March: Book One by John Lewis (2013)

marchbook1Jez, one of our Adult Services Associates, introduced me to this autobiography of U.S. Representative John Lewis written in a graphic novel format. I was skeptical that a graphic novel could adequately portray Congressman Lewis’ accomplishments as a young civil rights leader, but after reading several pages I found myself captivated by the narrative and accompanying illustrations. I learned that Lewis and other members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee used a comic book to educate civil rights workers about nonviolent resistance. It seemed fitting that Lewis would choose to write his autobiography as a graphic novel. My sole complaint is that March: Book One ends quite abruptly, and left this reader anxiously waiting for the next volume of Lewis’ autobiography.

The Lie by Helen Dunmore (2014)

liedunmoreDaniel Branwell returns to his small Cornish village at the end of WWI. Daniel, although very smart, is from a very poor family and had to leave school to support his widowed mother. Now back from the war, he helps an elderly neighbor, and when she dies, moves into her home. Without education and prospects, traumatized by the war, and deeply missing his childhood friend, Frederic, who died in battle in front of him, Daniel wanders through life searching for meaning. The Lie by Helen Dunmore is a quietly beautiful and moving novel.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)

giverlowryThe book is a quick read and well done. In The Giver, an organized community controls its citizens every move and position within the community. The main character is a twelve-year-old boy, Jonas, and how he learns the truth about the community and the world outside.

Did you see the movie? How does it compare with Lois Lowry’s novel? If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the trailer below.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell (2014)

landlineGeorgie McCool has just gotten the opportunity of a lifetime: a pilot for her very own TV show, which she co-writes with her best friend. There’s a catch, though: it’s due next week. Right after Christmas. When Georgie decides to skip the holidays and stay in LA to finish writing scripts, her husband Neal takes their two daughters to Omaha without her, leaving her alone for a week. Georgie can’t get Neal to answer her calls until she uses the landline at her mother’s house…but ends up reaching Neal in the past, just before he’s supposed to propose!

Landline explores the length of a relationship from beginning to end, but not necessarily in that order, through the use of slight magical realism in the form of a phone that can call the past. The reader can connect with Georgie in her moments of love and longing, and explore the full spectrum of emotions through this unusual will-they/won’t-they scenario, all the while rooting for Georgie and Neal to come together in both the past and present and fearing the consequences if they don’t. The fantasy element is minimal and the focus here is on Georgie’s life and relationship with her husband Neal. With half its story rooted in the 80s and 90s, Rainbow Rowell’s latest novel is a great choice for GenLit readers, as well as readers of women’s fiction.

Rowell recently did a Q&A session with readers on Goodreads about Landline and her previous books, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl.

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner (2014)

fearnothingThis is a fast-paced psychological suspense thriller, filled with many twists and turn. An added bonus is the interesting cast of characters, especially a woman who has an extremely rare genetic mutation wherein she cannot feel pain. This is an actual condition that I found fascinating to learn more about. Although there are some graphic, gory descriptions of the murder victims, I feel that these are outweighed by the interesting character studies and absorbing, edgy storyline. If you enjoy Fear Nothing, you can try other books in Lisa Gardner’s Detective D.D. Warren series.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (2014)

museumofextraordinarythingsIn New York City in 1911, a fire devastated both the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village and destroyed the amusement park Dreamland being constructed above Coney Island.

These public events are the framework for a spellbinding tale in which the author weaves realism and fairy tale. This novel, a romance and a tightly plotted mystery, is set among carnival sideshows, freak shows, and the midway of Coney Island. Her portrayal of New York City during a pivotal year in the city’s history turns the city a character in its own right.

Alice Hoffman’s storytelling magic is here in The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a love story rich with history and a sense of place.

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P. S. Duffy (2013)

cartographerNova Scotia fisherman and amateur artist Angus MacGrath leaves his wife and son to enlist in the army during WWI. MacGrath has been lead to believe that his skills as an artist will be put to use as a cartographer. Instead he finds himself in the middle of the fight, witnessing horrors he never imagined. At home his emotionally distant wife and young son must deal with his absence and that of a beloved brother and uncle. MacGrath returns to his beloved Nova Scotia a man changed, perhaps forever.

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P. S. Duffy is a beautiful balance between realistic characters and setting and dream-like quality adopted by some of the characters to survive. For other modern novels about WWI see our bibliography.

Join us! Our Novel Idea book discussion group will discuss the book on Wednesday, September 10 at 7pm.