Category Archives: Sally

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012)

WOW! This is a beautifully written first novel. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a coming of age story, yet it is incredibly complex.

In the 1980s, June, the 14-year-old narrator, is dealing with the death of her uncle Finn, who was her closest friend and confidant. He has died from AIDS.  Finn was an artist and leaves as a legacy a painting which is at the center of the novel. It is a portrait of two adolescent girls… sisters. It is this portrait that reveals the relationships that are the heart of this novel.

I found this to be a very moving novel, but not in any way sentimental. Carol Rifka Brunt is spot on in moments like this when June says: “I knew the way lost hopes could be dangerous, how they could turn a person into someone they never thought they’d be.”

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (2002)

The story takes place in an alternate 1985, where Thursday Next, intrepid Special Operative battles an arch-villain who’s kidnapping characters from classic literature. As a member of the Literary Detective Division of the Special Operations Network, she pursues literary crimes such as forgery, plagiarism, manuscript theft, and the abuse of literary characters.

In Japser Fforde’s world, matters of literature receive the kind attention we reserve for professional sports or Hollywood celebrities. The novel is fun and diverting with a great arch-villain and an intrepid heroine.

Full of literary allusions, this is a good novel for readers of classic fiction. People are able to pop themselves into novels, while fictional creations are able to escape into the real world. There is also a funny bit where a production of Richard III is done with boisterous audience participation à la The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The Eyre Affair is the first of seven in the Thursday Next series (the next is Lost in a Good Book).

Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos (2009)

Sing Them Home is an imaginative novel that covers familiar themes of loss, grief, and family; a moving portrait of three siblings who have lived with unresolved grief since their mother’s death in the tornado of 1978. When they’re summoned home to Emlyn Springs, Nebraska, after their father’s death, each is forced to revisit the childhood tragedy that has defined their lives.

Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos is a wonderful story – told with a touch of magical realism – of lives connected and undone by tragedy who find redemption by returning home.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce (2012)

In Some Kind of Fairy Tale a teenage girl disappears in the woods near her English home, then returns to her family 20 years later. She has barely aged and her explanation, hardly believable, is that she was abducted by fairies…as the story unfolds it reveals an increasing amount of tangible evidence to back up her explanation.

Joyce weaves elements of folklore and myth into this novel of magical realism; its well-drawn characters build a tale of family, life and contradicting realities.

I find this idea of an updated fairy tale very appealing and as a quote in the novel says:

A fairy tale…on the other hand, demands of the reader total surrender; so long as he is in its world, there must for him be no other.” – W. H. Auden

Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill (2012)

Like all of Colin Cotterill’s mystery novels, Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach is laugh-out-loud funny with an underlying seriousness. It is a tightly plotted mystery involving corrupt cops, slavery, and some self-serving charities!

This is the second in the series with Jimm Juree, an unemployed crime reporter, and her eccentric Thai family. In a rural village on the coast of Southern Thailand (where her family has purchased a run-down resort), Jimm finds a severed human head washed up on the beach. Of course, she must follow her crime reporter instincts and solve the mystery! The plot, as it turns out, centers on a topic which has gotten some attention in America of late: the exploitation of Burmese refugees in Thailand.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012)

Rachel Joyce’s first novel –  about a retired Englishman setting off to visit a dying colleague, Queenie Hennessy – sounds excessively sentimental, but it is an inspiring kind of book.  Harold’s need to reconnect with Queenie sends him on a wandertour up England, but his journey becomes one of self-discovery.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a novel told with humor and charm leading to a powerful climax. I found it to contain insight into the thoughts and feelings we all carry (sometimes buried) within our hearts.

The story is so compelling it becomes a comic and tragic joy and I love it when I find a book that is this funny, wise and charming!

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer (2012)

Jonah Lehrer has created a compelling and surprising book. He makes the case that moments of insight are an essential tool of the imagination, and although his science stories seem to overreach, he supports his theories with wonderful anecdotes about poets, artists, surfers, and inventors – like the one about Yo-Yo Ma relating his playing the cello to writing a mystery story “It’s all about making people care what happens next,” he said.

I got a lot out of this book about the creative process but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the controversy surrounding the author’s lack of accuracy on some things he included as factual.

And here’s an opinion on that, which I share:

“The best way to think about Imagine is as a collection of interesting stories and studies to ponder and research further. Use it as a source of inspiration, but make your own careful choices about whether to believe what it says about the science of creativity.” Christopher Chabris (a psychology professor at Union College and a co-author, with Daniel Simons, of The Invisible Gorilla, and Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us)

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani (2012)

Equal of the Sun is a fascinating tale that will truly transport you to another time and place… an aspect of historical fiction that I especially enjoy. Author Anita Amirrezvani transports us to 16th century Iran for a story which is both political intrigue and a moving portrait.

The novel is based for the most part on the life of Princess Pari Khan Khanoom, who assumes control of late-16th-century Iran after the sudden death of her father, the Shah. Despite the chaos, Pari manages to bring peace to the kingdom with the aid of Javaher, a eunuch and trusted political adviser.

I think you will enjoy reading about the incredible history of the Iranians. Check out our list of other Novels Based on Real People.

For more about the book visit the author’s website.

 

Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (2011)

In the Victorian Age, every flower was believed to have a meaning. Emotional, and often romantic, arrangements communicated secret messages. The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s first novel, uses this language of flowers to tell the story of Victoria Jones.

Abandoned at birth by her mother, she has lived in at least 32 foster homes by the time she turns 18. Using a narrative which cuts back and forth between Victoria’s tumultuous life as a foster child and her adult life as a florist, she tells a compelling story. This one was hard to put down.

Find the meaning of a flower here.

The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharyn McCrumb (2011)

The Ballad of Tom Dooley, the latest tale in Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballad Series, retells a story that most people only know through the old Kingston Trio song of the same name.

The ballad recounts a tragedy in the North Carolina mountains after the Civil War. Laura Foster, a simple country girl, was murdered. Tom Dula (as he is referred to in the dialect of the mountain folk) was hanged for the crime.

It makes for a good story but this novel is more of a character study…and not a nice one in the lot! Still, I enjoyed reading it.

Check here to see if The Ballad of Tom Dooley is available and find other books by Sharyn McCrumb.