I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane one afternoon, and was quickly drawn into the magical world that Neil Gaiman created. After giving a eulogy at a funeral in Sussex, England, a middle-aged man decides to re-visit the house at the end of the lane which he visited as a child. This is a lovely farmhouse full of warmth and fresh, delicious food. It’s where the Hempstock women lived—the elderly grandmother, mother, and Lettie, the daughter with whom he was friends. As a young boy, he learns that the Hempstocks are guardians who ward off dark forces that surround our world. During his visit, a frightening childhood memory of a dark, menacing presence that entered his life in the form of a young woman named Ursula resurfaces.
Did you know author A.S. King is coming to the library this fall? Her upcoming visit on Tuesday, November 10th has inspired me to complete the A.S. King Book Challenge (i.e. read all her books). After flying through Ask the Passengers, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Everybody Sees the Ants, and Reality Boy, I can safely say that I haven’t been reading these books – I’ve been devouring them! With perfectly integrated magical realism and bomb resolutions, they are just that darn good.
Realistic in well-developed characters and tone, King deploys a bit of magical realism in the majority of her books that helps convey characters’ emotions and plot points in a unique manner. In Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Glory discovers information about her family and members of the cult that live next door from getting glimpses into their futures after drinking a petrified bat. The other books include appearances from Socrates’ ghost and an army of anthropomorphic, sassy ants. These bizarre devices help build well-defined characters and settings in such a seamless manner that the reader may forget that Socrates’ ghost and sassy ants are not a common occurrence in our world.
The magical realism will invest you into her characters’ wellbeing to the point that you’ll dread parting ways with your new fictional friends. Luckily, King is also a master at perfectly satisfying resolutions. While other authors may rely on a Hollywood blockbuster finale that explodes in the reader’s face, King’s endings seem to glide to a slow stop for a perfect landing. Astrid, from Ask the Passengers, and Lucky, from Everybody Sees the Ants, both struggle with an underlying life challenge. Astrid wants her family and community to give her the opportunity to discover and accept her sexuality. Lucky wants protection from a bully who humiliates him in some of the most egregious and nauseating scenes I’ve ever read in a YA book. Both books’ endings diverge from the assumed happy ending conclusions, and yet both end with such optimistic notes that I can now say I’ve experienced the ever allusive tears of joy.
Magical realism and perfect resolutions are just the icing on the cake in King’s books. When you come to the library and head to the Ks in the teen fiction section, beware that just one King book will leave you craving for more. So grab an IPPL basket and a few tissues from the Ask Us desk, and cancel your weekend plans so that you too can complete the A.S. King Book Challenge!
Claire Roth is a starving young artist who suddenly finds herself in the midst of an international art theft. The plot develops with a little romance, a little suspense, and a debate over what is innocent reproduction and what is a crime. The background of the unsolved 1990 Gardner Heist is explained, but the letters and insights into Isabella Gardner in the 19th century adds a pinch of history to this contemporary novel.
Parks and Recreation star Aziz Ansari is a standup comic who made jokes and observations about the state of dating in the digital era during his Modern Love tour last year. Building on those observations, Ansari teamed up with New York University sociology professor Eric Kleinberg to write a book on romance, texting, dating, and more with lots of facts, charts, and jokes. Modern Romance is a fascinating and entertaining look at not only the dating culture in America, but in Brazil, Japan, France, and Qatar.
I listened to the audiobook, read by Ansari himself, and I have never had so much fun learning!
In the early 1970s, a woman from a wealthy background suddenly finds herself divorced and living in a small English village, where divorced women are suspect (it would seem for good reason). The book is told in the first person by ten-year-old Lizzie (looking back as an adult) and has quite a funny tone and wonderfully set pieces. Nina Stibbe’s Man at the Helm is very funny, but sad too.
Told in alternating first person narratives, The Book of Unknown Americans details the experiences of multiple Latin American immigrants living in a Delaware apartment complex. Cristina Henriquez’ moving, compelling tale showcases families, communities, triumphs, and tragedies.
I loved this book – the endearing characters, the enthralling story, and the lyrical writing grabbed me, prompting me to keep frantically turning the pages, only to be disappointed when there were no more pages to turn.
John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a powerful story about two day laborers during the Great Depression who dream of owning an acre of land. George is small, but smart, and he worries over and tries to protect his friend Lennie, who is big and strong, but has the mind of a child. Their prospects look promising until a flirtatious woman enters the picture, and George must act quickly to do what he feels is best for his friend. You won’t be able to put this book down.
The story begins with a prelude, perchance a prayer for forgiveness, by a children’s librarian (Lucy) because of a cross country trip with her young patron (Ian) trying to escape, perhaps a respite, from his controlling mother. There are strict reading restrictions and a workshop for gender stability all weighting heavily on a ten-year-old boy.
A Christmas gift with a message from the boy to the librarian followed by an overnight campout at the library launch the pair on their journey. As the trip moves along, the reader may wonder if this is a kidnapping, and if so, who is the kidnaper and who is the victim. Several interesting characters are met along the way including the librarian’s parents who clearly care for their daughter and don’t mind using devious ways to straighten her path. Check out The Borrower, which is Rebecca Makkai’s debut novel.
Mette Ivie Harrison’s first mystery combines an insider’s knowledge of a small Mormon ward in Draper, Utah, with an intriguing contemporary crime story. Linda Wallheim is the bishop’s wife and a mother of five children. She is hard working and devout, but also questions the church’s patriarchal structure and secrecy. When she suspects that a young wife fled her husband due to abuse, Linda finds she must follow her inner convictions to unravel the truth.
Check out The Bishop’s Wife today.
The novel opens in the very realistic setting of a prison where model prisoner and likable character Shadow finds himself about to be released into society. Tragedy strikes and Shadow is released into a dismal, lonely future.
When Shadow believes he has nothing to lose, he agrees to work for Mr. Wednesday. In American Gods, Neil Gaiman creatively switches gears and the reader is on a fantasy quest in a strange world where gods and goddesses are as real as prison was just hours before.
Enjoy this novel? Check out our list of the best fantasy novels for adults.