Monday, April 30, 2012

Jack Gantos - A New Favorite

So I may be a bit late to the party...but I never read anything by Jack Gantos before. Not his popular Rotten Ralph picture books, not his Jack Henry series, not even his Joey Pigza series. Somehow, this award winning author was never on my radar. However, after reading Dead End in Norvelt, Jack Gantos is a new favorite. Even if you don't often read children's books, I urge you to pick up a copy of this one. Read it or listen to the audiobook, read by the author himself. Either way, the voice of 12 year old Jack Gantos will stay with you long after you finish.

The town of Norvelt, Pennslyvania doesn't offer much excitement for Jack Gantos in the summer of 1962. The school holidays look bleak when Jack is grounded for accidently shooting off his father's WWII rifle. The only way Jack can escape the house is by helping his arthritic elderly neighbor, Miss Volker. What follows is a hilarious mix of mysterious events, hijinks and small town zaniness.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Informationist

      It’s hard to buy books for librarians. We have either already read it or decided not to read it or already own a copy of it that is sitting in a pile with all the others we want to read.  And so it is especially wonderful when we receive a book as a gift that we haven’t read, don’t own and wanted to read or haven’t even heard of!  Now make it an amazing book and you have a gift receiving event that won’t be forgotten. 
      The Informationist by Taylor Stevens was just such a gift to me. The story is about Vanessa Michael Munroe who the Library Journal described as “part Lisbeth Salander, part Jason Bourne.”  She is hired to find out what happened to the daughter of a big oil company owner who disappeared 4 years before in Africa.  Vanessa Michael, or Michael, lived in the same part of Africa as a child and has some pretty awful memories of things that happened there – things that are harder to avoid once she is back on the continent. 
      The book is a fast paced, atmospheric and intense thriller with great characters, lots of action and twists I didn’t expect. I wanted to know what would happen but I didn’t want the book to end.  Fortunately there is already a second book in the series, The Innocent, and a third that is set to come out in 2013.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Scarlet Letter for Today

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan is a sci-fi re-imagining of The Scarlet Letter. In this not-so-distant future, abortion is outlawed in the state of Texas, where Hannah Payne, a naive young dressmaker, grew up. When she has an affair with a flashy televangelist named Aidan Dale, her crime is not bearing an illegitimate is aborting it. Convicted felons have their jail time televised and skin dyed bright red before their release. This is the point at which we meet Hannah, a modern Texan Hester Prynne.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Staff Picks

Here are titles our staff has recently enjoyed.

Helene enjoyed Cocktail Hour Under The Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller.  A memoir about growing up in Africa.  Her family deals with survival, war, loyalty, and what it means to be family. 

Patti recommends Bond Girl by Erin Duffy.  The world of high finance in high heels.  Alex manages to get to the top at one of Wall Streets prestigious firms, just in time for the economy to collapse. 

Karen liked The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Experts have all sorts of ideas about what would make us happier.  Each month for a year Gretchen tries a new resolution to see what works and what didn't, and she reaches some surprising conclusions.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Read-a-like titles for Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob by William Landay has been getting some buzz lately.  While you wait for your copy here are some read-a-like titles to keep you entertained. 

The Client by John Grisham.  11 year old Mark knows a bloody secret. Prosecutors are willing to break all the rules to get him to talk. The mob will stop at nothing to keep him quiet. And his lawyer will do anything to protect her client.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.  The mother of a teenage boy who killed seven fellow students and two adults in a high-school shooting writes a series of letters to her estranged husband on their son's upbringing and questions what she fears may be her own part in the tragedy.

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow.  Prosecutor Rusty Sabich is transformed from accuser to accused when he is handed an explosive case--that of the brutal murder of a woman who happens to be his former lover.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Being lost means nothing. Especially when being found seems like a thing to avoid. Charles Frasier.

The woods can be a place of peace and solitude or a place of loneliness and danger. Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier, is set in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in the early 1960s. Luce lives a solitary life away from town as the caretaker of an old abandoned guest lodge at the edge of the woods. She finds the lodge the perfect place to hide away from a life filled with hurt and disappointment. Her life changes suddenly when she acquires the children of her murdered sister, Lily. The blond, dark eyed, fire starting, mute, twin children are even more damaged and emotionally scarred than Luce herself, evoking in her long dormant emotions. When the owner of the lodge, Old Stubblefied, passes away, his grandson comes to survey his inheritance. Acquaintances in youth, Luce and the younger Stubblefield begin a cautious relationship. Luce, Stubblefield and the children are beginning to trust each other when evil arrives, threatening their fragile trust, love and lives. Sometimes it is safer to remain hidden in the woods. This book is about healing, justice and redemption. I liked the edge of your seat suspense but would also recommend this book for its beautiful descriptive language. Charles Frazier is also the author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hunted Healer

I really enjoy Maria Snyder's female heroines.  They are smart, tough, and often a little stubborn.  In her most recent book, Touch of Power, Avry is all of those things.  She has the magical ability to heal people by taking on their illnesses or injuries.  She was apprenticed to the Healer's Guild shortly before a plague broke out.  The problem was any Healer who tried to cure a plague victim always died.  When they stopped trying people turned on them and hunted them down.  Even though Avry was only an apprentice they came after her too.   She has survived by running and hiding, but her desire to heal always compromises her identity. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Zombies and Cupcakes

Zombies and cupcakes. Normally, people don't associate these terms, as it would take a very hungry zombie indeed to contemplate eating icing instead of brains. But pick up a copy of Zilly Rosen's fantastic cookbook, Zombie Cupcakes, and you'll wonder why you never thought to connect them. Now, a word to the wise: there's some gross stuff in here. You'll see blood and brains. You'll learn how to make rats and flies and eyeballs and even maggots. Dismembered hands will reach out to you. But....all these things are made out of frosting, and the cupcakes are just so cute--even though they're really trying hard to be creepy. As you page through the book, you'll giggle and wince and marvel, all at the same.

And if, after you finish looking through the pictures, you don't feel like you're ready to whip out your apron and mixing bowls, then maybe it's time to settle in with another book, an ode to sweets of all varieties: Paris, My Sweet: A Love Letter in Madeleines, Chocolate, and Croissants. In this memoir, the author moves to Paris and spends two years discovering the most luscious treats the city can offer--including cupcakes. The mouthwatering descriptions will definitely make you hungry and just might make you ponder a visit to Paris, too--where, as far as I know, there are no zombies on the loose. Bon Appetit!

~Queen of Books

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Last Night at the Lobster

Stewart O'Nan makes the work-a-day world a compelling place in his bijou of a novel, Last Night at the Lobster. This keen-eyed view of life in a blue collar begins at the ending, as "The Lobster," a failing Red Lobster restaurant in working class New Britain, Connecticut, prepares for a final day serving up chain eatery seafood before closing its doors forever.

The Lobster is an unlovely place, with shellacked fish mounted on seedy paneling and tattered holiday decorations; its closing will pass largely unnoticed except by manager Manny DeLeon, for whom The Lobster is his world. Manny is determined to make this last day count, despite obstacles imposed by his soon-to-be-unemployed, rebellious staff, his horrible customers worn out from Christmas shopping, and an impending blizzard. After tonight, he will move on to a lesser position at another corporate restaurant in another town; his future is filled with uncertainty and his present marked by regrets, including an unresolved relationship with a former lover and his ambivalence towards his current, pregnant girlfriend.