Category: Coming of age
Check out the New Fiction page
(click the Books, Movies, Music tab on the main Regina Public Library page. Then click on New Book Releases to see a selection of the newest books added to the collection.)
From the New Fiction selections:
In the Shadow of the Banyan
by Vaddey Ratner
Here's what the Booklist review had to say:
Ratner’s first novel recounts the harrowing experiences of Raami, the seven-year-old daughter of a prince, during the rise ofthe Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and her family’s capture and internment in work camps. What makes her novel especially remarkable is that it’s based on Ratner’s real experiences as a young girl of the Cambodian aristocracy under the Khmer Rouge. Her heartrending, mournful tale depicts the horrors ofthe killing fields and the senselessness ofthe violence there while still managing to capture small, beautiful moments. Raami is an imaginative girl, captivated by her father’s poetry, and it is through his words that she comes to understand the way stories become not only a vehicle for memory but also a source of power. By countering the stark reality of her experience with lyrical descriptions ofthe natural beauty ofthe country and its people, Ratner has crafted an elegiac tribute ofthe country she knew and loved. A note from and interview with Ratner further details her childhood in Cambodia and escape to the U.S.
Adults reading kidlit: The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins # 1 in the Hunger Games trilogy
Here's what the Booklist review had to say:
/*Starred Review*/ This is a grand-opening salvo in a new series by the author of the Underland Chronicles. Sixteen-year-old Katniss poaches food for her widowed mother and little sister from the forest outside the legal perimeter of District 12, the poorest of the dozen districts constituting Panem, the North American dystopic state that has replaced the U.S. in the not-too-distant future. Her hunting and tracking skills serve her well when she is then cast into the nation's annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death where contestants must battle harsh terrain, artificially concocted weather conditions, and two teenaged contestants from each of Panem's districts. District 12's second "tribute" is Peeta, the baker's son, who has been in love with Katniss since he was five.
Each new plot twist ratchets up the tension, moving the story forward and keeping the reader on edge. Although Katniss may be skilled with a bow and arrow and adept at analyzing her opponents' next moves, she has much to learn about personal sentiments, especially her own. Populated by three-dimensional characters, this is a superb tale of physical adventure, political suspense, and romance.
When you finish The Hunger Games, you'll want to read the final two in the trilogy:
Catching Fire # 2
Mockingjay # 3
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Read the related Globe and Mail article here: It's all kidlit now, and that's just fine
Article author Jeet Heer argues the blurring of lines between books for kids and books for grown-ups may have Henry James turning in his grave, but the future of reading may depend on it.
One of the Most Enjoyable Books I've Read this Year
Girl in Translation
By Jean Kwok
When eleven year old Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to America, they speak little English and own nothing but debt. They arrive in New York hopeful for a better life, but find instead a squalid Brooklyn apartment lacking heat and real furniture and a life of backbreaking labor in a Chinatown sweatshop. Unable to accept this as her future, Kim decides to use her “talent for school” to earn a place for herself and her mother in their adopted country. Disguising the most difficult truths of her life—her staggering poverty, the weight of her family’s expectations, and the true depths of her culture confusion—she embarks on a double life: an exceptional student by day, and a sweatshop worker by evening and weekend. In time, Kim learns to translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the two worlds she straddles. (Book Description)
This book moved me. I was totally enthralled with Kim’s struggles for survival and completely awed by her strength, perseverance and single minded determination for something better. The writing was so raw and vivid that I couldn’t help but wonder just how much of the story was based upon the author’s own life experiences immigrating to America from China.
I went through broad rage of emotions while taking my journey with Kim. Many times I was completely indignant and fuming because of the unfairness and the conditions she had to endure. I also felt very sorry for her, having no choice but to navigate the intricacies of being a teenager trying so desperately to fit in with her peers in a new country to boot. She was also forced to take on the role of an adult, filling out tax forms at the age of 13, working inhumane hours at a sweatshop to make ends meet and translating everything for her mother who mainly spoke Chinese. I felt very frustrated for Kim in her dealings with her mother and her retched excuse for an aunt trying to balance between the cultural expectations of her birthplace, and the ideologies of her new home. But whatever I was feeling, one thing remained constant: I couldn’t help but root for our protagonist every step of the way. Kimberly Chang will haunt me for some time to come.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone but especially to those who knows someone who’s immigrated, has undergone immigration themselves or is the child of a parent who has come to North America. And I challenge those of you who believe that this “couldn’t possibly happen in North America” to pick up “Girl in Translation” and read it with an open mind. It may be a book labeled “fiction” but I can guarantee you it’s anything but.
Had a look at NoveList lately? There have been several changes.
You can still do the usual - searching for a particular author, title or series to read a plot summary and reviews,
along the left-hand side is a Recommended Reads list that you can click your way through, narrowing your choices as you go. For example:
Choose Fiction A-Z
Choose sub-category Biographical Novels
The results list includes title, author and book cover. Click on the book title to see the plot summary and reviews.
Here's one that caught my eye:
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
by Heidi W. Durrow (2010)
Summary: After a family tragedy orphans her, Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., moves into her grandmother's mostly black community in the 1980s, where she must swallow her grief and confront her identity as a biracial woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. Novelist
Library Journal review:
Durrow's first novel, inspired by a real event, won the 2008 Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice. The young protagonist, Rachel, is the only survivor after her mother apparently threw her and her two siblings from a roof and then jumped to her own death. Like a good mystery, this book builds to the startling revelation of what really happened and why a loving mother would kill her children. But there's much more, and if the novel has a weakness, it's that it oozes conflict. Rachel, who is biracial, is abandoned by her father; a boy who witnesses the rooftop incident has his own difficulties, including a neglectful mother who's also a prostitute. But one can't help but be drawn in by these characters and by the novel's exploration of race and identity.
VERDICT: With similar themes to Zadie Smith's White Teeth and a tone of desolation and dislocation like Graham Swift's Waterland and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, this is also recommended for readers intrigued by the psychology behind shocking headlines.
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How to find NoveList
On the Regina Public Library webpage http://www.reginalibrary.ca/ select the tab E-Library Services.
(Note: Access to any of these databases requires a valid Regina Public Library card number and PIN (Personal Identification Number).)
Choose the Books and Literature category and scroll down to NoveList (or pick NoveList in the alphabetical list of databases)
Sign in with your library card number and your last name.
The lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver's seventh novel is an epic story. It begins in Mexico in 1929. We meet Harrison Shepherd, a young boy born in the United States but living in Mexico with his Mexican mother, a vivacious but self-absorbed woman who moves from man to man, providing inconsistent parenting to her young son.
Harrison instead receives direction from a series of housekeepers, learning cooking and running errands. His life is altered forever when he meets Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Khalo. Taken in to their home and their confidence, Harrison observes their tempestuous relationship first hand, and develops a deep appreciation for their art and for Aztec history. The arrival of Russian political exile Lev Trotsky and his wife change the dynamic in the home and in the relationships, and provide another life-changing bend in Harrison's life journey.
The story is told in the form of Harrison's diary entries, letters, and newspaper stories - some real and some fictional - and by Violet Brown, a woman who became Harrison's stenograper and loyal friend when he returned to the United States following Trotsky's death. This return coincided with the emergence of McCarthyism, the Cold War, and the persecution of anyone suspeced of "un-American" activities. Even as he achieved great national popularity with the publication of historical novels set during the Aztec era, Harrison himself became a victim of the anti-communist movement.
Kingsolver's characters leap off the page. The development of Harrison's character, and of his relationships with Frida and Violet, are full of depth, humour and sensitivity. The depiction of place - the exotic and intoxicating landscape of Mexico and the suffocating and myopic milieu of small town America in the late 1940s and early 50s - feels authentic. I loved the snappy dialogue, the frequent "one-liners", the sympathetic and generous treatment of these flawed characters. The lacuna is a wonderful evocation of time and place, and should have a spot on your bedside table.
Cleopatra's Daughter (2009)
Summary: The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two -- the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander -- survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.
Rogue Reader's review:
The absolute best book I've read [in 2009] and I can't even begin to describe what I loved about it! Was it the characters? Or the richly detailed historical setting? Was it the fast paced, action-packed suspenseful plot or the slight mystery that plagued the pages? Whatever it was, I know I will definitely be purchasing this one and rereading it any chance I get.
Michelle Moran outdid herself with the characterization. Each person in the novel jumped off the pages with their personality and individualization. I think many historical fiction authors make the mistake of fleshing out one or two of the main characters, and then cookie-cutting the periphery characters into the stereotypical characters we see in movies like "Gladiator." Not so with this novel. Not only was Selene (Cleopatra's daughter) a dynamic character but all of the supporting cast was equally fleshed out.
Then there was the plot and setting. The story began the fateful night that Antony and Cleopatra took their own lives and left their three children in the hands of their enemies. Then came the journey to their new home and the beginning of an unknown and uncertain adventure in the unstable lands of Rome. And the story just kept moving right along from there. Every time the children went to the Circus Maximus, or the Forum or the Palantine I felt like I was right there with them. I felt their hurt, and anger, triumphs and frustrations. I felt like I was right there with them through those years of uncertainty and it has been a long time since a novel allowed me in like that.
Author of Speak tackles tough topic in new book
Laurie Halse Anderson
Summary: Eighteen-year-old Lia comes to terms with her best friend's death from anorexia as she struggles with the same disorder.
Anderson is the bestselling author of teen fiction, including multiple award-winner Speak, which became an instant classic, reaching out and resonating with teens in a meaningful way.
Wintergirls isn’t an easy book to read. It’s powerfully sad and unflinching in its look at sufferers of eating disorders and distorted body images. I can’t stress enough how important this story is, not just for the young people who are currently suffering, but those who are in recovery, and for all those who love them.
From Booklist (Starred Review):
Problem-novel fodder becomes a devastating portrait of the extremes of self-deception in this brutal and poetic deconstruction of how one girl stealthily vanishes into the depths of anorexia. Lia has been down this road before: her competitive relationship with her best friend, Cassie, once landed them both in the hospital, but now not even Cassie’s death can eradicate Lia’s disgust of the "fat cows" who scrutinize her body all day long....Struck-through sentences, incessant repetition, and even blank pages make Lia’s inner turmoil tactile, and gruesome details of her decomposition will test sensitive readers. But this is necessary reading for anyone caught in a feedback loop of weight loss as well as any parent unfamiliar with the scripts teens recite so easily to escape from such deadly situations.
Trilogy from acclaimed Somali novelist
The Blood In The Sun trilogy, by Nuruddin Farah
Regarded as one of the finest African novelists, Nuruddin Farah has lived in exile from his native Somalia for over twenty-five years. He is considered a feminist writer, and his early work, including the novel From a crooked rib, was critical of Islamic law as it related to women, and censored by the government of the military dictator Siad Barre when it came to power in 1969. Farah was educated in India and England, and has lived and worked in the United States, Germany and several African nations.
The trilogy Blood In The Sun consists of the novels Maps, Gifts and Secrets. Maps follows the life of Askar, whose mother died giving birth to him, and who is taken in by the kindly Misra. Eventually he goes off to Mogadishu to study, and becomes caught up in the war between Somalia and Ethiopia. In Gifts, single mother Duniya is raising her twins and working in a local hospital. Her fragile existence is shattered when her daughter brings home a foundling infant, and the hospital is assailed by people desperate from years of war, disease and drought.
In the final volume of the trilogy Secrets, Kalaman, a computer operator in Mogadishu, begins to search out his family origins as ethnic conflicts continue to shatter the country's social and political systems. Common themes in all three novels are identity, loss of innocence, and the place of history, cultural heritage and myth in modern life.
Farah has received many international awards for his writing, including the 1998 Neustadt International Prize for Literature (University of Oklahoma), considered the second most prestigious literary prize after the Nobel Prize.
City of thieves by David Benioff
It is 1942. The Nazis are bombing and starving the city of Leningrad. 17 year-old Lev Beniov and his friends spend their nights protecting their apartment building from fire. One night a dead German pilot parachutes from the sky, and Lev is caught by the military police looting the body. He is thrown into prison where he meets Kolya, a young Russian soldier arrested for desertion. When they are taken before the colonel in charge, they are offered their freedom if they can find a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. Thus begins an odyssey that sees the two young men leave the city in search of the precious commodity. Lev is naive and untested by the savagery of war, both admiring of and irritated by Kolya's self-assured and confident manner. Kolya uses bravado and humour to clear obstacles from their path, but there comes a time when they must draw on their most basic instincts for survival. The relationship between these two young men evolves slowly, and is beautifully drawn. The deprivations and violence of the war, particularly as experienced by the people of Leningrad, are unflinchingly revealed. We are brought along on the young men's quest, feeling both revulsion and compassion as they encounter unspeakable horrors - a man who deals in the marketing of human flesh; a house of young women kept for the pleasure of the German soldiers; villages burned to the ground, their inhabitants slaughtered. What remains certain is the growing bond of friendship between Lev and Kolya, and their determination to achieve their freedom, and the freedom of their countrymen.
Benioff wrote the screenplay for his first novel, 25th hour, and for The kite runner.
Debut Novel A Definite Winner!
Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato, 2009
Mathilda Savitch tells the story of her life so far in this odd but engaging and powerful novel. Though not specifically revealed, she would seem to be around 12 or 13, the remaining daughter of parents so grief stricken at the death of their older, 16 year old daughter a year earlier that they are almost dysfunctional, sleepwalking through life and still unable to deal with their loss, and certainly doing a poor job of parenting. Mathilda, one of the most precocious kids you will ever meet between the covers of a novel, decides to act out her frustration, shocking friends and teachers with her behaviour, and confronting her parents with the reality of her sister’s death (she was pushed in front of a moving train). Meanwhile, she manages to access her sister’s email, begins to piece together the last weeks of her life, and slowly narrows the field of potential murderers. Readers who enjoyed The sweetness at the bottom of the pie will find much to savour here, especially the wit and diabolical intelligence of Mathilda. The message is, however, much more serious, as we watch this family so consumed with grief, and follow the fearless attempts of the young protagonist to break through to the truth.
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