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Feb 1, 2011

The thousand autumns of Jacob De Zoet: a novel - David Mitchell

The thousand autumns of Jacob De Zoet: a novel - Mitchell, David

Summary: 1799, Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor. Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk, has a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city's powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken--the consequences of which will extend beyond Jacob's worst imaginings.

Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* Two-time Booker finalist Mitchell applies his wide-ranging talents to this innovative historical epic. Dejima, an artificial island created as a trading outpost in Nagasaki Harbor, proves fertile ground for exploring intercultural relations, trust and betrayal, racial and gender boundaries, the search for identity, and unexpected love in a changing world. In 1799, when the Netherlands held a trade monopoly with isolationist Japan, Jacob de Zoet, a clerk for the Dutch East Indies Company, is charged with uncovering fraud in his predecessors' ledgers. As Jacob doggedly pursues an honest course, he becomes romantically intrigued by Orito Aibagawa, a gifted, disfigured midwife granted special permission to study on Dejima. Mitchell incorporates diverse styles, and he expertly adapts tone and dialogue to reflect his situations. In the main plotline, incisive commentary on decisions and unforeseen consequences filters through a jaunty, slang-filled tale in which Japanese and Dutchmen arrange public and private deals. Interlinked subplots offer creepy gothic drama, seafaring adventure, and race-against-time suspense. Despite the audacious scope, the focus remains intimate; each fascinating character—interpreter, herbalist, magistrate, slave—has the opportunity to share his or her story. Everything is patched together seamlessly and interwoven with clever wordplay and enlightening historical details on feudal Japan. First-rate literary fiction and a rousing good yarn, too. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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Under fishbone clouds - Sam Meekings

Under fishbone clouds - Meekings, Sam

Summary: Challenged by the Jade Emperor to gain understanding about the human heart, the Kitchen God observes the relationship between Jinyi and his wife, Yuying, from their early romance through old age, a love that is shaped by the Cultural Revolution and otherchallenges.



Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* Foolishly, the Chinese Kitchen God speaks ill of the head deity, the Jade Emperor. For this he is challenged to discover the true workings of the human heart, and he carries out this task by following the lives of Yuying and her husband, Jinyi. It is his voice that transports the reader into twentieth-century China, where Jinyi and Yuying attempt to hold their love together through years of war, famine, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Yuying's father, unwilling to allow other rich families access to his wealth, marries her to the poverty-stricken orphan Jinyi, who suffered through years of hard labor while traveling to the city in search of work. As their love slowly blossoms, Yuying and Jinyi are forced to flee as war sweeps through the city. Traveling to and living in the devastatingly impoverished countryside is a rude awakening for Yuying as is the Cultural Revolution, which does not look kindly on her due to her bourgeois upbringing. The tragedies and triumphs of their lives together are eloquently enunciated in the voice of the Kitchen God, who manages to tell his own story as well. As utterly engrossing as it is well penned, this is a wonderful debut about the lengths that love can take us. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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Sugar cookie murder: a Hannah Swensen mystery - Joanne Fluke

Sugar cookie murder: a Hannah Swensen mystery - Fluke, Joanne

Summary: The holidays are the icing on the cake for bakery owner Hannah Swensen. Surrounded by her loved ones, she has all the ingredients for a perfect Christmas--until murder is added to the mix




Publishers Weekly Reviews
In her first holiday mystery, Fluke (Fudge Cupcake Murder, etc.) takes her series heroine, Hannah Swensen, amateur sleuth and owner of the Cookie Jar bakery in Lake Eden, Minn., through a delectable culinary romp. Hannah has compiled a cookbook of the locals' favorite recipes, which are to be featured at the Christmas party at Lake Eden's community center. All the residents gather for a festive evening, including Martin Dubinski and his wife of two days, Brandi Wyen, a Las Vegas dancer who's decked out in a new fur coat and antique emerald ring. The couple provide much food for thought and speculation, especially for Martin's mother, ex-mother-in-law and ex-wife. Cleaning up after the dinner, Hannah notices her mother's silver cake knife is missing; soon after, she finds the knife stuck in the chest of the new Mrs. Dubinski, who's lying dead in the parking lot. With her sisters and friends, she goes into action to help Det. Mike Kingston solve the case. Wacky and delightful characters, plus tempting recipes from appetizers to desserts, make this lighthearted offering sure to please the palate of any cozy fan. (Oct. 5)FYI: The book's last half consists of recipes, including an index. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.


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The ultimate hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy - Douglas Adams

The ultimate hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy - Adams, Douglas

Summary: This outrageous volume contains six zany, out-of-this-world adventure stories by this incomparable novelist. From the very first to the very latest—all best sellers—includes The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long and Thanks for all the Fish; Young Zaphod Plays it Safe; and Mostly Harmless. 768 pages. - (Random House, Inc.)

Review
LIVELY, SHARPLY SATIRICAL, BRILLIANTLY WRITTEN . . . RANKS WITH THE BEST SET PIECES IN MARK TWAIN.--The Atlantic Review

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Rain of gold - Victor Villasenor

Rain of gold - Villasenor, Victor

Summary: Traces the lives of three generations of the author's family, and recounts the circumstances that led them to emigrate from Mexico to the United States - (Baker & Taylor)



Kirkus Reviews
A writer of Mexican-American heritage (Jury, 1977) tells the engrossing saga of his family's immigration to, and subsequent life in, California in the wake of the Mexican revolution. A sort of Hispanic Roots, the book focuses on three generations as they struggle with poverty and prejudice, love and life. When Villasenor was first contracted to write Rain of Gold, it was to be a ``major'' work of fiction. As he began interviewing his relatives for background material, however, he realized that there was a much more important story to tell: the nonfiction account of his family's history. Unable to convince his publisher to go along with his new plans, Villasenor gave back his $75,000 advance, took a $1,500 advance from a lesser-known house, and set about writing ``a history of a people--a tribal heritage, if you will--of my Indian-European culture as handed down to me....'' It was a brave and rewarding decision. From beginning to end, the chronicle is filled with one remarkable story after another. All have the simple warmhearted quality of family tales told around the kitchen table, yet all are eminently believable. Many episodes have to do with overcoming hardships: A daughter is brutally raped and goes blind; a proud mother is forced to become a beggar to support her children; a son admits to a murder he didn't commit in order to collect money for his family. Others deal with love and God and the ``meaning of life.'' The book is heavy-handed and sketchy at times, and bogs down in the second half, but, overall, it's a page-turner. Perhaps not the definitive Hispanic family epic, but an inspiring, fast-paced tale with a simple, fable-like quality that's often surprisingly moving. Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Mudbound: a novel - Hillary Jordan

Mudbound: a novel - Jordan, Hillary

Summary: In 1946, Laura McAllan tries to adjust after moving with her husband and two children to an isolated cotton farm in the Mississipi Delta. - (Baker & Taylor)




Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* "When I think of the farm, I think of mud," says Laura, the main character in this sophisticated, complex first novel. Jordan sets her narrative in the rural Mississippi Delta in the immediate post–World War II period. Thematically, the novel charts the evolution of a wifely role—the evolution of Laura's new life—when she marries at a relatively late age and moves from her comfortable existence in Memphis (her father was a professor and she an English teacher in a private school) to a rough Delta farm when her new husband decides to forgo his engineering profession to live out his dream of cultivating the soil. The narrative is told in alternating first-person accounts (each voice rendered distinctive and authentic to the character), as Laura, her plain and steady husband, her dashing brother-in-law, and other individuals now significant in Laura's new life (one of whom is the returned GI-son of their black tenant farmer) tell their sides of the devolving events in Laura and her husband's move to this remote and rigid environment. In addition to the material deprivation Laura must endure, racism in the area is full-blown and horrible, most apparent in the face of her father-in-law, who has come to live with Laura and her husband. When her brother-in-law returns from his postwar wanderings about Europe, at first he brings a bright, new light to shine on Laura. She falls in love with him, but, ultimately, the light illuminates only ugliness. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

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The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks - Skloot, Rebecca

Summary: Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells--taken without her knowledge--became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. The story of the Lacks family is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of--From publisher description.


Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* The "first immortal human cells," code-named HeLa, have flourished by the trillions in labs all around the world for more than five decades, making possible the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, and many more crucial discoveries. But where did the HeLa cells come from? Science journalist Skloot spent 10 years arduously researching the complex, tragic, and profoundly revealing story of Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African American mother of five who came to Johns Hopkins with cervical cancer in 1951, and from whom tumor samples were taken without her knowledge or that of her family. Henrietta died a cruel death and was all but forgotten, while her miraculous cells live on, "growing with mythological intensity." Skloot travels to tiny Clover, Virginia; learns that Henrietta's family tree embraces black and white branches; becomes close to Henrietta's daughter, Deborah; and discovers that although the HeLa cells have improved countless lives, they have also engendered a legacy of pain, a litany of injustices, and a constellation of mysteries. Writing with a novelist's artistry, a biologist's expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.


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Life - Keith Richards

Life - Richards, Keith

Summary: The lead guitarist for The Rolling Stones recounts his life, from a youth obsessed with Chuck Berry to the formation of the Stones and their subsequent stardom, and discusses his problems with drugs, the death of Brian Jones, and his relationship with Mick Jagger.



Staff Review
A great storyteller, Mr. Richards proves to be way more intelligent than I would have thought (he sent me to the dictionary more than once), funnier that I thought, and more insightful than I would have thought. This book was a pleasant surprise from beginning to end.

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Turtle in paradise - Jennifer Holm

Turtle in paradise - Holm, Jennifer

Summary: In 1935, when her mother gets a job housekeeping for a woman who does not like children, eleven-year-old Turtle is sent to stay with relatives she has never met in far away Key West, Florida.




Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* Eleven-year-old Turtle is not one to suffer fools gladly. And she runs into a lot of fools, especially the no-goods her starry-eyed mother meets. So it's a tough little Turtle who arrives in Key West in June of 1935. She's been sent to Florida to stay with relatives because her mother's latest housekeeping job doesn't allow children. Unfortunately, Mama has neglected to tell Aunt Minnie she's coming, and Turtle gets the stink eye from cousins with monikers like Buddy and Beans. As Turtle soon learns, everything is different in Key West, from the fruit hanging on trees to the scorpions in nightgowns to the ways kids earn money. She can't be part of her cousins' Diaper Gang (no girls allowed), which takes care of fussy babies, but when she finds a treasure map, she hopes she'll be on Easy Street like Little Orphan Annie. Holm uses family stories as the basis for this tale, part romp, part steely-eyed look at the Depression era. Reminiscent of Addie in the movie Paper Moon, Turtle is just the right mixture of knowingness and hope; the plot is a hilarious blend of family dramas seasoned with a dollop of adventure. The many references to 1930s entertainments (Terry and the Pirates, Shirley Temple) will mostly go over kids' heads, but they'll get how much comics and movies meant to a population desperate for smiles. An author's note (with photos) shows Holm's family close-up. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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Wall and piece - Banksy

Wall and piece - Banksy

Summary: The collected works of Britain’s most wanted artist.
Artistic genius, political activist, painter and decorator, mythic legend or notorious graffiti artist? The work of Banksy is unmistakable, except maybe when it’s squatting in the Tate or New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Banksy is responsible for decorating the streets, walls, bridges and zoos of towns and cities throughout the world.
Witty and subversive, his stencils show monkeys with weapons of mass destruction, policeman with smiley faces, rats with drills and umbrellas. His statements, incitements, ironies and epigrams are by turns intelligent and cheeky comments on everything from the monarchy and capitalism to the war in Iraq and farm animals. - (Random House, Inc.)

Staff Review
One question-- How does he do it!?!
Watch 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' if you'd like to find out.

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Twelve steps to a compassionate life - Karen Armstrong

Twelve steps to a compassionate life - Armstrong, Karen

Summary: Taking as her starting point the teachings of the great world religions, Karen Armstrong demonstrates in twelve practical steps how we can bring compassion to the forefront of our lives. Armstrong argues that compassion is inseparable from humanity, and by transcending the limitations of selfishness on a daily basis we will not only make a difference in the world but also lead happier, more fulfilled, lives.


Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* It takes courage for a religious historian and writer of Armstrong's stature to step out from behind the scrim of scholarship and analysis to offer guidelines for a spiritual practice designed to make humanity a kinder and saner species. With the boon of the prestigious TED Prize, Armstrong (The Case for God, 2009) worked with "leading thinkers from a variety of major faiths" to compose a Charter for Compassion, which calls for the restoration of "compassion to the heart of religious and moral life" in a "dangerously polarized" world. Not content with merely stating lofty goals, however, Armstrong, a revered genius of elucidation and synthesis, now tells the full and profound story of altruism throughout human history. She turns to neuroscience and tracks the evolution of our brains and our natural capacity for empathy, and performs her signature mode of beautifully clarifying interpretation in a mind-expanding discussion of the history of the Golden Rule ("Always treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself"), the essence of compassion and the kernel of every religious tradition. Exquisite and affecting explications of Buddhist, Confucian, Judaic, Christian, and Islamic commentary prepare the ground for meditation exercises meant to engender "open-mindedness" and the cultivation of compassion, making for the most sagacious and far-reaching 12-step program ever. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A hefty print run is planned for renowned religious thinker Armstrong's bold approach to teaching the compassionate ethos. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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Must you go? My life with Harold Pinter - Antonia Fraser

Must you go? My life with Harold Pinter - Fraser, Antonia

Summary: A moving testament to one of the literary world's most celebrated marriages: that of the greatest playwright of our age, Harold Pinter, and the beautiful prize-winning biographer Antonia Fraser. In this memoir, Fraser recounts the life she shared with the renowned dramatist. In essence, it is a love story and an insightful account of their years together, beginning with their initial meeting when Fraser was the wife of a member of Parliament and mother of six, and Pinter was married to a distinguished actress. Over 33 years together, they experienced much joy, a shared devotion to their work, crises and laughter, and, in the end, great courage and love as Pinter battled the illness to which he eventually succumbed on Christmas Eve 2008. Fraser's diaries--written by a biographer living with a creative artist and observing the process firsthand--also provide a unique insight into his writing.--From publisher description.

Library Journal Reviews
Fraser (The Wives of Henry VIII) is known as a historian and biographer of note and as the author of the Jemima Shore mysteries. Her husband, Harold Pinter, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature, was widely recognized for his plays (e.g., Betrayal) and his screenplay adaptations (e.g., Sleuth). In this very personal book, Fraser offers insights into her own life and work, the life and work of Pinter, who died in 2008, and the literary/theatrical milieu in which they lived. This is also a lovely, intimate portrayal of a marriage filled with joy and illness (plus a touch of scandal, since Fraser and Pinter fell in love while married to others, although she clarifies that those marriages were already troubled). Based on the diaries Fraser kept, the book, which she wrote in the 26 days following his death, is a tribute to Pinter and a celebration of their life together covering over 30 years. VERDICT This is a wonderful testament to romance, love, shared humor, and true partnership. Pinter wrote extraordinary love poems to Fraser, a number of which she includes. Recommended for readers of literary biography, students and lovers of theater and film, and readers of 20th-century British history generally.—Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas, Galveston


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Moon palace - Paul Auster

Moon palace - Auster, Paul

Summary: The story of Marco Stanley Fogg's search for love, his unknown father, and the key to the elusive riddle of his beginnings and his future spans three generations, moving from Manhattan to the untamed West - (Baker & Taylor)



Publishers Weekly Reviews
The moon as a poetic and planetary influence over earthly affairs runs as a theme, wittily ransacked, throughout this elegant fiction by award-winning novelist and poet Auster ( The New York Trilogy ; The Invention of Solitude ). Marco Fogg is a loner and a dreamer, whose ``mind is on the moon,'' and who in a state of elation unfolds moonlore to his friends. The year of the moon landing finds Fogg living in spartan reclusivity until forced from his New York apartment to roam as a Central Park vagrant. His rescue by Kitty Wu, a gentle Chinese girl, leads to their poignant and tenuous love. Like some of Auster's earlier protagonists, Fogg senses he has a kindred, submerged or vanished other self. Here, it is Fogg's father, who went into eclipse before his birth; the quest for the parent forms a narrative thread. When Fogg serves as reader/companion to the elderly cripple Barber, aka ``Effing,'' who recounts his adventures in a Western wilderness where he buried a cache of paintings, Fogg's fate takes an unexpected turn. Auster's highly literate tale teases the boundaries between fiction and actuality while exploring the process of writing itself. (Mar.) Copyright 1988 Cahners Business Information.


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The cookbook collector - Allegra Goodman

The cookbook collector - Goodman, Allegra

Summary: "...a novel about getting and spending, and about the substitutions we make when we can't find what we're looking for..."--Inside cover.




Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* Emily is the classy and astute CEO of a San Francisco digital start-up about to go public in late 1999. Her lover, Jonathan, is launching his own tech company in Cambridge, and questions of trust and ambition are complicating marriage plans. Jessamine, Emily's younger sister, is studying philosophy at Berkeley, volunteering with gutsy eco-activists determined to protect California's redwoods, and working in a rare and used bookstore owned by control freak George, an early Microsoft millionaire. Goodman captures the fizz and folly of the dot.com boom and bust with wit and perspicuity, and brilliantly contrasts the cerebral seductiveness of the cyber realm with such sensuous obsessions as George's gourmet cooking and Jess' consuming fascination with the collection of invaluable old cookbooks George acquires under peculiar circumstances. The cookbooks harbor clues to a romantic mystery Jess stubbornly investigates, while encounters with two ebullient Hasidic rabbis induce increasingly disenchanted Emily to search for the truth about her and Jess' late mother. From mysticism to algorithms, IPOs, and endangered trees and souls, Goodman spins a glimmering tale, spiked with hilarious banter, of ardent individualists, imperiled love, and incandescent interpretations of the mutability and timelessness of the human condition. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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Tattoo machine: tall tales, true stories, and my life in ink - Jeff Johnson

Tattoo machine: tall tales, true stories, and my life in ink - Johnson, Jeff

Summary: A behind-the-scenes tour of the fabled tattoo industry on the arm of a swashbuckling insider and natural-born storyteller.




Booklist Reviews
Fans of the TV show Miami Ink should gravitate toward this memoir written by a veteran tattoo artist. It's a fascinating book, especially for a reader unfamiliar with the whole tattoo scene, somebody who imagines a tattoo shop to be the clich├ęd (and, these days, largely nonexistent) dark, smoky, unsanitary little hole in the wall. Tattooing, author Johnson explains, is an art form, and its practitioners are dedicated experts. Yes, some of the old-school butchers and scam artists still exist, and we learn all about them, but mostly Johnson is interested in explaining how a formerly disreputable profession has achieved not just reputability but also respect and pop-culture status. Still, he reminds us, tattoo artists are people who turn living human bodies into works of art; it follows that there are bound to be some seriously offbeat characters in the mix. Not to mention, of course, the customers, who run a wide gamut from straitlaced to way strange. This book is an engaging look not just at the tattoo artist's profession but also at the artists themselves. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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Waiter rant - Steve Dublanica

Waiter rant: thanks for the tip -- confessions of a cynical waiter - Dublanica, Steve

Summary: Taken from the popular blog, WaiterRant.net, tells the story from the server's point of view about customer stupidity, arrogance, misbehavior and even human grace.




Kirkus Reviews
A popular blogger offers behind-the-scenes tales about working the front of the house.After defecting from seminary and losing his subsequent job, the author took a temporary position as a server in an upscale New York restaurant. Six or seven years later, much to his own surprise, he was still waiting tables and anonymously recording his experiences at WaiterRant.net. In the casual, confessional tone of a seasoned blogger, The Waiter tells of corruption, intrigue, drug abuse, heated romance and of course tips, weaving it all into a humorously detailed memoir. Restaurant work can be emotionally toxic and brutalizing, he reveals. Living outside the nine-to-five world's boundaries warped and changed him and his fellow servers. Holidays became a source of stress, not joy, and accepting a friend's Friday night dinner invitation amounted to sacrificing hundreds of dollars in unearned pay. Worst of all were the bad customers, many of whom exhibited an astonishing level of self-absorption and entitlement. Required to endure abuse with a smile, many waiters unsurprisingly blew their night's tips on drinks after hours. Still, the life of a server wasn't all groveling and bingeing; some learned, as The Waiter did, to wield subtle, psychological control over even the most recalcitrant customers. He's good on psychological analysis too: His taxonomy of tippers comes complete with shrewd assessments of their various motivations, such as the mistaken assumption of "the verbal tipper" that heaping on praise will make up for a shoddy tip. The author began to relish the intimate glimpses he got into diners' personal lives, and underneath his hard-earned cynicism he seems justifiably proud of his progress in a difficult job.A heartfelt, irreverent look at the underbelly of fine dining. Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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