A collection of reviews written by members of the Durham County Library Family.
Season’s Readings is made possible by the Friends of the Durham Library, Inc.
2007 Award Winning Publication
American Library Association Best of Show for Bibliographies and Booklists and the North Carolina Library Association Best of Show for Bibliographies and Booklists
Table of Contents
Dear Library Friends,
The Friends of the Durham Library hopes you will enjoy this year’s Season’s Readings. As we enter the dark winter months, perhaps you will find a good book to read or to share as a gift for the holidays. Season’s Readings is an annual collection of book reviews by library staff and volunteers and is made possible with the support of the Friends and the Durham community.
Each year the Friends of the Durham Library donates funds raised from its memberships and book sales to support important library programs including Summer Reading Club, youth and teen programming and the Reading is Fundamental books. Additionally, this past year the Friends started a scholarship fund for library staff and awarded scholarships to two library employees who are currently working towards their Master of Library Science degrees. The Friends also supplied funds to the library to purchase:
• books for 2009 Durham Reads Together
• the Discovery Mobile for community outreach programs
• flat screen TVs for the branches to display information about library and community events
• new Book Club Kits which include tote bags and 15 copies of popular book club titles
All Friends donations strive to expand library services offered to the Durham community while supporting the amazing and hard-working library staff. The Friends of the Durham Library primarily raises its funds through its spring and fall weekend book sales. In 2009, the Friends expanded their operations with six year-round mini-booksales at five branches: East Regional, Main, North Regional, Parkwood, Stanford L. Warren and at the American Tobacco Campus. At these sales, library customers can purchase high quality used books whenever the library is open. This holiday season please visit one of the Friends satellite sales. Buy a book for those you love while giving to the library you love!
Thank you and Happy New Year!
Aviva Shira Starr, President
Appaloosa by Robert B Parker
While Robert B. Parker is not a Zane Grey nor is he a Louis L’Amour, he does do a fair job of writing a western book full of intrigue, gunfights and bawdy houses. Appaloosa sets the stage for a series of books centered around Hitch Everett and Virgil Cole. The Miss Kitty of the series is Allison French, a beauty who plays the piano and sings in saloons and does neither very well. The story is told from Hitch’s viewpoint and describes quite capably the mood of the times in a wild cattle town. Good reading. - Melanie B. Sabins
B as in Beauty by Alberto Ferraro
I like this book because plus-sized Maria Zavala doesn’t need to lose weight to find love and success. At work Maria’s ideas and intelligence get pushed aside by a bitchy boss who humiliates and discriminates against her, and her love life is non-existent. Things begin to change when her tax preparer, Mme Sokolov, convinces her that those despised curves are highly appreciated by some men. Maria begins moonlighting as a comfort provider, selling her time but not sex, to a variety of very interesting men, from someone who just wants to sleep on her shoulder to another who dresses her and himself in the same glamorous ensembles. Soon she’s dressing to show herself off, rather than to hide, and regaining enough confidence to find her own way out of her work dilemma without stooping to her boss’ level. She even finds a lover who really helps her celebrate every inch of her beauty. - Deb Warner
Birmingham, 35 Miles by James Braziel
In a bleak, near-future Alabama, Mathew Harrison spends his days with his father and friends mining the dusty red clay in the scorching sun for the government. Since there is a huge hole in the ozone layer, this is the only type of work there is in the barren desert land that used to be the fertile soil of middle Alabama. Mathew, his father and his wife receive only censored communication from the Saved World, places such as Birmingham, where the grass is still green and work other than mining exists. Mathew has to decide whether to give in to his wife’s pleas to move north to Birmingham or to stay loyal to his father and the land and remain in the wasteland that has long been his home. Braziel’s affecting debut looks at migrant labor, familial bonds and ties to the soil in not-so-distant-future deep South. - Lisa Dendy
Black Girl Lost by Donald Goines
Donald Goines is considered the father of urban fiction. In Black Girl Lost, he introduces us to Sandra, an inner city 8-year-old whose mother is addicted to cocaine and bad men, leaving her alone and hungry for days at a time in their tenement housing. Sandra turns to shoplifting for food and clothes. One day she happens upon a bag of cocaine and her drug-selling days begin. She meets Chink and they fall in love, selling drugs and taking care of each other. But the drug dealing life is not an easy one for Sandra. Her life continues to be full of violence, even rape and murder. Donald Goines’ books speak from the heart about the hardness of life on the street in the inner city. Originally published in 1973, the book remains a classic. - Lisa Dendy
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Don’t be put off by the size of this book. It’s long and it will take you a while to read, but it’s worth every minute. Bleak House is considered by many to be Dickens’s finest work. It’s a satire of greed, society and bureaucracy. A poorly written will (and the many versions scattered around the country) has mired generations in the labyrinth of England’s Chancery courts, and people have been ruined by their greed for the Jarndyce fortune. In the last years of the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case, a diverse cast of characters is thrown together to navigate life and Chancery in Victorian London. Dickens also includes a murder, three secret love affairs, two lost children, an evil villain and spontaneous combustion. It’s almost too much plot for a thousand pages. The best part of the novel is Dickens’s writing. Some parts of the novel were so funny I had to read them aloud to my husband. Other parts are so sad I wanted to cry. If you have wanted to try reading Dickens, but been afraid, give him a try. This book is absolutely wonderful. - Jennifer Lohmann
Bricks Without Straw: A Novel by Albion Winegar Tourgee
The Reconstruction era was the period after the American Civil War. During this time, the South was in political, social and economic turmoil, and eleven Confederate states had seceded from the Union during the wartime unrest. In response, the Union implemented a controversial Reconstruction plan to regain order in the Confederate states.
One of the first attempts to establish order in the South was the creation of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedmen’s Bureau. It was created on March 3, 1865, just one month prior to the official end of the Civil War. The purpose of the organization was to assist freed slaves with food, medical care and resettlement, and it was charged with establishing schools.
While the Freedmen’s Bureau worked to help southern blacks, opposition to their new freedom was mounting. After the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, several southern states passed legislation creating Black Codes. Depending upon the state, these laws generally restricted the right to own property, controlled where blacks were allowed to live, established a curfew and forced blacks to work as agricultural laborers or as domestics. Albion W. Tourgee sought to explain the undermining of the Reconstruction era in his novel Bricks Without Straw. Just as Tourgee fashioned his characters to counter the prevalent stereotypes of African Americans, he devised his plot to rewrite the history of Reconstruction. Instead of showing misgovernment by blacks, he shows that reconstruction can best be understood as an opposition to self determination.
The first part of the novel highlights the black freed people’s progress toward economic self-sufficiency and political autonomy; the second part dramatizes their spirited resistance to the tactics white supremacists use to regain authority over blacks; and the last describes their relapse into semi-slavery once their resistance has been crushed. With the celebration of black suffrage cancelled, Tourgee’s revisionist history of Reconstruction moves from chronicling the ex-slaves’ accomplishments after their emancipation to dramatizing the harassment, economic coercion, electoral fraud and sheer terrorism through which white supremacists recaptured power, reversed black gains and drove the freed people back into slavery. As I read this book over the past few weeks and listened to the radio, the election of Barack Obama and America’s reaction to this election reminds me of the turbulent times that are described in this novel and how Obama’s presidency is being undermined daily by people who never see blacks on equal footing. - Donald Bradsher
Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer
Broken Angel is the story of a very special young girl in the theocratic state of Appalachia, and her father’s plan to get her out of Appalachia and into the outside world. Caitlyn has grown up with only her father to love and care for her, an outcast from society because of his disfigurement. She feels confused and betrayed when her father sends her into the mountains with instructions for her escape from the police state of Appalachia. As she bravely tries to avoid bloodthirsty bounty hunters, Caitlyn reluctantly joins forces with two other runaways. The three rely on each others’ strengths to avoid capture and reach the border –and Caitlyn’s destiny. - Lisa Dendy
Corner Shop by Roopa Farooki
Fourteen-year-old Lucky Khalil loves two things above all else: soccer and his girlfriend, Portia. His dream is to win the World Cup for England. Lucky’s mother Delphine seems to have had all her dreams come true. But Delphine feels increasingly trapped in her apparently perfect marriage and lush lifestyle. She dreams about rediscovering the freedom of her youth with Zaki, her now father-in law, but rekindling a relationship with him is only going to end in disaster. Zaki, a charming gambler who loved and lost Delphine long before she married his sensible and successful son, feels equally trapped in the corner shop that he has unwillingly run for his family’s sake. As each of the Khalils discovers, the closer one’s dreams become, the more risk there is of losing sight of what really matters. Delightfully engaging. - Kathi Sippen
The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris
Morris’ remarkable novel zeroes in on the hopes and dreams of five characters in a small Idaho town. Russell Harmon is the self-proclaimed Dart League King of his hometown. With a dead-end job he can barely keep, a growing drug habit and debt to the drug pusher, Russell’s life revolves around nothing more than his Thursday night dart league. This Thursday he will play his most important match against Brice Habersham, who retired from professional darts but still keeps his trophies displayed in his service station. Also at the match will be Tristan Mackey, the cool college kid on Russell’s team, but he’ll be bringing Kelly Ashton, a girlfriend of Russell’s from high school. Finally, Vince Thompson, the dealer to whom Russell owes money, has promised to show up at the match to collect what he’s owed. Everyone in the story has a huge secret except Russell, and in the hours leading up to and during the match, the decisions they make will keep you turning the pages. - Lisa Dendy
The Divide by Nicholas Evans
This is yet another story about a dysfunctional family. It centers around the disappearance of an eco-terrorist around Missoula, Montana. It is well written, and the author is obviously familiar with the area. A body is found frozen in a glacier on top of a mountain, and how it got there will surprise you. The author describes in great detail the pain and anguish of a family that is split by many different issues as it deals with the death of a beloved daughter. - Melanie B Sabins
Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell
This historical novel adheres closely to the events of the day. When Agnes Shanklin loses her entire family to the flu epidemic of 1919 and gains an inheritance, she and her dachshund Rosie go to visit Cairo, where her sister had been a missionary. There she is quickly involved in the activities of Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell, all gathered for the Cairo Peace Conference. Their agenda includes whether to withdraw troops (British) from Iraq and whether the Shiites and the Sunnis should be separated. This well-written story includes romance and adventure and is both interesting and enjoyable. - Carol Passmore
The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson
This book intrigued me based on both the title and the wonderful cover picture of an elephant being fed an apple by her keeper. It is set in England in the late 18th century, when few people even knew that elephants existed. The action takes place in a number of locations in England, ending in London.
Initially two young elephants are bought by Mr. John Harrington of Harrington Hall in Somersetshire. He assigns a 12-year-old groom, Tom Page, to take care of the elephants. Thus begins a long saga of the relationship between Tom, the elephants and many other people who interact with both. After a number of years, Mr. Harrington concludes that he can no longer afford the elephants and sells the male, now named Timothy, to the Earl of Ancaster of Grimsthorpe in the County of Lincolnshire. He sells Jenny, the female, to Lord Bidborough of Easton. Tom goes with Jenny and soon finds that Lord Bidborough is extremely supportive. He encourages Tom to continue to develop Jenny’s talents, intellect and tricks.
Lord Bidborough is so proud of his elephant that he commissions a portrait of Jenny and directs Tom to write The History of the Elephant. When Lord Bidborough dies, Jenny is sold to a menagerie in London owned by Mr. Cross.
The entire story is largely told through the dialogue between Tom and Jenny, with conversations sometimes very deep, including Jenny giving Tom advice on how to run his life! So enjoy this unusual perspective. - Joyce Sykes
Firefly Summer By Maeve Binchy
Firefly Summer is Maeve Binchy at her best. Compelling characters populate this novel about a small Irish village turned upside-down by the arrival of American millionaire Patrick O’Neill, who hopes to show the town that spurned his family years ago that he has made good. To prove his worth, O’Neill buys the town’s old manor, where his family members once worked as servants, and begins transforming it into a luxury resort hotel.
Binchy’s tale, told mostly through the eyes of Kate Ryan, illustrates how the introduction of money changes the town. The Ryans own a small pub on their own land, right next door to the proposed site of the resort, and Kate’s life is changed forever when she ventures onto O’Neill’s land to find out firsthand what the new mega-hotel will mean for her family’s small business.
Filled with engaging, multi-dimensional characters, Binchy’s novel captures the conflicting motives and emotions of the townspeople and of the O’Neill family, as she weaves a rich and satisfying tale. - Gina Rozier
First Family by David Baldacci
The First Lady’s sister-in-law has been murdered and her niece kidnapped. She hires Michelle and Sean to find out if the little girl is still alive. The First Lady then promptly begins to cover up and conceal important information that is needed to solve the case. Sean tries to uncover the truth while trying to help his partner deal with her dysfunctional past. The case takes them all over the eastern seaboard and finally to an old house outside an old coal mine. The book is very interesting and well written. - Melanie B Sabins
The Gatecrasher by Madeleine Wickham
Fleur is a professional. A professional gatecrasher, that is. Her normal procedure is to keep an eye on the newspaper and an ear to the grapevine for society funerals for rich wives. Then voila, she moves in, charms the grieving widower, and scams him for as much money as possible. Clothes, jewelry, credit cards, cash. Such is the case with Richard Favour, whose wife Emily was enigmatic to her deathbed. Richard finds Fleur refreshing and colorful and invites her into his home. Fleur is comfortably ensconced in Richard’s lavish manor when her daughter Zara shows up from boarding school, raising some interesting questions about Fleur’s background. The plot also includes Richard’s depressed daughter and her mean husband, Richard’s 15-year-old son and a maiden aunt. Wickham, who also writes the Shopaholic series as Sophie Kinsella, skewers the British upper class in this lighthearted novel. - Lisa Dendy
The Gone-away World by Nick Harkaway
Early on, Pa Lubeveich comments that politics aren’t so much a journey as a series of emergency stops and loud arguments about which way up to hold the map, and the same thing could be said about this story. We first meet our narrator as an adult, playing pool at the Nameless Bar and setting off on a mission that will appear in its proper place much later in the story, which then jumps back to his first meeting with Gonzo, his adopted brother. They seem to complement each other: Gonzo, the reckless charmer, and our narrator, more cautious and thoughtful, as they move from school yards to student politics to the army and beyond. Along the way they will encounter: ninjas, the School of the Voiceless Dragon and Master Wu, donkeys, radical students, sinister corporations, Stuff, killer bees, the Found Thousand, the Matahatchee Mime Combine, pencilnecks, new people, supergeeks, soldiers of all sorts and the Go Away bomb. The Go Away bomb strips information from matter, therefore allowing the user to make his enemies go away; hence the title. What nobody expected was that when you strip the information from matter, you have Stuff seeking new information to form it and things get really weird. Harkaway is John Le Carre’s son and he blends his father’s talent for intrigue, tempered with compassion and a great sense of the absurdities of life –war in particular. - Deb Warner
Gone to Green by Judy Christie
Not a novel about the environment, this slim inspirational fiction title – the first in the Green Series – is set in rural Green, Louisiana, where former Midwestern big-city news journalist Lois Barker “inherits” a twice-weekly homegrown newspaper business. Quickly relocating to Green from Dayton, Ohio, Lois faces a whirlwind year of assertive accomplishments, new friendships and struggling faith in her commitment to God, if not to The Green News-Item and her newfound community.
Clever newspaper quotes at the beginning of each chapter juxtapose chatty human interest stories printed in the slow news southern town where everyone knows everyone else against the impersonal big-city news climate which has ushered in major changes such as 24/7 access to news and constantly updated information through the latest technological advances.
This book includes discussion questions for book groups and a preview chapter from yet to be published book #2 in the Green Series: Goodness Gracious Green. - Susan Wright
A Good Indian Wife by Anne Cherian
Suneel Sarath gets tricked into an arranged marriage by his family, even though he is a practicing anesthesiologist in San Francisco with a blond American girlfriend. He has worked hard to escape the trappings of his traditional Indian culture, but now that Suneel has brought his Indian wife back to San Francisco, he discovers that Leila is not a meek, traditional girl from a backward village. Leila is a teacher and she knows more about the world through books than Suneel has learned in his narrow study of medicine. Suneel and Leila struggle to reconcile their own desires with the expectations of others in this engrossing story of two people, two countries and two ways of life that may be more compatible than they seem. Highly recommended. - Kathi Sippen
Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
Handle with Care is the story of Willow O’Keefe. Willow is a kindergartner who was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic condition that causes her bones to be extremely brittle and break easily. Willow even broke bones in utero. She has broken an extraordinary number of bones already and spent most of her life in pain and in a cast of one kind or another – and she’s only 5 years old! In an attempt to raise money to offset Willow’s medical expenses, her family instigates a “wrongful birth” lawsuit against the obstetrician who provided prenatal care to Willow’s mother, claiming that the doctor did not diagnose Willow’s condition early enough in the pregnancy to give the parents the option of terminating the pregnancy. To add to the drama, the obstetrician and Willow’s mother were best friends and continued to be best friends until the day that the O’Keefes filed the lawsuit. Also, Mr. and Mrs. O’Keefe are not on the same page regarding the lawsuit, which leads to much fighting upon which Picoult’s readers eavesdrop. Willow’s older sister, Amelia, must compete with Willow for their parents’ attention and deal with the normal teen angst and acting out as well as a chronically ill sibling. This novel has much to hold the reader’s attention – law, medicine and family dynamics. - Elizabeth Watson
Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins
If historical novels are what you like, then this novel is one you will love. From the villages of 18thcentury Scotland to the colonies of America, Blevins takes the reader on a perilous adventure and evokes a time and place with vivid descriptions and language of that time. Maggie Duncan is the lone survivor of an attack on her village and is taken in by another village’s healer. Maggie learns all of what Hannah has to teach about midwifery and healing, and after Hannah’s death, Maggie decides to try her luck in the New World by signing up as an indentured servant. Once in Virginia, Maggie experiences all of the perils and dangers of the New World as she uses her wits and learns to survive. The reader is given the gift of traveling back in time and experiencing vicariously what it was like to live during the early settlement of the colonies in America. - Kathi Sippen
Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange
As indicated by the title, this sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice takes a supernatural turn. The novel, told from Elizabeth’s point of view, begins the morning of Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding. They leave for continental Europe on their wedding journey so that Darcy may seek the advice of old friends and relatives on overcoming the obstacles to their marriage created by their “differences."
Elizabeth is a bit dismayed by this, as she believed they had already resolved any issues arising from their different social standings. In some respects, the giveaway in the title is unfortunate, as the reader might have enjoyed putting together the clues (some subtle, some not so) as to why Darcy attempts to keep a certain distance between himself and his bride. References to conversations and events from Pride and Prejudice appear throughout the novel, and Ms. Grange does a good job of using language similar to that in Austen’s work, making it easier to see this book as a sequel. Several characters from the original also make an appearance. Lady Catherine de Burgh’s inclusion provides the reader with a new and different view of her objection to Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage. While the resolution at the end may be a bit too easy, this novel is a fun way to revisit some of Austen’s most famous characters. - Shelley Geyer
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout’s novel-in-stories Olive Kitteridge won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and, having read it twice, I am thrilled that it was honored with this award. Olive Kitteridge is quite simply an astonishing book, and its main character is unforgettable. The book deals with large, sweeping themes (death, infidelity, violence) but its beauty lies in the attention Strout pays to the small, intimate details of life. In September, Strout spoke at the North Carolina Literary Festival. In her talk she said, “fiction matters.” With Olive Kitteridge, Strout has proved that conviction with a remarkable, lyrical book that also pierces the reader with razor-sharp observations. Not to be missed. - Marian Fragola
The Other Brother by Brandon Massey
Isaiah Battle is a disturbed young man with a heart full of hate and a mind full of plans for vengeance. His dad was a married army man who had an affair with Isiah's young, beautiful mother, leaving her with a baby boy to rear and no money or prospects. As Isaiah’s plans to destroy his father and his father’s son Gabriel (the “Other Brother”) come closer and closer to fruition, Isaiah and Gabriel realize they have an uncanny ability to affect each other’s thoughts and dreams. Family secrets aren’t revealed until the final pages, leaving the reader in suspense. - Lisa Dendy
The Reader: A Novel by Bernhard Schlink
I picked up this book on a whim; it was on a list of adult books for young adult readers. I remembered that there was a movie, thought the description sounded interesting and picked it up. The plot is simple. Michael Berg was 15 years old when he began a sexual affair with Hanna, who is at least twice his age. She disappears and he sees her next when he is a law student and she is on trial for crimes committed as a Nazi guard. Slowly he realizes she has a secret she considered worse than being a murderer.
I read this novel in one sitting on my day off, going so far as to choose my lunch so that I could easily eat and keep reading. The Reader started slowly and built to a climax where I could not put it down. Then, when I finally finished the book, I wandered around my house just trying to decide how I felt about myself and my reactions to the book.
The Reader was made into a movie with Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet. I’ve not seen the movie and am now almost afraid to. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I have a hard time believing any picture could be worth more than the words in The Reader. - Jennifer Lohmann
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
May and Pearl are sisters, born in Shanghai to well-to-do parents. It is 1937 and May and Pearl work as beautiful girls, posing for calendars and advertisements, and they are living the high life, modern and carefree. Their lives change drastically when their father informs them that he has gambled away their wealth and that, in order to repay his debts to gangsters, he must sell the girls as wives to men who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides. The sisters leave for America amidst the Japanese invasion of China and have to use their wits to survive the brutal Japanese soldiers who are swarming their country. In Los Angeles they begin life anew, trying to find love with the strangers they have married and getting along in a country that clearly does not welcome them. Shanghai Girls is a heart-breaking novel that is rich in early twentieth century Chinese and American history. Highly recommended reading from the author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. - Kathi Sippen
Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald Westlake
In 2008, this 1969 noir classic by Westlake was reprinted. New York City cab driver Chet Conway takes a tip that may cut his life short. A bet on a long-shot horse sends Chet to his bookie’s apartment to collect. But instead of getting his big payoff, he comes under suspicion of murder. Monitored by the police, accosted by a family member of the bookie, harassed by the mob, and shot at by someone, Chet doesn’t know who he can trust. Each time he thinks things couldn’t possibly get worse, he is completely wrong. Westlake’s wry sense of humor will keep a smile on your face as Chet struggles to stay alive long enough to collect his money. - Lisa Dendy
The Southern Woman by Elizabeth Spencer
Written by local author Elizabeth Spencer, this collection of short stories takes the reader from the Old South, to the piazzas of Italy and into the chilly, bustling suburbs of Montreal, Canada. Spencer’s stories touch on race relations in a pre-civil rights South, young men and women coming of age and defining themselves (or being defined by those around them) and couples in long-term relationships redefining the nature of their lives together in response to challenges both external and internal. The common thread is Spencer's focus on the bonds of family and the push and pull those bonds exert on her characters.
Spencer’s writing is lyrical and filled with allegory. Literary almost to the point of poetry, some of the stories left me puzzled as to their meaning, re-reading paragraphs and passages like I would a poem for clues to the author’s hidden meaning. Other stories, however, captured interactions and motivations with such clarity and truth that I marveled at the universal nature of family dynamics and at Spencer’s ability to render them with such fidelity.
Spencer’s voice is true to time and place, so there are terms that may be jarring to readers accustomed to today’s more culturally sensitive writings. But it is worth braving those occasional painful glimpses into our not so distant past to enjoy these stories. - Gina Rozier
Summer Crossing by Truman Capote
In a way, Summer Crossing is Truman Capote’s debut novel. He started it in the mid-1940’s, but put it down to complete Other Voices, Other Rooms. It was not published until Capote’s house sitter found the manuscript in a trunk that he left behind in Greenwich Village.
Summer Crossing tells the story of Grady McNeill, the sheltered, rich daughter of a Fifth Avenue family, who spends a fateful summer on her own while her parents vacation in their French villa. While her mother is buying the dress in which Grady will be married to a suitable young man, Grady enters into a romance with Clyde Manzer, who is distinctly not suitable. Clyde is a WWII veteran, a mechanic and Jewish. Grady is attracted and, at the same time, a little repelled by their class differences.
The writing shows Capote’s early promise, although some criticize the “thin” plot and “poorly drawn” characters. - Bill Nesmith
Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn D. Wall
Wall’s debut novel is being hyped as a mystery, but it is so much more. Set in my home state during the height of the Great Depression, it captures life in the small, mountain town of Aurora, Kentucky, where no one, least of all Olivia Harker, has two dimes to rub together. Olivia, 42, struggles with her crazy mother Ida and 11-year-old grandson Will’m; the former was a mental-institution patient, and the latter was abandoned by Olivia's irresponsible daughter as a youngun. Olivia also struggles with her guilt over her role in the death years ago of her beloved father Pap. It’s the coldest winter recorded in Kentucky, making life in the cold-water kitchen behind their tiny grocery store a daily struggle. Now someone is hunting the rare silver-faced wolves on Olivia’s strip of mountainside, family property that has been marked for decades with “No Trespassing” signs. Secrets from the past turn deadly when the Harkers become the prey of dangerous hunters who threaten Olivia and her friends, the town’s black residents. The races move in separate orbits in the same town; Olivia and her Pap are the only whites who befriend the black residents, who help Olivia in her hour of need. The action builds slowly to as exciting an ending as I’ve ever read. The first person narrative in mountain dialect is compelling and accurate for the time and place. Vivid characterization is this book’s strength. I hope this author continues to write novels. - Jean Amelang
Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek
Ellie Sanders is an 11-year old girl who has to grow up very fast. Her mother is fading into madness, and her father’s will to fight for his family is lost when he chooses to abandon them for Tess the Tomato Girl, a beautiful teenager who grows produce for the general store that Ellie’s father manages.
Told from Ellie’s point of view, she tries to save herself by creating a secret world, a place where her mother gets well, her father returns to being the man that she remembers and the Tomato Girl is gone forever. Although the book is quite disturbing, I found it impossible to put down. - Janet Levy
The View from Garden City by Carolyn Baugh
A young, American woman, studying Arabic in the Garden City district of Cairo, learns much more about Egyptian culture through the women she meets than in her classroom. Living amid the fierce inflexibility of tradition, these women reveal a fascinating world of arranged marriages, secret romances and the often turbulent bonds between four generations of Arab mothers and daughters. Rich with the sights and sounds of modern Egypt, The View from Garden City lifts the veil of privacy to explore the stunning inner strength of women torn between their dreams for the future and the sacrifices they must make in a world of harsh realities. Highly recommended. - Kathi Sippen
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Balram Halwai is a complex man: Indian, servant, entrepreneur, philosopher, self-starter, murderer. Over the course of seven nights he tells his story in letter form to China’s premier Wen Jiabao. Balram tells the premier his transfixing story of how he became a successful entrepreneur with only his intellect and reasoning pushing him forward. Balram’s story is the story of India: the wealthy and the poor. Through his eyes, the reader sees the ancient and the cell phone cultures, the prostitutes and the men who seek them, the cockroaches in the servant’s quarters and the gleaming shopping malls. In this captivating book Adiga offers the reader an authentic look at India today. Highly recommended. - Kathi Sippen
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
Philippa Gregory, a best-selling British author, does for 15th-century England what she did for the 16th. This historical fiction is set during the War of the Roses and follows the reign of Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.
If you liked Gregory’s books about the queens of Great Britain, you will enjoy this first title in “The Cousins’ War” series. - Rheda Epstein
The Writing Class by Jincy Willett
Anyone who has ever taken a university or community college writing class will find the characters in this novel annoyingly familiar. The teacher, Amy, is an overweight hermit who hasn’t published anything but her blog and blurbs for other writers in years. Other class members include the doctor, the lawyer, the slacker and the woman who idolizes the teacher. Amy is a remarkable teacher, and her students decide to continue meeting after the university cancels the class. Odd notes and threatening phone calls lead to the death of two students, while Amy searches writing samples for clues to the killer’s identity. Willett’s novel is sardonic, suspenseful, intelligent and hilarious, with some very good writing advice to boot. - Lisa Dendy
The titles below are chosen for their representation of zombies in different aspects than the usual shambling mindless flesh eaters who can be destroyed with impunity.
Black Blood by John Meaney
This is the sequel to Bone Song, and also features top cop Donal Riordan, resident of Tristopolis, a truly noir city-state that runs on wraith power. Donal is also a newly-resurrected zombie who literally carries his murdered lover’s heart in his chest, along with the desire to catch the evil mage who murdered them both. Like other zombies, Donal isn’t much different from other citizens, aside from his low body temperature and need to recharge regularly, but a hate group is rising in influence that will stop at nothing to strip zombies of all their rights. They have even infiltrated the police department, and Donal has no doubts the man he seeks, a member of the Black Cabal, is behind what may be only the first step of a very wide-ranging conspiracy. - Deb Warner
Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S. G. Browne
At last, the story from the zombies’ point of view! Andy is living on sufferance in his parents’ basement, only going out after dark for Undead Anonymous meetings. He and his fellow members try to be positive, but it isn’t easy when you continue to fall apart and the rest of the world views you with disgust and fear. Unaccompanied zombies are picked up by the ASPCA (the kibble’s not bad) and those not claimed end up as crash test dummies or in zombie zoos. Frat boys tear them to pieces as a prank with no fear of punishment. It’s when they change their diet that they not only reverse their deterioration, they decide to fight back to regain their dignity as well. - Deb Warner
Dancing with Werewolves: Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator by Carol N. Douglas
Delilah has a new job: investigating the illegal trade in the undead and the secretive and powerful Immortality Mob for CSI: Las Vegas producer Howard Nightwine. As a classic cinema buff, what outrages him is the practice of stripping classic film characters, such as Sam Spade or Nicky Charles, out of films, imprinting them on zombies, and selling them to the highest bidder. They are not robots, but are capable of a full range of thought and feeling consistent with their character. These CineSims are little better than slaves, tools of the Vegas hospitality industry who are lucky if they play host in a bar, rather than a brothel. - Deb Warner
Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander
Blind Justice is a wonderful beginning to an unusual mystery series. Sir John Fielding is a real historical figure who was blinded in a naval accident when he was 19. With his brother – playwright, novelist and magistrate Henry Fielding – he founded the famous Bow Street Runners, the first professional police force in England. The orphan Jeremy Proctor becomes Sir John’s errand boy and narrates his investigation into the death of Lord Goodhope. Through Jeremy, Alexander brings the streets of 18th Century London alive, especially the grime and vice. The mystery is well crafted and Sir John is a compelling character. - Jennifer Lohmann
Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs
Déjà Dead is a “if you liked Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, you’ll like this book.” Déjà Dead is the scariest, deliciously creepy, gave me goosebumps and tingles book that I have read this year. Temperance “Tempe” Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who travels regularly between the United States and Canada as she works for both the Montreal coroner’s office and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Tempe gets the cases in which the bodies are decomposing or are already skeletons. Upon examining the remains of several female victims, Tempe realizes that she is dealing with a serial killer. She must put together the clues and help catch the murderer, who has already started stalking her daughter and her best friend, before he hurts those she loves the most. Déjà Dead is definitely a read-under-the-covers kind of book. - Elizabeth Watson
Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood
Greenwood, who writes the Phryne Fisher series, has a delightful new character, Corinna Chapman, who fled the world of big money to run a bakery in Melbourne. She lives in an unusual apartment building occupied by some unusual characters who get into a variety of situations, also unusual. - Carol Passmore
Jar City: A Reykjavik Thriller by Arnaldur Indriðason
An old man is found dead in his apartment, struck over the head. His death seems inexplicable until detective inspector Erlendur Sveinsson starts investigating his background. Slowly but surely, Erlendur and his coworkers close in on the unlikely killer and his motive against a bleak, Icelandic background. Erlendur’s character turns Jar Cityfrom a solid police procedural into something more special. He’s an old school detective in a new school land looking for killers and trying to save his drug addicted daughter. Erlendur reminded me of Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) from Law & Order, one of my favorite characters on TV. Iceland is a great backdrop for a mystery with its small size and population, low crime rate and cold. If you’ve not yet tried an Icelandic mystery (Scandinavian mysteries are all the rage!), give Jar Citya try. - Jennifer Lohmann
Journal: Amy Zoe Mason by Kristine Atkinson
The full subtitle is “The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Amy Zoe Mason,” so right from the start, you know things do not end well for Amy. This creation by Kristine and Joyce Atkinson isn’t a conventional novel, rather it is presented as a journal/scrapbook built by Amy using a repurposed book. Snatches of the book's text are still visible, including journal entries, pasted-in photos, e-mail copies and newspaper articles. Amy is lonely, missing her handsome cardiologist husband who has gone on to begin his new job in Boston with a prestigious cardiology institute, leaving her in Houston with two small children and the job of selling their home before she joins him. Other than in Amy’s journal, very little is stated directly, so the reader is left to infer the dangers gathering around her and view the aftermath. - Deb Warner
Solomon vs. Lord by Paul Levine
Solomon vs. Lordis one of the funniest, laugh-out-loud books that I have read in a long time. This novel features a criminal trial at which a talking parrot is called upon to testify, lots of avocados, an idiot savant who makes anagrams out of the names of everyone he meets and a murder mystery. Paul Solomon and Victoria Lord, both lawyers, are the main characters. The opening scene finds them held for contempt in adjacent jail cells, and from that moment on, the tension and energy of their love/hate relationship makes the novel sizzle. Fans of John Grisham or Carl Hiaasen should try some of Paul Levine’s novels. - Elizabeth Watson
Dogs and Goddesses by Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart, Lani Diane Rich
Light-hearted, fun and sexy, Dogs and Goddesses spins a tale of three modern-day women who unknowingly are the latest in a long line of goddesses. To their surprise, their powers are awakened by an elixir administered by Kammami, a long-imprisoned super goddess in the guise of a dog trainer. Her nefarious plan is to re-enlist her goddess servants as she plots to take over the world.
The three newly minted goddesses have a hilarious time coming to terms with their powers. Abby has the ability to influence others with her magical baked goods. Daisy stirs the wind and compels people to behave as she wishes. Shar is perhaps the most powerful. She can simply speak a suggestion and people dazedly follow her orders.
To add to the fun, there is a smoking hot god named Sam, brought back from the past to serve as Kammami’s consort – but he only has eyes for Shar. And then there’s the fact that all the goddesses can hear and understand dogs…
Together Shar, Abby, Daisy, Sam and their pups race to learn the mysteries of their past. It is their only hope if they are to send the megalomaniac Kammami back where she came from.
This humorous, romantic romp puts a whimsical spin on the well-worn plot line of women finding their power and purpose. Dogs and Goddesses is entertaining and funny, and the doggy dialogue will ring true to anyone who has a much-loved pup in their life. - Gina Rozier
The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
Ever wish historical romances were set in more exotic locations than London? Looking for a new author with hypnotic language and strong characters? Want action and history mixed with your romance, but still like lords, ladies and sparkling ball gowns? The Duke of Shadows offers it all!
Set during the reign of Queen Victoria, The Duke of Shadows begins in India. Emmaline’s ship was wrecked on the voyage from England to India and she was the only survivor. She meets the half-Indian, half-English Julian Sinclair, heir to the Duke of Auburn. Both sides call Julian a traitor, but Emmaline finds she cannot stay away from him. A brutal uprising separates them. Julian thinks Emmaline is dead and Emmaline thinks Julian has abandoned them. Then – they meet again in London.
In the hands of another writer, this plot could be over-the-top, but Duran is a fantastic writer. Through her writing we see India through Emmaline’s artist eye and feel the two cultures try to pull Julian apart. If you love The Duke of Shadows (and you will), Duran has two other books out and a third is due next year. - Jennifer Lohmann
Flat-out Sexy by Erin McCarthy
Flat-out Sexy is the first in this popular contemporary romance author’s Fast Track series, set right here in North Carolina (outside of Charlotte since it’s all about NASCAR drivers). Heroine Tamara Briggs is the widow of a NASCAR driver killed while racing, and she’s still very involved in the sport. She meets new racer (and younger man) Elec Monroe at a party. After a one night stand, Tamara is reluctant to get involved with another racer. She and her children are still recovering from the death of her husband. Elec is persistent. He wants Tamara and wants to be a father to her children.
Flat-out Sexy could have been just another funny, racy (pun intended) romance novel. McCarthy makes it more. Tamara and Elec have real problems they need to work through before they can have their happily ever after. They feel like real people. Plus, McCarthy is a good writer and her writing SHINES in this novel. Flat-out Sexy has strong emotion and a solid conflict, and it’s just a really great romance.- Jennifer Lohmann
His Captive Lady by Anne Gracie
Both the hero, Harry Morant, and the heroine, Lady Helen Freymore (Nell), have been scarred by life. I won’t spoil the novel, but being the daughter of an earl has not made Nell’s life any easier than being the bastard son of an earl has made Harry’s. They meet for a moment in the rain and that moment is enough for Harry to want to toss aside all ideas of a practical marriage to rescue his "drowning Madonna." Nell has another agenda and she doesn’t want Harry to be a part of it. Harry and Nell have a good number of secrets that make finding true love very difficult. Gracie handles all those secrets and all their pain with sensitivity and care. His Captive Lady is romantic and poignant. - Jennifer Lohmann
Instant Attraction by Jill Shalvis
Instant Attraction is the first in a trilogy set in the California mountains. Katie Kramer survived a terrible accident and is looking to step out of her life a little, to be someone different. She drives until she runs out of gas and gets a temporary job at Wilder Adventures and Expeditions. World Champion Snow Boarder Cameron Wilder also survived a life-changing accident, travelling the world to figure out who he is now that he can no longer be a champion. He’s back and doesn’t want to be interested in cute, funny Katie. Instant Attraction was light and fun, with lots of outdoor adventure.- Jennifer Lohmann
The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley
According to everyone who knows him, Lord Ian MacKenzie is the brilliant and mad brother of a Scottish Duke. Lord Ian knows several languages and can play a piece of music after only hearing it once. He can recite conversations from memory that happened years ago. He gets completely focused on one small detail and cannot be distracted from it. He never makes small talk. He never looks people in the eye. Today, we would say Lord Ian has Asperger’s Syndrome. His Victorian father said he was mad and had him committed to an asylum.
Lord Ian wants the widow Beth Ackerley. He warns her against her fiancé and follows her to Paris. There, Inspector Fellows finds her and warns her against Lord Ian. Fellows suspects him in two murders and believes his brother is protecting him from charges. But Beth cannot get Lord Ian out of her mind. She’s attracted to him and encourages him to pursue a relationship with her. She is convinced Lord Ian did not murder the men and that discovering the real murderer will help relieve some of the memories that haunt him.
The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie is an emotionally powerful book. Lord Ian is an engaging character and his Asperger’s Syndrome is sympathetically portrayed without being condescending or patronizing. The romance between Ian and Beth is intoxicating. You will immerse yourself in this wonderful romance and be unable to put it down. - Jennifer Lohmann
Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
If you are a historical romance reader who was sad when Lisa Kleypas started writing contemporary romances, I’m right there with you. Her first contemporary, Sugar Daddy, was good, but I still wanted a Regency. Then, I read Smooth Talking Stranger. It’s perfect. Jack Travis is a playboy, but he knows he’s not the father of the baby Ella’s sister has abandoned to her care. Still, he’s sympathetic to Ella and her desperation to find the baby’s father and to care for the young boy. He gives her all the help he can, while slowly courting her. Smooth Talking Stranger is everything a romance should be–tender, romantic, sweet and sexy. - Jennifer Lohmann
What a Scoundrel Wants by Carrie Lofty
I love medieval romances and hope they come back into style soon. For me, one of the best heroes is the man leaping down from the parapets, swinging a sword in defense of something noble (think the scene from the first Lord of the Rings movie when Aragon leaps down from the rocks to defend the hobbits). What a Scoundrel Wants combines the fun and danger of a medieval romance with an interesting hero and heroine. Will Scarlet is Robin Hood’s ne’er-do-well nephew. He’s fled his home because he’s attracted to Maid Marian and hates the woods. He signs up to work for the Sheriff of Nottingham. Living up to the standards of Robin Hood is difficult for any man, and Scarlet often fails. Meg is an alchemist and has been blind for several years after an illness. Scarlet rescues Meg when a raid he’s on goes horribly wrong, and they have to learn to trust each other. Learning to trust one another takes some time. Scarlet arrests Meg’s sister and Meg tries to maim or detain Scarlet several times. The plot is excellent and the characters very engaging. What I liked best was that Lofty does not try to write a romance about Robin Hood; rather she takes a lesser known character and makes him her own. She also does not try to romanticize either living in the woods or blindness. The feelings of the main characters are real and honest. What a Scoundrel Wants does start slowly, but it finishes with a bang. - Jennifer Lohmann
A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer
Imagine a slightly medieval world where noble families arm themselves to protect their property and serve their rulers, wives are property with no rights and no responsibilities other than raising children, keeping house and pleasing their husbands. Now turn that image on its head a bit. In A Brother’s Price, male babies are rare. They are valuable, protected by their family, veiled when in public, and considered not worth educating (they will only be raising children and keeping house, after all). A band of sisters will sell their brother, if they are lucky enough to have one, to another band of sisters for cash or trade him for another husband. The women fight in the armies, serve as the rulers, and generally work in all the jobs we might consider "male-dominated." The few men are raised to be submissive to their sisters and wives.
It’s an interesting premise and Spencer carries it off well. The characters are well-developed and the plot moves along at a brisk pace. I read it in one day. A Brother’s Price is not a book you will be ambivalent about. You will either hate how she portrays men and women or be intrigued with your own reaction to her world. I like to think I am very broadminded about gender stereotypes, that men and women are raised to be "masculine" or "feminine," rather than being born that way. Still there were moments when a character did or said something so outside of my own gender expectations that it made me uncomfortable. If you like to poke and prod your own expectation and beliefs, just to test them and make sure how you really feel, give A Brother’s Price a try. - Jennifer Lohmann
Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti
Steam-punk interests me. It’s set either sometime in the past or in an imaginary world with historical elements with some added technology that is far beyond anything we have available to us today. If you can’t imagine that, think something along the lines of the 1999 Will Smith movie Wild, Wild West or the better TV counterpart from the 1960s. In this steam-punk romance, Taya is a winged courier (an icarus) in the city state of Ondinium. Ondinium has strictly defined castes that rarely interact; only the icarii are allowed to mix freely. Taya rescues an exalted (the highest caste) woman and her child, which puts her in contact with the Forlore brothers, Cristof and Alister. Alister is everything an exalted should be, well-educated, charming and intelligent, while Cristof has left his caste behind to become a clockmaker. After a series of terrorist bombings, Taya gets caught up in an investigation of treason that reaches into the highest levels of government and threatens to bring down her beloved Ondinium.
Clockwork Heart was a wonderful mix of genres. There’s a bit of mystery, a bit of science fiction and a bit of romance. Pagliassotti’s characters are extremely well-developed. I really felt like I KNEW Alister, Cristof and Taya by the end of the novel. Cristof especially is a great character. The world Pagiassottti created is really interesting. I want to read more about the people of Ondinium, especially the icarii. I just love the idea of being able to soar above the city on metal wings, free from the constraints of terra firma. - Jennifer Lohmann
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
The Eye of the World is an excellent shepherd/farm boy/nobody-to-hero story, in which an attack on his village forces Rand Al’ Thor and his companions to leave their home and embark on an epic journey complete with a variety of magical beings, legends, prophesies and people who can talk to wolves. Robert Jordan does an impressive job of creating his own fantasy world with its own history, customs and species. The Eye of the World is the beginning of an eleven book fantasy series, but it does have a satisfying ending and can stand by itself whether or not you choose to read the rest of the books in the Wheel of Time series. - Elizabeth Watson
Miles in Love by Lois McMaster Bujold
I am not a science fiction reader. Normally, I would leave those reviews to Lisa Dendy or Deb Warner, but this book was snuck in a pile of romances a friend lent me and I’m glad she did. A Civil Campaign is in one of Bujold’s collected works, Miles in Love. I would not describe A Civil Campaign as science fiction. I would call it a comedy of manners or maybe a family costume drama. Miles Vorkosigan is larger than life, despite his dwarfish size. He’s a military hero and an aristocrat. The strategic ability that served him well in the military completely fails him when he decides to court widow Ekaterin. Miles has to learn that gently bred ladies do not like being courted as if love were a military campaign. All this, plus a slightly mad Miles clone, an absent-minded professor, some bugs and absurd politics made A Civil Campaign one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. When I finished this book, I rushed back to the library to check out the rest of the series, starting with Cordelia’s Honor. - Jennifer Lohmann
War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
This may be the best urban fantasy tale ever written. Set in contemporary Minneapolis, War for the Oaks is the story of Eddi McCandry, a rock singer and guitarist who is drawn into a fight between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, the light and dark sides of the Faerie world. As Eddi learns about the Faerie World, she also learns more about herself and her music. Eddi is gritty and real (perhaps bringing to mind a Chrissie Hynde or Joan Jett-type figure for some of us), and her Faerie guardian (who can take the form of a talking dog) is by turns incredibly frustrating and incredibly charming, but always undoubtedly loyal. This book won the Locus award for best first novel for good reason. - Lisa Dendy
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama
He was elected on hope; now get to know your president better by reading his published works. In Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, the 44th president voices some of his thoughts on constitutional rights, faith, opportunity, politics, race, values and the world beyond the United States, among other things, thus sharing his vision and hope for a positive future for us and for future generations.
Other Obama titles at Durham County Library include The Inaugural Address, 2009: together with Abraham Lincoln’s first and second inaugural addresses (352.238 Inau), Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama’s Plan to Renew America’s Promise (973.93 Obama), and Dreams from My Father: a Story of Race and Inheritance (B Obama).
Special note: the audio-books are read by the president himself. - Susan Wright
Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson
I will never drive through Oxford, NC with the same eye. After finishing this book, it decisively changed from a “should” read to a “must” read. The author, a white professor of African-American Studies who grew up in Oxford NC, recounts the horrific 1970 murder of a young black veteran named Henry Marrow in his hometown. With an historian’s perspective and his own vivid childhood memories, he tells of a small Southern town’s violent experience with racism and civil rights. Angry street riots, the KKK and racial prejudice are all disturbing parts of that experience. Henry Marrow’s brutal murder rapidly ignites the racial tension underlying Oxford. Tyson puts Marrow’s death in historical context, tracing the roots of racism and the struggle for black civil rights (particularly in the American South). In the midst of this dark history, he describes the light of his father: a Methodist minister who follows his calling to Oxford and stands up for racial equality. In the end, Tyson holds onto the faith of his father (and those few who stood with him) and expresses the hope that through facing the blood-stained history of our nation’s racial struggle, we can move beyond it and live peacefully as one. His dedicated and honest investigation into his past, profoundly shaped by Mr. Marrow’s murder, is Tyson’s own search for freedom from that past. I am grateful that he shared it. - Archie Burke
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
Have you ever thought about running a marathon? How about an ultra-marathon (50 or 100+ miles)? What if you ran that distance in homemade sandals or bare feet and felt less tired and more pain-free than you ever had before? Christopher McDougall tackles these questions and more in a witty, insightful, inspiring tale of traditional running and modern athletes. The story of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, of gringo Caballo Blanco, of the “kids” from the US who challenge them all and of McDougall’s search for a way to run without pain is fascinating for both runners and non-runners alike. History, physiology and anthropology enter into this well-written tale of the greatest race no-one had ever heard of. And by the way, if you find yourself convinced to buy $80 shoes so you can run “barefoot” like the Tarahumara, don’t blame me – my wallet is already $80 lighter. - Patricia Dew
Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Wherever you live you will see crows because they live where humans live. While their abundance is an indicator of the ecological imbalance on the planet, crows also offer us an easy way to observe nature. They are bipedal, walking on two feet as we do. Their size makes them easy to see and they spend their time between ground level and treetop level. Haupt encourages us all to be naturalists by observing the crows in our neighborhoods. She also tells delightful stories of crows from historical times to the present. Read this enjoyable book and the next time the crows in your neighborhood yell, you will be wondering which of their many calls you are hearing. - Carol Passmore
Dewey: the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicky Myron with Brett Witter
If you love libraries and animals, this book is a can’t miss. In 1988, on a very cold January morning, an 8-week-old cat named Dewey appeared in the after-hours book drop of the Spencer, Iowa library. In spite of his frost-bitten paws, filthy fur and general evidence of neglect, he ingratiated himself with the library staff and then with the rest of the world. His name was expanded to “Dewey Readmore Books,” and he took on ever-increasing responsibilities within the library – particularly in dealing with the children and especially handicapped ones.
Besides being a chronicle of the Dewey's 20-year life as a library cat, the book is about the life of Vicky Myron, the library’s director, as well as the vagaries of life in small-town Iowa and the vicissitudes of running a library (any library). There are wonderful anecdotes about the antics of “the Dew” as he was known to the staff. How his fame spread beyond the United States to include a Japanese documentary provides fascinating reading. He was even the subject of one of Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story.”
Based on the wonderful view of the cat in the library, maybe we should consider adopting one for one of our regional libraries – how about North? - Joyce Sykes
Going Green: True Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers, and Dumpster Divers edited by Laura Pritchett
In sections entitled “Good Circulation: Gleaning Food and Things,” “Home Recycling: Gleaning from and for Our Homes” and “Teach Me: Gleaning for and from the People,” you will learn a lot about those among us who take recycling very seriously. If you are easily grossed out, skip the essay called “Blacktop Cuisine” on eating road kill. But these essays are enjoyable and educational. “Bin Diver” is one of the essays on taking trash from dumpsters and repurposing it – for art or for use. “Good Circulation” recounts the travels of items from yard sale – to use – to yard sale – to use in a small town where what comes around goes around. Lots of fun essays with reminders of how very wasteful we can be. - Carol Passmore
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
You’ve either read In Cold Blood, or you’ve been meaning to for years. If you fall into the later camp, it’s time to read it. Compared to modern crime writing, the book starts slowly, but once it gets rolling, it’s hard to put down. The villains of the story are mesmerizing, and Capote encourages the reader to sympathize with them, while not forgetting their brutal crimes. In Cold Blood reminds you that some books are classics for a reason. - Jennifer Lohmann
Joker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership and Brotherhood by Donovan Campbell
This is one of the most powerful books about war that I have read. Campbell’s account of his time in Iraq with his Marines is heartwarming, depressing, enlightening and moving all at once. If you are a 20-something who thinks you have it tough in your job, try being a Marine platoon leader for a day. The responsibility Campbell has over his Marines’ lives, welfare and mission is a deep commitment that he takes seriously. His heartfelt devotion to his Marines is inspiring and heart-wrenching. There are many tales of war out there, but this one is the best no-nonsense, true-to-life accounts of what it means to have “boots on the ground.” Prepare to be more emotionally involved with these Marines than you ever expected. - Patricia Dew
Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave by Leonard Todd B Dave
The life of slave potter Dave was a life of cruelty, repression, war and a sense of tenderness. There’s not much known about Dave, whose beautiful stoneware vessels are made more exceptional by the fact that he often inscribed verses, usually rhymed couplets, into their wet clay during the era when literacy among blacks was illegal and one could be brutally punished for it. Driven by the chance discovery that his ancestors had enslaved Dave, Leonard Todd traveled to the heart of the antebellum South Carolina pottery industry to draw on local lore, archeological data, slave-era archival records and the famous verses to reconstruct Dave and his family’s history. What emerges is not so much a definitive biography of Dave, but a picture of the South and a documentation of the greatness of his art. Given the lack of records of Dave’s life, much of Todd’s account is speculative, with the author filling in the blanks with details taken from slave narratives, oral histories and popular literature of the era. The pottery is beautiful and you can clearly see from some of the photographs the influence he had on many potters today. - Donald Bradsher
I’m Down by Mishna Wolff
Mishna Wolff’s dad is so white, they marked him absent at ghost school. But all his friends, neighbors and girlfriends are black. Little Mishna, meanwhile, is too tough for the white kids at school and too corny for the black kids in her neighborhood. This funny and often astonishing memoir of her childhood attempts to establish credibility and develop a sense of self while straddling two diverse cultures is a great read for citizens of Obama’s America. - Autumn Winters
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: a Memoir by Neil White
Neil White commits white collar crime – bank fraud. He tells his kids he is going to camp and checks into the minimum security federal prison at Carville, LA, which is also the only remaining leprosy colony in the United States. He adjusts to life as a prisoner and to sharing a cell with some unusual white collar criminals. But it is his contact, not encouraged, with some of the remaining patients that most affects him, and his friendship with a woman who has lived at Carville for more than 70 years that is the most moving part of this well-told story. - Carol Passmore
Major: A Black Athlete, a White Era, and the Fight to Be the World’s Fastest Human Being by Todd Balf
Before Lance Armstrong was considered the world’s greatest cyclist, before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball and before Roger Bannister wowed the world with a four-minute mile, Marshall Major Taylor was the world’s fastest human. Around the turn of the century, bicycle racing was done on short tracks. Riders flew by spectators at previously unknown speeds. Racing was extremely dangerous. There was little to no safety equipment, and a death during a race was not uncommon. In the world outside sports, the country could not even conceive of African Americans voting, much less being elected president. America was not even a generation removed from slavery.
Despite the danger both inside and outside the track because of his race, Major Taylor was the world’s most popular racer. He rose from poverty to become an international celebrity, cheered on by audiences around the world. Then, when his body could no longer handle the stress, Taylor faded from the world’s stage. His achievements were largely forgotten as short track racing fell from popularity and the spectators looked for their adrenaline elsewhere.
Balf’s biography of Taylor starts slowly and builds to a heart-stopping, blood-racing climax. We get both an understanding of his extraordinary achievements and feel a sense of sadness as Balf reminds us how quickly heroes fade from our mind and are forgotten. Majoris a wonderful example of what biographies do best: direct our attention to an amazing person largely forgotten but still important. - Jennifer Lohmann
Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton
One of our most controversial First Ladies was Mary Todd Lincoln. She was reviled by her critics, and few historians have treated her kindly because of her Confederate relatives, shopping sprees, sharp personality and fragile mental stability. Catherine Clinton shows that she was also a loving wife and mother, and her husband’s political advisor. Clinton also helps to put into context how difficult Mary Lincoln’s life was in the midst of war and the heartbreaking loss of her children’s lives as well as the murder of her husband. This biography is interesting and is an easy way to learn history. - Kathi Sippen
Lily Koppel found the journal in a dumpster on the Upper West Side full of all kinds of clothes and personal items that had been cleaned out of the storage area in an old apartment building. She was so intrigued after reading it that she tracked down and met the woman whose diary entries spanned 1929 to 1934, beginning when she was a very precocious teenager. This book combines journal entries with the information from very frank interviews with Florence, who was 90 when Lily found her. She was the daughter of a doctor, a passionate artist and very much a wild child. This book explores her hero-worship of an outrageous lesbian actress, of her own first girlfriends, and the men she met and fell in love with, from girlhood sweethearts met riding in Central Park to a handsome Italian pilot. Florence describes infighting at the college literary magazine she edited, nightclubbing in Manhattan, and travels to Paris and Rome – all with both thought and sheer enjoyment. - Deb Warner
Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities by Elizabeth Edwards
“My life, at some level, is tragic.” This book, Elizabeth Edwards’ second, shows her grief over losing her and John’s son Wade in a freak accident in 1996. She also opens up about how she is dealing with cancer. And finally, in a discreet and dignified way, she talks about the humiliation and agonizing loss of the husband she knew and loved. This is a story that is somehow beyond words, and yet Ms. Edwards has shared her feelings at the deepest levels. It is just so hard to imagine what life is like for her these days in mid-2009. She has honestly and openly told us in this book. - Skip Auld
This Boy’s Life: a Memoir by Tobias Wolff
Toby Wolff was a delinquent, no question about it. He was a Boy Scout and at one point an avid reader of Boy’s Life, the scouting magazine. But this is the story of THIS boy’s life. He and his divorced mother just packed up one day and caught a bus to Portland, and then moved to Seattle. They were impoverished, and eventually she married a man who was all sweetness and light before the marriage but became an abusive husband and father immediately after. Wolff tells his boyhood story with complete distance. I wondered how he could tell about the sometimes awful, sometimes joyful, always interesting events. It’s hard to imagine that the subject of the autobiography is the same person as the writer. A movie based on this book came out in 1993. This is one of those stories you must read first! - Skip Auld
Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman
Teen occultist Andromeda Klein feels accursed to her very bones. The recent death from leukemia of best friend/sister adept Twice Holy Daisy Wasserstrom has left Andromeda feeling even more out of step than usual. Never mind that last text message she got from her kinda sorta boyfriend St. Steve. And on top of everything else, her afterschool job at the public library (aka International House of Bookcakes) is becoming quite unpleasant. What in the name of A.E. Waite is a girl to do in these circumstances?
King Dorkauthor Frank Portman has created another wonderful book for brilliant teen misfits (and those who love them). Especially recommended for tarot card readers, Waldorf School graduates and the ever-so-slightly hearing impaired. - Autumn Winters
Emily the Strange: The Lost Days by Rob Reger
Emily is in a strange town. She doesn’t know her name; she doesn’t know how old she is; she doesn’t know why she’s there, or where home is, but she’s pretty sure it’s somewhere else. Emily knows she’s got a riddle to solve and she seems to have a way with cats. Why should you care? Who else wears the same black dress every day and uses “Belgium” as a curse word? Check her out as she follows the clues to find her legacy and herself. - Lisa Dendy
The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang & Derek Kirk Kim
Three different graphic stories are bound into one, asking these overarching questions: what’s reality, what’s fantasy and what’s your identity? Each story is illustrated very differently, and the distinct artwork helps convey the message of the individual story. I read these stories quickly, wanting to see how each one ended. Then I reread them to understand at a deeper level. That’s a sign of a good graphic novel! - Archie Burke
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a story about a teenage girl named Mary. Mary lives in a post-apocalypse time, where zombies, who they call “the Unconsecrated,”roam free. The only protection Mary’s village has is a fence surrounding it, which keeps the Unconsecrated out and the villagers in. Nobody knows what the outside holds, but Mary dreams of it as her mother tells her, from stories passed down from generation to generation. Fate hands Mary the chance to see what lies beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth. - Alexys Reynoso, as part of the Summer Reading Program
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Imagine an annual event where twenty-four kids are trapped in a bubble where they are forced to kill each other until one kid becomes the victor– all broadcast on national television. Sounds terrible, right? While the circumstances are horrible, you follow tributes Katniss and Peeta through their journey as they struggle to do what’s right. The Hunger Games is so engaging you won’t be able to put it down… this book is both brutal and compelling and you’ll be left wondering what happens. Catching Fire, the anticipated second book of the Hunger Games, does not disappoint; you’ll be aching for the third installment. - Kathleen Moore
Paper Towns by John Green
John Green’s latest book Paper Towns accurately portrays high school lust and angst resulting in an involved, wacky adventure. Weeks away from graduating, senior Quentin gets a knock on his window from his childhood best friend Margo who he hasn’t talked to in ten years. What ensues is an overnight adventure filled with elaborate pranks. Just as Quentin thinks his best friend is back, Margo mysteriously disappears, leaving him wondering if she just ran away or committed suicide. Margo seemingly has left a string of clues for Quentin, but he’s not sure what he’ll find. If you like the style of Paper Towns, try Looking for Alaska or An Abundance of Katherines, John Green’s first two novels. - Kathleen Moore
Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman
Ancient Greek mythology meets 2stcentury spin seems to be a popular trend in teen-targeted fiction these days, e.g., P. C. Cast’s Goddess Summoning books. This entry into the pool tells of Persephone, teenage daughter of Demeter, goddess of agriculture and the green growth of crops that feed the humans so that they can worship the Olympians. Persephone is immortal and has no need to eat food, but apparently she ages, and now she has blossomed into a teenager who could walk the streets of modern Greece – or America. Persephone is confused, rebellious, curious, whiny, resentful of authority – especially her mother – and sexually awakening. So when a handsome stranger rides his chariot into the secluded vale where her overprotective mother has “trapped” her, Persephone finds a way to escape the confines of her mother’s custody. Instead of the abduction depicted through centuries of storytelling, Persephone goes willingly with the stranger, who turns out to be Hades, King of the Underworld, Ruler of the Dead. The two are genuinely in love, and at first Persephone thinks she has found her idea of paradise. One day she hears from the new “shades” arriving from the mortal realm above ground the news that Earth is suffering. Her mother in her sorrow has ignored her duties to the extent that the crops are failing and the planet is arid from drought. Then Demeter causes too much rain to fall, and the floods are killing as many humans as the drought. A trick and a compromise return Persephone to the surface and into the loving arms of a mother who has come to appreciate and understand the daughter she lost. The ending winds up a bit too neatly, but, hey, blame the gods. - Jean Amelang
Swim the Fly by Don Calame
Do you like laughing out loud at crude high school humor? If so, you’ll probably enjoy Swim the Fly where three teens from the local swim team make a pact to see a girl “in the buff” by the end of the summer. Pictures and porn don’t count; it has to be a live, real girl. They’ll do anything to impress a girl… including volunteering to swim the dreaded butterfly. Don Calame has captured the thoughts of high school boys in this blunt, hysterical first novel. - Kathleen Moore
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
In the future, pro-life and pro-choice factions are at war until the Bill of Life is enacted. It states that “human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen.” However, what happens between the ages of thirteen and eighteen? During these years a parent has the right to retroactively abort their child, but instead of killing them, doctors “unwind” their bodies and each part is donated to a person in need. This book focuses on the lives of three teenagers whose families have decided to unwind them for differing reasons; one monetary, one behavioral and one religious. I found this book to be enlightening, disturbing and fantastic, a perfect mix! This book is great for many people, from the reluctant teenager to the adult looking for a quick and fascinating read. Enjoy! - Lauren Doll
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
Alanna: The First Adventure is Book One of the Song of the Lioness series.The premise of this story is a simple one: that of a young girl who does not wish to follow her traditional path. But in the rigid medieval society in which Alanna of Trebond lives, this is not possible to accomplish as a girl.
So when Alanna and her twin brother Thom are sent away from home to prepare for their future roles, she contrives to switch places with him in order to learn to be a knight. Calling herself “Alan of Trebond,” she endures extremely full days, befriends the heir to the throne, heals him from a serious illness, overcomes a bully squire and helps to rid the kingdom of an evil presence that is contained in an outlying city.
In spite of the deceit involved, this is a good story of strong womanhood and of overcoming adversity. Alanna’s story is continued in three other books: In the Hand of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides like a Man and Lioness Rampant. (Alanna eventually gains her knight’s shield and proves herself as a woman warrior, but that is brought about in the other books.) - Laurel Jones
The Door Within by Wayne Batson
The Door Within is Book One in the series The Door Within Trilogy. Aidan Thomas and his family have moved to Colorado to take care of his grandfather. Moving to another state, leaving his friend and starting a new school, Aidan wonders if life could get any worse! He soon learns that it can. While exploring his grandfather’s basement Aidan stumbles across ancient scrolls, which reveal a medieval world of kings and knights in a secret kingdom called Alleble. Our reluctant hero at first dismisses the writings as the stuff of lore, but with the utterance of the final words of the scroll, Aidan finds himself pulled into this magical world.
Once there, Aidan becomes a knight in the king’s guard. His quest is to prevent the king of Mithegard from signing a treaty with Paragory. This projected trilogy has the making of a great series: there is the potential love interest, Gwenne the swordmaiden, the villains, the Paragor Knights and of course our reluctant hero, Aidan. What more could you ask for? For those who loved the Narnia and Wrinkle in Time series, I recommended this as a next read, for it resonates the virtues of faith, sacrifice and redemption. Some may be turned off by the religious undertones of this story, but for me this was one of the reasons I loved it so much. As the fight between good and evil ensues, with every triumph Aidan reaffirms my belief that good overcomes evil and restores my faith in mankind. - Anna Cromwell
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
This deliciously creepy tale was awarded the 2009 Newbery Medal Award. Nobody Owens, called Bod, is a normal boy, and is the only living resident of a graveyard. He is raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves and other cemetery denizens.
There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for Bod. When Bod leaves the graveyard, he comes under attack from the man Jack, who already killed his family.
Like Gaiman’s Coraline, this book is sure to enchant and surprise young readers as well as Neil Gaiman’s legion of adult fans. - Rheda Epstein
Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins
Gregor and the Code of Claw is the fifth book in the series The Underland Chronicles – a body of work similar to that of J.K. Rowling. It can be read and enjoyed by people of all ages. However, heed my warning; you must be a fantasy fiction fan to swallow its premise, as the main characters are rats, bats, cockroaches and spiders. And here’s the kicker, they are all the size of humans and capable of speech. If you can get past that little factoid, the rest of the storyline is somewhat typical as the characters unfortunately interact much as humans do: a fight to the death!
In the first book, Gregor falls through a laundry room vent and plummets thousands of feet beneath the earth into an underground kingdom in which he encounters a race of people called the Underlanders. His arrival has been foretold in a century-old prophecy, and he is welcomed as the warrior that will rid the underworld of the rats. In this Code of Claw installment, Gregor learns the final part of the prophecy, which proclaims that he will kill the Rat King but will die in this final act of bravery. This is too much for an eleven year old kid; he’s no warrior and he wants to go home, but the Underland commander is holding his family hostage until the prophecy is fulfilled. This is a suspenseful series; often the lines between good and evil are blurred. Is Gregor really destined to die or is he the master of his own fate; and what about his family and the Underland princess he has come to love? Check this book out and dig a little deeper; otherwise (like the rats) it will gnaw at you forever! - Anna Cromwell
Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
Inkdeath is Book Three in the Inkheart trilogy.This trilogy kept me on pins and needles awaiting the arrival of this installment,wondering what could possibly happen next! Each new addition was well worth the wait as the series got better with each book. The adventure starts in Inkheart with the introduction of the main character Mo, a simple bookbinder who discovers his talent for reading people into and out of storylines, plots and the world within books; the Inkworld. Unfortunately, the place that he finds himself and ultimately his family read into is filled with a host of unscrupulous characters (and a few redeemable ones) all bent on controlling the world created by the words from his mouth, which ultimately means controlling him.
Inkdeath returns us to this world and unbelievably provides a satisfactory end to a bevy of plots. Mo assumes an alter ego (the Bluejay) and with the help of Dustfinger, who is brought back to life through dark magic, foils the plans of the Adderhead to rule Inkworld. Meggie finally comes into her own silver-tongue gifts just in time to aid her father, and Fenoglio, the author of the book from which the cast was first read, redeems himself and writes a story ending worthy of his original work, putting all things right in the world of ink. Reading this series in order is not a suggestion, but a requirement, as the number of characters and plots are at times daunting. However, it is a task worth taking on as the highs and lows of the series as well as the suspense and adventures are out of this world! - Anna Cromwell
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien.
This book is about a field mouse named Mrs. Frisby who needs to move with her children somewhere else for harvest season. The problem is that her youngest son Timothy has been bitten by a spider and is sick. The doctor tells her to seek the Owl, so Mrs. Frisby and her new friend, Jeremy the crow, go into the forest.
Inside the tree of the Owl, Mrs. Frisby asks him what should she do, and the Owl tells her to seek the very intelligent rats of NIMH. The very next day she goes under a rose bush and sees a guarded entrance. She isn't allowed to enter until she tells them she is the widow of a mouse named Jonathan Frisby.
The wise Nicodemus explains that he and the others had been lab rats who escaped from the scientists’experiments, and that Jonathan was one of the few mice in the experiment. Because Jonathan had helped the rats, he says he will help Mrs. Frisby move for the harvest season.
The next month, bad things start to happen. After some rats break away because of arguments about whether to depend on humans’electricity, a strange pest control man poisons the rats’rose bush. Because Mrs. Frisby is able to warn them, all the rats except one are unharmed, but Nicodemus revives him with a potion. Then the rats help move Mrs. Frisby’s cinder block into the forest where they will be safe. The very next year, Justin, one of the rats of NIMH, is living with Mrs. Frisby and her children, and they live happily with no worries. - Osvaldo Garcia, written for the Summer Reading Program
The Seven Songs of Merlin by T.A. Barron
The Seven Songs of Merlin is Book Two in the series The Lost Years of Merlin. Mention the name Merlin, and our minds immediately conjure up great deeds of wizardry and wisdom from the beloved tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. However, the famed wizard is barely recognizable in this book. This tale chronicles Merlin’s boyhood exploits as he struggles to conquer his inner demons in hopes of one day evolving into the great wizard he is destined to become.
The Seven Songs of Merlin details Merlin’s account of the seven tasks commanded of him through which he obtains his seven greatest magical gifts: Changing, Binding, Protection, Naming, Leaping, Eliminating and Seeing. Many of our favorite characters from the first book are reintroduced and new friends are also made, as Rhia, Trouble, Shim and Bumbelwy aid in his pursuit. Merlin’s quest is to revive the lands of Fincayra and to save the life of his mother, who has been poisoned by his old nemesis Rhita Gawr, whose magical powers still haunt him from the realms of death. This is a wonderful series full of magic, lore and lessons in wisdom. Often it is easy to identify with the flawed hero, as he toils to master many of the same traits that keep us from achieving our greatest heights; vanity, stubbornness, foolishness and perhaps worst of all, pride. - Anna Cromwell
Taggerung by Brian Jacques
Although written as part of the Redwall series, Taggerung can easily stand on its own. The one-word title of the book is actually part of a warrior’s title: “Zann Juskarath Taggerung” (Zann meaning Mighty One, and Juskarath being a band of vermin, stoats, rats, foxes, ferrets and weasels who are the villains of the story under a chieftain named Sawney Rath). The story is told in two parts: one of the adventures of a she-otter named Mhera, and the other of her baby brother Deyna. Deyna is kidnapped from near Redwall Abbey by the Juskarath and raised as the Taggerung and adopted son of the Juska chieftain. However, he proves more kindhearted than his adoptive father prefers and is eventually banished from the clan. He ventures to the distant mountains, meeting and befriending an adventuresome mouse named Nimbalo the Slayer and a colony of pygmy shrews known as the Cavemob before making his way to Redwall Abbey. But the Juskarath have followed, and the abbey comes under attack!
Deyna is injured in its defense and healed by a being called an otterfixer. Meanwhile, his sister is learning the skills of a future Abbess of Redwall, with the help of a series of written puzzles. Upon Deyna’s return the abbey is again raided by a larger vermin clan, but they are driven off by the Badger Lord and his fighting hares (a knight-like order living in the mountains) that had come for a visit. The story is a swashbuckling and adventurous one, much like the well-loved “Robin Hood” stories, although told with the use of animal characters. Although written as part of the popular series, with the many twists and turns contained in the story, Taggerung easily stands out on its own. - Laurel Jones
They Were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson
This book won the Caldecott Medal for children’s book artistry in 1941. It is a story about the author’s parents and grandparents: how they lived, how they came to meet and to marry. Considering the time frame in which the book takes place (it was written sixty years ago and mentions how his paternal grandfather was in the Civil War) children nowadays might find it to be more like a story about their great-great-grandparents!
But it is still a good story about the pioneer spirit of 19thand 20thcentury America, and quite appealing in its rendition of how one particular family lived and worked and grew. - Laurel Jones
The Autumn Leaf by Carl Emerson
Children in preschool and kindergarten know that the leaves on trees turn from green to red, orange and yellow in the fall. They don’t know why. This book explains how this happens through a simple and engaging story.
Emma and Owen play on an old oak tree in the park. Each day, more and more orange and red leaves fall from the tree. One leaf is scared, and clings to the tree. The children make a pile of fallen leaves under the leaf. Finally, the leaf falls into the pile.
Through the simple story and the cute, colorful illustrations by Cori Coerrfeld, young readers learn about the changing of the seasons. Colored boxes on the pages explain about autumn and why the leaves change color. The Autumn Leaf is the perfect companion to a trip outside on a cool, autumn day gathering leaves. - Tom Czaplinski
Everybody Bakes Bread by Norah Dooley
The “everybody” in the title is a group of people from many different cultures and backgrounds who live in the neighborhood that is the subject of this story. Sent on a pseudo-errand by her mother, actually to get her out of the house on a rainy day, a girl named Carrie drops by to see six of her neighbors and gets to try six different kinds of bread in the process. (Most of the neighbors have baked breads that are part of their particular heritage that day.)
The book is a well-written tale of cooperation with an international flavor. The recipes for the aforementioned breads are given at the end of the book for the reader to try. Ms. Dooley also has three other books that are written in a similar style: Everybody Cooks Rice, Everybody Brings Noodles and Everybody Serves Soup. - Laurel Jones
Five Little Monkeys Bake a Birthday Cake by Eileen Christelow
Many of us who have children – or work with them – are familiar with the rhyme called “Five Little Monkeys.” In this story, the five young monkeys have decided to surprise their mother with a cake for her birthday. But mixing the ingredients, and adding eggs and oil for the cake proves noisier than they expect, and they have to keep reminding each other, “Don’t wake up Mama!”
Once the cake is in the oven, they go to make their mother’s birthday present, but suddenly they smell something burning! The cake has dripped over into the oven, and there is smoke coming out of the kitchen windows! With the help of the fire department, the cake is saved and frosted. But when they finally wake Mama Monkey up, it turns out that they are a day early for her birthday! But they still enjoy the cake. The book is a funny and original version of a familiar childhood rhyme, and a fine example of family love. - Laurel Jones
Henry and Mudge under the Yellow Moon by Cynthia Rylant
This is the fourth book in Cynthia Rylant’s popular Easy Reader book series. On Halloween, Henry and his friends gather in his living room to hear Henry’s mother tell scary ghost stories. Henry is scared, but his dog, Mudge, is even more frightened.
As Henry’s mother tells a tale of haunted shoes, a strange clicking can be heard in the room. When Henry discovers that the sound is coming from poor Mudge’s chattering teeth, he holds his dog to comfort him. Young children won’t really be scared by this story, but they’ll probably wish they had a big, cuddly dog like Mudge to keep them company.
If parents are searching for a Halloween tale for young readers that won’t give them bad dreams, Henry and Mudge Under a Yellow Moon is the perfect choice. The story and the water color pictures are simple and engaging, and author Rylant’s warmth and kindness can be found on every page of the book. - Tom Czaplinski
Hotshots by Chris L. Demarest
In 2003, Chris Demarest produced a follow-up book to Smokejumpers One to Ten called Hotshots. Once again the reader is right in the center of the action as a crew of hotshots battles another wildfire that jumps a highway to burn houses, cars and the tinder-dry landscape. A detailed diagram of a hotshot and his fireproof protective suit and special firefighting equipment is shown in the beginning of the book.
Once again, the action is fast and dangerous. Racing against the clock, the hotshots build their own fire to stop the advance of a wind-blown brushfire. Flames shoot sixty feet in the air as the hotshots cover themselves with protective “Shake ‘n Bake” aluminum tents. The temperature soars to one thousand degrees Fahrenheit as they wait for the danger to pass. This book is another winner, featuring action-packed prose and detailed red-hot paintings that show the reader just how dangerous this kind of work can be. The book also bristles with firefighting words like drip-torch, Nomex shroud and fire rake. Even the most reluctant reader will want to find out what those words mean. - Tom Czaplinski
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson
This 2009 Caldecott Medal winner is illustrated by Beth Krommes. “Richly detailed black-and-white scratchboard illustrations expand this timeless bedtime verse, offering reassurance to young children that there is always light in the darkness. Krommes’ elegant line, illuminated with touches of golden watercolor, evoke the warmth and comfort of home and family, as well as the joys of exploring the wider world” from ALA Caldecott Medal Home Page. - Rheda Epstein
The Magic Flute By Kyra Teis
This book can be seen as a culturally diverse reprinting of the eighteenth-century opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In the story, the hero and heroine and the elders are East Indian in appearance, and the three female servants of one of the characters are drawn as Native American, African and (light-skinned) East Indian in appearance. The story is a timeless one of love, the enchantment of music, bravery and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The hero (Prince Tamino) is sent on a quest to rescue Princess Pamina from the sorcerer Sarastro by her mother, the Queen of the Night. But it turns out that the Queen is the actual villainess, and Tamino wins the hand of the princess after completing a series of tests devised by Sarastro.
At the end of the book, Ms. Teis offers a list of ways in which readers can learn more about the opera, as well as how they can write their own interpretation of the characters or the story itself. This would be especially useful for parents, teachers and day care workers. - Laurel Jones
Miss Nelson Has A Field Day by Harry Allard
Many children, as well as parents and teachers, know the world’s meanest substitute teacher: Viola Swamp, from Harry Allard’s Miss Nelson is Missing and Miss Nelson is Back books. In 1989, author Harry Allard and illustrator James Marshall teamed up once again to produce the final book in the series: Miss Nelson Has a Field Day. This time, everyone is down in the dumps at Horace B. Smedley School. The football coach has cracked up, and his team refuses to listen to anyone. The goofy principal, Mr. Blandsworth, tries to fool the football team by disguising himself as Viola Swamp. He doesn’t fool anyone.
Things start to change when sweet Miss Nelson once again puts on her Viola Swamp disguise. Dressed in a black sweatsuit, the Swamp means business. She begins by tackling the team’s fullback. She whips the team into shape and soon has them playing like a real team again. Nobody messes with the Swamp! If you’ve read the other books, do yourself a favor and read Miss Nelson Has A Field Day. The story is funny and clever, and ends with Horace B. Smedley’s football team clobbering their rivals 77 to 3. Read this book, because Viola Swamp will be watching you. - Tom Czaplinski
Peeping Beauty by Mary Jane Auch
This is the funniest book ever! I loved the storyline. I loved the illustrations. I loved the characters. I loved everything about it. It is just right for storytelling, as it is filled with opportunities to use silly voices and wacky expressions, and please make room for an inserted giggle or two, cause you are gonna need it.
Poulette is a barnyard fowl with dreams of stardom; she wants to be a prima ballerina. Although the other chickens think she is a little loopy, they lovingly indulge her whimsical fancies, that is, until she hooks up with a talent scout from New York City who looks suspiciously like a fox. Her friends try to warn her with peeps and pleading, but to no avail. Poulette is blinded by stardom, as the Fox woos her with a stage bathed in spotlight, her name up in lights and a rhinestone tutu. Who could resist! When the big day arrives for her grand performance of Sleeping Beauty, out jumps the fox in a prince costume, tights and all! “When you run and jump, I’ll be there to catch you in my arms,” says the fox. I think he means to catch her in his teeth. That fox thinks he has it all planned out, but the one thing he doesn’t know about ballerinas is the very thing that saves the day. To find out how the fox gets his just dessert, take a leap of fate like Poulette, “the ballerina chicken” and check this book out today. It is hilarious! - Anna Cromwell
Smokejumpers One to Ten by Chris L. Demarest
Chris L. Demarest, a volunteer firefighter, has written and illustrated the most action-packed counting book on the library shelves. The story follows four specially-trained firefighters called smokejumpers as they jump out of a plane wearing parachutes to battle a blazing forest fire.
Demarest’s sparse narrative combined with his dynamic watercolor paintings move the story along at a fast pace. They chop down trees and scrape the ground bare with special tools called Pulaskis to halt the advance of an out of control wildfire. Two days later the exhausted firefighters gather up their equipment and are picked up by a helicopter to be transported home.
The author’s colorful, detailed paintings put the reader right in the center of the searing flames and black smoke of the burning forest. You can almost feel the heat and hear the crackle of burning trees. Beginning readers with an interest in firefighting are going to love this book. - Tom Czaplinski
Space Race by Judith Bauer Stamper
Parents often stop at the Children’s Unit to ask where we keep our phonics books. Author Judith Bauer Stamper answers that question with her three books in the Hello Reader! Phonics Fun series in the Easy Reader section. Space Race is about a race in outer space between a boy and some space creatures. Phonics are taught with similar-sounding words in the fanciful Space Racestory. Equally fanciful pictures illustrate the story.
For adults, the simple story will hold no interest. But, for a struggling new reader, this book will be a useful tool in learning word families. Phonics words and activities are featured on the last pages of the book to give a child extra practice after reading the story. Author Stamper also wrote The Three Wishes and Monster Town Fair. They can all be found in the Easy Reader Section of the Children’s Unit. - Tom Czaplinski
If you missed this charming film in the theatres, check it out from the library and enjoy a wistfully nostalgic look at the 1980s. James (Jesse Eisenberg) just graduated from college. Since his English degree doesn’t help him find a job, he is forced to take a position at the tacky amusement park Adventureland in his hometown of Pittsburg. Battling the humiliations of working as a low-wage “carnie,” James becomes enthralled with the moody Em (Kristen Stewart of Twilightfame). Will he find love with Em or follow the siren song of the super-sexy Lisa P.? Eisenberg gives a lovely performance as gentlemanly intellectual James, and fans of Freaks and Geeks will appreciate Martin Starr’s turn as a pipe-smoking, Gogol-reading Adventureland employee. The carefully crafted soundtrack of 80s tunes completes the mood. - Marian Fragola
Based on a true story, the politics of vetting a Secretary of State was dissected and put under the microscope: what was found is disconcerting to say the least. Henry Fonda takes a departure from his “Mr. Nice Guy” onscreen persona to play the president’s controversial nominee who shares a very loose relationship with the truth. With back door wheeling and dealing, designed by the Minority leader to block the Majority leader’s push for Robert A. Leffingwell (Fonda), a seemingly real straight-arrow is placed in charge of the committee. Don Murray is convincing as Utah’s Brigham “Brig” Anderson and the victim of selective amnesia. Soon you are forgetting the nomination and looking at Anderson again, and again, and again. The blackmail scheme to get the bisexual Anderson to play ball leads him from a trip to find his ex-lover, to an inner soul searching that not too many of us would care to imitate. The opposition’s plans backfire spectacularly but with devastating results. The closing of the movie leaves you feeling both bereft and hopeful... and that ain’t easy to do! So, if you want a break from day-to-day modern politics, sit back and look at the cage match they called “vetting” back in the day. You’re gonna want to rethink the alleged heavy-handedness of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and the phrase “to bork” a nominee. - Cleo Bizzell
Based on the novel of the same name by Robert B. Parker, and essentially true to the story line, Appaloosa is directed by, and stars, Ed Harris. Harris also co-wrote the script and co-produced the film as a labor of love after reading the book while on vacation with his family.
The story takes place in 1880s Texas, where a wealthy landowner has murdered the local town marshal. Lawman Virgil Cole and his deputy Everett Hitch are partners and friends who are hired by the townspeople of Appaloosa to defend them against the murderer and his lawless henchmen. Virgil and Everett have a long professional and personal history together; it is this relationship that creates the foundation and underlying tension in the story after a young widow arrives in town.
Not your usual stoic, iconic western heroes, Cole and Everett are complex, flawed men who have different professional codes and personal needs, but who share a common sense of honesty and integrity. Their efforts to protect the townspeople and bring the murderer to justice are complicated, and their friendship is tested, by the arrival of the attractive widow.
More than just a meticulously researched and historically authentic action western, this movie is a moving and often humorous character study of three individuals who come across as true-to-life and affecting through their realistic dialogue and actions. Understated and detailed in their performances, Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Rene Zellweger bring these fully drawn characters to life.
The gorgeous, light-filled filming of the landscape and town make you feel that you have been transported to a wind-swept outpost of American civilization over a hundred years ago. Every detail, down to the gun that Everett carries, has been researched and reproduced for this film. The trailers of the DVD provide interesting and important background information about the making of the film which will enhance your enjoyment of it tremendously.
Appaloosa demands more than one viewing. The richness of its detail, its true-to-life character development and the sheer beauty of its cinematography – created by Dean Stemler, who uses revealing close-ups and breathtaking long shots – make it a deeply satisfying film on all levels. - Andrea Teute Riley
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the life story of Benjamin Button, who is born in New Orleans as an old man and who grows younger until he dies as an infant. His mother died in childbirth and his father, horrified at the grotesque-looking baby, abandons Benjamin on the steps of an old age home run by Queenie, played by Tariji P. Henson, a strong-willed black woman. She adopts Benjamin, thinking that he won’t survive. A few years later, when Benjamin still appears to be an old man using a cane, he meets the love of his life, seven-year old Daisy, played very well by Elle Fanning. As the years go by these two connect and lose each other several times, finally getting married in the early years of the sixties, when their ages and physical appearances match (Cate Blanchett having taken over the role by this point).
Button is a beautifully photographed film, capturing its various settings and times in minute detail, and yet not drawing attention away from the story or the performances. The other technical elements are the same. In the 60s portion of the story, for example, the fashions are definitely of the period but are not of the more flamboyant or cliché types. There are no miniskirts or bell bottoms. It is a tasteful film.
The main problem with the film is the character of Benjamin Button. He is too passive. This is because he is meant to be a witness to the twentieth century and it all sort of just happens to him. He’s a little more proactive in the romance part of the story, but even there, he’s far too accepting. When he goes to New York to sweep Daisy off her feet and she already has a boyfriend, he just melts away and waits for another chance. Considering that he must have known that they would only have a short span of years before their peculiar situation would tear them apart, you’d think he’d have more of a sense of urgency. Pitt does a fine job, but this role is not the challenge that you would assume it is.
Cate Blanchett’s Daisy on the other hand is very impressive. She grows from pretentious young lady, to embittered wife, to content middle age, to compassionate old woman. Each aspect builds believably on the preceding one, and the final edifice is believable and a joy to watch. Cate Blanchett is monumentally talented and we are lucky to live in her era.
The supporting performances are universally excellent as well. Tariji P. Henson shines as Queenie, playing her at various ages as well. Jared Harris steals many a scene as Captain Mike, a larger than life tugboat captain. And the great Tilda Swinton shines as Elizabeth Abbot, the restless wife of a British diplomat in Murmansk.
Make no mistake, Button is a manipulative and overly sentimental film. In the end though, it won me over and the nearly three hour length passed almost unnoticed. The end is moving as well. - Chuck Ebert
With Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep locking horns in this one, there is great acting all over the place. The two leads give the powerhouse performances you’d expect from these titans of film. Amy Adams and Viola Davis are also terrific in smaller roles. Unfortunately, John Patrick Shanley’s screenplay from his stage play and direction are unable to overcome the theatrical origins of the source material. Still, this is a very watchable film. - Chuck Ebert
David McCullough’s 2001 biography of John Adams comes authentically to life in this absolutely marvelous DVD series. Nothing, no high school or college classes, no readings in American history, no visits to Revolutionary War battlefields or to Williamsburg (where some of the film was shot), nothing has ever given me this true sense of the lives of our founding fathers (and mothers). In the first place, David McCullough is one of the great biographers of our time. And secondly, the true lives of Abigail and John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and many of those signers of the Declaration of Independence are depicted in this film in ways that truly give you a sense of what life was like for each of them. You may have heard that both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day, the Fourth of July, 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This film makes you feel you lived with them from the mid-1700s until that symbolic day. John Adams is directed by Tom Hooper and produced by Tom Hanks, David Coatsworth, Kirk Ellis and Gary Goetzmanby. - Skip Auld
It’s always difficult to ensure historical accuracy and stimulate an audience’s imagination at the same time. After all, if you’re watching the movie then it’s a good bet you already know what happened. You really just hope to see the director mold the story into a tale that stands the test of time and the actors give personality and voice to people gone but not forgotten. Quite frankly, I think they nailed it. Years ago, I saw HBO’s movie based on Harvey Milk’s life and really enjoyed it. Gus Van Sant’s Milk far exceeded this by placing the viewer firmly in the shoes of a gay man in his 40s navigating the political landscape of San Francisco circa 1970. The utilization of old news footage lent an air of authenticity to the film while setting the stage for the hostile climate in which Harvey Milk decided to become the first openly gay man to run for office while the likes of Anita Bryant freely roamed the earth. You weren’t just watching Sean Penn and company run around in funny-looking clothes; this was how it really was. The duplicity of politics was clearly highlighted through the complex relationship Milk shared with his fellow supervisor Dan White (stunningly portrayed by Josh Brolin). At times you couldn’t help but think that under different circumstances they could have been friends…and didn’t that just amplify the tragedy? James Franco was outstanding as Harvey’s ex-boyfriend, Scott Smith, underscoring the dichotomy of Milk’s mastery over politics as opposed to the chaos of his personal life. However, with chemistry rivaling Ledger/Gyllenhaal, I had to ask, “How could you let yourself lose him, and is he really your idea of a replacement?” All in all, this movie was highly anticipated and most definitely delivered on its promise. Milk deserved all the acclaim it received, and Sean Penn made it easy for Oscar. - Cleo Bizzell
In postwar Germany, teenager Michael Berg, played by David Kross and Ralph Fiennes in the frame story which takes place twenty years later, has an affair with trolley car conductor Hanna Schmitz, played by Kate Winslet. It lasts a summer before she mysteriously disappears. Michael is in law school when she reappears again, but it is not a happy reunion. It turns out that Hanna has a horrible secret in her past, which I won’t reveal here. The Reader is a well-made and engaging film with a serious theme that is presented in an engrossing fashion. Winslet turns in her usual great performance as an emotionally closed woman. David Kross deserves mention as the young Michael. He’s smart and vulnerable. - Chuck Ebert
Chad Allen, Judith Light and Michael Gant make an unusual triangle (albeit in the non-romantic sense) in this Sundance Film Festival pick. Light portrays Gayle, the devout Christian running an ex-gay community half-way house. Allen is Mark, an almost stereotypical young gay man and drug addict, lost at the crossroads. Michael Gant’s Scott is another member of the little tight-knit home seeking answers. This film has been dubbed as “a deft exploration of the controversial ex-gay movement.” I didn’t see it that way. I found Gayle to be sincere in her devotion in helping others even if they didn’t completely agree with her. Scott appeared to be more interested in “hooking up” with Mark than achieving self-awareness. The push-pull between Gayle and Scott is more interesting than anything Mark can say or do, although Chad Allen does what he can for the role. The proverbial devil on one shoulder and angel on the other comes to mind when you watch this movie. The question is, “Who’s who?” Judging by the compassion and depth Gayle’s husband has for her as well as others, you know she’s not a bad person, and you patiently wait for the story to unfold to reveal why she says and does some of the things she says and does. It’s worth the wait. And although Scott has ulterior motives for sticking around and might not be the most honest person in the world, he genuinely comes to care for Mark. When Gayle tries to keep Chad on the “straight and narrow” and show him the love and attention he didn’t receive when he needed it most, you could almost cheer for her. Scott, on the other hand, is not exactly a pillar of virtue. It becomes evident that he never bought anything Gayle was selling and is only sticking around now because Mark showed up and Scott thinks he’s hot – might that not make you a hypocrite? It’s up to Mark to make the decision what path to follow, but either place would be preferable to where he was in the beginning. One thing is clear though, as it relates to Mark, both Gayle and Scott have good intentions. Now, where does that road lead to again? Watch the movie and find out. It’s a good one. - Cleo Bizzell
I first saw this quirky 2008 independent film at an art house movie theatre and was captivated by the main characters, young adult sisters Rose and Norah, in their struggle to make a decent standard of living and to live life to the fullest in their own ways. Their attempt in the crime scene cleaning business gives these polar opposites the opportunity to connect, grow and heal from the past both as siblings and as individuals.
Not to be confused with 2006’s award-winning Little Miss Sunshine, the two storylines are very different although, besides the sunny title, they both star Alan Arkin as a grandfather and oddly both feature a VW minibus.
Quickly becoming my favorite “new” actor, Amy Adams plays the role of Rose. If you like her, too, you’ll probably enjoy seeing her in a variety of DVDs in the library’s collections: Catch Me If You Can; Junebug; Enchanted; Charlie Wilson’s War; Doubt and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. - Susan Wright
Fully tenured economics professor Walter Vale, played by veteran character actor Richard Jenkins, reluctantly comes to New York where he keeps an apartment, even though he teaches at a college in Connecticut and owns a house there. He hasn’t used the apartment for years, and when he arrives he finds it inhabited by a couple of illegal aliens, notably Tarek, played by Haaz Sleiman, and his girlfriend Zainab, played by Danai Gurira. Not quite cold enough to toss them out on the street, Walter lets them stay and eventually bonds with Tarek over their shared love of music. Then Tarek is arrested and put into detention to be deported. Watching Jenkins portray this most standoffish of men who gradually opens up his heart to let in humanity and music is a fascinating experience. The other two leads are terrific too. - Chuck Ebert
Bryan Singer’s taut film is based on the true story of an almost successful plot to kill Hitler. Tom Cruise plays the main conspirator, Claus Von Stauffenberg, who is today regarded as a hero in Germany. The film is built more along the lines of a thriller rather than a heavy historical drama, so don’t expect much in the way of motivation or moralizing. But do expect a great time. - Chuck Ebert
The plot of the The Watchmen is indescribable. It starts as a murder investigation and ends up as an apocalyptic struggle with the highest of stakes. More central to the experience is the setting. It’s 1985, but not the one you may remember. Nixon is starting his fifth term. The Soviets are massed on the border of Afghanistan, threatening to roll in. America’s sole nuclear deterrent is a blue superman named Dr. Manhattan, who was created in a mishap in a physics lab. Dr. M is the only superhero in the book and in the movie who has super powers. He has almost complete control over matter.
From the 1940s to the late 1970s when they were outlawed, masked superheroes have prowled the streets of America, fighting crime. Most of them had deep psychological issues that compelled them to don their masks, and many of them came to unpleasant ends. Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian fought in the Vietnam War, winning it for Nixon. But now the world is on the brink of nuclear war and it’s doubtful that America’s big blue superman can stop all the Soviet missiles. Besides, someone is killing all the ex-superheroes.
This film is great. All the performances are perfect, from the flashy anti-socialness of Rorschach, played by Jackie Earle Haley, to the low-key nebbishness of Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl. Billy Crudup brings a gentleness to Dr. Manhattan’s detachment, where the temptation must have been to play it completely flat. And of course Jeffrey Dean Morgan breathes fire in the role of the Comedian. He brings out both the ugliness and vulnerability at the core of the character’s soul.
The look of the film is perfect as well, since it was taken from the graphic novel. The costumes look good, although Nite Owl’s cowl seems confining. As for the much-debated change to the ending, which I won’t give away here, I thought it worked almost as well as the book, maybe even better.
Alan Moore, the writer of the original graphic novel had his name removed from this project and vows that he won’t take a dime for it, nor ever see it. That’s his right, I guess. But I hope some night he relents and puts the extended edition into his DVD player. I think he’ll be pleased, not because Snyder’s film is equal to the book – remember people, the book is always better – but because it is the best we could have hoped for, in fact probably better than we deserve. - Chuck Ebert
Brimstone by Robert B. Parker
This is the latest book written by Parker dealing with the Everett Hitch and Virgil Cole series. It is written in Parker’s typical “he said, she said” style. This style can get a little old after a while but fits well with the general dime western pocketbook story line. While the Everett, Virgil and Allie characters are well developed because of the series, the other characters are pretty loosely developed. It leaves a lot to the reader’s perspective of how things were in the Old West, and doesn’t go into great detail developing the setting other than to say it is “hot,” “wet” or “early” for example. The story line centers around the “man finds girl, saves the town, leaves with the girl” plot. It is easy listening/reading and is worth the effort. - Melanie B. Sabins
The Fifth Horseman by James Patterson
A hospital setting is nothing new for novels by Patterson – somebody always winds up in one – but this time the story has to do with a cover-up of a long string of suspicious deaths. People who are being given a clean bill of health are dying just as they are ready to leave or immediately after leaving the hospital. Read the book and find out what the sword with twined serpents on it is called and what its significance is to those who are being killed while the hospital covers the deaths up. As is usual for Mr. Patterson, he has you ready to hang the suspicious doctor who really has nothing to do with the deaths; then the real killer emerges. - Melanie B. Sabins
First Test: Book 1 of the Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce
I listened to this fantasy book as I drove up to Virginia and remained engrossed for the entire four hour drive. Keladry of Mindelan, a young female page, lives in a medieval world dominated by men. She is attempting to become one of the first female knights, but she is continuously challenged, both physically and mentally, by males threatened by her pursuit. Her fierce determination and independence enables her to keep going despite unfair treatment from her male instructor and bullying from fellow pages. Her belief in herself and the goodness of others, against all odds, makes this a spunky victory tale! - Archie Burke
Judge and Jury by James Patterson
This is a story about a mafia boss who is afraid of nothing, including threatening a federal judge in front of the news media as he stands trial. He is so certain that he will escape that he fears nothing to the point of blowing up a bus with a juror and her son on it. The trail for the escapee leads the detective literally to the ends of the earth. Patterson does an excellent job of setting the mafia boss up for the big fall. The mafia boss even escapes from a maximum security prison where the trial is being held. The answer to this whodunnit rests in hours and hours of watching a videotape of the escape for the smallest hint of a clue about the identity of the person who aides in the escape. It is very good reading. - Melanie B. Sabins
Lifeguard by James Patterson
Lifeguards don’t make a lot of money, but at least it is an honest profession. See what happens when the hero of the story decides that he needs to make enough money to support the woman of his dreams in the fashion to which she has become accustomed. It is a simple theft of a painting that will net him all the money he will ever need. But as with all of Patterson’s novels, the something that can go wrong does! And it goes wrong in the most disastrous way possible. The main character actually eventually winds up with the painting – and gives it back. Great reading and hard to put down. - Melanie B. Sabins
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
This is a very good book and follows very well on the heels of Message in a Bottle and The Notebook. It is set in North Carolina as are several other books by Sparks. The author wastes no time getting the reader interested in the story, as a war veteran turned wayfarer and his dog search for the woman who is the subject of a picture. It is a very moving novel and plays on the reader’s emotions in much the same manner as The Notebook did. If you like dogs and you like kids, then you’re going to love this book. - Melanie B. Sabins
The Quickie by James Patterson
This story centers around a woman who has an affair with an associate, who was up until that time just a friend. She then witnesses what she thinks is her husband killing her lover with a golf club. Patterson weaves this tale of intrigue with his general skill, which makes this a very hard book to put down. It is filled with suspense and suspicion while the author leads you down the usual wrong track. If you ever thought about having an affair, this book lets you see all of the things that can go wrong. It is an excellent book. - Melanie B. Sabins
Resolution by Robert B Parker
This book is part of the Everett Hitch and Virgil Cole series by Robert B. Parker. It finds Everett in the town of Resolution guarding a saloon. He soon winds up pitted against a copper mine owner who has a crew of hired guns as body guards. Virgil Cole shows up at the last minute and helps Everett put the mine owner in his place. The story takes the usual Parker format of minimal setting descriptions, straight forward language and gunfights. Once again, typical of the old dime pocket westerns, it is good light reading and full of action. - Melanie B. Sabins
Rough Weather By Robert B. Parker
Weddings are wonderful things – if a hurricane doesn’t happen in the middle of them, if the groom isn’t murdered at the altar, if the bride isn’t kidnapped. You can count on reading all of the above in Parker’s Rough Weather. The book will keep you guessing all the way to the end. In this edition of the Spencer series, Susan actually comes along for the ride. If you are a Spencer buff you know that doesn’t happen very often in the series. It shows a slightly different side of Spencer that only gets alluded to in the books where Susan plays a minor role. It is a good mystery. - Melanie B. Sabins
Run for Your Life by James Patterson
This is what Patterson does best! The story deals with a psycho on the loose and a less than pristine detective who is given the job of capturing him. For some reason Patterson has always got to throw in something that is just a little hard to believe – like the detective raising all ten of his adopted children after their mother dies. In the midst of dealing with all of these children who “all” have the flu, he still finds the time to investigate and catch the madman. The plot is well developed and really stays hopping with interesting new developments. - Melanie B. Sabins
Sundays at Tiffany’s by James Patterson
This is a book about a little girl and her imaginary friend. She is the typical poor little rich girl with unconcerned parents and a lot of lonely time on her hands. The imaginary friend meets with her daily, filling her life with the love and compassion that her parents fail to give. James Patterson occasionally deals with supernatural beings and this is probably his best attempt at “pulling it off.” The imaginary friend slowly takes on the traits of a human as his affection for Jane grows. Patterson develops the plot in his usual manner of spilling enough facts to lead the reader/listener to the wrong assumptions and then dumps the actual truth on the reader in the final chapters. A good book tending towards the female perspective. - Melanie B. Sabins
Third Degree by James Patterson
This book is unusual for Patterson in that one of the original criminals actually becomes the heroine of the story. It is a good study in the motivation of individuals who are deprived of acceptance, and the lengths that they will go to in order to be accepted. It starts off with a house blowing up and a baby being abducted. The story goes full circle and winds up with a house blowing up. Following the detective as she searches for clues is interesting and holds the reader’s attention fairly well. This is not Patterson’s best work, but it is certainly worth reading. - Melanie B. Sabins
Jean Amelang; Technical Services, Main Library
Skip Auld; Director, Durham County Library
Cleo Bizzell; Circulation, Main Library
Donald Bradsher; Reference Services, East Regional Library
Archie Burke; Reference Services, East Regional Library
Anna Cromwell; Children’s Services, Main Library
Tom Czaplinski; Children’s Services, Main Library
Lisa Dendy; Technical Services, Main Library
Patricia Dew; Reference Services, Main Library
Lauren Doll; Children’s Services, Parkwood Library
Chuck Ebert; Technical Services, Main Library
Rheda Epstein; Technical Services, Main Library
Marian Fragola; Adult Programming and Humanities Coordinator, Main Library
Osvald Garcia; Summer Reading Teen
Shelley Geyer; Reference Services, North Regional Library
Laurel Jones; Children’s Services, Main Library
Janet Levy; Reference Services, Main Library
Jennifer Lohmann; Reference Services, Main Library
Kathleen Moore; Reference Services, North Regional Library
Bill Nesmith; Reference Services, East Regional Library
Carol Passmore; Reference Services, Main Library
Alexys Reynoso; Summer Reading Teen
Andrea Teute Riley; Technical Services, Main Library
Gina Rozier; Manager, Marketing and Development
Melanie B. Sabins; Technical Services, Main Library
Kathi Sippen; Outreach Services, Main Library
Joyce Sykes; Board of Trustees
Deb Warner; Reference Services, Main Library
Elizabeth Watson; Circulation, East Regional Library
Autumn Winters; Youth Services, Main Library
Susan Wright; Manager, North Regional Library
A special thank you to all of our contributors and to the following people for their assistance in the production of Season’s Readings:
Durham County Library Board of Trustees member, Joyce Sykes
Reference Services, Main Library, Deb Warner
Graphic Designer, Patrick Holt
Season’s Readings is produced by the Durham County Library’s Marketing and Development Division:
Manager, Gina Rozier
Graphic Designer, Hitoko Burke
Grant Writer, Anastasia Bush
Adult Programming and Humanities Coordinator, Marian Fragola
Webmaster, Jill Wagy
Development Officer, Alice Sharpe
If you have questions or comments regarding this publication, please contact Hitoko Burke: 560-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org