Friday, August 18, 2017

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The Complete Persepolis is the graphic novel memoir of author Marjane Satrapi's childhood growing up in a large family in Tehran, the capital of Iran, during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The first chapters of the memoir focus on the very different views of life in public versus life in the comfort of one's home, showing opinion of the Shah, social classes, and traditional gender rolls. Once the Shah is overthrown for a new Islamic regime, all schools become single-gender, Satrapi is forced to wear a veil, and those who originally supported the revolution become an enemy of the newly formed government. Persepolis follows Satrapi's life from adolescence to boarding school in Vienna to her bittersweet return to her beloved homeland.

This edgy and observant graphic novel is filled with simple black and white illustrations in the graphic panels, which adds to the depth that this story conveys. The text is written in an almost childish manner, to reflect Marjane's innocence in the horrifying world that was Tehran in 1979. Filled with dynamic characters, this book is fascinating and alarming at the same time.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

The author of Wolf in White Van is back with another creeping, psychological novel.  Jeremy Heldt is a post-high school graduate working in the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa in the late 1990s. He knows his life is far from glamourous.  It’s just him and his dad since his mom passed away in a car accident six years ago.  He knows he should probably enroll in some classes at the local community college or at least look for a full-time job now that he’s out of school.   Things take an unusual turn when Stephanie Parsons returns a copy of a video and says “there’s something on this one.”  Jeremy forgets about it until the next day when another customer complains about a second tape being “taped over.”  After taking the second tape home to watch it, he decides it’s time to tell his boss, Sarah Jane about the strange tapes. She too takes one of the videos home and then forgets about it for weeks.  But once she watches it, she sees a familiar farm house that leads her to seek out the creator of the films. Stephanie and Jeremy begin their own investigations and the strange videos worm their way into each of their lives.

 John Darnielle claims that he is a man who loves loose ends.  This is true in that there are no nice neat answers in this book.  But the writing creates general feelings of unease and a drowning sense of memory to take the reader down paths of the past.  To a girl whose mother walked away when she five.  To a cultish church with vagrant followers.  To an old farmhouse where unsettling things were recorded and then expertly spliced into rental videos and then forgotten. Darnielle proves yet again that some of the creepiest stories aren’t really horrible at all.  They may only be vaguely menacing.  And that may be enough to make a book stick with you for a very long time. Check out Universal Harvester from the library today.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Min Jin Lee's Pachinko is a multi generational story set in Japan that focuses on the twists and turns of history as it affects an immigrant Korean family beginning in 1900. This book is sure to be of interest to those fascinated by history or reading about how events affect life in weird and wonderful ways.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust by Edith Hahn Beer

Edith Hahn was a young woman studying law in Vienna when she was forced to give up her education, her home, and her life when she was banished to the Jewish ghetto and forced to wear a yellow star. Knowing she was being hunted, in a serious act of defiance, Edith ripped the yellow star from her clothing and spent every night looking for a safe place to sleep. Fearful Edith turned to a Christian friend, Edith used her friend's identity and fled to Munich. In  Munich, she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi Party member who wound up falling in love with her. Despite protestation and the confession of her Jewish identity, Werner married Edith and kept her identity a secret.

In her memoir, The Nazi Officer's Wife, Edith Hahn Beer recalls her life of fear in the face of Nazism. A tale of courage and bravery, this is a complex, troubling, and triumphant story.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Pact by Jodi Picoult

Chris Harte has known Emily Gold since the day she was born, and from that time on, they were inseparable, forever linking the Harte and the Gold families as more than just neighbors. Sharing dinners, family parties, and holidays together the Hartes and Golds were a significant portion of one another's lives. When Chris and Emily began to date, it had always been assumed that they were meant to wind up together as soulmates. Aside from having a love like no other, Emily and Chris had everything going for them. Chris was an excellent student and Emily a gifted painter, both applying for colleges.

So imagine the surprise of the Harte and Gold families when they receive late-night calls from the hospital stating that Emily is dead at age 17 from a single gunshot wound to the head, most likely coming from a gun Chris took from his father's gun safe. When there's still another bullet in the chamber of the gun and Chris tells police that it was intended for a suicide pact, Chris Harte suddenly becomes the primary suspect.

Jodi Picoult's The Pact is full of intrigue, suspense, and legal drama that will keep you turning the page.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Badger Boneyards: The Eternal Rest of the Story by Dennis McCann

From Bayfield to Madison, Door County to Milwaukee, and everywhere in between, former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel author Dennis McCann's Badger Boneyards: The Eternal Rest of the Story tells the tales behind some of the most fascinating cemeteries and gravestones in the dairy state. While McCann gives attention to many of famous Wisconsinites like the Milwaukee beer barons and former governor "Fighting Bob" La Follette, perhaps the most interesting tidbits of information are of the lesser known individuals who have made Wisconsin their final resting place. From Wisconsin's first public school teacher to "the boy who would not tell a lie" and paid the ultimate price to the woman whose headstone names her murderer, Badger Boneyards is filled with often humorous, sometimes sober, historical anecdotes about this those who are at eternal rest in this great state.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth

Alice Stanhope and her daughter Zoe have only ever had one another to rely on. Poor Zoe struggles with crippling social anxiety and is reliant upon her mother, who fiercely protects her. With no family left and Zoe's father out of the picture, they're all the other needs. That's until Alice is diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer.

Like any mother desperate to make sure her child is well cared for, Alice turns to the only two women she knows. Though they're practically strangers, Alice turns to Kate, her oncology nurse and Sonja, the social worker on her case, to help make sure that Zoe is cared for after Alice is gone. As these four strong female characters come together, they are forced to face their deepest fears--those of abandonment, physical and emotional abuse, estrangement, and infertility. 

Filled with the perfect combination of love, humor, and sadness, Sally Hepworth's The Mother's Promise is an unforgettable novel illustrating the immeasurable amount of love a mother has for her child.