2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas, by Marie-Helene Bertino (fiction BER and also in LP Fiction BER), provided much stimulation for the last discussion by the Book Discussion Group. It’s unique in many ways: the entire book covers one 24-hour period, it details the lives of several characters–from nine-year-old Madeline to Lorca the nightclub owner. It reads like a prose poem. It is about despair but also about hope. It is surrealistic but yet many readers are drawn to one or another character. This debut novel calls out for the author to write another.
If you’re looking for colorful and intriguing characters, consider picking up Jacqueline Carey’s Agent of Hel series. The third (and maybe final one of the series) is available in Poison Fruit (M CAR). You may want to start with the first of the series though, Dark Currents, followed by Autumn Bones. This will lengthen your time of enjoyment. Poison Fruit moves at a quick pace, with rich twists and turns of plot in this fantasy world.
A town called Niceville where things really aren’t that nice, and are rarely what they seem to be, is the setting for Niceville by Carsten Stroud (M STR). The novel involves a number of child disappearances going back 80 years, a feud between the Niceville’s founding families and a current bank robbery.
Stories about the Mafia regularly spur interest and The Mafia Hit Man’s Daughter, by Linda Scarpa with Linda Rosencrance (921 SCA), is no exception. Scarpa’s father was Gregory Scarpa, a member of the Colombo crime family. She writes frankly about her personal struggles with the Mafia lifestyle. Readers will experience first-hand the upside and downside of being born in the mob.
Some of The Parts, by Hannah Barnaby (TEEN BAR), follows a girl named Tallie who is working at the local coffee shop instead of attending school because her brother died recently in a car accident. She continues to heal herself at this diner until a mysterious guy comes into the cafe and introduces himself. When the pain of not expressing her grief becomes too much, she begins a morbid quest to find the recipients of her brother’s organs.
The Spark: a mother’s story of nurturing genius, by Kristine Barnett (Relationships, Parenting, Barnett), is an inspiriting story of a mother’s struggle with “experts” on behalf of her gifted autistic son. It focuses on a general success principle: when dealing with disabled or developmentally-challenged children, focus on what they can do, not the things they can’t. While her son Jake’s mind was studying light and shapes and geometric patterns–things the teachers saw as useless distractions–he had no interest in sitting in a circle with other children or playing with puppets. Consequently he was mislabeled as hopeless. When his mother gave him all the alphabet cards he wanted and enabled him to participate in activities he found interesting, he was willing to work on the socialization skills.
Miss Brooks’ Story Nook, by Barbara Bottner and illustrated by Michael Emberley (JE BOT), is a perfect title for reading aloud. Missy is often late for Miss Brooks’ Story Nook because of Billy, who picks on her as she heads off to school. When the electricity goes out, Miss Brooks encourages the students to make up their own stories and soon Missy is creating her story with a villain that she battles in real life: Billy. One treat here is Emberley’s many illustrations. His illustrations convey a sense of fun and enable children to learn and discover about people and the world as he tries to weave curiosity into each drawing. His view is that he still thinks he’s getting away with something and one day will be told he has to get a real job.
When a sock monkey and a plush toy dog get into an argument during playtime in You Are Not My Friends, But I Miss You by Daniel Kirk (JE KIR), Monkey gets his feelings hurt and blurts out “You are not my friend!” But when he sets out to find someone new to play with, he learns that maybe he hasn’t been a very good friend, either. Author/illustrator Kirk’s humorous illustrations convey the message that sharing is a two-way street.
Dr. Leroy Hommerding
Fort Myers Beach Library Director