Readers Guide


By Susie Stooksbury
December 19, 2014
December 12, 2014
November 28, 2014
November 21, 2014

December 19, 2014 

Judy Carrier is an associate attorney with Rosato & DiNunzio, Philadelphia’s top all-female law firm, but she hopes to become a partner soon.  She is disappointed, though, when her boss assigns her to take on 75 asbestos liability cases – especially since she is working on an unofficial investigation that hits much closer to home.  Iris Juarez, her Aunt Barb’s caretaker and best friend, has been found dead in her car.  The coroner rules death by natural causes, but Judy believes Iris, whose real name was Rita Lopez and who was an undocumented alien, was murdered.  Popular novelist Lisa Scottoline returns with her latest hard-hitter, Betrayed. 

Fans of the late Maeve Binchy can enjoy her once again in a compilation of her writings for the Irish Times.  Over her nearly 50 years with the paper, Binchy worked as an editor, a feature writer, a reporter, and a columnist, with her pieces ranging from current events and politics to her own entertaining observations on the quirky everyday lives of the people around her.  Maeve’s Times: In Her Own Words (824.000) is a treat. 

Throughout the difficulties of her own life – an unhappy childhood with disengaged parents, alcoholism, the hardships of raising her son alone – Anne Lamott has somehow managed to find moments of joy and grace.  These interludes have been the basis for much of her non-fiction writing, and her latest collection of essays – Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace (248.000) – offers more as she faces the passage of time and the loss of many dear friends. 

Still on his relentless pursuit of the killer known as the Collector, jaded PI Charlie Parker takes a detour to the strange town of Prosperous, Maine, to learn the truth behind the death of a homeless man.  The police say Jude hung himself, but his friends say otherwise.  In Prosperous, however, Charlie finds distrust of outsiders dangerously bubbling below the surface of the bucolic community – especially strangers who ask too many questions and get too close to uncovering the town’s dark secrets.  John Connolly’s popular character Parker braves his 12th adventure in The Wolf in Winter. 

There is more to food than what is on your plate linguist Dan Jurafsky reminds us in his entertaining and delightfully informative new book.  He looks at the history of a variety of popular foods and how they were named as well as the words used to describe them in The Language of Food: a Linguist Reads the Menu (641.300). 

A new television series produced by Laurie Moran re-opens long unsolved murders with the intention of uncovering new evidence and hopefully solving the crimes.  Having met remarkable success with the first show, Laurie next selects the 20-year-old death of beautiful college student and budding actress Susan Dampsey who was missing a shoe when her body was found in Laurel Canyon.  As Laurie begins her research into the case, she runs into roadblock after roadblock when everyone who knew Susan or was involved in the initial investigation refuses to talk to her.  The Cinderella Murder marks the debut of a promising collaboration between two top flight suspense novelists – Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Mount Terminus, by David Grand;
The Handsome Man’s de Luxe Café, by Alexander McCall Smith;
Winter Street, by Elin Hilderbrand;
An Irish Doctor in Peace and War: an Irish Country Novel, by Patrick Taylor;
Flesh and Blood: a Scarpetta Novel (M), by Patricia Cornwell.

Non-fiction –
     A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey: Seasonal Celebrations, Traditions, and Recipes (791.457), by Jessica

Back to top 

December 12, 2014 

Like most music, the unique songs of Appalachia have a long and rich genealogy.  NPR’s Fiona Ritchie, whose lilting voice introduces the traditional tunes played on “Thistle & Shamrock”, and Doug Orr, founder of the music workshops at Swannanoa, North Carolina, have pooled their knowledge to bring you an outstanding volume on “the musical voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia”.  Wayfaring Strangers (781.621) includes an introduction by Dolly Parton, lively text and photographs, and a CD featuring Pete Seeger, Doc Watson, and many, many more. 

One of America’s most promising authors is Dinew Mengestu, who came here as a child from Ethiopia.  He weaves together the political travails of Africa with America’s own disquieting racial tensions in his acclaimed third novel, All Our Names.  Two narratives – one set in post-independence Rhodesia, the other in America’s heartland – are united by a name: Isaac.  A caseworker in America falls in love with her charge, Isaac, who may or may not have been involved in his country’s violently  bloody revolution. 

It is ironic that the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden has put the spotlight on the mostly covert, highly trained Navy SEALs.  As a member of the team that succeeded at Abottabad, Mark Owen detailed the operation in No Easy Day.  He follows up that best seller with No Hero: the Evolution of a Navy SEAL (359.984) -  a thoughtful account of the things he learned about himself and others through his training and dangerous work. 

Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson sets her latest quietly effecting novel again in Gilead, the small, cozy town in Iowa featured in her other books.  This novel fills in the backstory of Lila, wife to the Reverend John Ames.  Abused as a baby and taken under the wing of a free-spirited drifter named Doll, Lila wanders into town one day, takes shelter from the rain in John’s church – and never leaves. 

Satiric Martin Amis puts his own spin on the Holocaust in his thought-provoking new novel, The Zone of Interest.  Three narrators tell the tale: Golo Thomsen, the classic Aryan ideal, nephew to Martin Bormann, and officer at the concentration camp called Kat Zet; camp commandant Paul Doll, a drunkard married to the woman Golo covets; and Szmul, a Polish Jew who herds his fellow prisoners into the gas chambers and then disposes of their bodies.  As the German forces face defeat at Stalingrad, the camp becomes the backdrop for a bizarre revenge plot involving all three men. 

Lady GaGa and Katy Perry are just the latest in a long line of flamboyant, multi-talented singers.  In 1960, colorful, frequently shocking Bette Midler set out on a world tour with the intent of turning her experiences into a book.  Looking back from the vantage point of thirty plus years, Midler has reissued A View from a Broad (781.630) as a chronicle of a unique time in popular music and an amazing episode in her life and career. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Lovely, Dark, Deep: Stories (SS), by Joyce Carol Oates;
The Stone Wife: a Peter Diamond Investigation (M), by Peter Lovesey;
Paris Match: a Stone Barrington Novel, by Stuart Woods;
Adultery, by Paul Coelho.

Non-fiction -
     Financial Planning for Retirement and Beyond: How to Finance the Rest of Your Life (332.024), by Edward
         M. Wolpert;
Saving Simon: How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion (636.182), by Jon Katz.

 Back to top

November 28, 2014 

Two influences from her life are very apparent in the novels of Susan Moore Jordan – her unique childhood growing up in Oak Ridge and her deep love for music.  Her first novel, How I Grew Up, centers on a young girl living in a small town who survives a terrible tragedy with the help of music.  Jordan’s second novel, Eli’s Heart, features a young piano prodigy who has a wonderful zest for life despite his serious heart defect.  Even in the shadow of death, Eli finds love and great success. 

When the Reverend Charles Jacobs arrives in tiny Harlow, Maine, to take over the local Methodist church, everyone in town falls a little in love with him and his beautiful wife and their adorable child.  That all changes, though, when the Reverend’s wife and toddler die in a horrific accident.  His belief in God shaken, Charles delivers a shocking sermon and is quickly fired – only to resurface years later determined to use what he calls “secret electricity” to find some kind of existence beyond life.  Revival is the latest from Stephen King.

Caitlin Doughty chose an unusual path for a young woman to take.  Spurred on by her coursework in medieval studies where she began to understand the role death once played in our past, she set out to become a mortician and ended up as an operator at a crematorium.  Over the years she has come to believe that our culture has sanitized death to the point where we are no longer comfortable with it.  She offers her intriguing thoughts and experiences in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and Other Lessons from the Crematory (363.750). 

In Desert God, octogenarian Wilbur Smith delivers yet another grand adventure featuring Taita, the eunuch warrior/advisor to Pharaoh Tamose.  With the empire threatened by the Hyksos, who control the lower Nile, Taita devises a plan to align Babylonians and the Cretans with Egypt by offering Tamose’s sisters for political marriages with the two kings.  But first he must carry off an intricate deception to break the current alliance between the Hyksos and Crete. 

Greg Bear begins a new science fiction series with War Dogs (SF).  In the not too distant future, Earth is visited by a race of aliens who are soon dubbed the Gurus because of the wonderful technological advances they brought.  Their gift comes with a price tag, though – they came here to find protection from another alien race, the Antagonists.  As a result, the humans agree to establish an elite force of warriors called Skyrines.  Now Sgt. Michael Venn and his team are sent to face the Antags on Mars – where the true reason behind the age-old conflict between the two races becomes horrifyingly clear.                                                                                                                                                         

You don’t have to be a seasoned hiker to enjoy the beauty of the Smokies.  The park is full of great walks that can be managed quite well in a morning or afternoon.  J. L. and Lin Stepp feature 110 easily accessible trails in their inviting and informative book, The Afternoon Hiker: a Guide to Casual Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains (917.688). 

New DVD titles:

Feature –
     Blended, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore;
Words and Pictures, featuring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche;
Sex Tape, starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel;
X-Men: Days of Future Past, with Hugh Jackman and James McAvoy.
The Royal Collection (DVD 941.009).

Back to top 

November 21, 2014 

Harry Bosch’s latest cold case heats up when the victim of a ten-year-old drive-by shooting dies from the bullet that slowly poisoned his body.  An anonymous tip to Harry’s new, very inexperienced partner, Lucia Soto, links Orlando Merced’s shooting to a 20-year-old arson case.  Layer by layer, Harry and Lucia slowly uncover the explosive truth behind The Burning Room (M), the latest installment of Michael Connelly’s popular series. 

The Civil War might have had a very different outcome if Thomas Jackson, known as “Stonewall”, had not died in 1863 after being caught in friendly fire at Chancellorsville.  Serious and pious, Jackson turned out to be an innovative battle tactician who quickly became Lee’s right-hand man.  Journalist S. C. Gwynne has written a fine biography of the man in Rebel Yell: the Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson (973.730). 

Way before Sookie Stackhouse or the Twilight series made it to print, there was Lestat de Lioncourt, the hero of Anne Rice’s wildly popular series about vampires and witches.  Fans who bid a reluctant farewell to de Lioncourt in 2003 in Blood Canticle, will rejoice in his return.  In Prince Lestat, vampires have become so prolific that humans have turned to culling their numbers through mass burnings.  Even the ancient vampires, who are being controlled by a powerful Voice, have joined in the massacre. 

Several generations of readers have enjoyed the books by award-winning author Katherine Paterson.  Her Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved both garnered Newbery Awards, and she has also received two National Book awards.  Her memoir, Stories of My Life (921.000), is just as warm and open as she is.  In it, she covers her childhood in China with her parents who were missionaries.  She talks candidly about her long, happy marriage and her children, and she also reveals the people, places, and incidents that were the inspiration for her books. 

No matter how comprehensive the medical care given, at some point the human body simply ceases to live.  Dr. Atul Gawanda feels that physicians could do a better job of helping their patients deal with and plan for the inevitable.  This is the subject of his compassionate and thought-provoking new book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (362.175). 

The estate of Agatha Christie recently authorized the official return of her charming detective from Belgium, Hercule Poirot, and chose thriller writer Sophie Hannah to bring him out of retirement.  Her new mystery opens in 1929 London, where the Bloxham Hotel is the scene of a triple homicide.  Retired attorney Richard Negus, his former fiancé Ida Gransbury, and their mutual friend Harriet Sippel are each found in their rooms, carefully laid out and quite dead from cyanide poisoning.  Poirot’s “little gray cells” are in for quite a challenge in The Monogram Murders (M). 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Dick Francis’s Damage (M), by Felix Francis;
Blood in the Water: a William Monk Novel (M), by Anne Perry;
Bones Never Lie (M), by Kathy Reichs;
Deadline: a Virgil Flowers Novel (M), by John Sandford;
The Perfect Witness, by Iris Johansen.

Non-fiction –
     The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload (153.420), by Daniel J. Levitin.

 Back to top