Friday, June 24, 2016

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

After a recent dry spell of disappointing novels, I happened upon Jennifer Egan’s 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad while trolling Overdrive for available downloads. During my recent spate of audio book borrowing,  I’ve noticed that unless the pacing and writing is beautifully crafted, I find my mind wandering to other things during my walks and drives as the book plays like so much white noise in the background. This is patently not the case for the audio version of Egan’s novel.  Written almost as a series of vignettes of a large cast of characters, A Visit from the Goon Squad is hard to put down and easy to pick up. Written with a wit so sharp a reader might hurt themselves, it held my attention from the introduction of its first character, Sasha, the former assistant of music executive Benny Salazar. Sasha is a kleptomaniac with a wry sense of humor and a hopeful, but realistic outlook. During her stint as the book’s protagonist, she reflects on her attempts at recovery, her relationship with Benny, and the pleasure she takes stealing; screw drivers, a child’s scarf, a note found in a lover’s wallet, bath salts, et cetera. The novel’s point of view then gracefully shifts to Benny himself, like a relay racer handing off a baton, and the story takes up, not from where Sasha left off, but before, during a time when she was still employed by the aging, desperate Benny Salazar.  Benny, for his part, laments his divorce and his apparent loss of libido during the day-in-the-life-of snapshot of his life that is chapter two.  The novel next picks up, over 30 years earlier with the tale of Benny’s high school friend in 1979. Here we are treated to a glimpse of the emerging Punk scene in San Francisco, and are also introduced to Benny’s future music industry mentor, Lou, as seen through the eyes of seventeen year old Rhea. The novel then journeys back five years earlier to an African safari and the point of view of Lou’s then lover and nanny of his children during a ten-day African safari.  The novel continues to introduce several other characters all somehow connected to Benny and/or Sasha as it winds back and forth through time.  Each of these segments or chapters could easily stand alone as a short story, as each is vivid and captivating in its own right.  Each and every person is written with care and insight, and as a fan of character-driven stories, I couldn’t be more pleased with their development. If you’re looking for a well-written book with a thoughtful and intimate take on human frailty and redemption, A Visit from the Goon Squad is available for checkout at the Delphi Public Library in hardback, audio, and EBOOK format.

-Jennifer Wilson

Friday, June 17, 2016

Dark Matter

Mind bending and mind boggling, this is a unique take on the traditional suspense thriller. I loved trying to stretch my brain around Jason Dessen's predicament, existing in the "multiverse." Can you imagine another version of you operating in a parallel universe? The idea is that every time you make an observable choice, another version of you branches off into another universe. Infinitely. One taking the choice, and the other making a different choice. Think of the trunk of a tree branching off over and over. And then imagine that you could access all those infinite worlds. It's enough to give you a major headache, right? Well, don't worry, you don't have to figure it out; the genius physicist Jason Dessen can do that for you. Jason Dessen is pulled into the multiverse and then struggles mightily to find his world again. This means traveling to all these worlds and seeing versions of himself and his family, sometimes behaving badly. When you read Dark Matter you're just along for the ride. And it's a thrilling one. This book will be published in July, but you can get your name on the hold list at the library NOW! P.S. Blake Crouch is the author of the Wayward Pines books and tv series. He likes weird stuff.

Submitted by Kelly Currie

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The prodigal

One of the most absolute better books I have read lately. Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett do a superb job with the biblical prodigal son story, moving it to modern time with modern predicaments. Jack Chisholm is a fallen pastor. He loses his family, his church, his income. He loses it all. Everyone, including his wife, desert him, except one! The prodigal's father has open arms!

This is a story of what occurs afther the prodigal son returns home. Manning always wanted to write a book about "grace" and that is just what he does in this book. The story is also about community, the Father's love, and second callings.  I can't say enough good about this book and plan to read Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel next, which is his own story.  What can I say, this book leaves you feeling good about yourself, which was Manning's intent with his message of grace. ~Patsy Scott

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

The Mirror Thief combines the stories of three men in three iterations of Venice and in three very different eras. The story begins in 2003 with a fairly straightforward account of Curtis, a former marine turned hired gun, who travels to Las Vegas in search of infamous gambler Stanley Glass. While there, Curtis discovers that finding Stanley is going to be much harder than he thought. In fact, all he can find of Stanley are whispers and an old book of poems called The Mirror Thief. The story shifts to Venice Beach in 1958 when Stanley is a young man stealing and grifting around town while searching for the author of a book of poems about Crivano, a 16th Century physician in Venice on a clandestine mission to steal famous mirror makers away to the Ottoman Empire. Crivano turns out to be a scheming, murderous man with questionable allegiances. He stalks the streets of Venice turning allies into foes and foes into allies at every turn. As these three men’s lives wind around one another, a story unfolds that combines philosophy, magic, history, and alchemy in unforeseen and delightful ways.

Seay’s debut novel is a house of mirrors full of magical realism, reminiscent of David Mitchell or Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. He was able to create wholly unlikeable characters with whom the reader can still empathize and become invested in their lives and stories, a difficult feat.
Rarely do I finish a book and immediately want to start it again right away, but The Mirror Thief had so many subtle hints and hidden gems that I wanted to go back and suss them out. I can’t wait to see what Martin Seay comes up with next.

-Portia Kapraun

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Little Indiana: small town destinations by Jessica Nunemaker

     Little Indiana: small town destinations by Jessica Nunemaker lists ninety-one small towns located in the state of Indiana.
All ninety-one are a day or week-end driving destinations well worth your driving time and will offer you a chance to discover what treasures are located in our Indiana small towns.
     The majority of travel guides focus on cities; Little Indiana is different.  The author has traveled with her family to each and every one of these destinations.  Part of the fun of small-town traveling is discovering the unexpected and incorporating it into your day. There is no scheduled itinerary, so just relax and enjoy the trip.

     So ladies and gentlemen start your engines and take a one day or week-end trip to some of Indiana's small town destinations!  After  making a few trips you will begin to see a recurring theme: every small town has something to offer, whether it is a winery, museums, festivals, chocolate shop, bakery, pioneer cemetery, or other attractions. And with Indiana's 200th birthday this year, what better way to learn more about our state and its history than exploring our small towns and enjoying the hidden gems that each one has to offer.