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Category: Current fiction
NOVEMBER 16, 2014
Just finished reading...
Longbourn by Jo Baker. Fiction with a historical background has been around since Sir Walter Scott in the late 18th century, and it never goes away. This book is one of the numerous Jane Austen-based novels sought out by fans, called Janeites, who just can't get enough of their favorite. Many of these are, unfortunately, not nearly as good as their inspiration, but I liked this one very much. It is really an original story, set against the background of Austen's most popular work, Pride and Prejudice. It tells the story of the servants employed by Austen's Bennett family. The housekeeper, Mrs Hill, and her staff of two maidservants, Sara and Polly, are the central characters of the book, and Baker gives us a completely different view of the famous household. When Mr Bennet hires a drifter as a footman, the life of Longbourn is suddenly turned upside down. This book really gives Janeites a new perspective on the original novel. It can also be very entertaining for those who have never read Pride and Prejudice, but like a story set in a different place and time. The novel is now available in our ebook selection.
In the Woods by Tana French. If you like detective fiction and are looking for a new series, here's a good one. The Dublin Murder Squad series begins with a riveting murder case which falls to the expertise of sharp Irish detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox. Their unique relationship has allowed them to be friends as well as partners, and although young, their boss agrees to let them take on the high profile murder of a child. Unfortunately, Rob has a secret in his past that should keep him off the case-as a young boy, he was involved in a similar case which took place in the exact location of the recent murder. With Cassie's agreement, he does not reveal his true identity, and as they investigate, memories of his own experience begin to resurface. French is a masterful writer of prose which puts you squarely into the mind of the character. She has a great eye for detail, and although I thought some parts of the book were dragged out a bit, I would still recommend it as a pretty good page turner. Other books in the Dublin Murder Squad Series are also available at the library.
The Magician King by Lev Grossman. A writer and critic for Time magazine, Grossman has certainly got a way with language. This fantasy for adults has been compared to The Chronicals of Narnia and The Harry Potter Series, and it does deal with themes common to both. Quentin Coldwater, the main character of Grossman's previous novel, The Magicians, returns. He has become a King of Fillory, the imaginary land made real, when Quentin discovered that he had magical powers. But things are beginning to go wrong in Fillory, and needing a change of scene, Quentin sets out on a sea voyage which leads him not only back to Earth, but also to the End of the World. To me, this second installment seemed much more cohesive as a novel. It switches between Quentin's point of view and a flashback to the amazing journey of Julia, a friend from high school who was originally refused admittance to the magic school, Brakebills. Her struggle to find her way in the world of magic without much assistance is interesting and well-conceived. Quentin, however, remains the focus, and we can only hope that he will return for more adventures.
The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo. In this novel, Nesbo's Norwegian detective, Harry Hole, is crumbling under the stress of not being able to resolve the murder of his partner. A series of new murders, by what appears to be a serial killer, may be Harry's last case, as his drinking and absence from work may leave him with out a job. In spite of all his faults, however, Harry is still a character we want to succeed. Nesbo is a very effective writer, and his complex but fast moving plot makes you want to keep reading. Try this amazing series from one of the newest stars in the detective genre.
Embassytown by China Mieville. Humans on a strange planet in the far distant future have forged a sort of alliance with the indigenous population, called Ariekei. In order to communicate with the creatures, pairs of Ambassadors have to be matched and trained to speak the Ariekei's unusual language. As you may have guessed this is science fiction, but it is also a book which challenges the reader to look at speech, communication, and writing in new ways. Mieville has created a world that takes a few chapters to absorb, but once you're there, the story effectively carries you along, and you find yourself rooting for his compelling heroine Avice to save her planet from destruction. Want something different? This novel is definitely that.
Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. The sentimental title of this novel is rather deceptive, although Campbell has managed to create a sort of fairy tale world set along an imaginary tributary of the Kalamazoo River in southwestern Michigan. The novel's focus, a teenager named Margo Crane, has grown up with the river as her companion. She is more in touch with its moods than with any of the people around her. A series of family disturbances forces Margo to leave home and search for a new place to center herself. She is determined to live off the land, and as a crack shot with a rifle or a shotgun, that may just be possible. The voice of the narrator, as it speaks from Margo's viewpoint, is filled with the essence of the river and those who live along it. Some critics have compared Margo to Huck Finn, and there are some similarities, but make no mistake, this is a book about modern times, even though the characters sometimes seem as though they are in another world. Campbell has won several awards for her fiction, and I'm sure we'll be hearing more from her.
Tigerlily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell. In Rendell's latest psychological thriller, she examines a group of dwellers in a suburban neighborhood. Stuart Font has just inherited a bit of money, and he uses it to buy a flat. He invites his neighbors to a party- a trio of college girls who share a flat, a woman who is trying to drink herself to death, a middle-aged bachelor, and even the building's handyman. The party is soon interrupted, however , by a man with a cudgel, who breaks Stuart's arm and threatens further damage. As the tenants begin to learn more about each other, secrets are revealed which soon lead to more frightening events in the housing complex. Dark and sinister, like all of Rendell's work, this novel deals with a familiar theme-seemingly ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. You can find this and more of her work at the library.
The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo. O'blah mentioned this new author in her post a few weeks ago, and I got a chance to read the first book in the series. Well, it isn't really, but it is the first that's been translated into English from the original Norwegian. Nesbo's detective, Harry Hole, can be compared to many other work-obsessed detectives with lonely, troubled personal lives like Connelly's Harry Bosch or Wingfield's Jack Frost, but the similarities don't make him any less appealing. Nesbo has been acclaimed as the next Stieg Larsson, author of the Millenium Series, but Nesbo is actually a much better writer. The plot of this book is very complex and will definitely keep you guessing, but it is the wonderful characters that capture your attention. The library has five of the Harry Hole series just waiting for you to try.
A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley. This is a very sweet, but quirky little novel with a 'detective' who is only eleven years old. Flavia de Luce lives in a big country house with her father and her two sisters. As the youngest, Flavia comes in for her share of being picked on by her siblings. She manages to overcome it by developing her interests in chemistry and observation of the various local characters. When a Gypsy fortune teller is attacked after the church fete, Flavia immediately begins collecting evidence and asking questions. Bradley, a Canadian writer, has set his story in England some time after the Second World War. It is the second in a series with more to follow. Also, it is a quite small book in size, so easy to carry in a handbag or totebag!
All Clear by Connie Willis. Earlier this year Connie Willis's Blackout was published, and reading it was something like watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1-it just left you wanting more! The two novels together tell the story of three historians, time travellers living in the year 2060, who travel back to World War II to experience and study various events taking place in Britain. Their carefully planned adventures quickly go awry, however, when their escape routes become inoperable and they begin to fear that their presence in the past is altering history. Eileen, taking care of evacuee children in the countryside, Polly, working as a shop girl during the London Blitz, and Mike, posing as an American reporter observing the rescue from Dunkirk, are forced to join together in order to save not only themselves, but to insure the proper outcome of the war. Although I must admit I thought the two volume format a bit long, one can not but admire Willis's attention to detail. The trials of the three historians take you to the heart of the action, and the time travel aspect of the book keeps you guessing to the very end of the story. If you like reading about WWII, you will definitely find these two novels worth a read.
We have received some good reviews from patrons lately on some of our new arrivals. Several readers have praised Nicholas Spark's latest, Safe Haven. Another hit has been Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River, which was such a big hit as a film. This new novel involves the search for a missing girl, not once but twice. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher is the start of a new series about a futuristic prison, and is aimed toward a young adult audience. If any of these appeal to you, give us a call, an we'll gladly put them on reserve for you. Or you can use our contact page at www.frackvillelibrary.com.
The Lion's Game by Nelson DeMille. This book was recommended to me by a library patron, so I squeezed it in between my regular reading by listening to an audio book version. It was read by Boyd Gaines, a really top-notch Broadway actor, and he does a good job with it. DeMille is well known for his fast paced novels of FBI and CIA suspense, and this volume, featuring John Cory, the tough New York cop turned Federal agent was one of his most successful. In it, Cory meets the Lion, a Libyan turned terrorist after his family is killed in a U.S. bombing raid. Cory is one of those rough around the edges guys that women can't help liking in spite of his flaws. In DeMille's latest novel, The Lion, John Cory and the Lion return to meet again. Both of these popular bestsellers are available for loan here at the library.
The Black Cat by Martha Grimes. Back in the 80's a friend of mine recommended a new series of mysteries featuring an English police inspector, Richard Jury, and a sort of Dr. Watson-like friend, an English lord who had decided to put aside his title in favor of being just plain Mr. Melrose Plant. These characters had been created by an American author, Martha Grimes, and she named each novel for a pub, that typical English bar where everyone knows everyone else. Since the first of the series, The Man With a Load of Mischief, Grimes has created 22 pub-related mysteries featuring Inspector Jury, and although she has tried a few other formats, this remains her most popular. In The Black Cat, Richard is called to the London suburbs to assist in solving the murder of a fashionably dressed young woman who turns out to be the local librarian! Grimes has a great affection for both animals and children, and they are almost always present in the books in some degree. If you are already a Richard Jury fan, you certainly will want to check out his latest case. If you're not familiar with the series, try the earlier books first-they actually have much more believable plots as far as the mysteries themselves are concerned.
On Thursday, May 20, 2010 our Adult Reader's Group will be discussing A.S. Byatt's intriguing and award-winning novel, Possession. A combination of past and present, we join two Victorian scholars as they try to solve a literary mystery based on the accidental discovery of a letter written from one poet to another. This book received the coveted Booker Prize, a prestigious award given in the United Kingdom. The group meets in the library at 7PM, and always welcomes new members. Call for information or use our contact page at www.frackvillelibrary.com.
The Bell Ringers by Henry Porter. All I can say is, 'Gosh, this was a good book!' It really is one of the best contemporary novels I've read lately. Porter, a columnist for The Observer, has taken the present day UK (he assures us in the Afterword that the laws and surveillance systems he describes actually do exist right now) and turned it into a frightening place, where ordinary citizens can be targeted as lawbreakers by computer errors. David Eyam, a former security chief in the government, is killed in a bomb blast in Columbia after leaving his lofty position under a cloud of suspicion. His university friend and sometimes love, Kate Lockhart, comes to his funeral to mourn, but soon finds herself in the middle of a complicated and dangerous plan to bring down the current Prime Minister and try to preserve the rights of individuals. This book is filled with the kind of fascinating and appealing characters you would expect in a good British spy novel, but unlike some of the genre, this book moves quickly. Sites around London and the English countryside are the gorgeous background for Porter's truly exciting tale. If you are a fan of John LeCarre, Len Deighton, or the BBC TV show Spooks(MI5 here in the US), you really have to read this!
The Adult Reader's Group at the library will be discussing Still Alice by Lisa Genova on Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 7 PM. Written by a psychologist, this novel tells the story of Alice Howland, a busy career woman who is suddenly beset with confusion, memory lapses, and other symptoms which eventually lead to her diagnosis with early onset Alzheimer's disease. This book examines not only the changes taking place within Alice, but also the effects on her family and friends. Our reading group always welcomes new members. Call 874-3382 for information or use our contact page at www.frackvillelibrary.com.
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. Kostova broke on the scene in 2005 with her huge bestseller, The Historian. Her new book, The Swan Thieves, is another example of her complex, well-researched style. Written from the viewpoint of several characters, it holds your interest while providing a bit of mystery to keep you wondering. Andrew Marlow, a psychiatrist and part-time painter, is asked to take on the case of a famous artist, Robert Oliver, after he tries to damage a painting at the National Gallery of Art. We hear not only from Marlow, but also from Oliver's wife, his lover, and even the long dead Impressionist painters with whom he appears to be obsessed. The story takes us from Washington, D.C., to North Carolina, Maine, New York City, Acapulco, and finally to Paris. Anyone with an interest in painting, whether as an artist or as a viewer of art, will find this novel fascinating. Look for it at your library.
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine. Once again, I'm forced to mention Jane Austen! In this new novel, the author has taken the plot line from Austen's Sense and Sensibility and tweaked it a bit to come up with a nicely paced modern story of two sisters and their mother. Unlike Austen's version, the mother of Schine's story is faced not by widowhood, but by divorce. Her daughters, Annie and Miranda, are very much like Elinor and Marianne in that they look at the world from two entirely different perspectives. But their love and concern for their mother is mutual, and by seeing her through her ordeal, they discover a lot about themselves. This book will appeal both to those who have never heard of Jane Austen, and to seasoned Janeites who will enjoy seeing Schine's take on their favorite author.
On Thursday, March 18, 2010, the Adult Reader's Group will be discussing Good Grief by Lolly Winston. This was Winston's first novel and tells the story of Sophie Stanton, suddenly widowed at the age of 36. In order to deal with her grief, she decides to leave her high-pressure job and seek some solace with an old friend in a small town in Oregon. The novel was well received at the time of its debut, and our group looks forward to a good evening of discussion. New members are always welcome. Call the library for information or use our contact page at www.frackvillelibrary.com
We've been trying to build up our collection of audio books here at the library. If you've never tried this method of getting into a novel, you're missing out on a great experience. Most of the presenter's of audio books are really actors and actresses, who do a great job of bringing the story to life. Some audio versions actually have more than one person doing the voices of the characters and add music and sound effects as well. It's not really like reading, but it is an alternative, if you're short on time, are visually impaired, or just want to pass the time when you're driving or walking. Some new additions to our own library's audio book collection include novels by Jodi Picoult, Nelson DeMille, David Baldacci, and Janet Evanovich. We have a large selection of both the cassette tape and CD variety, so have a listen!
The Adult Readers at the library have selected The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows for their next discussion. This novel in the form of letters, tells tales of what it was like on the small island of Guernsey in the English Channel, when it was occupied by German forces during World War II. The group will meet to discuss this popular selection on Thursday, February 18 at 7PM. They are always delighted to receive new members. Call the library for information or use our contact page at www.frackvilllelibrary.com.