Sunday, September 30, 2012

New This Week

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life--mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone--and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead "checking out" impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he's embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

Mad River by John Sandford (G. P. Putnam’s Sons)
Bonnie and Clyde, they thought. And what's-his-name, the sidekick. Three teenagers with dead-end lives, and chips on their shoulders, and guns. The first person they killed was a highway patrolman. The second was a woman during a robbery. Then, hell, why not keep on going? As their crime spree cuts a swath through rural Minnesota, some of it captured on the killers' cell phones and sent to a local television station, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator Virgil Flowers joins the growing army of cops trying to run them down. But even he doesn't realize what's about to happen next.

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow)
Boston, 1926. The '20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world. Prohibition has given rise to an endless network of underground distilleries, speakeasies, gangsters, and corrupt cops. Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city's most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw. But life on the dark side carries a heavy price. In a time when ruthless men of ambition, armed with cash, illegal booze, and guns, battle for control, no one-neither family nor friend, enemy nor lover-can be trusted. Beyond money and power, even the threat of prison, one fate seems most likely for men like Joe: an early death. But until that day, he and his friends are determined to live life to the hilt. Joe embarks on a dizzying journey up the ladder of organized crime that takes him from the flash of Jazz Age Boston to the sensual shimmer of Tampa's Latin Quarter to the sizzling streets of Cuba. Live by Night is a riveting epic layered with a diverse cast of loyal friends and callous enemies, tough rumrunners and sultry femmes fatales, Bible-quoting evangelists and cruel Klansmen, all battling for survival and their piece of the American dream. At once a sweeping love story and a compelling saga of revenge, it is a spellbinding tour de force of betrayal and redemption, music and murder, that brings fully to life a bygone era when sin was cause for celebration and vice was a national virtue.

In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Can love and honor conquer all? Mark Helprin's enchanting and sweeping novel springs from this deceptively simple question, and from the sight of a beautiful young woman, dressed in white, on the Staten Island Ferry, at the beginning of summer, 1946. Postwar New York glows with energy. Harry Copeland, an elite paratrooper who fought behind enemy lines in Europe, has returned home to run the family business. Yet his life is upended by a single encounter with the young singer and heiress Catherine Thomas Hale, as they each fall for the other in an instant. Harry and Catherine pursue one another in a romance played out in Broadway theaters, Long Island mansions, the offices of financiers, and the haunts of gangsters. Catherine's choice of Harry over her longtime fiancé endangers Harry's livelihood and eventually threatens his life. In the end, it is Harry's extraordinary wartime experience that gives him the character and means to fight for Catherine, and risk everything. Not since Winter's Tale has Mark Helprin written such a magically inspiring saga. Entrancing in its lyricism, In Sunlight and in Shadow so powerfully draws you into New York at the dawn of the modern age that, as in a vivid dream, you will not want to leave. 

Just Jennifer

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke (Harper, September 2012)

Caren Gray, a single mother, is a coordinator for tours and special events at Belle Vie, the Louisiana plantation where she grew up.  Owned by the Clancy family for as long as Caren’s relatives have worked on the plantation and adjoining sugar cane farm, her mother was the cook and her great-several times-grandfather was a slave, Caren takes a great deal of pride in the plantation, in spite of its history.  When a body of a migrant worker from the adjacent sugar cane farm is discovered near the slave cabins, the police zero in on one of Caren’s employees and start Caren on a road that has her questioning her past and present.  Her daughter Morgan, entering her moody pre-teen years, may have been an unwitting witness to the murder and her father Eric, to whom Caren was never married, reappears just before his wedding, turning both Caren’s and Morgan’s lives on end.  As Caren delves into her family’s past, she learns that her present reality was shaped by events that have been altered to suit circumstances over the years.  Broody and moody, thick as the Louisiana bayous, Locke’s second book writes a murder mystery rich in atmosphere and history, with characters, past and present, who come alive in Locke’s second novel.  Here’s hoping her next novel is not far behind.

Just Jennifer

Sharp: A Memoir by David Fitzpatrick (William Morrow, September 2012)

In an honest, unapologetic and unflinching memoir, David Fitzpatrick chronicles his twenty-year battle with mental illness, the time he spent in institutions, how it affected his family and how they affected his disease and recovery.  Fitzpatrick begins his serious cutting as a young man, the beginning of his spiral downward into a deep despair and breakdown from which there seemed little hope of him being able to return.  Fitzpatrick came from a family of mentally ill people (including an aunt and a grandmother) and encountered several abusive males through his childhood and spent his college years often in an unfocused stupor.  As he made his slow climb out of his despair, he took strength from his younger brother Dennis who, as a sufferer of Williams syndrome, is almost perpetually happy.  Even when David is at the lowest points of his disease, he is still very self-aware and seeks for new behaviors to replace the cutting, though some are not acceptable forms of release either.  David describes his fellow mental patients with compassion and empathy, and the realization that there are others worse off than he.  As unsettling as this story is, it is compulsively readable: you will root for David and his recovery and cheer his victories and hope for his future.  

Just Jennifer

Judging a Book By Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere by Lauren Leto (Harper Perennial, October 2012)

Did you ever wonder what your favorite books say about you?  Did you ever feel guilty for all the classics you didn’t read in school and haven’t taken the time to read as an adult?  Do you want to learn how to discuss books you haven’t read at a cocktail party?  Lauren Leto, “Texts from Last Night” blogger and shameless Janet Evanovich fan takes readers on a journey through book culture examined book lover’s quirks, touching on subjects such as rules for public reading, what the titles and objects on your bookshelves say about you and how to speak condescendingly about books such as Moby Dick and Ulysses (“Seven hundred pages of plotless onanism stylistic indulgence.” Leto intersperses her observations with personal anecdotes (misspelling the word spaghetti with a “y” at the end in a spelling bee) making an enjoyable and readable love story to books and their readers, bookcats (in a chapter campaigning to have the nickname bookworm changed to the more appropriate feline name).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Just Jennifer

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg (Grand Central, October 2012)

This portrait of a seemingly benign family as thirty years of living has finally unraveled: Edie and Richard Middlestein have raised their two children in the suburbs of Chicago, Robin and Benny making it through seemingly unscathed.  One constant throughout their lives has been Edie’s obsession with food: when she is not stuffing her face, she is thinking about her next meal.  As Edie’s life becomes at risk because of her obesity, she finds that Richard has left her and her somewhat estranged daughter and her perfect daughter-in-law Rachelle have begun making half-hearted attempts to keep their eye on Edie in order to try and save her.  Robin is struggling with her life and the choices she has made, Rachelle to keep up the façade of a perfect family as her rhythmically challenged twins prepare for their b’nai mitzvah and laid back Benny lets it all happen.  How the family get did this way and how did Edie come to tip the scales at over 300 pounds, is anyone to blame or is Edie’s weight symbolic of a family in crisis.  An good humored, honest, open look at families, how they appear to the outside world and the lies we tell each other to keep them going.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just Jennifer

The Unexpected Houseplant by Tovah Martin (Timber Press, September 2012)

As the outdoor growing season is beginning to wind down, Tovah Martin’s book of inspired houseplants for each season will inspire gardeners to bring some of their plants indoors and turn their green thumbs to more unusual houseplant varieties, both practical and beautiful.  In addition to profiling some of the rarer and more unusual houseplants (Martin unabashedly and unapologetically ignores the tried and true spider plant) Martin gives some unusual ways to display our newly found treasures and any problems we might encounter as we nurture our plants.  Two or three descriptive pages, loads of glorious photographs and a concise column of pertinent information make this a quick handy guide as well as one to dream and drool over.  Martin’s style is chatty, and includes many of her opinions and experiences with these plants making thumbing through this like having a conversation with an old friend.  The author of over a dozen gardening books, Martin makes selecting a new houseplant and learning to care for it as painless as the enjoyment the plant will bring for years to come.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thank you to...

... the Friends of the Library, for providing prizes, refreshments, and general support.
... all the club members for your enthusiastic participation, without which the club would not exist.

Congratulations to...

... Karen, the winner of the "A Night at the Library" logic puzzle.
... Liza, the winner of the "Covering All the (Data) Bases" scavenger hunt.
... syd, the winner of the "Film Adaptation Trivia Challenge."

6th Annual Adult Summer Reading Club

Click on image to enlarge.

Congratulations to...

... all this year's prize winners:  Avid Reader, Barbie, Bobjam, Book Worm 1, BookHunter, C.J., Debby K., DebH09, Judy, Karen, L.Z., Little Red Hen, Liza, Rebecca S., Sarah F., Saraswati, SCL, syd, and Tucker2011.

Congratulations to...

... Tucker2011, our Grand Prize Winner!!!

Congratulations to...

... L.Z., our Week #14 Prize Winner!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Last Cowgirl

Author: Jana Richman
Stars: 4
Review by: Miss Lucy

Imagine a Little House on the Prairie, except that it would be Little Ranch in the Desert, and it would be much darker, with the evil presence of the Army, testing chemical weapons nearby.  This novel reads like a good memoir - Jana Richman knows how to tell a gripping story.


Author: Susan Mallery
Stars: 3
Review by: KM

A light and enjoyable romance for summer.

Passion, Betrayal and Killer Highlights

Author: Kyra Davis
Stars: 4
Review by: KM

Very satisfying. Good character development. Great for summer, light but enough substance that it doesn't "taste" cloyingly sweet.

Shadow Divers

Author: Robert Kurson
Stars: 5
Review by: KM

This was actually my second time listening to the audiobook version of this title and I enjoyed it even more. It does take a bit of adjustment for the narrator, but after that, it's spellbinding. It is a good combination of adventure and history, especially military history, but also includes personal background on the two divers which enhances the story.


Author: Craig Groeschel
Stars: 4
Review by: L.Z.

Great book for anyone in ministry or church leadership. If you've heard Craig speak, you will recognize his easy, entertaining style, while still making some excellent points and asking challenging questions. An easy read, but not quick, if you want to take time to process all that you read.

The 12th Enchantment

Author: David Liss
Stars: 1
Review by: ddlesmom

Lucy Derrick is a young woman of good breeding and poor finances. After the death of her beloved father, she is forced to maintain a shabby dignity as the unwanted boarder of her tyrannical uncle, fending off marriage to a local mill owner. But just as she is on the cusp of accepting a life of misery, events take a stunning turn when a handsome stranger   the poet and notorious rake Lord Byron   arrives at her house, stricken by what seems to be a curse, and with a cryptic message for Lucy. Suddenly her unfortunate circumstances are transformed in ways at once astonishing and seemingly impossible."

Characters were shallow, book did not hold my interest.  Story was unbelievable.

The Lady Is a Vamp: An Argeneau Novel

Author: Lynsay Sands
Stars: 3
Review by: Saraswati

The latest book in this series has our Vamp using her 1 turn per life for her Life-mates daughter and now what do they do?  Easy read.

Rest in Pizza: A Pizza Lover's Mystery

Author: Chris Cavender
Stars: 3
Review by: Saraswati

The latest installment of this series has our sisters helping another store owner with her grand opening featuring a famous Chef.  Needless to say he is found dead in the Slice.  Very easy read since it follows the standard format.

The Unholy: A Krewe of Hunters

Author: Heather Graham
Stars: 3
Review by: Saraswati

The latest in the Krewe Series as two ghost whisperers meet and solve a murder mystery.  The story takes place in a special effects studio for added zing.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Author: Cheryl Strayed
Stars: 5
Review by: Marian

Beautifully written journal of a journey through the Pacific Crest Trail. I loved the history and information about the Trail itself. It was written well enough that you could envision yourself on the journey, seeing what the author saw. I enjoyed the hike!

When in Doubt, Add Butter

Author: Beth Harbison
Stars: 2
Review by: Smudge

Quick & easy summer read

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Author: Cheryl Strayed
Stars: 5
Review by: line82

Best book that I read this summer!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Zero Day

Author: David Baldacci
Stars: 3
Review by: BigDa

Should have been titled: The Alphabet Mystery.
on one page alone:  DHS,Ts,SCI,SAC,USACIL,DIA,CIL,DNA,AWOL (name of a cat), COO.  And so it goes.

The Persian Pickle Club

Author: Sandra Dallas
Stars: 4
Review by: SCL

I selected this because I had read Prayers for Sale and a couple of Sandra's more recent books.  However, I think this is my favorite so far.  I am going to continue with some of her first works.  I loved the references to quilting, but also the great characters and the mystery.  Great ending!

Along Came Mary

Author: Jo-Ann Mapson
Stars: 3
Review by: SCL

Book two of a trilogy.  I liked the first one (Bad Girl Creek) better, but I am still looking forward to reading the third, Goodbye Earl.

Julie and Romeo

Author: Jeanne Ray
Stars: 3
Review by: Smudge

Sometimes funny love story about adults

The School of Essential Ingredients

Author: Erica Bauermister
Stars: 4
Review by: Smudge

You'll get hungry while reading the stories of the different participants of a cooking class.