Readers Guide

 

By Susie Stooksbury

 

October 17, 2014
October 10, 2014

October 3, 2014 
September 26, 2014

October 17, 2014 

With Perfidia, noir writer James Ellroy begins a new series which will form a prequel to his outstanding L. A. Quartet.  This Second L. A. Quartet opens on August 6, 1941 – the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The apparent ritual murder/suicide of a Japanese family creates tension between LAPD’s unscrupulous Sgt. Dudley Smith and troubled Capt. William Parker.  The investigation eventually pulls in crime scene analyst Hideo Ashida, the only Japanese on the police force, and Kay Lake who goes undercover to infiltrate the communist community. 

A noted composer, music historian, and professor at Boston Conservatory, Jan Swaffod has written biographies of Charles Ives and Johannes Brahms.  His latest is a richly detailed and enjoyable chronicle of the life of another great composer.  In Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph (780.920, Swafford finely tells how the surly unkempt genius rose above his illness and tragic loss of hearing to create beautiful works of art. 

In 1686, Nella Oortman travels from her small village in the Netherlands to Amsterdam to marry merchant Johannes Brandt, who is 20 years her senior.  Left largely alone with her disdainful sister-in-law Marin and a formidable staff, Nella becomes intrigued with her husband’s surprisingly thoughtful wedding gift – a cabinet made into an exquisite replica of their house.  Soon Nella hires an artisan to furnish the house – and becomes increasingly frightened as each new piece is accompanied by a cryptic, almost prophetic message.  The Miniaturist marks the exciting fiction debut of Jesse Burton.  

From astronomy to quantum mechanics, the history of science plays a major part in the history of the world.  Beginning with Thales of Miletus, whose prediction of a solar eclipse in 585 BCE halted a battle between the Lydians and the Medes, the team at DK Publishing entertainingly shows the discoveries which became the building blocks for the evolution of science.  They call it The Science Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained (500.000). 

Having kicked her cocaine habit, Evie emerges from rehab with little going for her.  Her addiction put an end to her relationship with the man she loved as well as her graduate school work. She hopes to find some kind of direction by working at a place called The Sanctuary – an isolated rescue and rehabilitation center for rescued canines.  The problem is, she knows nothing about dogs.  See how Evie and some troubled mutts find redemption at The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances, the latest novel from Ellen Cooney. 

Tablets, ebook readers, Smartphones, YouTube – it is hard to keep up with all the new gizmos and fun things out on the market.  Because it is way too easy to feel lost and left behind, Paul Lance has written a wonderful guide that explains all of it in easy to understand language.  Just Tell Me How It Works: Practical Help for Adults on All-Thing-Digital (004.019) will help you decide if a specific technology is right for you and then show you how to get the most out of it. 

New DVD titles:

Feature –
     Draft Day, starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner;
    
The Love Punch, with Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson;
    
Fading Gigolo, featuring Woody Allen and John Turturro;
    
Captain America: the Winter Soldier, with Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson.

Television – 
     The Twilight Zone: Essential Episodes, with Rod Serling;
    
Keeping Up Appearances, starring Patricia Routledge and Clive Swift.

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October 10, 2014 

World War I played havoc with Britain’s very structured class system, throwing many of the old moneyed families into debt while giving rise to a boisterous new middle class.  Frances Wray and her widowed mother can no longer keep up their gracious home in South London and have decided they must take in lodgers.  Enter the young Barbers, Leonard and Lilian, who fill the genteel home with loud music, loud voices, and fun.  Sarah Waters explores the shifting dynamics between the Wrays and the Barbers in The Paying Guests. 

A little southwest of Columbia, Tennessee, is the town of Hohenwald which plays host to The Elephant Sanctuary, a 2700-acre area dedicated to caring for “old, sick and needy” elephants.  The facility currently houses thirteen elephants, including Billie who was born in India and taken at the age of four to be trained for life in a circus.  Journalist Carol Bradley brings us her poignant story in Last Chain for Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top (636.083).

It was 200 years ago that English troops burned their way through the Chesapeake Bay area and invaded the newly-fledged city of Washington.  President James Madison and his wife Dolly barely had time to reach safety.  The subsequent defeat of the British at Fort McHenry proved to truly liberate America once and for all.  Peter Snow finely recreates the time When Britain Burned the White House: the 1814 Invasion of Washington (975.302). 

Two damaged people find a sense of healing in Robert Whitlow’s latest novel, The Confession.  Assistant District Attorney Holt Douglas is good at his job.  He is able to get criminals to confess to their misdeeds and has won a lot of convictions.  Yet Holt carries a terrible secret from his past – one that is at the heart of everything he does.  Police Officer Trish Carmichael also carries a burden.  A woman of deep faith, she is unable to forgive the person responsible for the accident that killed her father and left her mother paralyzed.  When a prominent townsman’s murder is made to look like a suicide, Holt and Trish team up to find the truth - with far reaching consequences for both of them. 

Now 80, retired Seattle Police Capt. Edward Shank is ready to move to an assisted living facility.  He turns over his lovely old Victorian house to his grandson, Matt, a popular chef who has just opened up a hot new restaurant.  Edward is a legend around the city for his apprehension years ago of Rufus Wedge, the serial killer called the Beacon Hill Butcher.  But when Matt has some renovation work done on the old place, the contractor makes a gruesome discovery in the backyard – one that makes Matt wonder if Rufus Wedge really was the killer.  Jennifer Hillier keeps you guessing in The Butcher. 

Thoughts of alchemy may conjure up visions of a bearded gentleman in a wizard’s hat trying to turn base metal into gold.  As far-fetched as that now seems, the alchemists of old did make some significant discoveries – acids, alkalis and alcohol among them.  Three chemists – Cathy Cobb, Monty Fetterolf, and Harold Goldwhite – have written a lively account of this art, complete with experiments you can do in your own kitchen, in The Chemistry of Alchemy: From Dragon’s Blood to Donkey Dung, how Chemistry was Forged (540,112). 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     An Unwilling Accomplice: a Bess Crawford Mystery (M), by Charles Todd;
    
Shots Fired: Stories from Joe Pickett Country (M), by C. J. Box;
    
Windigo Island, by William Kent Drueger;
    
No Safe House, by Linwood Barclay.

Non-fiction –
     Blood Feud: the Clintons vs. the Obamas (973.932), by Edward Klein;
    
The Language of Houses: How Buildings Speak to Us (720.100), by Alison Lurie.

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October 3, 2014 

Colleen McCullough’s literary career kicked into high gear with The Thornbirds, which was published in 1977.  The sweeping saga of a forbidden love affair captured the imaginations of readers all over the world.  After writing a series set in ancient Rome and a set of contemporary mysteries, McCullough returns to romance with Bittersweet.  Set in Australia during the 1920s and ‘30s, the novel follows the fortunes of the four Latimer sisters – twins Edda and Grace, and their younger sisters Kitty and “Tufts” who are also twins.  Eager to escape their oppressive small town, the four decide to train as nurses – but their lives take very different paths. 

We don’t hear a lot about them, but the Koch brothers of Kansas, particularly Charles and David, are exerting a strong influence on American politics.  Currently one of the wealthiest families in the country, the Koch’s libertarian views can now be felt all the way to our political grassroots.  Daniel Schulman, a senior editor at Mother Jones, has written an intriguing biography on all four men in Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty (338.700). 

When he isn’t writing screenplays or graphic novels, Gregg Hurwitz pens seat-of-your-chair thrillers.  His latest is Don’t Look Back, featuring Eve Hardaway who had planned a tenth anniversary trip with her husband until he left her for his younger girlfriend.  Eve decides to go on the trip to the jungles of Oaxaca, Mexico, anyway.  It’s a great idea – but bad weather, the mysterious disappearance of a guest at the hotel, and a vicious killer hiding out in the jungle turn this dream vacation into a nightmare. 

Boston Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert was a confirmed introvert – happy to watch his own television from his own sofa while communicating by computer - until he married a dog lover and became the owner of a highly extroverted yellow lab puppy named Toby.  Determined to properly socialize the pup, he ended up taking him to Amory Park, a dog part near his home in Brookline, where he met lots of dogs – and their very unique owners.  Off the Leash (636.700) chronicles Gilbert’ and Toby’s transformation after “a year at the dog park”. 

As Meg enters her childhood home, she wonders how things ever got the way they are now.  She thinks back to her family as it was 30 years ago: her patient, loving father Colin; her sister Beth and twin brothers Rory and Rhys – typical, happy kids.  And at the center was her almost magical mother Lorelei.  Now the once lovely cottage in the beautiful Cotswolds is piled high with stuff – her brother Rhys is dead and so is Lorelei, and the once happy Bird family has come apart.  The House We Grew Up In is the latest from Lisa Jewel. 

By some estimates, there may be as many as 40,000 human remains in law enforcement agencies all over the country.  With these departments overworked and understaffed, they have little time to spend on the cold cases.  But in recent years, help has arrived from an unusual source – a growing group of sleuths who use the internet to connect the dots in unidentified body cases.  Journalist Deborah Halber calls them The Skeleton Crew (363.250).  She takes us into their world to show “how amateur sleuths are solving America’s coldest cases”. 

 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Verdict of the Court: a Sixteenth Century Burren Mystery (M), by Cora Harrison;
    
Sunshine on Scotland Street: the New 44 Scotland Street Novel, by Alexander McCall Smith;
    
Personal: a Jack Reacher Novel, by Jack Reacher;
    
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami.

Non-fiction –
     First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents (363.280), by Ronald
        Kessler;
    
The Serpent’s Promise: the Bible Interpreted Through Modern Science (261.550), by Steve Jones.


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September 26, 2014 

While it may seem that Bobby J. Copeland’s forte is writing books about the Old West portrayed in the exciting movies of Saturday matinees, he has another love and that’s his hometown – Oak Ridge.  He was only 10 when his family moved to Happy Valley, the community that sprang up during the construction of K-25.  He has great memories of how things used to be and he details them all – wonderfully illustrated with Ed Westcott’s iconic photographs – in Oak Ridge – the Way it Was: a Non-Scientific Look at the First 40 Years of the Secret City (976.873 and ORR 976.873). 

Ken Follett began his impressive saga of the Twentieth Century with Fall of Giants, which focused on five interrelated families from different key nations around the world.  Opening in 1911, the Century Trilogy now closes with The Edge of Eternity, as the new generation bears witness to the turbulent 60s, 70s, and 80s – from the inside of the Kennedy White House to revelations about the CIA in the 1980s. 

Historian Geoffrey C. Ward and filmmaker Ken Burns have collaborated once again to recreate a slice of America’s past.  Their subject this time is one of our country’s most influential families – The Roosevelts (973.910).  Their “intimate biography” focuses on Theodore, Eleanor, and Franklin Delano and shows how each of them overcame tough challenges – both physically and emotionally – to dedicate their lives to public service.  This companion volume goes into even more detail than their outstanding series. 

Jonathan Kellerman gives his usual writing partner, his wife Faye, a rest as he joins forces with their son, Jesse, who also has his own popular series of crime novels.  The Golem of Hollywood features burned-out LAPD detective Jacob Lev who awakens one morning with a mysterious woman in his bed.  The surprises keep coming when he is called in to investigate a bizarre murder: a house high in the Hollywood hills contains the unidentified head of a very dead person – the only clue is the Hebrew word for Justice burned into the kitchen countertop. 

For 15 years, until the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, the leading edge of America’s technological revolution was in Silicon Valley, a once quiet section of the San Francisco Bay area.  Photographer Doug Menuez was invited by an uncharacteristically magnanimous Steve Jobs to document the development for his NeXT Computer Company.  Before long, Menuez was photographing the rest of the young geniuses in that hotbed of innovation – Bill Gates and John Warnock among them.  Fearless Genius (338.700) brings his body of work together to form an exciting history of “the digital revolution in Silicon Valley 1985-2000”. 

Lev Grossman also closes his popular trilogy about magician Quentin Coldwater with The Magician’s Land.  Dethroned as the Magician King of Fillory and banished from the land he loves, Quentin plans to spend the rest of his life quietly teaching at Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic.  Those plans fall through, though, when he is kicked out for insubordination.  He is soon forced into taking a dicey freelance job which will eventually bring back those he knew in the past and set him on a new course for the future. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     The Competition: a Rachel Knight Novel, by Marcia Clark;
    
The Illusionists: a Novel, by Rosie Thomas;
    
The Long Way Home: a Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (M), by Louise Penny;
    
Act of War, by Brad Thor.

Non-fiction –
     Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships (306.850), by Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger Duggar;
    
Elephant Company: the Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals who Helped him Save Lives
       World War II (940.542)
, by Vicki Constantine Croke.

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