“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” – Franz Kafka
Monthly Archives: June 2014
Stephen King loved this book, which might give you some insight into what kind of a book this is. It’s creepy and suspenseful and downright maddening at times. The book centers around several students attending high school at St. Michael’s, a declining, deteriorating institution in Pittsburgh. Peter Davidek is a well-meaning freshman with rotten parents, who tries to do what he can to fly under the radar. He quickly befriends the irrepressible, rebellious Noah Stein. They both love Lorelei Paskal, a girl with a tragic home life who will do anything to find friends at school, even if she ends up hurting the people who truly care for her.
Student life at this school is survival of the fittest to the ultimate level. If you are not attractive, wealthy, funny, or brilliant, you might as well accept your fate – constant harrasment and bullying by your peers. There is a culture of hazing at the school, accepted by the students, administrators, and even the parents. Freshmen endure a full year of hazing, which can include having to serve as waiters for their upperclassmen during lunch to getting a pie in the face at the annual picnic. It can be much more malicious, though, with pranks that become cruel, physical, and very personal. And yet the culture is entrenched, so most students just accept it. They simply wait out the year so that come fall, as sophomores, they can haze the next round of freshmen.
The story has villains galore. I was never sure who I despised most: perhaps the greedy, grasping priest, Father Mercedes; Sister Maria, the completely ineffectual principal; Peter’s parents, who, along with Lorelei’s parents, easily vie for “Worst Parents of the Year” award. And I often thoroughly disliked the vast majority of the students. It was rare to see compassion or courage among them. Noah often displays these qualities, which makes him instantly endearing to the reader. And so does Peter.
The book is aptly named – what these kids endure is brutal. It made me grateful all over again to have left high school behind. It also made me question what I might have done in a similar situation. If my high school experience had been just half as tough, I wonder how I would have reacted. Trials can bring out either the best or the worst in us. The only good thing about a situation like this is that your mettle is tested, and you quickly find out what kind of person you are. Luckily, though, life doesn’t end with high school. And as the adults in this novel demonstrated, you have (and need) the rest of your life to figure things out.
After you read this quotation, you’ll know why I love it and have determined to share it with everyone I know who is passionate about reading. It’s taken from One for the Books by Joe Queenan:
“Reading is the way we shake our fist at the sky. As long as we have these epic, improbable reading projects arrayed before us, we cannot breathe our last. Tell the Angel of Death to come back later; I haven’t quite finished Villette. This is the greatest gift that books give to mankind. Every life, even the best ones, ends in sadness. People we adore pass on; voices we love to hear are stilled forever. Books hold out hope that things may end otherwise. Jane will marry Rochester. Eliza will foil Simon. Valjean will outlast Javert. Pip will wed Estella. The wicked will be overthrown, and the righteous will prosper. As long as there are beautiful books waiting for us out there, there is still a chance that we can turn the ship around and find a safe harbor. There is still hope, in the words of Faulkner, that we shall not only survive; we shall prevail. There is still hope that we shall all live happily ever after.”
Gabrielle Zevin, the author of “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry,” has written a love letter to people who love the written word. It is a simple story about a man, A.J. Fikry, who owns a bookstore and mourns his dead wife, who he loved very much. His life is quiet and ordered, and, he thinks, satisfying. Until he finds a young girl, Maya, who has been abandoned in his store. He eventually adopts her, and his growing love for her gives him purpose and makes him realize that he might just want more from life.
Each chapter starts with a paragraph or two that A.J. has written to his daughter about a particular book or short story and what it has meant to him. He makes the point that books mean different things to us at different points of our lives, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. He says this to his daughter at the end: “We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. My life is in these books. Read these and know my heart. We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works.” A.J. Fikry’s thoughts on reading and books and their place in our lives warmed my heart and made me so grateful all over again that I have, all my life, found comfort and peace in books.
Top 5 reasons why YOU should participate in the Library’s Summer Reading Clubs:
1. Participating is FREE! No gimmicks, no tricks and no catch.
2. Summer Reading is for everyone. That’s right, Summer Reading isn’t just for kids! All ages are welcome to participate – from babies being read to, to retired seniors reading for fun.
3. Win awesome prizes! You read that right, you can win really cool prizes like coupons for free food, free books, and even earn chances to win big prizes such as gift cards, museum tickets, tablets, and more*.
4. Reading makes you smart. Reading has been linked to higher IQs, improved school grades, enhanced memory, and even improves your emotional well-being.
5. You can participate by reading anything, anywhere. The Summer Reading Clubs track how much you read. What you read and where you do it is up to you. Reading to your kids at bedtime? That counts! Listening to an audiobook while you fly to Barbados? That counts! Reading a magazine article by the pool? It all counts!
Ready to sign up? Visit the Azle Memorial Library any time we are open (see hours below). Signing up takes about 30 seconds and you’ll be glad you did!
“The Vacationers” has been on my “To Be Read” list on Goodreads for a while now. It sounded like the perfect summer book. Plus, it’s set in Spain, a place I’ve long wanted to visit.
So, I was predisposed to like it. But then I found after reading just a few pages that I didn’t actually like any of the characters. Not a single one. Which is rare for me. And it also makes it very hard to like a book when there’s no one for whom I’m rooting. It makes me indifferent.
Here’s the premise: A wealthy, intellectual family from New York City take a last gasp vacation to Spain before the daughter goes off to college. The mother and father are both successful writers, but he has recently been let go from his position due to an indiscretion with a young intern. Their 30-year-old son and girlfriend join the trip, as do the wife’s best friend and his partner.
I enjoyed reading about characters who live such different lives from mine, and I especially loved the descriptions of Spain. The scenery and food sounded lovely and made me start looking up flights. However, every character was fatally flawed. Which of course we all are. But they were all petty and narcissistic and selfish. Also, I’m wondering if it is possible to write about a teenage girl without making her completely unpleasant, which the daughter, Sylvia, was.
Luckily, this summer is chock full of good books. So, if you encounter one that isn’t your favorite, that’s okay. There’s sure to be another coming along soon that you’ll love. I’m already reading “The Heiresses” by Sara Shepard and enjoying it, with Stephen King’s “Mr. Mercedes” coming next.
Many of you might be familiar with the original television shows Netflix has created in the past few years. The two most recent, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, have had critical acclaim and popular reviews. Netflix has released season one of both shows on DVD, which are now available at the Azle Memorial Library. Season two of House of Cards will be released on DVD on June 16th. Keep your eyes peeled for its arrival at the Library! And if you are a customer of Netflix, season two of Orange is the New Black begins streaming on June 6th.
House of Cards: A remake of the BBC mini-series of the same name, House of Cards takes American politics to an entirely new level. Lead actor Kevin Spacey stars as ruthless, cunning Congressman Francis Underwood, who will stop at nothing to conquer the halls of power in Washington D.C. His secret weapon: his gorgeous, ambitious, and equally conniving wife Claire (Robin Wright).
Orange is the New Black: From the creator of “Weeds” comes a heartbreaking and hilarious new series set in a women’s prison. Piper Chapman’s wild past comes back to haunt her, resulting in her arrest and detention in a federal penitentiary. To pay her debt to society, Piper trades her comfortable New York life for an orange prison jumpsuit and finds unexpected conflict and camaraderie amidst an eccentric group of inmates.