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May Lead to Whiplash

May Lead to Whiplash

posted by:
May 11, 2012 - 3:01am

Defending JacobDefending Jacob by William Landay should come with the warning label, “May lead to whiplash.” With Landay at the wheel, readers of this terrific new legal thriller should prepare for breathtaking turns and shocking twists. In less sure hands, a story with this many surprises could easily fall apart. Landay is a master storyteller and is able to balance all of the twists while maintaining taut, suspenseful pacing.

 

It would be a shame to reveal too much of the story. The bare bones: Andy Barber is a successful, respected prosecuting attorney. He lives with his wife and son in an affluent Boston suburb. A 14-year-old boy is discovered in a local park; he has been fatally stabbed. Andy takes on the case, only to be blindsided when his son, Jacob is accused of the murder. Landay has an uncanny ability to elicit empathy for Andy and his family. The Barbers could easily be people we know. They could be our neighbors. They could be us.

 

Defending Jacob is not Landay’s first book but it is his first major blockbuster title, landing on many bestseller lists. Landay’s other titles include The Strangler and Mission Flats, which won the Dagger Award for best debut crime novel. Before trying his hand at writing novels, Landay was a district attorney. His legal experience shows in Defending Jacob. He portrays legal maneuvers and courtroom scenes like only an insider could.

 

Beyond its strength as a legal thriller, Defending Jacob is also a deeply touching portrait of parenting, married life and unconditional love. Landay forces us to consider how we might react if we were faced the truly unspeakable. Try the audiobook version, a truly excellent narration performed by Grover Gardner.

Zeke

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The Dance of the Two Sisters

The Dance of the Two Sisters

posted by:
May 11, 2012 - 1:01am

The Cranes DanceCranes really do dance.  But instead of the bird kingdom, The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey explores the world of professional ballet and the relationship between Kate and Gwen Crane, two dancers who are also sisters.  They have always had a “professional” rivalry – Kate more lively and dramatic, Gwen stronger on technique.  When Gwen suffers a nervous breakdown, Kate scrambles to keep her own life on track and also to figure out where her sister’s life derailed.   As the past unfolds, it becomes clear that the sisters’ story is also a “dance”: Kate tried to ignore the signs that all was not well, even as Gwen’s idiosyncrasies became more disturbing. 

 

Why is this book intriguing?  It’s straightforward but well written.  Howrey, herself a professional dancer, adds plenty of details to the practical life situation of a dancer trying to make it to the top in New York City.  Dancers crammed into studio apartments, putting themselves through punishing classes and instructors, constantly scoping out the competition in other students…it’s a tough existence.  Yet even knowing more about the harsh realities of the ballet world and how slight the chance is of having a successful career, for dance lovers it still seems…magical.  There’s still that pull. 

 

Also keeping the reader engaged is Kate’s narrative.  It is at times sarcastic, even abrasive, but also funny.   As an added bonus, several ballet plots are outlined (complete with dry humor) and wrapped into the story.  As the book evolves, Kate comes to her own understanding about the relationship between herself, her sister and her profession.   For fans of the film Black Swan, here’s a story with psychological depth and a slightly more hopeful ending. 

Melanie

 
 

Downton Abbey Addicts Anonymous

To Marry an English LordThw World of Downton AbbeyViewers have flocked to the smash hit BBC television series Downton Abbey  for the past two years, but the wait between seasons is agonizingly long for devoted fans.  The show’s popularity has created a publishing craze to produce more and more titles to help tide Downton Abbey fans over until new episodes arrive.

 

After the New York Times published a list of books for Downton Abbey fans they received a letter from Julian Fellowes, the series creator who is also known for writing the Oscar Award-winning screenplay for Gosford Park.  Fellowes wrote to highlight a title that the New York Times had missed—To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace.  This book follows the lives of several American heiresses who went to England in the late 19th century in hopes of marrying into the aristocracy.  Fellowes says that these stories really made him curious about the women’s lives after their marriages, and that idea inspired him to create the character of Lady Cora Grantham.  The gossip in To Marry an English Lord may be over a century old, but it remains riveting.  Readers will love the illustrations, sidebars, quotes, and photographs that make it an engrossing guide to the time period. 

 

Still looking for more Downton Abbey?  Try The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, who is the niece of Julian Fellowes.  This official companion offers a behind-the-scenes look at Emmy Award-winning the show, the characters, the cast and crew, and Highclere Castle, which is the location for the show.  This pictorial guide is truly a must-read for Downton Abbey fans.

 

Look for the third season of Downton Abbey to air in the US in January 2013.  The Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith, will have some real competition when Shirley MacLaine joins the cast as Lady Cora’s American mother, Martha Levinson.

Beth

 
 

A Year in the City of Lights

Paris in LoveEloisa James is the pen name for Fordham literature professor Mary Bly. The daughter of the award-winning poet Robert Bly and short story author Carol Bly, James began writing romances because her husband (an Italian knight!) wanted to wait until they were more financially secure to have a second child. Today, she has approximately 3.5 million books in print in 13 different languages and is a frequent inhabitant of the New York Times bestseller list. 

 

James decided to move her family to Paris in 2009, following her mother’s death and her own struggle with breast cancer.  James chronicles this exhilarating year abroad in Paris in Love: A Memoir.The cast includes the aforementioned husband, Alessandro, also a professor and the only one who could speak French. Her children, Anna, 11 and Luca, 15, round out this appealing family. Both were initially less than impressed with French schools and society. For more on this delightful family, take a look at the book's own website.

 

James’ regular enthusiasts will savor this funny slice of life, and new readers will quickly be drawn in to this excellent memoir which is also a look at marriage and family and even includes recipes! Eat, Pray, Love’s Elizabeth Gilbert noted that, “Reading this memoir was like wandering through a Parisian patisserie in a dream. I absolutely loved it.”

 

Readers who appreciate the humorous tone to James’ writing, should definitely try some of her novels which are infused with wit and modern sensibilities. Start with her Happily Ever After series (A Kiss at Midnight, When Beauty Tamed the Beast, and The Duke is Mine), which are retellings of famous fairy tales and can be read in any order. After all, who doesn’t like to read a "Once upon a time" story every now and then? 

Maureen

 
 

A Radical Life

Panther BabyThe new memoir Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention recounts Jamal (Eddie) Joseph’s journey from straight-A student to member of the revolutionary, criminal underground, and finally from convict to the chair of Columbia University's School of the Arts film division.

 

Eddie Joseph was orphaned at a very early age. He was raised in the black ghetto in the Bronx in the 1960s by an elderly black working-class couple, Noonie and Pa Baltimore. Coming of age in a highly charged era, Joseph quickly becomes enamored with the image of the Black Panthers. On seeing Black Panthers for the first time on television he says: “Look at those dudes, I thought. They’re crazy. They got black leather coats and berets, carrying guns, scaring white people, reading communist books. They’re crazy. I immediately wanted to join.”

Upon finally finding the Panthers, he realizes they are different than he had first imagined. They arm him with books, not guns. Very early on, Eddie is rechristened as Unbuntu Usa Jamal, or “he who comes together in the spirit of blackness.” He later learns the meaning is entirely fabricated but decides to keep the name, anyway. Jamal Joseph soon finds his place in the party. The Black Panthers help him figure out his place in the world and give meaning to his life. A gifted public speaker, he quickly becomes one of the youngest spokespeople for the party. He works closely with Afeni Shakur (late rapper Tupac Shakur’s mother) and finds himself giving speeches at college campuses, community centers and cocktail-party fundraisers, rubbing elbows with the likes of Leonard Bernstein and Tom Wolfe.

 

The 1960s become more radical and Joseph becomes more involved in the underground (sometimes criminal) activities of the party. He spends two major stints in jail, once for conspiracy charges and later for attempting to aid underground fugitives, he is sent to Leavenworth Prison for twelve years. It is in the infamous Leavenworth Prison that he rediscovers his love for theater. He eventually earns three degrees while in prison and is now the chair of Columbia University’s School of the Arts film division.

Panther Baby works on multiple levels. It’s a fascinating memoir and coming of age story. Jamal Joseph reflects on his experience as an orphan and as a young black man growing up in the Bronx, trying to figure out who he is and how he fits in to the world around him. The book also succeeds on a broader level. Through Joseph’s individual story, we’re given a deeper understanding of this history of the Black Panthers and an overall picture of what revolutionary politics looked and felt like in the 1960s. Panther Baby is a clear-eyed inspirational story that will appeal to both teen and adult readers.
 

 

Zeke

 
 

The Next Jason Bourne

The Next Jason Bourne

posted by:
May 8, 2012 - 12:30pm

The ExpatsMove over Jason Bourne--there’s a hot new spy in town!  Praised by Patricia Cornwell and John Grisham among others, The Expats by Chris Pavone is this spring’s hottest debut spy thriller.  As this fast-paced story unravels secret after secret, readers are taken along on an exhilarating ride through Europe.

 

Kate Moore has always kept her CIA career from her husband Dexter.  When Dexter is offered a lucrative new job, Kate quits the CIA and the family moves to Luxembourg.  As Kate settles into her new life as an expat housewife, Dexter begins to change.  He becomes withdrawn and evasive.  When they meet a new couple, Julia and Bill Maclean, Kate begins to think that everything isn’t as it seems.  Is her old life catching up with her?  She begins to look behind the façade of her new life and finds that things are not what they seem to be, especially at home. 

 

Pavone wrote The Expats after his family moved to Luxembourg for his wife’s work.  He gave up his job as a book editor and ghostwriter and spent his time exploring, caring for their two sons, and writing a blog (http://www.chrispavone.blogspot.com/) about his life as a househusband in Luxembourg. That blog eventually evolved into a novel, but he thought it was too boring.  His solution: add a spy or two! The movie rights to The Expats sold soon after Pavone got his book deal, so a film version may be in the works.  Is Kate Moore the next Jason Bourne?  Try this thriller and judge for yourself.

Beth

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A Grown-up Ghost Story

A Grown-up Ghost Story

posted by:
May 7, 2012 - 1:00am

The Haunting of Maddy ClareSometimes, nothing beats a good spooky story; the kind of tale that might make you turn the light on in a dark hallway before you go upstairs, or maybe double check that your doors are locked before you head off to bed. Simone St. James’ The Haunting of Maddy Clare is a ghost story with a romantic twist. Struggling to make ends meet, quiet Sarah Piper accepts an unusual assignment through her temp agency in post WWI London. Her job? Assist war-scarred ghost hunters Alistair Gellis and sidekick Matthew Ryder who are investigating the spirit of a servant girl who committed suicide in a countryside barn.  It just so happens that this particular spirit despises men, necessitating Sarah’s involvement in both communicating with Maddy Clare and solving the mystery of her death.

 

St. James’ writing style is lovely in this, her debut novel, and her choice of words and phrasing easily evoke the early twentieth century as narrated by Sarah.  The author is as skilled in describing rural England or some stylish period women’s wear as she is relaying the frightening atmosphere in the haunted barn or the suspicion of the chilly villagers. Unlike last summer’s supernatural-themed hit, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, this story is often creepy and sinister and has more in common with 2009’s Booker shortlisted The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.  A page-turner to the end, pick up The Haunting of Maddy Clare knowing this one will be difficult to put down.

Lori

 
 

Dig, Till, Sow

Dig, Till, Sow

posted by:
May 6, 2012 - 7:01am

Grow, Cook, EatSmall-Space Container GardensBuilding Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners

Hope springs eternal this planting season, when a trio of new gardening books suggests that horticultural success is within a trowel's reach for even the palest of green thumbs.  Practical advice, along with enticing photography, perusable tables of content and the indispensable indices (for those in a hurry) hint of an enjoyable journey from inspiration to harvest.  

 

 Tending the garden has never been more fun or delicious in Willi Galloway's book, Grow, Cook, Eat: a Food Lover's Guide to Vegetable Gardening Including 50 Recipes, Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips. As the lengthy title suggests the blogger and former editor at Organic Gardening magazine takes the food lover full circle from seed to table. Waste not is the goal here, and each chapter nicely lays out how to obtain the most from the vegetable's edible parts.   

 

If size matters award winning blogger Fern Richardson guides the space-starved gardener through a potpourri of creative options in Small-Space Container Gardens: Transform Your Balcony, Porch, or Patio with Fruits, Flowers, Foliage & Herbs. From repurposing household items for plant duty to creating a "potager with a twist," Richardson organizes her nine chapters and subheadings according to garden practicalities that all gardeners can appreciate. Budget conserving tips, lovely illustrations and clear directions lead the way.

 

Once the garden is sprouting it's time for garden projects. Veteran DIY author Chris Gleason describes with photographs and detailed directions fun and practical structures to improve your harvest in his latest book Building Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners: a Guide to 21 Handmade Structures for Homegrown Harvests.  Gleason readily shares his opinion on what works and how to make the process easier. At 160 pages, this slender book has something for everyone, whether it's a squash ramp, a vermiculture bin, or historical look at backyard farming. 

Cynthia

 
 

J. K. Rowling’s Next Big Project

J. K. Rowling’s Next Big Project

posted by:
May 4, 2012 - 4:01am

The Casual VacancyJ. K. Rowling and her publisher Little, Brown, and Company have announced that they will publish The Casual Vacancy, her first novel for adults, on September 27, 2012.  With Rowling’s legion of fans, this novel is sure to be an instant bestseller.

 

The Casual Vacancy will be a very different novel from Rowling’s successful Harry Potter series.  Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly, leaving his seat on the Pagford parish council open.  The election to fill his vacancy causes an all-out war that tears apart the quiet English town.   This thought-provoking dark comedy will surprise readers. This is Rowling’s first novel published since her worldwide bestselling Harry Potter series, which have sold 450 million copies and have been translated into 74 languages.  The books became a worldwide phenomenon with children and adults alike.   The series was also adapted into an extremely popular film franchise.  As Harry Potter’s popularity grew, the phenomenon branched out into merchandising and even a Harry Potter theme park in Orlando called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

 

Rowling has also announced that she has be working with Sony to launch Pottermore, a website dedicated to giving fans an interactive Harry Potter experience.  Pottermore will include exclusive content about the world of Harry Potter that fans won’t be able to access anywhere else.  To find out more about Pottermore, go to http://www.pottermore.com/.  The Harry Potter series is now available in e-book format through BCPL.   

Beth

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Cozies and Kitties

Cozies and Kitties

posted by:
May 4, 2012 - 3:01am

Copycat KillingThe Cat, the Wife, and the WeaponA Killer ReadCozy mysteries do their best to appeal to cat lovers, and some recent releases will definitely introduce you to some friendly felines.

 

Sofie Kelly is back with Copycat Killing featuring librarian Kathleen Paulson and her two magical cats, Own and Hercules.  In this particular outing, Kathleen is helping some local artists rescue their artwork when a deluge threatens to flood their studio. Unfortunately for one of the artists, they may have created their last piece. This is the second in the series, following Curiosity Thrilled the Cat. Penguin is republishing the first of the series as part of their “Read Humane” campaign, and donating $25,000 to the Humane Society’s Animal Rescue Team, for the prevention of cruelty towards animals.

 

The newest Cats in Trouble mystery is set in Mercy, South Carolina and features quilter Jillian Hart. Jillian is searching for her friend Tom, who has gone missing. Meanwhile, Tom’s half-brother moves into his house and proceeds to lose his diabetic cat.  The Cat, the Wife, and the Weapon, written by Leann Sweeney, also features a trio of cats as well as a rat terrier helping to solve the mystery. This is the fourth in the Cats in Trouble series.

 

A Killer Read is the beginning of a new series by Erika Chase and features Lizzie Turner and the Ashton Corners Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society.  When the Society gathers in a Southern mansion for their book club meeting, the members find themselves embroiled in an actual mystery when a stranger is shot with an antique gun.  References to well-known mystery novels abound and readers meet a unique pair of cats named Edam and Brie. 

 

So cuddle up with someone you love, either the two-footed or four-footed variety, and read one of these great new cozies.  You will be glad you did!

Doug

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