there is a new disease out there nobody has ever heard of. In fact, this audiobook by comedian Maria Banford highlights her talents using different voices and personas to share humorous stories and observations on her life.

  1. Boogers Are My Beat

If you go looking for this book the kids’ section of the library, you’re in the wrong place. The author, Dave Barry, does have a number of best-selling children’s books that he co-authored but this title is for adults and is a hilarious of collection of his nationally syndicated columns that appeared in newspapers throughout the US. We dare you to read it without laughing out loud!

Which Should I Get, the Book or the Movie?

One Shot vs. Jack Reacher
Both the book, One Shot, and the movie, Jack Reacher, are entertaining fast paced thrillers that will keep you glued to the page or the screen. But, for fans of the Lee Child series of Jack Reacher books, Tom Cruise does not make a very believable Jack Reacher, mainly because he’s way too short and not bulked up enough to fit the image fans of the book will have of this character. But he’s certainly cocky enough and if you haven’t read the books, you’ll enjoy his performance and will absolutely love Robert Duvall in the role of the gun shop owner, Martin Cash. Fans of the Jack Reacher books will most likely prefer the book over the movie, as I did, but the movie doesn’t disappoint so for a good escapist movie that’s sure to entertain, grab it next time you head over to the library.

 

Howl’s Moving Castle
Rumors and secrets abound in the twisted, magical world of Sophie, the sassy, self-deprecating young hat-maker who leaves her quiet life behind to unravel the complicated web of curses that have turned her into an old woman, rather prematurely. As beloved as the 1986 original by Diana Wynne Jones may be, all ages will fall under the spell the unforgettable characters in Sophie’s journey in the 2004 adaptation by director Hayao Miyazaki in the lush and colorful signature style of Studio Ghibli.

 

Bridges of Madison County
One of my favorite books is The Bridges of Madison County. The book gave a much more in-depth view of the relationship between Francesca and Robert, but the movie did a very good job of telling story as well. Of course, I will never read the book again without adding Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood’s face to every page!!! Though for sure I wouldn’t mind if Robert Redford played the role of Robert.

 

Everything Everything
Being a hopeless romantic, I could not help but add much more of my own emotions to every sentence of the book which made it that much more heartfelt. Even though the movie hit all the important parts of the story line, watching these two young adults fall in love against the wishes of a parent who wants nothing more than to keep her child safe leaves a lot less to the imagination. Whichever journey you would like to embark on, book or movie, you won’t be dissatisfied.

 

The Longest Ride

Hold on to your hats, as this book takes you not only through one journey but two. Pay attention as we rarely notice when people come into our lives who may change our future. Like many other movies, this one follows the book fairly well, but one cannot help but to read between the lines and allow our imaginations to soar, which is something that cannot be done when we sit in front of a screen.

 

Wonder

I enjoyed the Wonder book over the movie because I felt the movie missed many important details from the book. The movie felt a bit incomplete to me because of this. The book brought out more emotions than the movie did.

 

 

The Fault in Our Stars

The movie was just beautiful from beginning to end. It is always nice to see a love story play out on the big screen. I fell in love with the characters and the ending still broke my heart in the same way that the book did.

 

 

Thin 
Documentarian Lauren Greenfield offers a harrowing look into the lives of eating disorder patients receiving inpatient treatment in her documentary and photobook both titled Thin. As insightful as the documentary is, the photobook offers further interviews with both teens and adult women suffering from addiction and disordered eating. While it is a grim subject to cover, Greenfield’s photos and interviews display the full spectrum of emotions and challenges women face regarding their bodies and life as a woman.

Funny Girl

Funny Girl is a LOL-worthy collection of short stories by some of your favorite lady authors, arranged for your enjoyment by Betsy Bird. Think of it as a smorgasbord of scrumptious literary offerings by Raina Telgemeier, Shannon Hale, and other gals who are guaranteed to make you laugh. The great thing about this short story collection is that it has something for everyone. Looking for an essay on a germaphobic mother? Check out “One Hot Mess” by Carmen Agra Deedy. A goofy graphic short? Cece Bell has just the fix with “A Most Serious Recitation of the Poem ‘Trees.’” All of the pieces pack a punch to pique the reader’s interest while moving quickly so as not to lose it. Funny Girl is perfect for reluctant readers (or readers with a short attention span) and those who are already fans of the featured authors in the collection.

If you liked Funny Girl, then you’ll love Real Friends by Shannon Hale, Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon, and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier.

Reviewed by Anique A.

Cat Knit by Jacob Grant

Cat Knit book coverCat Knit by Jacob Grant is tale of friendship, love, loss, betrayal. and understanding– all told from the perspective of the cat aptly named “Cat.” Cat’s best friend is cozy Yarn, until Yarn is suddenly transformed into an unfamiliar foe. In the tradition of Harry the Dirty Dog in the story No Roses for Harry!, Cat does not appreciate the unwanted gift of an itchy sweater (once Cat’s friend Yarn). However, Cat, also like Harry, discovers that a previously hated gift can turn into something better than expected. The simple textual narrative of Cat Knit is carried by the bright and expressive illustrations of Cat. His big, green eyes say more to the reader than any dialogue could. This silly story is fun for both children and parents alike.

If you liked Cat Knit, you should read Little Bird’s Bad Word, another story by Jacob Grant offering children a lesson through whimsical pictures. If you’re looking for more cat classics, Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat by Kate Harnett delivers beautiful imagery paired with a thorough appreciation for our feline friends.

Written by: Anique

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

The Siren by Kiera Cass

The Siren title pictureImagine having the ability to speak, yet being forbidden from doing so in public! Could you live for 100 years like this?

This is the life of Kahlen, and she is fine with it. She even understands her duty to the Ocean, and why things have to be this way.

The Ocean understands her, loves and protects her from the overwhelming guilt that comes from each singing.

However can the Ocean protect her from the way only true love can hurt? How much will Kahlen sacrifice, will she sacrifice love itself?

Each Siren has her own story and each of them has to live with the stringent rules the Ocean sets, but they all have to come together and sing until they manage to quench the hunger that steers inside the Ocean.

This book is like: Storm & Salt by Kendall Kulper, Wake by Amanda Hocking, and Dreamology by Lucy Keating

Written by: Maria R.

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.