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Staff Review: The Only Words That Are Worth Remembering

The only words worth remembering picThe Only Words That Are Worth Remembering 

Jeffrey Rotter

Metropolitan Books

$26.00

Available now

Peel away the thin veneer of technology and sophistication that our civilization depends on, and we begin our inevitable descent into decline and ignorance. Would our changed circumstances somehow change our intrinsic humanity? Whether we live in the lap of luxury, imbued with knowledge, and with every convenience and advantage available to us, or if we suffer in the depths of poverty, ignorance, and difficulty, we still search for human connection and togetherness.

In The Only Words That Are Worth Remembering, a darkly humorous novel by Jeffrey Rotter, the near future has turned into a new Dark Ages. The earth is once again the center of the universe, the sky is made of an impenetrable Night Glass, and the Sun is a gap in the glass through which the ether leaks. Relics of the past abound, but no one seems to know their original purpose.

The scrappy Van Zandt family lives in a post-apocalyptic city in what used to be Florida. Pop and Umma both have jobs, at least for the present, and twin brothers Rowan and Faron are learning a vocation. Pop gets into trouble defending his winnings in a contest at work (well, he pushes an aggressor into a vat of bubbling boiling egg yolks), which sets off a cascading chain of events culminating in a tour bus hijacking by Rowan and Faron that eventually force the family to make an impossible choice: going to live in separate prisons for the rest of their lives, or volunteering to be test subjects in a rediscovered rocket to be launched to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

The rediscovered rocket lies buried in the sands of the old Cape Canaveral, now Cape Cannibal, and the mission is supposed to be secret. Since only a few people even know that anything exists beyond the Night Glass anymore, it is not difficult to hide.  Rowan learns that gravity is “one of those things that you never miss until it’s gone,” and keeps boredom at bay by reading and rereading an old stash of Colson Whitehead novels. However, mental breakdowns, death, a horrifyingly comical funeral pyre, and squabbling between the two brothers and the other potential astronauts cause the eventual breakup of the Van Zandt clan. Rowan loses everyone he loves, living on the run for the next decade, convinced that he will be hunted down and punished. He travels all over the former southeastern and southwestern United States, going from job to job, and searching for the old observatories that he had learned about during his training. He has knowledge but cannot share it with anyone. He knows that Newton’s laws of motion govern mechanics, but that they do not govern “moral mechanics”; in other words, he describes inertia as “tak(ing) no effort to get a terrible sadness off the ground”, force & acceleration as “speak(ing) a few words so that everyone you love will be sent away”, and reaction as “sign(ing) a paper and your mother dies.”

A much older Rowan writes the story of his life for his young daughter, hoping that she will someday forgive him for the choices that he has made. His legacy to his daughter is the gift of knowledge and the curse of loneliness. He recalls the last happy time that the he enjoyed in the bosom of his family, when they had a full meal, a safe place, and lots of weed, music and singing. The only words worth remembering now and forever are sorrow and solitude.

Add The Only Words That Are Worth Remembering to my favorites in post-apocalyptic literature! It should join the canon along with such classics as Alas, Babylon, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Earth Abides, and Riddley Walker.

~Lysbeth Abrams

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Staff Review: The Travels of Daniel Ascher

The Travels of Daniel Ascher pic

The Travels of Daniel Ascher

Deborah Levy-Bertherat

Other Press

$22.95

Available now

 

 

How well do we ever really know another person?

In Days in the History of Silence (Merethe Lindstrom), a man dealt with the legacy of the Holocaust by not speaking. In Diary of the Fall, a grandfather dealt with the legacy of the Holocaust by recording false memories of his past in a diary. In The Travels of Daniel Ascher, a great-uncle deals with the legacy of the Holocaust by fictionalizing his present, writing adventure stories as allegories for his past.

The written word has the capacity to be powerful.  It has the power to hide us and it has the power to reveal us. It also has the power to save us.

Most people live their life before they write about it. But most people are not Holocaust survivors.  In The Travels of Daniel Ascher, a wonderful novel written by Deborah Levy-Bertherat, Daniel Roche not only survived the Holocaust, he has become the successful writer of a famous series of adventure stories for children.  The Black Insignia series, written under the pseudonym H. R. Sanders, is as famous in France as Tintin or the stories of Le Petit Nicolas.

Helene Chambon, Daniel’s great-niece, lives in Daniel’s apartment in Paris while she is studying archeology at university. She has grown up with the legend of her world-traveling great uncle, but also with the knowledge that Daniel is considered something of a black sheep within the family.

Daniel is hardly ever at home, always traveling to gather background for his novels, and Helene begins to discover that she really does not know him at all. She knows that Daniel is not her biological uncle, but was a Jewish orphan adopted by her great-grandparents, and that his birth name was Daniel Ascher. She finds out that his neighbors know him far better than most of his family members. She discovers that Daniel grew up in an apartment block close to where she is living now. She discovers that shopkeepers know him as Daniel Ascher, not Daniel Roche. She discovers that Daniel had a sister. She discovers that he has relatives in America, and that he had visited them after the war.

Helene begins to wonder exactly why her family considers Daniel to be a bit of a black sheep, and she digs deeper into his past, as though it were an archeological dig. The clues are there, if she can only follow them. The clues are like one of those Russian matryoshka dolls, with each layer revealing yet another layer. Objects are physically hidden in other objects.  Objects also assume other meanings. Photographs are not what they seem. Names are not what they seem. Words have more than one meaning. Biblical references abound. There are stories within stories.  And a scrap of yellowed paper written in Hebrew may hold the key to everything, if only Helene could read it. As Helene discovers Daniel’s hidden past, she begins to question how much of his present life is true. Daniel’s history in the Roche family is revealed in an explosive family scene. But it is a small book that fills in all the unanswered questions about Daniel’s past; a small book, that in my mind at least, resembles one of the beautiful books of Peter Sis.

Daniel comes to terms with his past by letting it go. He begins to live the life that he has been writing about all these years, the life that everyone thought he had been living.

I read this novel in a day, in my pajamas, without leaving the sofa.  I would recommend the same for anyone who reads The Travels of Daniel Ascher.

~Lysbeth Abrams

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Customer Review: Dreamland

DreamlandDreamland

Robert L. Anderson

HarperTeen

$17.99

Available September 22, 2015

Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson is perfects for fans who love books that leave you on the edge of your seat.  The book takes on a unique plot where Odea Donahue has the ability to walk people’s dreams. There are three rules, do not change anything, never be seen, and don’t walk the same person’s dream twice.  When a boy with a dark past moves into town Odea breaks these rules, sparking changes in her life and the people around her.

~ Emily, 17

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Staff Review: Fans of the Impossible Life

9780062331755

Fans of the Impossible Life     

Kate Scelsa

Balzer & Bray/Harperteen

$17.99

Available: September 8th, 2015

Kate Scelsa’s Fans of the Impossible Life features the trials and tribulations of three misfit high school friends that form an unbreakable bond and become fans of the impossible fantasy filled life. I think of high school in this way: in every school you have different types of clans of students, such as the Preps, the rebels, the sporty people, the popular ones, and the not so visible shy, standoffish, wallflower ones like Jeremy, to whom I can relate. Then you have the people like Mira a.k.a Miranda, the uniquely different ones. The ones that aren’t afraid of standing out and wearing what they want to wear, and being who they truly are, the ones that struggle with reality. The ones that try to fill the empty problem filled gaps with material items. Finally, you have the rebels – or clanless ones – like Sebby a.k.a Sebastian, who don’t even attempt to go to school or have any kind of succession in life, and sort of just wander and do their own thing. The ones that come from chaotic households, feeling as though they don’t have a place.

The more I leaned about each character, and the more puzzle pieces I could fit together about who each of these characters were individually and their story, the more I found myself relating to Mira, Sebby and Jeremy. I could not put the book down and wanted to follow these characters and jump into their world and see what it was all about and experience it, I wanted to know where their stories would lead them.  I can, and I bet many other readers can appreciate the realism of the book and how Mire, Sebby and Jeremy are just typical everyday people living the day to life, somehow surviving and carrying on despite each of their internal/ external problems. Most readers will be able to relate to this book, and possibly form connections with these characters like I have, which I think is very important to the reader’s liking and understanding of the book.

Could I see this book possibly becoming a movie in the near future? Absolutely! I would probably see it the day it premiered. I would recommend this book to practically anyone, but I really do think this book’s target audience is the typical teenager/ young adult living the typical life, going through problems, but who really just want an outlet. I can guarantee that many young adults and teenagers have some form of degree of the problems that Mira, Sebby, and Jeremy do within the mythical character world. Mira, Sebby, and Jeremy prove that you can survive whatever it is you are going through and you will get through it.  I can really appreciate the way Scelsa gives each character an individual voice. It’s almost like one on one time between the character and the reader. Getting to know the character and form connections. I also love how Scelsa gradually starts revealing more and more clues and tiny pieces that you can fit together.  The slow reveal keeps the reader interested, in tune within the book, and wondering “What else am I going to learn about Mira, Sebby or Jeremy, What crazy things will they do next?  What’s going to happen next to them?”

The more I read The Fans of the Impossible Life, the more I found myself wishing these characters were actually human beings so I could befriend them and call them up anytime I wanted. which is what every book should be able to do. If anyone I came across asked me whether The Fans of the Impossible Life is a good book and whether they should read it, I would say absolutely, “Yes, you should” because this book is the perfect example of realism; it is raw and real and directly addresses the issue between people struggling between reality and wanting to live the impossible life. Fans of the Impossible Life should definitely be at the top of anyone’s TBR list.

~ Eryn,16

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Customer Review: Magonia

MagoniaMagonia

Maria Dahvana Headley

HarperCollins

Available in April 2014

$17.99

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley circles around a girl with a mysterious lung disease when one day she is transported to another world where she is healthy and has the ability to do incredible things with just her voice.  This story has a handful of snarky intelligent characters, and a beautiful setting.

~ Emily

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Morse Pond Review — Brown Girl Dreaming

BrownGirlDreamingBrown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson

Nancy Paulson Books

$16.99

Available now

I liked Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson because it is a story about the author’s life.The book talks about her family, and I liked that her family is always together.This book is a unique and I would recommend it to everyone.

~ Rachelle,10

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Morse Pond Review — The Lost Children of the Far Islands

LostChildrenoftheFarIslandsThe Lost Children of the Far Islands

Emily Raabe

Knopf Books

$16.99

Available now

The Lost Children of the Far Islands by Emily Raabe is quite a fascinating book. Gus, Leo, and Ila think that they are just normal kids until everything around them turns upside down.  It is action-packed, and has some twists and turns that you never would see it coming. I highly recommend this book if you like adventure.

~ Samantha R., age 12

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Morse Pond Review — House of Robots: My Brother the Robot

HouseofRobotsHouse of Robots: My Brother the Robot

James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Little, Brown

13.99

Available now

The book that I read was House of Robots: My Brother the Robot by James Patterson. What I liked about the book is that at the start Sammy didn’t like E going to his school, but at the end they became best buds. E is a robot that thinks it is Sammy’s brother. Sammy is worried that the other students will judge him as a nerd because of E. The bully in this book is up to no good at their school and is trying to get his crowd back. You should read this book because it is really funny and great to read.

~ Dontae, age 12

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Morse Pond Review — Bending Over Backwards

BendingOverBackwardsPicture Perfect: Bending Over Backwards

Cari Simmons and Heather Alexander

HarperCollins

$6.99

Available now

Bending Over Backwards by Cari Simmons and Heather Alexander was a great book. If you enjoy gymnastics or cheerleading then you’d love this book. I do gymnastics, so it was easy for me to understand to follow the story. If you don’t, you may not understand some of the terms. Overall I would read this book at least 5 more times. I’ve come to the conclusion that this book is probably meant for girls. Boys may enjoy this book, but I don’t think they’d receive the same message. I’d give this book 5 stars out of 5 stars.
~ Sarah S.,12

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Morse Pond Review — Iron Trial

IronTrialIron Trial

Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Scholastic

Available now

Magisterium: Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (two well-known and loved fantasy authors) was an action packed, mysterious fantasy, where Call is forced to go to a trial to get into an academy of wizards. While there, he purposely tries to fail so he can have a normal life. But, then again his life has never really been normal. When Call is called up to be accepted into the Magisterium his father is furious, and Call has to go to the Magisterium. I would give it 50 out of 5 stars.

Eamon, age 12

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