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“Family, dogs, land, woods…

“Family, dogs, land, woods…

posted by:
April 27, 2012 - 1:10am

The World As We Know Itrivers, fish, fire, words.”  These are the choices of author Joseph Monninger when asked to describe his life in eight words.  These same words all figure prominently in Monninger’s newest novel The World as We Know It.  The story opens as brothers Ed and Allard Keer, young teens living along the Baker River in New Hampshire, rescue Sarah Patrick after she has fallen through the ice in the river; Sarah, in turn, saves Allard as he nearly drowns underneath the ice during the same rescue.  The trio becomes inseparable and the family theme is evident as Monninger explores the sibling, friendship, and romantic aspects of their relationships.

 

This quiet book is beautifully written.  Its style is reminiscent of Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety or Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River for both the almost reverent approach to nature writing as well as the keen examination of close relationships. The landscape descriptions are evocative and nature becomes not just the backdrop for the story but an omnipresent fourth character exerting its influence over the brothers and Sarah.  An environmentalist bent is evident but not at all strident as arctic ice melt, homing pigeons, fly fishing, and animal cruelty are touched upon.  Just as an accident on the river serves to bring the three children together, another clash with nature acts as the catalyst to break them apart as adults.  The second part of the book deals with the aftermath of tragedy and the process of grieving and its impact on longstanding familial and romantic ties.  A lovely piece of fiction, The World as We Know It is an insightful, interesting story and would serve as an excellent book club selection. 

Lori

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Up the Down Staircase

Up the Down Staircase

posted by:
April 27, 2012 - 1:05am

The Maid of Fairbourne HallFor Downton Abbey fans looking for a fix until the new season starts, try The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen. Meet Margaret Macy who learns what life is like at both ends of the staircase.   Fleeing her stepfather who is trying to gain control of her money, Margaret abandons her pampered upper-class world when she is pressured to marry a man she does not love or respect.  With little money, a wig and glasses for disguise, and help from her own maid, she ends up as a housemaid at Fairbourne Hall.  Unfortunately, Fairbourne is owned by Nathaniel Upchurch, a gentleman who Margaret once spurned in hopes of winning his flashier brother. 

  

Once at Fairbourne, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life.  She learns the maid’s brushes, sweeps hearths, and empties chamber pots.  She has never been so exhausted, but if she can last until her next birthday she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt.  The money will be welcome and it will also ensure her independence.  But a year is a long time and her hopes of remaining hidden seem slim with so many prying eyes visiting Fairbourne Hall.  As a servant who is invisible to her employers, she is able to observe both brothers without their societal masks, and quickly realizes she may have misjudged Nathaniel.  And when one of the family is nearly killed, danger threatens to upset the tranquility of the Hall.

 

The dynamic of the separation between the titled and serving classes adds a strong element to this Regency historical.  Christy Award winner and RITA nominee Klassen delivers another perfect romance with a hint of suspense that is rich in fascinating details about life both upstairs and downstairs in a country estate.  

Maureen

 
 

Summer Lovin'

Summer Lovin'

posted by:
April 27, 2012 - 1:01am

Somebody to LoveUp-and-coming Contemporary romance author Kristan Higgins has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years.  Her new novel Somebody to Love is a hilarious, sweet page-turner that will catapult her onto many romance readers’ must-read lists.

 

Parker Welles learns that her father has been charged with insider-trading and that he emptied the family trust funds to cover his losses.  The only asset that she has left is a house that a distant relative bequeathed to her, so she goes to Gideon’s Cove, Maine for the summer to flip the house.  Unfortunately, the house turns out to be a rundown beach shack, and she finds that her Aunt Julia was a hoarder.  Parker needs help rehabbing the house.  The only volunteer is James Cahill, her father’s right hand man who she has always called Thing One.   As they spend more time together, the situation between Parker and James begins to heat up and things get a little complicated.

 

This novel is a real treat for Higgins fans.  Somebody to Love revisits favorite characters from previous novels.  Parker made her first appearance in The Next Best Thing, and several other characters from that novel appear in this one.  The book is also set in Gideon’s Cove, so readers will get to revisit that charming small town and the characters that they know from Catch of the Day.

 

Fans of writers like Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jennifer Crusie will find a lot to love here.

Beth

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Sleepless

Sleepless

posted by:
April 27, 2012 - 1:00am

Sleepwalker Karen Robards has done it again!  Her most recent novel Sleepwalker is such an adrenaline rush you will find yourself out of breath while reading the story.  The main character is Micayla Lange, an off-duty police officer spending New Year’s Eve house-sitting for a close friend of the family.   This unfortunately was not a part of the plan for Jason Davis as he chose that particular evening to rob the locked safe in Uncle Nicco’s office. The petite and beautiful Micayla can kick some serious butt, and she proceeds to do just that to Jason  when she encounters him leaving with the money laden suitcases.  During the fight, incriminating photos of Uncle Nicco’s involvement in the murder of a councilman become dislodged from one of the suitcases, changing the entire nature of the situation.  The knowledge they now have of Uncle Nicco’s mob connections puts both of their lives in jeopardy forcing them to team up to escape his gang. What ensues is an exhilarating chase where Micayla and Jason have to battle the elements as well as outwit an endless supply of pursuers. Matters are further complicated with their growing attraction to each other and the understanding that once they are safe, Micayla has every intention of doing her duty and arresting Jason for robbery.

 

Ms. Robards is the author of forty books, mostly of the romantic suspense and historical variety.  She creates engaging characters, imaginative plots, and often inserts humor into her writing.  It is no wonder that Newsweek has proclaimed her one of the most popular voices in women's fiction.

Jeanne

 
 

Party Planning the 90210 Way

Party Planning the 90210 Way

posted by:
April 23, 2012 - 11:46am

CelebraTORITori Spelling, Beverly Hills resident on-screen and off, offers up her fabulous party planning advice in her beautifully photographed, informational CelebraTORI: Unleashing Your Inner Party Planner to Entertain Friends and Family. Don’t dismiss Spelling as merely an actress or child of the rich and famous, for she has years of experience in the party planning business. Her first event was her 8th birthday party, featuring a roller skating theme and a hot pink/turquoise color scheme. Since that early occasion, she has had great success planning parties for herself and her friends. Here she shares the best tips gleaned from these experiences. She has also unfortunately hosted a few train wrecks, but treats them here as learning tools, giving the reader ideas on avoiding similar glitches.    

 

Tori covers all the basics, starting with the concept, which could include discovering all new reasons to celebrate. She shares tips on decorating, flower arranging, food, and of course desserts. All of the suggestions (which include recipes) are DIY, for those of us not on a Beverly Hills budget. If there’s an inner party planner in you, CelebraTORI will help unlock it.

 

Spelling has been a public figure for most of her life and most recently has found huge popularity in the world of reality television. Her most recent series, Tori & Dean: sTORIbook Weddings, airs on the Oxygen Channel and highlights her passion for wedding planning.  Spelling has penned three autobiographical titles, including 2010’s Uncharted TerriTORI, but this is her first book on party planning. She scores a 10!

Maureen

 
 

A Book To Remember

A Book To Remember

posted by:
April 21, 2012 - 3:35pm

The DressmakerKate Alcott (pseudonym for Patricia O’Brien) puts a fresh spin on the story of the Titanic by focusing on the aftermath of its sinking in The Dressmaker.  The novel is told from the perspective of Tess Collins, a seamstress, who is hired right before boarding to be personal maid to high society fashion designer Lucile Duff Gordon.  Tess is determined to use her seamstress skills to elevate her position in society, but both Tess and Lucile’s futures are irrevocably changed by events that occur while they are passengers on the luxury liner and as survivors in New York. By page 37 the Titanic has sunk and Alcott transitions from the frigid sea to the mean streets of New York and the ensuing investigation.  A senator wants to prove negligence on the part of the White Star Line but New York Times reporter, Sarah “Pinky” Wade smells richer storylines and digs deep to investigate the rumors of on-board bribery and murder which implicate Lucile’s husband.   

 

Transferring this familiar story to early 20th century New York gives readers a new way to approach this epic disaster.  Alcott’s well-drawn characters add richness to her story which is strong in setting and historical detail.  As Tess' personal dramas unfold, the ugly wake left by this oceanic catastrophe and the roles passengers and crew members played are revealed by the disturbing official investigation, which Alcott has taken from the transcripts of the U.S. Senate hearings.   Titanic buffs and fans of historical fiction will enjoy this tale of tragedy and triumph. 

 

Two Titanic Tidbits: Julian Fellowes’ (Downton Abbey) two-night miniseries Titanic debuted April 14th on ABC.   If you didn’t catch it or love it enough to watch again – place your hold now in the library’s catalog!  Follow events @TitanicRealTime on Twitter where The History Press has set up an account to send real-time (+100 years) updates on the progress of the ship and its only voyage. Start following now to get the whole story as it happened.

Maureen

 
 

Mad, Mad World

Mad Men on the Couch The Unofficial Mad Men CookbookThe Real Mad Men

Have you wondered what it would be like to live in the advertising world depicted on AMC’s award-winning drama series Mad Men?  Former copywriter Andrew Cracknell gives us an inside look with The Real Mad Men:The Renegades of Madison Avenue and the Golden Age of Advertising.Reneg  

Written from firsthand experience and featuring beautiful photographs from the era, this book explores the history of modern American advertising, the movers and shakers of the industry, and how the “golden age” business culture of the 1960s treated women and minorities.  This title has great appeal for fans of Mad Men, as well as anyone with an interest in advertising. 

 

For a more psychological take on the show, try Mad Men on the Couch: Analyzing the Minds of the Men and Women of the Hit TV Show.  Author Dr. Stephanie Newman delves into the minds of each main character and discusses issues like sexism, identity, parenting, and homophobia through a modern lens.  And don’t worry about psychological jargon – Newman employs a light and accessible tone.  This highly recommended title is as informative as it is entertaining and makes each character come to life.      

 

And just for fun, check out The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars and Restaurants of Mad Men by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin.  This fully illustrated book highlights many of the meals and cocktails seen on the first four seasons of the show, along with brief episode summaries that place each recipe in its historical context.  The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook is a must-read for any serious Mad Men fan.

Alex

 
 

Hush Little Baby

Hush Little Baby

posted by:
April 20, 2012 - 3:28pm

Little Girl GoneWhat is a psychopath?  What does he look like?  Is he a monster with glowing red eyes and long sharp teeth, or is he an attractive man who appears in front of you in a time of weakness?  What if you are in love with him? Little Girl Gone explores the mind of a criminal from a new perspective--the woman who loves him.

 

Willis rescued Madora from a life of drugs and depravity, and now they live alone in an isolated home in California.  Willis dreams of becoming a doctor, but a dishonorable discharge from the military has left him disgraced and bitter.  Madora loves him and wants to help him achieve his goal, believing that they can then marry and have a family of their own.  In the meantime, Willis works as a home health aide, stealing from his elderly clients. 

 

In need of more money in order to pay for medical school in Antigua, Willis abducts Linda, a pregnant teen.  He holds her prisoner, with a secret plan to sell the baby.   Madora wants to believe that Willis is saving Linda from a life on the streets, but she begins to have doubts when Willis starts spending more time with Linda than he does with her.   Everything changes when a boy named Django finds their house while exploring on his bike.

 

Drusilla Campbell writes complex female characters who often do not know how strong they are until they are pushed to the brink.  Madora’s self-realization is a fascinating journey, and Campbell’s supporting characters add interest and emotion to her story.  Little Girl Gone is recommended for readers intrigued by abduction stories, such as A Stolen Life: a Memoir, by Jaycee Dugard, or the critically acclaimed novel Room by Emma Donoghue.

Sam

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Standing Together

Standing Together

posted by:
April 20, 2012 - 12:11pm

The Silence of Our FriendsGraphic novels depicting actual events can be incredibly successful or dismal failures. In the case of The Silence of Our Friends, happily, the former is true. This semi-autobiographical story of the race tensions and riots in 1968 Houston deals with events largely unknown or forgotten. In the months before the demonstrations in and around Texas Southern University began, co-author Mark Long’s father had moved his family from San Antonio to Houston. Jack Long’s career was that of an on-the-scene reporter for a local TV station’s news department. To get a more accurate perspective of the situation, Jack Long befriended an African-American man, Larry Thompson and both families tentatively got to know each other. As the movement grew more heated, a deadly riot broke out on campus and both Jack Long and Larry Thompson found themselves in the middle of a murder trial. A well-known quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. is the source of the work’s title: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 

A great benefit to the format of the graphic novel is retelling a story of this nature in a new, evocative manner. Eisner-Award winner Nate Powell’s flowing line drawings capture the era, and add to the storyline. In particular, Long’s recollections of his family’s internal issues are captured in the images if not directly confronted in the text. The words pull no punches with the overt racist attitudes of the day, including uncomfortable language.  This book is highly recommended to readers interested in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and those who are looking to better understand the value of the graphic format.

Todd

 
 

Can You Swim Faster in Syrup or Water?

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?The answer to that and other tricky posers used by Google in interviews can be found in William Poundstone’s Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?: Trick Questions, Zen-like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You Need to Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy.  Since its first recruiting campaign in 2004, Google has been notorious for conducting some of the toughest job interviews.   They include brainteasers and other open-ended mental challenges, along with the standard behavioral questions to identify the candidates most capable of creative problem solving.  In adopting this approach, Google is looking to better predict employee performance, seeing where candidates run out of ideas. The questions are designed to measure mental flexibility, entrepreneurial potential, and the ability to innovate. 

 

Google is a cutting-edge company where Human Resources is called People Operations (People Ops) and every job candidate is the subject of a 50-page package.  In addition to the usual academic, professional and social history, this report also critiques the potential employee’s overall “Googliness.”  The perks associated with working at the Google campus are legendary and include free food, coin-free laundry facilities, and an annual ski trip.

 

Other employers have taken notice, and today, along with passing social network checks and displaying above-average intelligence, candidates must sit through more interviews than ever before and pass questions that try to screen for a particular personality.  Poundstone offers strategies for making the best of these nerve-racking situations, identifies interviewers’ hidden agendas, and offers tips for saving a failing interview. This informative title will appeal to job seekers looking for inside information and interview strategy.  Those safely employed will enjoy the compelling writing and puzzles and be glad they don’t have to face such an ordeal.

 

Try your hand at the Google interview at http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/2012/0208/Would-Google-hire-you-10-test-questions-to-find-out/A-plane-flight.  And just so you don’t have to swim in syrup, the surprising answer to the question above is that there is no difference in speed!

Maureen