Readers Guide


By Susie Stooksbury
August 27, 2015
August 20, 2015
August 13, 2015
August 6, 2015

August 27, 2015 

Growing up in the care of a lackadaisical father in British East Africa at the turn of the Twentieth Century gave Beryl Markham an inordinate measure of fortitude and freedom – yet she was still forced into an unhappy marriage at the age of 16.  A gifted horse trainer, like her father, and a budding aviatrix, she eventually caught the eye of Denys Finch Hatton, whose lover, Isak Dinesen nee Karen Blixen, was one of Beryl’s close friends.  Paula McLain opens her vibrant new novel, Circling the Sun, during Markham’s record-breaking solo flight across the Atlantic in 1936. 

Fans and reviewers seem to be pleased with the job Grant Blackwood is doing in carrying on the late Tom Clancy’s series which follows the adventures of Jack Ryan, Jr.  In Tom Clancy Under Fire, Blackwood, who also writes with James Rollins and Clive Cussler, sends Jack to Tehran on a routine intelligence gathering mission.  He meets there his old friend Seth Gregory who is overseeing the building of a transcontinental railway.  After their dinner together, Seth gives Jack a key along with a cryptic message.  The next day, Seth is missing.  Rejecting the idea that his friend has absconded with the money for the project, Jack sets out to find him going deep into dangerous, war-torn territory to do so. 

Every patent wants the best for his or her child, but some go too far says Julie Lythcott-Haims.  A former dean of freshman and undergraduate advising at Stanford University, she has seen the effects of patents who have micromanaged their children’s lives to the point where many young people today are unable to make decisions for themselves or deal with adversity.  She offers sound advice for these “helicopter” parents in How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kids for Success (306.874). 

By 1820, two Congressional laws, the Slave Trade Act and the Piracy Act, barred U.S. citizens from participating in the international slave trade – even though slavery was still legal in the South.  After privateers captured a Spanish ship and filled the hold with 300 Africans, mostly children and teens, the vessel was seized off the coast of Florida.  No one knew what to do with the slaves, so the case was sent to the Supreme Court where Francis Scott Key argued forcefully for their release.  If he had won the case, our history might have been far different writes historian Jonathan M. Bryant.  He takes us to the Dark Places of the Earth (342.087) as he follows events surrounding the voyage of the “slave ship Antelope”. 

In The Just City, which was released this past January, Jo Walton told of a city created by the goddess Pallas Athene to embody the tenets of Plato’s Republic.  She populated it with people chosen from all the time lines of the ages and left them to follow Plato’s ideas.  In The Philosopher Kings, Walton picks up the action 20 years later.  The once united metropolis has splintered into five factions, each one believing they are the true embodiment of The Republic.  And as the bickering escalates, Pytheas, who is the god Apollo in human form, vows to find and kill the man who murdered his beloved wife Simmea. 

You probably wouldn’t think of Hollywood as a habitat for hummingbirds.  Surprisingly, five species call L. A. home, and when they run into trouble Terry Masear is there to help them out.  She has saved birds that have somehow landed in swimming pools in Bel Air and crashed into limousine windows.  She tells their stories in Fastest Things on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood (598.764). 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Under the Same Blue Sky, by Pamela Schoenewaldt;
The Last Pilot, by Benjamin Johncock;
Robert Ludlum’s The Janson Equation, by Douglas Corleone;
Alert: a Michael Bennett Novel, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge.

Non-fiction –
     Sick in the Head: Conversations about Life and Comedy (792.760), by Judd Apatow;
Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget (362.292), by Sarah Hepola.

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August 20, 2015 

The world seems to be awakening to the sheer magnitude of the Manhattan Project – not just its cataclysmic outcome, but the incredible mechanations behind the Project itself.  Two unique men were able to overlook their differences and blend their amazing talents to complete the Project and fulfill their mission.  James Kunetka details the story behind The General and the Genius: Groves and Oppenheimer – the Unlikely Partnership that Built the Bomb (355.825). 

Many of us seem to have a soft spot for fictional heroes who break all the rules.  One of the most popular is hard-drinking, irascible Edinburgh police Detective Inspector John Rebus.  While his creator, Ian Rankin, is completing his new novel, fans can enjoy The Beat Goes On: the Complete Rebus Stories (M).  It consists of one novella, 28 previously printed stories, and two new pieces written specifically for this collection, which follows Rebus’ career from his early days at Summerhall police station to his so-called retirement. 

In 1914, while aviation was still in its infancy, a daring group of young American volunteers joined the war in Europe as a squadron flying for France against Germany.  Of the 38 men, who represented all walks of American life, 27 survived to the end of the war.  The late historian Charles Bracelen Flood tells the colorful story of these free-wheeling fellows in First to Fly: the Story of the Lafeyette Escadrille, the American Heroes Who Flew for France in World War I (940.440). 

Swedish author Fredrik Backman returns with a charmingly thoughtful tale of a lonely little girl and her eccentric, much-loved grandmother.  Elsa, almost eight-years-old, has experienced her parents’ divorce and remarriages and feels like an outcast at school.  Her only consolation is her granny, a woman who obeys only her own rules in life and frequently insults everyone she meets.  The two bond every night through the stories Granny tells about the make-believe Land-of-Almost-Awake.  When Granny suddenly dies, Elsa must carry out her last wish – to visit everyone the old woman every insulted to say My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – and in so doing, Elsa learns the truth behind those enchanting bedtime stories. 

Recent pictures of the planet Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons mission seem to have turned our thoughts back to space and its exploration. Astronomer Chris Impey believes mankind’s survival depends on it.  He looks at our past explorations, our current endeavors, and speculates on “our future in space” in Beyond (629.400). 

From the earliest scratchings on cave walls to downloadable digital formats, the book has enjoyed a long and fruitful history even as it continues to evolve.  Print historian and librarian Roderick Cave has joined with picture researcher Sara Ayad to bring us a richly illustrated and informative look at The History of the Book in 100 Books (002.090). 

New DVDs:

     Woman In Gold, starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds;
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, with Judi Dench and Maggie Smith;
5 Flights Up, starring Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton;

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August 13, 2015 

Sara Paretsky once again features her popular criminal investigator V. I Warshawski for her 17th case in Brush Back (M).  Vic’s past comes uncomfortably back to haunt her when her old high school boyfriend, Frank Guzzo, asks her to help his mother prove her innocence.  Stella Guzzo went to prison 25 years ago for the bludgeoning death of her daughter Annie.  Vic is reluctant to get involved since Stella always hated the Warshawskis.  And it seems she still does.  Stella keeps insisting that Vic’s late cousin Boom Boom was involved in Annie’s death.

Although his TV alter ego on the now defunct “Parks and Recreation” never seemed to have trouble finding women to woo, actor Aziz Ansari has built his popular comedy routine around the trials and tribulations of finding love in a social world driven by technology.  For his new book, he took the scientific approach and consulted with sociologists and set up focus groups.  The results are in – Modern Romance (646.770) is his funny and thought-provoking take on looking for love. 

Joseph Finder sets up an intriguing plot in his latest thriller, The Fixer.  Rick Hoffman is a former investigative reporter who is down on his luck.  He has lost his job, his apartment, and his fiancé and has been forced to move back into his crumbling childhood home in his old neighborhood in Boston.  When he begins to do some renovations, he finds $3.5 million hidden away in the attic.  A God-send?  Not really.  That money is connected to his father, now in a facility from a debilitating stroke, and the shady dealings he was involved in during Boston’s controversial Big Dig some 20 years ago – a fact a number of powerful people would like to keep secret.

Thanks to portrayals by Robert Downey, Jr., and Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock Holmes is enjoying a revival in popularity – although, as Zach Dundas points out, the fictional detective’s fanbase has never truly disappeared.  Dundas covers all things Holmesian – from his origins to his very lively afterlife – in The Great Detective: the Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes (823.000).

Fleeing Glasgow and her abusive lover, Justine Strang takes a bus to anywhere and lands in Kilmacarra, a remote village in the Highlands.  She meets there Michael and Hannah Anderson, who had also landed in Kilmacarra hoping to repair their troubled marriage.  Finding a kindred spirit in Justine, they hire her as a nanny to their two children.  But Michael, now a local politician, hopes to push the development of a windfarm on the ancient land, while Hannah is part of the very vocal opposition.  And just as Justine fears, her boyfriend Charlie Boy is on her trail.  Rise is the provocative fiction debut of Karen Campbell.

If you receive gardening catalogs, you may have noticed that many of them have been featuring miniature houses and furniture designed to turn a plain garden into a fairyland tableau.  Artists Mike and Debbie Schramer have put together a clever guide to show you how easy it is “to make amazing fairy furniture, miniatures, and more from natural materials” in Fairy House (745.592).

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     The Naked Eye, by Iris and Roy Johansen;
Grantville Gazette VII: Sequels to 1632 (SS), by Eric Flint;
Naked Greed: a Stone Barrington Novel, by Stuart Woods;
Aurora, by Kim Stanley Robinson;
Summer Secrets, by Jane Green.

Non-fiction –
     Clinton Cash: the Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill
       and Hilary Rich (973.929)
, by Peter Schweizer;
The Physicist & the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate that Changed Our Understanding of
       Time (115.000)
, by Jimena Canales.

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August 6, 2015 

In the early part of the 20th Century, scientists began using radioactive elements to explore the power of atoms.  It took an enterprising physicist by the name of Ernest Lawrence to develop a device that would accelerate those particles.  His cyclotron led to the development of the atomic bomb and to the modern day wonder known as the Large Hadron Collider.  It also opened up amazing possibilities for the military.  Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Michael Hiltzik presents his well-researched and finely written new book, Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex (530.092). 

Now widowed newspaper reporter David Harwood returns to his hometown, Promise Falls, NY, to care for his son and work for his old paper.  At the request of his mother, he goes to check on his cousin Marla who had suffered the devastating loss of her infant daughter 10 months earlier.  He finds her with a 10-month-old baby boy she says was given to her by “an angel”.  Clues found in the stroller lead David and Marla to the baby’s mother who has been murdered.  Soon Promise Falls becomes the scene of a number of odd crimes, including the ritual slaughter of animals.  Linwood Barclay returns with his entertaining new novel, Broken Promise. 

Veteran radio and talk show host Tavis Smiley was fortunate as a young man to be mentored by Maya Angelou.  They met in 1986, when the then 21-year-old Smiley was chosen to carry her bags on one of her many trips to Africa.  Smiley writes of their long, rewarding relationship in My Journey with Maya (921.000 Angelou). 

With over 29 crime novels to her credit, Val McDermid is continually in awe of the men and women who study victims of violent crime to find out how they died and, in many cases, help find the perpetrator.  She uncovers the mysteries of Forensics (363.252) and reveals “what bugs, burns, prints, DNA, and more tell us about crime” in her new nonfiction book. 

And in her latest novel, McDermid features a strange case with its roots in the Balkan Wars.  A skeleton is found on the roof of an abandoned Victorian building in Edinburgh during its demolition.  DCI Karen Pirie and her partner, DC Jason “the Mint” Murray, of Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit find themselves hard-pressed to make an ID.  Meanwhile, two inept agents with the Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia are assigned to investigate a series of assassinations, and this eventually leads them to that long-dead body on the roof.  The Skeleton Road (M) is Val McDermid’s latest standalone mystery. 

After meeting on a lonely stretch of road outside Austin, Texas, both FBI agent Joe Grant and his informant are killed during a shootout. Joe’s widow Mary knew his job was dangerous, but she begins to suspect the agency is giving her the runaround – especially when a cryptic voice mail from Joe made minutes before the shooting mysteriously disappears from her cell phone.  The questions she continues to ask start making a lot of people nervous – powerful, ruthless people who have their own ways to silence her.  Invasion of Privacy is a taut thriller by Christopher Reich. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     At the Water’s Edge, by Sara Gruen;
Dead Ice: an Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Novel, by Laurell K. Hamilton;
Country, by Danielle Steel;
Second Life, by S. J. Watson;
The Long Utopia (SF), by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.

Non-fiction –
     One Man Against the World: the Tragedy of Richard Nixon (973.924), by Tim Weiner.

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