Friday, August 20, 2010

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

Each new book by Isabel Allende is eagerly anticipated by her many fans. Her newest book Island Beneath the Sea does not disappoint. With her straight forward, honest narrative style, Allende explores the history of Haiti.

Tete is a slave girl, the daughter of an African mother and one of the white sailors who brought her to the new world. She becomes the property of Toulouse Valmorain, and their lives remain intertwined throughout the novel. The family becomes embroiled in Haiti’s bloody revolution and eventually make their way to New Orleans. Throughout her youth, Tete remains determined to be free. All through her life she finds love and humanity as she and those she loves endure unimaginable cruelty and victimization.

This timely book is more than a great story. I would venture to say that despite Haiti being in the news for the past year, most of us know very little about that country’s history. As she has in so many previous novels, Allende gives us a fictional tale interwoven with real-life characters and events. In my humble opinion, this is one of her best.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I See Rude People by Amy Alkon

Sometimes the subject of my little book talk just seems to fall out of the sky, or perhaps I should say, slide down the emergency chute. Steven Slater’s actions last week brought to light the growing annoyance of rude behaviour. A new Ipsos Reid poll has just been released regarding cell phone use, and it’s obvious that more and more attention is being paid to “techno-haviour”.

In her new book I see rude people, Amy Alkon, an award winning, syndicated advice columnist tells of her “battle to beat some manners into impolite society”. In the book she states that she is trying to put the “civil” back into civilization.

Alkon delves into all types of rude behavior and confronts the perpetrators: lax parents, internet bullies, telemarketing executives, parking space hogs, and loud jerks, among others. It is her assertion that rude behavior has increased because there are no longer any consequences for it.

Her practical suggestions for battling rude behavior are entertaining to say the least, and practical – if one has nerve.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dinosaur Cove series by Rex Stone

The latest edition of Time magazine includes a cover article on how much learning children lose during a 2 month summer vacation. Goals of our Summer Reading Club are to reduce this summer learning loss as well as encouraging children to read for pleasure. While the Summer Reading Club is no longer taking registrations, anytime is a good time to get into - or back to - the habit of reading.

A new series that is popular among boys and girls who like adventure tales is the Dinosaur Cove series. In this series, Jamie has just moved from the city into the lighthouse at Dinosaur Cove. Jamie’s dad plans to open a dinosaur museum on the main floor, but Jamie and his new friend, a local boy named Tom, discover a cave that leads into a secret world of real dinosaurs.

The quick pace of the novels, and the cartoon style illustrations throughout, make them fun to read and the reading level will appeal to a broad range of children.

I know that with this summer’s weather kids would rather spend their days in the pool – who wouldn’t. But a few minutes of reading each day can be both beneficial and enjoyable.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The O'Hara Affair by Kate Thompson

For a good tale that’s best read curled up in a lawn chair with a cold glass of your favourite beverage, Mary recommends The O’Hara affair by Kate Thompson.

The recession has affected the Irish village of Lissamore and everyone is grateful for a chance to earn some extra money. The village has been selected as the setting for a new movie about the life of Gerald O’Hara, of Gone with the Wind fame, before he emigrated to the United States.

This story centers around three women: Fleur, who owns a vintage clothing boutique and is happily involved in an affair with the movie’s financial backer; Dervla is newly married, but with her husband Christian working away more than he’s at home, she is left alone to care for her demanding mother-in-law who suffers from dementia; and Bethany, a young girl who is working as an extra in the movie. Fleur and Bethany become involved in a social networking fantasy called Second Life, and Fleur finds herself giving advice over the internet.

The village buzzes with activity giving the plot many unforeseen twists and turns in this great summer read.

Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In 2007 Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s memoir, Infidel, spent 8 months on international bestseller lists. Now she has penned a followup, Nomad, and it has made its way onto bestseller lists as well.

In this book, the author tells the story of her break with her family and the challenges she faced after coming to America. The flyleaf notes how she “struggled to throw off restrictive superstitions and misconceptions that initially hobbled her ability to assimilate into Western society” and that Nomad is a portrait of a family literally torn apart by the clash of civilizations”. Hirsi Ali renounced Islam after the September 11 attacks, and was disowned by her father. In the book she writes of her reconciliation with her father and other family members.

But the book is more than a memoir. She also has a warning for the Western world – not to underestimate radical Islam.

Both Hirsi Ali’s Infidel, and Nomad can be picked up in your local branch.