As the cold weather circles, Library Journal and School Library Journal editors batten down the hatches and snuggle up with books set in Afghanistan, second grade, alternate fantasy worlds, Baltimore, and any place Alice Munro wants to take us.
Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, LJ
I’m reading Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner (Riverhead). I’m not loving it as much as his recent work, And the Mountains Echoed, but so far, it’s engrossing. The protagonist, Amir, is a born storyteller, and this excerpt, about one of his tales, stuck with me:
That same night, I wrote my first short story. It took me thirty minutes. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife’s slain body in his arms.
Liz French, Associate Editor, LJ
Laura Lippman is my jam. After I read the LJ, 11/15/13 starred review of her February 2014 book After I’m Gone (Morrow), I went on the hunt for an in-office galley. Found one in my colleague Etta Thornton-Verma’s office, wrestled it away from her and two other coworkers—it got ugly, I admit, I fought dirty—and read it quickly, swatting away such interrupters as the boyfriend and the dog. And now, I’m not sure if I loved it or not. It’s ambitious for sure, and chock-full of Baltimorania and Baltimorese. She even manages to slide in her series protags Tess Monaghan and her hubby Crow. I need to think about it a little more, maybe discuss it with one of the aforementioned coworkers after she’s read it—if she’s speaking to me again after our little, ahem, fracas.
Barbara Genco, Manager, Special Projects, LJ
When longtime New Yorker contributor Alice Munro won the Nobel last month I was thrilled. I thought, now this this would be the perfect time to read/reread her stories.
And I want to read them all, one right after the other! (Binge reading at its best.) Happily, Vintage International has a terrific paperback edition readily available (the ca. 1996 collection of 28 of Munro’s Selected Stories). It is even helpfully adorned with a “Winner of the Nobel Prize” label. I snatched it up and I am now fully enmeshed with Munro.
I also found 18 of her stories (no overlaps with Selected Stories!) linked online at Open Culture—just the thing for tablet bedtime reading! Oh Canada!
Kiera Parrott, Editor, Reviews, SLJ
This week I am reading ALL the books. Every. Single. One. Well, not really. But transitioning to the position of Reviews Editor means I need to read way more and way faster than I ever have before. I just finished a delightful transitional chapter book, Last-But-Not-Least Lola: Going Green (Boyds Mills) by Christine Pakkala (text) and Bill Hoppe (illus.). Like Clementine and Judy Moody before her, Lola Zuckerman is a plucky gal with strong opinions and bounce-out-of-her-seat energy. She’s bummed because her teacher insists on doing roll call, share time, and line up in alphabetical order: not great for Lola, who is always last! The large typeface and cheerful black-and-white illustrations make this ideal for kids who are reading independently, but not quite ready for middle-grade fiction. I also just picked up the ARC of The Cracks in the Kingdom (Scholastic) by Jaclyn Moriarty, the sequel to A Corner of White. I adored the first book, which combined magical fantasy, dry British wit, and surprisingly poignant relationships. I’ll be diving into the sequel next.
Meredith Schwartz, Senior Editor, News & Features, LJ
As I often do when traveling, I’m rereading an old favorite, House Name (Daw) by Michelle West. It is third in “The House War,” a fantasy series, a spin-off from one I’ve actually never read. I like it for the aspect of chosen family, and believable altruistic characters who don’t turn into Mary Sues, and the creation of an imbalanced power and wealth structure that is nonetheless not wholly hereditary or lacking in opportunities for social mobility. I also think it is an interesting example of how to progress a character from ordinary to extraordinary in small enough steps that you don’t lose the reader’s empathy or suspension of disbelief; I admit I like the earlier, less intensely supernatural books better in some ways, but I don’t find that alienating because I think many if not all of the main characters would agree with me.