Tag Archives: fiction

Stay Out of Trouble? Never!

When someone tells me to stay out of trouble, I invariably respond with, “Never.”

Well-behaved women seldom make history, after all.

getintroubleAnd that is one of the many reasons why I love Kelly Link’s newest short story collection, Get in Trouble.

These nine stories are fantastically dark and brooding, but not so dark as to leave you utterly depressed at their end. They touch on death, suicide, betrayal, secrets kept and secrets revealed, creepy trends, the afterlife, and more.

My favorite story from the collections is the first one, “The Summer People” (which you can read online at The Wallstreet Journal for free!). It begins as one thing and transforms into another, and I love the way Link leads the reader from grounded reality to an otherworldly fantastical place.

Some short story collections feel scattered or uneven, but this one never misses a step. Once you’re thrown off balance by the unreality and harshness of that first story, Link keeps you unsettled through the rest of the collection, hardly giving you room to breathe. Her prose is fantastical but solid–you know there’s more bubbling under the surface, even if you can only glimpse it.

The characters are all complex, flawed, and relatable. They don’t always behave well (you can guess that from the title), but you can’t help but relate to them anyway (And who behaves well all the time, anyway?).

One of the subtler themes in this book is that of longing and belonging. Many of the characters want something that they cannot have, or can only have at someone else’s expense. Some of them appear to belong to a group, but feel isolated and alone. Watching them all work through their problems, sometimes to a tragic conclusion, is riveting and heartbreaking.

For the audiobook, each story has a different narrator; a common practice for audiobooks of short story collections. Generally, there’s at least one narrator I can’t stand (it was hard for me to get through Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes because one of the narrators irritated me so much, and of course that one read multiple stories), but there wasn’t a bad one in this bunch.

Like the stories, the narrators feel as if they go together. There’s no discord or disharmony in their reading–each one fits the story he or she reads, and they sound good next to each other.

If you like authors like Karen Russell, Haruki Murakami, Jorge Luis Borges, and/or Aimee Bender, give Kelly Link a try.

Request Get in Trouble in print, as an eBook, as an audiobook, or as an eAudiobook.

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On Reading 100 Books, Part II

Another year over, and once again I failed miserably at reading 100 books.

eyes-1030439_960_720

But I did succeed in garnering the silent judgement of cats everywhere.
Source

All right, maybe “failed” is a strong word. I ended up reading 70 books and that’s nothing to scoff at, right? Scornful sideways glances from feral felines aside, I decided to highlight five of my favorite books and three of my least favorite books of 2015. If it tickles your fancy, you can look at the whole list on the next page.

The Five I Liked the Most:

loveLove is a Dog from Hell: Poems, 1974-1977 by Charles Bukowski
I learned about this book of poetry by way of The Limousines’ song of the same name. This was my first foray into the writings of Bukowski and it didn’t disappoint. With lines like “I have gotten so used to melancholia / that / I greet it like an old / friend.” and “I am going / to die alone / just the way I live,” this certainly isn’t Lord Byron or John Keats.  This is the kind of stuff you read after a breakup, right before rushing out to do it all over again. These are a few of my favorite lines from the poem Chopin Bukowski:

people need me. I fill
them. if they can’t see me
for a while they get desperate, they get
sick.

but if I see them too often
I get sick. it’s hard to feed
without getting fed.

youYou by Caroline Kepnes
Stephen King—of whom I officially became a fan in 2015 thanks to It and Four Past Midnight—called this book “hypnotic and scary.” What more of an endorsement do you need? You illustrates how easy it is to stalk a person in the digital age. It’s an eerie, well-written page-turner that’s left me eagerly awaiting the sequel, Hidden Bodies, due out in February.

mosquitoMosquitoland by David Arnold
It’s very seldom that a book bring me to tears (in a good way), but this YA debut did just that. The premise—a teenager has to return to her home town via Greyhound when she learns her mother is unwell—was what interested me in this book. Whether in real life or in fiction, I love a good road trip. Just like the tumultuous teenage years, Mosquitoland is equal parts happy and sad. It’s now one of my favorite YA novels of all time.

treesSea of Trees by Robert James Russell
I came across Aokigahara—a dense forest at the bottom of Mt Fuji and a popular place where people go to commit suicide—while reading one of my favorite websites. Doing a simple Google search for more information on the location led me to this novella. It’s a quick, creepy mystery about a couple searching Aokigahara for the woman’s lost sister. What’s even creepier is that two movies have been made about this forest, one starring Matthew McConaughey released in 2015 and one starring Natalie Dormer that came out just last week. The creepiest bit, though, is that this is a real place. Check out this great documentary short put out by Vice for more on the Suicide Forest.

linesPoorly Drawn Lines: Good Ideas and Amazing Stories by Reza Farazmand
This book actually came in for someone else, but I saw it and ordered it for myself. It’s hilarious, nonsensical and was a welcome break from the previous book I’d read, The Price of Salt, which was neither hilarious nor nonsensical. Visit the website of the same name for more giggles.

The Three I Liked the Least:

watchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
I went into this book with almost zero expectations. I’ve experienced first-hand how disappointing a decades-later followup can be (I’m looking at you, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Part of the charm of To Kill a Mockingbird was the way that Lee wrote Scout. Everything that happens is seen through a rose-colored, knee-high lens of childhood. That’s not the case with Watchman. Scout is twenty-six and has returned to Maycomb to visit Atticus. Events transpire that make her question the truths she clung to during childhood. The readers question these truths right along with her and I normally love a good existential rumination, but it’s handled in such a bland and forgettable way here. And that’s not even mentioning how certain characters are almost unrecognizable (ethically speaking) from their Mockingbird counterparts or how the death of a beloved character from Lee’s first novel is only eluded to rather than shown. How this ended up on Goodreads’ Best of 2015 list is baffling, especially when almost every patron I talked with about it also didn’t like it. I don’t want to waste anymore digital ink complaining about it, so I’ll just echo Philip Hensher‘s comments:  it’s “a pretty bad novel.”

starwarsStar Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
Unlike Go Set a Watchman, I had at least one expectation for this book–that it would prepare me for the galactic landscape after the fall of the Empire. Sadly, this book did little to elucidate the mystery of what happens between the end of Return of the Jedi and the beginning of The Force Awakens. The plot takes its time getting started and by the time it does, I wasn’t nearly as invested in the characters as I should have been. These weren’t familiar characters like Luke Skywalker or Han Solo, so I didn’t particularly care what happened to them. Not to mention the new characters all came across as annoyingly self-assured. Because of this, I felt like there were no real stakes in book at all. But maybe that’s on me; it’s been a long time since I’ve read supplemental Star Wars material. There is one scene of Han Solo and Chewbacca aboard the Millennium Falcon, but as a whole, the book skews toward poorly-written fanfiction. In the plus column, I’ve got to give credit to Wendig for introducing the first gay hero in the form of ex-Imperial soldier Sinjir Rath Velus as well as a lesbian couple. In a universe where there are literally hundreds of different alien species, Star Wars has never been that concerned about diversity … but that’s a blog post for another day.

americanAmerican Pastoral by Philip Roth
This is up there (or down there) with The Train from Pittsburgh as one of my least favorite, most hated, severely unenjoyable reads of 2015. The actual plot of this book–an all-American family is torn apart after their daughter blows up a convenience store at the height of the Vietnam War, with musings of the rise and fall of the American Dream sprinkled in–could be boiled down to probably fifty pages. The other 350 pages of Roth’s novel are made up of tangential ramblings including, but not limited to, the history of Newark, the minutiae of Miss America contests and more information on glove-making than any human ever needs to know. It was frustrating for me to read through these prolonged chapters filled with walls of text and just when I thought that there was no point to be made–that maybe I’d picked up a New Jersey history book by mistake–and I was about to give up, Roth would wrap up his tangent and continue with the narrative. In It, Stephen King was similarly long-winded while detailing of the history of the fictional town of Derry, but King held my interest far more than Roth did in describing a place that’s only a six -hour drive away. Again, I have no one to blame but myself–I only read this because first-time director Ewan McGregor filmed the adaptation here, but getting through this book was such an ordeal that I’m now in no hurry to see the movie, despite my well-documented love for Pittsburgh on film.

Did you set or reach any reading goals in 2015? Do you have any reading goals for 2016 or any tips on how I can finally get to 100? Sound off in the comments below!

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Best of 2015

Overwhelmed by the copious numbers of “Best of 2015” lists every publication is putting out? Forget the other guys. We’ve got you covered with our favorite books, movies and music of 2015.


 

daringgreatlyPlaying favorites is hard for me, and my first instinct is to do some cop-out, like: this was my favorite goofy comic that made me laugh on a bad day and this was my favorite classic I never read before, and this was my favorite memoir and on and on and on, until I mention every awesome book that I read all year and fill up an entire post. So, even though it is causing me more than a little mental anguish to do so, I’m going to stick with one nonfiction pick and one fiction pick. For nonfiction, I’m going with Daring Greatly, a book all about the importance of vulnerability and human connection; it’s not an exaggeration to say that reading this book changed parts of my life.  It was definitely a “right book, right time” situation. As for fiction, I’m giving my top honors to Code Name: Veritya thrilling, page-turning, plot-twisty YA adventure set during WWII. (Neither of these books were published in 2015, but that’s when I read ’em, so by my rules, they totally count).

-Ginny


 

This was a pretty great year for films, some of which I’ve reviewed on this very blog and some of which I wanted to review but never got around to. About Alex was a nice update of films like The Big Chill and Return Of The Seacaucus Seven. Comet was a great love story that seemed to be the product of a three-way between (500) Days of Summer, Mr. Nobody and The Fountain. At this point it would be repetitive and redundant to gush about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl once again, so I present two other faves of 2015–Before We Go and The End of the Tour.

Before We Go feels like the little brother of Before Sunrise and Roman Holiday. Whimsical and hopeful, first-time director Captain America Chris Evans has given us a quiet, character-driven drama. I was immensely impressed at what Evans did here and look forward to more of his directorial endeavors.  And he might actually be a good actor as well, trading in punches and shield-shucking for pathos and a turn resembling the male equivalent of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Plus he and Alice Eve are both beautiful people, so even if the film had sucked—which it didn’t—I would have been fine looking at them for ninety-five minutes.

Another favorite was the equally quiet The End of The Tour. Based on David Lipsky’s book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself:  A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, the plot, in its most basic sense, is just two guys talking. That kind of film has the potential to be a boring mess, but not in this case. Credit must be given to director James Ponsoldt for getting such a great performance out of Jason Segel as the prolific author of Infinite JestDavid Foster Wallace. He’s entrancing as he imbues the part with a reserved kind of sadness hidden just below the surface. I always thought Segel was a good actor; he was arguably the heart of the otherwise mundanely mediocre How I Met Your Mother and shined in Jeff, Who Lives at Home. This film confirms my thoughts.

As a tangential point, The End of Tour and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl both close out with Brian Eno‘s “The Big Ship.” The track on its own fills me with a kind of melancholic joy. I get a similar feeling when I watch movies like Before We Go and The End of the Tour, and I invite you to watch them too.  When the weather is cold  and the sun is hidden behind clouds pregnant with rain, watching these kinds of movies is like a warm hug to me. Savor the quiet filmsThey have the potential to be explosions in your heart.

-Ross


 

betweentheworldandmeIt’s usually always hard for me to pick favorites when it comes to books, movies, and music, but I managed to narrow down to one for each part of this post.

For favorite book, I chose Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This is a very powerful book from start to finish. Even though it’s only 152 pages, it packs a punch that’s worthy of the length of a Harry Potter novel. The book is told in the perspective of the author talking to his son about his experiences growing up as a black man in America. It’s considered a biography, but I would also consider it a call to action (if such a genre existed). A must-read for, well, everyone.

I’ve seen some great movies this year, but my favorite was Straight Outta Compton, the biopic about the hip-hop group N.W.A. This movie was a slight obsession for me after I saw it. I’ve been impatiently waiting for the movie to come out on Blu-Ray. It comes out on January 19th (late birthday present!). I fell in love with the cast and thought that the movie was excellent. All of the actors made me believe that they were the real people they were portraying. I was impressed. Until the movie is released on DVD, you can check out the group’s album with the same title as the film.

Speaking of albums, boy was this hard for me. I already put a spotlight on Adele’s fabulous new album, 25, so I decided to put the spotlight on another album that I enjoyed this year, which was Jazmine Sullivan’s Reality Show. This album was Sullivan’s first in 5 years. I was very excited about her comeback and this album was well worth the wait. Sullivan brought back the raw delivery and powerful vocals that is somewhat missing in today’s R&B. Reality Show was nominated for some Grammies (much deserved). Take a listen, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

-Kayla


 

wolves

I saw one new movie in 2015 and I’m not admitting to which one it was. I’m not a huge music person. I did read! It is hard to choose—should I chose that depressing book, that really depressing book or that other depressing book? For someone with a generally sunny outlook, I read a lot of sad books. I narrowed it down to four (semi) depressing books.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Swiss writer Joel Decker, is a boisterous, fast-paced thriller with a love story, a murder and surprising plot twists. I read it in one day at the pool. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is a coming of age story set during the beginning of the AIDS crisis. I also relate to the main character, as I wrote about here last month. Cue all the crying.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by investigative journalist Jon Krakauer follows the Justice Department’s investigation into the rape crisis at the University of Montana. He follows two acquaintance rape trials with vastly different outcomes, both devastating in their own ways. Although it is non-fiction, the writing is gripping, nuanced and evocative. Krakauer has never shied from complex subjects (Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven) and his approach is no different in Missoula.

Finally, my most recommended book: Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by British journalist Johann Hari. Rarely does a book completely change my mind on a subject and this book did. Starting with the story of Billie Holiday’s untimely death (murder?) and the creation of the DEA (which is so shady) it is a comprehensive investigation into the failed “War on Drugs” and what other counties and cities are doing to end it. The Rat Park drug experiment transformed the way I think about drugs and drug use.

Maybe in 2016 I’ll read something happy.

-suzy


fatesandfuries

How well do you ever really know your spouse? Are you absolutely sure that events have happened the way you think they did and for the reasons you believe?

There are two sides to every story and Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff is the story of the marriage between Lancelot (Lotto) Satterwhite and Mathilde Yoder. On the surface, they seem to have it all. They’re an attractive young couple, very much in love at the beginning of their lives together. But under it all, they both have pasts filled with events and secrets that continue to haunt them. The couple’s actions, decisions and future are ultimately shaped by their past. But while Lotto is an open book, Mathilde keeps everything to herself. You don’t know this for the first half of the book, Lotto’s story. You’ll get to know the real Mathilde when you read her half. But you’ll end up loving them, and their marriage, just the same.

Just FYI, President Obama named Fates and Furies his favorite book of 2015.

-Melissa M.


 

punysorrowsMy top picks for 2015 are Eighty Days of Sunlight by Robert Yune and All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. Both, in different ways, deal with suicide. Yune’s novel delves more into the lives of those left behind by a suicide, while Toews explores the torture of knowing that someone you love wants to die and the ethical implications of assisted suicide. Both novels are beautiful, poignant character studies, and both, at points, made me want to cry, or fling the book across the room, or stay up all night until I knew what happened.

I also enjoyed reading a few brilliant comic series: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Weibe and Roc Upchurch and Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. The first, I’ve written about previously (volume five came out fairly recently). The second is a Dungeons & Dragons-style romp with diverse and awesome female characters, and the last is a funny, heartwarming and beautiful love story that touches on sex, mental illness and of course, crime.

-Kelly


It never fails. I read a lot of excellent books all year long, but then one swoops in at the eleventh hour and knocks me sideways. This year that honor goes to Strangers Drowning: Grappling With Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help, by Larissa MacFarquhar. The question on the table is, how much responsibility do we have for strangers? Some people feel called to go above and beyond normal acts of charity and goodwill and perform larger acts of service, such as adopting 22 children, donating 50% of their salary to charity, or offering a kidney to someone on the transplant list they don’t even know. Known as “extreme strangers drowning  altruism,” this practice has been explored through history via philosophy, psychology, and literature, mostly in terms of discovering whether or not being that good is a good idea (spoiler: sometimes it backfires horribly). Profiles of various “do-gooders,” as MacFarquhar calls them, alternate with debates on the ethics of altruism; the title refers to a classic ethical dilemma in which a person has a choice between saving one person they love, OR two strangers, from drowning: which is the correct choice?  Drink a lot of coffee and be prepared to stay up all night debating with your friends: Strangers raises more questions than it answers, and is guaranteed to make you put the book down and say “Oh my God,” at least once.

crownOn the fiction front, I fell in love with Alex Marshall’s  A Crown for Cold Silver because of its unusual heroine. Zosia,  a warrior queen, gets tired of court politics, fakes her death and abdicates her throne in favor of a peaceful country life. Fast forward a decade or so to when new queen finds out Zosia isn’t really dead and tries to assassinate her, forcing the reluctant warrior to pick up her sword again and round up her companions. Given that everyone’s older now, and somewhat the worse for wear, this isn’t going to be a picnic. However, Zosia and her generals still have a lot of fight left in them, and don’t give up so easily. A middle-aged woman who just wants to be left in peace but is constantly dragged back into drama? Sold to the lady in black. Also a good pick for anyone who likes Game of Thrones in theory, but prefers shorter sentences and more action sequences in practice. If you enjoy it, keep an eye out for the sequel, A Blade of Black Steel, coming in May 2016.

–Leigh Anne


 

Thirteen Ways of LookingI’m a complete and total fangirl for Colum McCann, so it should come as no surprise that his new collection of fiction has landed on my favorites list. Thirteen Ways of Looking represents some of McCann’s best work to date and is an extraordinary example of how shorter works have the capability to conjure up a range of emotions. McCann leaves his reader reeling, almost breathless at the end of the title novella. Forget 2015—yes, please, and don’t let the door hit ya—this one has earned a place among my favorite books ever.

– Melissa F.


 

What were your favorite books, movies and music of 2015? Let us know in the comments!

-Team Eleventh Stack

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Leave Me Alone. Sometimes.

vGQOGFuA therapist recently informed me that I am an introvert.* I never thought I was an introvert. I like meeting people. I like parties. I socialize. I have friends. I’m not particularly shy (though I hate calling strangers on the phone), and I don’t have anxiety about meeting people.

But.

I don’t mind going out alone to dinner, movies, bars, whatever. Brainstorming makes me grit my teeth. Group projects suck. Mingling is a nightmare. And it all makes me so tired! Judging by how many secrets strangers tell me, I’m a good listener.  I’m better on paper. All of my best ideas come when I’m alone; usually in bed or the shower. I loved living alone. I was never lonely or bored. My husband is an extrovert. One of the hardest things about marriage for me is living with another person. Like, can’t we have a duplex and visit? (The answer is no.) If I don’t get enough time alone to decompress, I get irritable and withdrawn. I do not thrive in a group environment. Oh yeah, I’m also a librarian.

I thought it was an only child thing.

In reading the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, I came across her definition of introverts:

Introverts have a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment. Introverts tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk, and think before they speak, and have a more circumspect and cautious approach to risk. Introverts think more, are less reckless and focus on what really matters—relationships and meaningful work.

That’s me!

bookcover (5)

In Quiet, Cain presents the history of how Western (and in particular, American) culture is dominated by a culture of personality, an “extrovert ideal.” She describes this ideal as “the belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight” and “favors the man of action over the man of contemplation.” And while Cain is gently rebuking a culture that favors style over substance, she does point out that both temperaments have important roles to play.

Without introverts, we wouldn’t have the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Rosa Parks), The Emancipation Proclamation (Abraham Lincoln), the Theory of Relativity (Albert Einstein), Starry Night (Vincent VanGogh), Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) or The Cat in the Hat (Theodore Geisel)! What a terrible world indeed!

Introverts also feature in some of my favorite fiction titles!

Tell the Wolves I’m Homebookcover, Carol Rifka Brunt

There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down.

bookcover (4)The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

Perks follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama and new friends. Sex, drugs and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

bookcover (1)Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be; a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

bookcover (2)Glaciers, Alexis M. Smith

Glaciers follows Isabel through a day in her life in which work with damaged books in the basement of a library, unrequited love for the former soldier who fixes her computer, and dreams of the perfect vintage dress move over a backdrop of deteriorating urban architecture. Glaciers unfolds internally, the action shaped by Isabel’s sense of history, memory and place.

bookcover (3)A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

Francie Nolan, avid reader, penny-candy connoisseur and adroit observer of human nature, has much to ponder in colorful, turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. She grows up with a sweet, tragic father, a severely realistic mother and an aunt who gives her love too freely—to men, and to a brother who will always be the favored child. Francie learns early the meaning of hunger and the value of a penny.

Are you an introvert? An extrovert? An ambivert (it’s a thing!)?

crawling back into my corner,
suzy

*I took the online Myers-Briggs Extroversion quiz like five times because I didn’t believe her.

 

 

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After Jessica Jones

Congratulations: you made it through all thirteen white-knuckled, soul-crushing episodes of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. Now you need either bibliotherapy or the hair of the dog that bit you, depending on how much you enjoy psychological torture. Here are some Library experiences you can have to either calm yourself down or extend your terror buzz.

If You Just Can’t Even: The Gentle List

Right now you need sunshine, laughter, and reassurance that people are still essentially good. Snuggle up with one of the following suggestions:

Step Aside Pops / Kate Beaton –  Laughter is good for the soul, and this collection of literature and history-inspired comics will make you laugh until you can’t breathe.

Doctor Who: The Complete Second Series – You need to wash Kilgrave out of your head, and fast. Watch David Tennant at his best and most lovable.

This Christmas / Aretha Franklin – What could be better than the Queen of Soul singing seasonal songs of peace and joy? Crank this up and hit repeat.

Modern Romance / Aziz Ansari – Healthy, true love is a real thing! And getting there is more hilarious than heartbreaking. Let Ansari walk you through it.

Bridget Jones’s Diary / Helen Fielding – Because somebody named Jones should get a happy ending, right?

 

"Ida B. Wells," from Step Aside Pops, pg. 118. (c)2015 Kate Beaton. Click through to read more amusing comics.

“Ida B. Wells,” from Step Aside Pops, pg. 118. (c)2015 Kate Beaton. Click through to read more amusing comics.

 

If You’re All Fired Up: The Grrrl Power List

Pumped up and ready to fight the good fight?  Keep your adrenaline levels high and take these to the checkout desk:

Alias / Brian Michael Bendis – If you’re not familiar with the source material, catch up with all things Jessica.

Bitch Planet / Kelly Sue DeConnick – It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. And boy, are they out to get you.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Feminism, rage, explosions, catharsis.

The First Two Records / Bikini Kill – Loud, stomp-around-and-break-stuff therapy. Play it until your neighbors hate you.

Reign of Terror / Sleigh Bells – contains the song “Demons,” a/k/a That One Awesome Song in That One Scene.

Shadowshaper/ Daniel Jose Older – Urban fantasy about a gutsy teen discovering her own special powers.

Your turn:  did you, or will you, watch Jessica Jones? Have you got additional suggestions for post-viewing stress relief (or villain stomping)? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section, but please keep it spoiler-free!

–Leigh Anne

 

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Love and War in the Time of Napoleon

Napoleon’s myriad attempts to conquer Europe featured his struggle, from 1807-1814, to dominate Portugal and Spain. Of course the British were part of this fight, and the conflict plays a part in many Regency Romances. Two recent series portray the impact on individuals and families whose participation on the war front and behind the scenes leave a lasting impact of life and love.

proposalMary Balogh’s seven-book, romance series features the Survivor’s Club, six men and one woman who return to England, broken of body, mind and heart. They spend three years together at the seaside estate of the Duke of Stanbrook, supporting and encouraging each other as they heal, preparing to venture forth and live out their lives among the town and the country folk they each belong to. Balogh, in her usual sensitive style, relates these romantic tales with strong parallels to our disabled veterans returning home from the Middle East wars of today. Each of the seven characters meets physical and mental challenges as they vie for independence and love. The last book in this series, Only Beloved, will be published in May 2016. Balogh excels at developing relationships. She takes the time to portray how people start at one place and change, usually driven by hope and longing for a life of peace and contentment while treasuring those special moments of fleeting joy or happiness.

Survivors’ Club

pinkcarnationAnother excellent Regency romance series has wrapped up this past fall. Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series is told from the point of view of contemporary Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly, who travels to England to do research into a ring of British spies tracking the movement and secret strategies of Napoleon and his armies. Eloise lands at the doorstep of Arabella Selwick-Alderly and her grand-nephew, Colin, who reluctantly open their family archives to Eloise. As the months go by, Eloise begins to unravel the elusive tidbits of information about the spy training school run by her ancestor, Richard Selwick (the Purple Gentian), that sends its spies—both male and female—behind enemy lines and into Parisian parlors and boudoirs of many historical personalities of the Regency era. Their intrigues reach as far as India and end on the Iberian Peninsula, where the final mission of the Pink Carnation is played out. These stories are rich in humor and historic detail and as Eloise not only discovers the identity and destiny of the Pink Carnation, she finds for herself a husband and a different kind of future for herself than she intended at the start of the series.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

 

-Sheila

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Sins of the City

There are a million stories in the Steel City’s library system. These are two of them.

Black Lotus, K’wan

Detective James Wolf is a good cop who gets results; he’s also a loose cannon who bends rules to suit his own needs. This infuriating combination is exactly what’s needed to solve the gruesome murder of a priest. Temporarily transferred from narcotics to homicide, WolfKwan is given carte blanche to find the killer, who left only one piece of evidence behind: a rare black flower. Wolf’s investigation sends him into a tangled web of secrets, lies and scandal that eventually leads to a cold case from his own shady past. Before it’s over, everybody’s dirty laundry will be hung out to dry, for better or worse. Fast-paced, suspenseful stuff for readers who like police procedurals and other psychological thrillers.

Available in print, Playaway, digital audio, Kindle and EPUB formats.

Kiss the Ring, Meesha Mink

Naeema Cole gave her son Brandon up for adoption, but secretly kept tabs on him to make sure he was growing up right. All of her dreams for him went up in smoke, however, when Brandon was murdered at age fourteen. The three other boys he ran with were the prime kisstheringsuspects, but the police couldn’t prove anything, and everybody walked. Desperate for justice, Naeema transforms herself into Queen, a tough-talking character disguise that helps her infiltrate the boys’ social circle … which turns out to be a bank robbery ring.

The atmosphere is tense as Naeema struggles not to blow her cover, taking greater and greater risks as she searches for the truth, including possibly losing her heart to the leader of the gang, against all logic and her own better judgment. Sizzling with suspense, sex and surprise plot twists, Kiss the Ring will have thriller and romantic suspense readers eagerly turning pages until the end, at which point they can pick up the sequel, All Hail the Queen.

Both titles available in print only.

Ask the library staff about these and other pulse-pounding tales of street justice, and tell us about your favorites in the comments section!

–Leigh Anne

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