Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Garden Spells (2007) by Sarah Addison Allen is a book about family with just a touch of fantasy, and a Southern romance with a lot of whimsy.

I loved the quirky setting and the exaggerated characters of each of the families in this small, unique town. And I liked how fantasy elements were just woven into the story, as if that's how things are in the real world -- magic is always just right there under the surface waiting for the right circumstances to come out. Even a simple, everyday action like cooking food or cutting hair can create its own magic.

But the magic was only a small part of the book; the story itself is about relationships: romantic and familial, exciting, strained, and violent. At the heart of the story is the bond between two sisters who have had an unusual and not altogether loving relationship in the past. But the differences that kept them apart as children and young adults are also the things that have the potential to connect them as adults now that they are reunited. I liked that this was the relationship at the core of the book, and the rest of the story lines with romantic partners and others was important but somewhat secondary.

The secondary characters were all interesting and compelling, and the main characters were very easy to like and sympathize with. That combined with a great story and lovely, unique setting made this a really wonderful book.
“When you're happy for yourself, it fills you. When you're happy for someone else, it pours over. It was almost too bright to watch.” 
Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006) by Alison Bechdel is a memoir in graphic novel form, a somewhat new format for me. While I love the Sunday comics, I've never been much of a graphic novel person - I sometimes find them to be visually overwhelming, like my eyes don't know where to look. Luckily, this book was arranged in a way that was very easy to follow.

I didn't know much about Bechdel before reading this book, in fact had not even realized that the now-famous Bechdel test was named after someone contemporary. The story itself is of her somewhat chaotic childhood and early adulthood, dealing with her father's mental health and identity issues as well as her own.

She grew up in quite a dysfunctional household, and I admire the way in which she writes and draws these events from her past in what seems to be a very truthful way, and even with some humor. I liked the foundation of classic literature, as something she and her dad connected over and a framework she used to make sense of her somewhat troubled past. Also interesting was the perspective of coming out as a lesbian in late 70s/early 80s. Fair warning: a few small scenes put the 'graphic' in graphic novel.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed learning about the very interesting Alison Bechdel, having a very quick read that still gave me great insight into a particular place and time, and getting a very easy introduction to the world of graphic novels. I'm excited to get into many more in the future!

"I employ these allusions to James and Fitzgerald not only as descriptive devices, but because my parents are most real to me in fictional terms."
Keep reading! Beth

Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge

Now that 2016 is well under way, it's time to starting looking toward all the great things to read in the year ahead. In the interest of expanding our reading horizons, we at the Duxbury Free Library have challenged each other and our patrons to a Reading Challenge, to encourage all of us to read a wide variety of books and break out of any ruts we've fallen into (at least in terms of what we choose to read).

Below is our 2016 challenge list, that touches on pretty much everything in the library. If you wish to, please join us; print out the image below to keep track. Just pick a few categories, or try to get 'em all! This will just be for fun, and (at the risk of sounding cheesy) personal growth.

Here are some of the books I'm thinking of reading for the different categories:

If you do join us, enjoy! Keep reading, Beth

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Best Books of 2015: From the DFL Staff

Now that 2016 has begun, the staff at the Duxbury Free Library took one last look back at all the great stuff we read in 2015, and noted that ones we liked the best and/or stood out the most to us.

Picking just one favorite of everything we've read in a year is difficult, so here's a book that each staff member really liked, without having to necessarily call one book our favorite.

Beth: Carry On -- Rainbow Rowell
(check back for my review soon)

Carol S: Circling the Sun -- Paula McLain

Debbie: Falling from Horses -- Molly Gloss

Denise: The Remedy for Love -- Bill Roorbach

Jess: Fates and Furies -- Lauren Groff

"Hard to get into at first; once I got to the 
Furies part, total thumbs up"

Jody: A Memory of Violets -- Hazel Gaynor

Joy: The Shoemaker's Wife -- Adriana Trigiani

"It's long, but I'm really glad I stuck with it"

Judy: Did You Ever Have a Family -- Bill Clegg

Karen: Stay -- Victor Gischler

"Good, cute, fast-paced"

Kirsten: H is for Hawk -- Helen MacDonald

Lindsey: Outlander -- Diana Gabaldon

Nancy: Masterminds -- Gordon Korman

Rose: The Anchoress -- Robyn Cadwallader

Susan: Nature of the Beast -- Louise Penny

Suzanne: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl -- Ryan North

Happy New Year! Keep reading, Beth