Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley deals with tragedy and its aftermath. On a warm, foggy summer night, eleven people board a private jet heading from Martha’s Vineyard to New York. Sixteen minutes later, the plane plunges into the ocean, breaking apart. Two people survive: Scott Burroughs, a down-on-his-luck painter who was invited to fly by the wife of a wealthy media mogul, and a four-year-old boy J.J., the media mogul’s son. Scott swims in freezing cold water to save himself and the boy, his only thoughts on their survival.

Scott is hailed as a hero, but mysteries surround his background and news stations can’t find much information about him. The bodies of the other people on the flight are still missing as news reporters struggle to get the real story and government and investigative officials work to recover the plane’s wreckage. Family, media, money, and conspiracy drama galore rampage through this book, leaving readers on the edge of their seats wondering what really happened and wondering what people’s real motives are.

This book alternates between the present and past, highlighting each person who was on the plane, from the security detail to the pilots, the flight attendant, the media mogul, his wife, and young daughter, as well as a money launderer and his wife. As each character’s introduction and background story are revealed, a web of intrigue, lies, deception, and mystery comes to light. A conspiracy seems to unravel, only fueled by the 24-hour news cycle and the way the media has sensationalized this catastrophe. Everyone is drawing their own false conclusions with what really happened on the plane remaining a mystery as the book goes on.

I listened to this book through OverDrive and greatly enjoyed it. I stayed up way past my bedtime and woke up very early on the weekend to finish it, which is something I only ever do if a book has really captured my interest. The narrator had me hooked by adding in voice inflections and nuances that brought eash character to life. Add in a captivating story and a mystery I didn’t figure out until the very end and I was fully drawn into the world Hawley created from the very beginning.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Online Reading Challenge Mid-Month Check

How is your Holiday reading going this month? Have you found time amid the hustle and bustle to enjoy a good book? Admittedly, it can be pretty hard in December, but remember, many of the best Holiday stories are quick, light reads, or children’s books with beautiful illustrations. And they almost always help get you in the holiday spirit!

Need some suggestions? Here are some new books that have just arrived in the past couple of weeks.

The Angel of Forest Hill by Cindy Woodsmall (NEW Romance) An Amish romance set in West Virginia, Rose comes to help Joel Dienner and his family after the death of the Joel’s wife and the mother of his three children. How Rose and Joel navigate a new relationship forged by need and come to love each other, against the backdrop of a snowy Christmas makes for a charming and gentel read.

A Shoe Addict’s Christmas by Beth Harbison (NEW Fiction) Accidentally locked into the department store she works at after it closes on Christmas Eve, Noelle is visited by a woman who claims to be her guardian angel. It’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” only with shoes and shopping!

The Mistletoe Murder by P.D. James (NEW Mystery) Here are four of P.D. James’ best short stories, originally commissioned to run in newspapers or magazines during the holidays. Just like her books, these stories are cunning and full of sly humor and two of them feature her most famous detective Adam Dalgliesh. A must read for any mystery fan.

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt (NEW Mystery) When a simple dispute with a neighbor turns into a murder investigation, defense lawyer Andy Carpenter suddenly has his hands full and may be facing a dangerous killer. Puppies and Christmas and murder! What more could you want? (Well, not the murder part, please!)

Keep reading (it might be the only thing keeping me sane some days!) and Happy Holiday!

 

 

Jughead: Volume One

I love Archie comics. Every time I went to the grocery store with my mom, I begged for the newest Archie comic and would begin reading it as soon as I got in the car. Archie was my first graphic novel crush and the whole gang at Riverdale High did things that I expected to do in high school. (When I reached high school and it wasn’t anything like Riverdale, I was more than a little disappointed.)

When I realized that Jughead was going to be given his very own comic, I was ecstatic and knew I had to read it. Jughead: Volume 1 gives Jughead the attention he always deserved in the classic Archie comics. Zdarsky and Henderson expand upon the current Archie volume to give Jughead his own up-to-date background.

In Jughead: Volume One, we meet Forsythe Pendleton Jones III, aka Jughead. He plays videogames, tries to keep Archie out of trouble, skates by in school by just following the rules, and spends his afternoons at Pop’s diner inhaling burgers and milkshakes. Everything is happening like normal until Riverdale High gets a new principal. This new principal institutes new changes on all levels: in the classrooms, in athletics, and, most concerning to Jughead, in the cafeteria. Once he gets rid of all the good food in the cafeteria, Jughead loses his cool and seeks vengeance. This graphic novel is full of gags and antics by Jughead and his friends as they try to oust the new conniving principal from his current position and, in the end, discover his dastardly plot to take over the school for nefarious reasons! This graphic novel had me laughing throughout and was a fantastic trip down memory lane to the classic Archie comics.

New York Times Best Books of 2016

Are you looking for something to read? Stuck in a rut and looking for something new? The New York Times recently released their 10 Best Books of 2016. Perhaps you will find a new author or a new genre that you love. Have you read all ten of The New York Times best books? Would you recommend any of the books on this list?  Let us know in the comments!

FICTION

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Winner of the 2016 National Book Award. Cora is a young slave living at a cotton plantation in Georgia. She is an outcast among her fellow slaves. A new slave arrives, named Caesar, and he tells Cora about the Underground Railroad. They decide to risk it all and take the terrifying journey North. After killing a white boy that tried to capture them, Cora and Caesar are being hunted.  “The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.” – from the Hardcover Edition.

 

 

small-bombsThe Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

Finalist for the National Book Award. Mansoor Ahmed witnesses two of his friends die in a marketplace explosion from a “small bomb”. He becomes involved with a charismatic young activist whose ideas are always changing.

 

 

 

north-waterThe North Water by Ian McGuire

A nineteenth century whaling ship, The Volunteer,  is in the Artic Ocean. Aboard is a killer and a violent confrontation awaits those on board. This book will appeal to those that like thrillers.

 

 

 

vegeterian-kangThe Vegetarian by Han Kang. Translated by Deborah Smith.

Yeong-hye has been having violent nightmares and has decided to stop eating meat. This small seeming act has disrupted her marriage. Now her husband, brother-in-law and sister fight to reassert their control over Yeong-hye. Soon their attempts turn desperate, subjecting first her mind, and then her body, to ever more intrusive and perverse violations, sending Yeong-hye spiraling into a dangerous, bizarre estrangement, not only from those closest to her, but also from herself.

 

 

 

war-and-turpentine

War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans. Translated by David McKay.

A grandson finds his grandfather’s notebooks that he left behind when he died in 1981.  The grandfather, Urbain Martien, was an artist, soldier and survivor of World War I. A vivid telling of life that was desired versus the life of a soldier that Martien was forced to become.

 

 

 

 

NONFICTION

existentialist-cafeAt the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell

Paris, 1933. Three contemporaries meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse– and ignite a movement, creating an entirely new philosophical approach inspired by themes of radical freedom, authentic being, and political activism: Existentialism.

 

 

 

dark-moneyDark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer

“Jane Mayer spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews-including with several sources within the network-and scoured public records, private papers, and court proceedings in reporting this book. In a taut and utterly convincing narrative, she traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by the network and provides vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind the new American oligarchy.” -From the Hardcover Edition

 

 

 

evictedEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Desmond writes of eight families in the poorest areas of Milwaukee. Once evictions were rare but they are becoming more commonplace since families are spending more than half their income on rent. This book does not just describe the problems that cause poverty but offers ideas and solutions.

 

 

 

in-the-darkroomIn the Darkroom by Susan Faludi

The author sets out to find someone that she scarely knew. Her father. Memories of him were of a violent man but Faludi wanted to confront him and find her own identity. What she found was a woman living in Hungary that had a gender reassignment surgery. Her father’s new identity forces Faludi to cross the borders of historical, political, sexual and religious lines. Faludi seeks the answer to the question, do we choose our identity?

 

 

 

returnThe Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar

Hisham Matar travels to Libya, his native country, in pursuit of his father, Jaballah Matar.  Jaballah was a former diplomat and a military man that was kidnapped from the streets of Cairo. The prison that he was held in is now empty, but his son, Hisham, hopes to find him.

Huck: Book 1: All-American by Mark Millar

huckI love superheroes, but lately I’ve been burnt out on spandex superheroes in my own reading. Needing a mental reading break for myself, I scoured the new shelves looking for a hero without a leotard. I found my good ol’ hero in Huck: Book One: All-American.

Huck begins in a quiet seaside town with a large muscled man bouncing around on top of several cars on a busy interstate. He then runs exceedingly fast and dives into the ocean. He lifts heavy objects, finds what he’s looking for, and deposits it on a local woman’s doorstep. With that quick introduction, readers are left wondering who exactly that mysterious person is. That’s Huck.

Huck is a local gas station clerk who uses his special gifts every day to do a good deed for someone. Huck can find anything and anyone. Seriously. It’s one of his gifts, besides super-duper strength and general all-around awesome good guy-ness(Is that a word? I’m making it a word.) Everyone in this small town knows to keep Huck’s good deeds and gifts a secret because he needs to be protected. Seems easy, right? Nope. A new person moves into town and, of course, ruins his anonymity. With this new person blabbing his story to the media, Huck soon finds himself unwillingly famous and hounded at every turn by anyone and everyone. With this fame, people start coming out of the woodwork looking for help, to introduce him to the world, and to solve the mystery of his past. Huck naturally believes the good in all, but to the people in this small town(and to the readers), it quickly becomes obvious that his new friends may not actually be his friends and the people in danger may not really be the ones in danger. Things can actually be too good to be true.

If you want a superhero without spandex or even just a good old feel-good helping story, check out Huck by Millar and let me know what you think!

A Year Between Friends by Maria Vettese and Stephanie Barnes

yearbetweenfriendsMaria and Stephanie both live in Portland, but are 3191 miles apart. That’s because Maria lives in Portland, Maine and Stephanie lives in Portland, Oregon. Over the years these friends have shared their lives with each other through letters and photographs. They have managed to forge and maintain a deep bond across the distance, exchanging recipes and practical life tips and sharing the ups and downs of life. They are small town neighbors in the new world of technology.

Collaborating since 2007, Maria and Stephanie continue to document their lives in their blog, 3191. Twice a week they post a diptych, a picture from of them showing what’s going on in their separate lives right now. The focus is on the small and ordinary – flowers, children at play, bounty from the garden, the outdoors and sleeping cats. Recipes and crafts are shared and advice requested and given. A Year Between Friends follows the same format, beginning in January and running through December, with an emphasis on the small pleasures of a life well lived. There are big events too – Maria loses her Mother unexpectedly early in the year, and gives birth to a baby girl in late July. And they aren’t always apart – Stephanie makes the trip cross country after the birth of baby Luna to spend time with Maria and her family.

The photography is exquisite –  you can learn a lot about perspective, cropping and lighting by studying these pictures. The real value, of course, is the stories they tell, of how different and yet how similar these lives are, their mutual appreciation of the beauty around them and the love and support they bring to each other.

Besides the photos and letters, A Year Between Friends includes several crafts, most of which are lovely and practical and simple to make (although I’m not sure about the pinecone ornament – no mater how charming, that’s a lot of sewing!) There are also recipes; I’m not a cook, but I’d be happy to eat just about anything shown here!

This is a lovely, quiet book, an excellent choice to end or begin the year (or anytime really), inviting you to step back and take a look at your life and what is really important. What is it you want to remember when you look back? A child’s smile? A walk through a summer-green forest? Cookies fresh from the oven? A friend’s laughter? A Year Between Friends shows just how special the ordinary can be.

 

December Reading Challenge – Holiday Stories

online colorHello and Welcome to the final Reading Challenge for 2016! This month we’re going to take a look at Holiday Stories, perfect for this month of festivals and celebrations.

There are no shortage of Holiday Stories to read so you should have no trouble finding one no matter what kind of book you prefer. Classics (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens), mysteries (Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan or Christmas Caramel Murder by Joanne Fluke) (and what is with all the murder mysteries set during Christmas?!), bestselling authors (The Christmas Train by David Baldacci and A Lowcountry Christmas by Mary Alice Monroe) and romance (A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury and Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah) Try a keyword search with the terms “christmas fiction” or “christmas mystery” in the catalog or check the displays at the libraries for lots more titles.

There are a couple of books I’d like to highlight. One is considered a classic but you may not have read it and it’s well worth tracking down. It’s A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote, an autobiographical novella. In it, a young boy stays with a distant relative; both are somewhat outcast from their family, living on the fringes, lonely souls that understand each other. Together they make a special fruitcake, gathering the ingredients and making the recipe with love and attention. This is a not a saccharine happily-ever-after story (a great antidote to those Hallmark movies), but instead is sad and wistful. It carries a powerful message of love and memory and the weight of family and the past that the Christmas season brings. Poignant and beautiful and have lots of tissues on hand.

Another, much lighter book (but still thoughtful and complex) is Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher. This is a great one to curl up with on a wintry day. A tragedy causes five lives to intersect in unexpected ways, leading them to an idyllic country house. Set in Scotland with it’s grand traditions of Christmas and Hogmanay, this heartwarming book explores the meaning of family and connecting and opening yourself up to possibilities.

This is also the season of crazy as in, everyone is crazy busy. Cooking, decorating, shopping, wrapping, entertaining – who has time to read a book?! For you I recommend going to the Children’s picture book section and looking through some of the most beautiful books available. Many carry a message, but they are all almost guaranteed to put you in the Christmas spirit and can be read very quickly. Many are short enough that it wouldn’t be too much of a hardship for the family to gather together, abandon their phones and tablets for a few minutes and listen to someone read the book aloud. My recommendation and very favorite Christmas book is The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg (skip the movie, SKIP THE MOVIE!) Gorgeous illustrations and a truly magical story make for the perfect reminder of Christmas joy.

Of course, Christmas is not the only holiday in December, but it does dominant the book selection. A good alternative is My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories that includes Hanukkah, Winter Solstice and New Years as well as Christmas, quick reads that will get you in the holiday spirit no matter your favorite December holiday.

What about you – what is your favorite Christmas book? And what will you be reading this month?

 

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – November Wrap-Up

online colorHello Fellow Readers!

November is nearly over – how did you do with the Reading Challenge this month? If the fact that we had to keep restocking the displays at the library are any indication, this was a popular topic. It’s always interesting to take a peek into another life and see how that person lived – and in the process we learn a lot about ourselves as well!

When I looked through the titles for the Other Lives Challenge, I noticed that many (not all, but many) were about unknown or behind-the-scenes women – the wives of famous men or the anonymous women that supported great works. Women have historically been regulated to the background and their voices considered too unimportant to record but through fictional biographies we can gain some insight into what they accomplished and how they lived.

For this month’s challenge I read The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier which is a fictional account of the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. Created in the late 1400s in France, very little is known about the artist that created the scenes depicted in the tapestries, the weavers that crafted them or the noble family that commissioned them. Chevalier researched not only the customs and lifestyle of the time period, but also the craft of weaving in the 1400s, an art form that was practiced and mastered in Brussels where the tapestries are believed to have been made.

There is a lot of history in this book including the lifestyles and customs of the 15th century, the art of tapestry weaving and the guilds that protect the quality of the tapestries, the role of women both noble and common. The narrative jumps to a different person each chapter, from the artist Chevalier imagines painted the scenes, to the wife of the nobleman who commissions the tapestries, to the wife of the weaver tasked with such an enormous commission, to the rebellious daughter of the nobleman. There is no clear interpretation of what the tapestries represent and much speculation about the women and scenes even today, but Chevalier has spun a story that intertwines various characters and how the making of these tapestries touched and influenced many lives.

I’ve been lucky enough to see the actual tapestries (they are on display in carefully regulated conditions to preserve them at the Cluny Museum in Paris). They are extraordinarily beautiful, full of detail and color and life and exquisite craftsmanship. The Lady and the Unicorn makes for fascinating reading and is the next best thing until you can visit them yourself.

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

the-way-i-used-to-beThe Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith is a deeply moving, traumatic examination of one young woman’s struggle to overcome the aftermath of a rape. Eden, a 14-year old teenage girl, is raped by Kevin, her older brother’s best friend and college roommate. Her family is asleep down the hall while he crawls into her bed. Eden is the typical band geek, good girl who lives in fear of Kevin as he tells her that he will kill her and that no one will believe her if she talks. She is paralyzed with fear and doesn’t know what to do except try to live her life like normal, an idea that quickly fails as she becomes a new person overnight.

This book follows Eden through all four years of high school, highlighting her relationships with friends and family as she keeps this dark secret under wraps. School becomes increasingly more difficult for Eden as she turns to lies, booze, sex, and parties to smother her emotions. Kevin’s younger sister, Amanda, who Eden used to be friends with, turns against her and begins spreading vicious rumors about her around school. Eden’s best friend, Mara, knows nothing about what happened to her and the two move through high school experiencing some typical high school activities: dying their hair, first crushes, getting piercings, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes for the first time, going to parties, doing drugs, and getting their drivers’ licenses. All the while, distance begins to grow between the two. Eden also finds herself separated from her other friends and her family. She has buried who she used to be, buried her emotions, and buried her secret deep inside.

As Eden grows older, readers are able to dissect the way her rape has affected her personality and her relationships. The way Eden treats herself changes drastically from her freshman year to her senior year of high school, as evidenced through her inner monologue throughout the book. How she believes others to see her changes throughout the book as well. The long-term view of the effect this trauma has on Eden allows readers to gain a better understanding of the guilt, hatred, and complex emotions survivors face in the aftermath of rape and sexual assault. The Way I Used to Be is not an easy book to read as watching Eden disintegrate is painful, but the truth and emotions revealed are so vivid and true-to-life that this book becomes a necessary read to understand the emotions survivors experience on a day-to-day basis.  Eden carries a double burden – the weight of carrying her secret and the violation of rape. She shows strength, power, survival, disappointment, pain, heartbreak, and massive loss throughout this book, leaving readers to grow attached to her well-being and her journey through a troubled adolescent made even more difficult by rape. The Way I Used to Be takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster as Eden struggles to find her way back to herself in the aftermath of her rape.

What would Alice do? : Advice for the Modern Woman by Lauren Laverne

what-would-alice-doMany people turn to books for advice on how to live their lives or when they have certain questions they want answered. Do you have a favorite book that you refer back to, that you read when you need a pick-me-up, that you pull quotes from to inspire yourself? I certainly do and almost all of them are books from my childhood. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is one of my steady go-to’s.

What would Alice do? : Advice for the Modern Woman with a foreword by Lauren Laverne pulls quotes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and matches them up with a wide variety of categories that all relate. Instead of reading this book cover to cover, I found myself flipping through looking for quotes that caught my eye.

Crack open this book for advice from Alice on:

  • Being Inspirational
  • Having a Bad Day
  • Getting On at Work
  • Dealing with Difficult Characters
  • Taking Risks
  • Saying What You Mean
  • Minding Your Manners
  • Keeping Cool in a Crisis
  • Being a Feminist
  • Health and Safety
  • Enjoying Food and Drink
  • Being Brave
  • Appearances
  • Fun and Games
  • The Value of a Good Education
  • Growing Up

Even though this book is marketed as advice for the modern woman, the quotes present inside, I felt, are not uniquely meant for just women. The categories that Laverne chooses are full of helpful advice for everyone and the messages present everyone could benefit from. We could all use some new words of advice every now and then.