What I’m Reading Right Now (Week of Sept. 23)

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We just placed our monthly library book order and are now waiting for a magical box of new releases to arrive on campus!

In the meantime, I’ve been going back through the library catalog and picking books that have been highly recommended by students or other teachers. Here’s what I’ve been carrying around this week:

This eagerly anticipated novel (based on Black’s short story of the same name) bears little relation to the sparkle-infused vampire tales of the last decade.

Ten years ago, a vampire “started romanticizing himself” and went on a rampage, turning people until new vampires were everywhere. As much as possible, they are contained in walled Coldtowns, along with humans who idolize them—or were trapped when the walls went up. Outside, people avoid going out after dark, watch endless feeds from Coldtown parties and idolize vampire hunters. When nihilistic Tana, whose emptiness seems to stem from events surrounding her mother’s infection with vampirism, wakes up in a blood bath to find her ex-boyfriend infected and a terrifying but gorgeous vampire chained beside him, she is determined to make things right. What follows is a journey that takes her into Coldtown and out of the grief that has plagued her for years, with plenty of sharply observed characters and situations that feel absurdly, horribly believable. There’s dry humor and even a relationship (to call it a romance would be too easy; this is something entirely more complex). Perhaps most unexpectedly, there is no happy ending, just a thread of hope in humanity.

You may be ready to put a stake in vampire lit, but read this first: It’s dark and dangerous, bloody and brilliant. (Kirkus Review Sept 17, 2013)

In what turns out to be considerably more than just another tale told by an intelligent narrator with a spectrum disorder, 17-year-old Marcelo Sandoval gets a life-changing taste of the “real world” when he’s forced to take a summer job in his father’s law firm. Comfortable with his limitations but still anxious, Marcelo strikes gold immediately when Jasmine, his supervisor in the Mail Room, turns out to be an uncommonly perceptive young woman. Vicious office intrigues, Marcelo’s long-standing fascination with religious thought and his discovery of a damning piece of suppressed evidence in a case involving his father’s biggest corporate client all lead to a series of short but deep heart-to-heart conversations about ethics, God’s will and other big questions. In the end Marcelo keeps his feet amid strong emotional currents, makes the hard choices and even maps out a personal future that wasn’t at all clear earlier on. Making good on the promise of his Way of the Jaguar (2000), Stork delivers a powerful tale populated by appealing (and decidedly unappealing) characters and rich in emotional nuance. Kirkus Review May 20, 2010) 

An unnamed protagonist and narrator returns to his Sussex roots to attend a funeral. Although his boyhood dwelling no longer stands, at the end of the road lies the Hempstock farm, to which he’s drawn without knowing why. Memories begin to flow. The Hempstocks were an odd family, with 11-year-old Lettie’s claim that their duck pond was an ocean, her mother’s miraculous cooking and her grandmother’s reminiscences of the Big Bang; all three seemed much older than their apparent ages. Forty years ago, the family lodger, a South African opal miner, gambled his fortune away, then committed suicide in the Hempstock farmyard. Something dark, deadly and far distant heard his dying lament and swooped closer. As the past becomes the present, Lettie takes the boy’s hand and confidently sets off through unearthly landscapes to deal with the menace; but he’s only 7 years old, and he makes a mistake. Instead of banishing the predator, he brings it back into the familiar world, where it reappears as his family’s new housekeeper, the demonic Ursula Monkton. Terrified, he tries to flee back to the Hempstocks, but Ursula easily keeps him confined as she cruelly manipulates and torments his parents and sister. Despite his determination and well-developed sense of right and wrong, he’s also a scared little boy drawn into adventures beyond his understanding, forced into terrible mistakes through innocence. Yet, guided by a female wisdom beyond his ability to comprehend, he may one day find redemption.

Poignant and heartbreaking, eloquent and frightening, impeccably rendered, it’s a fable that reminds us how our lives are shaped by childhood experiences, what we gain from them and the price we pay. (Kirkus Review March 14, 2013)

 

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