Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

"The 1939 Nazi bombing of Warsaw left its beloved zoo in ruins with many of its animals killed or wounded. Worse was to come when Berlin zoo director Lutz Heck had surviving rare species shipped back to Germany as part of a Nazi breeding program and held a New Year's Eve hunting party for German officers to finish off the remaining animals. Witnessing this horror was the zookeeper's wife, who wondered, as she recalled later in her memoirs, how many humans would die in the same manner in the coming months. As Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Jan, soon learned, the Nazis had targeted Poland's large Jewish population for extermination, and the couple, who were already supplying food to friends in the Warsaw Ghetto, pledged to help more Jews. And help they did. Ackerman's (A Natural History of the Senses) moving and eloquent narrative reveals how the zookeepers, with the aid of the Polish underground, boldly smuggled some 300 Jews out of the Ghetto and hid them in their villa and the zoo's empty cages. Based on Antonina's own memoirs and newspaper interviews, as well as Ackerman's own research in Poland, the result is an exciting and unforgettable portrait of courage and grace under fire. While some critics might feel she glosses over Polish anti-Semitism, Ackerman has done an invaluable service in bringing a little-known story of heroism and compassion to light."

~Wilda Williams, Library Journal Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell

"Plot twists worthy of The Da Vinci Code dominate this agile first novel from Carrell (The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox), a thriller involving a lost Shakespeare play, The History of Cardenio. On a June day in 2004, at London's rebuilt Globe theater, Rosalind Howard, flamboyantly eccentric Harvard Professor of Shakespeare, gives her friend Katharine Stanley, who's directing a production of Hamlet at the Globe, a small gold-wrapped box. That evening, a fire damages the Globe, where Roz is found murdered in the same manner as Hamlet's father. Roz's mysterious gift, which contains a Victorian mourning brooch decorated with flowers associated with Ophelia, propels Kate on a wild and wide-ranging quest that takes her to Utah; Arizona; Washington, D.C.; and back to London. Every step of the way, as the bodies pile up, Kate narrowly escapes becoming the next murder victim. From Shakespeare conferences to desert mines, from the present to the past, this spirited and action-packed novel delivers constant excitement."

~Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Run by Ann Patchett

"Expect miracles when you read Ann Patchett's fiction." The New York Times Book Review

"Two families come together in a traffic accident during a snowstorm. Nothing terribly unusual there, except that a woman has purposely thrown herself under a car to protect a stranger. It quickly becomes clear that the families—a poor, single black mother with her 11-year-old daughter and a white, Irish Catholic, former Boston mayor with a biological son and two adopted black college-aged sons whose much-loved wife died over 20 years ago—have a connection. The award-winning Patchett (Bel Canto) here presents an engrossing and enjoyable novel. While there are a few unexpected turns, the reader very quickly figures out where the plot is headed, but that does not detract from the pleasure of reading. The somewhat unusual premise is presented very matter-of-factly; this is not a story about race but about family and the depths of parents' love of their children, whether biological, adopted, given away, or otherwise acquired, and of each other."

~Sarah Conrad Weisman, Corning Community Coll. Lib., NY Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes In All Fifty States by Pete Jordan

Thank you, Denise, for recommending this book!

"An aimless young adult, Jordan happened upon a compelling mission and became the itinerant and eventually rather famous "Dishwasher Pete." In his droll memoir, he describes busting suds in an Alaskan fish cannery, on an oil rig on the Gulf of Mexico, on an excursion train in Rhode Island, in two Missouri communes, at ski resorts in Vermont and Montana, and at dozens of less picturesque food-service establishments from sea to sea. Long hours, dirty work, low pay, and little respect are recurring themes, but so are invisibility and free leftovers. Best of all, because dishwashers are so difficult to retain, Jordan is consistently in demand and universally hirable even while exhibiting laziness, sullenness, and a penchant for walking off job after job without a minute's notice. While on his quest, Dishwasher Pete befriends countless kindred spirits, publishes 15 issues of a zine devoted to dishing, sort of appears on The David Letterman Show, and researches and celebrates historic events that include labor movements, the invention of dishwashing machines, and the dishing pasts of famous people from Gerald Ford to Malcolm X."

~ Library Journal Review, Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

Monday, October 15, 2007


What would happen if every blog published posts discussing the same issue, on the same day? One issue. One day. Thousands of voices.

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

"If a virulent virus—or even the Rapture—depopulated Earth overnight, how long before all trace of humankind vanished? That's the provocative, and occasionally puckish, question posed by Weisman (An Echo in My Blood) in this imaginative hybrid of solid science reporting and morbid speculation. Days after our disappearance, pumps keeping Manhattan's subways dry would fail, tunnels would flood, soil under streets would sluice away and the foundations of towering skyscrapers built to last for centuries would start to crumble. At the other end of the chronological spectrum, anything made of bronze might survive in recognizable form for millions of years—along with one billion pounds of degraded but almost indestructible plastics manufactured since the mid-20th century. Meanwhile, land freed from mankind's environmentally poisonous footprint would quickly reconstitute itself, as in Chernobyl, where animal life has returned after 1986's deadly radiation leak, and in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, a refuge since 1953 for the almost-extinct goral mountain goat and Amur leopard. From a patch of primeval forest in Poland to monumental underground villages in Turkey, Weisman's enthralling tour of the world of tomorrow explores what little will remain of ancient times while anticipating, often poetically, what a planet without us would be like."

~Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Peculiar Grace by Jeffrey Lent

"Family-fracturing secrets are at the heart of Lent's luminous third novel, a transcendent story about the healing power of love and art. Two decades after an intense romance curdles, hermetic Hewitt Pearce is living in his family's rural Vermont home, firing up his tractor for the occasional two-mile trip to the village, sometimes hiding in his hay barn, and producing prized custom ironwork when the spirit moves him. Upheaval arrives in the form of Jessica, a psychologically troubled waif with mysterious connections to Hewitt's late artist father. Then Hewitt learns that Emily, the girl he loved years earlier and whose life he has tracked from afar, is now a widow. Evocative flashbacks reveal his family's turbulent history, including Hewitt's days of sex, drugs, and rock and roll on a commune and his dark period of "death-by-whisky drinking" after breaking up with Emily. This sympathetic depiction of a decent man wrestling with his demons while deciding whether to revive an old love or open himself to a new lover is less visceral than Lent's astonishing debut, In the Fall, and less gritty than his second novel, Lost Nation, but it's no less magisterial and every bit as beautifully written."

~Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama

"It is Tokyo in 1939. On the Street of a Thousand Blossoms, two orphaned brothers are growing up with their loving grandparents, who inspire them to dream of a future firmly rooted in tradition. The older boy, Hiroshi, shows unusual skill at the national obsession of sumo wrestling, while Kenji is fascinated by the art of creating hand-carved masks for actors in the Noh theater." "Across town, a renowned sumo master, Sho Tanaka, lives with his wife and their two young daughters: the delicate, daydreaming Aki and her independent sister, Haru. Life seems full of promise as Kenji begins an informal apprenticeship with the most famous maskmaker in Japan and Hiroshi receives a coveted invitation to train with Tanaka. But then Pearl Harbor changes everything. As the ripples of war spread to both families' quiet neighborhoods, all of the generations must put their dreams on hold - and then find their way in a new Japan."--BOOK JACKET.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bitch Creek by William E. Tapply

This book comes highly recommended by several Brookfield readers who've gotten hooked on this new series. So we've chosen it as our "Book "Em!" selection for our mystery discussion on Thursday, November 8, 2007 at noon. Books and sign up sheet are at the checkout desk. Join us!

"In this new series by the author of the Brady Coyne series (Shadow of Death), Stoney Calhoun works in Kate Balaban's bait/tackle shop in small-town Maine but has gaps in his memory after five years in an institution. When mutual friend and fishing guide Lyle goes missing, Stoney searches, finding the man's "secret" trout stream and the man himself—suspiciously drowned. Lyle's client, meanwhile, has disappeared. Aided by determination, logic, a psychic vision or two, and Kate's love, Stoney discovers that he was the intended target and that he's really an experienced investigator. Featuring Tapply's trademark prose, a sensational plot, and a well-grounded protagonist, this should appeal to his fans as well as readers who enjoy outdoor mysteries. Tapply lives in Hancock, NH."

~Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay

(Blog author's note: You'll have to wait in line as I'm currently enjoying this one!)

"Dexter loses his mojo in this third entry in a fantastic series (after Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter). Well, not really his mojo but the "Dark Passenger" that allows Dexter to do what he does—namely, to act as a killer of those who kill. There's nothing particularly grisly about the crime scene to which Dexter is called on a university campus, but something about it scares away Dexter's inner voice. He's then thrown quickly into the unfamiliar role of being the hunted instead of the hunter and must rely on his own resources not only to survive but to find his Dark Passenger again. All of this occurs while Dexter must also deal with humdrum daily bothers like working, planning a wedding, and raising his fiancĂ©e's children to be just like him. Lindsay gives Dexter a great voice and provides the reader with several laugh-out-loud scenes. It's easy to cheer for this nicest of serial killers, and the pages will turn quickly. This series is growing in popularity thanks to both the books and the Showtime television series they've spawned."

~Craig Shufelt, Fort McMurray P.L., Alta. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Trespass by Valerie Martin

"An enrapturing and ruthless storyteller, Valerie Martin possesses a predator's ability to mesmerize her prey." ~ Chicago Tribune

"Chloe Dale's life is in good order. Her only child, Toby, has started his junior year at New York University; her husband, an academic on sabbatical, is working at home on his book about the Crusades; and Chloe is busy creating illustrations for a special edition of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Yet Chloe is disturbed - by the aggression of her government's foreign policy, by the poacher who roams the land behind her studio punctuating her solitude with rifle fire, and finally, by Toby's new girlfriend, a Croatian refugee named Salome Drago." "Raised in the Croatian expatriate community of New Orleans, Salome is a toxic mix of the old world and the new: intelligent, superstitious, sly, seductive, and confident. But Salome's past is a mine of dangerous secrets, and the violence that destroyed her homeland is far from over. Chloe distrusts her on sight, and as Toby's obsession with Salome grows, Chloe's mistrust deepens, alienating her from her tolerant husband and besotted son. Rich with menace, the novel unfolds in a world where darkness intrudes into bright and pleasant places, a world with betrayal at its heart."--BOOK JACKET.

Friday, October 05, 2007

One Perfect Day by Rebecca Mead

"In its nascence in the American lexicon, the term "Bridezilla" has inspired articles, reality television and watercooler tales of brides gone mad. This phenomenon piqued New Yorker staff writer Mead's interest, sending her on a three-year investigation of the current American wedding and the $161-billion industry that spawned it. "Blaming the bride," she writes, "wasn't an adequate explanation for what seemed to be underlying the concept of the Bridezilla: that weddings themselves were out of control." Interviewing wedding industry professionals and attending weddings in Las Vegas, Disney World, Aruba and a wedding town in Tennessee, Mead ventures beyond the tulle curtain to reveal moneymaking ploys designed around our most profound fears as well as our headiest happily-ever-after fantasies. Goods and services providers alter marital traditions—and even invent new ones—to feed their bottom line. Stores vie for bridal registry business in hopes of gaining lifelong customers. Women swoon for what retailers call "the 'Oh, Mommy' moment" in boutique fitting rooms—an unsettling contrast to the Chinese bridal gown factory workers who make them possible, sleeping eight to a room and scraping by on 30 cents an hour. Part investigative journalism, part social commentary, Mead's wry, insightful work offers an illuminating glimpse at the ugly underbelly of our Bridezilla culture."

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clark

"A serious novel that is often very funny and will be a page-turning pleasure for anyone who loves literature." ~Kirkus Reviews

"When Sam Pulsifer's parents separated for three years during his childhood, his mother lied about his father's whereabouts and also told Sam ghost stories about the Emily Dickinson House in his hometown of Amherst, MA. At age 18, he broke into the house one night to verify these stories, got spooked by a noise, dropped a lit cigarette, burned down the house, and unwittingly killed its two occupants. After ten years in a minimum security prison, Sam moved to the nearby suburbs to live an anonymous life, attend college, marry, and raise children. All is well until the son of the couple who died in the fire shows up on his doorstep, and fires begin breaking out at the homes of other New England writers. While trying to unravel the mystery of the fires, Sam uncovers the deceptions that have molded his life. Clarke (Ordinary White Boy) has created a character feebly struggling against fate in a situation both sad and funny, believable and preposterous. It's a setting so bizarre that the clear moral lesson smacks of sarcasm. In the end, however, this quirky story is entertaining and readable."

~ Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island, Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Porvidence Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.