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Fat Books for Sophisticated Teen Readers

These books cover a variety of subjects. They are all books that I've enjoyed. They are not all "classics" by any means. Some are just fun. The main thing that they have in common is that they are all long (fat books).

Clan of the Cave Bear
Jean Auel

Amazon.com Editorial Review

When her parents are killed by an earthquake, 5-year-old Ayla wanders through the forest completely alone. Cold, hungry, and badly injured by a cave lion, the little girl is as good as gone until she is discovered by a group who call themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear. This clan, left homeless by the same disaster, have little interest in the helpless girl who comes from the tribe they refer to as the "Others." Only their medicine woman sees in Ayla a fellow human, worthy of care. She painstakingly nurses her back to health--a decision that will forever alter the physical and emotional structure of the clan. Although this story takes place roughly 35,000 years ago, its cast of characters could easily slide into any modern tale. The members of the Neanderthal clan, ruled by traditions and taboos, find themselves challenged by this outsider, who represents the physically modern Cro-Magnons. And as Ayla begins to grow and mature, her natural tendencies emerge, putting her in the middle of a brutal and dangerous power struggle.

Although Jean Auel obviously takes certain liberties with the actions and motivations of all our ancestors, her extensive research into the Ice Age does shine through--especially in the detailed knowledge of plants and natural remedies used by the medicine woman and passed down to Ayla. Mostly, though, this first in the series of four is a wonderful story of survival. Ayla's personal evolution is a compelling and relevant tale. - Sara Nickerson


Evening Class
Maeve Binchy

Amazon.com Editorial Review

Maeve Binchy can always be counted on to spin an involving tale about ordinary people that brings out the extraordinary in everyone. In Evening Class, Binchy zooms in on the working-class of Dublin. Schoolteacher Aidan Dunne organizes an evening class in Italian with the help of Nora O'Donoghue, an Irishwoman returning home after 26 years in Sicily. When the somewhat squashed-by-life denizens of the surrounding neighborhood take the unexpected step of enrolling in the class, they find their lives transformed.

Binchy tells her story from the viewpoints of eight different characters and rewards both them and her readers with happy endings after the requisite rocky road. Reading a novel by Maeve Binchy is like catching up with old friends--you know everything will turn out fine in the end, but you're still interested in how things get that way.


Firefly Summer
Maeve Binchy

Book Description

It was a summer of warmth.... Kate Ryan and her husband, John, have a rollicking pub in the Irish village of Mountfern... lovely twelve-year-old twins... and such wonderful dreams.... It was a summer of innocence... but all that is about to change this fateful summer of 1962 when American millionaire Patrick O'Neill comes to town with his irresistible charm and a pocketful of money... when love and hate vie for a town's quiet heart and old traditions begin to crumble away.... It was a summer of love that would never come again.... A time that has been captured forever in Maeve Binchy's compelling family drama... a novel you will never forget.


Tara Road
Maeve Binchy

Book Description

Ria lived on Tara Road in Dublin with her dashing husband, Danny, and their two children. She fully believed she was happily married, right up until the day Danny told her he was leaving her to be with his young, pregnant girlfriend. By a chance phone call, Ria meets Marilyn, a woman from New England unable to come to terms with her only son's death and now separated from her husband. The two women exchange houses for the summer with extraordinary consequences, each learning that the other has a deep secret that can never be revealed.

Drawn into lifestyles vastly differing from their own, at first each resents the news of how well the other is getting on. Ria seems to have become quite a hostess, entertaining half the neighborhood, which at first irritates the reserved and withdrawn Marilyn, a woman who has always guarded her privacy. Marilyn seems to have become bosom friends with Ria's children, as well as with Colm, a handsome restaurateur, whom Ria has begun to miss terribly. At the end of the summer, the women at last meet face-to-face. Having learned a great deal, about themselves and about each other, they find that they have become, firmly and forever, good friends.

A moving story rendered with the deft touch of a master artisan, Tara Road is Maeve Binchy at her very best--utterly beautiful, hauntingly unforgettable, entirely original, and wholly enjoyable.


The Mists of Avalon
Marion Zimmer Bradley

Amazon.com Editorial Review

Even readers who don't normally enjoy Arthurian legends will love this version, a retelling from the point of view of the women behind the throne. Morgaine (more commonly known as Morgan Le Fay) and Gwenhwyfar (a Welsh spelling of Guinevere) struggle for power, using Arthur as a way to score points and promote their respective worldviews. The Mists of Avalon's Camelot politics and intrigue take place at a time when Christianity is taking over the island-nation of Britain; Christianity vs. Faery, and God vs. Goddess are dominant themes.

Young and old alike will enjoy this magical Arthurian reinvention by science fiction and fantasy veteran Marion Zimmer Bradley. - Bonnie Bouman


The Sword of Shannara
Terry Brooks

Book Description

Living in peaceful Shady Vale, Shea Ohmsford knew little of the troubles that plagued the rest of the world. Then the giant, forbidding Allanon revaled that the supposedly dead Warlock Lord was plotting to destory the world. The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness was the Sword of Shannara, which could only be used by a true heir of Shannara--Shea being the last of the bloodline, upon whom all hope rested. Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of Evil, flew into the Vale, seeking to destroy Shea. To save the Vale, Shea fled, drawing the Skull Bearer after him....


Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
Orson Scott Card

Amazon.com Editorial Review

Anyone who's read Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong knows about the devastating consequences that Columbus's voyage and ensuing colonization had on the native people of the Americas and Africa. In a thought-provoking work that is part science fiction, part historical drama, Orson Scott Card writes about scientists in a fearful future who study that tragic past, then attempt to actually intervene and change it into something better.

Tagiri and Hassan are members of Pastwatch, an academic organization that uses machines to see into the past and record it. Their project focuses on slavery and its dreadful effects, and gradually evolves into a study of Christopher Columbus. They eventually marry and their daughter Diko joins them in their quest to discover what drove Columbus west.

Columbus, with whom readers become acquainted through both images in the Pastwatch machines and personal narrative, is portrayed as a religious man with both strengths and weaknesses, a charismatic leader who sometimes rose above but often fell beneath the mores of his times. As usual, Orson Scott Card uses his formidable writing skills to create likable, complex characters who face gripping problems; he also provides an entertaining and thoughtful history lesson in Pastwatch. - Bonnie Bouman


Shogun
James Clavell

From the Publisher

A bold English adventuer. An invincible Japanese warlord. A beautiful woman torn between two ways of life, two ways of love. All brought together in a mighty saga of a time and place aflame with conflict, passion, ambition, lust and the struggle for power.

"Superbly crafted...grips the reader like a riptide...gets the juices flowing!" -- Washington Star.

"Exciting, totally absorbing...be prepared for late nights, meals unlasting, buisness unattended..." -- Philadelphia Inquirer.

"Adventure and action, the suspense of danger, shocking, touching human relationships...a climactic human story." -- Los Angeles Times.


A Man Rides Through
Stephen R. Donaldson

Book Description

In The Mirror of Her Dreams, the dazzling first volume of Mordant’s Need, New York Times bestselling author Stephen R. Donaldson introduced us to the richly imagined world of Mordant, where mirrors are magical portals into places of beauty and terror. Now, with A Man Rides Through, Donaldson brings the story of Terisa Morgan to an unforgettable conclusion. . . .

Aided by the powerful magic of Vagel, the evil Arch-Imager, the merciless armies are marching against the kingdom of Mordant. In its hour of greatest need, two unlikely champions emerge. One is Geraden, whose inability to master the simplest skills of Imagery has made him a laughingstock. The other is Terisa Morgan, transferred to Mordant from a Manhattan apartment by Geraden’s faulty magic. Together, Geraden and Terisa discover undreamed-of talents within themselves—talents that make them more than a match for any Imager . . . including Vagel himself.

Unfortunately, those talents also mark them for death. Branded as traitors, they are forced to flee the castle for their lives. Now, all but defenseless in a war-torn countryside ravaged by the vilest horrors Imagery can spawn, Geraden and Terisa must put aside past failures and find the courage to embrace their powers—and their love—before Vagel can spring his final trap.


The Mirror of Her Dreams
Stephen R. Donaldson

Book Description

Once again Stephen R. Donaldson, has created a shining example that proves his gift as a master storyteller. It is the story of Terisa Morgan and Geraden, son of the Domme, set in the strange land called Mordant. It is a rich and finely textured novel of love and lust, power and court politics, in a place where nothing is ever what it seems....


Stranger in a Strange Land
Robert Heinlein

Amazon.com Editorial Review

Stranger in a Strange Land, winner of the 1962 Hugo Award, is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, born during, and the only survivor of, the first manned mission to Mars. Michael is raised by Martians, and he arrives on Earth as a true innocent: he has never seen a woman and has no knowledge of Earth's cultures or religions. But he brings turmoil with him, as he is the legal heir to an enormous financial empire, not to mention de facto owner of the planet Mars. With the irascible popular author Jubal Harshaw to protect him, Michael explores human morality and the meanings of love. He founds his own church, preaching free love and disseminating the psychic talents taught him by the Martians. Ultimately, he confronts the fate reserved for all messiahs.

The impact of Stranger in a Strange Land was considerable, leading many children of the 60's to set up households based on Michael's water-brother nests. Heinlein loved to pontificate through the mouths of his characters, so modern readers must be willing to overlook the occasional sour note ("Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's partly her fault."). That aside, Stranger in a Strange Land is one of the master's best entertainments, provocative as he always loved to be. Can you grok it? - Brooks Peck


The Eye of the World Book 1 Wheel of Time Series
Robert Jordan

Book Description

The Wheel of Times turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, and Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.


The Stand
Stephen King

Amazon.com Editorial Review

In 1978, science fiction writer Spider Robinson wrote a scathing review of The Stand in which he exhorted his readers to grab strangers in bookstores and beg them not to buy it.

The Stand is like that. You either love it or hate it, but you can't ignore it. Stephen King's most popular book, according to polls of his fans, is an end-of-the-world scenario: a rapidly mutating flu virus is accidentally released from a U.S. military facility and wipes out 99 and 44/100 percent of the world's population, thus setting the stage for an apocalyptic confrontation between Good and Evil.

"I love to burn things up," King says. "It's the werewolf in me, I guess.... The Stand was particularly fulfilling, because there I got a chance to scrub the whole human race, and man, it was fun! ... Much of the compulsive, driven feeling I had while I worked on The Stand came from the vicarious thrill of imagining an entire entrenched social order destroyed in one stroke."

There is much to admire in The Stand: the vivid thumbnail sketches with which King populates a whole landscape with dozens of believable characters; the deep sense of nostalgia for things left behind; the way it subverts our sense of reality by showing us a world we find familiar, then flipping it over to reveal the darkness underneath. Anyone who wants to know, or claims to know, the heart of the American experience needs to read this book. - Fiona Webster


The Poisonwood Bible
Barbara Kingsolver

Amazon.com Editorial Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, June 2000: As any reader of The Mosquito Coast knows, men who drag their families to far-off climes in pursuit of an Idea seldom come to any good, while those familiar with At Play in the Fields of the Lord or Kalimantaan understand that the minute a missionary sets foot on the fictional stage, all hell is about to break loose. So when Barbara Kingsolver sends missionary Nathan Price along with his wife and four daughters off to Africa in The Poisonwood Bible, you can be sure that salvation is the one thing they're not likely to find. The year is 1959 and the place is the Belgian Congo. Nathan, a Baptist preacher, has come to spread the Word in a remote village reachable only by airplane. To say that he and his family are woefully unprepared would be an understatement: "We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle," says Leah, one of Nathan's daughters. But of course it isn't long before they discover that the tremendous humidity has rendered the mixes unusable, their clothes are unsuitable, and they've arrived in the middle of political upheaval as the Congolese seek to wrest independence from Belgium. In addition to poisonous snakes, dangerous animals, and the hostility of the villagers to Nathan's fiery take-no-prisoners brand of Christianity, there are also rebels in the jungle and the threat of war in the air. Could things get any worse?

In fact they can and they do. The first part of The Poisonwood Bible revolves around Nathan's intransigent, bullying personality and his effect on both his family and the village they have come to. As political instability grows in the Congo, so does the local witch doctor's animus toward the Prices, and both seem to converge with tragic consequences about halfway through the novel. From that point on, the family is dispersed and the novel follows each member's fortune across a span of more than 30 years.

The Poisonwood Bible is arguably Barbara Kingsolver's most ambitious work, and it reveals both her great strengths and her weaknesses. As Nathan Price's wife and daughters tell their stories in alternating chapters, Kingsolver does a good job of differentiating the voices. But at times they can grate--teenage Rachel's tendency towards precious malapropisms is particularly annoying (students practice their "French congregations"; Nathan's refusal to take his family home is a "tapestry of justice"). More problematic is Kingsolver's tendency to wear her politics on her sleeve; this is particularly evident in the second half of the novel, in which she uses her characters as mouthpieces to explicate the complicated and tragic history of the Belgian Congo.

Despite these weaknesses, Kingsolver's fully realized, three-dimensional characters make The Poisonwood Bible compelling, especially in the first half, when Nathan Price is still at the center of the action. And in her treatment of Africa and the Africans she is at her best, exhibiting the acute perception, moral engagement, and lyrical prose that have made her previous novels so successful. - Alix Wilber


Always Coming Home
Ursula K. LeGuin

Book Description

Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home is a major work of the imagination from one of America's most respected writers of science fiction. More than five years in the making, it is a novel unlike any other. A rich and complex interweaving of story and fable, poem, artwork, and music, it totally immerses the reader in the culture of the Kesh, a peaceful people of the far future who inhabit a place called the Valley on the Northern Pacific Coast.


The Thorn Birds
Colleen McCollough

Book Description

Now, 25 years after it first took the world by storm, Colleen McCullough’s sweeping family saga of dreams, titanic struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian Outback returns to enthrall a new generation. As powerful, moving, and unforgettable as when it originally appeared, it remains a monumental literary achievement -- a landmark novel to be read . . . and read again!


Spindle's End
Robin McKinley

Amazon.com Editorial Review

Renowned fantasy writer Robin McKinley, author of the lush "Beauty and the Beast" retellings Beauty and Rose Daughter, has produced another re-mastered fairy tale, this time about the dreamy Sleeping Beauty. Much like in the original story, the infant princess, here named Rosie, is cursed by an evil fairy to die on her 21st birthday by pricking her finger on a spindle. That same day, Rosie is whisked away into hiding by a peasant fairy who raises her and conceals her royal identity. From that point on, McKinley's plot and characterization become wildly inventive. She imagines Rosie growing up into a strapping young woman who despises her golden hair, prefers leather breeches to ball gowns, and can communicate with animals. And on that fateful birthday, with no help from a prince, Rosie saves herself and her entire sleeping village from destruction, although she pays a realistic price. In a final master stroke, McKinley cleverly takes creative license when the spell-breaking kiss (made famous in "Sleeping Beauty") comes from a surprising source and is bestowed upon the character least expected.

Although the entire novel is well written, McKinley's characterization of Rosie's animal friends is exceptionally fine. Observations such as "...foxes generally wanted to talk about butterflies and grasses and weather for a long time while they sized you up," will spark reader's imaginations. It won't be hard to persuade readers of any age to become lost in this marvelous tale; the difficult part will be convincing them to come back from McKinley's country, where "the magic... was so thick and tenacious that it settled over the land like chalk dust...." Highly recommended. (Ages 12 and older) - Jennifer Hubert


September
Rosamunde Pilcher

From the Back Cover

A story of homecomings and heartbreaks, friendships, betrayals, forgiveness, and love.


The Shell Seekers
Rosamunde Pilcher

Book Description

The Shell Seekers, the classic novel by acclaimed writer Rosamunde Pilcher, is now available in hardcover once more. This epic romance has sold over 3.5 million copies to date; her other bestsellers include Winter Solstice, Wild Mountain Thyme, and Coming Home.

Set in London and Cornwall from World War II to present, The Shell Seekers tells the story of the Keeling family, and of the passions and heartbreak that have held them together for three generations. The family centers around Penelope, and it is her love, courage, and sense of values that determine the course of all their lives, Deftly shifting back and forth in time, each chapter centers on one of the principal players in the family's history. the unifying thread is an oil painting entitled "The Shell Seekers," done by Penelope's father. It is this painting that symbolizes to Penelope the ties between the generations. But it is the fate of this painting that just may tear the family apart.


The Story of B
Daniel Quinn

Book Description

The Story of B combines Daniel Quinn's provocative and visionary ideas with a masterfully plotted story of adventure and suspense in this stunning, resonant novel that is sure to stay with readers long after they have finished the last page. Father Jared Osborne--bound by a centuries-old mandate held by his order to know before all others that the Antichrist is among us--is sent to Europe on a mission to find a peripatetic preacher whose radical message is attracting a growing circle of followers. The target of Osborne's investigation is an American known only as B. He isn't teaching New Age platitudes or building a fanatical following; instead, he is quietly uncovering the hidden history of our planet, redefining the fall of man, and retracing a path of human spirituality that extends millions of years into the past. From the beginning, Fr. Osborne is stunned, outraged, and awed by the simplicity and profundity of B's teachings. Is B merely a heretic--or is he the Antichrist sent to seduce humanity not with wickedness, but with ideas more alluring than those of traditional religion? With surprising twists and fascinating characters, The Story of B answers this question as it sends readers on an intellectual journey that will forever change the way they view spirituality, human history, and, indeed, the state of our present world.



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The equation of personal taste is as powerful in reading as in eating; and within certain broad limits the matter is merely one of individual preference, having nothing to do with the quality either of the book or of the reader's mind. - Theodore Roosevelt




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