Readers Guide


By Susie Stooksbury


November 26, 2015
November 19, 2015
November 12, 2015 
November 5, 2015

November 26, 2015 

There frequently is an autobiographical element in Homer Hickam’s novels, and his latest is no exception.  Carrying Albert Home is the “somewhat true” tale of how his parents, Elsie and Homer Sr., came to marry and, most importantly, find love.  They first met in high school in Coalwood, West Virginia.  Elsie wasn’t quite ready to settle down with Homer, so she went to Florida where she fell in love with budding performer Buddy Ebsen.  When he left for New York, she returned to Coalwood where she and Homer eventually married.  They also cared for Ebsen’s wedding gift – an alligator named Albert, who lived in their bathtub. 

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, we can’t help but think back to the stories we learned in school about our Pilgrim fathers – their search for religious freedom and tolerance, their hard first years on these shores, and their cordial relationship with the native Americans.  Historian Rod Gragg combed the letters, diaries, and memoirs these people left to learn the truth behind those stories we heard in school and to write his fascinating new book, The Pilgrim Chronicles: an Eyewitness History of the Pilgrims and the Founding of Plymouth Colony (974.400).

Peter Mayle blends his love of all things French with a pleasant mystery in The Diamond Caper, the fourth in his series featuring detective Sam Levitt and insurance investigator Elena Morales.  A rash of jewelry thefts across Europe have culminated in the taking of a two-million Euro necklace at a party during the Cannes Film Festival.  While Sam and Elena work the case, they bask in the glorious South of France enjoying good food and wine – and each other. 

A 300-year-old masterpiece by artist Andrew Watteau sits neglected on a back shelf in an antiques shop in London waiting to be rediscovered.  It catches the eye of Annie McDee, a personal chef to some art dealers, who is looking for a gift for a new suiter.  As luck would have it, he doesn’t show up for the dinner she had prepared for him, and so she keeps the painting.  It seems, though, that there are a number of people who have been looking for that particular work for a very long time – some with not so nice reasons – and it doesn’t take them long to track down both Annie and the Watteau.  Action-packed, wickedly funny, and full of great food, The Improbability of Love is Hannah Rothschild’s engaging fiction debut. 

Are you ready for Windows 10?  According to tech whizz David Pogue, Microsoft has now atoned for the train wreck called Windows 8, (they didn’t even try to release Windows 9), and included some of the good things from Windows 7 in their new version.  It strikes a happy balance between touchscreen and mouse, brings back the beloved Start menu, and has a new, cleaner web browser called Edge.  Pogue tells you lots more in Windows 10: the Missing Manual (005.440).

The release date for the new Star Wars movie is December 18.  In case you need to catch up on all the characters, creatures, locations, technology, and vehicles, Dorling Kindersley Publishing (DK) has put together Ultimate Star Wars (791.437).  It moves chronologically through the entire saga, beginning with Episode 1: the Phantom Menace, so you will know who’s who and what’s what when you watch the brand new Episode VII: the Force Awakens. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Depraved Heart: a Scarpetta Novel (M), by Patricia Cornwell;
Foreign Affairs: a Stone Barrington Novel, by Stuart Wood;
The Lake House, by Kate Morton;
All the Stars in Heaven, by Adriana Trigiani;
A Banquet of Consequences (M), by Elizabeth George;
Avenue of Mysteries, by John Irving;
Corrupted: a Rosato & DiNunzio Novel, by Lisa Scottoline.

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November 19, 2015 

Despite the fact that he is retired, Harry Bosch gets pulled back into a homicide investigation when his half-brother, hotshot defense attorney Mickey Haller, asks him to help on a case.  The evidence against Da’Quan “DQ” Foster is pretty solid – his DNA is all over the apartment of murder victim Lexi Parks.  But DQ has been on the straight and narrow for a long time and has too much to lose by committing this crime.  Harry reluctantly agrees to help Mickey only because he fears the real killer is still on the streets – and he is right.  Michael Connelly unites these two very different men in The Crossing (M). 

During the 1930s, the Soviet Union underwent a massive upheaval as millions of Russians – members of the intelligentsia as well as ordinary workers – were imprisoned and murdered during Stalin’s purge.  The late historian Robert Conquest thoroughly researched and unearthed the truth about that episode, which went largely overlooked by the Allies as they wooed the Soviets to their side in the opening days of World War II.  Published in 1968, Conquest’s book, The Great Terror (947.084) still stands today as the definitive expose on those tragic years. 

Stephen King proved himself as a short fiction writer thirty-five years ago with Night Shift and he hasn’t slowed down since.  The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories (SS) is his latest collection, with ten previously released (and re-tweaked) tales, and ten brand new ones.  As a special treat for readers, King introduces each piece by revealing how the story came about and why he wrote it. 

We seem to be fast approaching a time when computers will be able to do pretty much any job a person can do – faster, cheaper, and probably more accurately.  Geoff Colvin is here to report, however, on what computers can’t do: qualities such as empathy, creativity, relationship building, valuing each other – all the things that make us human.  He offers an uplifting view in the man vs computer debate, with advice on sharpening our unique skills, in Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know that Brilliant Machines Never Will (658.312). 

Award winning screenwriter and producer Bonnie MacBird makes her fine fiction debut with a well-crafted mystery featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.  Art in the Blood (M) is set after Sherlock unsuccessfully investigated the murders committed by Jack the Ripper.  The depressed Holmes has turned once again to drugs when he receives a letter from Emmeline La Victoire, Paris’ most popular chanteuse.  Her young son, Emil, is missing and she implores Holmes to find him.  The trail leads to the boy’s father, the Earl of Pellingham, who coincidentally is being investigated by Mycroft Holmes.  Complications arise when the quirky detective Jean Vidocq, who is Emmeline’s current lover, insists on assisting with the case. 

For many of us, food, dieting, and re-gaining weight are a constant issue in our lives to the extent that eating becomes our method for soothing away the many pressures we face daily.  Psychotherapist and life coach Julie Simon has developed an effective “mind-body-spirit guide for putting an end to overeating and dieting”.  She clearly lays out her workable plan in The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual (616.852). 

Other new titles:

Fiction – 
     After You, by Jojo Moyes;
See Me, by Nicholas Sparks;
Career of Evil: a Cormoran Strike Novel (M), by Robert Galbraith;
Marriage of Inconvenience, by Debbie Macomber;
Rogue Lawyer, by John Grisham.

Non-fiction –
     The Patient’s Playbook: How to Save Your Life and the Lives of Those You Love (610.696), by Leslie D.

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November 12, 2015 

Margaret Atwood takes us into another quirky future world in her latest novel, The Heart Goes Last.  Victims of a financial meltdown, Stan and Charmaine are living out of their car and foraging meals as best they can when they are offered a chance to live comfortably in the town of Consilience.  A house and jobs for both seems almost too good to be true – which, of course, it is.  The catch is that they are to be locked up in prison doing hard labor every other month.  Their vacant house will then be occupied by another couple until Stan and Charmaine return.  At first, the arrangement seems to be Okay – but then both Stan and Charmaine fall in love with their alternate house mates. 

If you have spent any time in our area, you may have heard of the Melungeons – a group of mixed-race people of unknown origin who settled mostly in upper East Tennessee.  Initially ostracized due to the belief that they were a blend of white, black, and Native American, they gained attention when it was revealed that they may be descendants of Portuguese settlers.  Melissa Schrift, anthropology professor at ETSU, believes it was at that point that this group took on their cultural identity.  Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South (976.890) is her fascinating report. 

Armchair adventurers will enjoy a new series developed by author/illustrator Jon Baird, award-winning actor/director Kevin Costner, and graphic artist Rick Ross.  It is set in the opening years of World War I and follows an intrepid group of explorers as they search for the mysterious places on the earth.  Working under the cover of a venerable, stuffy gentlemen’s club, the group makes their clandestine plans for each adventure.  In The Explorer’s Guild, Volume one: A Passage to Shambhala, they set out to locate and learn the secrets of that fabled city. 


Following the death of his father, Carl Martin inherits the old man’s house.  It is well-situated in an upscale neighborhood, which turns out to be a little too dear for Carl’s pocketbook.  He decides to rent out the upstairs and feels quite lucky when Dermot McKinnon answers his advertisement.  It seems Carl’s father also left behind his collection of homeopathic diet pills, which Carl quickly sells to a friend for some ready cash.  When that friend promptly dies, Carl’s troubles begin because Dermot, who knows all about the drug deal, starts to blackmail him.  Dark Corners (M) is another expertly executed suspense tale – perhaps the last – by the late Ruth Rendell.

The papacy of Pope Francis is now two years old.  Among the wealth of new books written about him are two by respected journalists who both weigh in on what they see as the role Francis has forged for himself as he takes the Catholic Church into the future.  Paul Vallely, an internationally recognized commentator on religion, ethics, and society, presents his thoughts in Pope Francis: the Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism (282.092).  BBC Vatican correspondent David Willey looks at The Promise of Francis: the Man, the Pope, and the Challenge of Change (282.092). 

New DVDs:

Feature –
     Spy, with Melissa McCarthy and Jude Law;
Magic Mike XXL, starring Channing Tatum and Joe Mangniello;
Tomorrowland, featuring George Clooney and Hugh Laurie.

Television –
     Breaking Bad, starring Brian Cranston, Anna Gunn, and Aaron Paul;
How to Get Away with Murder – the Complete First Season, starring Viola Davis.

Children –
     He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown

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November 5, 2015 

After 50 years as a travel writer visiting some of the world’s most intriguing places, Paul Theroux decided to jump in his car and visit our own region.  He deliberately ignored the metropolitan areas, like Atlanta and New Orleans, for the back roads that took him into rural places – some almost resembling the Third World.  In Deep South (917.500), Theroux tells what he saw – a land of wonderfully kind and generous people in a distinctive culture still shadowed by a long-ago way of life and the war that ended it. 

However, no one can appreciate the South as well as a native Southerner as Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg knows.  His latest book, My Southern Journey (975.000), holds 72 short pieces on the land and people he knows and loves.  While he considers himself “an imperfect citizen of an imperfect, odd, beautiful, dysfunctional, delicious place”, he happily points out that “at least we ain’t dull”. 

With two successful series already to his credit, Jim Butcher is beginning a third.  The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first installment of The Cinder Series, which is set in a world where the denizens live above the surface in fantastic spires, each a separate entity with its own economy and government.  Relations are chilly between Spire Albion and Spire Aurora, especially after Captain Grimm and the crew of his airship attack Aurora’s cargo vessels.  But an ancient deadly menace soon threatens all the spires – and Grimm is tasked with stopping it. 

Fans of espionage thrillers lost a promising author in 2013 when Vince Flynn, creator of the popular Mitch Rapp series, passed away.  Flynn may be gone but Rapp is not.  Begun before Flynn’s death, The Survivor has been ably completed by Kyle Mills who has also written a number of books in the Robert Ludlum franchise.  When a former CIA operative goes rogue and starts leaking top secrets, Mitch is assigned to stop him.  But while he is easily able to neutralize the traitor, he is unable to put an end to the leaks which have been somehow programmed for continuous release.  

Often when relationships end, the breakup causes bitter feelings and animosity.  Marriage and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas believes it doesn’t have to be that way.  She calls it Conscious Uncoupling (306.890) – a technique made famous when Gwyneth Paltrows’ marriage ended several years ago.  It’s a whole new way of breaking up as Thomas explains through her “5 steps to living happily ever after”. 

Kim van Alkemade makes her impressive debut with Orphan #8.  Rachel Rabinowitz was 4-years-old in 1919 when she and her brother Sam were sent to separate orphanages.  At the Hebrew Infant Home in New York City, she was selected by Dr. Mildred Solomon to be part of an experiment involving barium and x-rays which ultimately left the little girl badly disfigured.  Now many years later, Rachel has become a well-respected nurse at the Old Hebrew Home in the hospice wing, where terminally ill Mildred Solomon falls under her care.  Rachel now has the power to ruin what is left of the old woman’s life.  What will she do? 

Other new titles:

Fiction -
     Who do you love, by Jennifer Weiner;
The Man Who Fell from the Sky: a Wind River Mystery (M), by Margaret Coel;
Come Rain or Come Shine: a Mitford Novel, by Jan Karon;
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, by George R. R. Martin.

Non-fiction –
     St. Paul: the Apostle we Love to Hate (225.920), by Karen Armstrong;
Paula Dean Cuts the Fat: 250 Favorite Recipes All Lightened Up (641.563), by Paula Dean.

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