Readers Guide

 

By Susie Stooksbury
 
May 21, 2015
May 15, 2015
May 8, 2015
May 1, 2015

May 21, 2015 

A mayoral race turns deadly in Pleasantville, the latest from Attica Locke.  Lawyer Jay Porter has little to show for his years of dedicated work in environmental law.  Now a single parent, he has enough on his plate that he is ready to quit his job.  But one last case draws him in – the murder of a young campaign worker which appears to be similar to the recent slayings of two other young women.  When the son of one of the candidates is arrested and charged with this most recent killing, Jay and his investigator Lonnie begin to wonder why the local police have made little move in solving the other two deaths. 

Even though the terrorist highjacking of an Austrian plane full of passengers occurred a number of years ago, the incident still haunts Henry Pelham who was working in the Vienna office of the CIA at the time.  The love affair he had with his colleague Celia Harrison still haunts him as well.  She left the agency soon after the highjacking and is now married and living in California.  Assigned to investigate the incident, Henry arranges to meet Celia at a quiet restaurant in Carmel where they reminisce and discuss the tragic event – and the fact that there may have been a double-agent in their midst.  Olen Steinhauer’s All the Old Knives is espionage at its best. 

The ubiquitous zero, along with its companions 1 through 9, is so much a part of our daily lives that we hardly give them a thought.  But just where and how did the symbols we use today that represent these numbers develop?  Amir Aczel traveled all over Southeast Asia on his quest Finding Zero: a Mathematicians Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers (513.500). 

The Cherokee Rose was once a prosperous plantation during the early 19th Century.  Located in the foothills of North Georgia, it was owned by Cherokee-Scottish chief James Vann Hold, who lived there with his two wives, his many children, and his African-American slaves.  Now in a state of disrepair and up for sale, the plantation brings together three women – a reporter from Oklahoma, a magazine feature writer from Minneapolis, and a wealthy interior designer from Atlanta who wants to buy the place.  All three soon discover they have an unexpected connection to the land, the Vann Hold family, and to each other.  The Cherokee Rose is by Tiya Miles. 

A beautiful liver and white English pointer, the dog known as Judy was better suited to hunting the fields of her native Sussex.  Instead, she became the mascot for two Royal Navy Yangtze River gunboats during World War II and ended up in a Japanese prison camp in Sumatra.  There her cleverness and courage literally saved the lives of many of her fellow prisoners.  Journalist Damien Lewis tells “the unforgettable story of the dog who went to war and became a true hero” in Judy (355.424). 

It seems that crimes committed in hell are reported and cataloged – but not solved.  Thomas Fool is one of hell’s Information Men, who keep track of crime but have neither the time nor the tools to investigate – until a visiting contingency from heaven comes across a body killed with such evil intent that even the denizens of hell are disturbed.  Simon Kurt Unsworth makes his imaginative mystery debut with The Devil’s Detective. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     The Lady from Zagreb: a Bernie Gunther Novel, by Philip Kerr;
    
The Bone Tree, by Greg Iles;
    
The Fall: Rebecca Hardy’s First Case, by John Lescroart;
    
Memory Man, by David Baldacci.

Non-fiction –
     Believer: My Forty Years in Politics (324.720), by David Axelrod;
    
Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Better) (817.000), by Dave Barry.

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May 15, 2015 

In A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson has written a companion piece to her intriguing last novel, Life After Life.  The focus here is on Teddy, Ursula Todd’s much loved younger brother, who joined the RAF at the onset of World War II even though he knew the odds were against his returning home alive.  Miraculously he does – only to have to face the guilt that comes with survival knowing others didn’t make it and to begin a life he never planned on having. 

As the Langdon family gathers at the funeral of their patriarch, Walter, author Jane Smiley deftly passes on the torch of her Last Hundred Years series to the next generation.  Walter and Rosanna’s sons and daughters now have children of their own, and it is a hallmark of Smiley’s writing that she makes each of them unique.  She follows their lives from 1953 to 1986 – all momentous years for the Langdon’s and America – in Early Warning, the second installment of her trilogy. 

We hear a lot about bullies these days, but bullying is not a new phenomenon.  Nearly 40 years ago, journalist Allan Kurzweil suffered verbal and physical abuse at the hands of his roommate at a Swiss boarding school – a year that has resonated throughout his life.  He decided to find his tormentor and confront him.  After much research, Kurzweil managed to locate Cesar Augustus – and what he learned was eye-opening.  Whipping Boy: the Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully (921.000), fills in the details. 

Anne Hillerman won accolades for Spider Woman’s Daughter, her continuation of her father Toby’s popular, long-running mystery series.  In Rock With Wings (M), tribal police Jim Chee and his wife, Bernadette Manuelito, watch their chance at a quiet vacation fall apart when Jim is sent to a movie set in Monument Valley after a person is reported missing and a fresh grave is discovered.  Back in Shiprock, Bernie makes a routine traffic stop that turns into something more.  It takes their mentor Joe Leaphorn, who is still recovering from a near fatal shooting, to figure out how the two cases are connected. 

A terrific older brother and two loving parents gave Roy Joseph a good start in life.  He wasn’t prepared, though, for his brother’s death in the first Gulf War or his parents’ deaths in a car accident when he was 19.  Alone and bereft, he made a bad choice and ended up an on-parole registered sex offender.  Now working on an off-shore oil rig in the Gulf, he receives an email from a young girl named Joni who says she is his brother’s daughter.  With the dream of a new family, Roy sets out to California to find her.  The Other Joseph is by Skip Horack. 

In this day of camera phones and selfies, it’s hard to imagine a time and place when photography was forbidden.  In the opening year of World War I, however, the British War Office banned the troops from carrying photographic equipment.  Undeterred, Fred Davidson, the young medical officer with the 1st Cameronians captured his experiences in photos that were passed down within his family.  Davidson’s grandson Andrew has compiled them and added contemporary text for a unique experience – A Doctor in the Great War: Unseen Photographs of Life in the Trenches (940.400).   

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     The Angel Court Affair: a Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel (M), by Anne Perry;
    
Falling in Love: a Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery (M), by Donna Leon;
    
Your Next Breath, by Iris Johansen;
    
The 13th Disciple: a Spiritual Adventure, by Deepak Chopra.

Non-fiction –
     Princes at War: the Bitter Battle Inside Britain’s Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WW II (941.084), by
         Deborah Cadbury.

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May 8, 2015 

So what drove the talented, handsome 26-year-old actor John Wilkes Booth to plan and successfully pull off the assassination of Abraham Lincoln?  Historian Terry Alford has thoroughly researched the known documents and records having to do with the actor to sift fact from fiction in his fine biography entitled Fortune’s Fool: the Life of John Wilkes Booth (921.000). 

Back in the 1960s, the daughter of actress Lana Turner murdered her mother’s abusive boyfriend.  That incident, which occurred just blocks away from Hallie Ephron’s childhood home, is the centerpiece of her latest suspense novel, Night, Night, Sleep Tight.  Young Deirdre Unger was on a sleepover with her best friend Joelen Nichols when the girl killed her mother’s boyfriend.  Deirdre doesn’t remember much about that night, though, because she and her father, screenwriter Arthur, were in an accident later that left her crippled.  When she returns twenty years later to help Arthur prepare his house to be sold, she finds him dead in the pool.  Accused of his murder, she begins to wonder if those long ago incidents are connected with Arthur’s death. 

Novelist Rafael Yglesias has also based his latest novel, The Wisdom of Perversity, on a disturbing incident from his childhood.  Once best friends, Brian, Jeff, and Julie stopped speaking to each other when they figured out that each of them had been molested by Jeff’s middle-aged cousin, Richard Klein, who at that time was vice president of one of the major television networks.  Forty years later, Klein has managed to sidestep a public accusation of molestation of a minor causing the three of them to dredge up painful memories in order to finally report their own experiences with him. 

Thanks to Hilary Mantel and the PBS series of her book Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell, loyal advisor to Henry VIII, has become a figure of renewed interest.  The son of a blacksmith, Cromwell was a self-made man who manipulated Parliament into recognizing Henry as the head of the Church in England thus paving the way for the monarch’s marriage to Anne Boleyn.  Tracy Borman has written an intriguing biography of the historically maligned Thomas Cromwell: the Untold Story of Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant (942.052). 

When newly-minted doctor Bill Blair bought the piece of land outside Palo Alto, he had no idea it would one day be part of Silicon Valley.  His marriage to Penny started out promising and soon their children were born – Robert, Rebecca, and Ryan.  By the time James arrived unplanned, however, Penny was ready to withdraw from domesticity to fulfill her dream of becoming an artist.  Years later, the three older kids have grown into solid citizens while James is a troubled wanderer.  Needing money, he returns home after Brian’s death to sell the house and property – and opens up an emotional firestorm.  Ann Packer’s latest, The Children’s Crusade, poignantly depicts a modern family. 

Jan Harold Brunvald has been collecting folk tales for 20 years now.  His are not the tales you hear at storytelling festivals, though, but the kind you hear every day in conversation or see on the internet – like alligators living in the sewers of New York or the elderly woman who microwaved her wet cat to dry it off.  Brunvald’s latest batch of stories appears in his revised edition of Too Good to Be True: the Colossal Book of Urban Legends (398.200). 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     The Liar, by Nora Roberts;
    
Hot Pursuit: a Stone Barrington Novel, by Stuart Woods;
    
Miracle at Augusta, by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge;
    
Miss Julia Lays Down the Law, by Ann B. Ross.

Non-fiction -
     Vegetarian Mediterranean-Style: Recipes for 100 Fresh Italian Favorites (641.594);
    
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (428.200), by Mary Norris.

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May 1, 2015 

In the early Twentieth Century, as vaudeville gave way to talking pictures, movie theaters began to spring up in cities across the country.  At one time, downtown Knoxville sported at least 20 – most of them long torn down and replaced by newer buildings.  Along with the Bijou, the Tennessee has endured a difficult journey to become one of the country’s most charming concert venues.  Knoxville writer and historian Jack Neely takes us along for the ride in his wonderfully illustrated new book, The Tennessee Theatre: a Grand Entertainment Palace (725.822). 

This May 7th will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania, one of the fastest and finest luxury liners of its day.  With a full complement of crew and passengers, including many children and infants, the ship sailed into waters patrolled by German submarines not knowing that Kaiser Wilhelm had decided to ignore the gentlemanly rules of war which protected civilian vessels.  Erik Larson deftly weaves the many strands of this tragic story in Dead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania (940.451). 

In 2013, HarperCollins began the Austen Project which features popular modern authors updating the works of Jane Austen.  The third in the series is Emma which has been charmingly re-imagined by Alexander McCall Smith.  Our current-day heroine is newly graduated from university and has returned to her home in Hartfield to open up an interior design business.  Just as bossy and meddling as the original, this Emma makes a hash of several relationships and learns some valuable lessons along the way. 

The Ingham family of stately Cavendon Hall have made it through the First World War with their fortune intact, although the government has begun imposing high taxes on the aristocracy.  And changes to the social fabric are in the wind as Sir Charles, the sixth Earl of Mowbray, marries the woman he loves – Charlotte, the head of the Swann family who have served the Inghams for 300 years.  There are more changes in store for the two families in Barbara Taylor Bradford’s latest installment, The Cavendon Women. 

Born into Hollywood royalty, Candice Bergen forged her own niche through her work in movies and her iconic TV role as the acerbic Murphy Brown.  Her new memoir picks up where 1984s Knock Wood ended.  Marriage to French director Louis Malle, her initial ambivalence toward motherhood, Malle’s tragic illness and death, and a happy second marriage – she covers it all with candor and dry wit in A Fine Romance (791.450). 

Worlds collide in Dan Simmons’ The Fifth Heart when a suicidal Sherlock Holmes meets equally suicidal Henry James in 1893.  Two years after Homes’ supposed demise at Reichenbach Falls, the great detective has deduced he is no more than a fictional character.  At the same time, American novelist Henry James realizes his unsuccessful life is not worth pursuing.  The two meet on a bridge in Paris as each is summoning up the courage to jump.  They quickly bond as they take on the challenge of finding the truth behind the alleged suicide of James’ good friend Clover Adams, the wife of American historian Henry Adams. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Wrongful Death: an Anna Travis Novel (M), by Lynda La Plante;
    
The Stranger, by Harlan Coben;
    
Thursday’s Children, by Nicci French;
    
Mademoiselle Chanel, by C. W. Gortner;
    
The Discreet Hero, by Mario Vargas llosa.

Non-fiction –
     Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (576.800), by Bill Nye;
    
17 Carnations: the Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History (941.084), by Andrew Morton.

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