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Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards

What better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than to give a shout-out to the CBI Book of the Year Award winners? For twenty-four years, Children’s Books Ireland has been giving out annual awards to identify, honor and promote the best of the best Irish authors and illustrators in children’s literature. The CBI Awards are the most prestigious in Ireland, and are given to books written in either Irish or English.

Here at the Literary Duck, we hope you’ll take some time on St. Patrick’s Day to explore the amazing world of Irish children’s literature. Check out the CBI website to see past award winners and read about the good work they’re doing to promote childhood reading.

Read on to learn more about some of this year’s English language winners… Continue reading

Great Group Reads: A Resource for Book Clubs and Reading Groups

Great Group Reads: A Resource for Book Clubs and Reading Groups

The Women’s National Book Association has released their 2012 list of “Great Group Reads.”

What makes a book a good contender for reading groups? The committee looked for fully realized characters and strong narratives, as well as books “which perhaps have flown under the radar of reviews and reading groups overwhelmed by the sheer number of new releases each year.”

Thanks, ladies! We appreciate all you do.

 

The Absolutist

By: John Boyne

A masterfully told tale of passion, jealousy, heroism and betrayal set in the gruesome trenches of World War I. It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War. But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will—from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain. The Absolutist is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they’ve turned the last page. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

An Age of Madness

By: David Maine

Dr. Regina Moss has built herself a successful career as a psychiatrist in Boston: she enjoys a lucrative private practice, hefty consultation fees, and a reputation that inspires colleagues and patients alike. Why then, is Regina haunted by her past? Why does her own daughter barely speak to her? What’s the story with her gruff, softhearted husband Walter—and why can’t Regina stop thinking about the lanky new tech on the ward? An Age of Madness peels back the layers of Regina’s psyche in a voice that is brash, bitter and blackly humorous, laying bare her vulnerabilities while drawing the reader unnervingly close to this memorable heroine. From the author of The Preservationist, which was hailed as “hilarious and illuminating” by The Los Angeles Times Book Review and “pithy and smart” by the New York Post, comes the latest turnabout in a career filled with unexpected surprises. An Age of Madness brings a sharp edge of psychological realism to a story filled with startling revelations and heartrending twists. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

The Art of Fielding

By: Chad Harbach

At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended. Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry’s gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners’ team captain and Henry’s best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert’s daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life. As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment—to oneself and to others. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

By: Jan-Philipp Sendker

A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present. When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be… until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Blue Asylum

By: Kathy Hepinstall

Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Virginia plantation wife, Iris Dunleavy, is put on trial and convicted of madness. It is the only reasonable explanation the court can see for her willful behavior, so she is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good, compliant woman. Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing with him on notions of justice, cruelty and property. On this remote Florida island, cut off by swamps and seas and military blockades, Iris meets a wonderful collection of residents—some seemingly sane, some wrongly convinced they are crazy, some charmingly odd, some dangerously unstable. Which of these is Ambrose Weller, the war-haunted Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris. The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded “water treatment.” She must escape, but she has found new hope and love with Ambrose. Can she take him with her? If they make it out, will the war have left anything for them to make a life from, back home? Blue Asylum is a vibrant, beautifully-imagined, absorbing story of the lines we all cross between sanity and madness. It is also the tale of a spirited woman, a wounded soldier, their impossible love, and the undeniable call of freedom. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Boleto

By: Alyson Hagy

An unforgettable story of men and horses, the American West, and the dream of a ticket out. Will Testerman is a young Wyoming horse trainer determined to make something of himself. Money is tight at the family ranch, where he’s living again after a disastrous end to his job on the Texas show-horse circuit. He sees his chance with a beautiful quarter horse, a filly that might earn him a reputation, and spends his savings to buy her. Armed with stories and the confidence of youth, he devotes himself to her training—first, in the familiar barns and corrals of home, then on a guest ranch in the rugged Absaroka mountains, and, in the final trial, on the glittering, treacherous polo fields of southern California. With Boleto, Alyson Hagy delivers a masterfully told, exquisitely observed novel about our intimate relationships with animals and money, against the backdrop of a new West that is changing forever. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

The Dovekeepers

By: Alice Hoffman

The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of research and imagination. Nearly two thousand years ago, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman’s novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Equal of the Sun

By: Anita Amirrezvani

Iran in 1576 is a place of wealth and dazzling beauty. But when the Shah dies without having named an heir, the court is thrown into tumult. Princess Pari, the Shah’s daughter and protge, knows more about the inner workings of the state than almost anyone, but her maneuvers to instill order after her father’s sudden death incite resentment and dissent. Pari and her closest adviser, Javaher, a eunuch able to navigate the harem as well as the world beyond the palace walls, possess an incredible tapestry of secrets that explode in a power struggle of epic proportions.

Legendary women—from Anne Boleyn to Queen Elizabeth I to Mary, Queen of Scots—changed the course of history in the royal courts of England. While they are celebrated, few people know of the powerful and charismatic women in the Muslim world. Based loosely on Princess Pari Khan Khanoom, Equal of the Sun is a riveting story of political intrigue that brings one extraordinary woman to light. Anita Amirrezvani is a master storyteller, and her lustrous prose brings to life this rich and labyrinthine world with a stunning cast of characters—passionate and brave men and women who defy or embrace their destiny in a Machiavellian game played by those who lust for power and will do anything to attain it. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Faith

By: Jennifer Haigh

It is the spring of 2002 and a perfect storm has hit Boston. Across the city’s archdiocese, trusted priests have been accused of the worst possible betrayal of the souls in their care. Estranged for years from her difficult and demanding family, Sheila McGann has remained close to her older brother, Art, the popular, dynamic pastor of a large suburban parish. When Art finds himself at the center of the maelstrom, Sheila returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation. But what she discovers is more complicated than she imagined as the scandal forces long-buried secrets to surface. Elegantly crafted and sharply observed, Jennifer Haigh’s Faith is a haunting meditation on loyalty and family that demonstrates how the truth can shatter our deepest beliefs—and restore them. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

A Land More Kind Than Home

By: Wiley Cash

In his phenomenal debut novel—a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small North Carolina town—author Wiley Cash displays a remarkable talent for lyrical, powerfully emotional storytelling. A Land More Kind than Home is a modern masterwork of Southern fiction, reminiscent of the writings of John Hart (Down River), Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter), Ron Rash (Serena), and Pete Dexter (Paris Trout)—one that is likely to be held in the same enduring esteem as such American classics as To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and A Separate Peace. A brilliant evocation of a place, a heart-rending family story, a gripping and suspenseful mystery—with A Land More Kind than Home, a major American novelist enthusiastically announces his arrival. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

I Married You for Happiness

By: Lily Tuck

The tale unfolds over a single night as Nina sits at the bedside of her husband, Philip, whose sudden and unexpected death is the reason for her lonely vigil. Still too shocked to grieve, she lets herself remember the defining moments of their long union, beginning with their meeting in Paris. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

 

In the Shadow of the Banyan

By: Vaddey Ratner

You are about to read an extraordinary story. It will take you to the very depths of despair and show you unspeakable horrors. It will reveal a gorgeously rich culture struggling to survive through a furtive bow, a hidden ankle bracelet, fragments of remembered poetry. It will ensure that the world never forgets the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, when an estimated two million people lost their lives. It will give you hope, and it will confirm the power of storytelling to lift us up and help us not only survive but transcend suffering, cruelty, and loss.

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

 

The O’Briens

By: Peter Behrens

An unforgettable saga of love, loss, and exhilarating change spanning half a century in the lives of a restless family, from the author of the acclaimed novel The Law of Dreams.
The O’Briens is a family story unlike any told before, a tale that pours straight from the heart of a splendid, tragic, ambitious clan. In Joe O’Brien—grandson of a potato-famine emigrant, and a backwoods boy, railroad magnate, patriarch, brooding soul—Peter Behrens gives us a fiercely compelling man who exchanges isolation and poverty in the Canadian wilds for a share in the dazzling riches and consuming sorrows of the twentieth century. When Joe meets Iseult Wilkins in Venice, California, the story of their courtship—told in Behrens’s gorgeous, honed style—becomes the first movement in a symphony of the generations. Husband and wife, brothers, sisters-in-law, children and grandchildren, the O’Briens engage unselfconsciously with their century, and we experience their times not as historical tableaux but as lives passionately lived. At the heart of this clan—at the heart of the novel—is mystery and madness grounded in the history of Irish sorrow. The O’Briens is the story of a man, a marriage and a family, told with epic precision and wondrous imagination. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

The Orchardist

By: Amanda Coplin

At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a reclusive orchardist, William Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots as if they were loved ones. A gentle man, he’s found solace in the sweetness of the fruit he grows and the quiet, beating heart of the land he cultivates. One day, two teenage girls appear and steal his fruit from the market; they later return to the outskirts of his orchard to see the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared and very pregnant, the girls take up on Talmadge’s land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Just as the girls begin to trust him, men arrive in the orchard with guns, and the shattering tragedy that follows will set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect but also to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past. Transcribing America as it once was before railways and roads connected its corners, Amanda Coplin weaves a tapestry of solitary souls who come together in the wake of unspeakable cruelty and misfortune. She writes with breathtaking precision and empathy, and in The Orchardist she crafts an astonishing debut novel about a man who disrupts the lonely harmony of an ordered life when he opens his heart and lets the world in. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

The Right-Hand Shore

By: Christopher Tilghman

A masterful novel that confronts the dilemmas of race, family, and forbidden love in the wake of America’s Civil War. Fifteen years after the publication of his acclaimed novel Mason’s Retreat, Christopher Tilghman returns to the Mason family and the Chesapeake Bay in The Right-Hand Shore. It is 1920, and Edward Mason is making a call upon Miss Mary Bayly, the current owner of the legendary Mason family estate, the Retreat. Miss Mary is dying. She plans to give the Retreat to the closest direct descendant of the original immigrant owner that she can find. Edward believes he can charm the old lady, secure the estate and be back in Baltimore by lunchtime. Instead, over the course of a long day, he hears the stories that will forever bind him and his family to the land. He hears of Miss Mary’s grandfather brutally selling all his slaves in 1857 in order to avoid the reprisals he believes will come with Emancipation. He hears of the doomed efforts by Wyatt Bayly, Miss Mary’s father, to turn the Retreat into a vast peach orchard, and of Miss Mary and her brother growing up in a fractured and warring household. He learns of Abel Terrell, son of free blacks who becomes head orchardist, and whose family becomes intimately connected to the Baylys and to the Mason legacy. The drama in this richly textured novel proceeds through vivid set pieces: on rural nineteenth-century industry; on a boyhood on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; on the unbreakable divisions of race and class; and, finally, on two families attempting to save a son and a daughter from the dangers of their own innocent love. The result is a radiant work of deep insight and peerless imagination about the central dilemma of American history. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Running the Rift

By: Naomi Benaron

Running the Rift follows the progress of Jean Patrick Nkuba from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life. A naturally gifted athlete, he sprints over the thousand hills of Rwanda and dreams of becoming his country’s first Olympic medal winner in track. But Jean Patrick is a Tutsi in a world that has become increasingly restrictive and violent for his people. As tensions mount between the Hutu and Tutsi, he holds fast to his dream that running might deliver him, and his people, from the brutality around them. Winner of the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Naomi Benaron has written a stunning and gorgeous novel that—through the eyes of one unforgettable boy—explores a country’s unraveling, its tentative new beginning, and the love that binds its people together. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Salvage the Bones

By: Jesmyn Ward

Winner of the 2011 National Book Award.

A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch’s father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn’t show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn’t much to save. Lately, Esch can’t keep down what food she gets; she’s fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull’s new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child’s play and short on parenting. As the twelve days that make up the novel’s framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family—motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce—pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory and real. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

 

The Snow Child

By: Eowyn Ivey

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone—but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

What Alice Forgot

By: Liane Moriarty

A “cheerfully engaging” novel for anyone who’s ever asked herself, “How did I get here?” Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over—she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over… (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

By: Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson’s novels have established her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents that is now often required reading in contemporary fiction. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a memoir about a life’s work to find happiness. It’s a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in a north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition; about the Universe as Cosmic Dustbin. It is the story of how a painful past that Jeanette thought she’d written over and repainted rose to haunt her, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging—for love, identity, home, and a mother. (Publisher’s Marketing)

Happy St. Patrick's Day From The Duck Store!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day From The Duck Store!

Here at the Literary Duck, we’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with some of our favorite Irish authors. May the Luck of the Irish be with you!

 

Mistaken

By: Neil Jordan

“I had been mistaken for him so many times that when I heard he had died it was as if part of myself had died too.” So begins Mistaken, the new bestselling novel from the master of gothic fiction, Neil Jordan. Kevin and Gerald were two boys growing up on opposite sides of the Dublin economic divide. Though they had never met, they shared a growing awareness of each other through episodes of mistaken identity. Yet Kevin was doubly haunted, living next door to the one-time residence of Bram Stoker, and the shadow of both a vampire and Gerald stretch far across his early years. For a time, the boys’ doppelganger paths would cross innocently enough—one stealing the other’s unwitting girlfriend, or being called out to in the street—until a family tragedy sends them both down a much darker path. (Publisher’s Marketing)

Mistaken comes complete with a plot as precise and as crafted as that of the finest thriller, filtered through an insistent narrative voice that holds the stricken reader as if at gunpoint. For all the revelation and the anger, it is the writing, the linguistic artistry that ultimately leaves one gasping. Be warned: this is a great international novel, a great Irish novel and, most of all, a great Dublin novel that thoughtfully heeds Joyce and then breaks free the way a child eventually shrugs off even the most loving and beloved of parents.” (Irish Times)

 

Shine On: Irish Writers for Shine Anthology

Edited By: Pat Boran

An anthology of prose and poetry by some of the best-known living Irish writers, in support of the voluntary body Shine, supporting people affected by mental ill health. Contributors include Colm Toibin, Colum McCann, Claire Keegan, John Montague, Brendan Kennelly, Paula Meehan, Kevin Barry, Thomas Kinsella, Nuala N Dhomhnaill and many others. Edited and introduced by Pat Boran with a Foreword by broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Hood

By: Emma Donoghue

A tale of grief and lust, frustration and hilarity, death and family. Penelope O’Grady and Cara Wall are risking disaster when, like teenagers in any intolerant time and place—here, a Dublin convent school in the late 1970s—they fall in love. Yet Cara, the free spirit, and Pen, the stoic, craft a bond so strong it seems as though nothing could sever it: not the bickering, not the secrets, not even Cara’s infidelities. But thirteen years on, a car crash kills Cara and rips the lid off Pen’s world. Pen is still in the closet, teaching at her old school, living under the roof of Cara’s gentle father, who thinks of her as his daughter’s friend. How can she survive widowhood without even daring to claim the word? Over the course of one surreal week of bereavement, she is battered by memories that range from the humiliating, to the exalted, to the erotic, to the funny. It will take Pen all her intelligence and wit to sort through her tumultuous past with Cara, and all the nerve she can muster to start remaking her life. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Bullfighting: Stories

By: Roddy Doyle

The Man Booker Prize-winning author takes the pulse of modern Ireland with a masterful new collection of stories. Roddy Doyle has earned a devoted following for his wry wit, his uncanny ear, and his ability to fully capture the hearts of his characters. Bullfighting, his second collection of stories, offers a series of bittersweet takes on men and middle age, revealing a panorama of Ireland today. Moving from classrooms to local pubs to bullrings, these tales feature an array of men taking stock and reliving past glories, each concerned with loss in different ways—of their place in the world, of their power, their virility, health, and love. “Recuperation” follows a man as he sets off on his daily, prescribed walk around his neighborhood, the sights triggering recollections of his family and his younger days. In “Animals,” George recalls caring for his children’s many pets and his heartfelt effort to spare them grief when they died or disappeared. The title story captures the mixture of bravado and helplessness of four friends who go off to Spain on holiday. Sharply observed, funny and moving, these thirteen stories present a new vision of contemporary Ireland, of its woes and triumphs, and middle-aged men trying to break out of the routines of their lives. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

The Forgotten Waltz

By: Anne Enright

In this gorgeous critique of Ireland as the Celtic Tiger draws its dying breaths, Enright chronicles an affair between 32-year-old Gina Moynihan, and Se�n Vallely, a rich, dutiful husband and a devoted if somewhat inept father to the otherworldly, epileptic Evie, not yet 13. Set against a backdrop of easy money, second homes and gratuitous spending, the dissolution of Gina’s and Sean’s marriages is both an antidote to and a symptom of the economic prosperity that gripped the country until its sudden and devastating fall from grace in 2008: “In Ireland, if you leave the house and there is a divorce, then you lose the house…. You have to sleep there to keep your claim…. You think it is about sex, and then you remember the money.” There are, as with any affair, casualties, but what weighs most heavily on Gina is not what will become of her husband, Conor, but rather Evie, who sees Gina kissing her father, and innocently asks if she might be kissed too, oblivious to the fact that this moment heralds the end of her family. She eventually becomes all too aware that her father is gone and that she’s stuck with her sad, neurotic mother. And so the question that remains at the end of this masterful and deeply satisfying novel is not just what will happen to Ireland, but what will happen to Evie? (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

On Canaan’s Side

By: Sebastian Barry

A masterful novel filled with the bittersweet ruminations of an 89-year-old woman as she reflects on her rich life while contemplating death. The latest from the award-winning Irish novelist (The Secret Scripture, etc.) and playwright takes the form of a first-person narrative by Lilly Bere, who has lived most of her life in America since emigrating from Ireland in the wake of World War I, after she and her fianc� were targeted by the IRA. Lilly largely recounts her life through the men who have defined it: the father who raised her, the fianc� whom she followed into exile, the mysterious American husband who wooed her after her fianc�’s murder, the son who became a walking casualty of war, the grandson she mourns over the 17 days that provide the novel with its structure, the present from which her memory takes flight. Surprises abound, as the novel proceeds from the intimacy of a bereaved woman’s recollections to a meditation on life, death, identity and America that achieves an epic scope and philosophical depth. It also sustains a page-turning momentum, leaving the reader in suspense until the very end whether this novel is an extended suicide note, a confession or an affirmation of life’s blessings and embrace of its contradictions, as those various strains show the possibility of becoming one. As Lilly writes, “I am dwelling on things I love, even if a measure of tragedy is stitched into everything, if you follow the thread long enough.” She finds her experience and identity profoundly shaped by America, a prism that puts her native Ireland in fresh perspective: “People love Ireland because they can never know it, like a partner in a successful marriage.” Through her extended contemplation of “the gift of life, oftentimes so difficult to accept, the horse whose teeth we are often so inclined to inspect,” Lilly reveals herself to be a woman of uncommon sense and boundless compassion.

A novel to be savored. (Kirkus Reviews)

 

Bloodland

By: Alan Glynn

In this elegantly plotted thriller from Irish author Glynn (Winterland), Dublin reporter Jimmy Gilroy, who’s hurting for steady work, seizes the opportunity to write the life story of hard-partying Susie Monaghan, a washed-up actress killed three years earlier with five others in an unexplained helicopter crash off the coast of Donegal. Almost immediately, Gilroy encounters resistance, making him want to dig deeper, particularly into Monaghan’s final days. Yet when he’s offered the plum job of co-writing ex-prime minister Larry Bolger’s autobiography, with explicit instructions to drop all other assignments, Gilroy reluctantly agrees. When Bolger, recently off the wagon, lets slip that Monaghan’s death was merely collateral damage, Gilroy knows he can’t abandon his earlier project. Further digging leads to a vast conspiracy with international implications. Glynn handles multiple story lines that would trip up a lesser writer, and his characters populate a world where nothing is black and white. (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

The Last Storyteller

By: Frank DeLaney

Frank Delaney, New York Times bestselling author of Ireland, Shannon, Tipperary, Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, and The Matchmaker of Kenmare, is the unparalleled master of Irish historical fiction, bringing Ireland to life with exceptional warmth, wisdom, and wit. Now, in The Last Storyteller, Delaney weaves an absorbing tale of lasting love, dangerous risk, and the healing power of redemption.

“Every legend and all mythologies exist to teach us how to run our days. In kind fashion. A loving way. But there’s no story, no matter how ancient, as important as one’s own. So if we’re to live good lives, we have to tell ourselves our own story. In a good way.” So says James Clare, Ben MacCarthy’s beloved mentor, and it is this fateful advice that will guide Ben through the tumultuous events of Ireland in 1956. The national mood is downtrodden; poverty, corruption, and a fledgling armed rebellion rattle the countryside, and although Ben wants no part of the upstart insurrection along the northern border, he unknowingly falls in with an IRA sympathizer and is compromised into running guns. Yet despite his perilous circumstances, all he can think about is finding his former wife and true love, the actress Venetia Kelly. Parted forcibly from Ben years ago, Venetia has returned to Ireland with her new husband, a brutal man and coarse but popular stage performer by the name of Gentleman Jack. Determined not to lose Venetia again, Ben calls upon every bit of his love, courage, and newfound gun-running connections to get her back. And as Ben fights to recapture his halcyon days with Venetia, he must finally reconcile his violent and flawed past with his hopes for a bright and loving future. Brimming with fascinating Irish history, daring intrigue, and the drama of legendary love, The Last Storyteller is an unforgettable novel as richly textured and inspiring as Ireland itself. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Minding Frankie

By: Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy is back with a tale of joy, heartbreak and hope, about a motherless girl collectively raised by a close-knit Dublin community. When Noel learns that his terminally ill former flame is pregnant with his child, he agrees to take guardianship of the baby girl once she’s born. But as a single father battling demons of his own, Noel can’t do it alone. Fortunately, he has a competent, caring network of friends, family and neighbors: Lisa, his unlucky-in-love classmate, who moves in with him to help him care for little Frankie around the clock; his American cousin, Emily, always there with a pep talk; the newly retired Dr. Hat, with more time on his hands than he knows what to do with; Dr. Declan and Fiona and their baby son, Frankie’s first friend; and many eager babysitters, including old friends Signora and Aidan and Frankie’s doting grandparents, Josie and Charles. But not everyone is pleased with the unconventional arrangement, especially a nosy social worker, Moira, who is convinced that Frankie would be better off in a foster home. Now it’s up to Noel to persuade her that everyone in town has something special to offer when it comes to minding Frankie. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Ghost Light

By: Joseph O’Connor

“1907 Edwardian Dublin,” a city of whispers and rumors. At the Abbey Theatre W. B. Yeats is working with the talented John Synge, his resident playwright. It is here that Synge, the author of The Playboy of the Western World and The Tinker’s Wedding, will meet an actress still in her teens named Molly Allgood. Rebellious, irreverent, beautiful, flirtatious, Molly is a girl of the inner-city tenements, dreaming of stardom in America. Witty and watchful, she has dozens of admirers, but it is the damaged older playwright who is her secret passion despite the barriers of age, class, education and religion. Synge is a troubled, reticent genius, the son of a once prosperous landowning family, a poet of fiery language and tempestuous passions. Yet his life is hampered by conventions and by the austere and God-fearing mother with whom he lives. Scarred by a childhood of immense loneliness and severity, he has long been ill, but he loves to walk the wild places of Ireland. The affair, sternly opposed by friends and family, is turbulent, sometimes cruel, and often tender.

“1950s postwar London,” an old woman walks across the city in the wake of a hurricane. As she wanders past bombsites and through the forlorn beauty of wrecked terraces and wintry parks, her mind drifts in and out of the present as she remembers her life’s great love, her once dazzling career, and her travels in America. Vivid and beautifully written, Molly’s swirling, fractured narrative moves from Dublin to London via New York with luminous language and raw feeling. Ghost Light is a story of great sadness and joy—a tour de force from the widely acclaimed and bestselling author of Star of the Sea. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

Coming in June:

New Ways to Kill Your Mother

By: Colm Toibin

In a brilliant, nuanced, and wholly original collection of essays, the bestselling and award-winning author of Brooklyn and The Empty Family offers a fascinating exploration of famous writers’ relationships to their families and their work. From Jane Austen’s aunts to Tennessee Williams’ mentally ill sister, the impact of intimate family dynamics can be seen in many of literature’s greatest works. In New Ways to Kill Your Mother, Colm Toibin—celebrated both for his award-winning fiction and his provocative book reviews and essays, and currently the prestigious Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia—traces and interprets those intriguing, eccentric, often twisted family ties.

Through the relationship between W.B. Yeats and his father, Thomas Mann and his children, and J.M. Synge and his mother, Toibin examines a world of relations, richly comic or savage in its implications. In Roddy Doyle’s writing on his parents, Toibin perceives an Ireland reinvented. From the dreams and nightmares of John Cheever’s journals, Toibin illuminates this darkly comic misanthrope and his relationship to his wife and his children. “Educating an intellectual woman,” Cheever remarked, “is like letting a rattlesnake into the house.” Acutely perceptive and imbued with rare tenderness and wit, New Ways to Kill Your Mother is a thought-provoking look at writers’ most influential bonds and a secret key to reading and enjoying their work. (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

 

Coming in July:

The Absolutist

By: John Boyne

From the beloved John Boyne, a powerful, poignant novel about how we are to be good in the face of disaster. September 1919: Twenty-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver some letters to Marian Bancroft. During the Great War, Tristan fought alongside Marian’s brother Will who, in 1917, laid down his gun on the battlefield, declared himself a conscientious objector and was shot as a traitor, an act which brought shame and dishonor on the Bancroft family. But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He holds a secret deep in his soul. One that he is desperate to unburden himself of to Marian, if he can only find the courage. As they stroll through the streets of a city still coming to terms with the end of the war, he recalls his friendship with Will, from the training ground at Aldershot to the trenches of Northern France, and speaks of how the intensity of their friendship brought him from brief moments of happiness and self-discovery to long periods of despair and pain.” (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

 

children reading

Summer Reading Roundup for Kids

Literacy experts, educators and parents all know that summer reading helps to keep children’s minds stimulated during the long break from school. Check out these great reads for the eight- to twelve-year-olds in your life!

1. Moon Over Manifest

Clare Vanderpool

Set in 1936, this memorable coming-of-age story follows 12-year-old Abilene Tucker’s unusual summer in her father’s hometown of Manifest, Kansas, while he’s away on a railroad job. Having had an itinerant upbringing, Abilene is eager to connect to her father’s childhood, a goal that proves difficult. The immigrant town has become rundown, but is populated with well-developed, idiosyncratic characters and has a dynamic past involving the KKK, an influenza scare, and a bootlegging operation. Manifest’s history emerges in stories recounted by Miss Sadie (a Hungarian medium) and in news columns written in 1917 by Hattie Mae Harper, “Reporter About Town.” With new friends Lettie and Ruthanne, Abilene pieces together the past, coming to understand, as Miss Sadie says, that “maybe what you’re looking for is not so much the mark your daddy made on this town, but the mark the town made on your daddy.” Witty, bold, and curious, Abilene is as unforgettable as the other residents of Manifest, and the variety of voices allows the town’s small mysteries to bloom. Replete with historical details and surprises, Vanderpool’s debut delights, while giving insight into family and community. Ages 9-12. (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

2. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

Jeanne Birdsall

At the start of the Penderwicks’ third book, Daddy and Iantha, with little Ben in tow, are off to England for a scientific-conference-slash-honeymoon while the four sisters— Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty—face their first-ever, two-long-weeks separation. Rosalind is getting a much-deserved break from being OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick), vacationing with her best friend’s family in New Jersey, while the three younger girls, supervised by Aunt Claire, retreat to Maine. Easing the sting somewhat is the welcome company of Jeffrey, the sisters’ brother-from-another-mother (and what a terrible mother he has). The story focuses on this latter group, as second-born Skye, self-confidence flagging, reluctantly takes up the mantle of OAP; Jane seeks inspiration for the love story she’s writing; and Batty – who knew? – shows real promise as a budding musician. Birdsall, per usual, also treats readers to some strong supporting players: aloof skateboarder Dominic (Jane’s crush) and his little sister Rosy (kindred spirit to Batty); overzealous canine Hoover; and, most notably, next-door neighbor Alec, who unwittingly but profoundly transforms Jeffrey’s life. Just as in the previous books (The Penderwicks, rev. 7/05; The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, rev. 7/08), there’s great give-and-take between the story’s pastoral, old-fashioned sensibility and its modern-day details. All in all, it’s a pleasure to tag along with this idiosyncratic bunch, and also to see everyone comfortably back home again. Ages 8-11 (Horn Book Magazine)

3. A Tale of Two Castles

Gail Carson Levine

When 12-year-old Elodie leaves her family farm for the capital city of Two Castles, she intends to apprentice herself to a mansioner, as actors are called. However, as she has no money for an apprenticeship, she goes to work for a clever if cantankerous dragon named Meenore, who instructs her in solving mysteries using induction, deduction, and common sense. Elodie’s first big case is to try to figure out who is stealing from and threatening the life of the town’s ogre, Count Jonty Um. There are so many suspects, and no one is quite the individual he or she seems; it takes all of Elodie’s new skills to keep the Count—and herself—from harm. Although warned about dragons and ogres, Meenore and Jonty Um become Elodie’s closest friends. Meenore, whose gender is unknown and so must be referred to as IT, is prickly but steadfast, and shy Jonty Um is hugely troubled by how much everyone hates and fears him. Other characters, such as the gorgeous cat trainer Count Thiel and the dithering Princess Renn, are also fascinatingly unpredictable. Elodie, luckily, is sensible and reliable through and through (if inclined to the dramatic side of life). Readers are certain to be pulled, like Elodie herself, right into the midst of the rich and swirling life of Two Castles. Ages 8-12 (School Library Journal)

 

4. Theodore Boone: The Abduction

John Grisham

Theodore Boone is back in a new adventure, and the stakes are higher than ever.
When his best friend, April, disappears from her bedroom in the middle of the night, no one, not even Theo Boone—who knows April better than anyone—has answers.
As fear ripples through his small hometown and the police hit dead ends, it’s up to Theo to use his legal knowledge and investigative skills to chase down the truth and save April.
Filled with the page-turning suspense that made John Grisham a #1 international bestseller and the undisputed master of the legal thriller, Theodore Boone’s trials and triumphs will keep readers guessing until the very end. Ages 9-12 (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

5. The Wikkeling

Steven Arnston

In the enormous city of the Addition, all children are SAFE, SECURE, and SUPERVISED, and are watched by cameras even while they sleep. Henrietta is unlikable at her competitive school until she meets Gary and Rose. They all share something in common: headaches with an unknown cause. Then, late one night, Henrietta makes a startling discovery when she finds a wounded cat in the attic above her bedroom. Soon after, a series of strange occurrences follow, including the appearance of a threatening creature with long, waxy fingers, who calls itself the Wikkeling. With the help of an ancient Bestiary, will Henrietta and her friends solve these mysteries before the Wikkeling finally catches them? Ages 8-12 (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

6. Noah Barleywater Runs Away

John Boyne

Eight-year-old Noah’s problems seem easier to deal with if he doesn’t think about them. So he runs away, taking an untrodden path through the forest. Before long, he comes across a shop. But this is no ordinary shop: it’s a “toy”shop, full of the most amazing toys, and brimming with the most wonderful magic. And here Noah meets a very unusual toymaker. The toymaker has a story to tell, and it’s a story of adventure and wonder and broken promises. He takes Noah on a journey. A journey that will change his life. Ages 8-12 (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

7. Missing on Superstition Mountain

Elise Broach

It’s summer and the three Barker brothers—Simon, Henry, and Jack—just moved from Illinois to Arizona. Their parents have warned them repeatedly not to explore Superstition Mountain, which is near their home. But when their cat Josie goes missing, they see no other choice. There’s something unusually creepy about the mountain and after the boys find three human skulls, they grow determined to uncover the mystery. Have people really gone missing over the years, and could there be someone or some thing lurking in the woods? Together with their new neighbor Delilah, the Barker boys are dead-set on cracking the case even if it means putting themselves in harm’s way.

Here’s the first book in an action-packed mystery series by a New York Times bestselling author. Ages 9-12 (Publisher’s Marketing)

 

8. Young Fredle

Cynthia Voigt

A companion book to Angus and Sadie (2005) in the Davis Farm series, this story features Fredle, a young mouse who lives behind the wall in the farmhouse kitchen. Captured by Missus and released outdoors, Fredle is blindsided by unfamiliar sensations and scared witless. Though he cautiously befriends Sadie the dog and a couple of outdoor mice, Fredle finds that he must gather his wits to deal with the previously unknown threats, such as raptors (flying predators!) and raccoons, largely on his own. Appealing black-and-white illustrations capture the characters actions and emotions with style. Cautious but growing in courage, cunning and understanding, Fredle makes a sympathetic hero as he slowly discovers that the rules of his own small community do not necessarily make sense in the larger world. That could be a heartening lesson for readers who pick up on it, but others will simply enjoy the hair-raising adventures of this little mouse as he tries to survive alone in the world, find his way back home, and figure out where he really belongs. Ages 8-12 (Booklist)

 

9. Horton Halfpott: Or, the Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; Or, the Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset

Tom Angleberger

Depending on whom you ask, the loosening of a corset (in this case, the corset of the unyielding, haughty, normally quite tightly wound matron of a household) can lead to either great delight or great sorrow. If you are the spoiled son of said matron, you are not likely to enjoy the dramatic upheavals that undermine your power. If you are Horton, the earnest, honest, squeaky-clean servant who is the deserving hero of the story, then you are probably quite grateful for the changes that all seem to follow from a single day when the laces were done up just a bit less ferociously. Suddenly, Horton, who has always had quite loyal friends and a loving family, also has a potential romance, the chance to solve a mystery (and catch the bad guys), and new possibilities beyond washing dishes. Exaggerated black-and-white drawings emphasize the often wacky humor in this goofy faux-British mystery, but there is enough subtlety in the development of the true friendships and affections that bond the hired help to keep the novel from being all-out farce. A Sherlock Holmes wannabe who is much more interested in delivering grand speeches than doing work, misinformed boatless pirates, and a fiendish cook all serve as memorable foils to Horton’s steady, unassuming heroism; indeed, the protagonist himself is probably the least interesting character because he is so perfect. While Dahl fans are a particularly likely audience, realistic-fiction readers who don’t mind a bit of fantasy creeping in will likely appreciate the hidden story of change and growth underneath all the absurdity. An illustrated cast of characters and map of the area will help orient readers in this sprawling, outlandish tale. Ages 9-12 (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

 

10. Junonia

Kevin Henkes

Every February, Alice and her family leave their wintry Wisconsin home for the sunny shores of Florida on a weeklong vacation that usually falls right around Alice’s birthday. This year is going to be extra special as Alice turns ten, and she’s looking forward to celebrating with her fellow snowbird neighbors, whom she considers to be her extended family. From the minute she arrives, however, things are different: Mr. and Mrs. Wishmeier’s grandchildren won’t be visiting due to school, another friend is snowed in back in New York, and Aunt Kate—Alice’s favorite relative—is bringing her boyfriend and his spoiled six-year-old daughter, Mallory. Perfectly capturing a girl on the verge of adolescence, Henkes offers up a quiet and, at times, almost mournful tale about the loss of simple childhood magic and the inevitable arrival of adulthood. Well loved and sheltered, Alice is just beginning to peek out at a world beyond her parents’ arms, and what she finds is both exhilarating and unnerving. The independence, for example, to search the beach for shells by herself is wonderful, but the specter of loneliness and abandonment, as represented by Mallory and her wayward mother, weighs heavily upon a thoughtful Alice. The story ends on a hopeful note as Alice steps into her role as the older, wiser child through her friendship with Mallory, but an underlying thread of grief, simple and unaffected, remains palpable even at the conclusion. Readers who find themselves reluctant to leave behind the comforts of familiarity, even as they yearn for freedom and excitement, will readily relate to Alice’s dilemma. Black-and-white line drawings gently textured with hatching open each chapter. Ages 8-12 (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

 

11. The Emerald Atlas

John Stephens

Ten years after being left at an orphanage, siblings Kate, Michael, and Emma still believe their parents will come back for them some day. Now they’re sent to live in the unusual town of Cambridge Falls, the only children in a run-down institution, where they discover an emerald book that will transport them back fifteen years in time. Thus begins their adventure with the Atlas, one of the three Books of Beginning – powerful books of magic whose secrets brought the universe to life. The Atlas “holds the secrets of time and space,” and it chooses Kate to be the receiver of its power before it disappears once the children reach the past. But the Countess, an evil witch, with help from her deathless warriors, the Screechers, will stop at nothing to obtain the Books. To escape the Countess, save the people of Cambridge Falls, and get back to their own time, the children embark on a journey to find the Atlas again, aided by warrior Gabriel, dwarf Robbie McLaur, and the wizard Dr. Stanislaus Pym, who has a mysterious connection to their past and parents. This first book in a new series explores the bonds of family, the magical world, and time travel, while introducing a prophecy, numerous fantastical creatures, and setting up an inevitable showdown between good and evil. The children are three-dimensional characters whose personalities, imperfections, and insecurities add realistic depth to the story. Stephens creates an American version of a complex fantastical world akin to the Harry Potter and Narnia books; an imaginative and enjoyable read. Ages 10-13 (Horn Book Magazine)

 

12. Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog

Garth Stein

Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking?

Meet one funny dog—Enzo, the lovable mutt who tells this story. Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: most dogs love to chase cars, but Enzo longs to race them. He learns about racing and the world around him by watching TV and by listening to the words of his best friend, Denny, an up-and-coming racecar driver, and his daughter, Zoe, his constant companion. Enzo finds that life is just like being on the racetrack—it isn’t simply about going fast. And, applying the rules of racing to his world, Enzo takes on his family’s challenges and emerges a hero. In the end, Enzo holds in his heart the dream that Denny will go on to be a racing champion with his daughter by his side. Theirs is an extraordinary friendship—one that reminds us all to celebrate the triumph of the human (and canine) spirit.

This is a special adaptation for young people of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling adult novel The Art of Racing in the Rain. Ages 8-12 (Publisher’s Marketing)