Dec 1, 2010

The girl who fell from the sky: a novel - Heidi Durrow

The girl who fell from the sky: a novel - Durrow, Heidi

Summary: After a family tragedy orphans her, Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., moves into her grandmother's mostly black community in the 1980s, where she must swallow her grief and confront her identity as a biracial woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. A first novel. - (Baker & Taylor)

Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* When we are in pain or danger, we hold our breath and move with caution, which is how Durrow's measured and sorrowful debut novel unfolds. Rachel has yet to get the hang of the American hierarchy of skin color when she arrives in Portland, Oregon, to live with her father's mother and sister. Although considered black like her father, she is "light-skinned-ed" and has blue eyes, thanks to her Danish mother, whose shock and despair over the racism confronting her children after they moved from Europe to Chicago contributed to a mysterious tragedy only Rachel survived. Smart, disciplined, and self-possessed, Rachel endures her confounding new life, coming into her own as she comes of age. Meanwhile Jamie, the neglected son of a prostitute and the only witness to the Chicago catastrophe, has an even rougher time. Durrow fits a striking cast of characters and an almost overwhelming sequence of traumas into this compact and insightful family saga of the toxicity of racism and the forging of the self. As the child of an African American father and a Danish mother, Durrow brings piercing authenticity to this provocative tale, winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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Dancer: a novel - Colum McCann

Dancer: a novel - McCann, Colum

Summary: Presents a fictional account of the life of Rudolf Nureyev, following his first ballet lessons under Anna Vasileva, his relationship with the ambitious Yulia, and his experiences with Venezuelan hustler Victor. - (Baker & Taylor)

Library Journal Reviews
McCann's latest (after Everything in This Country Must) is hugely ambitious: a fictionalized account of the life of Rudolph Nureyev-the Cold War danseur noble lauded as the world's first "pop star dancer"-as told by those who knew him. Among the narrators are the irrepressible Yulia, the daughter of Nureyev's first ballet teacher; Margot Fonteyn, Rudik's brilliant dance partner; Victor, a gay hustler from the Lower East Side with a penchant for blow, bath houses, and back talk; and others. What emerges is a pastiche of both the man and the myth, the disparate voices combining to create a lyrical and variegated portrait. The narrative technique can, however, be disorienting and even frustrating, as the reader cares more about some narrators than others and is loath to depart from them. McCann also has a somewhat irksome tendency to over-explain moments he should allow to resonate on their own. Still, the work hangs together well and is finally an enormous achievement. Both the Soviet Union of the war-torn 1940s and the displacement and hopefulness of an exile's life are perfectly evoked, and Nureyev-impossible, erratic, and brilliant-is a golden flame that sets everything ablaze. Recommended for all contemporary fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/02.]-Tania Barnes, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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The bullfighter check her makeup: my encounters with extraordinary people - Susan Orlean

The bullfighter check her makeup: my encounters with extraordinary people - Orlean, Susan

Summary: In a collection of essays from The New Yorker, the acclaimed author of The Orchid Thief offers a series of intriguing profiles of some of the colorful people she has encountered, from the first female Spanish matador to the African king who drives a New York City cab to Silly Billy, a popular entertainer on the children's birthday-party circuit. 50,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

Booklist Reviews
Orlean is confident in her ability to "find something extraordinary in the ordinary," but she is also drawn to unusual people. Instinct, luck, and literary know-how shaped her first book, The Orchid Thief (1999), qualities that are evident here, too, in this exuberant collection of profiles, most of which were published in the New Yorker over the past decade. Orlean's curiosity, faith in improvisation, fundamental respect and fondness for humankind, and ready sense of humor inform each of these well-crafted pieces. She knows how to be present without being intrusive, how to share impressions rather than offer analysis, and how to let her subjects reveal themselves, skills that work especially well with young people. "The American Male, Aged Ten" is a thoroughly charming portrait of a New Jersey boy that perfectly captures Colin Duffy's particular blend of lucidity and goofiness, and Orlean's profile of Felipe Lopez of the South Bronx, the best high-school basketball player in the country in 1993, is similarly warm in tone and agile in structure. In the collection's most bizarre and haunting story, she chronicles the weird phenomena of the Shaggs, a cult-status New Hampshire girl rock group, which consisted of unmusical and browbeaten sisters, forced to perform by their creepy father. Orlean contrasts their gloomy story with a vivid account of a clique of kinetic, fearless, junk-food-devouring Maui surfer girls. She also spends time with a gospel group, a real-estate agent, a clown, a woman bullfighter, Bill Blass, and Kwabena Oppong, king of the African Ashanti and a New York cabbie, pulling up the blinds on one intriguing life after another to extend her readers' knowledge of our dazzlingly diverse world. Donna Seaman YA: Ordinary people become extraordinary; wonderful for creative writing classes. SZ. Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Simple times: Crafts for poor people - Amy Sedaris

Simple times: Crafts for poor people - Sedaris, Amy

Summary: Sedaris shows how to make popular crafts, such as crab-claw roach clips, tinfoil balls, and crepe-paper moccasins; how to remember which kind of glue to use with which material; how to create your own craft room and avoid the most common crafting accidents; and, how to cook your own edible crafts, from a Crafty Candle Salad to Sugar Skulls, and many more recipe

Booklist Reviews
"In her follow-up to the best-selling I Like You (2006), Sedaris once again invites us all to remember the "good old days" with her off-the-wall crafting and entertaining suggestions. "Did you know that inside your featureless well-worn husk is a creative you?" she asks. No doubt drawing on and making light of the current economic atmosphere, she notes, "Being poor is a wonderful motivation to be creative"; and most crafts are made with found or salvaged materials. More a vehicle for Sedaris' knack for farce and costume than a real how-to guide (unless the formula for a "wizard duck costume" marks the realization of your wildest dreams), it nevertheless contains a few useful facts, ideas, and recipes. The true joy of this book lies in its hilarious and amazingly well-styled photo spreads, many featuring Sedaris in one of her uncanny disguises, including a teenager, an elderly shut-in, and Jesus. She devotes equal time to instruction on making homemade sausage, gift-giving, crafting safety, and lovemaking (aka "fornicrafting"). Those looking to make conventional crafts, obviously, should look elsewhere. Everyone else should sit down, have a laugh, and make your very own bean-and-leaf James Brown mosaic. The author and her brother have a considerable following among hip readers of humor, and the appeal of this book will certainly transcend the world of crafters." Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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Cloud atlas: a novel - David Mitchell

Cloud atlas: a novel - Mitchell, David

Summary: Recounts the connected stories of people from the past and the distant future, from a nineteenth-century notary and an investigative journalist in the 1970s to a young man who searches for meaning in a post-apocalyptic world. - (Baker & Taylor)

Kirkus Reviews
Great Britain's answer to Thomas Pynchon outdoes himself with this maddeningly intricate, improbably entertaining successor to Ghostwritten (2000) and Number9Dream (2002).Mitchell's latest consists of six narratives set in the historical and recent pasts and imagined futures, all interconnected whenever a later narrator encounters and absorbs the story that preceded his own. In the first, it's 1850 and American lawyer-adventurer Adam Ewing is exploring endangered primitive Pacific cultures (specifically, the Chatham Islands' native Moriori besieged by numerically superior Maori). In the second, "The Pacific Diary of Adam Ewing" falls (in 1931) into the hands of bisexual musician Robert Frobisher, who describes in letters to his collegiate lover Rufus Sixsmith his work as amanuensis to retired and blind Belgian composer Vivian Ayrs. Next, in 1975, sixtysomething Rufus is a nuclear scientist who opposes a powerful corporation's cover-up of the existence of an unsafe nuclear reactor: a story investigated by crusading reporter Luisa Rey. The fourth story (set in the 1980s) is Luisa's, told in a pulp potboiler submitted to vanity publisher Timothy Cavendish, who soon finds himself effectively imprisoned in a sinister old age home. Mitchell then moves to an indefinite future Korea, in which cloned "fabricants" serve as slaves to privileged "purebloods"—and fabricant Sonmi-451 enlists in a rebellion against her masters. The sixth story, told in its entirety before the novel doubles back and completes the preceding five (in reverse order), occurs in a farther future time, when Sonmi is a deity worshipped by peaceful "Valleymen"—one of whom, goatherd Zachry Bailey, relates the epic tale of his people's war with their oppressors, the murderous Kona tribe. Each of the six stories invents a world, and virtually invents a language to describe it, none more stunningly than does Zachry's narrative ("Sloosha's Crossin' and Ev'rythin' After"). Thus, in one of the most imaginative and rewarding novels in recent memory, the author unforgettably explores issues of exploitation, tyranny, slavery, and genocide.Sheer storytelling brilliance. Mitchell really is his generation's Pynchon.Agency: Curtis Brown Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Pride & prejudice - Nancy Butler

Pride & prejudice - Butler, Nancy

Summary: A graphic novel adaptation of Jane Austen's beloved novel "Pride & Prejudice" in which Lizzy Bennet and her loveable, eccentric family navigate through tricky British social circles.

Staff Review:
If you enjoyed Austen's classic this will be a fun and light read.

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Believing it all: what my children taught me about trout fishing, jelly toast, and life - Marc Parent

Believing it all: what my children taught me about trout fishing, jelly toast, and life - Parent, Marc

Summary: Assuming that life's most difficult questions may in fact be answerable, the author offers an inspirational look at fatherhood, playfulness, and spirituality. - (Baker & Taylor)

Publishers Weekly Reviews
Having in Turning Stones chronicled his years as a social worker in New York City, when he witnessed the tragic abuse and neglect that so many children endure, Parent now shares a more positive, almost idyllic vision of family life in rural Pennsylvania. In vignettes from his tenure as the stay-at-home father of two small boys, he offers insights and ruminations on the lessons of parenthood that are "hidden beneath the roar of everyday living." Because it is still exceptional when men take on the role of primary caregiver for their preschool children while their wives go off to work, this author's thoughts may be taken much more seriously than similar musings by women. Parent is a fine writer, who deftly reveals the profound truths and important insights that spring from the intense intimacy of raising a child. A newborn who briefly stops breathing immediately after arriving home from the hospital, a three-year-old entranced by a dead squirrel in the road, a first somersault and an endless round of preschool interviews all bear Parent's close scrutiny. As his children grow, Parent expresses a range of responses from "some days I'd really just like to have a dinner where I don't have to jump up to help someone use the toilet" to appreciating the "overwhelming and absolute power" of having children who look up to you and believe all that you tell them. (May 24) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Kay Thompson: from Funny face to Eloise - Sam Irvin

Kay Thompson: from Funny face to Eloise - Irvin, Sam

Summary: Presents a tribute to the Hollywood entertainer-turned-author that covers such topics as her close friendship with Judy Garland, contributions as a celebrity trainer, and creation of the mischievous six-year-old Plaza mascot, Eloise. - (Baker & Taylor)

Staff Review:
Kay Thompson is an American legend who is almost forgotten these days except for her delightful Eloise books. This terrific biography reminds us of this very talented woman who had a multi-faceted career before becoming a beloved children's book author. Judy Garland's vocal coach and mentor, Frank Sinatra's vocal guru, Liza Minelli's godmother, star of radio, Broadway, and movies among many many other credits, this eccentric and wacky lady was really something!

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At home: a short history of private life - Bill Bryson

At home: a short history of private life - Bryson, Bill

Summary: Explores the ways in which homes reflect history, from a bathroom's revelations about medicine and hygiene to a kitchen's exposure of the stories of trade and nutrition.

Staff Review:
Endlessly fascinating, this book is so much more than why and how we live the way we do, it's a vast social history. A "wow" on every page. The extensive bibliography is interesting in itself!

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House of rain: tracking a vanished civilization across the American Southwest - Craig Childs

House of rain: tracking a vanished civilization across the American Southwest - Childs, Craig

Summary: Drawing on the latest scholarly research and archaeological evidence, the author examines the accomplishments of the Anasazi people of the American Southwest and speculates on why the culture vanished by the thirteenth century.

Booklist Reviews
Although less well known than the Mayans, the Anasazi, who flourished in the region now known as New Mexico, also vanished without a trace. Now, eight centuries after their thriving, 2,000-year-old civilization disappeared as though it had never existed, naturalist and adventurer Childs undertakes to find out where the Anasazi went and why. But discovering the fate of an entire race of people, 800 years after the fact, is not like tracking down a missing person. Childs' investigation relies heavily on scholarly literature, oral tradition, and lots of reading between the lines of history. There are no definitive answers here, but Childs ask plenty of tantalizing questions. The book is finally not so much about what happened to the Anasazi as it is about our own fascination with lost civilizations. ((Reviewed January 1 & 15, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

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Wild child: stories - T.C. Boyle

Wild child: stories - Boyle, T.C.

Summary: A collection of 14 short works by the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning and National Book Award-finalist author of World's End focuses on a theme of nature and includes in the title piece a retelling of the story of a feral boy who was captured in the forests of Napoleonic France. - (Baker & Taylor)

Booklist Reviews
Although the "wild child" of this book's title is the "Wild Boy of Aveyron," a feral French youth who perhaps embodies the book's epigraph ("In wildness is the preservation of the world"), Boyle's latest collection of stories is as much about the uses adults have for children as it is about the children themselves. In his opening salvo, "Balto," an alcoholic father asks his 12-year-old daughter to be his designated driver, with disastrous results. In "The Lie," a man's impulsive excuse for skipping work ("The baby's dead") goes little better. And in the lengthy and vividly imagined title story, Victor, the wild boy, doggedly resists his superiors' attempts to mold him into something useful and understandable to them—he is wild nature personified. That's a thematic oversimplification of these diverse and wonderful stories, of course, and the appeal of Boyle's short fiction remains remarkably broad. His intelligence and style satisfy lovers of capital-L Literature, while his hooky, propulsive vignettes satisfy readers who just want a damn good story. And there are some damn good stories here. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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Winkie - Clifford Chase

Winkie - Chase, Clifford

Summary: In this debut novel, a mild-mannered teddy bear named Winkie finds himself on the wrong side of America's war on terror.--From publisher description. - (Baker & Taylor

Booklist Reviews
/*Starred Review*/ With the recent controversy over domestic spying, the literary world is ripe for skewering America's unwieldy War on Terror--but good. In this wryly comic, paradoxically touching first novel, Chase delivers a cleverly original allegory on the absurdities of our terror-obsessed culture. After suffering years of neglect by children who have grown and moved on, a tattered teddy bear named Winkie miraculously discovers the power of movement and runs away to the forest to begin a new life. Unfortunately, this particular forest has been pigeonholed as the hideout for a notorious terrorist, and militant FBI agents quickly surround Winkie with drawn weapons and whirling helicopters. Unsure quite what to make of the diminutive quadruped--Is he a Middle-Eastern midget or a bizarre genetic experiment?--the authorities nevertheless trot out their standard interrogation techniques while charging the little bear with unparalleled barbarism. In the surrealistic courtroom circus that follows, Winkie faces a gauntlet of bizarre witnesses from the trials of Socrates, Galileo, and Oscar Wilde--an ordeal he endures by retreating into memories of the early years that nurtured his awakening. Inspired by a stuffed animal from his childhood (photographs of the bona fide Winkie are sprinkled throughout), Chase turns in a masterfully measured social critique featuring a protagonist as endearing as any from the classics of childhood literature. ((Reviewed May 15, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.

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Behemoth - Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth - Westerfeld, Scott
Series Title: Leviathan Series

Summary: Continues the story of Austrian Prince Alek who, in an alternate 1914 Europe, eludes the Germans by traveling in the Leviathan to Constantinople, where he faces a whole new kind of genetically-engineered warships.

Publishers Weekly Reviews
The action is nonstop in Westerfeld's thrilling sequel to last year's Leviathan--fans of that book won't be disappointed. It's 1914 in the author's alternate world, the great powers are moving toward full-scale war, and Deryn, still posing as a boy, has found a place as a midshipman aboard the gigantic, living British airship Leviathan as it sails east on its secret mission to Istanbul. When Austria-Hungary enters the conflict, her friend Alek, the runaway heir to that empire, realizes that he must escape from the airship to avoid imprisonment, giving Deryn "a chance not just to help Alek but to change the course of the whole barking war." Battles abound between eccentric fighting machines and even stranger fabricated "beasties" as Deryn and Alek prove their courage and ingenuity while putting themselves in harm's way. This exciting and inventive tale of military conflict and wildly reimagined history should captivate a wide range of readers. Thompson's evocative and detailed spot art (as well as the luridly gorgeous endpapers) only sweetens the deal. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)

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Pride and prejudice - Jane Austen

Pride and prejudice - Austen, Jane

Summary: Human foibles and early nineteenth-century manners are satirized in this romantic tale of English country family life - (Baker & Taylor)

Magill Book Review
When a novel focuses on the day-to-day life of a family with five young unmarried daughters, the subject is certain to be romance. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE'S depiction of Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia Bennet is something richer, though. As its title hints, the novel is a shrewd and subtle psychological study. Pride and prejudice are the double defects shared by the heroine and hero, spirited Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a rich, aristocratic young man she meets when his friend Bingley rents the estate next to the Bennets'. In the course of the story, Darcy becomes more flexible in his social views and learns to recognize excellence (notably Elizabeth's) in the ranks below his own. Similarly, Elizabeth becomes less rigid in her judgments, more aware of the many virtues of Darcy, whom she had at first dismissed as cold and haughty. Elizabeth and Darcy's growing love delights the reader because everything about the two--their minds, tastes, appearances, and words--shows them to be ideally suited. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE contains less brilliant variations on the marriage theme as well. Jane Bennet, the serene oldest sister, and easygoing Charles Bingley, a couple whose engagement is for some time thwarted by Darcy and the Bingley sisters, are equally well matched if less dashing. The Reverend William Collins, the pompous cousin who as next male relation will inherit the family estate on Mr. Bennet's death, hopes to marry Elizabeth, but on being rejected, settles for her plain and practical friend Charlotte Lucas, a woman aware of his foolishness but in need of the security his situation can provide. The fourth match made in the novel is between a charming but amoral officer, George Wickham, and pretty, empty-headed Lydia, the youngest Bennet sister. Wickham first attracts Elizabeth, then elopes with Lydia. Only when Darcy intervenes is he persuaded to marry the silly girl. Supplementing this cast of characters is a wonderfully imperfect gallery of human types. The selfish and cynical Mr. Bennet, his ill-bred wife, their priggish daughter Mary, and the domineering Lady Catherine de Bourgh are all people a reader would walk far to avoid in real life. But they are figures delightful to encounter in Austen's satirical novel.

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Losing my cool - Thomas Chatterton Williams

Losing my cool: how a father's love and 15,000 books beat hiphop culture - Williams, Thomas Chatterton

Summary: Describes how the author outwardly embraced self-effacing aspects of hip-hop culture that radically contrasted with his book-loving father's academic prep service and endless pursuit of knowledge, revealing how the father-son bond eventually overcame the genre's rebellious messages. - (Baker & Taylor)

Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* Growing up in Westfield, New Jersey, with a father who loved wisdom and ran an SAT prep business in a home crammed with books, Williams blithely ignored all that in favor of the hip-hop culture he heard and saw on BET. He spent his youth meticulously studying and imitating images of cool and thuggishness and listening to music that glorified misogyny, violence, and bling. The objective was to be "authentically black," despite his white mother and erudite father. He modeled the thug life with a hair-trigger temper that led to fights and a ghetto-fabulous girlfriend, living on the margins of drug dealing. At Georgetown, he continued the cool persona until he began to gradually face up to evidence that it would lead to failure and that a more interesting life might be available to him. Only then does he acknowledge the gift of his father's efforts to get him to appreciate the value of being able to truly and deeply think for himself. This is more than a coming-of-age story; it is an awakening, as Williams blends Dostoyevsky and Jay-Z in a compelling memoir and analysis of urban youth culture. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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The edible woman - Margaret Atwood

The edible woman - Atwood, Margaret

Summary: A humorous, ironic, disturbing, and parabolic novel features a woman who, after her engagement to be wed, first loses her appetite and then becomes obsessed with the idea that she herself is being eaten. Reissue. - (Baker & Taylor)

As delightful a novel as has come along in ages; the kind of book you hate to put down and usually don't. - Herald Magazine

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