Friday, February 29, 2008

Chasing Windmills by Catherine Ryan Hyde

"In the simple and captivating latest from Pay It Forward author Hyde, a chance encounter proves life-changing for two lonely New York City subway riders. Four months shy of 18, Sebastian Mundt has been held a virtual prisoner by his father since his mother died: his father home-schools him and doesn't let him have outside relationships. One night, with his father heavily sedated by his sleeping pill, Sebastian sneaks out to ride the subway and locks eyes with Maria Arquette, a young mother who is caught in an abusive marriage. The two share an instant connection and take to meeting on the subway almost nightly and tentatively planning a future in the California desert town that Sebastian remembers from childhood, where thousands of windmills stretch out across the horizon. Hyde gracefully alternates between Sebastian's and Maria's perspectives with gentle nods to this New York love story's precursors (Maria obsessively watches West Side Story). It is their voices—at once utterly credible and heartbreakingly na├»ve—that make the book, and while this is being billed as an adult novel, its closest stylistic relative is S.E. Hinton's YA classic The Outsiders."

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

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

"Set in Victorian London, this superb debut from British author Barnes raises the bar for historical thrillers, starting with its curious opening line: Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. A page-turner, it's full of peculiar characters, notably Edward Moon, a highly unorthodox detective, and Moon's bizarre sidekick, known only as the Somnambulist. Moon, a conjuror by profession whose act has fallen on hard times, has cracked some of the city's most notorious murders. Now, he's leading the investigation into a shadowy religious group aiming to overtake London and do away with its oppressive, bourgeois tendencies. Moon is a remarkable invention, a master of logic and harborer of all sorts of unnatural habits and mannerisms. The Somnambulist—a giant, milk-swigging mute—doesn't appear to be human at all, yet serves as Moon's moral as well as intellectual compass. Together, they wend their way through a London rich in period detail. Barnes saves his best surprise for the story's homestretch, when he reveals the identity of his narrator, who's been cleverly pulling strings since the opening."

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

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

"Twenty-eight-year-old Willie Upton has just detonated a promising academic career by her scandalous affair with a married professor. Now pregnant, she slinks home to Templeton, NY, just as an enormous dead monster is pulled from nearby Lake Glimmerglass. There, Willie's mother, a former hippie, admits she has always lied about Willie's paternity and discloses this one clue about her biological father's actual identity: he is a descendant of Judge Marmaduke Temple and currently a prominent member of Templeton. Sound familiar? Pay attention: James Fenimore Cooper is from Cooperstown, NY (as is Groff) and used it as the model for Templeton, NY, setting of The Pioneers. Yes, Groff has daringly used Cooper's Templeton and its inhabitants as the launching pad for Willie's search for her father. Willie takes her mother's clue and pulls on it, following endless strands to get her answer, all the while tormented with indecision about her own pregnancy. Liberally peppered with old photographs, diary entries, letters, and a family tree constantly in need of revision as Willie eliminates one possibility after another spanning more than two centuries of shocking Templeton history, this is an irresistible adventure."

~Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

"In 1996, a rare book expert is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of a mysterious, beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain and recently saved from destruction during the shelling of Sarajevo's libraries. When Hanna Heath, a caustic Aussie loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in the book's ancient binding - an insect-wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair - she begins to unlock the mysteries of the book's eventful past and to uncover the dramatic stories of those who created it and those who risked everything to protect it." "In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siecle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city's rising anti-Semitism. In Venice in 1609, a Catholic priest saves the book from the Inquisition's fires. In Taragona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of forced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the manuscript's extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna's investigations unexpectedly plunge her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultranationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and in the man she has come to love."


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Becky: The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher by Lenore Hart

"Hart's latest (after Ordinary Springs) imagines the fictional Becky Thatcher—best known as Tom Sawyer's crybaby girlfriend—as a strong heroine whose true story was held back by childhood friend Samuel Clemens, who chose to give the charismatic Tom Sawyer center stage in his writings. Hart's riveting and often moving take intersperses Becky's version of events in the Mark Twain novel with the events of Becky's life as the wife of Tom's cousin Sid during and after the Civil War. In Hart's hands, Becky morphs from sniveling and helpless to woman warrior: dressing as a man to find her husband on Civil War battlefields and trying to hide from Sid and herself her lifelong love for Tom. The narrative finds Becky in Nevada, navigating life in a mining town, and eventually in San Francisco as a wealthy woman. In between, the author conveys the hell of battle and how its effects linger long after the last shot is fired. Mark Twain purists may balk at the idea of Becky fearlessly trekking with Tom's Freebooters, and though the charisma that Tom supposedly radiated doesn't entirely come through, Hart brings her sometimes motley cast to life throughout. Mark Twain is a tough act to follow, but Hart does her heroine justice."

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

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year and Gung Hay Fat Choy!

The Brookfield Library is currently displaying books with a Chinese theme for all ages, both fiction and nonfiction.

The Last Empress by Anchee Min

"The Last Empress is the story of Orchid's dramatic transition from a strong-willed, instinctive young woman to a wise and politically savvy leader who ruled China for more than four decades. Moving from the intimacy of the concubine quarters into the spotlight of the world stage, Orchid must face not only the perilous condition of her empire but also a series of devastating personal losses, as first her son and then her adopted son succumb to early death. Yearning only to step aside, yet growing constantly into her role, only she - allied with the progressives, but loyal to the conservative Manchu clan of her dynasty - can hold the nation's rival factions together. Anchee Min offers a powerful revisionist portrait based on extensive research of one of the most important figures in Chinese history. Viciously maligned by the Western press of the time as the "Dragon Lady," a manipulative, blood-thirsty woman who held on to power at all costs, the woman Min gives us is a compelling, very human leader who assumed power reluctantly and who sacrificed all she had to protect those she loved and an empire that was doomed to die."--BOOK JACKET.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Senator's Wife: A Novel by Sue Miller

"Bestselling author Miller (The Good Mother; When I Was Gone) returns with a rich, emotionally urgent novel of two women at opposite stages of life who face parallel dilemmas. Meri, the young, sexy wife of a charismatic professor, occupies one wing of a New England house with her husband. An unexpected pregnancy forces her to reassess her marriage and her childhood of neglect. Delia, her elegant neighbor in the opposite wing, is the long-suffering wife of a notoriously philandering retired senator. The couple have stayed together for his career and still share an occasional, deeply intense tryst. The women's routines continue on either side of the wall that divides their homes, and the two begin to flit back and forth across the porch and into each others physical and psychological spaces. A steady tension builds to a bruising denouement. The clash, predicated on Delia's husband's compulsive behavior and on Meri's lack of boundaries, feels too preordained. But Miller's incisive portrait of the complex inner lives of her characters and her sharp manner of taking them through conflicts make for an intense read."

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

Friday, February 01, 2008

My Revolutions by Hari Kunzru

"It's the 1970s, and Chris Carver, briefly imprisoned for participating in a demonstration and increasingly disillusioned with the British revolutionaries with whom he's been involved since the 1960s, goes on the run, assuming the identity of one Michael Frame. Decades later, an ex-inmate of Chris tracks him down and pressures him to provide false evidence against another former comrade, now about to gain a powerful position in the British government. Unwilling to cooperate, Chris runs away again, this time to France, where he believes his old cohort, the supposedly dead Anna Addison, is hiding. As Kunzru (The Impressionist) shows how the present-day Michael's comfortable middle-class life has been interrupted, he reconstructs Chris's life story, focusing on his early interest in protests and his arrest while a student at the London School of Economics. With these simultaneous stories of Chris's early life and his evasion of his true identity, Kunzru creates a graphic and realistic portrait of the 1960s and beyond. Exciting, dramatic, and enthralling."

~ Library Journal Review