That’s right, y’all! It’s that time again – time for a weekly Library Loot (which is, of course, hosted by the lovely Marg of The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader and Claire at The Captive Reader – head over and check out the Mr. Linky for yourself!). Because my local library and I still aren’t quite seeing eye-t0-eye (they think I owe them money, which I do, and shouldn’t be able to check out books because of it, which I think is a smidge harsh) I’ve been culling the “recreational reading” shelves at my university library. A small section, yes. But it’s both small and mighty. I was able to come up with six books with this week (in addition to the ones I have yet to read from last weeks library loot, with the exception of Bossypants which, in case you couldn’t tell from the review below, I found absolutely divine!), three fiction and three non-fiction. Enjoy the Loot and don’t forget to share your Loot as well! First the fiction (all plot descriptions cribbed straights from Amazon. Represent, yo’):
Room by Emma Donoghue: In many ways, Jack is a typical 5-year-old. He likes to read books, watch TV, and play games with his Ma. But Jack is different in a big way–he has lived his entire life in a single room, sharing the tiny space with only his mother and an unnerving nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. For Jack, Room is the only world he knows, but for Ma, it is a prison in which she has tried to craft a normal life for her son. When their insular world suddenly expands beyond the confines of their four walls, the consequences are piercing and extraordinary. Despite its profoundly disturbing premise, Emma Donoghue’s Room is rife with moments of hope and beauty, and the dogged determination to live, even in the most desolate circumstances. A stunning and original novel of survival in captivity, readers who enter Room will leave staggered, as though, like Jack, they are seeing the world for the very first time. (I couldn’t help picking this one up after seeing it floating around the blogosphere a while back. Plus, it sounds creepy. Really creepy. Sadly creepy. And that’s right up my alley.)
A Thousand Cuts by Simon Lelic: In the wake of a London school shooting, Det. Insp. Lucia May finds herself unable to accept the simple version of what transpired in Lelic’s outstanding debut—that Samuel Szajkowski, a new history teacher, gunned down two students and a colleague in an assembly hall before turning the weapon on himself. While Szajkowski was the subject of cruel pranks from his first day on the job, pranks that escalated to serious physical injury, May resists her supervisor’s directives to write a straightforward final report, and looks into a possible link between the massacre and an off-campus beating of a student. Artfully offering a range of perspectives on the events leading up to the fatal day, Lelic manages to make the murderer sympathetic as he sensitively explores the varying degrees of responsibility for the tragedy borne by others whose response to bullying was inadequate. (I’m relatively new to mysteries – and by ‘relatively’ new I mean brand-spankin’-new to the genre – and I’ve always had this weird fascination with school shootings and the forces on individuals that bring them about.)
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen: It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots. But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it. For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town. Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living. (Its been a good long while since I’ve had the chance to sink my teeth in to a wonderful drawn small Southern town – my favorite kind of town to sink my teeth in to – and I LOVE the name Paxton, so I figured why not? Plus, I’ve heard wonderful things from my mom about her first book The Girl Who Chased the Moon.
And now *drum roll* on the the non-fiction!
Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle with Anorexia by Harriet Brown: Brown tells the story of her family’s battle with anorexia, the “demon” that suddenly possesses her bright, pretty daughter, Kitty. Brown is alternately an introspective and anguished parent and a fierce advocate for the Maudsley approach, a family-based therapy that focuses on restoring the patient to physical health before fully dealing with the psychological challenges he or she faces. Brown carefully amasses facts about anorexia and the effects of starvation in between bouts at the dinner table as Kitty refuses to eat and, occasionally, hides her food. The standoffs are emotionally draining for the entire family, including Kitty’s younger sister, Emma, whom Brown worries is also at risk for the disease. At the crux of Brown’s affecting and informative memoir is the idea that anorexia can happen to any family and that it can be defeated through determination and love, even though Brown recognizes that permanent success can be elusive. In the end, she knows that all any family can do is try, and that her eldest daughter will not be left to fight her demon alone. (I’m always up for a heart-felt memoir about women (or largely women)-related issues, so this one jumped out at me. Plus, as someone who continues to struggle with weight and body issues, its always wonderful to hear tales from those who have succumbed and then triumphed over so many of those unhealthy pressures put on female body image.)
The Dress Makers of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: The life Kamila Sidiqi had known changed overnight when the Taliban seized control of the city of Kabul. After receiving a teaching degree during the civil war—a rare achievement for any Afghan woman—Kamila was subsequently banned from school and confined to her home. When her father and brother were forced to flee the city, Kamila became the sole breadwinner for her five siblings. Armed only with grit and determination, she picked up a needle and thread and created a thriving business of her own. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana tells the incredible true story of this unlikely entrepreneur who mobilized her community under the Taliban. Former ABC News reporter Gayle Tzemach Lemmon spent years on the ground reporting Kamila’s story, and the result is an unusually intimate and unsanitized look at the daily lives of women in Afghanistan. These women are not victims; they are the glue that holds families together; they are the backbone and the heart of their nation. Afghanistan’s future remains uncertain as debates over withdrawal timelines dominate the news. (After all this media scandal nonsense surrounding Greg Mortenson, I wanted to read a book about similar good works, set in a similar area, but without all the “oh-my-gosh-is-it-really-true-or-do-I-have-to-doubt-everything-this-guy-says” hullabaloo running through the back of my mind.)
The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rouges, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey: Casey, O magazine editor-in-chief, travels across the world and into the past to confront the largest waves the oceans have to offer. This dangerous water includes rogue waves south of Africa, storm-born giants near Hawaii, and the biggest wave ever recorded, a 1,740 foot-high wall of wave (taller than one and a third Empire State Buildings) that blasted the Alaska coastline in 1958. Casey follows big-wave surfers in their often suicidal attempts to tackle monsters made of H2O, and also interviews scientists exploring the danger that global warning will bring us more and larger waves. Casey writes compellingly of the threat and beauty of the ocean at its most dangerous. We get vivid historical reconstructions and her firsthand account of being on a jet-ski watching surfers risk their lives. (Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m OBSESSED with all things ocean. Seriously. I think it’s the most baffling thing that we know more about space, which is thousands of light-years away, than we do about the oceans on our own planet. I consider the dolphin to be my spirit animal. So when I saw a book that was part pop science, part surfer manifesto, and part exploration of ocean myths, I was all over it! Plus, my aunt is a surfer and, while I’m from a landlocked state and thus inherently awful at all water-based sports beyond simple swimming, I’ve always wanted to get out there and ride the wave)
That’s it! I know, I know, I say “that’s it” like its not a lot. But I’m SUPER excited about all of the books (Room and The Wave most of all) and can’t wait to hear more about what you’re getting at your library these days! Happy reading!