Excerpt: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai- via Read It Forward

Start reading an excerpt from this recently published novel that explores time travel in a fresh way.

Thoughts?

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Support your Library- via BookRiot

My library has taken to their Facebook page with fierce determination to educate the public in light of recent political events. Offering resources to combat fake new and better understand American history in context. I am proud to be a patron and hope you take the time to explore what your library has to offer! Click the link to see how to best support yours.

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Book Review: Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan

Of course, there is nothing remarkable about the process, this much at least she knows. Because we do it to ourselves all the time— turn our lives into a story— anything to try to keep the chaos of the self in check.

Three separate narratives presented with intricate detail and knitted together showcase the history of Jewish people in Ireland. One immigrant family from Lithuania struggles to find their place in Cork when they mistakenly disembarked their ship bound ultimately for New York. One young man, silenced in an attempt to protect his mother’s secret out of loyalty and love finds solace in the story of another. One young Irish woman living in London grapples with a decision that with change her life forever. Nine Fold Make A Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan is a rich examination of humanity and the struggles we face that transcend generations.

“What about a man who courted his woman via pigeon mail, so he called the chef the night before their wedding to ask if he can cook the bird and serve it at the reception, to allow the guests to ingest the effort of their love? To tear the brown, gamey flesh and hook the wishbone with their little fingers and pull either side ’til it snaps?”

The story opens with Ruth, a child aboard a ship bound for New York where they are hoping to reunite with family and start anew. However, they make a misguided early departure from the ship and land in Cork, Ireland.

Just as long as she ignored the pull in her pocket where the compass tried to drag her down. It must be broken too, she told herself, the magnets somehow mangled when the boat slammed the shore, because as they boarded the tram she had checked it, just to be sure. She had stood at the edge of the dock and gazed out at the Atlantic, knowing the sea was meant to be East. The arrow had dithered, stuttering like a lip before tears. And then it had fallen down. South. The sea spreading off the bottom of Ireland and away.

Outsiders by birth and belief, Ruth and her family attempt to navigate the tricky waters as immigrants in the early 20th century. Ruth looks to her father, a playwright with a fierce imagination who crafts fantastical stories, for escape from their harsh reality.  Many of these stories have a mysterious origin until Ruth understands that sometimes the most mysterious thing of all is one’s own family.

A wall of hush lingered in the room. Not one of them moved. Instead they just hovered there in the darkness of a north Lithuanian shed with a beautiful young girl and an earnest young boy, stupid with love; a woman they had never quite liked and a man they had never quite understood. But suddenly the light had caught them differently, just two characters in a story, right back at the beginning— a story that had finally been told. As Ruth realized that now, everything really was lost.

Shem Sweeney is a young man trapped in the silence of his own creation. In an effort to protect his mother, Shem becomes a mute to avoid the temptation to share a secret that he was sure would break her heart. Keeping with the beliefs of the late 1950’s, he is sent to Montague House, an asylum run by Catholic nuns, with the hopes of restoring his ability to speak. Shem begins a complicated friendship with the only other Jewish person at Montague House, Alf, who coerces Shem into transcribing his memories before he succumbs to his illness. Through these exchanges we discover the depth and details behind Shem’s history.

So I wondered now if a family could ever really exist without these lies, these secrets, to keep it alive. Or if, in the end, that was the definition of love.

Aisling Creedon is a present day obituary columnist for a newspaper in London. Her relationship with Noah takes a significant turn when he presents her with a second-hand Irish written book of instructions on converting to Judaism. In a flight of panic, she abandons Noah following a Hanukkah celebration with his family to return to her family in Ireland where they are celebrating Christmas.

Not even a tiny white swan bent into place, the lines so defined that when you take it apart it can just be put back together again, in nine simple folds, exactly the same as before.

She struggles with the weight of and the possible consequences of her decisions- both to leave Noah so abruptly and to shed her past, her family, her life before. Searching for answers she seeks out the woman who owned the book prior to her, hoping to see satisfaction in her decision. Through this quest, aided by annotations in the book made by the previous owner, Aisling reveals the stitching that held each of the three narratives together.

He picks it up. He stares at the title, still struggling to believe. And then he reads, knowing he might not stop, not tomorrow or even the tomorrow after that when the pigeons have flown off somewhere better again, resisting the urge to come home. Because in the end, it is the only story to have survived.

With imaginative prose each story is woven to a satisfying completeness. A powerful account of what defines family and what we do to belong, Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan takes the mostly unknown stories of the Jewish community in Ireland and uses it as a mirror to reflect the greater human experience.

Read voraciously.

Thoughts?

Intrigued? Buy the book here:

Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan
by Ruth Gilligan
Trade Paperback
Powells.com

A review copy of this title was provided by Tin House Books via Netgalley.

When the dictionary comes to the rescue- via Buzzfeed

“But we will say this: Anyone who spends their life sifting through how language is used also has to sift through history, and how words have been used at various points to harm, erase, or exclude. Our job is to tease language out from spin, politicking, rhetoric, and apologetics, and tell the truth about what a word means.”

Check out how one dictionary revamped its online presence in light of recent political events and quickly reminded us that it is a source of timely truth and knowledge.

Thoughts?

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Exciting reads in 2017- via Read It Forward

Here’s a list of 17 books we should all be excited to read in 2017.

Which one are you most anticipating?

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Book Review: The Most Dangerous Place On Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

Intention was one thing; it was the smallest decisions that made any difference.

The Most Dangerous Place On Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson is a poignant and solidly written examination of the private lives of a group of entitled, unaware teenagers and eager teachers at a wealthy, suburban high school. It begins with a group of seemingly perfect middle school kids as they begin to set the ranks within their group- who is in and who is out. A note and the bullying of the boy that wrote it highlights the quantity of and effect of cyber-bullying that many kids endure.

From then on, Tristan spent his lunch periods outside, walking the edge of the schoolyard where asphalt crumbled into marshland. He kept his head bowed, and when he came back inside, his ankles were purpled with mud. Nobody bullied him at school. Nobody minded him at all. And every afternoon, Cally and Abigail watched from Abigail’s bedroom as the Facebook posts continued, flashing onto the computer screen at an inexorable pace, gleeful, hateful, now from people they didn’t even know. Sometimes Tristan wrote back, defending himself angrily or desperately, but each comment he posted only renewed the energy of the attacks.

Johnson writes with finesse as she charts the tearing down of a person in such a vulnerable stage of life. These opening scenes provide a back-drop, and possibly a cause, for what occurs throughout the rest of these teenager’s adolescence.

Turning to his left, he saw the red-orange spires of the Golden Gate Bridge, like masts of an enormous ship, like skyscrapers of an alien nation, like ladders to the sky. His heart beat frantically in his ears. Yet for the first time in a long time, he felt like he could breathe.

Bouncing between perspectives we learn more about those involved in this initial encounter and how their lives progressed. We learn, also, just how vulnerable each one of them is in their own right. Personal accounts flesh out the depth of each character while the contrasting viewpoint from one earnest, young teacher proves the degree to which these teenage characters will go to hide their undesirable emotions and characteristics.

And she’d realized there was something worse than being ignored; there was being a target.

Each narrative blossoms with emotional depth and unexpected weakness.  A raw examination of the truth behind the lives of teenagers today. Though admittedly the focus is on upper middle class, white narratives, the problems faced are real. Johnson appears to put much of her personal story onto the page and her work shines as a result. The Most Dangerous Place On Earth is a young adult crossover that deserves a special place on your shelf.

There was only the decision to get up. There was only standing and brushing herself off, only turning and hiking back to her friends whose hoots and laughter carried through the trees, to her friends who were flawed but, yes, living; there was only digging through her bag for the last remnants of high school, throwing them into the fire. As the flames ate the papers to curling black, she knew there was only this, and whatever moment would come after, only Calista Broderick going on and trying, like everyone, to live in this beautiful world.

Read voraciously.

Thoughts?

Intrigued? Buy the book here:

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
by Dan Hampton
Hardcover
Powells.com

A review copy of this title was provided by Random House via Netgalley.

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