Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone

By Daniel Woodrell

Review by Pam Blittersdorf

Author Daniel Woodrell creates a memorable heroine in 16 year old Ree Dolly. Ree desparately wants to escape the poverty of her Ozark community and enlist in the Army (“where you got to travel with a gun and they make everybody help keep things clean”), but she feels duty-bound to her family. Her meth-cooking dad has posted the family home as collateral, then jumped bail. To save her younger brothers and mentally ill mother, Ree has to ask some tough questions about her father’s fate. The folks with the answers to those questions don’t take kindly to being asked. The language of the novel is gritty, genuine and suspenseful. Ree’s grim humor and determination are certain to catch you up in her story. Continue reading

Bhagavad Gita

Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation

Tranlated by: Gavin Flood and Charles Martin

Reviewed by Sarah Newell

Imagine you are on the precipice of a great battle.  You are an ancient warrior lined up with your faction facing the opposing army.  As each side prepares for battle you realize what a great loss this will be for both armies.  With two sides of a great family facing each other cousins will fight cousins, uncles will slay uncles, and neighbors will maim neighbors.  Continue reading

A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Review by Kassel Coover

A Visit from the Goon Squad begins by introducing us to Sasha, an intriguing character, in the first chapter, who is a kleptomaniac. Then in Chapter 2, we are introduced to Bennie, who is Sasha’s boss at a record company. As you wend your way through the story, you discover that each chapter is a story loosely connected to the person before it. By the time you reach the last chapter, you’ve come full circle.

Goon Squad is well written. Egan has done a masterful job at weaving together the lives of different characters from different points of view at different time periods in their lives. The PowerPoint chapter likely put Egan in the winner’s circle for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. It’s an innovative telling of an entire story in PowerPoint. Continue reading

Map of Time

Map of Time book coverThe Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

Review by Pam Blittersdorf

I picked up this book because it had great cover art and an interesting title.  These seemed to promise a grand adventure of some kind, perhaps fantasy or science fiction, with a strong dash of steampunk and some interesting characters.  Does selecting a book this way make the reader shallow and unthinking?  When the book becomes something completely unexpected, does the reader have reason to be angry or disgusted?  In truth, friends, when was the last time that you read something that induced so much introspection and self-doubt?  If you knew that the subject was time-travel and the book’s characters included H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker and Joseph Merrick, wouldn’t you expect a bit of a romp?  A quick glance at the readers’ comments on Amazon show that some folks hated this book for the very reasons I have mentioned here: it wasn’t exactly what they expected. Continue reading

Chronicles of the Black Company

Chronicles of the Black CompanyChronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook

Review by Joe Sherwood

You ever want to spend some time with an old friend or visit a place you’ve been before? That’s the way I felt a week ago or so, and I picked up Glen Cook’s, Chronicles (Annals) of the Black Company (the first 3 books in one volume) and sat down to have a rollicking good time. It’s a classic sword and sorcery epic tale with love and hate, politics, and maybe just a little romance…

It’s a straightforward quick read, but yet, I keep coming back every few years and reading it again and enjoying it every time. Continue reading

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl AliveReview by Amelia Falcone

“There is something about seeing someone from behind, something about the way people walk away, that I’ve always found unnervingly intimate. Maybe it’s because the back of the body isn’t on guard the way the front is – the slouch of the shoulders and the flex in the back muscles, that’s the most honest you’ll ever see a person.”

Ani FaNelli has it all, and that isn’t an exaggeration. An editor at The Women’s Magazine, Ani wears the perfect clothes, follows the latest celebrity diets, and sports a distinct diamond ring on her perfectly manicured finger. Too bad it’s all a lie.

Meet TifAni FaNelli, originally from the wrong side of the Main Line in Pennsylvania. As a freshman in high school, she was sent to the prestigious, co-ed Bradley School. For TifAni, high school was less about make up, shoes, and boys, and more about surviving. Ani has been running from her past for years, but with the anniversary of her horrific past on the horizon, a dark secret threatens to unravel her perfect future.

Jessica Knoll’s debut novel reads like the work of a veteran writer. If you think this book is typical chick lit, you are dead wrong Ani’s twisted point of view sustains a dark humor throughout the book, and her secret will keep you guessing until the very end.

“By the end of it all I just assumed no one ever told the truth, and that was when I started lying too.”

Check availability on Luckiest Girl Alive today!

About the Reveiwer: Amelia Falcone is a former circulation assistant and shelver for Paoli Library who currently works as a Project Coordinator for AEGIS Communications. She holds a special place in her heart, and on her bookshelf, for Victorian literature, but loves darker, contemporary literature. If you love Gone Girl as much as she does, you are sure to love Luckiest Girl Alive!

 

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Review by Abby Shelton

Major Ernest Pettigrew is a classic Englishman—he belongs to the local golf club, eschews dignity and polite manners, and enjoys a proper cup of tea. After his brother’s unexpected death, the Major’s quiet life in the village of Edgecombe St. Mary changes forever. A dispute with his sister-in-law over a pair of dueling pistols, his irreverent son’s sudden appearance with a new American girlfriend, a developer’s plans to tear down a village landmark, and a blossoming friendship with Pakistani shopkeeper Mrs. Ali, threaten to disquiet the Major’s peaceful existence.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson’s first novel, is a charming and easy read. At the same time, Simonson explores the deeper issues of English village life as small country towns like Edgecombe St. Mary struggle to accept recent immigrants, suburban development, and the loss of traditional values and customs. Simonson has created a remarkable character in Major Pettigrew and I wished, by the end of the book, that he was my neighbor.

If you are an Anglophile like me who needs a new read, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is the book for you!

Check out availability on Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

About the Reviewer: Former reference staff member Abby Shelton is a big lover of history, which is lucky since she gets to travel to Old City Philadelphia all the time! In her free time, she’s reading (of course!), enjoying the outdoors, and cooking new things.

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

The LeftoversReview by Pam Blittersdorf 

In The Leftovers, Tom Perrotta uses a startling premise to produce a realist portrait of the fault lines that fracture modern society.  The story is set in a small suburban town somewhere on the east coast.  It is a few years after the Sudden Departure, when millions of people, instantly and without explanation, vanished from the Earth.  Was it the Rapture spoken of in the Bible?  But then, many who vanished were not Christians.  Mr. Perrotta leaves that question to hang, while he explores the effects of the traumatic event on a town full of ordinary people.

This isn’t a book with a lot of plot twists.  People move through their lives. Some try to keep things normal while others form cult movements.  A messianic figure may have a genuine gift or he may be a charlatan; his unborn child may or may not be the savior of mankind.  Some funny stuff happens in between the darker moments.  One memorable character  is the woman who lost her husband and two kids. She watches Sponge Bob Squarepants because it was the show her vanished children liked. She is obsessive, but organized about it. At first, she goes through a marathon of cartoon watching, but soon begins to ration the number of daily episodes to keep them fresh. Her attempts to rebuild a social life are the ungainly efforts of any recently divorced person, writ large. It is safer to retreat but hard to be alone, even if all you can do is have a guy watch cartoons with you.

Perrotta has been called the Balzac of the suburbs, a Cheever for our times, and a lot of other heavy titles that reviewers like to hang on authors, as if to see whether they can bear the weight.  I haven’t read his other books, though I gather The Leftovers is something of a departure for him.  But the book conveys humor and affection for people, even while it shows them as deeply flawed. The author gives us the common threads that we share with his characters, which is what makes the book so readable.

Now an HBO TV series entering its 2nd season.

Check availability on The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

About the reviewer: Pam Blittersdorf is the former head of reference at Tredyffrin Public Library who now calls Massachusetts home. Pam is an avid bike rider.