Apr 1, 2011

Moby-duck - Donovan Hohn

Moby-duck: the true story of 28,800 bath toys lost at sea, and of the beachcombers, oceanographers, environmentalists, and fools--including the author--who went in search of them - Hohn, Donovan

Summary: When the author heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, and read up on Arctic science and geography. But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away. His accidental odyssey pulls him into the secretive world of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories. This work is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy, and some of the worst weather imaginable. With each new discovery, he learns of another loose thread, and with each successive chase, he comes closer to understanding where his castaway quarry comes from and where it goes.

Booklist Reviews
*Starred Review* Like Bill Bryson on hard science, or John McPhee with attitude, journalist Hohn travels from beaches to factories to the northern seas in pursuit of a treasure that mystifies as much as it provokes. His quest is to determine what happened to a load of 28,800 Chinese manufactured plastic animals in a container that fell off a ship en route to Seattle in 1992. Hohn's inquiry leads him to 10 Little Rubber Ducks (2005), children's author Eric Carle's idealized board-book version, and also to the plastic-strewn beaches of an Alaskan island, a Hong Kong toy fair, and the Sesame Street origins of the rubber duck's popularity. By turns thoughtful, bemused, or shocked, Hohn finds the story growing beyond his wildest visions as he learns about the science of ocean currents and drift and the lure of cheap plastic in a consumer culture that has dangerously lost its way. The resulting book is a thoroughly engaging environmental/travel title that crosses partisan divides with its solid research and apolitical nature. Rubber ducks as harmless, ubiquitous symbols of childhood? Not anymore, not by a long shot. This dazzles from start to finish. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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Cinderella ate my daughter - Peggy Orenstein

Cinderella ate my daughter: dispatches from the front lines of the new girlie-girl culture - Orenstein, Peggy

Summary: Reveals the dark side of pink and pretty and offers ways to prevent raising daughters who only care about image.

Booklist Reviews
Orenstein's Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap (1994) was a watershed best-seller, and she has continued to write extensively—both in print and online—about the hazards of growing up female in contemporary America. Here she explores the increasing "pinkification" of girls' worlds, from toys to apparel to tween-targeted websites, and she writes not only as a detached, informed journalist but also as a loving, feminist mother, bewildered as her daughter, "as if by osmosis," learns the names of every Disney princess, while her classmate, "the one with Two Mommies," arrives daily at her Berkeley preschool "dressed in a Cinderella gown. With a bridal veil." Orenstein skillfully integrates extensive research that demonstrates the pitfalls of "the girlie-girl culture's emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness," which can increase girls' vulnerability to depression, distorted body images and eating disorders, and sexual risks. It's the personal anecdotes, though, which are delivered with wry, self-deprecating, highly quotable humor, that offer the greatest invitation to parents to consider their daughters' worlds and how they can help to shape a healthier, soul-nurturing environment. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Cake wrecks - Jen Yates

Cake wrecks: when professional cakes go hilariously wrong - Yates, Jen

Summary: What is it about messed-up cakes that people find so appealing? Maybe it's because we all have a cake story to tell. Good or bad, these cakes tell little stories about us. Presents pictures of and commentary on cakes with mistakes, organized into such categories as literary lols, beyond bizarre, and wedding wrecks.

BookPage Reviews

Half-baked slices of life

According to Jen Yates, author of the hilarious new collection Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong, “A Cake Wreck is any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate.” For Yates, the pursuit of the hilariously mis-decorated cake is “about finding the funny in unexpected, sugar-filled places.”

When she began blogging at in May 2008, Yates’ intentions were modest. She wanted a place to collect photos for baking inspiration, as well as a way to share the occasional laugh with family and friends. She never imagined so many readers would respond to her signature wit, or that in less than a year, tens of thousands of people from around the world would be regularly visiting her site for sugary highs (and lows).

Many of the photographs in Cake Wrecks are taken “on the front lines” in bakeries and submitted by readers. But this book isn’t “just the blog put to paper,” Yates assures us, for there is “lots (and lots) of new, never-before-seen Wreckage” to be had—75 percent of the book, to be exact.

Even better, Yates provides the history behind many of the cakes on display. There’s the story of the one that started it all—it read “Best Wishes Suzanne/Under Neat that/We will miss you”—and this reader’s personal favorite, the sprinkled and space-age wonder that is Darth Vader cradling a sleeping and pink-ribboned baby girl.

It’s all here, each wreck a disaster of hilarity. In Cake Wrecks, Yates proves there’s plenty of the weird, wonderful and truly great to go around.

Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.

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El regalo del tiempo/The gift of time - Jorge Ramos

El regalo del tiempo/The gift of time - Ramos, Jorge

Summary: In a series of letters to his two children, Paola and Nicolás, author and television personality Jorge Ramos discusses love, death, religion, sex, family, the immigrant experience, success, and other topics.

Criticas Reviews
Ramos, coanchor of Univision News since 1986, is one the most influential, respected, and popular Latinos in the United States and Latin America. He has won seven Emmys for excellence in journalism and received countless other honors. His face and name are ubiquitous in the Latino world—his nightly news casts reach millions of Latinos, his weekly column is carried in more than 35 U.S. and Latin American newspapers, his daily commentary is heard by millions on Univision Radio, and his seven books have all been best sellers. Written as a series of 15 letters to his children, this is his most personally revealing book and will undoubtedly endear him even more to his many fans and readers. While readers will enjoy the personal details he shares, such as his fear of flying and the surgical history of his imperfect nose and inability to smell, it is the expression of his values and beliefs that will resonate with readers. In his letters, he shares important principles and perspectives that many Latinos would surely want to pass on to their children, such as spending time with family and building loving relationships, finding and dedicating yourself wholeheartedly to your passion, and appreciating different perspectives and values while honoring your own. Ramos has written an intimate and timeless book that will appeal to parents and children of all ages. Highly recommended for all public libraries, academic libraries, and bookstores.—Yolanda J. Cuesta, Cuesta MultiCultural Consulting, Sacramento, CA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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The chocolate war - Robert Cormier

The chocolate war - Cormier, Robert

Summary: A high school freshman discovers the devastating consequences of refusing to join in the school's annual fund raising drive and arousing the wrath of the school bullies.

Staff Review
Don't let the sweet title fool you.
What begins as a harmless Vigil prank of Jerry refusing to sell chocolates turns into a revolution of determination and a war of wills. Jerry's rebellion is poignant; he does not defy Brother Leon with self confidence and internal strength, rather he is filled with fear and uncertainty, yet has resolved to make a stand, no longer to conform, to 'disturb the universe' and make his own decisions. Several of the characters are at the age where they are beginning to test authority, and have realized that adults are not trustworthy reliable rocks of wisdom that they were once led to believe. Cormier captures the teen spirit, and the power of conformity, with amazing accuracy. Brilliantly written.
Warning! The film based on the book totally misses the mark. 
"My Books are an Antidote to the TV View of Life"Robert Cormier

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The sociopath next door - Martha Stout

The sociopath next door: the ruthless versus the rest of us - Stout, Martha

Summary: "[The author] reveals [in this book] that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people--one in twenty-five--has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. ... They can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt. ... Fundamentally, sociopaths are different because they cannot love. Sociopaths learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath they are indifferent to others' suffering. They live to dominate and thrill to win. ... To arm us against the sociopath, [the author] teaches us to question authority, suspect flattery, and beware the pity play. Above all, she writes, when a sociopath is beckoning, do not join the game."--BooksInPrint.

Kirkus Reviews
From the author of The Myth of Sanity (2001), a remarkable philosophical examination of the phenomenon of sociopathy and its everyday manifestations.Readers eager for a tabloid-ready survey of serial killers, however, will be disappointed. Instead, Stout (Psychiatry/Harvard Medical School) busies herself with exploring the workaday lives and motivations of those garden-variety sociopaths who are content with inflicting petty tyrannies and small miseries. As a practicing therapist, she writes, she has spent the past 25 years aiding the survivors of psychological trauma, most of them "controlled and psychologically shattered by individual human perpetrators, often sociopaths." Antisocial personality disorder, it turns out, occurs in around four percent of the population, so it's not too surprising that treating their victims has kept Stout quite busy for the past quarter-century. Employing vivid composite character sketches, the author introduces us to such unsavory characters as a psychiatric administrator who specializes in ingratiating herself with her office staff while making her patients feel crazier; a captain of industry who killed frogs as a child and is now convinced he can outsmart the SEC; and a lazy ladies' man who marries purely to gain access to his new wife's house and pool. These portraits make a striking impact, and readers with unpleasant neighbors or colleagues may find themselves paying close attention to Stout's sociopathic-behavior checklist and suggested coping strategies. In addition to introducing these everyday psychopaths, the author examines why the rest of us let them get away with murder. She extensively considers the presence or absence of conscience, as well as our discomfort with questioning those seen as being in power. Stout also ponders our willingness to quash our inner voice when voting for leaders who espouse violence and war as a solution to global problems-pointed stuff in a post-9/11 political climate.  Deeply thought-provoking and unexpectedly lyrical.Agent: Susan Lee Cohen Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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The wind-up bird chronicle - Haruki Murakami

The wind-up bird chronicle - Murakami, Haruki

Summary: The collapse of a marriage is superimposed on an investigation of recovered war memories and a man's search for his own identity - (Baker & Taylor)

Booklist Reviews
/*Starred Review*/ "Really, Mr. Wind-Up Bird, it's been a lot of fun being with you. No kidding. I mean, you're such a supernormal guy, but you do such unnormal things. . . . So hanging around you hasn't been boring in any way. . . . But tell you the truth, it's made me nervous too." The speaker is May Kasahara, a Japanese teenager who bears a strong resemblance to Holden Caulfield. She's speaking to Toru Okada, who lives down the street from May in Tokyo and to whom a series of very strange things has been happening. Her words could also stand as a response to this absolutely mesmerizing, befuddling, unaccountably brilliant novel. Murakami is one of Japan's most popular writers, but while his previously translated books have been well received critically in the U.S., they have yet to garner overwhelming popular acclaim. This one will receive plenty of attention, but it's hard to imagine it sharing best-seller slots with the likes of John Grisham. It's just too much book for that.Just what kind of book is it? That's the befuddling part. Plot summary is nearly useless: Toru Okada loses his cat and then his wife. He devotes himself to finding the latter but spends much of his time in the bottom of a well, hoping to pass through the wall and into an alternate world where the secrets lie. Meanwhile, he encounters a series of ever more puzzling characters, including a World War II veteran who recounts the horrifying story of the battle of Nomonhan, during which thousands of Japanese died meaninglessly in conflict with Russians and Mongolians. This overwhelming tidal wave of story washes over Toru Okada, who absorbs each new revelation implacably, hoping but usually failing to make sense of it. Murakami is utterly at ease with multiple subjects, genres, and styles--surrealism, deadpan comedy, military history, detective fiction, love story. His canvas is as broad as twentieth-century Japan, his brush strokes imbued with the lines and colors of American pop culture. Oddly, it all holds together on the stoic shoulders of Toru Okada and his single-minded determination to reclaim the woman he loves no matter how absurd the world around her becomes. In the scary but never boring vastness of this novel, it's nice to find one buoy on the horizon we recognize. ((Reviewed Aug. 1997)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Electric barracuda - Tim Dorsey

Electric barracuda - Dorsey, Tim

Summary: "Serge Storms, that lovable thermonuclear vigilante and one stop Florida trivia shop, has been leaving corpses strewn across the Sunshine State for more than a decade. The authorities, especially one tenacious state agent, have begun to notice the exponential body count, and send a police task force to track down Serge. Could his luck finally have run out?"--From publisher.

Booklist Reviews
In Dorsey's thirteenth Serge Storms novel, the manic spree-killer and Florida native son is off his meds again and building a website that encourages tourists to undertake "fugitive" vacations. Serge envisions midwestern families pretending to be "on the lam" and visiting remote, un-Disneyfied locales long favored by Florida outlaws. In pursuit is a police task force. The cops have finally tumbled to Serge as prime suspect in Florida's most grotesque murders. And the cops are followed by a number of mysterious civilians as well as the Doberman, a reality-TV bounty hunter with plummeting ratings. Once again, it's a Smokey and the Bandit chase story, fueled by dangerous drugs; imaginative dispatchings of arrogant Wall Street plutocrats; beautiful, dangerous women; and Agent Mahoney, whose decade-long pursuit of Serge has reduced him to speaking in the hilarious, fractured argot of a pulp fiction shamus. It's Dorsey's standard mash-up, bizarre and often very funny. His wonderful tour of Florida's boltholes might make them prime-tourist destinations, but fortunately, they are very difficult to reach. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Europe's last summer - David Fromkin

Europe's last summer: who started the Great War in 1914? - Fromkin, David

Summary: Draws on current scholarship to argue that hostilities that led to World War I were started intentionally, describing the negotiations and personalities of key leaders that contributed to the failure of diplomatic efforts.

Booklist Reviews
/*Starred Review*/ Fromkin's answer to the question posed in his subtitle is succinct: Helmuth von Moltke, imperial Germany's army chief in 1914. In his clearly delineated argument, Fromkin addresses alternative theories about the cause of World War I, but he returns to the decision chain of a small number of officials in Berlin and Vienna. Their destruction of key evidence hampers the precise reconstruction of their actions as does, Fromkin maintains, historians' confusion about what the Germans were licensing in agreeing to whatever chastisement Vienna decided to deliver upon Serbia, on the pretext of avenging the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. In contrast to theorists of rigid alliances, to whom the notorious "blank check" initiated events almost beyond human control, Fromkin arraigns the actions of Moltke and his colleagues, especially in late July 1914, when the procrastinating Austrians had yet to crush Serbia in war, as Moltke expected. Hijacking the bollixed-up situation, he overrode Kaiser Wilhelm II's resistance, Fromkin concludes, to a deliberate instigation of a second war against Russia and France. The boldness of Fromkin's argument is enough to warrant attention, but his fluidity of expression guarantees a large audience for this book. ((Reviewed February 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.

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Little women - Louisa May Alcott

Little women - Louisa May Alcott

Summary: Chronicles the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young women in mid-nineteenth-century New England.

Little Women is one of the best loved books of all time. Lovely Meg, talented Jo, frail Beth, spoiled Amy: these are hard lessons of poverty and of growing up in New England during the Civil War. Through their dreams, plays, pranks, letters, illnesses, and courtships, women of all ages have become a part of this remarkable family and have felt the deep sadness when Meg leaves the circle of sisters to be married at the end of Part I. Part II, chronicles Meg's joys and mishaps as a young wife and mother, Jo's struggle to become a writer, Beth's tragedy, and Amy's artistic pursuits and unexpected romance. Based on Louise May Alcott's childhood, this lively portrait of nineteenth-century family life possesses a lasting vitality that has endeared it to generations of readers.

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Moscow 1941 -Rodric Braithwaite

Moscow 1941: a city and its people at war - Braithwaite, Rodric

Summary: A narrative history of the Battle of Moscow interweaves the personal reminiscences of ordinary men and women with portraits of Stalin and his generals to reveal the impact of the war on the daily life of the city's inhabitants. - (Baker & Taylor)

Booklist Reviews
The defense of the Soviet capital against the German invasion of 1941 is cast in this history against the ordinary Muscovite's call to arms. Braithwaite, formerly a British ambassador in Moscow in the late 1980s, focuses on firsthand experiences that capture the difficulties of living, both materially and psychologically, in the atmosphere of Stalinism. The German attack produced widespread dread, both for what the Nazis portended and, more immediately, the draconian reintensification of Stalin's terror. The dictator also appealed to patriotism, however, and the author probes the motivations of Moscow's students, workers, artists, and professionals in joining military units, confirming that not everyone signed up under the gun. Personal stories in the dozens fit into Braithwaite's chronicle of the German bid for the capital, which reached Moscow's outskirts and provoked panic before being repulsed at horrendous cost in December 1941. Conversantly connected to his interviewees and to documentary sources, Braithwaite delivers a tragically human Moscow of 1941, victorious but traumatized. ((Reviewed September 1, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews

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The wives of Henry VIII - Antonia Fraser

The wives of Henry VIII - Fraser, Antonia

Summary: Presents a provocative study of the diverse and complex characters of the the six wives of Henry VIII and their impact on the world - (Baker & Taylor)

Publishers Weekly Reviews
Fraser ( Mary, Queen of Scots ) here turns to the reign of Henry VIII, who ruled from 1509-1547, and the six women he married: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr. From her scrupulous research and informed interpretations of historical events, Fraser succeeds in presenting Henry's queens as complex and intelligent women who struggled to express themselves in a world where females were subservient to and ruled by men. Catherine of Aragon, married to Henry for 20 years, displayed cleverness and bravery when she fought her husband's attempts to divorce her. Anne Boleyn, a learned woman, was innocent of the adultery she was accused of, but was beheaded because she could not produce a son. Unlettered, 21-year-old Katherine Howard, queen for just 18 months when she was beheaded in 1542 for the ``violent presumption'' she had committed adultery, met death on the block where her cousin Anne Boleyn had died six years earlier. By firmly anchoring each woman's fate in Henry's failure to be philoprogenitive--most crucially in not producing male heirs--Fraser makes a major contribution to feminist scholarship. Illustrations not seen by PW. 50,000 first printing; History Book Club and BOMC alternates. (Nov.) Copyright 1992 Cahners Business Information.

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A woman in Berlin - Anonymous

A woman in Berlin: eight weeks in the conquered city: a diary - Anonymous

Summary: A wartime journal by a reporter living through the Russian occupation of Berlin includes her observations of survival under harsh conditions; the mass rapes endured by the city's women; and the corruption of Berlin's citizens. - (Baker & Taylor)

Booklist Reviews
The author of this diary was a 34-year-old journalist, now deceased, who consistently refused to reveal her identity publicly. She spoke some Russian and seemed liberal in outlook. Her chronicle was first published in 1953; after remaining dormant, it was republished 50 years later in Germany. This stunning account covers the period from late April to mid-June 1945, beginning with the massive Soviet bombardment of Berlin and ending with the opening weeks of the Soviet occupation. The author is a keen observer of the ironies, even the absurdities, of a collapsing society, but this is a work of great power. At times, one can virtually smell the fear as people cower in basements as the bombardment intensifies. When Russian troops arrive, they are, at first, comically playful as they seem intent on accumulating watches and bicycles. Then the rapes begin and there are scenes of casual but horrifying brutality. The author recounts her own rape with an unsettling detachment. This is a devastating and rare glimpse at ordinary people who struggle to survive. ((Reviewed July 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

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Savage beauty - Nancy Milford

Savage beauty: the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay - Milford, Nancy

Summary: An authorized portrait of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet draws on Millay's intimate diary, letters, and other papers to capture her flamboyant and turbulent life. - (Baker & Taylor)

Booklist Reviews
/*Starred Review*/ Millay scholars were frustrated for decades by the inaccessibility of a vast treasure trove of letters, journals, and other private papers jealously guarded by the poet's sister, Norma. Milford, the author of Zelda (1970), the best-selling biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, gradually earned Norma's trust during the 1970s and now presents the first comprehensive authorized biography of the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Red-headed, green-eyed, precocious, independent, and beguiling, Millay was born in Camden, Maine, in 1892, the eldest of three daughters of a divorced and renegade mother. Millay began writing as a girl, and her brilliant, original, and fearless early poems won her prizes and wealthy patrons who sent her to Vassar, where she conducted a great swirl of love affairs with young women and older men. Once established in Greenwich Village, the indefatigably lascivious Millay wrote daring yet lyric collections that sold in the tens of thousands at the height of the Depression. Milford is both meticulous and dynamic in her assessment of Millay's trailblazing work and complicated, controversial life right up to its sad and dramatic end, and she will continue her reclamation of a great American poet as editor of a forthcoming Modern Library edition of Millay's fire-and-diamond poetry. ((Reviewed August 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

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House Rules- Jodie Picoult

House rules -Jodi Picoult

Summary: Unable to express himself socially but possessing a savant-like knack for investigating crimes, a teenage boy with Asperger's Syndrome is wrongly accused of killing his tutor when the police mistake his autistic tics for guilty behavior.

Staff Review
Another really good one from her. I enjoy that even though Jodi Picoult's novels involve meticulous medial research, it never stands in the way of the way of her characters or story.

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No-no boy - John Okada

No-no boy - Okada, John

Summary: In the aftermath of World War II, Ichiro, a Japanese American, returns home to Seattle to make a new start after two years in an internment camp and two years in prison for refusing to be drafted.

No Review Available

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The sharper your knife the less you cry - Kathleen Flinn

The sharper your knife the less you cry: love, laughter, and tears at the world's most famous cooking school - Flinn, Kathleen

Summary: Recounts the author's decision to change careers and attend the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, an education during which she survived the program's intense teaching methods, competitive fellow students, and the dynamics of falling in love, in an account complemented by two dozen recipes. 40,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

Publishers Weekly Reviews
When the author, an American journalist and software executive working in London, is sacked from her high-powered job, she enrolls as a student at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris. With limited cooking skills and grasp of the French language, she gamely attempts to master the school's challenging curriculum of traditional French cuisine. As if she didn't have enough on her plate eviscerating fish and knocking out pt choux, she determines to write a book about her experience and gets married along the way. The result is a readable if sentimental chronicle of that year in Paris in which her love life is explored in great detail, dirty weekends and all, and cooking features as a metaphor for self-discovery. Some readers may feel disappointed that the narrator's encounters with French cookery remain largely confined to her lessons at the Cordon Bleu. On those rare occasions when she ventures into the food-obsessed city, the descriptions of meals are glancing at best. Although her struggles with the language and lack of knowledge about the culture lend comic elements to the story (once, trying to order a pizza over the phone, she said, "Je suis une pizza"—I am a pizza), they, too, constrain the author's culinary explorations.

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When the killing's done - T.C. Boyle

When the killing's done - Boyle, T.C.

Summary: Traces an incrementally violent confrontation between a National Park Service biologist who would eradicate invasive wildlife on the Channel Islands and two locals who are fiercely opposed to the killing of any creatures. By the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of World's End. 75,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

Staff Review:
Lyrical from the start, Mr. Boyle's new novel is irresistible in it's pull for Santa Barbara residents, naturalists, and anyone wanting a good suspenseful read. He weaves fact and fiction, past and present into a gripping story.

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