Friday, December 14, 2007

A Yearly Trek to Snowy Wales

Every year at about this time, I try to reread Dylan Thomas's lovely piece, A Child's Christmas in Wales. It's a simple tale, written from the point of view of a young Welsh boy, and it makes me smile year after year. He remembers presents, good things to eat, friends, aunts, uncles, and, above all, the pleasures of snow. This tiny story seems to spell out joy in its simplest, humblest origins. Spend an evening with A Child's Christmas in Wales, and you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An epic adventure for the season!

Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher follows the journey of Mitra and her little brother, Babak, two beggars in the ancient city of Rhagae. But Mitra burns with hope and ambition, for she and Babak are not what they seem. They are of royal blood, but their father's ill-fated plot against the evil tyrant, King Phraates, has resulted in their father's death and their exile. Now disguised as a boy, Mitra has never given up believing they can rejoin what is left of their family and regain their rightful standing in the world.

Then they discover that Babak has a strange gift: If he sleeps with an item belonging to someone, he can know that person's dreams. Mitra believes that they can use this gift to find passage back to the city of Palmyra. But soon Babak and his abilities come to the attention of a powerful Magus-one who reads portents in the stars of the coming of a new king and the dawn of a new age. Soon Mitra and Babak find themselves on the road to Bethlehem.

And an epic adventure begins as acclaimed author of Shadow Spinner returns to ancient Persia in this spellbinding saga--a tale filled with the color of the caravansaries and the heat of the desert, a tale that reimagines the wonder and spirit of a lost age.

This book is found in the Teen Room and will be a great read for all ages!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Witty and Wise

Daniel Pecan Cambridge, the main character in comedian/actor/author Steve Martin's novella, The Pleasure of My Company, is a savant who cannot deal with the stresses of a job, can't cross a street unless one driveway is directly across from the opposing driveway, and cannot sleep unless the wattage in the overhead lights add up to a specific number. His world consists of his laborious trips to the Rite Aid, weekly visits from a student therapist named Clarissa, and an ongoing fascination with Elizabeth, a real-estate agent who he views from his apartment window. One day, the contained little world where this dysfunctional and very funny man lives, is thrown into chaos and the disorder, that Daniel fears, comes crashing in when he accidentally stumbles into the messy entanglements of Clarissa and her young son Teddy's life. Reluctantly, Daniel agrees to provide daycare for Teddy and finds Teddy the salve that draws Daniel, little by little, out of the neurotic niche he has made for himself. In this novella, Martin is far less manic than in his "wild and crazy" Saturday Night Live days. In The Pleasure of My Company, Martin is philosopher, poet and witty storyteller. For an additional bonus, this book is available in audio with Martin reading his own words.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Peculiar Family of Sorts

Haven Kimmel, an Indiana native, first humored and intrigued us with her memoir, A Girl Named Zippy. She is still going strong. Her newest novel, The Used World, is about a woman named Hazel who owns the Used World Emporium, a huge antique store, in the small town of Jonah, Indiana. Rebekah and Claudia are her two employees. Their lives become entangled through unusual circumstances, with Hazel's nudging, and they come to form a peculiar kind of family. Haven's characters are quirky, their thoughts are real and unsentimental, and you'd enjoy having them as friends. The author gives you first-person views from Rebekah and Claudia, so you can really get in their heads and try to figure them out. And Hazel, well, she is a trip! You learn about her childhood, her struggles, and discover what a truly admirable woman she is. If you like books that put you right into the lives of the characters, flaws and all, you'll love this one.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mysteries set in places you may never visit: Sweden

Swedish mysteries are becoming very popular in the United States and more authors are being published here. Henning Mankell is the top best selling Swedish author. His books are described as Swedish noir in that they are brooding, intense and emotionally wrenching. His police detective, Kurt Wallender is a grumpy, overworked policeman in the small Swedish seaside city of Ystad. He solves cases through perspiration and sheer doggedness. As in many police procedurals there is a lot of grunt work, but also an emphasis on the lives of the policemen, and the teamwork needed to solve the crimes.
Kjell Eriksson has won the Crime Writer award for his police procedurals. Like Henning Mankell, he is very adept at spinning a tight and suspenseful mystery plot. Eriksson's books are known for their psychological and sociological insights and for their heart. This series features Ann Lindell, an inspector in Uppsala. We have two of his novels and a new one is coming out in April 2008. This series might also appeal to teens.
Asa Larsson won Sweden's Best First Crime Novel for Sun Storm. Her books are less of a police procedural and more of a psychological thriller. Both of her current novels involve tax attorney (as was Larsson), Rebecca Martinsson and revolve around religious mania. The action takes place in the small remote town of Kiruna, which Larsson uses to create a claustrophobic atmosphere of impending cataclysm. She is my favorite Swedish author.
Ake Edwardson has won the Swedish Crime Writer's prize three times. He has written twelve police procedural mysteries featuring Erik Winter, the youngest Detective Chief Inspector in Sweden. The first novel Sun and Shadows introduces us to Erik who has to deal with the coming birth of his first child and his father's death while in the middle of a murder investigation. His second novel Never End focuses more on the crime and on the personal issues of his fellow detectives. His detectives are likable and believable and the weather is as much a part of the story whether it is the summer heat or winter's cold.
We have one novel featuring Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, Borkmann's Point by Hakan Nesser. In this book, he is investigating an ax-wielding serial killer. His books are similar to those written by Henning Mankell, except that Van Veeteren can display a charming side.
Other Scandinavian authors you may enjoy include Karin Fossum and Peter Hoeg.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A New Roommate

The Monk Downstairs is a lovely little book by Tim Farrington. All the right components are there: a smart, capable woman, a curious and precocious child, a quiet contemplative man, and above all, a finely written story. Rebecca Martin, a divorced single mother, rents a garage apartment to Michael Christopher, who has recently left the monastery in which he spent the last twenty years of his life. Rebecca has been feeling disillusioned and somewhat lonely, and Michael is struggling with his reasons for leaving the contemplative life for a life of action in the world. Readers will smile and sympathize as they see these two people, from their first hesitant conversations, develop a friendship that grows toward something deeper that buoys them both. This book is the selection for the Delphi Book Club that meets on Friday, November 16, at 9 a.m. at the library. Come and join the discussion!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


In the Presence of My Enemies, by Gracia Burnham, is the gripping account of the kidnapping of American missionaries and their year of terror in the Philippine jungle. Kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group with ties to Osama bin Laden, the Burnhams were snatched away from friends and family and thrust into a life on the run in the Philppine jungle, where they faced near starvation, constant exhaustion, frequent gun battles, coldhearted murder and intense soul-searching about a God who sometimes seemed to have forgotten them. In this heart wrenching story you will see "the not why an all-powerful God might choose to subject a man to evil, but how a man, with God's help responds to evil..." (Non-Fiction 921 Burnham) This is the November 2007 selection for the Faith-Inspired Book Club!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another Splendid Work by Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini made a big splash with his first novel, The Kite Runner (don't miss the film, due to be released in mid-December). For those fans who worried that he wouldn't be able to follow such a perfect book with anything up to par, well, the fear was obviously unfounded. A Thousand Splendid Suns is another masterpiece, a gift to readers and a gift to the people of Afghanistan, Hosseini's home country. The characters are different (told primarily from a female perspective this time), the story is different, but the pain and heartbreak of Afghanistan that readers found in The Kite Runner remains the drivingi force. Suns follows two women, Mariam and Laila, whose paths cross in a shocking way in war-torn Afghanistan. They endure war, loss, and brutality beyond comprehension, but their friendship and love for each other helps them endure, and ultimately makes survival possible. It's a history book, a love story, and a wakeup call to readers.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Heroes came in all sizes then!

What is a hero? Davy Bowman had two heroes: his Dad and his older brother, Bill. It was World War 2 and if you were a kid growing up in any small town in the Midwest there were never-ending collection drives for newspapers, old junk metal and even old cars. Heroes came in all sizes back then. Davy's Dad owned the Phillips 66 gas station in town. He had been wounded in World War 1 and had one bad arm, but he had more fun with the kids in the neighborhood than any other dad. Davy tells of the night when his Dad caught a Halloween prankster "red-handed". It was a popular prank to jam a stick in the steering wheel and seat and make the horn blare. So Davy and his Dad hid way down in the seats of their old Packard and waited for one of the pranksters to come along. Just as a hand reached in the window, Davy's Dad grabbed his wrist and wouldn't let go! The kid screamed, "Let me go!" But Davy's Dad held on tight and with the kid standing on the running board, drove him home to his father to be punished.
Davy's older brother Bill was training to fly B17 bombers. He was tall, strong and handsome in his uniform and Davy wanted to be just like him. When Bill finally got sent to England to fly the B17's in the war, it was a tense time for the Bowman family at home.
This story is touching yet, as is true of all books by Richard Peck, it is full of hilarious situations like the three girl bullies in Davy's class and how they got their just reward; or the day that Davy and his best friend Scooter got caught in old Miss Titus' antique car in her barn.
Author Richard Peck wrote this novel to honor his father. Come take a nostalgic journey to the homefront during the '40's. On the Wings of Heroes is an excellent novel for all kids, 10 years old and up!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dangerous Hope

When Invisible Children Sing, by Dr. Chi Huang, is a true story of 5 street children, an idealistic doctor, and their dangerous hope. When Dr. Huang took a year off from Harvard Medical School to work with orphans and street children in La Paz, Bolivia, he had no idea it would take only that one year to change his life forever. The son of immigrants from Taiwan, he had grown up feeling like an outsider in an alien culture, one that eventually rewarded him with a coveted spot in medical school. And then he chose to thrust himself once again into the role of outsider, that of a young American doctor seeking to save the bodies and souls of Bolivia's forgotten children.

Dr. Huang learned, among other things, that street children are far from innocent. But that doesn't begin to justify, he says, their unspeakable living conditions. Indeed, the stories he tells range from the appalling--a street infant starved to death in a hospital because it was up to her mother to provide food; when she failed to do so, hospital staff watched the baby die--to the sickening: 89 percent of street children, including those as young as four, inhale paint thinner to stay warm through the frigid Andean nights. And worse: vigilantes rape, beat, and even kill street children to "cleanse" the streets.

"Dr. Huang does not ask for sympathy or accolades but he does ask that we see his children." You'll be glad you read, When Invisible Chldren Sing! (610.737 Huang - Non-Fiction)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Making a Major Life Decision

In "The Choice" by Nicholas Sparks, Terrie Foster has everything a man would want--wonderful friends, a loving family, a good job, and a waterfront home. He and his friends and family enjoy many hours of boating, swimming, and picnicking. Terrie feels a committed relationship with a woman would cramp his bachelor lifestyle. Then Gabby Holland moves next door and he becomes enamored with her. After many altercations concerning Terrie's dog, he and Gabby marry and are blessed with two children. One quiet evening together Gabby asks Terri to keep a promise to her in which he agrees. Gabby is involved in a terrible automobile accident and is in a coma for several months. Terrie must make a life changing decision that will affect himself, his children, and his wife. Read this inspiring book to find out the decision Terrie made.

A Visit to Iron Lake

William Kent Krueger has written several mysteries about Cork O'Connor and his police work and private investigations work in Aurora, Minnesota, on the borders of Iron Lake. In Blood Hollow, O'Connor is no longer sheriff of Aurora, but his attorney wife is hired to defend a suspected murderer, and she hires him to help her collect evidence to support her belief that the accused, a young Native American man named Solemn Winter Moon, is innocent. The story is well developed, the characters are real and three-dimensional, and the beauty and ruggedness of northern Minnesota envelops everything. You don't have to read the series in order, but after jumping in midway with Blood Hollow, I'm anxious to go back to the beginning of the series, Iron Lake, and read more about what makes Cork tick. He's a likable hero. The author writes as if he knows the area and its heritage really well, and that makes the story even more authentic. Take a visit to Iron Lake on your next reading adventure.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Here is a Message all Women Need to Get!

Almost every woman sometime in her married life will experience an unrelished moving away from the people and place she dearly cherishes. The Scarlet Thread, by Francine Rivers, follows a woman, like you and me, when confronted with this very situation makes some wrong choices in attitude, leading her to bigger problems than she ever imagined. With a loving and successful husband, two beautiful children, and a new house in her hometown, Sierra Madrid leads a happy life. Then her husband, Alex, announces that he has taken a job in Los Angeles and that the family will soon move, and Sierra's dream is shattered. She strikes out in anger and disappointment and her fears and insecurities chip away at her marriage. Her husband becomes more aloof and the family begins the slow process of disintegration, eventually reaching breaking point. However, when Sierra comes upon one of her ancestor's journals, who generations before struggled with many of the same fears and issues of contending with God, husbands and even themselves, she finds consolation.

Rivers draws her reader to take a good look at themselves, and because of that, The Scarlet Thread is a book every woman should read early in her marriage, because learning from someone elses mistake is much less painful than learning from our own!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Everyone wants the truth, until they find it.

Gone Baby Gone which premieres this weekend is Ben Affleck's directorial debut. It is the fourth in a series of detective/mystery novels written by Dennis Lehane and featuring private detectives, Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. It takes place in the Dorchester section of Boston, a working class neighborhood. They are hired to find a missing child who was taken from her apartment after being left alone by her mother. They are thrown into the world of pedophiles, drug dealers and corrupt policemen. Before the end of the book, they must make a decision which could end their personal and professional relationship. The world portrayed in this novel is cruel, violent and complicated. As in all his novels there are moral questions about social and personal responsibility to ponder. The Patrick Kenzie character is played by Casey Affleck in the movie and he is exactly as I pictured Patrick.

Promises Are Meant To Be Kept

Sally and Troo are two sisters who rely only upon one another and kind and caring neighbors to keep them safe. The year is 1959, and with their mother hospitalized and their stepfather disregarding them for his addiction to alcohol, the girls are basically abandoned in the midst of a mystery concerning molestation and murder. Sally is convinced that she's figured out who the child predator is and she's equally convinced that she's next on his list! Full of mystery and the heartbreaking vulnerability of a 10-year-old girl, this story is sure to keep you turning pages.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Siblings, Snakes, and Scripture

The Poisonwood Bible is one of Barbara Kingsolver's great creations. Published in 1998, it selected as an Oprah book in 2000. Kingsolver fans usually have to wait a few years in between her novels, and this one was worth the wait. It's the story of Baptist missionary Nathan Price, who moves his family (wife and four daughters) from Georgia to the Belgian Congo (later Zaire). Nathan's insensitivity and cultural arrogance proves to be his downfall, as he makes no attempt to acclimate to his neighbors but expects them to acclimate to him and his church and his Jesus. The book, narrated from alternating perspectives of the mother and daughters, covers 30 years as the women seek to understand each other and the Africa that was such a big part of their lives. Kingsolver is such a wonderful story teller, but she also succeeds in making her readers aware of the "bigger picture" of social issues. Reading The Poisonwood Bible is like being entertained and educated at the same time. It broadens your horizons of the world. This book will be discussed at the Delphi Public Library Book Club at 9 a.m. on Friday, October 26.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Gold Mine

In this uplifting debut novel, author Patricia Wood effectively and efficiently sweeps you into the life and an appreciation of the unique philosophy of thirty-two year old Perry Crandall. Perry is adamant - he is “not retarded.” He knows for a fact that a score of 75 or less on an IQ test deems an individual mentally deficient. And Perry is safe with an IQ score of 76. He’s “just a little slower than most” as his “Gram” likes to put it.

When Gram dies, Perry’s estranged family forces him from the only home that he has ever known and he must embark on a journey of discovery. He must discover the foods that he can fix on his own, how to stretch his meager paycheck, and how to determine true friendship. He also discovers that Gram’s belief that he is “a lucky boy” rings true when Perry wins twelve million dollars in the Washington State Lottery.

But this book is about more than a great monetary gain. It is about a man who (although lacking in mental capabilities) is a GENUIS when it comes to matters of the heart. With poignancy, humor, and keen observation, Wood sweeps the reader along in a rush of beautifully crafted characters who are entangled in the life of the remarkable Perry Crandall.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Still Waters Run Deep

Adam Chase, acquitted of the murder of a beloved local football hero, returns to his original stomping grounds of small-town North Carolina. As he attempts a reconciliation & reckoning with friends, family and his own personal demons, it soon proves to be a bitter disappointment as he makes the realization that those surrounding him are harboring a long kept secret. And when a body is found on the Chase farm and a young woman is severely beaten, Adam is once again considered the primary suspect by an unforgiving local community.

Monday, October 08, 2007

So So Fine!

Refiner's Fire by Sylvia Bambola is one of those books you'll remember years down the road. For one, the story immediately pulls you in as we're taken to a refugee camp in the 1980's during Nicolae Ceausescu's regime in Romania. Two victims of that regime -young twin boys, are the lives we watch as one is sold to an American and the other remains in Romania, only to many years later cross paths in much different circumstances. Bambola blends skillfully true events (events in the book represent a composite of true happenings experienced by the Romanian Underground church) and fiction. A suspenseful plot and a powerful testimony both enlightens and intrigues the reader. You'll want to read other Bambola books when you finish this one!

Ghost of a mystery!

On a hike up a desolate, heavily wooded cliff off the Pacific Northwest coast, Nathan spots a large canoe sitting high between two trees. He climbs up to find a skeleton surrounded by many Indian tools and items that have been placed there to go with him in the afterlife. Nathan's Makah Indian friend, Lighthouse George, says it is a Ghost Canoe--very sacred! You must never touch anything in it or take anything out of it!

When a clipper ship wrecks off the coast and it is said that there were no survivors, Nathan has his doubts. A mysterious set of footprints were found on the beach that led into the woods. Then things begin to disappear in the village trading post and the Makah children tell of seeing a hairy man in the woods. Nathan is certain that someone has survived.

When the clipper ship's captain's body washes up on shore they see that he was murdered and then Nathan's doubts truly begin. The clues all lead back to the Ghost Canoe and author Will Hobbs will keep you guessing!

Don't miss this Ghost of a mystery in the Teen Room!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Lost Forever

If you love the TV series "Lost," you'll love Uncharted by Angela Hunt. It is about a reunion of old friends who end up marooned on a deserted island. The difference, however, is in this story we actually learn the reason they are there and why they can't get off (in spite of not so bad efforts to do so). The island not only keeps the characters captive, but also has a way of showing them who they really are and who they now wished they had been. There are some surprises and Hunt does an excellent job of suspense. It really is a hard book to put down! This book is the October selection for the Faith-Inspired Book Club, which will meet Thursday, October 25, at 9 a.m. in the library's mezzanine.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mothers, Daughters, Pain

Jenna Blum's Those Who Save Us is not a happy story. Anna, the mother, and Trudy, the daughter, have not led happy lives. But sometimes it is good to read about troubled lives, learn from them, feel empathy, and be better equipped to handle troubles in our own lives that will seem small by comparison. Anna was a young woman in Germany during World War II. She fell in love with a Jewish man, who was then betrayed by Anna's father and sent to a concentration camp. She ends up as the mistress to a German SS officer--not by choice but by motivated by fear and the need to survive. She has kept many secrets from Trudy, who was very young and does not remember much about those early years. Trudy is now a professor of German studies at a university in Minnesota and has embarked on a project that involves interviewing non-Jewish Germans who lived during the Holocaust. The book flips back in time from the 40s to the 90s and we watch as Trudy's memories of her and her mother's life in Germany, sparked by her interviews, gradually appear and dramatically affect her life. Ultimately, the past and the present overlap. It's a difficult but beautifully written story.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Interesting Debate

Tom Perrotta's eagerly awaited new novel, The Abstinence Teacher, comes out in October. It is a thoughtful story about Ruth, a high school sex education teacher who is forced by her administration to adopt an abstinence-only curriculum, and Tim, a reformed druggie and evangelical Christian who coaches soccer. Ruth and Tim's paths cross when Ruth attends her daughter's soccer match and is dismayed to discover Tim leading the team in a prayer at the end of the game. Perrotta does a great job of giving us a balanced story, with expressive viewpoints from both sides of the fence. Tim and Ruth are portrayed as flawed but sincere people. Regardless of what side you're on, or even if you can easily see both sides of the issue, you will be pleased with this book. It certainly doesn't solve any disagreements, but it shows that what some see as black-and-white is more often gray.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Keeping Secrets

The Price of Silence is the new novel by Camilla Trinchieri. It is an intensely suspenseful story masquerading as a women's literary novel. Emma Perotti teaches ESL in New York and encounters An-ling a young Chinese woman. An-ling is later found dead in her apartment, and Emma is arrested. Secrets are held by everyone in this book--Emma's family included--and in alternating chapters from all the characters' points of view, we eventually find out what happened to An-ling. It's a very smart book, not a typical whodunnit at all. The characters are well developed and three dimensional; no cookie cutters here. By the time you find out who is responsible for An-ling's death, you've seen it coming. But that doesn't make the ending any less emotional or effective.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Closing Cases in L.A.

Harry Bosch is on the job again. Michael Connelly's creation is, in The Closers, back to work for the LAPD, but this time in the Open/Unsolved Unit. His job, along with his old partner Kiz Rider, is to dig into old, cold murder cases and turn over new leads to try to solve the cases. Harry and Kiz are, in a way, "speaking for the dead." Harry, in typical fashion, takes one particular victim to heart, a teenage girl abducted from her bedroom and later found murdered. Connelly is talented at drawing us along in these police procedurals, and the dialog between characters is perfect. After reading a couple of these novels, you will feel as if Harry Bosch is an old friend. And it's good to have him back in action.

Friday, July 27, 2007

No Forgiveness Needed

Forgive Me is Amanda Eyre Ward's newest novel (after How To Be Lost). It's a terrific read about a young woman, a successful journalist, who risks life and limb to cover stories in the most dangerous parts of the world. But she is always RUNNING. Running from love, running from commitment, running from home. We gradually learn about a tragic event in Cape Town, South Africa, that sent Nadine on the run again to a long stint in Mexico and seems to be part of the reason she lives her life so nomadically. After she is assaulted in Mexico, she is sent back home to recover at her father and stepmother's house, but she chafes against anyone taking care of her and insists that she needs to work again. She ends up back in Cape Town to cover the amnesty hearing for the apartheid-era murder of a young man who grew up near her home in Massachusetts. There, she faces her demons and learns the true meaning of forgiveness. I liked this book because in addition to peering into Nadine's life and trying to figure her out, I also learned a bit about what went on in South Africa during apartheid and its aftermath.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Get on the Same Page in Carroll County

This is the second year for the Carroll County on the Same Page project, in which everyone in the county is invited and encouraged to read the same book. Our 2007 selection is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It is a memoir written by a successful young woman who overcame some very unusual odds. She was raised in a highly unconventional family, with a daredevil father and an excitement-addicted mother, neither of whom was well equipped to raise and support a family. The author writes candidly of her parents, not with anger or resentment, but with love and empathy. It is a story of survival, in a way. Rave reviews are coming in from the many people who have already read it in our community. Copies are available at the Delphi, Flora, and Camden public libraries. Even if you don't have a library card, come in and request a copy. We'll loan it to any county resident. We want to make sure everyone gets on the Same Page! (Book discussions will be scheduled throughout July. Delphi's book group will talk about The Glass Castle on July 27, at 9 a.m.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Fighting the Fog

Michelle Richmond's The Year of Fog is a real page-turner, but not in the typical murder-suspense-whodunnit sense. It is so achingly real and heartbreaking that you must keep turning pages to see what happens next. During a morning walk on a foggy beach, a child disappears. Emma vanishes into the fog. Abby spends the next year searching through the fog--the literal fog that shrouds San Francisco, the analogous fog that shrouds her memory of that day, and the fog of sorrow that causes everyone except Abby to give up the search. The book takes us through the painful year of Abby's search. In flashbacks to her past, we are shown the full range of Abby's self and come to understand and emphathize with her. She is a professional photographer who is trained to view things analytically, so she returns again and again to her last views of Emma, searching for a clue that will lead to the lost girl. You'll have to read the book to discover whether Abby's persistence pays off.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Another Hit for Anita

Anita Shreve's newest release, Body Surfing, will not disappoint her many fans. Shreve has a remarkable way of telling a story. Her prose is not flowery or fancy. She just tells it like it is. This character did that. That character thought this. The effect is amazing--a truly sensitive and subtle rendering of real life. You CARE about the characters. You sigh and gasp and smile. And the house that has popped up in many of her books--The Pilot's Wife, Fortune's Rock, etc.--is a major part of the story. Although set in a beach house, it is not a typical "beach read," but it's a winner.

Monday, April 09, 2007

One Good Story

Kate Atkinson has done it again. One Good Turn is one good detective story. Jackson Brodie, of Case Histories fame, is visiting Edinburgh with his "girlfriend" Julia. He is left to his own devices for most days, since Julia is preparing for and performing in a theater production for the Edinburgh Film Festival. Although Jackson is now retired from the police force, he just can't help himself. He still keeps finding crimes. Atkinson writes the book from several points of view--we hear from Martin Canning, a dull man whose writes Nancy Drew-like detective stories, Gloria Hatter, whose husband is a powerful and nasty real estate developer, and Louise Monroe, a police inspector with a tart tongue and a sassy attitude. Each character harbors a secret, and each is connected in some fashion to a road-rage incident on the streets of Edinburgh. Most is not what it seems at first, and stories and characters are nestled within the stories of others, just like the matryoshka (nested Russian dolls) that show up here and there in the story. Although death and violence are critical parts of the story, they don't overwhelm, and when all is said and done, the bad guys satisfactorily get their due.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Time to Travel

This time of year, many folks start searching for the perfect vacation books--light enough in weight to pack in your suitcase, light enough in subject matter to read at the beach. Audrey Niffeneggers' The Time Traveler's Wife does not fit either of those categories. But it nevertheless is a perfect vacation book--some romance, some suspense, some humor, and some heartbreak. Oh, and of course, a lot of traveling. Just not the type you're probably used to. And Henry and Clare don't experience the typical meet-date-fall in love-marry-have kids-retire to sunny Florida type of relationship. Their relationship is sweet, tender, and heart-breaking. Although their love is deep and genuine, they cannot depend on each other, because of Henry's "problem"--his involuntary, spontaneous time traveling. They first meet when Clare is 6 and Henry is 36, but they REALLY meet when she is 20 and he is 28. Confused? So was I for about the first 50 pages. It's hard to wrap your mind around the whole concept of time travel. But don't give up. The rewards of reading this book are well worth it. It's a beautiful, thought-provoking book that celebrates love. It is NOT a science fiction book but is a contemporary love story in which the reader must simply suspend belief and let the story unfold. Give it a try.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Romance: the Cure for Winter Blues

There is no shortage of romance novels on the shelves of your local library. If you're looking for something a little different, however, with terrific characters, some tears, some laughs, and, yes, that heart-tugging romance you crave, check out Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos. It has some unexpected turns, and some predictable scenarios, too, but the characters are what gives this book its special glow. The characters are REAL. You can imagine sitting beside them in a coffee shop, or passing them on the street, or meeting them at the library. The book starts out one way, with 30-something Cornelia seeking romance in one way, but finding true love in an entirely different direction. Sarah Jessica Parker is set to co-produce and co-star in the film version, too, which is due out in 2008. So you can get a head start and read the book now!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Smart Suspense

Gentlemen & Players, by Joanne Harris, is a look inside a private boys' school in England that will keep you guessing and gasping until the last page is turned. Harris is an expert at leading the reader along a path that can take sudden sharp turns. Nothing is quite as it seems in the world of St. Oswald's. The cast of characters that Harris has created are fully drawn and full-dimensional. Even if the world of British boys or private schools is not familiar to you, the author's descriptive skills will make you feel as if you're sitting in Mr. Staightley's classroom witnessing the story unfold. The novel was also recently nominated for the 2007 Edgar Allan Poe Award as Best Novel.