The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

51323qF2glL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Book–In the port town of Malacca in Malaya in the 19th century (modern-day Malaysia), Li Lan is the daughter of a impoverished-but-genteel opium addict. Though of marriageable age, Li Lan receives no suitors but one: the prestigious Lim family wants her for their only son’s bride. There’s a catch, however. Lim Tian Ching, heir to the Lim family fortune, has recently died under mysterious circumstances and is demanding a bride from beyond the grave. Ghost marriage, an ancient but rarely practiced custom, is used to soothe an angry spirit, and guarantees the bride’s place in her groom’s house for the rest of her life.

Before Li Lan has even accepted the proposal, Lim Tian Ching begins to haunt her, and she is drawn into lifelike nightmares that sap away her energy. Li Lan is torn between the waking world and the shadowy ghost world where, if she’s not careful, she may remain forever.

The gorgeous, strange setting of turn of the century Malaya and the dreamlike ghost world draw the reader in, stealing the show from the somewhat milquetoast Li Lan and her trite love triangle between new Lim heir Tian Bai and mysterious spirit Er Lang. The Ghost Bride will appeal to those who enjoyed the movie Spirited Away, which has a similar beautiful, nightmarish, dream-logic setting and characters drawn with a light hand.

The Americans (2013)

TV Series – If you are a fan of suspenseful spy thrillers, then you will get hooked on The Americans.  Elizabeth and Philip Jennings seem like a typical middle class American couple living in suburban D.C. during the Reagan era.  They run a travel agency and have two children.  But in fact, they are KGB agents in an arranged marriage whose goal is to get Cold War secrets for Mother Russia at any cost.  Which means being masters of disguise, betrayal, and sleeping with whomever it takes. In their minds, they believe they are making the world a better place. If being spies in an enemy country isn’t complicated enough, their new neighbor is a counter intelligence FBI agent and their teen-age daughter who is suspicious of their behavior, becomes very active in a Christian youth group.  Elizabeth and Philip also fear that their children may also be recruited by the KGB or their fates if the parents are captured or killed.

The drama was created by.former CIA agent Joe Weisberg and was inspired by the true story of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley.  Donald and Tracey were agents of Putin unbeknownst to their sons until they were arrested in 2010.

If you like House of Cards, Homeland, and Scandal you will probably enjoy The Americans.  I’ll let you in on a little secret. The Americans is a show on FX and only streamed on Amazon Prime, but the Library has all the current seasons on DVD.

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

Book – In the city of Amberlough, morality depends upon the time of day and everything is for sale. The Bumble Bee is the city’s most notorious club, and Aristide Makricosta the club’s most notorious performer. His lover, Cyril DePaul, is a covert agent, adept at keeping Aristide’s secrets as well as his own. At least, until he’s sent on a mission to the northern reaches of the country, investigating a new political party that seems convinced they can take over the country despite their unpopularity. And if they do, both Cyril and Aristide are going to find themselves in dire straits.

Amberlough is a kind of fantasy mashup of Cabaret and the novels of John Le Carré, with lots of intrigue, behind-the-scenes nightclub shenanigans, and the creeping shadow of totalitarianism looming behind all of it. I found it rough going, emotionally; Cyril sacrifices his principles early on, and watching him attempt to play both sides is painful, especially when he’s dragging other people down with him. By the end of the book, though, I couldn’t bear not to know what would happen next. I’m immensely relieved to report that there are sequels in the works, but this book stands well on its own.

Divide by Ed Sheeran

Music CD – I’m a longtime fan of Ed Sheeran, and was pretty stoked for the release of his newest album, Divide.  Overall, I think this is a really strong album.  I love classic Ed Sheeran songs like “Photography” and “A Team,” in X and + [Plus sign], easy listening tracks that are perfect for zoning out to.  In Divide, we get a good mixture of soft-spoken Ed as well as a collection of more powerful, intense tracks that I think really show off Ed’s full vocal range.  You can hear him rising from his comfort zone, reaching out for those higher pitches and playing around with his vocals.

There are some great pumped-up beats for your morning drive to work, my favorite being “Castle on the Hill”. On the other hand we also get some good ‘ole smooth-talking Ed Sheeran in “Happier” and “Perfect”, songs for when you need some music but have a headache looming. Ed is a folky kind of musician in general, but I can’t stop obsessing about the swingy, Irish jig feel of “Galway Girl” and especially “*Nancy Mulligan” (*Unfortunately this track is only available on the Deluxe Version).  The acoustics are just beautiful and the music makes you want to get up and dance.  It’s a nice compilation of music.  I also just adore “Castle on the Hill;” it’s about missing where you’re from, and returning home to all the places and people you’ve missed.  It can sound like a love story, even romantic depending on the mood you are in whilst listening, but overall it’s a feel good, nostalgic song. You really get to hear the full range the artist has to offer in this album and those high notes are a real treat.

 

 

Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

Book- This story is the second in the Montana Rescue series by Susan May Warren. It focuses around Sam and Pete Brooks, brothers who had a family tragedy that altered their relationship. Willow has been brought to better light in this book as an outgoing happy positive person who doesn’t seem to fit in the way other women do. She has long held a huge crush for Sam but since he is dating Sierra (her sister), she works so hard at keeping it a secret and wishing she would just get over him and be happy for her sister. Willow and Sam take the local youth group on a day hike and have an accident. They are lost in the icy wilderness, no one knows where they are, and if they will ever be rescued. With grizzly attacks and snow storms this team must fight nature tooth and nail to save the ones they love.

Susan May Warren is a wonderful writer who draws you into this book within the first 2 pages. I was gasping and crying and cheering all the way through. She does such a great job developing characters and setting the scene I completely thought I right there in the story. Honestly, I had never experienced that before as a reader. She builds suspense throughout the book, with the obvious romance mingled in too. I believe this book would be categorized under Christian fiction, so it was a little too “churchy” for me at some points, but overall it was an amazing book to read and I absolutely recommend EVERYONE read this series!

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

indexBook–Based on some 200 cases of ‘fasting girls’ in the US and Great Britain throughout the 19th century, The Wonder follows Lib Wright, a no-nonsense nurse who trained under Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, who is contracted to determine the veracity of the titular Wonder, a young Irish girl named Anna O’Donnell whose family claims she, of her own volition, has not eaten since her birthday several months ago. Together with taciturn nun Sister Michael, the two women watch Anna in shifts, Lib hoping to expose the O’Donnell family as frauds and secure her own reputation back home. Lib begins to realize, though, as she gets closer to Anna, that their watch is rather cruel. If, up until their watch, Anna has been fed in some covert way and their watch has put an end to it, they are complicit in starving Anna. As Anna begins to grow weak with undernourishment, Lib must decide if she will watch Anna’s slow death, as the village seems to wish her to do, or put a stop to it.

Set just after the Great Famine, the reader can easily see how Anna and her family have made a virtue of not eating. A child who claimed to be full quickly would be a source of relief to her struggling parents. The unique setting, religious faith, and a web of irresponsible adults and family secrets conspire to keep Anna trapped in her fasting and it is difficult to read. The reader feels culpable for Anna’s abuse just as Lib does. This intense read combines the richly detailed, thoroughly researched historical fiction that Donoghue is known for with the pulse-pounding immediacy of her 2010 breakthrough hit Room.

The Summer of Skinny Dipping By Amanda Howells

Book– Sixteen year old Mia Gordan spends the summer at her cousins lavish beach home in the South Hamptons. She expects a wild fun summer of reconnection with her favorite cousin and endless day’s of swimming in the ocean. What Mia didn’t expect was to find out her cousin is spiraling out of control into a world of drugs and partying, or that her cousins golden family exterior isn’t quite what it seems, and she definitely didn’t expect to fall in love this summer. After swearing off boys after having her heart broken by the one boy she thought she loved, she meets a boy, Simon, on the docks of her beach house one night when she is avoiding a raging party. Shrouded in mystery and excitement she meets him every night to go swimming. After weeks of meeting in secret they finally get together in daylight, not too soon after tragedy strikes and its left Mia’s world in pieces.

The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells Is a beautifully written novel about a girl and discovering who she is. I personally loved this novel and while it could be a little predictable at times it encompassed what it is like to be a teenager with typical boy and family problems. Would defiantly rate this a ten/ten.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Book – Although high schooler Fabiola Toussaint grew up in Haiti, she is an American citizen.  Her mother is not.  They’ve both been planning to come and live with family in Detroit, but when Customs and Immigration stop her mother at the airport, Fabiola finds herself flying alone to a strange city in a strange country to live with an aunt and three cousins she knows only over the phone.

It’s a rough dunking in the deep end of adulthood, and Fabiola’s three cousins, while loving and supportive in their own way, don’t always make her transition easier.  Tough and street-smart, they have a neighborhood rep as the Three Bees–Brains for the eldest, Chantal, and Beauty and Brawn respectively for twins Donna and Pri.  Nor does Aunt Jo, partially paralyzed from a stroke and often bedridden with pain, play much of a role in welcoming Fabiola to Detroit.

Bit by bit, Fabiola feels her way through assimilation to a new culture and a new family.  Her cousins’ fierceness soon translates to an equally powerful protectiveness and love.  Donna’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend is a blot on all their lives, but Fabiola is drawn to his sweet friend Kasim.  A police officer offers Fabiola a chance to help her mother through the immigration process, for a price.  And Fabiola can never feel too disconnected from her roots as the daughter of a Vodou mambo when Papa Legba spends his nights on the sidewalk across from her new home, singing cryptic riddles under the streetlights at the corner of American and Joy…

American Street is a powerful, original and deeply relevant first novel from a talented writer.  Anyone who objects to profanity would do best to steer clear, but for other adult and older teen readers this is a strongly recommended exploration of the present-day American experience.

The Keep by Jennifer Egan

Book – In a remote castle somewhere in Eastern Europe, a young man joins the crew that’s working on turning the castle into an unplugged resort, a place you can go to really escape from everything. The crew is led by his cousin, who our narrator once abandoned in a cave when they were both children. In prison, a convict begins to write a story, trying desperately to impress the pretty young writing instructor he’s falling in love with. Which one of these stories is real, which one is true? Better not to try to figure it out, but just to go along for the ride – and what a ride it is.

I always enjoy stories with unreliable narrators, and this one has two, which is pretty terrific. The story in the castle is a little surreal and more than a little Gothic; the story in the prison is emotionally complex and exciting – not your usual writing-about-a-writer scenario. And I loved both of them, which is unusual for me; usually in a book with two parallel narratives I strongly prefer one or the other. Jennifer Egan is a strong, compelling writer, and I look forward to exploring more of her books. I’d recommend this to fans of Claire Messud and Haruki Murakami.