Award Winner · Graphic Novel · In the Library · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Relationships

Fun Home | by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
(Mariner Books, 2007, 232 pages)

I actually read Fun Home back in 2011. I decided to revisit the book after listening to the Broadway soundtrack for the musical created based on the book – you might be familiar with it because it won a number of Tony Awards this past year. I don’t know if it’s just because I knew what to expect but I had a much different experience reading the graphic novel this time around. There’s a lot more depth to the work that I don’t think I appreciated the first time around.

You can refer to my earlier review for a summary, but this is a graphic novel that won a number of awards and was placed on numerous “best of” lists. I’m definitely glad I decided to reread this memoir.

I’ll be reading Are You My Mother? shortly. It’s basically the companion piece to Fun Home and it focuses on her mother.

Fiction · Mystery · Theresa F

The Moonspinners . Nine Coaches Waiting . The Ivy Tree . Madam, Will You Talk? | by Mary Stewart

The Moonspinners

The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
(HarperTorch, 2003, 388 pages)

Nine Coaches Waiting

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
(HarperTorch, 2001, 391 pages)

The Ivy Tree

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart
(HarperTorch, 2001, 400 pages)

Madam Will You Talk

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart
(HarperTorch, 2003, 360 pages)

I read this blog post about Mary Stewart and thought “this sounds exactly like the books I used to find when I was growing up and combing the shelves of my small local library!”

Written in the late 50’s and early 60’s, Mary Stewart is like an Agatha Christie meets a gothic Nancy Drew with a little travel novel thrown in. All of these titles stars a young (20’s) beautiful girl caught up in a mystery and of course there is a man involved. I’ve loved every one of them but the best is Madam, Will You Talk?

The Moonspinners:
“When beautiful Nicola Ferris chose the remote island of Crete for her vacation, all she desired was to experience the ancient and brooding land on her own. But one day her impulse led her on a little-used path into the foreboding White Mountains. And there she found a man in hiding — for reasons he could not explain. Warned to stay away, Nicola was unable to obey. And before she realized what she had uncovered, she found herself thrust into the midst of an alarming plot in which she would become the prey…”
– book jacket

Nine Coaches Waiting:
“A governess in a French château encounters an apparent plot against her young charge’s life in this unforgettably haunting and beautifully written suspense novel.”

The Ivy Tree:
“A trick of coloring…Her walk…The way she smiled. If Mary Grey looked so much like the missing heiress, why should she not be an heiress? To the lonely young woman living in a dreary furnished room, faced with an uncertain future, the impersonation offered intriguing possibilities. And so plain Mary Grey became the glamorous Annabel Winslow. But she did not live happily ever after. In fact, she almost did not live at all. Because someone wanted Annabel missing… permanently.”
– book jacket

Madam, Will You Talk?:
“Charity Selborne, a lovely war widow, and her irreverent artist friend, Louise Cray, arrive in the South of France expecting a conventional holiday. The vistas of Provence delight them, and Charity soon meets David, a young man of 13 who is having trouble with his dog. He introduces himself and Charity is charmed—until she senses a terrible maturity behind his grave eyes and shortly hears the rumors about his father.”

Andrew S · Essays · History · Non-Fiction · Religion

The New Christian Year | edited by Charles Williams


The New Christian Year edited by Charles Williams
(Oxford University Press, 1941, 281 pages)

This is a collection of short readings from theologians and spiritual writers that spans the history of the Christian faith. They correlate with the liturgical calendar and include special readings for saint’s days. Charles Williams was a remarkable editor, as well as a novelist, poet, literary critic, and theologian. In his position at Oxford University Press, he was instrumental in bringing Kierkegaard’s works into English translation for the first time. Kierkegaard is heavily featured in this collection, as are the Desert Fathers, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Donne, and more contemporary (at the time) sources like Karl Barth, and the Church of England’s Commission on Christian Doctrine. The readings were chosen for their literary quality as well as their theological depth. This is a fascinating resource for those interested in the theological influences on Williams and the Inklings.

History · Jean R · Non-Fiction

Isaac’s Storm | by Erik Larson

Isaacs Storm

Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
by Erik Larson
(Vintage, 2000, 336 pages)

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson hit the New York Times bestseller list in the fall of 1999. Isaac’s Storm is the true story of the greatest hurricane that ever hit Galveston, Texas and the man who didn’t predict the hurricane’s destructiveness. It is September 1900. A storm is brewing. Isaac Cline is the resident Galveston meteorologist. On September 8, 1900, Cline sees the barometer drop, the wind pick up, and the water rising. Cline believes that no hurricane could ever seriously damage Galveston. He was wrong.

Saturday, September 8, 1900 saw children playing on the beach in the rising water. Then, the water started to invade the streets of Galveston. Some flooding was not unexpected in Galveston. Then, the wind picked up. It began to rain. As the day went on, telegraph and telephone lines went down. Trains couldn’t run along flooded tracks. Entire homes and businesses were washed away. Ships broke away from their moorings. Over 6,000 people lost their lives. Isaac suffered his own tragic loss.

In Isaac’s Storm, Larson takes us into lives of some of the residents of and visitors to Galveston on September 8, 1900. Larson describes Cline’s thought process as he worries that the coming weather is going to be much worse than predicted. Isaac’s Storm is well researched and an interesting book. I recommend it to anyone who likes to read true life disaster stories.

Andrew S · Fiction

The Virgin in the Garden | by A. S. Byatt

The Virgin in the Garden

The Virgin in the Garden by A. S. Byatt
(Vintage, 1978, 432 pages)

I love A. S. Byatt’s novels and short stories. The Virgin in the Garden is one of her earlier novels (to this point I had only read things she had written since the 1990s). Byatt definitely matured as a story teller with more recent novels like Possession and The Children’s Book, but The Virgin in the Garden has the same combination of intellectual history, evocative descriptions, carefully drawn characters, and surprising humor.

The novel is set in northern England in 1952 and 53, the year of Elizabeth II’s coronation. The action is centered on the preparation and performance of a local play about the original Queen Elizabeth. The events surrounding the play instigate all kinds of relational and emotional crises among the community of the Blesford Ride School. In particular, turmoil unfolds among the siblings of the Potter family as Stephanie, the oldest, turns her back on an academic career to marry the local curate, Marcus, the youngest, is plagued by strange visions that leave him traumatized and withdrawn, and Frederica, the emotionally volatile middle child, gains a leading role in the play and falls in love with the playwright.

The plot of the book drags at points, but the time that Byatt takes to subtly develop relationships between characters and to evoke a strong sense of place pays off as the drama accelerates toward the end. I love the way she express the tensions between intellectual and domestic life as felt by most of the characters in different ways. In 2002, Byatt wrote A Whistling Woman, the final of four books that follow the life of Frederica Potter. The best recommendation I can give for The Virgin in the Garden is to say that I’m very excited to have three more books to read about these characters.

Award Winner · Classic · Fiction · Heather D · In the Library · Science Fiction · Young Adult

A Wrinkle In Time | by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
(Ariel Books, 1962, 211 pages)

Sadly enough, I had missed out on reading the classic A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle in my younger years. It was when my children were required to read it in school that I decided it was time for me to do the same.

These well-developed characters are interesting, determined, and brave which makes it impossible not to cheer them on throughout the book. Mr. Murry is a scientist who went missing while working on fifth dimension time travel. Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin, set out find her father and bring him home with the help of three very peculiar women. This book deals with time travel, space, other worlds, and magical creatures which is why I can see how it is intriguing to young readers. As an adult I found that there was so much more to the themes of this story. It relays wonderful messages: good over evil, it’s ok to be different, it’s ok to have faith, and above all, the meaning of unconditional love.

I would recommend this book anyone who has not yet read A Wrinkle In Time or maybe you would like to revisit this wonderful classic. I’m so happy that I decided to go on this magical journey. I just recently learned that this book is part of a series and I will be picking up the next book to continue on this adventure.

Fiction · Julia P · Juvenile · Picture book · Poetry

Where Is the Green Sheep? *by Mem Fox | Here’s a Little Poem *collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters

Where Is the Green Sheep

Where Is the Green Sheep?
by Mem Fox; illustrated by Judy Horacek
(Penguin, 2004, 32 pages)

Here's a Little Poem

Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry
collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters; illustrated by Polly Dunbar
(Candlewick, 2007, 112 pages)

I’m officially a fan of Mem Fox – and it started after reading her book about reading to children, Reading Magic, a few weeks ago. Where Is the Green Sheep? is a fun book to read aloud for a number of reasons. The rhythm and rhyme of the story are great. Plus the repetitive nature of asking where the green sheep is will make for an enjoyable activity when reading with a toddler who can “guess” the next line.

The book touches on opposites, colors, and lends itself to a fun overall reading experience. As we explore different kinds of sheep doing different things, we are constantly on the lookout for a green sheep, who doesn’t appear to be anywhere. The illustrations are wonderful because there is so much detail provided it offers a lot of opportunities to explore the images with your child and ask them questions about what they see. This book is officially added to my collection 🙂

Here’s a Little Poem is a collection of poetry from a number of different authors including Margaret Wise Brown, Langston Hughes and Jack Prelutsky. The poems touch on a number of themes and are paired with bright illustrations. They’re perfect for reading out loud and a great way to introduce your child to poetry.

Andrew S · Fiction · Graphic Novel · Mystery

Batman: The Black Mirror | by Scott Snyder

Batman the Black Mirror

Batman: The Black Mirror
by Scott Snyder; illustrated by Jock and Francesco Francavilla
(DC Comics, 2011, 304 pages)

This collection of Batman comics (Detective Comics #871-881) reads a lot like a hard-boiled detective story. Bruce Wayne is retired, and Dick Grayson – who was formerly Robin and then Nightwing – has now taken on the identity of Batman. Together, he and Commissioner Gordon must discover who is acquiring and auctioning off chemical weapons used by Gotham City’s notorious villains. The mystery becomes personal when Gordon’s estranged son shows up in Gotham just as a wave of violence reaches its peak.

The artwork in this volume is excellent, and the mystery holds together pretty well. I really enjoyed the way that some of the artwork called back to the look of the older Batman comics. The action sequences were drawn well and were easier to follow than some of the graphic novels I’ve read. Dick Grayson is a more compassionate and less cynical batman than Bruce Wayne. The story is still dark, but Grayson’s Batman resists giving into the darkness. I would definitely like to read more of Scott Snyder’s Batman comics.

Fiction · In the Library · Julia P

God Help the Child | by Toni Morrison

God Help the Child

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
(Knopf, 2015, 178 pages)

When I heard there was a new Toni Morrison book coming out I knew that I’d be reading it. Her writing is lyrical and profound. As a reader you can’t help but admire her way with words. After I started reading I quickly realized that the book was going to fall far short of my expectations. Her gift with words was still there, her writing was still powerful at times, but the story just felt incomplete. It felt like both the characters and the plot could have done with some more fleshing out.

Bride was born to parents who were so light they easily could have passed for white. That was what made it so shocking that she was born so incredibly dark. Her mother could hardly stand to touch her and her father decided not to stick around. Despite never feeling accepted by her mother, Bride grew up to be a successful young woman, launching her own cosmetics line. In the midst of launching her line Bride’s boyfriend leaves her, she has a rough interaction with a woman from her past, and she finds herself experiencing strange and inexplicable bodily changes.

As the story progresses Bride decides to try and find her ex, who left with no real explanation. Her journey to find him parallels what amounts to a journey to find herself.

There were so many flaws in the story that it was hard trying to summarize things. There are characters that seem to be important but that we know very little about. Despite being set in the present-ish day, aspects of the story don’t line up. God Help the Child just felt unfinished to me, which was disappointing.

If you’re a Morrison fan I think you’ll feel similarly to me, but you never know. If you’re new to Morrison, I’d recommend picking up titles from her backlist. God Help the Child doesn’t do its author justice.