Friday, April 9, 2010

Recommendations from Julie

Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith
Billy Lafitte is fired from the New Orleans police force for involvement in some shady dealings after Katrina. He is still conducting shady deals but in the icy winter of rural Minnesota where he is a deputy sheriff. When a beautiful young woman asks him to find her boyfriend, Billy finds himself facing not just small-time criminals but terrorists. This is a fast-paced, exciting noir thriller.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
by Susan Jane Gilman
Two naive young women, fresh out of college, decide to backpack around the world. They start out in Hong Kong, moving on to China. This is in 1986 when China was rarely traveled by westerners. They soon find themselves in over their heads and as they travel, everything becomes more complicated, confusing and scary. This was a fascinating read--I couldn't put it down!

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
This is a very unusual fantasy, mystery novel. It takes place in an unknown world where it's always raining and people are frequently asleep. The mysteries are things like "the man who stole November 12." It was a fantasy award winner and has been nominated for a Hammett award but, although it is engrossing, you will most appreciate it if you like fantasy dreamworlds.

The Salon by Nick Bertozzi
This graphic novel deals with Gertrude and Leo Stein and the many artists who inhabited their salon. Someone is killing--decapitating--artists in Paris. The Steins and friends believe it is the evil mistress of Gauguin. They have learned of a particular brand of blue absinthe that allows you to go inside a painting. This evil mistress has trapped Gauguin in a painting and the artists need to rescue him so he can stop the murders. I wanted an afterword with some explanation of the artists’ salon, what was based on reality, what was made up. Without this, it seemed rather pointless to me.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
This true-life novel about author Jeannette Walls' grandmother is a fun and lively read. Lily Casey is a tough, no-nonsense woman who lived during the first half of the 20th century. Breaking horses as a young girl well-prepared her for life: learning how to fall and how to get back up on the horse and ride again. I listened to this book, read by the author, and was completely entranced.

A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell
Berlin. 1931. The Nazi party is in its early stages. A woman reporter finds her transvestite brothers’ picture on the wall in the Hall of the Unnamed Dead. She investigates. Tremendously atmospheric setting, well-drawn characters, and lots of lurking in the shadows make this a compelling read. I couldn’t put it down!

The Book Shopper by Murray Browne
Author Murray Browne is a librarian, book lover and book shopper. Although I think it is somewhat arrogant of him to think that he's the expert on what every good used bookstore should have, nevertheless, it is fun to read and see if you agree.

Suffer the Little Children by Donna Leon
Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti mysteries never disappoint. In this novel, the carabinieri break into a pediatrician's home and take his baby. Brunetto must solve the mystery of why the baby was taken and why taken by the carabinieri.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Patron Recommendations

Here are three wonderful reviews by J. Strauss, a prolific reader and member of our book discussion group here at the library. Check them out!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
This novel takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the early years of the Civil Rights movement. The story is told by a 24-year old white woman named Skeeter and two black maids named Minnie and Aibileen. These women build a secret relationship in order to write a book that could endanger the lives of the maids and cause permanent damage to Skeeter’s reputation, social standing and future.

The characters are so richly developed that when I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about them constantly. I was lost in their world and their voices were permeating my thoughts. I read this book over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, a coincidence that turned out to be a gift. The holiday meant so much more to me as his work was mentioned frequently in the book and so very instrumental in changing the segregation and injustices endured by so many, during my lifetime.

Read this book! It’s so good and you will love it!

Half Broke Horses
by Jeannette Walls
Half Broke Horses is true-life fiction, written about the life of the author’s maternal grandmother, Lily Case Smith. Lily was born and raised in the early 20th century American Southwest. Her family was in ranching and, aside from a couple brief attempts at city living, Lily spent her days in the wide, open spaces of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. She was a strong, gutsy and independent woman who did what was necessary to raise her family through the Depression years. Lily worked as a teacher and a rancher and was married to a good man and fellow rancher named Jim. Lily was extremely hard-working, tough and lived a colorful life.

Jeannette Walls is the author of The Glass Castle, a memoir about her unorthodox upbringing amidst her mother and father’s unconventional, neglectful and at times, unfit parenting styles. It is one of my all-time favorite books and I was very excited when Half Broke Horses came out so I could see what kind of environment Jeannette’s mother was raised in. The book gave me so much more insight into Jeannette’s mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, and why she was able to live and raise her family as she did. It also helps explain how Jeannette and two of her siblings were able to survive their upbringing, not only intact, but as successful and productive adults. They came from some strong stock!

I really liked this book and highly recommend it to anyone who has read The Glass Castle or is interested in the history of the Southwest.

Deaf Sentence by David Lodge
Deaf Sentence is a novel written about a British linguistics professor, Desmond Bates, who is in his mid-sixties and is going deaf. His hearing condition has forced him into early retirement. As a house husband, Desmond is feeling very isolated, both at home and in social settings. Additionally, he dealing with his aged father to whom he pays weekly visits and is watching slip away, both mentally and physically.

The book has a slow start as it details the mundane and depressing daily life of a man living with the challenges of severe hearing loss and aging in general. Things really start to really pick up when a young, meddlesome, female graduate student attempts to seduce Desmond into being her advisor. Throughout the story, there are some laugh-out-loud scenes, often involving Desmond’s blended family and his attempts at social interaction with his hearing impairment. A very personal encounter at the end of the story puts Desmond’s life in perspective, allowing him to appreciate what he has and really start living again.

I genuinely liked this book.

I am more informed and empathetic to the limitations, frustrations and feelings of isolation caused by hearing loss because of Desmond’s character. I would definitely recommend this book – especially to readers who have or know someone who has hearing loss.