Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Long Night of Winchell Dear by Robert James Waller

"Winchell Dear is a professional poker player. Without cheating at cards (though he knows all the tricks), he has amassed enough wealth to live a good life on his ranch in Texas high desert country. Unbeknown to him, his housekeeper, Sonia, is an intermediary in a drug-smuggling scheme out of Mexico. One night while Winchell plays the fiddle and recalls the particulars of his past, a shipment of drugs arrives at Sonia's nearby cabin; Winchell's intuitions awake to the possibility of evil. Also sensing danger is Peter Long Grass, a recluse living primitively in far regions of Winchell's ranch. And barreling toward the ranch are a professional killer and his driver from Los Angeles. Waller successfully manages the intersecting arcs of these colorful characters as suspense builds. Displaying far different appeal factors than TheBridges of Madison County, his latest novel is a rugged Texas tale well told." ~ from Library Journal Review

Monday, December 11, 2006

How could you not love this cover?

Death in the Orchid Garden by Ann Ripley

"Louise Eldridge, cohost of the PBS program Gardening with Nature, is in Kauai, HI, to shoot a new segment of her show. Gathered there for a botanical conference are three divas of the plant world: Bruce Bouting, the head of the world's largest plant nursery; Matthew Flynn, a successful ethnobotanist who finds new plants throughout the world; and Charles Reuter, a vehemently focused environmentalist who wants to preserve the plant world. The three hate each other with a passion. Then one of them is murdered, and Louise, the consummate snoop of the cozy set, is reluctant to investigate. Ripley's gardening series (Summer Garden Murder), though gentle in its approach to murder, packs a wallop when it comes to the world of television programming and preserving the environment. "
~ from Library Journal Review

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pick Me Up: Stuff You Need to Know

Looking for that perfect gift book for that special preteen or teen in your life? Here's one that may never make its way to them once you pick it up, it's just that cool. Getting past the 3D cover is a challenge in itself, so make sure you have some time--like hours--to spend with this "un-cyclopedia for the Internet generation."

"This attractively designed, airily laid out volume — a departure from DK's signature look, but every bit as inviting — will be a hit with kids, especially those who love record books and almanacs. Organized randomly like the popular 'miscellany' books of the 19th century, the eclectic contents merge pop culture — music, fashion, movies, technology — with school topics such as nature, math, politics and geography. Thus, readers discover a book that asks the burning question — what would the blog of an 11th-century Viking contain? — and provides an answer, too, with a mock web page from Hilde Torfadottir, age 13, born during 'corn cutting time AD 988.' Yet nearly every brief essay includes a reference to a related topic on another page, simulating hyperlinks in book form. In addition to fun trivia, the resource includes useful instructions on how to make a sling, as well as provocative topics, such as a quote from Abraham Lincoln ('The ballot is stronger than the bullet'), followed by a single word in all caps: 'Discuss.' Full-color photos and eye-catching graphics give this 'un-encyclopedia' an engagingly fresh look, but the best feature is the tone of the writing, which winks at its audience and respects kids' intelligence. A timeline charting evolution notes three billion years of nothing but small complex cell organisms: 'All this time and still no fish.' Instructions on how to make a map begin: 'A map is a way of telling a story. What the story is about depends on who the map is for.' The title is an invitation; the challenge will be putting the book down. Ages 8-up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Whole New Life by Betsy Thornton

"Like Thornton's Chloe Newcombe mystery series (Dead for the Winter, etc.), this wonderfully old-fashioned stand-alone is set in Cochise County, Ariz. When Jackson Williams, an unambitious and washed-out poet, is arrested for the murder of his restless, dissatisfied wife, Jenny (who dies in a car accident after someone apparently spiked her "probiotics," i.e., herbal pills), Jackson's good friend and neighbor, Ruth Norton, hires ex-big-city lawyer Stuart Ross to head the defense team. Other supporters include an on-the-wagon, bright yellow Cadillac–driving, ex-cop PI; Jackson's recently returned, long-lost daughter, Mara; and Ruth's 11-year-old son, who may be harboring dangerous evidence. As the investigation proceeds, revelations about Jenny's secret life spill suspicion on several colorful locals. The plot corkscrews toward a surprising, satisfying conclusion that allows this motley alliance to move forward with their bumpy, imperfect lives. Seamless prose and intriguing characters whose complexities are presented with plenty of delicious ambiguity and occasional unexpected slaps of humor make this a stand-out." ~ Publisher Weekly Review

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson

"Erickson, known best for her lively and popular histories (nearly 20 of them, including The Girl from Botany Bay and Bonnie Prince Charlie) engages with this fictionalized, first-person life of Catherine Parr, who actually survived marriage to the dangerous and mercurial Henry Tudor (famously, of the six wives), and who is arguably his most interesting bride (not least because she had four husbands). Cultured, well-educated and beautiful, "Cat" catches Henry's eye as a young girl and variously benefits and suffers from his favor all her life. Often married to others when Henry is single, she is both attracted to and repelled by him, but understands him, she feels, better than most. The factional court tightrope Catherine walks is familiar, as is the religious one; her observations cast Princess Elizabeth (soon to be Elizabeth I) and Baron Thomas Seymour (a husband of Catherine's who wanted to marry Elizabeth) in a less-than-positive light, and the Church of England priests come off as corrupt as the Catholics they replaced. Catherine surprises and delights as her own woman, one who, in the end, gets everything she wants." ~ Publisher Weekly Review