Friday, March 17, 2017

Avenue of Mysteries

Juan Diego, an aging and well-established author, is taking a trip to the Philippines to fulfill a promise to someone from his past. During his journey, he takes a trip of a different kind: he messes up his heart medication, which causes him to have vivid dreams and strange experiences. Memories of his childhood in Mexico, living at the dump and then an orphanage, and then a circus, overwhelm him. He meets two unusual women who then pop in and out of his journey and seem real and ghostly at the same time. I haven't read John Irving in awhile. I forgot how much I like his characters and his unique touch and way of looking at the world. This is a splendid book about religion, fate, dreams, literature, memory ... all the big things. It's a bit too long, and could have been edited a bit more tightly, which may turn off some readers. But if you commit to reading it, you will be rewarded. The typical oddities of an Irving book are here: a circus, transgender characters, an orphanage, and quirky but thoughtful people. You will laugh out loud at times, blush a few times (at least I did), and ponder your views on organized religion, sexuality, the meaning of dreams, and the power of good literature.

Kelly Currie

Monday, March 13, 2017

Magdalen Girls by V.S Alexander

A horrific story about girls being sent away to The Sisters of the Holy Redemption due to being unwed mothers, being involved in prostitution, or in Teagan Turnan's case, being beautiful.  This historical fiction takes place in Dublin, Ireland in the early 1960's.

Teagan who met a VERY handsome priest at a party finds herself being sent away because of his lust for her.  She was stripped of everything she knew and had, even her name, and was to have no contact with anyone from the outside world.
The Mother Superior who claims to punish in the name of love has a nasty little secret of her own. It shows in her unwavering contempt towards Teagan. 

Teagan befriends a hot spirited fiery girl, Nora, whose plan was to escape the moment she set foot in the Magdalen Laundries and Lea, who has been there for some time. The three girls band together to plan an escape.  
The Magdalen Girls is a sinfully delightful story about friendships, hope, forgiveness, and courage.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I discovered Neil Gaiman rather recently, but am no less an ardent fan for this delay.  To quote a fellow librarian, “if [Gaiman] published a phone book, I would read it,” and Norse Mythology is a far cry from such a dry litany. My prior knowledge of Norse lore was scant and unformed. In my mind, the birthplace of Scandinavian legend was one where chiseled Marvel heroes and goofy Cressida Cowell creations frolicked through a wintry and forbidding landscape. So, the terrain covered in this book was a fairly novel one for me, and I was eager to give Gaiman’s take on it a look.  I was not disappointed.  As in all of his works, the characters, however fantastical, are made real.  A reader is able to look into the eyes of even the most uncommon of giants, and see him or herself reflected back. 

The book is structured as a series of mostly chronological stories involving the Norse Gods, leading up to Rangnarok, i.e. the Nordic apocalypse. Some of these characters I had met before in some form (Thor, Odin, Loki), while others were new to me (Hel, Balder, Frey, Freya). Several of the tales have the feel of a creation myth about them: the origin of fall feasting, the source of poetic inspiration, and the gates of Hell; others are wry re-tellings of the various exploits of the Gods. Gaiman brings these ancient heroes to life with his characteristic insight and wit. His passion for the Norse tales of old becomes your own by the novel’s end.  I would highly recommend this novel to lovers of myth and fantasy.

-Jennifer Wilson