Readers Guide


By Susie Stooksbury


October 24, 2014
October 17, 2014

October 10, 2014

October 3, 2014 

October 24, 2014 

Fresh from the great press he received after sending Sir Henry Stanley to Africa to find Dr. David Livingstone, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the flamboyant owner to The New York Herald, decided his next sensational endeavor would be to back an expedition to the previously unexplored North Pole.  He chose young naval hero George Washington DeLong to lead the crew of the Jeannette, and in July 1879 they set sail from San Francisco.  Hampton Sides tells what happened In the Kingdom of Ice: the Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette (910.916). 

In her latest novel, Some Luck, Jane Smiley takes readers back to Iowa to plot the lives of a boisterous and growing farm family.  The book opens in 1920 as Walter Langdon, having survived World War I, walks his fence line before returning to his wife Rosanna and infant son Frank.  Smiley follows the Langdon family year-by-year from 1920 to 1953.  More babies are born and grow up in an ever changing world as Smiley begins her trilogy that promises to cover a century. 

Fiona Maye is a British judge who, at 59, has attained a level of experience that gives her clear-sighted verdicts on cases in the Family Court particular resonance.  Alas, her private life becomes a jumble after her husband’s announcement that he is having an affair with a much younger colleague.  This seism in her life unwittingly affects Fiona’s judgment as seen when she uncharacteristically chooses to visit the young man at the heart of her most pressing case: 17-year-old Adam has a treatable form of leukemia, yet he and his parents, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, are refusing the necessary blood transfusion.  The Children Act is the latest from Ian McEwan. 

Journalist Gail Sheehy seemingly made her mark in 1976 with Passages, her ground-breaking, phenomenally best-selling look at the significant turning points in adult life.  But Sheehy had been forging new pathways in journalism for women ever since her days as a young reporter pushing to write about topics other than fashion and food.  Daring: My Passages (921.000) is her memoir. 

The close-knit residents of a small English coastal town are shocked when a young boy is found strangled to death on the beach.  In charge of the case is DI Alec Hardy, an outsider who just bungled a similar investigation at his last post, and DS Elly Miller, who grew up in the town and whose hopes for promotion were dashed when Alec was hired.  Their uneasy relationship is further hampered as the list of suspects – all people Elly knows well – grows longer and longer.  Erin Kelly has adapted BBC America’s popular series Broadchurch into a well-crafted novel. blogger Karen Abbott focuses on the intriguing roles women played in the Civil War.  While some, like Emma Edmonds, dressed like men in order to enlist, others – like Belle Boyd, Rose Greenhow and Elizabeth Van Lew – used their feminine wiles and social status to gather information from the enemy and pass it on.  Abbott recreates their daring experiences in her lively new book, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Under Cover in the Civil War (973.785). 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     The 6th Extinction: a Sigma Force Novel, by James Rollins;
Top Secret: a Clandestine Operations Novel, by W. E. B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV;
Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot: a Jesse Stone Novel (M), by Reed Farrell Coleman;
Land of Love and Drowning, by Tiphanie Yanique;
Murder 101: a Decker/Lazarus Novel (M), by Faye Kellerman.

Non-fiction –
     The Walking Dead Compendium Two (741.500), by Robert Kirkman;
Instinct: the Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive (248.400), by T. D. Jakes.

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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
The Serpent’s Promise: the Bible Interpreted Through Modern Science (261.550), by Steve Jones.

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