April 9, 1975, and Carol Braithwaite, a known prostitute, has been savagely murdered. And if that crime isn't heinous enough, her emaciated four-year-old son had been locked in with the dead body for an estimated three weeks. In Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog, the Braithwaite case remains unsolved, but over 30 years later promises to disrupt any number of disparate lives.
There’s Tracy Waterhouse. She and her partner discovered Carol’s body and her traumatized son in 1975. Tracy always felt that certain details of the case didn’t make sense. Why was the house locked from the outside? Who had had the key? Why did Carol’s son simply vanish into thin air? And, why wasn’t the police department more actively investigating the case? Tracy, now retired from the police department and never married, witnesses a young child being mistreated by a street addict and, on a whim, buys the girl with money saved for house renovations.
On April 15, 1912, the supposedly unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg, cracked in two and plunged fathoms deep into the icy North Atlantic. Some passengers were saved, but more than a thousand souls were lost that night, and each one had a rich, full life leading up to either those final moments or desperate rescues. Such was the case for one special family in Suzanne Weyn’s Distant Waves.
Jane and her four sisters were very young when their mother, widowed and alone, decided to move the lot of them to Spirit Vale, a place where ghosts gathered around the psychics, real and fake, who were the principal citizens of the place. Their mother could have chosen to stay with her mother-in-law—a woman whose grudging wealth and the security it provided did not make up for her cold, insulting ways. Spirit Vale seemed the answer to their mother’s dreams, as she had the Sight, and so did several of her daughters.
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A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks: "This gripping historical novel is based on the true story of Eyam, the "Plague Village", in the rugged mountain spine of England. In 1666, a tainted bolt of cloth from London carries bubonic infection to this isolated settlement of shepherds and lead miners. A visionary young preacher convinces the villagers to seal themselves off in a deadly quarantine to prevent the spread of disease. The story is told through the eyes of eighteen-year-old Anna Frith, the vicar's maid, as she confronts the loss of her family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit love. As the death toll rises and people turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna emerges as an unlikely and courageous heroine in the village's desperate fight to save itself."
If you like A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, you may like these books as well:
Divining Women by Kaye Gibbons
In this enveloping tale of marital strife and female resilience, Gibbons considers conflicts between blacks and whites and men and women within the context of the First World War and the Spanish influenza epidemic. (Booklist)
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Kivrin, a history student at Oxford in 2048, travels back in time to a 14th-century English village, despite a host of misgivings on the part of her unofficial tutor. When the technician responsible for the procedure falls prey to a 21st-century epidemic, he accidentally sends Kivrin back not to 1320 but to 1348--right into the path of the Black Death. (Publisher's Weekly)
Lisa See's Shanghai Girls is a riveting book about two sisters who are "beautiful girl" models in pre-war 1930s Shanghai. When the Japanese invade, the sisters' lives are turned upside down and they are forced into arranged marriages and flee their homeland for America.
Watch Lisa See talk about the inspiration for her novel in this interview. The sequel to Shanghai Girls, Dreams of Joy, is recently published and on the bestseller list.
LMNO Peas, by Keith Baker, will bring a smile to parents who have heard their children slur the middle letters together as they sing the alphabet song. This engaging book is populated by lively Peas whose occupations and activities match the letters of the alphabet. These little “pea-ple” are acrobats and explorers, parachutists and X-ray doctors.
With the arrival of summer, there is an abundance of produce all around us. Some of us may be garden-savvy and are already receiving the fruits of our labor from our backyards. All around us the farms and the Farmer's Markets are bursting with great, fresh produce that is locally grown. Why not buy some extra and try canning and preserving some of this goodness? Not only will you be helping out the local farmers, but you will also get the satisfaction of something that you have preserved, and you know exactly what you put into it.
Like any new venture, you do want to read about it and have the proper equipment. The good news is that the equipment is relatively cheap and is abundantly available at local retailers or stores online. Plus your library carries many books on this topic.
Lan Samantha Chang presents difficult questions in this thoughtful and provoking novel, All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost: Is a poet born or made? What happens to the poetic imagination as time passes? What is the role of poetry in our time?
In Gun, with Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem blends dystopia and noir in order to depict the Oakland of the future: a surreal world where the written word is obsolete and animals wear clothes and behave as humans. It’s also a place where corrupt Inquisitors run amok and one’s social standing is determined by “karma points.”
In the midst of this disorienting environment, Conrad Metcalf is a reassuringly anachronistic figure. Rather than serving the monolithic institution known as the Office, he embraces his own brand of investigation, walking the streets and asking questions as a Private Inquisitor. The Office has tolerated his presence and unorthodox methods, but their complacency evaporates once Conrad starts working for a new client: Orton Angwine.
Eric is thirteen. His family has moved to Long Island. They are in a new place and he is in a new school, but all this happens without his Dad. His Dad did not move with them. He is elsewhere and suffering from depression. In Bystander by James Preller, the reader sympathizes with Eric as he makes all these new adjustments in his new life. He misses his dad, and his mom is very busy trying to create a typical life for her children.
Eric is the new kid in town and in school. He meets a group of middle schoolers while on the basketball court one day. As the dynamics of the group reveal themselves, Eric is quick to realize that Griffin Connelly (the leader of the pack) is not such a nice guy. In fact, he is a bully. One of the main targets for his mean antics is David Hallenback. David is under the mistaken assumption that he is part of the group and a friend of Griffin's. That is not the case.
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks is based on the true story of a man from Martha's Vineyard who became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard - in 1665!
Brooks, now a resident of Martha's Vineyard, talks about her inspiration and research for this book.