Friday, March 17, 2017

Carry On by Lisa Fenn

In 2009 ESPN showed a short human interest film featuring a blind wrestler who would carry his legless teammate to and from the mats at meets. The powerful portrayal of hope and friendship caused many people to take an interest into the two boys from Ohio who had every disadvantage one could imagine. One of those people was the producer of the story, Lisa Fenn.

Dartanyon Crockett's larger than life statute was able to hide the fact that he could barely see, and his physical presence on the athletic field gave him a place in a world where he would have few things. He held on to hope, because he wanted to make his diseased mother proud. Leroy Sutton lost his legs in a tragic train accident, and spent his life with his mother squandering what resources should have helped him. He used humor to hide pain, and arm strength to show he could do what anyone else could. These boys became brothers, and we rarely seen without each other. 

When Lisa Fenn was sent the short article from the paper about the boys from her father, a Cleveland local, she knew there was a story there. As a producer for ESPN she knew this was something special, and convinced her boss to see what she saw. What she didn't know is that her life was going to be changed as much as the boys were. With out knowing what she was doing, she started looking out for these boys, hoping to elevate them out of their life of poverty and give them a better life. 

If you are looking for a powerful true story, in the same vein as The Blindside, check out Carry On by Lisa Fenn.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Blessings by Elise Juska

When John Blessing passes away from cancer at a young age, leaving behind two young children, the loss is reverberated through the entire Blessing family. The Blessings are a close knit, Irish-American, Catholic family from Philadelphia, who take family and tradition very seriously, and with John's death the family comes together like never before. From big family dinners, Sunday Mass, and yearly vacations to the ocean, traditions are the glue that hold this family together amid cancer, death, marriage, eating disorders, babies, and divorce. Elise Juska's The Blessings is told in alternating viewpoints from various members of the Blessing family, with each chapter revealing deeper levels of the Blessing family while uniquely defining the characters of this story.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Testimony by Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson is best known as the guitarist and songwriter for The Band  who penned such memorable classic songs as “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” among many others.  The Band was an eclectic group of musicians who backed up Bob Dylan during his transformative years and released the seminal album “Music from Big Pink” in 1968. Robertson covers the Band’s inception and evolving musical journey that culminated in the 1976 Martin Scorsese film documenting The Band’s final live appearance in “The Last Waltz.”

In between, the autobiographical Testimony brings to life a musical journey for Robertson that began at age 16 when he left his home in Canada to join Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. Robertson’s heritage is half-Mohawk and his storytelling nature makes for an interesting read. He became close friends with Dylan and mingled with a veritable who’s who of the 60’s and 70’s including every member of the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, David Geffen, Cher, Edie Sedgewick, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Carly Simon, James Taylor and many more.

As a result, the reader is treated with a rich understanding of the evolving music scene and an inside view of a band of musical brothers who are hardened by life on the road; including drugs and other excesses, and eventually burned out by that same highway. Five hundred pages in length, “Testimony” is a large book. However, it engages the reader and Robertson’s ability to weave story after story makes for an easy read.

In a recent interview Robertson explained that the original manuscript was edited down from an original, imposing 800 pages. Those familiar with Robertson’s life know that his talents took him on further artistic journeys beyond the end of the book which covers only up to 1976. As a result, fans can look forward to the second book that will surely include his solo albums, film scores, and acting projects up to the present. Robbie Robertson has lived an interesting life and “Testimony” is a fine addition to rock musical autobiographies.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo

Mattie Wallace has always been kind of a screw up, but this time she's really screwed up. Though she constantly thrives to not turn into her mother, Mattie can't help but see a strong resemblance to the mess of a mother she grew up with.

Broke, pregnant, and constantly fighting with her no good boyfriend, Mattie packs all of her possessions into six pillowcases, throws all of it into her ready-to-break-down car, and heads to visit her step-father whom she lovingly calls Queeg. Even now, long after Mattie's mom and Queeg have divorced and Mattie's mom has died, Queeg is the one Mattie goes to whenever she needs advice. Queeg, known for speaking in aphorisms, always tries to make Mattie see the silver lining. This time the silver lining is that Mattie is the sole heir to the estate of a grandmother that she's never met.

The catch? Mattie has to drive from the Florida panhandle to the small town of Gandy, Oklahoma to take care of the estate. Like any small town, Gandy is filled with peculiar characters. There's the local priest, who drinks too much, a staunchly old librarian, and so many busybodies Mattie can barely keep them straight. After spending some time in Gandy, Mattie realizes that her mother suddenly just vanished from the small town and nobody seems to know why. Realizing that she has no choice but to figure out the pieces to the puzzle of her mother's disappearance, Mattie realizes that this might be the way to save herself from the same downward spiral her mother faced.

Melissa DeCarlo's first book, The Art of Crash Landingwill grip you right from the start. Funny and poignant, this is a fast read that will make you laugh and make you think of all of those times as a teenager that you said you didn't want to turn out as your mother.

Friday, February 17, 2017

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Meet Abby and Gretchen. It’s 1988; they’re 16 and have been best friends since the fourth grade. They both attend Charleston, South Carolina’s prestigious Albemarle Academy.  Gretchen comes from a wealthy if distant family and Abby…does not.  Abby and Gretchen have a great friendship.  Closer than sisters, they’re always together no matter what their parents think.  One evening during an attempt to take acid, Gretchen, Abby and a two other friends run around a country estate waiting for the drug to kick in.  Gretchen gets the great idea to go skinny-dipping and before the others can stop her, she’s ripped off her clothes and dashed through the woods towards the river.  The others realize what Gretchen hasn’t: the tide is out, affecting the depth of this part of the river.  Abby races through the woods trying to find her friend.  She finally finds Gretchen cold and muddy a few hours later.   While it seems like crisis has been averted, their problems are just beginning.

It begins with Gretchen not being able to sleep.  Her parents say they hear weird sounds coming from her room at all hours.  She loses weight.  She won’t shower.  She rarely talks to any of her friends and when she does, manages to say or do something outrageously nasty.  Abby tried to appeal to Gretchen’s parents but gets a typical “We know our daughter.  She’s fine.”  This is genteel, southern code for “We don’t talk about our problems out loud and we certainly wouldn’t talk about them with YOU.”  In a desperate plea, Abby tells Gretchen’s mother the whole story of what happened the night Gretchen started to act strange.  Before she knows it, she’s been accused of dealing drugs and is forbidden to see her best friend.  Everyone else has ditched Gretchen.  Her parents and teachers are in denial.  How can she help her friend if she’s not even allowed to talk to her at school? 

One morning nearly a month after the incident, Gretchen arrives at school completely changed.  Not only has she showered, but she’s gotten a drastic new haircut, new clothes and seems to be… almost glowing.  Everyone wants to be seen with Gretchen, wants to date her, or wants to be her friend.  Sinister things keep happening to Abby and Gretchen’s circle of friends.  When a voice that isn’t Gretchen’s speaks from her best friend’s mouth Abby finally knows the truth: Gretchen’s been possessed.  Is Abby and Gretchen’s friendship stronger than the devil himself? 

Readers who enjoyed Hendrix’s first book, Horrorstör, will appreciate the author’s second novel. Adult and teen horror enthusiasts alike will find plenty to entertain while grossing themselves out.  Bonus: the book is set up like a high school year book which makes for some entertaining finds before and after you finish the novel. Check out MyBest Friend’s Exorcism from the library today!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown

Rose and Dottie Krasinsky a Jewish mother and daughter living in 1930s New York happen to find themselves pregnant at the same time. Needless to say, neither one is necessarily thrilled about their unwanted pregnancy. Rose, an Eastern European immigrant who clings to her traditions, is in her 40s, already has five children, and is longing to return to a more socially active role as the world is on the brink of war. Dottie is nineteen, working as a bookkeeper for an insurance company in Manhattan, has a steady boyfriend, and embraces all that the early 1930s has to offer women. When she learns that she's pregnant and her longtime boyfriend isn't the father, Dottie's life is bound change right along with her mother's.

Told in alternating viewpoints, from the perspectives of Rose and Dottie, Modern Girls weaves together social issues, feminism, and history peppered with Yiddish phrases and Jewish traditions.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi

Priya has almost everything she could ever want. The perfect job, a loving husband, and a home in California's Silicon Valley. The one thing she can't do? Have a child of her own after several failed miscarriages and IVF attempts. Asha is the exact opposite. She lives in a small hut, in a rundown neighborhood in India, with a two children that she and her husband can barely keep a roof over. These two women may have completely different lives, but they'll be forever linked.

Desperate to do almost anything to secure a better future for her extremely gifted son, Asha decides to become a surrogate, essentially renting out her womb for a little bit of money, to wealthy couples who are unable to have children. Priya desperate in her own way, takes a chance when she relies on Asha, her surrogate, to make her dreams of becoming a mother happen.

A House for Happy Mothers is an interesting look at surrogacy and surrogate mothers, particularly in India, where surrogacy has more or less become an industry, with a fascinating, vibrant look at Indian culture, feminism, and family.