Readers Guide


By Susie Stooksbury
September 12, 2014
September 5, 2014
August 29, 2014
August 22, 2014

September 12, 2014 

Oak Ridger Timothy Oesch presents his imaginative Seruna Savant.  Texas physician Will Johnson is visited one day by an extraordinary young woman who has traveled to Earth to fulfill her dead father’s quest to find the cause of diabetes.  She helps Will discover that the real catalyst is an air pollutant which the government could easily regulate but refuses due to economic and political reasons.  Their discovery, however, puts both their lives in danger as the nation’s power brokers try to silence them. 

Along with Father Tim Kavanagh and his wife, Cynthia, Jan Karon’s legion of fans finally make a return trip to Mitford.  The endearing little village in the North Carolina mountains, as well as its quirky inhabitants, takes center stage in Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, Karon’s first novel in five years.  It is time for Father Tim to decide what to do with the rest of his life – especially after he turns down the chance to take over his old parish.  While waiting to find that new direction, he begins working at the Happy Endings Bookstore where he is always available to help his friends and family work through their own problems. 

Thanks to many, many books and TV shows, most of us have a pretty good idea about what forensic pathologists do.  Dr. Judy Melinek began her career at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner just two months before 9/11.  Her continued passion for her work is evident as she looks back on that time in Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner (614.100). 

It is Claire Limya Lame’s birthday and she is turning seven.  While each of these special days has been a unique time for the little girl, whose mother died in childbirth, this is the day her father, impoverished fisherman Nozias, decides that in order for his daughter to have a better life he must allow her to be raised by wealthy widow Madame Gaelle.  Claire has other ideas, though, and soon the whole village of Ville Rose begins searching for her.  Author Edwidge Danticat uses the little girl and the stories surrounding her birthdays to take us into the heart of life in Haiti in Claire of the Sea Light.   

Scientific studies of the brain have made great strides over the last decades, thanks largely to advances in technology.  Yet people have been studying this most enigmatic of organs for centuries, basing what knowledge and theories they have gained on patients who survived strokes, terrible diseases, and bizarre accidents.  Science writer Sam Kean looks at “the history of the human brain as revealed by true stories of trauma, madness, and recovery” in his fascinating new book, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons (617.480). 

Reader’s thoroughly enjoyed the story of London street musician James Bowen whose drug-addled, hand-to-mouth existence took a turn for the better when he befriended an injured stray cat he named Bob.  That was two years ago.  Bowen is now a best-selling author who recalls those painful, nearly homeless days, the people he knew, and the new lease on life the handsome feline brought with him in The World According to Bob (636.800). 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Power Play: an FBI Thriller, by Catherine Coulter;
A Perfect Life, by Danielle Stell;
Hounded: an Andy Carpenter Mystery (M), by David Rosenfelt;
Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do they Live Forever? by Dave Eggers;
The Lost Island: a Gideon Crew Novel, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child.

Non-fiction –
     The Same Sweet Girls’ Guide to Life: Advice from a Failed Southern Belle (158.100), by Cassandra King.

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September 5, 2014 

Economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner, authors of the popular Freakonomics, have teamed up yet again to continue their crusade to help you think outside the box.  They examine such diverse topics as why Nigerian internet scammers will tell you they are from Nigeria and how the hot dog eating champion of the world eats all those dogs.  Before long they will make you, too, Think Like a Freak (153.430). 

Talented painter Harriet Burden has worked long and hard to be recognized by the modern art world but has met little success.  Now middle-aged, the years of being ignored by the critics and subordinated by her late husband have taken their toll.  She sets up three shows, each fronted by a male artist.  The shows receive critical acclaim, but Harriet’s ploy to stun the world with the revelation that the works are all her creation falls flat when the third artist, a fellow called Rune, charges that Harriet is lying and that he is the true creator.  Things are further complicated when Rune is murdered.  Siri Hustvedt presents her thought-provoking new novel, The Blazing World. 

The fact that there is still quality wood furniture being made in America today rests largely on the gumption of John Bassett III.  Grandson of the founder of Bassett Furniture Company, he watched as this once thriving industry was all but decimated in the 1980s by a flood of cheap Chinese imports.  But he fought back – and he won.  Journalist Beth Macy tells how in Factory Man (338.700). 

In Iceland in 1828, three people were convicted of a double murder.  One of the victims was Natan Ketilsson, a local healer, whose housekeeper, Agnes Magnusdottir, was sentenced to die for bludgeoning him to death.  While waiting for her execution, Agnes was put in the tenuous care of farmers Jon and Margret Jonsson and the young assistant minister, Reverend Thorvadier, was assigned to be her spiritual guide.  Australian novelist Hannah Kent builds a beautifully crafted and compelling novel based on this true story in her fiction debut, Burial Rites. 

The Victorians’ practice of bringing back artifacts from their travels in the Middle East helped uncover the origin of the Flood story which holds a central place in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic texts.  In 1872, British Museum curator George Smith discovered the same story on a piece of cuneiform dating back to the Babylonians of Mesopotamia.  Surprisingly, in 1985, Irving Finkel, now curator at the British Museum, was shown a cuneiform that embellished on the Babylonian relic by giving instructions on how to build a vessel that would withstand the flood.  He gleefully recounts Smith’s work and his own in The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood (299.210). 

Ruth Downie transports us back to A.D. 122 Britannia as the Roman legion works diligently on Hadrian’s Wall.  Built to protect the Romans in the south from the Barbarians in the north, the wall runs across land once held by the locals with whom the soldiers have a very nervous détente.  Medical officer Gaius Petrius Ruso and his native wife, Tilla, try to help bridge the tension, but things start to fall apart when Ruso’s clerk Candidus and a nine-year-old British boy both mysteriously disappear.  Tabula Rasa is the curmudgeonly Ruso’s sixth adventure. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
      Problems with People: Stories, by David Guterson;
The Directive, by Matthew Quirk;
The Girls of August, by Anne Rivers Siddons;
Vertigo 42: a Richard Jury Mystery (M), by Martha Grimes;
Mambo in Chinatown, by Jean Kwok.

Non-fiction –
     The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father…and Finding the Zodiac Killer (364.152), by
        Gary L. Stewart.

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August 29, 2014 

Since leaving his post as Editor in Chief of Simon & Schuster, Michael Korda has carved a niche for himself as a well-respected biographer.  His latest subject is Robert E. Lee, the gifted leader of the Confederate forces, who had no taste for slavery, succession, or war but whose loyalty was to the state of Virginia and his family.  Korda’s impressive work, Clouds of Glory (921.000), follows “the life and legend of Robert E. Lee”. 

Amy Bloom returns with Lucky Us, a wonderful story that spans a decade during and after World War II.  Eva and Iris are half-sisters who meet for the first time when Iris’s mother dies and Eva’s feckless mother leaves her with the girls’ father, Edgar.  Soon even Edgar, a charming ne’er-do-well, leaves them, so they set out for Hollywood where gorgeous Iris hopes to become a star.   

Theories about the death of John Kennedy are legion, but Judyth Vary Butler brings a different twist to the assassination and a startling new perspective on Lee Harvey Oswald.  Baker was a science prodigy with dreams of curing cancer when she became enmeshed in a covert scheme to kill Fidel Castro.  She met Oswald through this group of agents, and she claims he was ultimately the scapegoat in a plot that would save Kennedy by killing Castro first.  Her intriguing book is Me & Lee: How I Came to Know, Love, and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald (973.922). 

Five years ago, Det. Sgt. Kate Simm’s gave then member of the National Crime Faculty Nick Fennimore some inside information concerning his missing wife and daughter.  Kate was summarily demoted and Nick continued on his downward spiral.  Now, Kate has regained the trust of her superiors – enough so that she is put in charge of investigating a series of murders of prostitutes.  The last victim was so battered no identification could be made.  Kate risks losing her job when she turns to Nick, now a forensics lecturer at a university in Aberdeen, to lend his gifted expertise.  Thriller writer Margaret Murphy and forensic scientist Dave Barclay have formed the writing duo known as A. D. Garrett to present Everyone Lies (M). 

Janie Jenkins was a Hollywood celebrity, although she hadn’t really done anything except have the right looks, the right connections, and the right publicist.  She became notorious, though, ten years ago when she was convicted of killing her mother, socialite Marion Elsinger.  Now out on a technicality, Janie needs to go off the grid so she can find out who really killed Marion – especially since she is not sure she didn’t do it.  She ends up in tiny Adeline, S. D., digging into her familys’ past all the while fearing she may unearth a murderer.  Elizabeth Little makes her fiction debut with Dear Daughter. 

High school sweethearts, Kip and Mona Lisa Harding, insist they and their ten children are not geniuses, yet they have managed to shepherd their six older kids into college, each before the age of 12 – and the younger ones are on the same trajectory.  How did they do it?  They explain their methods and philosophy in The Brainy Bunch: the Harding Family’s Method to College Ready by Age Twelve (371.042). 

New DVD titles:

     Odd Thomas, starring Anton Yelchin and Willem Dafoe;
Out of Time, with Denzel Washington and Eva Mendes;
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, featuring Chris Pine and Kevin Costner.

Television –
     The Wire; First Season, with Dominic West and John Doman;
House of Cards; Second Season, starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright;
Last Tango in Halifax, with Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid.

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August 22, 2014 

In his latest novel, Wayfaring Stranger, James Lee Burke unfolds the story of Weldon Holland, who is the grandson of series character Hackberry Holland.  From 1934, when 16-year-old Weldon catches a glimpse of Bonnie Parker, through the Battle of the Bulge and into the post-war years in Texas, he has always maintained a solid moral compass.  Now he is a partner in a thriving oil company and he must deal with his business rival who hopes to ruin him by slandering his wife.

Prior to the Watergate scandal in 1973, Richard Nixon was at the top of his game as President as he expanded our foreign relations with China and Moscow and brought Vietnam to a close.  Throughout this period, his voice-activated tapes were rolling collecting nearly 3,700 hours of conversations at the White House and Camp David.  Historians Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter have edited and annotated this significant resource – The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972 (973.924). 

In 2012, the then 66-year-old movie maker John Waters decided to hitchhike from his place in Baltimore to his place in San Francisco.  Armed with his Blackberry and a sign that read “I am Not a Psycho”, he racked up 15 rides in eight days – and had some surprising adventures along the way.  He recounts them all in Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America (791.430). 

Orientation for the new batch of kindergarteners at Pirriwee Public school is an exciting occasion for the children as well as their parents who begin forming cliques and factions almost immediately.  Six months later at the school’s fun-filled Trivia Night, one of those parents ends up dead – murdered, as it eventually turns out.  Liane Moriarty creates a vibrant cast of would-be suspects in her darkly comic new novel Big Little Lies. 

Perhaps you, like budding writers Don and Mindy Wallace, dream of owning a lovely cottage in France.  For the Wallaces, that dream came true when a friend of theirs told them of a house for sale on Belle Ile – a small island they had once visited off the coast of Brittany.  They bought it sight unseen only to learn two years later that it was almost a ruin.  How they ended up creating their own special paradise makes up The French House: an American Family, a Ruined Maison, and the Village that Restored Them All (944.130). 

Once the best of friends, Eve and Bella haven’t been in touch for years. Bella went on to become a top executive in a multi-national corporation and married a Swedish tennis star, while Eve’s career as a journalist fizzled out.  Now she works with homeowners who want to sell their houses quickly.  When Bella is transferred to London, she hires Eve to “stage” their mansion.  Eve begins the transformation while Bella is away leaving her precocious daughter, obese washed-up tennis champ Lars, and a surprisingly wise rabbit named Dominique behind.  The Stager is by Susan Coll. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Last Orders: the War That Came Early, by Harry Turtledove;
Circles in the Snow: a Bo Tully Mystery (M), by Patrick F. McManus;
Jericho, by Ann McMan;
Border Wars, by Lou Dobbs and James O. Born;
The Red Room, by Ridley Pearson.

Non-fiction –
     I Heard My Country Calling: a Memoir (328.730), by James Webb.

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