Oct 1, 2014

Behind the Beautiful Forevers - Katherine Boo

Behind the beautiful foreversBehind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity - Boo, Katherine

Summary: Profiles everyday life in the settlement of Annawadi as experienced by a Muslim teen, an ambitious rural mother, and a young scrap metal thief, illuminating how their efforts to build better lives are challenged by religious, caste, and economic tensions.



Kirkus Reviews
In her debut, Pulitzer Prize–winning New Yorker staff writer Boo creates an intimate, unforgettable portrait of India's urban poor. Mumbai's sparkling new airport and surrounding luxury hotels welcome visitors to the globalized, privatized, competitive India. Across the highway, on top of tons of garbage and next to a vast pool of sewage, lies the slum of Annawadi, one of many such places that house the millions of poor of Mumbai. For more than three years, Boo lived among and learned from the residents, observing their struggles and quarrels, listening to their dreams and despair, recording it all. She came away with a detailed portrait of individuals daring to aspire but too often denied a chance--their lives viewed as an embarrassment to the modernized wealthy. The author poignantly details these many lives: Abdul, a quiet buyer of recyclable trash who wished for nothing more than what he had; Zehrunisa, Abdul's mother, a Muslim matriarch among hostile Hindu neighbors; Asha, the ambitious slum leader who used her connections and body in a vain attempt to escape from Annawadi; Manju, her beautiful, intelligent daughter whose hopes laid in the new India of opportunity; Sunil, the master scavenger, a little boy who would not grow; Meena, who drank rat poison rather than become a teenage bride in a remote village; Kalu, the charming garbage thief who was murdered and left by the side of the road. Boo brilliantly brings to life the residents of Annawadi, allowing the reader to know them and admire the fierce intelligence that allows them to survive in a world not made for them. The best book yet written on India in the throes of a brutal transition

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Un Lun Dun - China Mieville

Un Lun DunUn Lun Dun - Mieville, China

Summary: Stumbling into an alternate funhouse version of her home city, twelve-year-old Londoner Deeba finds herself trapped in a world of killer giraffes, animated umbrellas, and ghost children, and must take on the role of savior to prevent utter destruction.



Kirkus Reviews
Acclaimed fantasist Miéville's first foray into youth literature starts predictably but progresses to match his reputation. The overlong first section, in which two girls (chosen Zanna and sidekick Deeba) travel to UnLondon, a dream-logic London (houses made of obsolete technology; walking bushes; feral giraffes) where sentient smog threatens the populace, will entice imaginations. Unfortunately, it is also too reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's work (particularly MirrorMask). Zanna fails and has her memory wiped, but Deeba can't forget their adventures, especially when she discovers the threat is worse than anyone thought. She returns to UnLondon, flouting destiny and distressing all, especially the talking book of prophecy, which becomes highly and comically insecure. Deeba must journey through this truly fantastic world, with no guidance except her own wits. Intrigue with London officials, a half-ghost ally and fighting "unbrellas" all play a role, as does a definite but not heavy-handed message about pollution and the environment. Ultimately, this is a compelling tale of heroism from someone foretold as merely "the funny one," and a well-evoked dreamscape that readers will embrace.

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Percy Jackson's Greek Gods - Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson's Greek GodsPercy Jackson's Greek Gods - Riordan, Rick

Summary: Percy Jackson, a modern-day demigod, tells the origin stories of the gods of Olympus and provides an insider's point of view while offering a personal take on his ancient associates.



Kirkus Reviews

Percy Jackson takes a break from adventuring to serve up the Greek gods like flapjacks at a church breakfast.Percy is on form as he debriefs readers concerning Chaos, Gaea, Ouranos and Pontus, Dionysus, Ariadne and Persephone, all in his dude's patter: "He'd forgotten how beautiful Gaea could be when she wasn't all yelling up in his face." Here they are, all 12 Olympians, plus many various offspring and associates: the gold standard of dysfunctional families, whom Percy plays like a lute, sometimes lyrically, sometimes with a more sardonic air. Percy's gift, which is no great secret, is to breathe new life into the gods. Closest attention is paid to the Olympians, but Riordan has a sure touch when it comes to fitting much into a small space—as does Rocco's artwork, which smokes and writhes on the page as if hit by lightning—so readers will also meet Makaria, "goddess of blessed peaceful deaths," and the Theban Teiresias, who accidentally sees Athena bathing. She blinds him but also gives him the ability to understand the language of birds. The atmosphere crackles and then dissolves, again and again: "He could even send the Furies after living people if they committed a truly horrific crime—like killing a family member, desecrating a temple, or singing Journey songs on karaoke night."The inevitable go-to for Percy's legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories.

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The Mirror Empire - Kameron Hurley

The mirror empireThe Mirror Empire - Hurley, Kameron

Summary: Forced into a mirror universe as soldiers overran her village, Lilia, the orphan of a blood witch, begins making unsettling discoveries about her past and the nature of the dark star Oma, which has not been seen for two thousand years.


 

Publishers Weekly Reviews
Across the realms of the Dhai and beyond, people's lives are ruled by the changing stars; those whose star is ascendant gain grand powers and prosper, while those whose stars are in decline are consigned to more humble roles. When the star Oma returns to the sky after two millennia, it brings calamity, death, and the fall of civilizations. As baleful Oma rises, raiders search for forgotten knowledge, assassins strike down rulers, and entire cultures are coldly targeted for genocide in the name of realpolitik. Young Lilia, orphan of a slain blood witch, makes the disquieting discovery that the attackers and victims are reflections of each other, seen through a glass darkly. Hurley (Rapture) reuses old tropes to excellent effect, interweaving them with original elements to create a world that will fascinate and delight her established fans and appeal to newcomers. Readers will blaze through this opening installment and eagerly await the promised sequel.

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Amadeus - Peter Shaffer

Amadeus - Shaffer, Peter

Summary: Presents the life of Antonio Salieri, a mediocre 18th century Viennese composer obsessed with and jealous of the musical genius of the age, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Saturday Review
"....Shaffer orchestrates this gripping and fascinating conflict with consummate skill and delicious wit."

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The End - Ian Kershaw

The end : the defiance and destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945 - Kershaw, Ian

Summary: Examines why the Third Reich was able to resist surrender for months after they had clearly lost World War II, drawing on testimony from civilians and former military insiders to discuss the Nazis' psychological power over German citizens.



Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* By September 1918, Germany's military position on the Western Front had severely deteriorated, and political turmoil, military demoralization, and the abdication of the kaiser soon followed. Kershaw, an acclaimed expert on Hitler and the Third Reich, asks why this collapse did not happen to Hitler's Germany during 1944–45, when the military situation clearly was hopeless? Instead, German soldiers and civilians struggled and endured to the bitter end. That question lies at the center of this superb examination of the final defeat of Hitler's tyranny. Military affairs play a part, but Kershaw's narrative concentrates on the mechanics of Nazi administration, civil and military, and efforts to keep the state functioning. The chief functionaries in this task, referred to by Kershaw as the "quadrumvirate," were Himmler, Goebbels, Bormann, and Speer. Kershaw describes in fascinating detail their maneuvers as they jockeyed for power and influence with Hitler. Some of Kershaw's conclusions will be hotly debated. Nevertheless, this is an excellent portrait of the regime's death throes.

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Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill (CD)

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill : original Broadway cast recordingLady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill (CD)

Summary: Experience on disc the performance that won Audra McDonald her unprecedented sixth Tony Award. 'One of the greatest performances I ever hope to see' is how New York Magazine described McDonald's portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Lanie Robertson's award-winning play with music dramatizing one of the final concerts in the beloved singer's extraordinary, tragic life. Recorded live at Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre, the two-disc set features McDonald's 'spellbinding, tour-de-force' (NY Daily News) renditions of signature Holiday songs such as 'God Bless the Child,' 'What a Little Moonlight Can Do,' 'Strange Fruit' and 'Taint Nobody's Biz-ness.' The Associated Press proclaimed Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill 'one of the supreme honors of the Broadway season,' while The New York Times delighted in 'the pleasure of hearing Ms. McDonald breathe aching life into some of Holiday's greatest songs... with sensitive musicianship and rich seams of feeling that command rapt admiration.' Now, 'the best 90 minutes you'll ever witness' (NY1) have been preserved on disc by PS Classics, giving audiences the chance to savor 'not just one but two of the most extraordinarily gifted dramatic vocalists America has produced' (Los Angeles Times). -Amazon

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Letters of Note

Letters of note : an eclectic collection of correspondence deserving of a wider audienceLetters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience

Summary: This collection of 125 letters offers a never-before-seen glimpse of the events and people of history--the brightest and the best, the most notorious, and the endearingly everyday. Letters are not ordered chronologically or thematically, but are artfully arranged for a discovery-rich reading experience. Each entry includes a transcript of the letter; a short contextual introduction; and, in 100 cases, a facsimile of the letter itself

Library Journal Reviews
Based on the blog of the same name, this collection of letters is so handsome that it looks like a coffee-table book, but it's more than that. In it, Queen Elizabeth II sends a note to President Dwight Eisenhower reflecting on Mamie and Ike's visit to Balmoral Castle: she appends her recipe for scones. The chairman of the Whitehall Vigilance Committee receives a package with a note from Jack the Ripper accompanied by half a human kidney, pickled in wine: "I fried and ate it was very nise." Gandhi appeals to Hitler as the only one who can avert the impending war. Bank robber Clyde Barrow tells Henry Ford he only drives Fords. Francis Crick alerts his son about DNA. A wife writes to her samurai husband on the eve of battle (he died in the fighting, she committed suicide) and an ex-slave addresses his former master. This treasure trove of fascinating material includes more than 125 letters from both the famous and the unknown dating as far back as 1340 BCE, many reproduced in facsimile. VERDICT A beautiful collection that should appeal to everyone. Start reading it and you're lost.

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Restless Empire - Odd Arne Westad

Restless empire : China and the world since 1750Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750 - Westad, Odd Arne

Summary: A prize-winning historian and expert on Chinese foreign relations examines China's role in the world throughout recent centuries to demonstrate how its past is shaping the nation's future, explaining how Western influences have reinforced traditional Chinese mores while establishing potential international partnerships.



Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* With the largest national population and soon the largest national economy. China appears to most internal and external observers to stand on the precipice of world dominance. But as Bancroft Award winner Westad makes abundantly clear, China's eventual hegemony in the global marketplace may rely more on overcoming internal obstacles and on cooperating with its close neighbors the many challenges presented by an American-led West. Building a superb story of China's historically schizophrenic relationship with the outside world, Westad reaches back to the long twilight of the Qing dynasty, canvassing the nation's conflicts with Western imperialists, expansionist neighbors, and internal minorities and revealing a country in which the past threatens to overwhelm the present. However, it is the Chinese foreign-policy developments of the twentieth century, including the republic under Chiang Kai-shek, triumph of Mao's Communists, and economic transformation under Deng Xiaoping, that form the bulk of this compelling, expansive account. Westad has provided readers with both a remarkable and timely glimpse behind the curtain that is required reading for anyone interested in Chinese political history and economic development and the future of China's position in the international community.

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G'night Wolfgang - Ric Louchard (CD)

G'night Wolfgang: Classical Piano Solos for Bedtime - Louchard, Ric (CD)

Contents: Adagio (from Sonata in F Major, K. 332) / Mozart -- Adagio sostenuto (from Sonata Quasi Fantasia op. 27 no. 2 "Moonlight") / Beethoven --Sarabande (from French Suite #5 in G major, BWV 816) / J.S. Bach -- Sarabande (from French Suite #3 in B minor, BWV 814) / J.S. Bach -- Prelude 1 (from the Well tempered clavier, vol. 1) / J.S. Bach -- Trois gymnopedies / Satie --Adante (from Sonata in C major, K. 545) / Mozart -- Scenes of childhood (opus 15) / Schumann.


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On Saudi Arabia - Karen Elliott House

On Saudi Arabia : its people, past, religion, fault lines-- and futureOn Saudi Arabia - House, Karen Elliott

Summary: A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from The Wall Street Journal draws on three decades of firsthand experience to profile the Saudi Arabia of today, offering insight into its leaders, citizens, cultural complexities and international prospects.




Booklist Reviews
Saudi Arabia, ruled by the royal Al Saud family, provides one of every four barrels of oil exported around the world. It is a little-understood nation of inordinate importance to the rest of the globe. As the Arab Spring has transformed other oil-producing nations in the Middle East, forcing developed nations to consider democratic ideals versus oil economies, Saudi Arabia has so far managed to stay outside that debate despite its repressive regime. House, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter and former Wall Street Journal correspondent, spent five years traveling the kingdom to study a society she calls Islam Inc., owned and operated by the Al Saud royal family for generations. By exploiting deep religious, tribal, and regional differences for hundreds of years, the Sauds rely on an Islam that demands obedience of men, who demand obedience of women, and allows for no questioning of authority, despite widespread poverty, unemployment, and roiling discontent. House explores the history and fragility of the royal family and the interplay of religion, economics, and culture as well as the forces of modernity, including the Internet, that promise transformation.

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage - Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage : a novelColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage - Murakami, Haruki

Summary: Thirty-six-year-old Tsukuru Tazaki meets a woman named Sara who raises questions about a painful incident from his youth in which his closest friends all cut off relations with him without explanation, and inspires him to find out why.




Publishers Weekly Reviews
Murakami's latest novel, which sold more than a million copies during its first week on sale in Japan, is a return to the mood and subject matter of the acclaimed writer's earlier work. Living a simple, quotidian life as a train station engineer, Tsukuru is compelled to reexamine his past after a girlfriend suggests he reconnect with a group of friends from high school. A tight-knit fivesome for years, the group suddenly alienated Tsukuru under mysterious circumstances when he was in college. For months after the break, not knowing what had gone wrong, he became obsessed with death and slowly lost his sense of self: "I've always seen myself as an empty person, lacking color and identity. Maybe that was my role in the group. To be empty." Feeling his life will only progress if he can tie up those emotional loose ends, Tsukuru journeys through Japan and into Europe to meet with the members of the group and unravel what really happened 16 years before. The result is a vintage Murakami struggle of coming to terms with buried emotions and missed opportunities, in which intentions and pent up desires can seemingly transcend time and space to bring both solace and desolation.

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He Died with His Eyes Open - Derek Raymond

He died with his eyes openHe Died with His Eyes Open - Raymond, Derek

Summary: Murders are a dime a dozen in Margaret Thatcher's London, and when it comes to the brutal killing of a middle-aged alcoholic found dumped outside of town, Scotland Yard has more important cases to deal with. Instead it's a job for the Department of Unexplained Deaths and its head Detective Sergeant. With only a box of cassette-tape diaries as evidence the rogue detective has no choice but to listen to the haunting voice of the victim for clues to his gruesome end. The first book in Derek Raymond's acclaimed Factory Series is an unflinching yet deeply compassionate portrait of a city plagued by poverty and perversion, and a policeman who may be the only one who cares about the 'people who don't matter and who never did.

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Wedgies (Lenore series) - Roman Dirge

WedgiesWedgies - Dirge, Roman

Summary: A full-color collection of comics featuring Lenore, a cute little dead girl with a knack for unintentional mayhem and occasional wanton destruction, features limbless cannibals, clock monsters, cursed vampire dolls, taxidermied friends, an obsessed would-be lover and more.



Booklist Reviews
With her pale face, huge eyes, skull barrettes, lack of a pulse, and propensity for senseless violence, Lenore could be the next full-fledged, merchandise-ready goth-girl icon. This compendium collects four comics, though there's no through line anywhere. Rather, each issue is a hodgepodge of stories, poems, twisted fables, and tattoo designs. The jokes are pretty sick and swerve between genius (the taxidermied chipmunk who bemoans his missing back half until Lenore jams a pair of Barbie legs onto it) and the uncomfortably cruel ("Kittie #53" involves the relatively straightforward drowning of a cat). What keeps it afloat—for the right reader, of course—is Lenore's obliviousness to wrongdoing. When she engages in "13 hours of gnome slaughter," it's only because she was overcaffeinated. It's all a lot funnier and cuter than it sounds, which is a credit to Dirge's ability to inject personality into his morbid mix of pale colors and black humor. Interestingly, Dirge's occasional autobiographical intrusions ("Things Involving Me") steal the show.

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A Private Venus - Giorgio Scerbanenco

A private VenusA Private Venus - Scerbanenco, Giorgio

Summary: Recently released from prison for having practiced euthanasia, Duca Lamberti, now unable to work in medicine, takes a job helping Davide, a young and depressed alcoholic, whose past involves prostitution, pornography, and murder.




Library Journal Reviews
Originally published in 1966 and now finally translated into English, Scerbanenco's first book in his award-winning Milano Quartet, A Private Venus, is an arresting noir novel that examines the themes of alcoholism, deviant sex, remorse, retribution, and murder. Duca Lamberti, the antihero protagonist, is a disbarred doctor just out of prison after serving three years for the assisted suicide of a terminally ill woman. He has a penchant for making bad choices, opposing authority, and being obstinate—a potent mix of personality traits for a successful noir lead character. He is hired by a rich industrialist to babysit his wayward son, an apparent chronic alcoholic. Behind the son's behavior there is a secret—the murder of a young woman.Traitors to All is even more impressive. It's not surprising that it won the most prestigious European crime fiction prize, the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. The novel is astonishing—bleak to the bone with great dialog, black humor, unforgettable characters, and a complex plot that is not in the least heavy-handed. Duca is asked to investigate a drowning, which the police have dismissed as an accident. The ultimate denouement is thoroughly satisfying. The sense of time and place (1960s Milan) is palpable and impeccable. Scerbanenco's prose is brilliant and disquieting. It's a shock to realize how powerful European noir writing was 40 to 50 years ago. VERDICT: Brave and beautiful, these novels are highly recommended for fans of literary noir; Scerbanenco's appellation as godfather of Italian Noir is not hyperbole.

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Prelude to a Scream - Jim Nisbet

Prelude to a screamPrelude to a Scream - Nisbet, Jim

Summary: Near death, Stanley Ahearn awakes three days after meeting a tearful woman in a San Francisco bar to discover he is missing a kidney and vows to exact revenge.




Library Journal Reviews
Among the sudden rash of nephro-bandits in San Francisco, one-time local hero turned do-nothing-drunk Stanley Ahearn awakens to find himself with a faint memory of a green-eyed seductress, a splitting hangover, and one kidney missing. When doctors inform him that his remaining organ is all but shot with a rare disease, an unlikely investigator is born in Ahearn. Souped up on painkillers while he is assisted by two pubescent computer hacks, he searches the Bay Area streets for the body scrappers before his own time is up. Nisbet's latest work is macabre masquerading as chic, quick to the punch with a philosophical underbelly that questions the human propensity toward greed and revenge. Not for the faint of heart.

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Turn Right at Machu Picchu - Mark Adams

Turn right at Machu Picchu : rediscovering the lost city one step at a timeTurn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time - Adams, Mark

Summary: Traces the author's recreation of Hiram Bingham III's discovery of the ancient citadel, Machu Picchu, in the Andes Mountains of Peru, describing his struggles with rudimentary survival tools and his experiences at the sides of local guides.




Booklist Reviews
This year is the centenary of Hiram Bingham's finding of Machu Picchu, which the Indiana Jones prototype touted as the final Andean redoubt of the Inca. After an editorial career spent sending travel writers to remote corners of the earth, Adams decided to assign himself the adventure of retracing Bingham's steps. Wryly recounting his learning curve of roughing it and getting along with his guide, crusty Australian John Leivers, Adams brings an amusing mixture of credulity and skepticism to his multistrand accounting of Machu Picchu––its contemporary look as a crowded tourist attraction; Bingham's theories about the terraced, mountaintop citadel; and subsequent ideas about the ruins fervently advanced by amateur and credentialed archaeologists alike. Weighing Bingham's accounts to figure out exactly what he had achieved (if not exactly "discovering" Machu Picchu, Bingham sensationally publicized it), Adams fronts the history with entertaining descriptions of his badinage with Leivers about Bingham-associated sites. Retaining its mysterious aura, Machu Picchu will no doubt prove as alluring to modern readers as it did to Bingham. A well-embroidered portrayal.

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Planet of the Apes (DVD)

Planet of the apesPlanet of the Apes (DVD)

Summary: Astronaut Taylor crash lands on a distant planet ruled by apes who use a primitive race of humans for experimentation and sport. Soon Taylor finds himself among the hunted, his life in the hands of a benevolent chimpanzee scientist.



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I Work at a Public Library - Gina Sheridan

I work at a public library : a collection of crazy stories--from the stacksI Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks - Sheridan, Gina

Summary: Collects strange-but-true anecdotes, heartwarming stories, and humorous interactions with patrons from a public librarian.



St. Louis Post-Dispatch Reviews
"Librarians will surely nod their heads and either sigh or laugh. As they say at the library: Check it out."

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The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell

The bone clocks : a novelThe Bone Clocks - Mitchell, David

Summary: Interweaves six narratives spanning the period between 1984 and the 2030s to chronicle a secret war between a cult of soul-decanters and a small group of vigilantes who would take them down.




Publishers Weekly Reviews
Is The Bone Clocks the most ambitious novel ever written, or just the most Mitchell-esque? We begin in the punk years with a teenage Talking Heads–obsessed runaway from Gravesend, England, named Holly Sykes. She becomes a pawn in a spiritual war between the mysterious "Radio People" and the benevolent Horologists, led by the body-shifting immortal Marinus. Many more characters and places soon find themselves worked into Marinus's "Script" across the book's six sections: there's Hugo Lamb, a cunning, amoral Cambridge student spending Christmas 1991 in Switzerland, where he encounters an older Holly tending bar; then it's the height of the Bush/Blair years, and our narrator is Holly's husband, Edmund Brubeck, a war reporter dispatched to Baghdad. Another flash-forward lands us in the present day, where the middling novelist Crispin Hershey weathers a succession of literary feuds, becomes confidante of a New Agey Holly and her daughter, then has his own unsettling encounter with the Radio People. In the penultimate section, Marinus reveals the nature of the Script—the secret conflict lurking just beneath mortal affairs—and how Holly may be the key to a resolution whose repercussions won't be known until 2043, when the aged Holly rides out a curiously sedate end-time in rural Ireland. From gritty realism to far-out fantasy, each section has its own charm and surprises. With its wayward thoughts, chance meetings, and attention to detail, Mitchell's (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet) novel is a thing of beauty.

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The Luck Uglies - Paul Durham

The Luck UgliesThe Luck Uglies - Durham, Paul

Summary: Eleven-year-old Rye O'Chanter and her two friends delve into the secret lore of their village when mysterious creatures of legend reappear on the night of the Black Moon, leading them to the notorious secret society, the Luck Uglies.




Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* Debut author Durham kick-starts his fantasy adventure trilogy with this cracker of an introduction. Rye O'Chanter—11 years old, unbelievably brave, and jaw-droppingly reckless—lives with her widowed mother and toddler sister in Village Drowning. The village is under the thumb of the ruthless and self-absorbed Earl Longchance. Years ago the village was terrorized by Bog Noblins, and Longchance claims the credit for driving them away. But legend says that honor goes to the Luck Uglies, a secret (some would even say criminal) society now banished and lost. When a supposedly extinct Bog Noblin turns up in the village, a power struggle ensues between Longchance and a man called Harmless, who holds the secret to the fate of the Luck Uglies. How Rye fits into all this is part of the drama and a lot of the excitement. Durham has created an impressively tactile world peopled with fully realized characters. His writing is strong and balanced, by turns funny and heart-stopping. There are no lulls in the story, which incorporates, in a completely original way, elements that will be familiar to fans of the genre. Antonsson's chapter-opening sketches further light the way. Readers will be sorry to see this bona fide page-turner end, at least until the next volume.

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Timeline - Michael Crichton

TimelineTimeline - Crichton, Michael

Summary: Michael Crichton's new novel opens on the threshold of the twenty-first century. It is a world of exploding advances on the frontiers of technology. Information moves instantly between two points, without wires or networks. Computers are built from single molecules. Any moment of the past can be actualized -- and a group of historians can enter, literally, life in fourteenth-century
feudal France. Imagine the risks of such a journey.

Booklist Reviews
Crichton sets himself another technical challenge: plausibly taking a group of characters 600 years into the past. This shouldn't be too much of a chore for the man who brought dinosaurs back to life, but readers familiar with his work will note that he seems to struggle a bit harder than usual to sell the premise, as though he's having a hard time buying it himself. Once that's out of the way, though, the novel is a splendid read. The plot is pretty straightforward: Edward Johnson, a history professor, is stranded in France in the year 1357, and a trio of his graduate students must go back to extricate him. Unlike some writers, Crichton doesn't use his historical setting merely as window dressing. He immerses his characters, and his readers, in the past: its politics, its language, its social structure, even the way it looks (early scenes, in which the young grad students marvel at being in this place they've only seen as ancient ruins, are realistic and, for any reader with an interest in history, thrilling). The story itself, which involves a French siege upon an English castle (England controlled France at the time), is packed with adventure and surprises.

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Chengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep - Barney Saltzberg

Chengdu could not, would not, fall asleepChengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep - Saltzberg, Barney

High in the trees in the middle of the night, all of the pandas are sleeping except for Chengdu, who tries everything and still cannot fall asleep until he finds the perfect spot--atop his brother, Yuan.


Horn Book Magazine Reviews
All the pandas are sleeping peacefully, stretched out on bamboo branches, except for little Chengdu. His big round eyes look startlingly open against the black fur surrounding them, and he has the despairing look of an insomniac late at night. He "scrunched / and he rolled / and he hung upside down, / but he still could not, / would not fall asleep." Saltzberg gives the book an old-fashioned look by limiting the colors to black, white, gray, and the green of the bamboo trees, catching the soft textures of a dark forest at night. He uses the pages themselves inventively, opening one downward, another horizontally. In a sequence of partial pages he shows Panda climbing up, and up, and up until he climbs right on top of his sleeping brother, where he is finally able to sleep. The gentle sight gags add humor without breaking the calming mood, making this an ideal nighttime book for the very young.

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The Falconer - Elizabeth May

The falconer. Book oneThe Falconer - May, Elizabeth

Summary: In 1844 Edinburgh, eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron is neither an ordinary debutante, nor a murderess--she is a Falconer, a female warrior born with the gift for hunting and killing the faeries who prey on mankind and who killed her mother.



Booklist Reviews
Brandishing a deadly knife and a steampunk lightning pistol loaded with deadly thistle, Scottish noblewoman Aileana takes tea by day and her revenge by night in this new fantasy series. Aileana, daughter of the Marquess of Douglas and the last in a line of female warriors, lost her mother at the hands of evil faeries, and now she is out to kill those who did her wrong. Unfortunately, she has to do so while mingling in polite Victorian society, which means "blasted, impractical, smothering" dresses, not at all fit for physical combat. Sneaking out of high-society functions and coming home in shredded gowns, Aileana is an amazing, brave hero in an age that values ladies only for marriage and homemaking and never for their brutal combat skills. The writing crackles with wit, and the steampunk atmosphere and gadgets are a lively component. The gorgeous cover art will likely reel in many readers, and they will stick around for the intense and at times funny story, the first in a planned trilogy.

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My Struggle - Karl Ove Knausgård

My struggle. Book oneMy Struggle - Knausgård, Karl Ove

Summary: An autobiographical novel focuses on a young man trying to make sense of his place in the disjointed world that surrounds him.




Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* Between 2009 and 2011, Norwegian novelist Knausgaard published a six-volume series entitled Min Kamp ("My Struggle"), a chronicle of the narrator's life, from boyhood to fatherhood. Called a "confessional novel," the series garnered critical acclaim, numerous awards, record sales, and a great deal of controversy due to its intensely autobiographical nature (friends and family publicly denounced the books). Clocking in at nearly 500 pages apiece, the first two installments focus on Karl Ove's strained relationship with his dying father, an overbearing schoolteacher, and Karl's fledgling romance with Linda, who would become his second wife. In Book Three, Karl Ove recounts his boyhood years on Tromøy, an island in southern Norway, during the 1970s and 1980s. Young Ove's adventures are extraordinarily humdrum. He and his brother, Yngve, play sports, chase girls, and discover rock music, but the ever-present tension between the boys and their taskmaster father begins to illuminate the dysfunctional family depicted in Book One. Notable for his meticulous attention to the quotidian details of everyday life, Knausgaard's pared-down style and plainspoken narrator manage to propel these long books, concerned less with sustaining plot than with the accumulation of tiny intensities and candid disclosures, which makes for strangely engaging, compulsively page-turning prose

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Sep 1, 2014

Devil in the Grove - Gilbert King

Devil in the grove : Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the dawn of a new AmericaDevil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America - King, Gilbert

Summary: Chronicles a little-known court case in which Thurgood Marshall successfully saved a black citrus worker from the electric chair after the worker was accused of raping a white woman with three other black men. Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.



Booklist Reviews
In 1951 Thurgood Marshall had already begun the Brown v. Board of Education case when he took on an explosive case to save the only survivor of the Groveland Four, young black men wrongfully accused of raping a white woman in central Florida. The young woman, estranged from her husband, concocted a rape accusation involving two black men recently returned from military service and two other, unrelated men. One of the accused was killed by a vigilante mob. After a reversal of their convictions, as they faced a retrying of the case, two others were killed by the sheriff charged with protecting them. King draws on court documents and FBI archives to offer a compelling chronicle of the accusation, which led to a paroxysm of violence against the black community in Groveland, reminiscent of the destruction of Rosewood, in 1923; brutal beatings that led to forced confessions; and the dramatic trial. Marshall, physically exhausted and facing threats to his life, was housed, fed, and protected by a black community encouraged by his presence as he battled to save the life of the last remaining member of the Groveland Four.

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Buddhist Boot Camp - Timber Hawkeye

Buddhist boot campBuddhist Boot Camp - Hawkeye, Timber

Summary: Brief chapters introduce mindfulness-enhancing techniques that draw from Buddhist philosophies and practices to help improve aspects of life ranging from love, relationships, and success to understanding, fear, and gratitude.



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Pontoon - Garrison Keillor

Pontoon : a Lake Wobegon novelPontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegone - Keillor, Garrison

Summary: Astonished to learn that her impeccable mother led a secret life marked by her passionate love for a Las Vegas man and a private commitment to pleasure, Barbara elects to end destructive patterns in her own life while honoring her mother's final wishes.



Booklist Reviews
When the angel of death came for Evelyn Peterson, she didn't know that Debbie Detmer would be back in Lake Wobegon for the first time in ages to be married, kinda, in a big lakeside ceremony on a pontoon boat with, among other things, a parachuting Elvis impersonator and a hot-air balloon—all on the day Evelyn's memorial, also at the lake, would be held. Of course, how could she know that? Nobody else in town knew Debbie was coming, except for her parents, and given how Walter's been since that fall in the bathroom, maybe only Mrs. D. could be said to have known. During the days 'twixt death and marriage, lots happens. Barbara, Evelyn's daughter, learns that her mother hadn't been visiting relatives on her many out-of-town jaunts; she'd been partying with Raoul, the man she should have married. Barbara's son Kyle decides to honor Grandma's wish to have her ashes deposited in the lake by dropping them while parasailing. Now consider the possibilities with faux Elvis, balloon, and Kyle fleeting over the lake simultaneously . . . It's just the capper to a hyperbusy slice of small-town life of the sort that Keillor regularly exploits so hilariously and affectingly, and the moral of which may be that we'd all best be humble. Only comedian of horrors Christopher Moore, in his tales of Pine Cove, California, rivals Keillor as a provincial farceur.

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The Cahill Witch Chronicles - Jessica Spotswood

Born wickedThe Cahill Witch Chronicles - Spotswood, Jessica

Summary: In an alternate New England of 1900, where the Brotherhood dominates and controls society, sixteen-year-old Cate Cahill has struggled since her mother's death to keep secret that she and her younger sisters are witches, but when a governess arrives from the Sisterhood, everything changes.



Booklist Reviews
The prophecy written in Mother's diary is clear: "A trio of sisters will come of age, all witches. One of the sisters, who will be gifted with mind-magic, will be the most powerful witch born in centuries." Her daughters—Cate, Maura, and Tess—compose the trio, and Cate is the one who possesses mind-magic. But Mother is dead, Father is oblivious, and the Brotherhood is intent on stamping out all witches in New England in an effort to squelch female independence and initiative. How can Cate protect herself and her sisters from the Brotherhood's terrifying scrutiny? Spotswood has melded historical fiction with the paranormal into an intriguing story of witchcraft, family responsibility, and unrequited love. A constant undercurrent of uneasiness permeates the novel; readers will find themselves tantalized by Cate's two suitors and their marriage proposals, terrified by the Brotherhood's hatred and disgust of girls and women, and frustrated at the necessity to wait for the second book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles to learn what becomes of the sisters.

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A Year in Provence - Peter Mayle

A year in ProvenceA Year in Provence - Mayle, Peter

Summary: The author describes his experiences when he and his wife moved to a two-hundred-year-old French farmhouse, and shares his observations on the people and culture of Provence.




Publishers Weekly Reviews
The author describes his first 12 months in Provence, after he and his wife have abandoned England for an 18th-century farmhouse in the Luberon Mountains. Throwing themselves into the life of this rural region, they master the local customs, gain partial understanding of their neighbors' patois, overcome the frustrations of French bureaucracy, and learn to deal with workmen who operate on the idiosyncratic Provencal sense of time. In nimble prose, Mayle, columnist for GQ , captures the humorous aspects of visits to markets, vineyards and goat races, and hunting for mushrooms. Even donating blood is an occasion for fun. The Provencal cuisine is Mayle's leitmotif, however. He opens with an account of a memorable New Year's lunch, ends with an appreciation of an impromptu Christmas dinner, and describes just about every meal eaten during the months in between. His adventures, gastronomic and otherwise, are thoroughly entertaining.

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A Night in the Lonesome October - Roger Zelazny

A Night in the Lonesome October - Zelazny, Roger

Summary: Snuff, a guard dog who performs thaumaturgical calculations, accompanies his master, Jack, on collecting expeditions into the Whitechapel slums of nineteenth-century London




Kirkus Reviews
After years of unprepossessing folderol--the wearisome Nine Princes in Amber retreads are depressingly typical--Zelazny bursts forth with, well, ``Victorian light supernatural fantasy'' just about covers it. Narrator Snuff, a guard dog who performs complex thaumaturgical calculations in his head, has many duties: to keep various Things firmly trapped in mirrors, wardrobes, and steamer trunks; to accompany his master, Jack--he of the magical blade--on weird collecting expeditions into the graveyards and slums of Victorian London; and--for a single hour each night--discuss the day's goings-on in human speech. Snuff's neighbors include: Jill the witch and her familiar, Graymalk the cat, with whom Snuff forms a friendly alliance; Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Frankenstein, Dracula, a werewolf, and a satanic vicar. The witches, detectives, doctors, vampires, etc., along with their equally industrious familiars, trade information and scheme for advantage as the full moon of Halloween approaches; at that time, a magical showdown to decide the fate of the Earth will occur. Some of the characters are ``openers,'' determined to open a magical doorway allowing the Old Gods to reoccupy the Earth; others are ``closers,'' equally resolved to keep the magical door nailed shut; and a few are involved yet stand outside the Game altogether. Snuff's problem is to discover who is which. Sparkling, witty, delightful: Zelazny's best for ages, perhaps his best ever.

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First Rain - Inga Swearingen (CD)


First Rain - Swearingen, Inga (CD)




American Songwriter Review
Inga Swearingen’s melodies unfold like Virginia Woolf’s best sentences, patiently building to an expected climax before transcending it like a sweet exhalation of air. First Rain (Rhythome), her newest release, is an exquisitely crafted piece of work that delicately interweaves jazz and folk into a most uncommon singer/songwriter album. Although Joni Mitchell may be her most obvious touchstone, Swearingen possesses the musical chops and intuition to step out of Mitchell’s considerable shadow and into a place all her own. First Rain includes several stellar versions of standards (a Monk-ish take on “Blackbird” is particularly excellent), but Swearingen’s original compositions, in which she utilizes the complexities of jazz harmonics to bring out the emotional undercurrents of her still life observations, are the most inspiring of the collection.

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A Song for Issy Bradley - Carys Bray

A Song for Issy Bradley : a novelA Song for Issy Bradley - Bray, Carys

Summary: A devastating tragedy challenges the close family bond and faith of a convert to the Mormon religion, her ministry-driven bishop husband and their three children, who respectively balance, rebel against and embrace their father's beliefs. A first novel by the award-winning author of Sweet Home.



Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* The members of the Bradley family are close. They have to be, as committed members of the Mormon faith in a decidedly secular British neighborhood. When an unexpected tragedy suddenly hits the family, each of the Bradleys reacts in very different ways. Ian, the patriarch and respected church elder, sees the tragedy as an opportunity to grow his family's faith and looks to holy texts for guidance. Claire, the matriarch and a convert to the Mormon way of life through marriage, questions not only her place in the church but also her importance to the family. The three Bradley children, Alma, Zippy, and Jacob, ponder morality, purity, and loss in their own distinct ways. While the family slowly attempts to rebuild after the tragedy, the possibility that they may never fully recover simmers quietly just below the surface. Bray was raised in a strict Mormon household, and her unique perspective colors this emotionally driven, poignant novel. Bray fully inhabits each of her characters, displaying an admirable range of narrative talent rare in a first novel. Fans of The Lonely Polygamist (2010) and Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2012) will savor this thrilling glimpse behind the scenes of a family in crisis.

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Burning Down the House - Nell Bernstein

Burning down the house : the end of juvenile prisonBurning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison - Bernstein, Nell

Summary: Presents a look at the juvenile justice system, describing the violence and physical abuses that pervade detention centers and advocating the need for reform so that juveniles can receive the rehabilitation they need to change their lives.



Publishers Weekly Reviews
Award-winning journalist Bernstein (All Alone in the World) turns her attention to the U.S. juvenile justice system in which more than 66,000 youths are confined. Many young people in large detention centers live under "constant surveillance," fearful of beatings, rape, solitary confinement, or being denied showers, companionship, and adequate food. Such is the grim reality of a system that removes two elements central to adolescent development—connection and autonomy—and, as Bernstein documents, drives low-level delinquents deeper into criminality. With considerable empathy, Bernstein introduces adolescents in and out of detention centers, capturing their struggles to overcome traumatic histories. She covers the rise of the "super-predator myth" in the late 1980s/early 1990s that led to increased rates of juvenile incarceration and more stringent laws ("three strikes"), as well as the wave of reform that resulted in a 39% drop in incarceration in the past decade. She interviews reform-minded administrators like Tom Decker, director of Missouri's juvenile justice system, a model for other states because of its acclaimed network of small, non-institutional placements and low rates of recidivism. Visiting "therapeutic" prisons in Minnesota, California, and New York, she concludes that no matter how much effort goes into creating "a kinder, gentler prison," these institutions remain embedded in a larger culture that seems impervious to reform. Passionate, thoughtful, and well-researched, this is a resounding call to action.

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The Queen of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

The queen of the Tearling : a novelThe Queen of the Tearling - Johansen, Erika

Summary: Coming out of exile to ascend her rightful throne, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, with a cadre of soldiers and the magical Tearling sapphire to protect her, makes a daring decision that evokes the wrath of the evil Red Witch, forcing her to embark on a quest to save her kingdom and fulfill her destiny.



Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* Although the setting resembles medieval times, this story takes place far in the future. Following a mysterious cataclysmic event referred to as the Crossing, humans now exist without modern technology and have reverted back to feudalism. At the story's opening, Kelsea, the rightful Queen of the Tearling, turns 19 (the age of ascension) and is escorted by the Queen's Guard from her forest home to claim her throne. Raised, educated, and protected by an elderly couple since birth, Kelsea possesses much book intelligence but lacks practical political knowledge. Nevertheless, she is everything one desires in a leader—she is strong, decisive, just, and possesses an inner strength that allows her to face any challenge placed in front of her. However, her challenges seem insurmountable and include the need to abolish the slave lottery that plagues her people. In an impressive start to a series, Johansen expertly incorporates magic necklaces, political intrigue, questions of honor, well-drawn characters, and a bit of mystery into a compelling and empowering story. As much is (understandably) left unexplained, it will be interesting to see where future installments take this series.

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