Archive for December, 2012

Best Nonfiction

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

This outstanding nonfiction was recommended by Publisher’s Weekly.

People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo by Richard Lloyd Parry (Find in our catalog).

Excerpt from Library Journal review in our catalog: “This true crime tale reads like a novel, but few of its fictional counterparts have this much insight into murder cases and the psychology of the people involved. Foreign correspondent and author Parry (Tokyo bureau chief, The Times; In the Time of Madness: Indonesia on the Edge of Chaos) tells the story of Lucie Blackman, a young Englishwoman who mysteriously disappeared in Japan in 2000. He vividly captures the atmosphere and culture of Tokyo, where Blackman lived before she disappeared, and tells of her family’s excruciating attempts to find answers and the bizarre trial of the man accused of her brutal murder. Parry remains objective but writes sympathetically of all involved. He delves into the lives of members of the victim’s family as well as of the accused man, adding layer upon layer of complexity to an already complicated case.”

The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600–1675 by Bernard Bailyn (Find in our catalog).

From our catalog: “Bernard Bailyn gives us a compelling account of the first great transit of people from Britain, Europe, and Africa to British North America, their involvements with each other, and their struggles with the indigenous peoples of the eastern seaboard. They were a mixed multitude–from England, the Netherlands, the German and Italian states, France, Africa, Sweden, and Finland. They moved to the western hemisphere for different reasons, from different social backgrounds and cultures, and under different auspices and circumstances. Even the majority that came from England fit no distinct socioeconomic or cultural pattern. They came from all over the realm, from commercialized London and the southeast; from isolated farmlands in the north still close to their medieval origins; from towns in the Midlands, the south, and the west; from dales, fens, grasslands, and wolds. They represented the entire spectrum of religious communions from Counter-Reformation Catholicism to Puritan Calvinism and Quakerism. They came hoping to re-create if not to improve these diverse lifeways in a remote and, to them, barbarous environment. But their stories are mostly of confusion, failure, violence, and the loss of civility as they sought to normalize abnormal situations and recapture lost worlds. And in the process they tore apart the normalities of the people whose world they had invaded. Later generations, reading back into the past the outcomes they knew, often gentrified this passage in the peopling of British North America, but there was nothing genteel about it. Bailyn shows that it was a brutal encounter–brutal not only between the Europeans and native peoples and between Europeans and Africans, but among Europeans themselves. All, in their various ways, struggled for survival with outlandish aliens, rude people, uncultured people, and felt themselves threatened with descent into squalor and savagery. In these vivid stories of individual lives–some new, some familiar but rewritten with new details and contexts–Bailyn gives a fresh account of the history of the British North American population in its earliest, bitterly contested years.”

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945–1956 by Anne Applebaum (Find in our catalog).

From the catalog: “In the long-awaited follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag , acclaimed journalist Anne Applebaum delivers a groundbreaking history of how Communism took over Eastern Europe after World War II and transformed in frightening fashion the individuals who came under its sway. At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union to its surprise and delight found itself in control of a huge swath of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to Communism, a completely new political and moral system. In Iron Curtain , Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Applebaum describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete. She draws on newly opened East European archives, interviews, and personal accounts translated for the first time to portray in devastating detail the dilemmas faced by millions of individuals trying to adjust to a way of life that challenged their every belief and took away everything they had accumulated. Today the Soviet Bloc is a lost civilization, one whose cruelty, paranoia, bizarre morality, and strange aesthetics Applebaum captures in the electrifying pages of Iron Curtain.”


Here Comes Trouble

Friday, December 28th, 2012

  Here Comes Trouble:  Stories from my Life by Michael Moore

Michael Moore’s biography has been in the HCPL system for several months, but perhaps you missed it and might appreciate a tiny nudge to check it out.  Always a controversial figure, Moore opens his otherwise-humorous memoir with the deadly serious threats on his life from that fateful occasion of his receiving an Academy Award in 2003.  He used his award acceptance speech to condemn the Iraq War.  For this, his life was threatened and his career nearly upended.  From that event, Moore takes us back to much earlier days – his birth, in fact, and through elementary school, high school, and on into adulthood, all the while sharing with us his life stories of family and developing career.

Most of Moore’s writings are hilarious in the telling, but much more is strikingly sad, as he shows us the economic decline of his home town, Flint, Michigan, from solid working class to a much more desolate urban landscape.  He also explores his growing politicization, from an idealistic boy on his first trip to the nation’s capital, to his start in politics (his election to a local school board at age 18), to his intense involvement in liberal causes and fights for justice.  Finally, we find out how it is that Moore became a filmmaker, growing into a one of the most renowned documentary directors in our country.  All along the journey of his life, we realize one thing over and over:  Michael Moore loves his country and just wants above all to make it a better place for all its citizens.

D. L. S.

Another PW Best Book of the Year

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle (Find in our catalog)

Here’s what it says in our catalog: “Pepper is a rambunctious big man, and, suddenly, the surprised inmate of a budget-strapped mental institution in Queens, New York. He’s not mentally ill, but that doesn’t seem to matter. On his first night, he’s visited by a terrifying creature who nearly kills him before being hustled away by the hospital staff. It’s no delusion: The other patients confirm that a hungry devil roams the hallways when the sun goes down. Pepper rallies three other inmates in a plot to fight back: Dorry, an octogenarian schizophrenic; Coffee, an African immigrant with severe OCD; and Loochie, a bipolar teenage girl. Battling the pill-pushing staff, one another, and their own minds, they try to kill the monster that’s stalking them. But can the Devil die?”




Great 2012 Books for Book Clubs

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Kirkus Reviews has just come out with its 100 Best Fiction of 2012.  Click here for more details.  This list would make great suggestions for book clubs!


The Butterfly’s Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Luz Avila has been raised by her beloved grandmother. She has a mundane job & a boyfriend she may be in love with. One day her grandmother receives a mysterious phone call & later surprises Luz when she buys an old Volkswagen bug & suggests the two of them go on a road trip to her old home in Mexico. Before they can begin, however, her grandmother passes away & Luz is left to decide what to do next. She finally decides to throw caution to the wind & take her grandmother’s ashes to Mexico for the Day of the Dead. So Luz sets out on the road trip that will become a journey of self discovery, where she will meet a variety of women who will change her life as she changes theirs, & where she will discover a family secret. This book was the Abingdon Book group read for December. It is a quick & easy read, yet covers deeper issues concerning relationships, love, abuse, betrayal, hope & change. As we follow Luz, we also follow the migration path of the monarch butterfly. Ms. Monroe includes beautiful descriptions of the butterfly sanctuary in Mexico & many interesting details. All of the group felt they had learned something about this fascinating subject. Recommended reading that if a little too good to be true at times still gives the reader food for thought.



Posted by Julia

A Best Book of the Year

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

The Round House by Louise Erdrich (Find this book in our catalog)

This book is one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2012.  It was also a National Book Award winner, and as such has great credentials as a book group pick.  This dark, brooding and entertaining novel, “sets a Native American boy’s coming of age against the brutal backdrop of racism and violence in North Dakota. When 13-year-old Joe becomes frustrated with the investigation into the attack that left his mother too traumatized to speak, he looks into the crime himself.”  This is what it says in our catalog: “Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared. While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning. Written with undeniable urgency, and illuminating the harsh realities of contemporary life in a community where Ojibwe and white live uneasily together,The Round Houseis a brilliant and entertaining novel, a masterpiece of literary fiction. Louise Erdrich embraces tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of her all-too-human characters, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what happens in our own world today.”


William Hill Sports Book of the Year

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Disgraced world-class cyclist Tyler Hamilton won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award for his expose The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs

(Find the book in our catalog).

This is what it says in our catalog: “Hamilton pulls back the curtain on the Tour de France and takes us into the secret world of professional cycling like never before: the doping, the lying, and his years as Lance Armstrong’s teammate on U.S. Postal.”




Best Christmas Romance Novels

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Anne Browning Walker, the author of the contemporary romance novel, The Booby Trap, recommended these Christmas novels for Publisher’s Weekly.  These are all in our catalog. Click on a highlighted title to find the book.

Try an anthology, where you get snippets from many different writers:

Snowy Night with a Stranger by Jane Feather, Sabrina Jeffries, Julia London. Summary: “Warm up on a winter’s night with three passionate love stories from three shining New York Times bestselling authors! Jane Feather leads an unwitting Yuletide traveler down a twisting path…. Edward Vasey, Viscount Allenton, is journeying precariously through a snowstorm when his coach is overtaken by high-waymen! Robbed of his money, Ned takes refuge at Selby Hall, where a spirited beauty with a shocking secret may steal something more — his heart. Sabrina Jeffries unlocks the heart of an embittered lord…. When a coach accident strands heiress Elinor Bancroft at the home of the notorious Black Baron, she discovers the Christmas Day heartache that darkened his soul years ago — and her generous heart brings a festive air to his home and reawakens his spirit to love. Julia London sends a debutante into the wintry Scottish wilds…. Searching for her rakehell brother, an earl lying low in the wake of a scandalous affair, Fiona Haines is led by a rugged Highlander who obscures his scarred face. As they journey on, Fiona draws closer to her brave, enigmatic protector — but will fury or passion ignite when he reveals his identity?”

Try these stories of Christmas past:

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig. “‘Tis the season to get Pink! Lauren Willig’s beloved Pink Carnation series gets into the holiday spirit with this irresistible Regency Christmas caper. Arabella Dempsey’s dear friend Jane Austen warned her against teaching. But Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies seems the perfect place for Arabella to claim her independence while keeping an eye on her younger sisters nearby. Just before Christmas, she accepts a position at the quiet girls’ school in Bath, expecting to face nothing more exciting than conducting the annual Christmas recital. She hardly imagines coming face to face with French aristocrats and international spies… Reginald “Turnip”Fitzhugh-often mistaken for the elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation- has blundered into danger before. But when he blunders into Miss Arabella Dempsey, it never occurs to him that she might be trouble. When Turnip and Arabella stumble upon a beautifully wrapped Christmas pudding with a cryptic message written in French, “Meet me at Farley Castle,” the unlikely vehicle for intrigue launches the pair on a Yuletide adventure that ranges from the Austens’modest drawing room to the awe-inspiring estate of the Dukes of Dovedale, where the Dowager Duchess is hosting the most anticipated event of the year: an elaborate twelve-day Christmas celebration. Will they find poinsettias or peril, dancing or danger? Is it possible that the fate of the British Empire rests in Arabella’s and Turnip’s hands, in the form of a festive Christmas pudding?”

Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas. “The Wallflowers are four young ladies in London who banded together in their wild and wickedly wonderful searches for true love. Now happily married, they join together once again to help one of the world’s most notorious rogues realize that happiness might be right under the mistletoe… . It’s Christmastime in London and Rafe Bowman has arrived from America for his arranged meeting with Natalie Blandford, the very proper and beautiful daughter of Lady and Lord Blandford. His chiseled good looks and imposing physique are sure to impress the lady in waiting and, if it weren’t for his shocking American ways and wild reputation, her hand would already be guaranteed. Before the courtship can begin, Rafe realizes he must learn the rules of London society. But when four former Wallflowers try their hand at matchmaking, no one knows what will happen. And winning a bride turns out to be more complicated than Rafe Bowman anticipated, especially for a man accustomed to getting anything he wants. However, Christmas works in the most unexpected ways, changing a cynic to a romantic and inspiring passion in the most timid of hearts. A Wallflower Christmas takes a trip to Victorian London, under the mistletoe, and on a journey of the heart. With her trademark charm, sensuality, and unforgettable characters, there’s no one like Lisa Kleypas to make you believe in the magic of Christmas.”

A Christmas Bride by Mary Balogh. “The very wealthy Edgar Downes has promised his aging father to finally take a bride–specifically, to wed a titled lady by Christmas. London is full of pretty, proper, and eligible misses, but it’s the widow Helena, Lady Stapleton, in a shocking red dress, who captures Edgar’s attention. Helena is intrigued by the seductive stranger–but he’s simply not in her class. Marriage, of course, would never do. But in a season of miracles, something wondrous is about to happen.”

And now for Christmas Present:

Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr. “This year, Becca Timm knows the number one item on her Christmas wish list-getting over Denny Cutler. Three years ago, Denny broke her heart before heading off to war. It’s time she got over her silly college relationship and moved on. So she takes matters into her own hands and heads up to Virgin River, the rugged little mountain town that Denny calls home, as an uninvited guest on her brother’s men-only hunting weekend. But when an accident turns her impromptu visit into an extended stay, Becca finds herself stranded in Virgin River. With Denny. In very close quarters. As the power of Christmas envelops the little town, Becca discovers that the boy she once loved has become a strong and confident man. And the most delicious Christmas present she can imagine.”

Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs. “Maureen Davenport lives for Christmas-and there’s nothing more magical than Christmas on Willow Lake. The prim librarian is finally getting her chance to direct Avalon’s annual holiday pageant, and she’s determined to make it truly spectacular. But it might just require one of those Christmas miracles she’s always read about. Because her codirector is recovering former child star Eddie Haven, a long-haired, tattooed lump of coal in Maureen’s pageant stocking. Eddie can’t stand Christmas, but a court order from a judge has landed him right in the middle of the merrymaking. Maureen and Eddie spar over every detail of the pageant, from casting troubled kids to Eddie’s original-and distinctly un traditional-music. Is he trying to sabotage the performance to spite her? Or is she trying too hard to fit the show into her storybook-perfect notion of Christmas? And how is it possible that they’re falling in love?”

Angels at the Table by Debbie Macomber. “In this joyous and whimsical holiday novel, Debbie Macomber rings in the season with the return of Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy, delivering laughs, love, and a charming dose of angelic intervention. Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy know that an angel’s work is never done, especially during a time as wondrous as New Year’s Eve. With an apprentice angel, Will, under their wings, they descend upon Times Square in New York City eager to join in the festivities. And when Will spies two lonely strangers in the crowd, he decides midnight is the perfect time to lend a heavenly helping hand. Lucie Farrara and Aren Fairchild meet after bumping into each other–seemingly by accident–in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. They immediately hit it off and find they have a lot in common: Lucie is a burgeoning chef and Aren is a respected food critic. But just as quickly as they’re brought together, another twist of fate tears them apart, leaving Lucie and Aren with no way to reconnect. A year later, Lucie is the chef of an acclaimed new restaurant and Aren is a successful columnist for a major New York newspaper. For all the time that’s passed, the two have not forgotten their one serendipitous evening–and neither have Shirley, Goodness, Mercy, and Will. To reunite the young couple, the angels cook up a brilliant plan: mix true love, a second chance, and a generous sprinkle of mischief to create an unforgettable Christmas miracle.” From the Hardcover edition.

You can find Anne Browning online at


The Tudors

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

The Tudors were a ruthless dynasty who ruled England at a turning point of Western civilization.  Much has been written about them, fact and fiction, because of their convoluted politics and dysfunctional family life.  Their lives were colorful and fraught with violence, intrigue and deception. I have recently recommended the award-winning biography of Henry VII, The Winter King, and also the pair of novels, both of which won the Man Booker Prize, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.  Readers of these novels by Hilary Mantel will be interested in The Winter King for the back story of how Katherine of Aragon voyaged from Spain to England to marry Prince Arthur, thus setting the stage for the divorce of Katherine from Henry VIII and the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn.

There are lots of other great books about the Tudors.  Here is a short list of both fiction and nonfiction in our library:

The Tudors: the complete story of England’s most notorious dynasty by G. J. Meyer. “For the first time in decades, here, in a single volume, is a fresh look at the fabled Tudor dynasty, comprising some of the most enigmatic figures ever to rule a country. Acclaimed historian G. J. Meyer reveals the flesh-and-bone reality in all its wild excess. In 1485, young Henry Tudor, whose claim to the throne was so weak as to be almost laughable, crossed the English Channel from France at the head of a ragtag little army and took the crown from the family that had ruled England for almost four hundred years. Half a century later his son, Henry VIII, desperate to rid himself of his first wife in order to marry a second, launched a reign of terror aimed at taking powers no previous monarch had even dreamed of possessing. In the process he plunged his kingdom into generations of division and disorder, creating a legacy of blood and betrayal that would blight the lives of his children and the destiny of his country. The boy king Edward VI, a fervent believer in reforming the English church, died before bringing to fruition his dream of a second English Reformation. Mary I, the disgraced daughter of Catherine of Aragon, tried and failed to reestablish the Catholic Church and produce an heir. And finally came Elizabeth I, who devoted her life to creating an image of herself as Gloriana the Virgin Queen but, behind that mask, sacrificed all chance of personal happiness in order to survive. The Tudors weaves together all the sinners and saints, the tragedies and triumphs, the high dreams and dark crimes, that reveal the Tudor era to be, in its enthralling, notorious truth, as momentous and as fascinating as the fictions audiences have come to love.”(we also own the audiobook of this title)

Anne Boleyn: fatal attractions by G.W. Bernard. “In this groundbreaking new biography, G.W. Bernard offers a fresh portrait of one of England’s most captivating queens. Through a wide-ranging forensic examination of sixteenth-century sources, Bernard reconsiders Boleyn’s girlhood, her experience at the French court, the nature of her relationship with Henry and the authenticity of her evangelical sympathies. He depicts Anne Boleyn as a captivating, intelligent and highly sexual woman whose attractions Henry resisted for years until marriage could ensure legitimacy for their offspring.” “He shows that it was Henry, not Anne, who developed the ideas that led to the break with Rome. And, most radically, he argues that the allegations of adultery that led to Anne’s execution in the Tower could be close to the truth.”–BOOK JACKET.

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory. This is a novel about how Henry VII was positioned to found his dynasty. “Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England and that she has a great destiny before her. Her ambitions are disappointed when her sainted cousin Henry VI fails to recognize her as a kindred spirit, and she is even more dismayed when he sinks into madness. Her mother mocks her plans, revealing that Margaret will always be burdened with the reputation of her father, one of the most famously incompetent English commanders in France. But worst of all for Margaret is when she discovers that her mother is sending her to a loveless marriage in remote Wales. Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at only fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son on the throne of England regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy. Disregarding rival heirs and the overwhelming power of the York dynasty, she names him Henry, like the king; sends him into exile; and pledges him in marriage to her enemy Elizabeth of York’s daughter. As the political tides constantly move and shift, Margaret charts her own way through another loveless marriage, treacherous alliances, and secret plots. She feigns loyalty to the usurper Richard III and even carries his wife’s train at her coronation. Widowed a second time, Margaret marries the ruthless, deceitful Thomas, Lord Stanley, and her fate stands on the knife edge of his will. Gambling her life that he will support her, she then masterminds one of the greatest rebellions of the time – all the while knowing that her son has grown to manhood, recruited an army, and now waits for his opportunity to win the greatest prize. In a novel of conspiracy, passion, and coldhearted ambition, number one bestselling author Philippa Gregory has brought to life the story of a proud and determined woman who believes that she alone is destined, by her piety and lineage, to shape the course of history.”

Three Maids for a Crown by Ella March Chase. The intrigue and death did not stop with Henry VIII, who died leaving his kingdom in great danger because there was no male heir.  The bloodbath in the struggle for power continued. Stability was only gained at great cost in the reign of Elizabeth I. This novel, like Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, deals with the way noble women were often the pawns in their families’ dynastic ambitions. “Sixteen-year-old Jane Grey is a quiet and obedient young lady destined to become the shortest reigning English monarch. Her beautiful middle sister Katherine Grey charms all the right people–until loyalties shift. And finally Lady Mary Grey, a dwarf with a twisted spine whose goal is simply to protect people she loves–but at a terrible cost. In an age in which begetting sons was all that mattered and queens rose and fell on the sex of their child, these three girls with royal Tudor blood lived under the dangerous whims of parents with a passion for gambling. The stakes they would wager: their daughters’ lives against rampant ambition”– Cover verso.




Recommended Christian Fiction by Christy

Monday, December 10th, 2012

The Christmas Pony by Melody Carlson (Find this book in our catalog)

The year is 1937 and times are hard. Eight year old Lucy Turnball, who believes God can do anything, has a fervent prayer for a pony for Christmas. Lucy already knows the name of her Christmas pony - Smokey - and where to buy him – Mr. Goldenburg.

Lucy’s mother, along with Lucy’s grandmother, run a boarding house, which barely provides for their day-to-day needs. Her mother tells Lucy that maybe it’s better to pray for paying customers. Lucy assures her mother that she will do just that.

The unexpected answer to Lucy’s childlike prayer comes be in the form of an ailing yellow car. Veronica Grant and George Prescott are trying to drive it on their way to California.  The car can’t be fixed right away so they must find a place to stay. Lucy suggests her mama’s boarding house, thinking maybe she just might get that Christmas pony after all.  See how God’s answer to a child’s fervent prayer can also change and expand the lives of those around her.

Yuletide Proposal  by Lois Richer (Find this book in our catalog)

Can Brianna Benson let go of a ten year old hurt and find happiness during this Christmas season?  Betrayed a decade ago by her fiance Zac, Brianna has returned home to Hope, New Mexico to work at a medical clinic assisting troubled children.  Zac is now the school administrator who is trying to motivate the teens of Hope to do something bigger or better with and for their future.

When what looks like symptoms of drug usage are found in several sick children who have been brought into the clinic, including Brianna’s stepson Cory, Zac approaches Brianna asking her help to find the source and stop this unneeded trouble in their hometown.

Can God open and heal Brianna’s heart and mind enough for her to work with Zac for the good of the town and her son? At this time of year when love is shown and shared and forgiveness is more freely given and received can there be a possibility of a Yuletide proposal and a brighter future for Brianna and Zac?

Posted by Christy