Readers Guide


By robin nettles


February 4, 2016
January 28, 2016
January 14, 2016
February 4, 2016 

Contemporary writer Lawrence Osborne’s novel, Hunters in the Dark, delivers a powerful story of the human condition amid the beautiful and mystical Cambodian landscape.  When a bit of good fortune throws twenty-seven year old Englishman Robert Grieve into a life-altering chain of events, he finds himself involved in a world of money, drugs, superstition, and double identity.  With surprising twists and turns, this suspenseful novel is regarded by the London Times as, “An elaborate and intricately plotted danse macabre.”  

The big news in home design is building small.  Award-winning architect Katie Hutchinson has written a book for people who want to downsize, but not follow the extreme tiny house movement. Smaller homes, averaging 1,700 square feet, can be more affordable and more environmentally friendly while providing ample comfort and amenities.  Applying ten time-tested strategies, The New Small House (728.370) provides twenty-five designs from family homes to backyard retreats. 

Weathering, by Lucy Woods, is described by Kirkus Reviews as “a luminous modern fairy tale.” This poetic novel explores the relationships among three generations of women.  The rickety house and the rain-sodded landscape are as much a part of the story as the inner moralities each character struggles to define.  The graceful prose will carry the reader down the river of life. 

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has a following of supporters for its critically acclaimed series, Mr. Selfridge. The World of Mr. Selfridge – The Glamour and The Romance (791.457), by Alison Maloney, gives a historical account of Harry Gordon Selfridge’s climb from humble beginnings to becoming one of the richest men in London.  An in-depth look at the first two seasons, a sneak peek into the third, and interviews with writers and cast will delight fans. 

Bestselling author Chris Bojahlian’s, The Guest Room, is a compelling story of an older brother, Richard, hosting his careless younger brother’s bachelor party.  A bit of indulgence is expected.  What isn’t expected is a drunken bash worthy of Bacchus, a moment of moral misjudgment in the guest room, and a violent crime involving two Russian bodyguards. Library Journal calls Bojahlian’s book “…a tale of scandal, shame, and escalating suspense.” 

Skillet Desserts (641.865), edited by Brooke Michael Bell, will remind you of times gone by when just a few simple ingredients and a cast-iron skillet yielded something wonderful.  Complete with tips for cast-iron care, this collection of cakes, crisps, cobblers, and more will have you reaching for that heirloom skillet time and time again. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
River Road by Carol Goodman;
The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel;
The Cellar by Minette Walters.

Non-fiction –
Downton Abbey – A Celebration (791.457) by Jessica Fellowes;
Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life (613.690) by Jason Hanson;
The Complete Brain Exercise Book (612.820) by Dr. Fraser Smith.

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January 28, 2016 

How well do we understand the workings of the machines that serve us?  The most important and complicated machine is the human body. Complex and ­­­marvelous, the structure and workings are ill-understood by most. Adventures in Human Being (612.000), by surgeon, ER specialist, and family physician Gavin Francis, takes us on a tour of that wonderful machine using clinical, philosophical, and literary references. Hilary Mantel, two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize writes about this title, “A sober and beautiful book about the landscape of the human body: thought-provoking and eloquent.” 

You know the story, but here’s a new take on Lady Jane Grey’s time in the Tower of London.  In this telling by author Suzannah Dunn, The Lady of Misrule is the story of a complex relationship told by lady-in-waiting Elizabeth Tilney. Of the author, Publishers Weekly says, “Dunn brings a fresh voice to historical fiction, embracing the humanity of her characters in modern language. Yet it is her exposure of the innermost secrets of nobility that will resonate most with historical fiction fans.” 

Dubbed by Kirkus Reviews as “satisfyingly doom-and-gloomy”, Michael Wiley’s intriguing mystery, Second Skin, delivers another dose of murderous troubles for homicide detective Daniel Turner.  A macabre discovery throws English teacher Lillian Turner and her Navy war veteran husband, Johnny Wester, into an unimaginably dark and dangerous case that strains their marriage and threatens Johnny’s sanity. The pair ignores the advice of Lillian’s brother, detective Daniel Turner, to stay out of the way. Does Daniel have a connection to the dead girl? Can she trust her brother? 

Vincent Van Gogh – The Complete Paintings (759.940) is a book for art enthusiasts who want to gain a deeper understanding of the artist himself. The tortured talent of the master Expressionist is presented in this study of his life and art, complete with the catalog of his 871 paintings. La Provence calls this “A magical book that says it all.” Even without the words, from the cover art to every page inside, this is a beautiful volume.  

When a struggling legal clerk fighting for a promotion lands an opportunity to advance his career, he jumps at the chance. What Terry Flynt discovers, however, is the accused Vernon James is someone from his past; someone he loathes. Will Terry choose the career advancing case or will he allow his former friend’s betrayal to railroad his possible promotion.  Best-selling crime novelist Mark Billingham calls author Nick Stone “the London John Grisham.”  Stone’s The Verdict is a legal thriller, set in London’s seedy side that will grab your attention with its compelling plot, intense characters, and fast-paced courtroom drama. 

Looking for a handbook to help you create beautiful watercolors? Perhaps you are an experienced artist looking for tips to advance your skills.  Leslie Frontz’s, The Watercolors Course You’ve Always Wanted (751.422) is just the book.  Designed using progressive lessons, from using an artist’s eye to fundamentals of color, line, and texture, this book allows you to pursue watercolors at your own level and pace.  The handbook contains many examples to inspire and lead you along the way. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Hour of the Wolf
  by Hakan Nesser;
Forty Thieves by Thomas Perry;
The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins.

Non-Fiction – 
The Rise and Fall of Germany 1939 – 1941 (940.542), by James Holland; 
DOG YEARS Faithful Friends Then & Now (636.700) by Amanda Jones; 
      Prince of Darkness (332.609) by Shane White.

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January 14, 2016 

Finally nailing crime boss Nicholas Bennett had become such an obsession for Doug Brock that his private life began to crumble and he was suspended from his job with New Jersey’s state police.  Eventually Doug did dig up enough evidence against Bennett and his shocking connection with a terrorist plot – but that was just before he was shot and fell off a balcony leaving him with severe head trauma.  With the last several years erased from his memory, Brock compulsively begins to retrace his steps as soon as he is out of the hospital.  He knows something is going to happen, but he doesn’t know when or who is involved.  Blackout is the explosive new thriller from David Rosenfelt.

You might see Maggie Smith on the big screen as Harry Potter’s Professor McGonagall or on TV as the Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey, but you won’t see her on the pages of People Magazine or other tabloids.  Happily, the very private actress has authorized Michael Coveney’s biography which finely covers her 60-plus year, award-winning career on the stage and in film.  Maggie Smith: a Biography (791.430) is a treat. 

In Imperium and Conspirata, novelist Robert Harris brought to life the closing years of the Roman Empire featuring the rise of Cicero, the brilliant lawyer, orator, and writer who became Consul.  Dictator picks up with Cicero in exile after a falling out with Julius Caesar.  In order to return to his home and family, he must go against his principles and declare his support for the emperor.  Soon, though, the assassination of Caesar throws Cicero even deeper into the political fray. 

Senior BBC reporter Andrew Hosken has closely followed the rise of the Islamic State since 9/11 and through the Arab Spring.  He chronicles its history beginning with the radicalization of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi during his time in prison to the declaration of the Caliphate in 2014, and he highlights their orchestrated program of brutality and terror.  Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State (363.325) is detailed, informative and frightening.

A recovering alcoholic, Terry Flynt is desperately trying to hold on to his law clerk job with one of London’s top legal firms.  He sees a chance to prove himself when the firm takes on the defense of Vernon James, a prominent businessman and recent recipient of the Ethical Person of the Year Award, who now stands accused of murder.  Terry and Vernon were once best friends until Vernon caused Terry to be thrown out of Cambridge thus ruining his life.  Terry’s job is to find solid evidence to support Vernon’s innocence – and that proves to be a very difficult task indeed.  Nick Stone’s terrific new legal thriller is The Verdict. 

Did you ever think about opening up your own small business?  Paul Downs did.  Fresh out of college in 1986, he opened a custom furniture business that specialized in making conference tables.  Nearly thirty years later, he is still the owner/operator of Paul Downs Cabinetmakers and a columnist for the New York Times.  Downs’ story of hiring employees, firing people when necessary, and turning a profit is one echoed by small business owners across the country.  Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business (658.400) is an eye-opener. 

With my retirement from the Library, this is my final Reader’s Guide.  Since I took over the column from Dot DeCamp in 1980, I’ve had the pleasure of discovering a lot of wonderful writers and reading some terrific books.  I hope you have, too.  And stayed tuned – someone new will be taking over Reader’s Guide sometime soon.

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