Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fowl Weather by Bob Tarte

"How thirty-nine animals and one sock monkey took over my life."

"This follow-up to Enslaved by Ducks continues Tarte's tale of household life as directed by a menagerie made up of bird brains—real, honest-to-goodness bird brains. If you think taking care of your pet dog or cat can be amusing, imagine what it must be like sharing your home with 12 ducks, three parrots, six geese, two parakeets, one dove, nine hens, one turkey, two rabbits, and three cats. Things are bound to get exciting on a daily basis. In the first book, Tarte demonstrated how a positive attitude and a good sense of humor can make everyday problems roll off his back, like water off of a duck. Fowl Weather features more tragedy, with the death of Tarte's father, the Alzheimer's diagnosis of his mother, and the death of several of his favorite pets. Nevertheless, Tarte's furry and feathered charges serve as role models for taking life as it comes and keeping perspective in a sometimes insane world. Look no further than Stanley Sue, Hamilton, or Richie to know that even birds have personality. A delightful, one-sitting read."

~ by Edell Schaefer, Brookfield P.L., WI for Library Journal Review
The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay

"Hay has woven an irresistible tribute to---or perhaps a warning about--the obsessive nature of book collecting. Delicately spun around the social and sexual awakening of Rosemary Savage, a young Tasmanian emigre to New York, this cautionary tale tracks the life-altering influence the rumor of the recovery of a lost manuscript by Herman Melville has upon several employees of a cavernous used bookstore. After the death of her mother, Rosemary moves to New York and is hired by George Pike, the crusty owner of the Arcade. Modeled after the world-famous Strand Bookstore, the Arcade is a refuge of sorts for a handful of idiosyncratic employees, including an embittered albino manager, a good-hearted transsexual cashier, an insufferably aloof nonfiction expert, and an avuncular rare-books curator. When a mysterious letter offering the sale of Melville's missing opus arrives at the Arcade, rivalries are formed, conspiracies are hatched, and an inexorable chain of events inevitably resulting in tragedy is set into motion. Rosemary's naivete serves as an effective counterpoint for the machinations of her suddenly desperate and grasping coworkers. Dedicated bibliophiles will relish the Melville story-within-a-story angle."

--Margaret Flanagan for Booklist

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Don't you just love this cover?

Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk

"In this devastating ensemble novel, Whitbread Award–winner Cusk (Saving Agnes) exposes the roiling inner lives and not-so-quiet desperation of young mothers in the well-to-do London suburb Arlington Park. The book's single day begins with an epic rainstorm that wakes part-time private-school English teacher Juliet Randall, who spent the previous evening at a wealthier neighbor's home and was told, in front of husband Benedict, "You want to be careful.... You can start to sound strident at your age." As Amanda Clapp strains to maintain her house's empty perfection, a multi-kid play date gets out of control. Maisie Carrington feels "imprisoned for life" by her frosty, upper-crust childhood, and can barely contain her violent feelings toward her own daughters. Christine Lanham, a newcomer to the class distinction her marriage has brought her, abhors the hypocrisy that surrounds her, but knows she will never leave her family. The story line coils around each woman's home until it gathers the group for a drunken dinner party, where husbands express pleasure with their privilege while fretting that something feels amiss, and children, exhausted by their mothers' alternating neglect and desperate love, sleep like the dead—leaving the women holding hot coals of their silent insights. Their plight is an old story, but Cusk makes it incisively vivid."

~ Publisher Weekly Review

Friday, March 23, 2007

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

"Unabashedly inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling The Tipping Point, the brothers Heath—Chip a professor at Stanford's business school, Dan a teacher and textbook publisher—offer an entertaining, practical guide to effective communication. Drawing extensively on psychosocial studies on memory, emotion and motivation, their study is couched in terms of "stickiness"—that is, the art of making ideas unforgettable. They start by relating the gruesome urban legend about a man who succumbs to a barroom flirtation only to wake up in a tub of ice, victim of an organ-harvesting ring. What makes such stories memorable and ensures their spread around the globe? The authors credit six key principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. (The initial letters spell out "success"—well, almost.) They illustrate these principles with a host of stories, some familiar (Kennedy's stirring call to "land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth" within a decade) and others very funny (Nora Ephron's anecdote of how her high school journalism teacher used a simple, embarrassing trick to teach her how not to "bury the lead"). Throughout the book, sidebars show how bland messages can be made intriguing. Fun to read and solidly researched, this book deserves a wide readership."

~ Publisher Weekly Review

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway

"This tender, revelatory memoir recalls the two years Holloway spent as an impressionable Peace Corps volunteer in the remote village of Nampossela in Mali, West Africa. It centers on her close friendship with Monique, the village's overburdened midwife. When Holloway (now a nonprofit development specialist) arrived in Nampossela in 1989, she was 22; Monique was only two years her senior. Yet Monique, barely educated, working without electricity, running water, ambulances or emergency rooms, was solely responsible for all births in her village, tending malnourished and overworked pregnant women in her makeshift birthing clinic. With one of the highest rates of maternal death in the world, these Malian women sometimes had to work right up until and directly after giving birth and had no means of contraception. Holloway especially noted Monique's status as an underpaid female whose male family members routinely claimed much of her pay. Monique shared her emotional life with Holloway, who in turn campaigned for her rights at work and raised funds for her struggling clinic. Holloway's moving account vividly presents the tragic consequences of inadequate prenatal and infant health care in the developing world and will interest all those concerned about the realities of women's lives outside the industrialized world."

~ From Publisher Weekly Review

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jodi Picoult's books continue to be very popular at the library, and often the space on the shelf where her books reside is empty. Fans of Picoult will be happy to see she has a new book out, Nineteen Minutes. And, Jodi is up for Book of the Year, Galaxy British Book Awards. If she's a favorite of yours, take a minute and cast your vote for her.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

"Bestseller Picoult (My Sister's Keeper) takes on another contemporary hot-button issue in her brilliantly told new thriller, about a high school shooting. Peter Houghton, an alienated teen who has been bullied for years by the popular crowd, brings weapons to his high school in Sterling, N.H., one day and opens fire, killing 10 people. Flashbacks reveal how bullying caused Peter to retreat into a world of violent computer games. Alex Cormier, the judge assigned to Peter's case, tries to maintain her objectivity as she struggles to understand her daughter, Josie, one of the surviving witnesses of the shooting. The author's insights into her characters' deep-seated emotions brings this ripped-from-the-headlines read chillingly alive."

~ Publisher Weekly Review

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra

"The city is Mumbai, but given the methods both cops and gangsters use in the illegal pursuit of money and the way young women use their bodies to climb the ladder to stardom in the film industry, one would think that the story is set in New York or California. Chandra (Love and Longing in Bombay) introduces us to Ganesh Gaitonde, a Hindu outlaw whose rise and subsequent fall from power in a triad is like a roller-coaster ride, and Sartaj Singh, a Sikh policeman investigating Gaitonde's possible involvement with terrorism. Chandra's gangster world is dynamic, occasionally absurd, and replete with social commentary and philosophic observations, but his cops appear aimless and melodramatic. Nevertheless, while his pen wanders between bloodbath and the kind of mixed-up romance you might find in pop fiction, he does manage to transcend the traditional crime caper by relating the novel to a wide range of contemporary issues, including the relationships among heroism, religion, and terrorism. Chandra also imbues his characters with humanity and color, even if his plot and writing style could do with tighter editing."

~ from Library Journal Review by Victor Or, Vancouver & Surrey P.L., B.C.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

by Alison Weir
"This first novel by British historian Weir (The Life of Elizabeth I), who addresses the life of Lady Jane Grey, is a treat for fans of meaty historical fiction. Well written and researched, it succeeds as a thoroughly involving novel by bringing a disparate, sympathetic group of characters to life. Lady Jane, known to history as the Nine Days Queen, is a tragic and appealing figure. Abused by her parents, this talented and intelligent girl was bullied into a hateful marriage and pushed into accepting the Crown after the death of King Edward VI. Edward's older sister, Princess Mary (later known as Bloody Mary, and for good reason), rightfully claimed the Crown as her own, and Jane was sent to the Tower of London and eventually executed. Weir tells the story of Jane's short life from multiple viewpoints, which might initially confuse readers unfamiliar with the history, but this is a small fault in an otherwise entertaining and moving novel. Sure to be popular with those who enjoy the works of Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl)."
~ from Library Journal Review by Elizabeth M. Mellett, P.L. of Brookline, MA

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Lying Tongue by Andrew Wilson

"Patricia Highsmith, the subject of British journalist Wilson's acclaimed biography Beautiful Shadow, would be delighted by this standout debut novel, which heralds a major new talent in the psychological thriller genre. After a tutoring job in Venice falls through, aspiring novelist Adam Woods appears to luck into the perfect position there—as personal assistant to the reclusive Gordon Crace, an acclaimed writer whose life is shrouded in mystery and who's published only one novel. Crace, who's locked himself away from the glories of his chosen city, insists Woods abide by a set of strict rules, including not mentioning Crace's literary success. In clearing out the author's mess of a study, Woods finds two letters that hint at a dark secret in Crace's past, and begins to discreetly probe his employer's past, with calamitous results. Wilson brilliantly and subtly introduces doubt in the reader as to Woods's reliability and character before delivering some potent final plot twists. Fans of classic Hitchcock will be richly rewarded."

~by Publisher Weekly Review

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood

"While mourning the death of her daughter, Hood (An Ornithologist's Guide to Life) learned to knit. In her comeback novel, Mary Baxter, living in Hood's own Providence, R.I., loses her five-year-old daughter to meningitis. Mary and her husband, Dylan, struggle to preserve their marriage, but the memories are too painful, and the healing too difficult. Mary can't focus on her job as a writer for a local newspaper, and she bitterly resents her emotionally and geographically distant mother, who relocated to Mexico years earlier. Still, it's at her mother's urging that Mary joins a knitting circle and discovers that knitting soothes without distracting. The structure of the story quickly becomes obvious: each knitter has a tragedy that she'll reveal to Mary, and if there's pleasure to be had in reading a novel about grief, it's in guessing what each woman's misfortune is and in what order it will be exposed. The strength of the writing is in the painfully realistic portrayal of the stages of mourning, and though there's a lot of knitting, both actual and metaphorical, the terminology's simple enough for nonknitters to follow and doesn't distract from the quick pace of the narrative."

~from Publisher Weekly Review

Friday, March 02, 2007

By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt

"In Silver Dagger Award winner Blunt's latest, Det. John Cardinal (Blackfly Season) is back, and this time it's personal. His wife, Catherine, who for several years has been hospitalized on and off for depression, has seemingly leapt off a roof to her death, leaving a note behind. The coroner and police department rule it a suicide, and her psychiatrist, Dr. Frederick Bell, concurs. Cardinal has some doubts when disturbing notes arrive at his home, but he quickly realizes he is the only one with these doubts. Fellow police officer Lise Delorme feels bad for her friend, but she is tied up trying to track down a local pedophile who has plastered pictures of a young girl all over the Internet. More suicides among Dr. Bell's patients in this small Ontario town further convince Cardinal that something is amiss, and, contrary to departmental policy, he continues to investigate on his own while assisting Delorme with her investigation. Ostensibly a police procedural, this beautifully written and unusual story is really more of a suspenseful, psychological study of evil. Strongly recommended for all public libraries."

Review by Stacy Alesi, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., Boca Raton, FL for Library Journal