Archive for July, 2012

Obituary Note: Maeve Binchy

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Maeve Binchy, the Irish writer and journalist, died Monday, July 30, 2012, the Irish Times reported. She was 72.

The obituary notice in the Irish Times contains many tributes to Ms. Binchy, including this from President Michael D Higgins:  “She was an outstanding novelist, short story writer and columnist, who engaged millions of people all around the world with her fluent and accessible style,” he said. “She was a great storyteller and we enjoyed her capacity to engage, entertain and surprise us. For others, particularly young and aspiring writers, she was not only a source of great encouragement; but also to so many, of practical assistance.

“In recent years she showed great courage and thankfully never lost her self-deprecating humour, honesty and remarkable integrity as an artist and human being.”

In the Irish Times on July 3rd last Ms. Binchy said: of her life:  “I don’t have any regrets about any roads I didn’t take. Everything went well, and I think that’s been a help because I can look back, and I do get great pleasure out of looking back…I’ve been very lucky and I have a happy old age with good family and friends still around.”

  Maeve Binchy’s first novel, Light a Penny Candle (Find this book in our catalog), was published in 1982. 

Author notes in our catalog: “Irish-born Maeve Binchy is a teacher turned newspaper columnist turned novelist. She was born in Dublin on May 28, 1940. Her father was a lawyer and her mother a nurse. She received her B.A. in 1960 from University College in Dublin. After teaching at a school for girls, she became a columnist for the Irish Times in 1968. By 1979, Binchy was writing plays, a successful television script, and several short story collections. Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle (1982), was a Literary Guild Dual Selection. Two of her novels, Silver Wedding (1989) and Circle of Friends (1991), have been Book-of-the-Month Club selections. Currently, there are more than six million copies of her books in print. Binchy’s novels are usually set in rural Ireland, where Binchy seems to capture the dynamics of life and relationships in small towns. A Circle of Friends, successfully translated into a popular film, is the coming-of-age story of three young women in 1950s Dublin. Binchy lives in a suburb of Dublin. (Bowker Author Biography) Maeve Binchy is the bestselling author of “Light a Penny Candle”, “Echos”, “Firefly Summer”, “Silver Wedding”, “Circle of Friends”, “The Copper Beech”, “The Glass Lake”, “Evening Class”, & Oprah’s Book Club selection “Tara Road”. With artist Wendy Shea, she created “Aches & Pains”, a nonfiction collection showing the lighter side of hospital stays & at-home convalescence. She lives in Dalkey, Ireland, with her husband, writer Gordon Snell.” (Publisher Provided)


The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

(Find this book in our catalog)  In a departure from her renowned vampire books, Ms. Rice has written a rich, action packed novel that focuses on the creation of werewolves. Her use of language has great depth, drawing out the characters & location with beautiful description. Reuben, a young reporter sent to interview Marchent Nideck at her remote mansion, falls in love with both the house & the woman. The mansion is for sale &, in what is a huge coincidence, Reuben has the means to buy it through private wealth held in trust for him. In a night of terror, however, Marchent is murdered & Reuben is bitten  by a huge wolf creature. From this night on he begins his odyssey to discover who & what he has become.

Ms. Rice makes use of her characters to introduce much philosophical debate on the nature of humans & animals, God & the universe, as they explore their situation. This would certainly create thought provoking discussion in any book group. Fans of Anne Rice should appreciate this latest edition to her pantheon.

The Wolf Gift is vintage Anne Rice—a lushly written, gothic…metaphysical tale. This time, with werewolves.”�
—Alexandra Alter, The Wall Street Journal 

“[Rice] returns to the lushly evocative scenery and gothic atmosphere of her vampire novels with great success. . . her reimagining of a well-worn mythology is fresh and intriguing. Fans of Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles and The Lives of the Mayfair Witches series should delight in this new saga delivered in the author’s distinctive style. Part creation story, part love story, all excellent!” �
—Bette Lee Fox, Library Journal (starred)

Posted by Julia

The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill

Monday, July 30th, 2012

(Find this book in our catalog) Reginald Hill, who passed away in January at the age of 75, was the bestselling author of the Dalziel & Pascoe novels that became the foundation for the popular BBC TV series of that same name. The series features a rough & ready older detective with plenty of street smarts & his partner, a young academic who is not yet wise to the ways of the world. These two make a great team & the banter & wry humor that is shared between them brings a begrudging respect & understanding  as they work to solve their cases & build their relationship. The Woodcutter is a stand alone thriller. It was one of Hill’s last works, & the Abingdon book group read for July. Sir Wilfred Hadda, also known as Wolf, is stunned when he is accused of being a paedophile. As he tries to defy the authorities, he is involved in an accident & ends up in a coma. During this period his company, Woodcutter, fails & he is also accused of fraud. Sentenced to a long term in prison, Wolf must find a way to gain his freedom & exact revenge against his enemies. Hill is a very good writer. His use of language & description shine. There are very few sympathetic characters in this novel & Hill emphasises the scheming & manipulation, the lack of morality or feeling of the greedy & criminal minded. This is a story of revenge & justice, but it is not neccessarily justice before the law. It is also a story of lost love & betrayal. The book group thought there were a lot of interesting themes & that despite the pace slowing a bit in the middle, the ending was one of the most convoluted, as a series of secrets are revealed & a very dramatic scene unfolds. We recommend this to anyone who enjoys a well written thriller or crime novel.

Check out your library for the Dalziel & Pascoe TV series on DVD, as well as Mr. Hill’s crime novels.

The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman

Friday, July 27th, 2012

  (Find in our catalog)  I particularly like historical novels set in the seventeenth century, I don’t know why.  I might have something to do with the swash-buckling freedom of the times:  it was not yet the beginning of the modern era and so many things about the times remain quaint to us, yet people had been through the renaissance in Europe and then through bloody religious upheaval.  Many were throwing off the conventions of the old world and feeling free to reinvent themselves.  The Dutch East India Company was exploring and colonizing the world in the name of trade, and anything in life was seemingly possible.

Certainly in The Orphanmaster, in 1663 in the tiny Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, for  a quick-witted twenty-two-year-old trader named Blandine van Couvering anything seems possible if she works hard enough.  In Holland in the seventeenth century women are allowed many more freedoms than European women elsewhere.  Thus Blandine is acknowledged as a trader with as much right in the market as anyone else.  Blandine’s freedom allows her to move freely about the little colony and into the interior in her quest to solve the problem of a number of children who have gone missing from both the colonial and the native population.

The mystery is a complex one and involves interesting aspects of native American superstition.  It’s interesting to see how in the early days of New Amsterdam the newcomers and natives coexisted.  The book is filled with intriguing historical, architectural, cultural and geographical details.  The book has lots of contrast in mood:  it involves horrific details of a series of child murders and yet it also contains in it a tender and subtle love story.  Blandine is inexorably attracted to a cheerful and dubious grain merchant who turns out very early on the be an English spy.  Edward Drummond provides both romantic and amusing interludes in the book.  Also his interest in science reminds us both of the open-mindedness and the superstition of the times.

There are many depths to this book, not least its examination of the consequences of childhood neglect and abuse and the different ways individuals either fall victim to or rise above their circumstances.  If you try it you will not regret picking up this fascinating and colorful story of suspense on the edge of the wilderness.


Downfall by Terri Blackstock

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

  Downfall:an Intervention Novel by Terri Blackstock (Find in our catalog)  Our choices always have consequences – now or later down the road.  Some choices build us up physically and or spiritually, some can lead to the “downfall” in this book’s title.

Twenty year old recovering drug addict Emily Covington has made some bad choices in the past.  Although Emily has been clean for two years, Barbara, her mother still has doubts and fears Emily will relapse.

As Emily prepares to leave for school one morning her car catches fire when she starts it.  Thanks to the quick action of her brother Lance in putting it out Emily is not harmed.  The police discover a crude homemade bomb in the wheel well.  Barbara freaks out, fearing that Emily has displeased some drug dealer.  To add to the confusion Emily learns of the murder of a friend’s wife that same morning.  Can there be a connection?

Emily is not the only one with problems in the family.  Her mother is trying to decide whether to move or stay.  She is conflicted over her feelings for Kent, a local policeman.  Emily’s brother Lance is having issues adjusting to the new community and school, along with the daily crises surrounding his mother and sister.

Will Emily be able to move on and not fall back into the old pitfalls of drugs and wrong decisions?  Can Emily build trust with those in charge of the investigations as she tries to outwit a devious killer and prove to them that she can help them find the truth and clear her name?  Sometimes we need a little intervention from family, friends and God to get us through whatever life has thrown at us.   See how Emily handles the turmoil brought on by her former bad choices.

Posted by Christy

Building a Perfect Match by Arlene James

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

  Building a Perfect Match by Arlene James (Find in our catalog) takes us into the world of Petra Chatam.  Her parents and siblings are highly successful in their lives and careers, but Petra has hopped from job to job seeking the one she believes God has for her.

Petra has come back to her hometown to work as the manager on the historical restoration of the Vail Hotel in the hopes of becoming the hotel’s permanent manager when the project is completed.  Garth Anderton has promised her higher responsibilities if the project comes in on time and under budget.  In order to succeed Petra has to get the cooperation of Dale Bowen, the building contractor who is working closely with the town’s Historical Society.  It is Dale who has the final say about what, when and how things are done to bring the Vail back to its former glory.

Add to the pressure of completing the job on time Gail’s conflicted emotions about her current life:  Garth is continuously flirting and determinedly pursuing Petra, while Dale is showing growing interest in her; and an elderly, interfering aunt insists on matchmaking.  Petra has doubts about what God’s plan is for her life.  Does it or can it include both a career and marriage?  With her aunts’ support and Proverbs 31 Petra begins to believe it just might be possible.

Posted by Christy

The Long Walk on Fresh Air

Friday, July 20th, 2012

  Brian Castner, who writes about his three tours in Iraq and his difficult re-entry into life at home, in The Long Walk, was recently featured on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. (Find this book in our catalog)

This is what it says about the book in our catalog: “This work is a powerful account of war and homecoming. The author served three tours of duty in the Middle East, two of them as the commander of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit in Iraq. Days and nights he and his team, his brothers, would venture forth in heavily armed convoys from their Forward Operating Base to engage in the nerve-racking yet strangely exhilarating work of either disarming the deadly improvised explosive devices that had been discovered, or picking up the pieces when the alert came too late. They relied on an army of remote-controlled cameras and robots, but if that technology failed, a technician would have to don the eighty-pound Kevlar suit, take the long walk up to the bomb, and disarm it by hand. This lethal game of cat and mouse was, and continues to be, the real war within America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this book is not just about battle itself. It is also an unflinching portrayal of the toll war exacts on the men and women who are fighting it. When the author returned home to his wife and family, he began a struggle with a no less insidious foe, an unshakable feeling of fear and confusion and survivor’s guilt that he terms The Crazy. His book immerses the reader in two harrowing and simultaneous realities: the terror and excitement and camaraderie of combat, and the lonely battle against the enemy within, the haunting memories that will not fade, the survival instincts that will not switch off. After enduring what he has endured, can there ever again be such a thing as “normal”?”

We also have this as an audiobook on CDs or downloadable.


Editor’s Choice – Recent Notable Science Writing

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

  The Violinist’s Thumb: and Other Lost tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean (Find in our catalog)

Summary in our catalog: “In The Disappearing Spoon, bestselling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In THE VIOLINIST’S THUMB, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA. There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK’s bronze skin (it wasn’t a tan) to Einstein’s genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists. Kean’s vibrant storytelling once again makes science entertaining, explaining human history and whimsy while showing how DNA will influence our species’ future”– Provided by publisher.

  Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow (Find in our catalog)

Summary: “The best-selling author of The Drunkard’s Walk and coauthor of The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking), gives us an examination of how the unconscious mind shapes our experience of the world and how, for instance, we often misperceive our relationships with family, friends, and business associates, misunderstand the reasons for our investment decisions, and misremember important events. Your preference in politicians, the amount you tip your waiter, all judgments and perceptions reflect the workings of our mind on two levels: the conscious, of which we are aware, and the unconscious, which is hidden from us. The latter has long been the subject of speculation, but over the past two decades researchers have developed remarkable new tools for probing the hidden, or subliminal, workings of the mind. The result of this explosion of research is a new science of the unconscious and a sea change in our understanding of how the subliminal mind affects the way we live. Employing accessible explanations of the most obscure scientific subjects, the author takes us on a tour of this research, unraveling the complexities of the subliminal self and increasing our understanding of how the human mind works and how we interact with friends, strangers, spouses, and coworkers. In the process he changes our view of ourselves and the world around us.”


The Magic of Summer Reading

Monday, July 16th, 2012

  The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Doran Barbieri.  Summary: “Learning of the infidelity of her husband, Nora Cunningham packs up her daughters–Annie, seven; and Ella, twelve–and takes refuge on Burke’s Island, a craggy spit of land off the coast of Maine where her mother disappeared at sea long ago. Just as Nora begins to regain her balance, her daughters embark on a reckless odyssey of their own–forcing Nora to finally face the truth about her marriage, her mother, and her long-buried past.”  Legend has it that Burke Island is a magical place…

  Garden Spells  by Sarah Addison Allen.  Summary: “In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it…. The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures. A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants–from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys–except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before. When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down–along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy–if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom–or with each other. Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own….” From the Hardcover

  Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.  Summary: “For more than two hundred years, the Owens women had been blamed for everything that went wrong in their Massachusetts town. And Gillian and Sally endured that fate as well: As children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape. One would do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they shared, even into adulthood, brought them back–almost as if by magic…”

  The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry.  Summary: “Every gift has a price . . . Every piece of lace has a secret . . .My name is Towner Whitney. No, That’s not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time . . .Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light. The Lace Reader is a mesmerizing tale that spirals into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths in which the reader quickly finds it’s nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction, but as Towner Whitney points out early on in the novel, “There are no accidents.”


New Romances

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Romantic Mystery

  So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts. “Lucky O’Toole–Head of Customer Relations at The Babylon, premier mega-resort on the Vegas Strip–thinks it’s just another night in Las Vegas. But then a magician pulls a disappearing act, right under Lucky’s nose. Is it a stunt? Or something worse? While Lucky chases leads, someone is trying to put her off the scent. As if this wasn’t enough to ruin her day, Lucky’s relationship with The Big Boss is coming to a head–past hurts can no longer be denied. Of course, she is already on shaky emotional ground: Teddie, her live-in, has been touring with a young and lovely pop star. Paxton Dane, former coworker and would-be suitor, is still circling, hoping to find a chink in the armor of Lucky’s resolve. And then, there’s this French chef, who is proving to be too hot to handle…. Las Vegas expert Deborah Coonts thrills again with this third installment in her dazzling series focused on casino “fixer” Lucky O’Toole.”

Historical Romance

  A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare. “When a devilish lord and a bluestocking set off on the road to ruin, time is not on their side. Minerva Highwood, one of Spindle Cove’s confirmed spinsters, needs to be in Scotland. Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, a rake of the first order, needs to be…anywhere but Spindle Cove. These unlikely partners have one week: to fake an elopement; to convince family and friends they’re ‘in love’; to outrun armed robbers; to survive their worst nightmares; to travel four hundred miles without killing each other. All while sharing a very small carriage by day and an even smaller bed by night. What they don’t have time for is their growing attraction. Much less wild passion. And heaven forbid they spend precious hours baring their hearts and souls. Suddenly one week seems like exactly enough time to find a world of trouble. And maybe….just maybe…everlasting love.”–from cover

Contemporary Romance

  Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery.   Michelle Sanderson, an army vet, is walking with a cane after being wounded in Afghanistan.  She has returned to her home on Blackberry Island to reclaim the local Inn which belonged to her family. “This poignant tale of family dynamics, the jarring impact of change, and eventual acceptance and healing is sure to please Mallery’s many, devoted fans.”

Classic Romance

  Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis. “LOVE CAN HAPPEN IN A HEARTBEAT Grace never thought she’d be starting her life over from scratch. Losing everything has landed her in Lucky Harbor, working as a dog walker for overwhelmed ER doctor Josh Scott. But the day his nanny fails to show up, Grace goes from caring for Josh’s lovable mutt to caring for his rambunctious son. Soon Grace is playing house with the sexy single dad . . . With so many people depending on him, Josh has no time for anything outside of his clinic and family-until Grace arrives in town. Now this brainy blonde is turning his life inside out and giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “good bedside manner.” Josh and Grace don’t know if what they have can last. But in a town like Lucky Harbor, a lifetime of love starts with just one day . . .”