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.

don't you cryDon’t You Cry is a psychological mysterious thriller. It falls along the same lines as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, but I found the twists that happened in this book to be less predictable, at least to me. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica is a twisting tale of deception, obsession, strangers, friends, and missing people. Quinn Collins is a young woman living in downtown Chicago with her roommate, Esther Vaughan. Everything seems to be going perfectly fine in Quinn’s life until she wakes up one morning and discovered that Esther has disappeared from their apartment without a trace. reporting Esther as missing only results in Quinn being told that Esther will probably come back in 48-72 hours and she should just wait. Quinn decides to take matters into her own hands and goes through Esther’s room looking for any clues. What she finds there leads Quinn to question who Esther really is and where she has disappeared to.

Alex Gallo is an eighteen-year-old boy working at a coffee shop an hour outside Chicago. Alex lives in this small lake town with his alcoholic father across from an old abandoned house that everyone thinks is haunted. One day, a mysterious woman walks into the coffee shop and Alex finds himself drawn to her. Alex is quickly pulled into Pearl’s spell, feeding and clothing her even though he knows nothing about her. Alex gets closer and closer to Pearl and realizes that he actually knows almost nothing about the town that he lives in.

While Quinn searches for Esther and Alex tries to learn more about Pearl, there are other factors simmering in the background of the book that demand the readers attention. This book is told in alternating voices, a fact that I enjoyed since I listened to this book through OverDrive and was able to dive into the characters more. Mary Kubica does a fabulous job of weaving a missing person story with family drama, mysterious pasts, old ghost stories, and alternate life stories. The tension slowly lives under the surface of this book until the end when the narrative explodes. Highly recommended.


This book is also available in the following formats:

rainbow

“Every Book” by Aspen May

In the past, LGTBQ voices were relegated to the fringes of society – invisible, ignored and often met with violence. In 1976, Jonathan Ned Katz endeavored to collect the stories and documents from 1566 to his present time.  Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A was, at the time, a radical publication, unearthing documents that had not seen the light of day in centuries.  It also gave voice to the rising gay right movement during the 1960-70s.

While the political and social culture of the U.S. has changed dramatically since 1976, it can still be difficult for LGBTQ authors, filmmakers or artists to join the mainstream, and those seeking LGBTQ works often times find themselves frustrated. The growth of the Internet has made access easier, but LGTBQ voices are still considered underrepresented in the mainstream.

The American Library Association created the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) in an effort to make finding LGTBQ  information and literature easier and to advocate for greater visibility in libraries across the U.S.. GLBTRT also established the annual Stonewall Book Award for books of exceptional merit relating to the LGBTQ community. And, of course, many blogs and websites have been created to collect and distribute LGTBQ books, films, music and art.

Below are a handful of websites where you can find reviews and news about LGBTQ media. If you’d like to see what DPL and the surrounding RiverShare libraries have, click over to this LibGuide : http://libguides.davenportlibrary.com/LGBTQ

Award Lists:

ALA’s Rainbow Book List for 2015

Stonewall Book Awards

GLAAD Media Awards

Green Carnation Prize (UK)

Reviews

Over the Rainbow Books – Monthly bibliographies of notable LGBTQ books

GLBT Reviews – Book and media reviews from ALA’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Round Table

Band of Thebes (on hiatus)

Lambda Literary

I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell do I Read?

Children’s Book Council’s Diversity Committee’s “Great Diversity Blog”

Abe Books – Celebrating Pride in Literature

Flavorwire’s 50 Essential Works of LGBT Fiction

Huffington Post LGBT Literature (keyword news feed)
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Sources:

Mitchell, Mark. Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: The Hidden Tradition of Homosexual Literature in English from 1748 to 1914. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. Print.

LGBT Literature: Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A.” Daily Kos. Kos Media, LLC, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 6 June 2015.

war of the wivesA phone call wakes you up in the middle of the night: “This is Detective Inspector Bowles from the Metropolitan police, Mrs. Busfield. We’re outside your house. Can you please let us in?” You scramble out of bed in shock, your first thoughts running to your two grown children and the one sleeping down the hall. Are they okay? You open the front door to find two policemen telling you your husband of twenty-eight years has been found dead, floating in a river. Not possible. He’s supposed to be in Dubai on business. You are in denial.

Fast forward to the funeral. As you walk to the crematorium flanked by your children, everyone stares. Standing outside, you hear wailing coming from the parking lot and see a grown woman on her knees keening. As she staggers to the door, you’re infuriated that she dare intrude on your grief. She reaches the vicar standing on the steps, grips his arms, and demands to know what happened to your husband and wants to know who organized the funeral without telling her. He politely tries to disengage, while asking who the woman is. She grips his arm and says, “I’m his wife.” You are shocked. She can’t be.

Two women. One husband. Deception, betrayal, and death. If this description has caught your interest, check out Tamar Cohen’s War of the Wives for more information about Selina, Lottie, their families, and the dead patriarch of the family, Simon Busfield. Just remember: Not everything is as it seems.

dictatorship of the dressWhen I was growing up, I always had a secret hope that I would meet my significant other on a plane and we would magically fall in love, travel to an exotic location, and live happily ever after. When I reached high school, I realized that my plane-phobic self would actually have to get WILLINGLY on a plane(and not freak out) to do this… My child self was crushed. I would have to continue to look for those fairy tales in books.

Just last week, I stumbled upon a fiction romance novel called Dictatorship of the Dress by Jessica Topper that allowed me to live out my childhood fantasy of travel love. In this novel, Topper weaves together the lives of Laney Hudson, the dress bearer for her mother’s wedding, and Noah Ridgewood, a software designer on his way to his bachelor party. Laney is sick of hauling her mother’s dress around, as her mother seems to care only if the dress actually makes it to the wedding, not her daughter. As she carries the giant dress bag through the airport, she is constantly mistaken for the bride, a mistake Laney uses to her advantage so she can be bumped up to first class. Here she is seated next to Noah, who the flight crew mistakenly thinks is her husband-to-be. Enter in horrible winter weather, missed flights, Laney’s lost love, and an overbearing fiancé, Laney and Noah soon find themselves grounded in the last available honeymoon suite. The two must wrestle with events in their past that are holding them back from catching this new love connection.

a bollywood affairLet me tell you about one of my favorite places in the library: the new shelves. The new shelves are the first place I look whenever I go into any library. They let me see what reading mood I am in before I decide to trek through the whole library, since I can never come into a library and leave in less than an hour… When I’m pressed for time, I wander the new shelves because I’m bound to find something, usually more than one something, that I want to read.

My latest new shelf discovery was A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev. In this fiction romance, Dev has woven a classic story of love, loyalty, and confusion. Mili Rathod was promised and married to her husband when she was 4 years old and hasn’t seen him since. For years, she waited for her husband to come back and rescue her. When he never shows up, Mili takes it upon herself to go to America to get an education, so she can become a more perfect modern bride. Enter in Samir Rathod, a famous Bollywood director, who just happens to be Mili’s brother-in-law. After an accident has injured his brother, Samir is sent to Michigan to convince Mili to sign the divorce papers. This should be easy, right? WRONG. Enter in last-name confusion, accidents, Samir’s writer’s block, and Mili’s crazy roommate’s love story, and readers are guaranteed to be hooked into this story and rooting for Mili to finally get her happily ever after.

saveme2Save Me by Kristyn Lewis is compulsively readable. I’m trying to pin down in my own mind what it is  that makes it impossible to put down once you start reading. Maybe it’s the contrast of the confessional style and the sudden vulnerability of the main character with her previously almost perfect life. Daphne is someone who’s always been very controlled and successful at everything she did.

A high achieving doctor, with a perfect Martha Stewartesque home, garden and career, she, on the surface, doesn’t seem like someone you’d warm up to right away. After her husband and childhood sweetheart confesses that he’d had an affair, her predictable life and all her assumptions are blown apart. A car accident changes the trajectory of the story and the usual expectations of this type of novel. Family and friends are quick to give Daphne advice about whether or not she should leave her husband, and Lewis shows the complexity of any decision Daphne may make.

As a second time novelist, Lewis is very accomplished and assured. I can’t think of any passages or sentences that seemed false or clunky. Part of the appeal is the setting. You get a feeling of  Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina in a natural, unforced way.

This was marketed to book groups, and I would predict spirited discussions about the choices Daphne struggles with.

deliciousIn Ruth Reichl’s first novel Delicious!, Billie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, particularly her older sister, Genie, Billie feels like a fish out of water – until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends.

Then Delicious! is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills. To Billie’s surprise, the lonely job becomes the portal to a miraculous discovery. In a hidden room in the magazine’s library, Billie finds a cache of letters written during World War II by Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, to the legendary chef James Beard. Lulu’s letters provide Billie with a richer understanding of history, and a feeling of deep connection to the young writer whose courage in the face of hardship inspires Billie to comes to terms with her fears, her big sister and her ability to open her heart to love. (description from publisher)

Delicious  is also available for check out as a free ebook through the RiverShare Digital Library.

lucky us“My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.” So begins this remarkable novel by Amy Bloom, whose critically acclaimed Away was called “a literary triumph” ( The New York Times ). Lucky Us is a brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny novel of love, heartbreak, and luck.

Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star and Eva the sidekick, journey through 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take the pair across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island. With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine though a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war.

Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life, conventional and otherwise. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species. (description from publisher)

cartographerFrom a village in Nova Scotia to the trenches of France The Cartographer of No Man’s Land leaps across the Atlantic, between a father at war and a son coming of age at home without him.

When his beloved brother-in-law goes missing at the front in 1916, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing to join the war and find him. Assured a position as a cartographer in London, he is instead sent directly into the visceral shock of battle. Meanwhile, at home, his son Simon Peter must navigate escalating hostility in a fishing village torn by grief.

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land offers a soulful portrayal of World War I and the lives that were forever changed by it, both on the battlefield and at home. (description from publisher)