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May 17, 2012 Edition

Who Fears Death

Written by Nnedi Okorafor

After Onyesonwu’s mother is raped, her attacker leaves her to die with her fellow massacred villagers. But she doesn’t die: she gives birth to a daughter whom she names Who Fears Death because, in this story of magical realism, she sees immediately that her daughter has a special destiny. Onye is a sorceress who has the power to save her people, the Okeke, from their oppressors, the Naru, but she fears it may mean her death. Be forewarned, this is set in a future Sudan which has many of the same problems as current Sudan, including intertribal violence and rape, incest, and female circumcision, and Okarafor doesn’t shy away from addressing them. At the same time, she has created an entrancing and powerful coming-of-age story, her first for adults (she has several young adult novels published).

Plugged

Written by Eoin Colfer

Crude, rude, and hilariously funny, this is the story of Daniel McEvoy, his hair implants, and the Jersey mob. Poor Daniel: ever since his hair plugs, he’s been hearing his doctor’s voice in his head. Now his girlfriend Connie is dead and fingers are pointing his direction. As a veteran of the UN peacekeeping operation in Lebanon, Daniel can take care of himself, and he sets out to do just that in an effort to clear his name and find the real killer. Keating reads Daniel and the other Irish characters with differentiated Irish accents, manages his American voices adeptly as well, and swears fluidly. Yes, this is Colfer of Artemis Fowl fame, writing his first adult novel. Sensitive ears ought not pick this up: others who don’t mind the swearing and think a combination of Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, and Raymond Chandler sounds like fun should give it a try.

The Girl in the Garden

Written by Kamala Nair

The Girl in the Garden, by Kamala Nair, read by Anitha Gandhi. When Rakhee was 11, she and her mother left stark Plainfield, Minnesota for a summer of chaos and color with her mother’s family in Kerala, India, where she discovers the joys of having lots of cousins, aunts, and uncles. She also finds a wall that contains a garden – and, her family says, a monster. Though forbidden to enter or even look into the garden, Rakhee can’t resist, and discovers a grim secret that threatens the foundation of her family. Now older and engaged to be married, the secret she’s carried for years is undermining her ability to start a new life and so she leaves her fiancé to travel once again to Kerala to face the garden and its contents. Gandhi brings Nair’s beautiful language alive with strong characterizations and a lovely voice.

The Tragedy of Arthur

Written by Arthur Phillips

Arthur and his twin sister Dana, have a here-again, gone-again father, the kind who thinks up schemes, executes them, and then is surprised to find himself in prison again. Once, it was for forging store coupons. Once, the twins helped him create crop circles “so that… life wasn’t without wonder.” With that background, is it any wonder that Arthur can’t believe his father has gifted him with a previously unknown copy of “The Tragedy of (King) Arthur” by William Shakespeare? Written as a preface to the imagined play (the play follows), this is a lively look at a con artist, his family, and what may be his last (and greatest) con.

Jamrach’s Menagerie

Written by Carol Birch

It’s 1857, and young street urchin Jaffy Brown has just escaped being nearly eaten by a tiger on the streets of London. The tiger’s owner, Mr. Jamrach is an importer of rare and strange animals, and he takes Jaffy under his wing, putting him to work in his menagerie. There, Jaffy meets Tim, another young animal handler and they become friends and rivals. As teenagers, the two get sent on a voyage with Mr. Jamrach’s best supplier to capture a dragon-like creature, which they do despite a warning that bringing the creature aboard will bring bad luck. When the bad luck strikes, it’s doubtful that anyone will survive.

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