Thursday, July 28, 2011

[Quick Picks] More Beach Reads

We have more summer reads to share from our enthusiastic library staff. One novel was so memorable we received two reviews for it. The titles are listed in alphabetical order.

The Best of Simple, by Langston Hughes

This book consists of selections from a series originally published by Hughes in the Chicago Defender. These stories center around Jesse B. Semple, "Harlem’s Everyman," who ponders the nuances of life while enjoying drinks with his unnamed friend. Whether he's talking about his job, his women, or the cruelties of Jim Crow, "Simple's" jazzy dialog and wit give a glimpse into black culture during the 1940s. I looked forward to picking up this book every day because of Simple’s homespun humor. These stories are funny, unpretentious, and timeless.
--Darletha Matthews, South Branch

Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen

This slim book provides pure escape. Allen's characters are well-developed as is the small-town setting. The plot involves the slow healing of a strained relationship between two adult sisters. Restoration begins when the "free spirit" sister moves back to the family home which is now occupied by the "steady and sensible" sister. What makes this story stand out is the subtle theme of magic which runs through the plot. A fun, fast read.
--Jessie Marshall, Business/Sciences Department

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

This is the book to take with you if you only have room to pack one. In this absorbing book, the chapters rotate between three separate, main characters living in the same rural area. Each story is complete unto itself, but there are subtle connections between the characters. In each case, the character has suffered a major life-blow. As the story progresses, each person moves from a very low point to a position where bright hope is surfacing.
--Jessie Marshall, Business/Sciences

Prodigal Summer takes place on a beautiful North Carolina mountain and in the farmlands and village that surround it. Several stories are cleverly interwoven as the human, animal, insect and vegetative characters are developed. This invented geography became so real to me that by the end of the book I felt I could easily wander through it and never be lost. Prodigal Summer is a summer read for me because it is dense with life in all its forms.
--Barbara Wallace, Business/Sciences

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, by John Barry

In the Spring of 1927, America witnessed what is still unarguably it's greatest natural disaster -- the flooding of the Mississippi River. John Barry's highly readable account of the impact of the flood and how it profoundly changed the mid-South and America is an epic historical account that will wash you away with its narrative power.
--Robert Bain, Randolph Branch

The Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage and illustrated by Mark Zug.

The series includes Book One: Magyk, Book Two: Flyte, Book Three: Physik, and Book Four: Queste. I’m about 20 pages from the end of the final book, Queste. It’s the perfect summer read for kids ages 8-13 and parents who enjoy fantasy.

The book follows the adventures of a Kingdom run by its highest Wizard and a Queen. At the beginning of the first book the young Queen has been murdered and the ExtraOrdinary Wizard has been murdered trying to protect her. The kingdom has been thrown into chaos because the newborn daughter of the queen has disappeared. At the same time, in the Heap family, young Septimus, the seventh son of a seventh, has been announced dead soon after his mother delivers him.

The book is full of adventure, funny, odd humans and creatures, both alive and dead. Rats are just as likely to be the hero in a given situation as a boggart or a dragon. Septimus Heap and Jenna Heap (actually the young princess rescued that terrible night) save their kingdom from the Darke Magyk that wants to control their world. They are assisted by various Heap relatives and friends, a scrawny orange cat who after dark transforms into a panther, and the ghost of that murdered ExtraOrdinary Wizard. Great adventure, great characters, great beach read!
--Janet Wyatt, Central Children’s Department

She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb

I took this book and other books that "had absolutely no academic merit" (as I told my husband/ travel companion, Neale) to Pensacola this summer. I especially liked this book, though, because I could pick it up at any place in the book and get a good laugh from the main character, Dolores Price. She didn't have it easy, but her sarcastic sense of humor made her life a little less jaded.
--Andrea King, Poplar-White Station Branch

Tigerlily’s Orchids, by Ruth Rendell

Rendell is an award-winning master of psychological mysteries! In Tigerlily, she draws a large cast of characters from one neighborhood, examines their foibles and obsessions – and creates a story that is definitely habit-forming. (Hint – there is a surprise at the very end!)
--Kay Due, Central Public Services

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