Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Eye of the World

THE EYE OF THE WORLD: Robert Jordan: TOR: 1993: Fantasy: 670 pages

Rand, Mat, and Perrin have never seen anything of the world outside the Two Rivers. They have heard about huge cities, women who can wield the One power, known as Aes Sedai, and dark beings like Trollocs and Myrdraals. But to the Two Rivers folk, they are nothing more than fanciful stories told by Gleemen.

On the eve of Bel Tine their small village is attacked by Trollocs. Though, Rand, Mat and Perrin are saved by the Lady Moiraine and her companion Lan, who turn out to be a real Aes Sedai and warder, the young boys learn that the Trollocs are searching for them. The boys have to flee their beloved village to save it from another attack.

This sets Rand, Mat, and Perrin off on an adventure that will lead them halfway across the world where they encounter one trial after another and learn about their true selves.

Although this book is a little slow, and tends to have way too many subplots, I still found myself enjoying the story and wanting to read the rest of the series.

This book could easily be recommended to teen boys or anyone who enjoys Tolkien’s epic stories.

AJ

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez

THE SECRET BLOG OF RAISIN RODRIGUEZ: Judy Goldschmidt: Razorbill: Young Adult: 224 pages

In a blog she sends to her best friends back in Berkeley, seventh-grader Raisin Rodriguez chronicles her successes and her more frequent humiliating failures as she attempts to make friends at her new Philadelphia school.

This was a quick read. I read most of it in one afternoon. The story was funny and brought back memories of my own junior high experiences. Although Raisin is only 13, I felt like some of the things she discussed would have suited a character a little bit older. I look forward to reading about Raisin’s other adventures in her upcoming books.

AMM

I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts On Being A Woman

I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK AND OTHER THOUGHTS ON BEING A WOMAN: Nora Ephron: Alfred A. Knopf: 2006: nonfiction: 137 pages

This is the perfect book to read when you are in a grumpy mood, you know, one of those days when everything annoys you. Nora Ephron (she wrote When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless In Seattle, & more) does not like fluffy books about aging gracefully, nor does she like how long it takes to look like you aren't. She does not like purses and she especially does NOT like her neck. This commentary on her life is an extremely fast and easy read with only a few expletives. For the younger audience it will give you a glimpse of what you have to look forward to. For those of us nearly or already 50ish, her witty humor is bound to get you smiling while you secretly relate to many of her life's experiences and philosophies. After two chapters grumpiness gone.

mpb

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale

THE THIRTEENTH TALE: Diane Setterfield: Atria Publishing: Fiction: 416 pages.

This book had a lovely gothic air about it reminiscent of Jane Eyre and Rebecca. It’s the story of an introverted girl raised in a family troubled by death and emotional separation. As an adult she works in her family bookstore and dabbles at writing, publishing a brief biography of an obscure character. This pamphlet catches the eye of a famous author who requests Margaret visit her Yorkshire castle and write her biography. The author is famous for the misinformation she spreads about her past, and so Margaret is intrigued and travels to Yorkshire to investigate.

She is pulled into a ghost story with a touch of madness, romance and murder which she must unravel. My review doesn’t do this book justice, it was an absorbing mystery that made me want to curl up in a window seat and finish it in one night.

Forever in Blue

FOREVER IN BLUE: Ann Brashares: Delacorte Press: Young Adult: 384 pgs.

In the final book of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, four friends--Lena, Bridget, Carmen, and Tibby--are once again separated during the summer to pursue their own interests but are kept united by a pair of magical pants.

This is not my favorite Sisterhood book, but, like the other books in the series, this one does a nice job of addressing a lot of identity and relationship issues in a very real and engaging way. The girls are all in college in this book, so there are a number of very grown up situations.

MBC

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The New York Trilogy

THE NEW YORK TRILOGY : Paul Auster : Penguin Book : Mystery : 371 pages.

Welcome to a house of mirrors. Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy is sometimes confusing, sometimes tedious, but mostly intriguing. The three stories, “City of Glass,” “Ghosts,” and “The Locked Room” are closely related by their theme and plot similarities. The stories possess a few seemingly arbitrary and impossible interconnections. Auster’s characters and storylines fold and unfold in unexpected ways.

There are themes of surveillance, writing, and the relationships between life and texts. The characters evolve and change roles. There are stories within stories—very much like Russian “nesting” dolls." City of Glass" concerns a mystery writer, Daniel Quinn, who becomes involved in a real case—playing the part of a private detective, conducting surveillance on a man who may pose a threat to Daniel’s “client”. "Ghosts" also involves surveillance. Blue, trained by Brown, has now been hired by White to watch Black. When Black never does anything but sit in his apartment reading and writing, Blue becomes bored with the case and begins to feel trapped and resentful toward White. "The Locked Room" is of a man who becomes the executor for the literary works left behind by one of his childhood friends who inexplicably disappeared and is presumed dead.

Refreshing originality, interesting characters and the intriguing storylines make this volume a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.

The Keep

THE KEEP: Jennifer Egan: Knopf:2006:Fiction: 256
The main plot of this book is the reunion of two estranged cousins at an ancient castle, but there is a lot of sub-plot/post-plot going on. The main storyline follows the reunion of two cousins that long ago shared a horrific experience and have carried the guilt/fear from the experience into their adult lives. However, Howard is no longer the nerdy Dungeons and Dragons master of his youth, but a very wealthy (very tan) 30 something retiree. He has purchased an ancient European castle with the intention of turning it into a hotel - a special kind of hotel where all connection with the outside world is cut off and guests are expected to explore their own imagination. Since their childhood together Danny has become a gothic, neuroses ridden icon of New York's underground club scene . He is obsessed with being "connected", and the polarity of Danny's desire for constant contact and Howard's yearning for complete isolation and introspection is interesting to see played out.
This book surprised me again and again. There were three large plot shifts where the people you thought were the main characters became just part of someone else's story. It was spooky like any of its Gothic predecessors, but it was also a story about a return to imagination, hope even.

BES

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

American Born Chinese

AMERICAN BORN CHINESE: Gene Luen Yang: First Second: Young Adult: 233 pages

This book won the Printz Award for 2006. It is a very clever telling of three stories whose themes converge and reinforce one another at the close of the book. The result is interesting story lines and also powerful messages about racial stereotypes and learning to be yourself. This is the first time I’ve really read a graphic novel closely. The art is amazing in moving the story along and portraying action. I liked being able to dispense with descriptions and having the majority of the text be the thoughts and words of the characters.

The layout includes a lot of white space on each page. This seemed to allow me time and space to think about each page – there was plenty of action but the pace was good. I was also surprised by the depth of the themes. I think the story is complex enough that I wouldn’t recommend it for children – plus there are teen crushes and a character who speaks an American Chinese pidgin that might be hard for some readers to understand. This would be a good choice for teen reluctant readers.

SH

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Your Best Life Now

YOUR BEST LIFE NOW: Joel Osteen: Warner Faith: nonfiction: 320 pages

A well-known pastor from Texas, Joel Osteen, reveals seven steps that will enable you to live at your full potential. With Your Best Life Now as the title, my expectations are high that the book will contain some life-altering suggestions as to how to live better. After all, who doesn’t want to learn how to do that?

Based largely on the Bible and his religious sermons, Pastor Osteen reveals seven basic steps to guide an individual towards living the best life you possibly can. The steps are: Enlarge Your Vision, Develop a Healthy Self-Image, Discover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words, Let Go of the Past, Find Strength Through Adversity, Live to Give, and Choose to be Happy.

The book has some good points although the majority of the book contains self-help advice similar to that in other self-help books. For example, in learning the principle of Enlarging Your Vision, we are reminded to live with an attitude of faith, raise our levels of expectancy, and to envision the positive outcomes rather than robbing ourselves of opportunities due to our self-limiting negative thoughts and actions. In the Developing a Healthy Self-Image part, some of what he writes is that we receive what we believe and challenges us to dare to believe for greater things.

Pastor Osteen illuminates his seven points with the use of many Bible examples as well as examples from people he has met and counseled and his own life experiences. He emphasizes God’s role in our lives very much throughout the book but the way in which he describes God’s role in some areas of our lives may be a turn-off to some. Overall, this is a book that will leave you feeling more uplifted and motivated to move forward with your dreams and goals. In a world where too much negativity exists, a book with a positive message is a very welcome read.

EE

Women's Letters

WOMEN’S LETTERS: AMERICA FROM THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR TO THE PRESENT: Lisa Grunwald, editor: Dial Press: Nonfiction: 832 pages.

This marvelous book allows the reader, whether they read two pages or all eight hundred and thirty-two, an intimate, touching, and intensely interesting view of events great and small through the private correspondence of women of America. The glimpses of life events through the eyes of the obscure and the famous illuminate history in a way that no carefully composed historical narrative can. Probably no historical narrative has even tried to capture the essence of women’s lives the way these letters do.

The letters can be read in chronological order but since the letters have no relation to each other except that they are written by women, there is no reason not to just open the book at random and read. A widow writes to Eleanor Roosevelt asking for a coat, Louisa May Alcott instructs her publisher about the title of her new book Little Women, a nurse during the Vietnam War writes to her family about conditions at an evacuation hospital in Vietnam. I can’t help but feel that this is the best, most interesting way to learn about history. Each letter is prefaced by an introduction that gives the context of the events surrounding the letter’s composition.

If you see this book on the New Book display at the Provo City Library, don’t hesitate to pick it up and read even if you only have five minutes. You will probably find that you want to read for a much longer time.

SH

We Are All the Same

WE ARE ALL THE SAME: A STORY OF A BOY’S COURAGE AND A MOTHER’S LOVE: Jim Wooten: Penguin: Biography: 240 pages

Jim Wooten, a senior foreign correspondent for ABC, has written a powerful and shocking tale of truth about the AIDS epidemic in Africa and one young boy affected by the disease. In 1989, Xolani Nkosi was born in a squatter’s camp in what used to be Zululand, South Africa. His 19-year-old, unmarried Zulu mother, Daphne, was unknowingly infected with the HIV virus by his father, and passed it on to him at birth. Knowing she was dying, Daphne took Nkosi to an AIDS hospice for white patients in Johannesburg when he was two. When the hospice was forced to close because of funding issues, Gail Johnson, one of the white founders, took Nkosi into her home and became his second mother.

With the demise of apartheid in the 1990’s, the plight of those affected with HIV became more obvious, but Nelson Mandela and his successor, Thabo Mbeki, refused to address the issue of AIDS. Nkosi and Gail were pushed to the forefront of the fight when they tried to get Nkosi admitted to school. Because of Gail’s care and resources, he had already lived much longer than any other HIV baby - the average life expectancy for an infant born with the virus was three years. He (and Gail) became a symbol and spokesman for all those in Africa with the disease until his death in 2001. Nkosi ‘s frail body, but abundant spirit told the truth even when his country’s leaders denied it. This gentle exposé of the entwined history of AIDS, South Africa, and its’ politicians with one brave young boy is one we should all read and learn from.

DB

Two Little Girls in Blue

TWO LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE: Mary Higgins Clark: Simon & Schuster: Fiction: 322 pages

Before leaving for a black-tie affair in New York City, Margaret and Steve Frawley celebrate the third birthday of their twin girls, Kathy and Kelly, with a party at their new home in Ridgefield, Conn. Later that night, when Margaret can't reach the babysitter, she contacts the Ridgefield police. The frantic couple return home to find the children missing and a ransom note demanding $8 million. Though the Frawleys meet all the conditions, only Kelly turns up in a car along with a dead driver and a suicide note saying that Kathy has died. But Kelly's telepathic messages from her sister keep telling her differently, and Margaret won't give up hope.

I really enjoyed Mary Higgins Clarks’ newest book! I couldn’t put the book down and I was still guessing whodunit until the very end. I enjoyed learning a little bit about twin telepathy and would recommend this book to anyone.

AMM

The Traveler

THE TRAVELER: John Twelve Hawks: Doubleday: Fiction: 456

John Twelve Hawks debut novel is the beginning of The Fourth Realm Trilogy. It is set in a present when the U.S. belongs to the Vast Machine, a society run by the Tabula, a secret organization determined to have total control over every member of society. The Tabula lulls citizens into compliance by promising better protection from terrorists and other dangers if a few personal freedoms are taken away such as surveillance cameras taking your picture hundreds of times a day, tracking what you buy from a grocery store, and monitoring what you do on the Internet.

Travelers are the largest threat to this perfect society because they can project their spirit into other worlds and bring back wisdom that often questions the norms of society. They are protected from the Tabula by a group called Harlequins. Throughout history nearly all of the Travelers and Harlequins have been hunted down and destroyed but there is a possibility that two brothers might still have the power to become travelers. Maya, a Harlequin, must race the Tabula to find these brothers and protect them and this is where the real story begins.

As I read this book, I began to question many of the societal trends that are happening right now. This novel brings up the question of how much personal information and control we are willing to give our government, and if we even realize what we are giving away. It basically comes down to a story of good vs. evil. I found it even more intriguing that the author, John Twelve Hawks, has chosen to live off “The Grid”, and has only communicated with his editor by satellite phone or through e-mail. The Traveler makes you think but is also a great thriller that is hard to put down once you start and makes you look forward to the next book in the trilogy.

AL

The Smoke Thief

THE SMOKE THIEF: Shana Abé: Bantam Books: Romance: 292 pages

The Carpathian Mountains are the home of many fantastical creatures. The latest breed are the drákon, humans who can transform into smoke and dragons. Driven from the mountains, the tribe in the 1700’s, now resides mostly in seclusion in rural Darkfrith, England. The Alpha of the tribe is the Marquess of Langford and he rules the tribe with a council. Christoff Langford is the current Marquess, and he has a problem. There’s a jewel thief currently burglarizing the “ton” of London and they’ve dubbed him the "Smoke Thief" because of the way he seems to vanish into thin air. Kit knows that the Smoke Thief is really a “runner” – a tribe member who’s fled Darkfrith without permission.

Clarissa Rue Hawthorne is a hafling – half human, half drákon and was tormented as a child because of it. On her 17th birthday, when she discovered she could “Turn”, the first female in four generations to accomplish this, she faked her death and fled to London. Now Kit is after the thief, and is shocked to discover it’s a woman and one who can Turn. His determination to unite with her as the Alpha female, her will to not be controlled, and the search to recover the tribe’s most valuable jewel, provide some bewitching conflicts. Believable fantasy woven with an inevitable romance make this an enchanting book!

DB

An Abundance of Katherines

AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES: John Green: Dutton Books: 2006: Fiction: 215 Sure, Colin Singleton is a Prodigy, but he's no genius and he certainly isn't good at keeping girlfriends. After getting dumped by the 19th Katherine in a row, newly Graduated Colin and his best friend Hassan take off on a road trip that will hopefully snap him out of his depression. Along the way Colin tries to come up with a mathematical equation for love, and overcome the feeling that at 18 he has intellectually peaked. What he finds is the charming southern town of Gutshot, Tennessee, a new pack of friends (the first pack of friends for Colin really), and the realization that he must look outside of himself for once.
John Green has an uncanny ability to capture the barely post adolescent voice. As the age would suggest, expect a bit of language in this book and a small amount of sex (though not nearly as much as his last book). I really like Green's voice, but this novel didn't pack quite the same punch as his 2006 Printz Award winning Looking for Alaska. The boys' questions/problems didn't seem as central to the teenage experience as other YA books I've read. The math aspect of the book (though a tiny bit gimmicky towards the end), the humor, and again the spot on voice of these teens made this book a fun read. I'd recommend Looking for Alaska (With discretion - it's edgy to say the least) if you want to read this new YA author.

BES

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Experts' Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do

THE EXPERTS’ GUIDE TO 100 THINGS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW HOW TO DO: Samantha Ettus: Clarkson Potter: Nonfiction: 326 pages

As a mother of five teens/young adults, I have frequently tried to teach them how to do something “the proper way”. Samantha Ettus has now provided me with the authoritative explanations to support my teaching/preaching.

Ettus, founder and president of a talent and brand-management firm and newspaper columnist, began collecting a list of skills she had never acquired – her “Personal Knowledge Gap”. After determining that others had similar “black holes of skills”, she set about getting 100 nationally recognized experts in their field to write some “Cliffs Notes to life”.

The book is divided into five sections: Morning Life, Work Life, Home Life, Weekend Life, and The Big Life. Each article is a 3-4 page explanation by an expert on one topic. Tracey R. Henderson, executive housekeeper for Holiday Inn explains how to make a bed. Exercise guru Kathy Smith gives instructions on how to correctly do push-ups and sit-ups. Lawn mowing methods are discussed by Fenway Park Director of Grounds, David Mellor. Local expert, Stephen Covey discusses managing your time, while Debbi Fields covers how to bake chocolate chip cookies properly. The articles range from the practical (how to change a baby and pick produce) to the abstract (how to breathe and read body language), but all are concise and informative. There’s something for everyone and a great opportunity to get practical advice from the experts!

DB

Talk to the Hand

TALK TO THE HAND: THE UTTER BLOODY RUDENESS OF THE WORLD TODAY, OR SIX GOOD REASONS TO STAY HOME AND BOLT THE DOOR: Lynne Truss: Gotham Books: Nonfiction: 206 pages

The author of the bestseller, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, here gives voice to her mounting frustration at the prevalence of rudeness in today’s society. But this is more than just a tirade. Truss has done extensive reading about manners and society to enable her to identify six areas in which “our dealings with strangers seem to be getting more unpleasant and inhuman, day by day.” One of her six reasons to bolt the door, “Why am I the One Doing This?,” focuses on how we are increasingly expected to do the work formerly done by staff of the organizations that exist to serve us—such as trying to reach a real person via an automated switchboard or doing your banking online. In the section, “Someone Else Will Clean It Up,” she examines the increasing tendency to avoid accepting responsibility for oneself and one’s actions.

Truss’ research and real-life examples provide interesting insights into this very real problem. Ultimately Truss concludes that rudeness is bad and that bad manners are contributing to the loss of our sense of community, but holds out some hope as she makes a few suggestions for countering this trend. If you’re one of the many who just can’t take any more, this is the book for you.

DW

Spin Sisters

SPIN SISTERS: HOW THE WOMEN OF THE MEDIA SELL UNHAPPINESS–AND LIBERALISM–TO THE WOMEN OF AMERICA: Myrna Blyth: St. Martin’s Press: NonFiction: 342 pages

Just like most women in America, I stand in the check out line waiting to purchase my groceries and take a look at the magazines lined up neatly beside me. They promise to tell me how I can lose extra pounds, rid myself of wrinkles, reduce my risk of cancer and osteoporosis, and lower my stress level through a combination of yoga, deep breathing, Pilates, and feng shui decorating. My problems all solved, and for only the cost of a magazine or two. Spin Sisters by Myrna Blyth, editor-in-chief of Ladies’ Home Journal for over 20 years, is a journey behind the scenes of these headlines and the many other messages sent to American Women by the media.

Blyth’s book is filled with statistics and illustrations on how messages to women have evolved over the past 50 years. She dissects these messages and the motivations that drive their prevalence. Selling fear and dissatisfaction is a lucrative business, Blyth reports. Unhappy people are eagerly looking for easy fixes for whatever may ail them, and producers and editors work hard to convince consumers of their dissatisfaction with life, whether or not it is actually justified.

If you are looking for a window into the world of modern American media, here is a great primer. The stories and examples presented are entertaining and enlightening. Blyth’s voice, while at times cynical and critical toward female media moguls, remains candid as she honestly admits she also presented these misguiding messages through her career in order to improve readership. Spin Sisters illuminates issues and trends which, while not groundbreaking or necessarily shocking, can give us a more realistic and informed vantage point when facing the bombardment of propaganda aimed at us daily.

CZ

Some Like It Haute

SOME LIKE IT HAUTE: Julie K. L. Dam: Warner Books: Fiction: 293 pages

Alexandra, fashion correspondent for the British Weekly, thought her first day in Paris covering Fashion Week was going badly when she discovered her favorite shoes had been stolen. That was just the beginning. While trying to find her seat at the Chanel Show, a head-on collision with a model on the catwalk lands Alexandra on the front pages of all the fashion news. Humiliated too much to even leave her hotel room, Alexandra is sure she can never return to another show. Her luck changes when someone else, a handsome American, makes an even bigger scene at another event. Now Alexandra is yesterday’s news. To make the day even better, her publicist friend has the latest scoop on an up-and-coming fashion designer set to change the fashion world--and she has agreed to give Alexandra the first interview. What starts off as a miserable week looks like it might end up happily ever after, after all.

KK

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers

THE SIMPLE FAITH OF MR. ROGERS: Amy Hollingsworth: Integrity Publishers: Nonfiction: 175 pages.

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?

This song strikes a familiar chord for children and adults across America. Mister Rogers welcomed us into his life and neighborhood making us feel safe and special, one episode at a time. Mister Rogers taught us about life and respect. He taught us that it was okay to express our feelings and he taught us to be proud of ourselves!

Although Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, on the whole he did not use a pulpit to preach. Instead he reached out to the children of America using puppets like: Daniel Striped Tiger, Lady Elaine, King Friday, and Henrietta Pussycat.

In this book Amy Hollingsworth, a long time friend of Mister Rogers, gives us a personal look at America’s favorite Neighbor. Through her correspondence with Mister Rogers, she shows us the legacy that he has left behind. Mister Rogers taught by example the need to slow down and take time for silence. He taught that we are all neighbors and that we need to treat each other with respect, we need to look for the good in those around us, and we need to apply the golden rule in our lives. Fred Rogers “preached” his beliefs through his actions and his legacy encourages each of us to do the same!

AMM

She Got Up Off the Couch

SHE GOT UP OFF THE COUCH: Haven Kimmel: Free Press: Adult Non-fiction: 304 pages

In this delightful sequel to A Girl Named Zippy, Kimmel continues her reminiscences of childhood in tiny Mooreland, Indiana. Kimmel introduced readers to a memorable cast of characters in her first book, including her mother, Delonda, who spent years reading away on the couch until she weighed 268 pounds. In this second memoir, Delonda gets up off the couch, graduates from college, and secures a teaching job. In chapters like “I Knew Glen Before He Was a Superstar,” “A Short List of Records My Father Threatened to Break Over My Head If I Played Them One More Time,” and “A Short List of Records That Vanished From My Collection,” Kimmel spins quirky tales of friends, neighbors, and her mother’s newly found independence.

MBC

Shadow Divers

SHADOW DIVERS: THE TRUE ADVENTURE OF TWO AMERICANS WHO RISKED EVERYTHING TO SOLVE ONE OF THE LAST MYSTERIES OF WORLD WAR II: Robert Kurson: Random House: nonfiction: 375 pages

Perilous danger, history, adventure, mystery, death and human weakness combine in this historical narrative about the discovery and exploration of a mysterious wreck off the coast of New Jersey in 1991. At a depth of 230 feet the wreck was just beyond safe diving depths, creating a competitive challenge and ultimately a death trap for wreck divers. Divers could spend just fifteen minutes at that depth, fighting narcosis every second and needing one hour to decompress. The stamina the divers required for those minutes on the bottom is matched by tenacious determination over the next seven years to discover the identity of the wrecked submarine and learn about the men who died when it went down. John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, at first competitive enemies, are drawn into a bond of brotherhood as exploring the wreckage claims lives, friendships and marriages.

But this gripping book doesn’t just take you to the bottom of the sea. The perils and technical difficulties of deep sea diving are only a part of what makes this book so good. Fascinating details about life aboard German U-boats during World War II and the courage of the crews are an important part of the story. History buffs will also enjoy the accounts of sleuthing through dusty military archives and contacting international World War II experts only to discover they were all wrong. Ultimately you meet brothers, sisters, and sons of the German crew of the wrecked submarine.

If you enjoyed The Perfect Storm (Sebastian Junger, 1997), Into Thin Air (Jon Krakauer, 1997) or The Endurance : Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition (Caroline Alexander, 1998), or like to watch the new History Detectives show on PBS, you can plan on enjoying this book as well. The Last Dive : A Father and Son’s Fatal Descent Into the Ocean Depths by Bernie Chowdhury, though not as well written, gives further details about two of the divers who perished while exploring the U-boat wreck in October of 1992.

SH

Saturday

SATURDAY: Ian McEwan: Doubleday: fiction: 289 pages

Almost 150 years ago, Charles Dickens penned the line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In our era, another of Britain’s great writers, Ian McEwan, depicts much the same sentiment through the ruminations of a modern Londoner, Henry Perowne, as we follow him through a single day.

In the “best of times” category, Henry is an accomplished neurosurgeon, who lives in a palatial London townhouse with a successful attorney wife whom he still adores after a quarter century of marriage. Their two children are thriving in artistic lives of their own; one as a blues musician, the other as a published poet. In addition, as Henry muses on this particular Saturday morning, the teapot has reached the “peak of refinement.”

In the “worst of times” category, Henry’s day begins with a plane crash (observed at a distance from his bedroom window) that taints the rest of his day with a post 9/11 sense of foreboding and anxiety. This sense is accentuated by the millions of protesters gathered in London that day to protest the impending Iraq war, a war that Henry uncomfortably approves of. The protest indirectly causes a minor traffic accident with a mentally unstable street thug that keeps Henry looking over his shoulder as he completes his errands around the city. A late afternoon visit to his senile mother reminds Henry of his own mortality and his frustrating ability to repair the brain but not the mind.

The best and worst of times converge later that evening, when Henry wrapped in the glow of a genial family reunion, relaxes into an aura of warm contentment. And then… the worst walks right through his front door.

This well written story moves along on a stream of thoughtful contemplations that reflect the complex and contradicting themes of the age we live in: war and peace, justice and forgiveness, religion and modern medicine, and still manages an optimistic note. For as Henry recognizes that fateful morning about his amazing teapot, “The world should take note: not everything is getting worse.”

LG

The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands

THE PROPER CARE AND FEEDING OF HUSBANDS: Dr. Laura C. Schlessinger: Harper Collins: Nonfiction: 180 pages

Although the title of this book is enough to send some women running in the opposite direction, this is a must-read for all women in a relationship. Dr. Laura does not advise women to slave away at cooking, cleaning, and catering to his every whim; rather, she discusses the emotional needs of men.

The one point that most struck me is that a common expectation of some women is that men talk, react, and behave just as a girlfriend would.
Dr. Laura explains that today’s society has a unisex mentality, meaning that the belief is that men and women are so equal that they operate in the same way. She emphasizes throughout the book the simple fact that men and women are different, and points out how to embrace and work with those differences.

With the use of many enlightening examples throughout the book of
on-air conversations with men and mostly women, she is able to illustrate her main points. This is an eye-opening book with one really good and simple message: treat others as you would like to be treated.

EE

A Private Family Matter

A PRIVATE FAMILY MATTER: Victor Rivas Rivers: Atria Books: 2005: Biography, 364 pages.

This book reminded me of David Pelzer’s A Child Called It. It is a biography of the middle son of a Cuban family that immigrated to America in the 1950’s. The father in this tale was not just abusive but pathologically so; the horrors he committed were many, among them kicking his 8 1/2 month pregnant wife repeatedly in the stomach. His abuse nearly destroyed the entire family and reading about the horrors that he committed was painful. But, this book does have a very uplifting message. Victor details his struggle to gain his self-esteem and rise above the inner voice that continued to tell him he was worthless long after he was out of his father’s clutches. This is a very positive story that shows that it is possible to escape the cycle of abuse and rise above the terrible psychological scars that it leaves.

After leaving his father’s custody at the age of 15, Victor went on to play college football. From college he went on to Hollywood where he continues to have a successful career as an actor. He also volunteers his time as the national spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

DEF

Outwitting History

OUTWITTING HISTORY: THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF A MAN WHO RESCUED A MILLION YIDDISH BOOKS: Aaron Lansky: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill: Nonfiction: 316 pages

The recent commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz has reminded us of the deaths of millions of people in the Holocaust. Few realize that the Holocaust also sounded the death knell for a culture and a language. Millions of Yiddish speaking people were executed or dislocated from their homelands. As a result, the following generation learned to speak the native languages of a multitude of adopted countries and Yiddish ceased to be spoken. In the 1970’s, just as Aaron Lansky began to be interested in Yiddish, he discovered that personal collections and entire libraries of Yiddish books were being taken to landfills. He began an urgent personal quest to save Yiddish books from destruction, and along with that, to rescue a lost culture.

Mr. Lansky is president and founder of the National Yiddish Book Center. His adventures in salvaging more than 1.5 million books are interesting and moving. This wonderful book is not just for bibliophiles, it’s a book for lovers of history and literature as well. While reading about midnight dumpster dives, we also learn about Yiddish history, Yiddish writers and intellectuals, meet elderly Jewish immigrants who saved priceless volumes in their own personal collections, and travel to communities of Eastern Europe to restore Yiddish volumes destroyed under Communist domination. The National Yiddish Book Center has translated many Yiddish works into English, reprinted important Yiddish books, and with the help of Steven Spielberg, has digitized their entire collection and made it available online. Mr. Lansky’s chutzpah (Yiddish for daring or nerve) can be experienced and celebrated through this book and by visiting www.yiddishbookcenter.org.

SH

Obsidian

OBSIDIAN: David J. Hawkes: Council Press: Fiction: 103 pages

Obsidian, a captivating tale of parallel lives, is the story of heartache and love, war and peace, richly woven between the past and the present. This is story of an Indian boy, a white man and an unforgettable journey through time.

I really enjoyed this simple tale about life. It is amazing to me how similar Bill and The Arrow Maker were, even though they lived decades apart. The text goes back and forth between the two men’s lives, but flows beautifully. This quick read will leave you feeling thankful for the beauty of nature and your family relationships!

AMM

Never Let Me Go

NEVER LET ME GO: Kazuo Ishiguro: Knopf: Fiction: 288 pages

This is a novel that slowly unfolds its secrets. Kathy and her two school friends, Ruth and Tommy, grew up at Hailsham, an idyllic, isolated school where the children are encouraged to create art and feel special. But there is a darker side to Hailsham. One that Kathy and the other school children sense, but feel they are unable able to discuss even with each other.
Now 31, Kathy re-develops lost friendships with classmates Ruth and Tommy. They begin to examine what clues they had as children that they were different from everyone outside. Like the Hailsham students, the reader is initially protected from the full truth, but ultimately we learn that Hailsham children are clones, raised to donate organs for “real” people.
Although Ishiguro’s novel can be viewed as a cautionary tale of science and the medical field outdistancing ethics, it is also a sensitive and emotional tale of the bonds of friendship, loyalty and the “human” capacity for forgiveness.

AJ

A Mystery of Errors

A MYSTERY OF ERRORS: Simon Hawke: Tor: Mystery: 240 pages

“There was nothing quite so invigorating to the senses, Smythe decided, as ending a long and dusty day by being robbed.” So begins the story of Symington “Tuck” Smythe. On the road to London to find work in the theater, Tuck is robbed so many times that the last highwayman flips him a coin so that Tuck can have dinner and a room in a nearby inn. The inn is full and Tuck must share a room with a stranger, who also hopes to find work with a company of players. Tuck and the stranger, William Shakespeare, finish their journey together, share a room, and find work (as ostlers) with the same acting company, the Queen’s Men. Besides learning to navigate the cutthroat world of Elizabethan theater, Will and Tuck put themselves at risk when they try to help a young woman whose father is pushing her into a marriage against her will. What becomes a confusion of identities almost results in Will’s murder as the two amateur detectives stumble in and out of danger.

This amusing novel will appeal most to Shakespeare buffs and fans of historical mysteries.
Although the story starts off a little slow as Hawke sets up his 16th century setting, the pace soon picks up as the action and intrigue of the plot develop. Hawke’s efforts to incorporate bits of Shakespeare lore into the story, even using the other characters to feed Shakespeare future lines, add a fun element. A Mystery of Errors is just the beginning of the adventures of Shakespeare and Smythe which continue in three additional books.

DW

My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere

MY KIND OF PLACE: TRAVEL STORIES FROM A WOMAN WHO’S BEEN EVERYWHERE: Susan Orlean: Random House: Nonfiction: 285 pages

This is not your normal travel book. Not many of us would pick Sunshine Market in Jackson Heights, Queens, or Portland Meadows Mobile Home Park on the fringes of Portland, Oregon as a travel destination but Susan Orlean does and that is what makes this book entertaining reading. Reminiscent of Charles Kuralt with a little more spice, Orlean’s witty writing drew me into places, people and experiences that I never even thought to wonder about before.

Whether Orlean is marveling at boxes of “Soft Touch Duck Degreaser” while attending the World Taxidermy Championships in Springfield, Illinois, or enjoying a Congolese ballad at Afric’ Music in Paris, the short self-contained chapters make this a great book for those of us who only have time to read (or travel) in 4 minute snatches.

MB

The Mermaid Chair

THE MERMAID CHAIR: Sue Monk Kidd: Viking Press: Fiction: 332 pages

A book about rebirth of the spirit, The Mermaid Chair follows Jessie Sullivan as she searches for her own identity in the face of passion, betrayal, grief and forgiveness. Jessie has a caring husband and a wonderful daughter who recently left for college. With an empty nest, Jessie begins to feel discontented and confined. She also lives with a secret guilt over her father’s death nearly 35 years before in a tragic boating accident off Egret Island.

On the anniversary of her father’s death, Jessie receives an urgent call from her mother’s longtime friend. She asks Jessie to return to Egret Island to help her estranged mother recover from a desperate act of self-mutilation. Jessie’s mother, haunted by the death of her husband, has become a zealous Catholic in the years following his death. She is obsessed with the Benedictine monastery next door, where she cooks and cleans for the monks. Jessie is uncomfortable with her mother’s fanaticism, but sees helping her mother as a chance to get away from her stagnant life. Returning to the island, Jessie becomes powerfully attracted to one of the Benedictine monks belonging to the monastery famous for its beautifully carved mermaid chair.

Though Kidd’s second novel is a very different story from her first book, The Secret life of Bees, it has some similar thematic elements and captures the essence of the South just as beautifully. The vibrant scenery and compelling story add to this captivating novel, but the emotional complexity of the characters is what truly makes this a must read.

AJ

The Meq

THE MEQ: Steve Cash: Del Rey: Sci-Fi: 404 pages

Zianno (Z) has a fairly normal childhood until his twelfth birthday. His parents are killed in a tragic accident and the only thing he knows is that he must keep his father’s baseball and he must find Sailor and Umla-Meq. This sends Z on a long and frustrating search. Along the way he befriends various humans and also meets several children like himself. They are the Meq, who remain 12 years old until they meet their soul mate and choose to cross over into mortality together.

This unique group of humans and Meq must unite to fight the evil Fleur-du-Mal. The years pass as many of the great events of the early 20th century unfold such as the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and the Influenza epidemic of 1918.

This book has a little something for everyone: history, fantasy, good vs. evil, mystery and romance. I was very caught up in the characters and the story and kept thinking about it long after I’d finished. Be warned though, this is the first book in a planned trilogy.

AL

Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter's Eyes

MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS: DEAN MARTIN THROUGH HIS DAUGHTER’S EYES: Deana Martin: Harmony Books: Biography: 297 pages

Deana Martin delivers a fair account of her famous father known to the world for his songs, films, television and Vegas shows. When asked if he was a good father she replied, “No, he wasn’t a good father, but he was a good man.” And that is what the book shares. Martin was an emotionally absent father and husband, but a great man who entertained the world and even his family at the dinner table.

Not only Dean Martin fans will enjoy reading this biography. Fans of old Hollywood will also find many interesting tidbits. The Martins’ lives were filled with famous friends like Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Marilyn Monroe, and Judy Garland. Many enjoyable family photos illustrate the book.

KK

March

MARCH: Geraldine Brooks: Viking: fiction: 280 pages.

What lingers with me still, after reading Geraldine Brooks’ latest novel March, are the smells. No, not the paper and ink scent of a new book, but the acrid smoke of a Civil War battlefield, the stench of a Union hospital, and the aroma of a sultry Southern night. Ms. Brooks writes with such detail and realism that the scenes enliven the senses and sweep the reader into another time and place.

Named for Captain March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, this book chronicles his year-long journey from self-assured, idealistic chaplain to shattered, bewildered army veteran. Following Alcott’s lead, who patterned the girls of the March family after her own sisters, Brooks used Louisa’s real-life father, Bronson Alcott, as a model for her leading character. Part One of the narrative begins at the disastrous Battle of Ball’s Bluff with March struggling to write a letter home. For though he promised to write something everyday, he reflects, “I never promised I would write the truth.” Through a series of flashbacks, we learn of March’s youthful days as a Yankee peddler in the antebellum South, a guilt-plagued romance with an elegant house slave named Grace, and his brief yet passionate courtship with Marmee. In Part Two, the narrative moves to a Union hospital in Washington D.C. and switches to Marmee’s voice. Summoned to his bedside by an urgent telegram, (an event familiar to Little Women readers) Marmee cares for her almost unrecognizable husband and tries to untangle the truth behind his delirious rantings. Though I sometimes became impatient with Mr. Marchs’ moral flagellation and naïve idealism, Marmee’s character is a revelation. A woman of great courage and passion, she is zealous in her fight against slavery and far more complicated than Alcott’s domesticated depiction.

An excellent historic fiction writer, Brooks avoids 21st century sensibilities and meticulously recreates Civil War era thinking, characters, and morality. Even the writing style reflects an earlier, more formal age reminiscent of Alcott’s own work. This book is a must read for Little Women fans and historic fiction buffs will delight in the book’s portrayal of a complicated episode in America’s history. Be forewarned however, even though generations of children have enjoyed Little Women, this book is for older readers.

LG

Little Earthquakes

LITTLE EARTHQUAKES: A NOVEL: Jennifer Weiner: Atria: Fiction: 417 pages

Jennifer Weiner’s newest novel is a story of love, heartbreak, redemption and friendship as four women make the bumpy transition into new motherhood.

Kelly is the bubbly, young overachiever; Becky is an easy going chef with a loving husband but the worst possible mother-in-law; Ayinde is the sophisticated wife of a basketball superstar, who feels compelled to raise her son by the dictates of a book; and Lia is the once famous Hollywood star trying to make sense of her life after an overwhelming loss.

As a new mother of a 16 month old, I found myself laughing and crying along with these amazing characters as they described their thoughts, feelings and struggles. I could relate to the sleep deprivation, the spit-up stained clothes, the frustration over strained relationships and the overwhelming love felt by a mother for her child.

Although new mothers will find comfort in realizing they are not alone, this book is a good read for anyone interested in well-developed characters dealing with real life issues through friendship and laughter.

AL

Lipstick Jihad

LIPSTICK JIHAD: A MEMOIR OF GROWING UP IRANIAN IN AMERICA AND AMERICAN IN IRAN: Azadeh Moaveni: Public Affairs: Biography: 246 pages

We’re so used to seeing the word jihad in the same sentence with terrorist that this title seems to be an oxymoron. But imagine millions of Iranian women simultaneously appearing on the streets of Tehran wearing lipstick. This is a struggle in the classic sense of the word jihad. What would the religious police and the mullahs do? Arrest every woman in Iran? Moavani takes us inside Iran before 9/11 where “Iran’s young generation – the generation born just before the revolution…is transforming Iran from below. From the religious student activist to the ecstasy-trippers, from the bloggers to the bed-hopping college students, they will decide Iran’s future.” (page xi)

Moaveni is a member of the young generation of Iranians, but born in the US to Iranian parents, part of the Iranian “diaspora” that occurred because of the revolution in 1979. She went to Iran as a journalist reporting for Time magazine. In her quest to report the news she also encounters the many ways Iranians use their ingenuity to circumvent the system. Women’s yoga and exercise groups meet in back rooms, teenagers use martyr’s holidays to throng the streets and meet members of the opposite sex, bright covered robes replace the somber, formless black that was mandatory women’s dress after the revolution.

This memoir is impassioned and personal. At once nostalgic and pragmatic, the author seeks to find herself in the two worlds that are her heritage. She is one of a number of authors, fluent in English and conversant in Farsi, whose experiences illuminate the struggles of immigrants to the Unites States as they open the curtain on a hidden world. This book is beautifully written. Just as well written, and perhaps more poetic, is the book Journey from the Land of No by Roya Hakakian which chronicles the changes in a Jewish family’s life during the years of the Iranian revolution. These books deserve recognition for their excellent writing and intimate views of women’s lives in Iran along with the very popular Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.

SH

The Kite Runner

THE KITE RUNNER: Khaled Hosseini: Riverhead Books: fiction: 324 pages
Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel follows the heartbreaking tale of two Afghani boys whose friendship is torn apart by a tragedy. Growing up in Kabul in the 1970s, Amir and Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant, are inseparable. On the day of the annual kite flying contest, Amir betrays Hassan and, ashamed of his actions, eventually forces Hassan and his father to leave their home. As an adult living in America, Amir is haunted by his disloyalty to Hassan and returns to Afghanistan to rescue Hassan’s son from the Taliban.

In beautifully written language, Hosseini explores betrayal, redemption, friendship and the price attached to each. Well constructed characters and a thoughtful narrative make this a powerful and emotional reading experience. Those interested in Afghanistan and recent political events there will find this a particularly interesting read, but the moving story will appeal to readers of all types.

MBC

An Invitation to Poetry

AN INVITATION TO POETRY: Robert Pinsky, ed.: W.W. Norton: Nonfiction:308 pages.

In the third poetry collection to come out of the Favorite Poem Project, poems are presented with introductions by Americans from across the country. Popular poets Frost, Shakespeare, and Dickinson are found with less well-known authors like Sone no Yoshitada.

On the accompanying DVD, poems are read and discussed by contributors to the book. Stanley Kunitz, the then 97-year-old poet, talks about his experience with Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, “God’s Grandeur.” In the next video segment, a 62-year-old bookkeeper praises Kunitz’s poem, “Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation.”

There are many noteworthy poems in the collection, but the most enjoyable parts of the book are the personal comments that introduce the poems. A sixteen-year-old student from California relates Langston Hughes’ “Minstrel Man” to her escape from genocide in Cambodia, and a 58-year-old man in D.C. explains how a Yusef Komunyakaa poem helps him understand his emotions as a Vietnam veteran. Each entry illustrates the way in which poetry expresses universal human emotions and invites readers to a further examination of poetry.

MBC

Inside Job

INSIDE JOB: Connie Willis: Subterranean: Fiction: 99 pages.

Rob, a professional debunker, and his partner Kildy, a former Hollywood star, set out to expose a medium who claims to channel an ancient spirit named Isus. The psychic’s performances are interrupted, though, by what appears to be the spirit of H.L. Mencken, the skeptical journalist who covered the Scopes Monkey Trial. While not as satisfying as Willis’s longer fiction, this novella is a thoroughly readable story about the nature of truth, interwoven with history, romance, social commentary, and literary allusions in typical Willis fashion.

MBC

Ice: The Nature, the History, and the Uses of an Astonishing Substance

ICE: THE NATURE, THE HISTORY, AND THE USES OF AN ASTONISHING SUBSTANCE: Mariana Gosnell: Knopf: nonfiction: 555 pages

I like to read nonfiction. I like being surprised by amazing facts about ordinary events or things. Surprise or amazement can be found on almost every page of Ice: the Nature, the History, and the Uses of an Astonishing Substance. Did you know that “An Arctic iceberg can be the size of a cottage or a city block? An Antarctic iceberg can be the size of an American state(!)” or “a beam of ice hanging in a cold room with a weight on one end [will] stretch like taffy in slow motion…” Did you know that the fact that water can exist on our planet as a solid, liquid or vapor is crucial to earth’s climate?

This book has adventures on ice, too; Shackleton’s icy encounters in Antarctica; John Ross, whose ship was trapped in Arctic ice for three years, and more. Would you like to know how animals like seals, whales and penguins survive in icy conditions? And what about frozen insects – can they survive?

This book is not written for scientists. It is written for the insatiably curious person. Read a page, a chapter, or the whole book and you are bound to learn something. This is one of a number of fascinating books about everyday substances that have come out in the last few years. I also thoroughly enjoyed Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky, The Power of Gold: the History of an Obsession by Peter L. Bernstein, Napolean’s Buttons: How Seventeen Molecules Changed History by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson. And I could name many more, all of which I found by browsing the New Nonfiction display at the Provo City Library.

SH

The Historian

THE HISTORIAN: Elizabeth Kostova: New York: Little, Brown and Co.: 2005: Fiction: 642 pages

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is a novel that has attracted a lot of publicity from readers and publishers alike. At a whopping 642 pages, it’s not a quick read, but it’s definitely well-worth the effort. Having visited or lived in most of the places included in the novel and having studied extensively about the history of those places, I feel the book provides unique insight into a fascinating cultural icon.

Most of the publicity stems from the fact that the book’s central figure is the vampire, Dracula. However, he’s not the white-faced, black-caped creature of horror films; he’s just as dangerous, but he’s also a cultured and intelligent bibliophile and historian.

Most of the plot centers around the search for the actual historical roots and figure of Dracula. So, it’s not full of blood and gore, as might be expected. It’s a suspenseful and interesting tale of countries and cultures, libraries and librarians, and historical documents and research as the story shifts seamlessly through the decades of the 1930s, 1950s, and 1970s. If readers take the time to digest the story, they will be rewarded by the carefully thought-out and polished writing and the memorable characters that will continue to haunt their thoughts long after the book is finished.

RP

Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams

HERSHEY: MILTON S. HERSHEY'S EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF WEALTH, EMPIRE, AND UTOPIAN DREAMS : Michael D’Antonio: Simon & Schuster: Biography: 305 pages

I am not a chocolate lover, or even a chocolate liker, but I was so fascinated by this book that I ALMOST wanted to try a Hershey Kiss so that I could be part of the Hershey legacy. Pulitzer Prize winning author, Michael D’Antonio, gives us wonderful insight on Milton S. Hershey, the child, the industrialist, the boss, the husband, the philanthropist, the dreamer, the social engineer and the man. Hershey’s story is one of triumphing over the odds, but the book contains even more. It gives an interesting history of the chocolate industry, how American chocolate came to be, and of the intense competition among the candy makers of the time. We learn what it took to make Hershey’s company survive. When other industrial giants and their companies were under suspicion by the public and media, how did he escape the bad press? Why were his dreams, including his vision of an utopian society in Hershey Pennsylvania actually becoming a reality, unlike the other entrepreneurs of the day? I found it extremely informative the way D’Antonio intertwines historical events, political climate and everyday life of that era into the book. It gave me a new perspective on just how unique Milton Hershey actually was.

MB

The Forest Lover

THE FOREST LOVER: Susan Vreeland: Viking Books: fiction: 304 pages

In her fourth novel (What Love Sees, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, and The Passion of Artemisia), Susan Vreeland again draws literary inspiration from the world of visual art. In this historic novel, she brings to life the world and work of Canadian artist Emily Carr. Born at the end of the Victorian era in Victoria, British Columbia; Carr broke with society’s and art’s conventions to pioneer modern art in North America. Her passion for native culture led her to travel extensively through the rugged Northern Canadian wilderness to preserve on canvas what remained of the vanishing tribal art and way of life.

Vreeland’s vivid writing captures the passion, turmoil, and complexity of Carr’s life as a “woman artist” (a term which Carr detested). Beginning when Carr is thirty, the story follows her from Victoria to Paris and back again on a quest to find the artistic fulfillment she yearns for. On the way she befriends Sophie, a native basket weaver; Fanny, a free-spirited artist from New Zealand; and Claude, a French-Canadian fur trader who wraps her in love and mink. Though the writing sometimes slows with philosophical discussions of color and technique, the story and Carr’s intense devotion carry the reader into the fascinating and contrasting worlds of modern art and ancient custom.

LG

Family Blessings

FAMILY BLESSINGS: Fern Michaels: Atria Books: Fiction: 226 pages

When an unexpected tornado rips through Larkspur, Pennsylvania Loretta Cisco’s life is changed forever. The home that she has resided in for over 50 years is suddenly gone! This was the home where she raised her children and grandchildren, the home where she began her candy business and the home where so many memories had been made.

To add to the confusion, Cisco’s triplet grandchildren are each having a crisis of their own. Hannah, Sara, and Sam have been married for ten months, but already the honeymoon is over. Hannah and Sara both married doctors who seem to never be home. When they come home late night after night, the girls begin to believe that their husbands are having affairs. Sam’s wife Sonia suddenly leaves home for no apparent reason.

As the town of Larkspur pulls together to rebuild the homes that were damaged, the Cisco family pulls together to solve their respective problems. The Cisco’s learn a lot about trust, forgiveness and communication in this novel. Although the storyline is a bit far-fetched, this quick read has a warm holiday feel.

AMM

Empire and Odyssey: The Brynners In Far East Russia and Beyond

EMPIRE AND ODYSSEY: THE BRYNNERS IN FAR EAST RUSSIA AND BEYOND: Rock Brynner: Steerforth Press: Nonfiction: 331 pages

More than half of this biography of Yul Brynner is dedicated to the complex historical background in which the Brynner family, gifted entrepreneurs, founded a shipping empire in Vladivostok with branches throughout the Far East. Yul Brynner’s Swiss grandfather spoke English, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. His father, Boris, attended the Mining Institute of St. Petersburg in the last days of Czar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra. Somehow Boris survived the five turbulent years of struggle for control of Russia, managing to preserve the family shipping company and negotiating the continued operation of the family’s mines with the earliest leaders of the Soviet Union.

Yul’s early years were spent in Vladivostok but events in Russia eventually forced his family to become part of the Russian diaspora. He spent the balance of his youth in Chinese controlled Harbin and then Paris. In Paris, Yul was an acrobat, circus clown, trapeze artist, and gypsy guitarist before immigrating to New York. His acting and musical talents were encouraged by his mother and stepmother, both of whom were actresses and singers trained in Russia.

Biography just doesn’t get any better than this – history ceases to be dry events when you get a fresh view through the lives of extraordinary people. The author is Yul Brynner’s son, Rock Brynner, who has a doctorate in history. He is well qualified to write a work with historical depth. His pride in his ancestors and his affection for his father are evident in this well-written book.

New works of nonfiction can be found in the New Nonfiction display on the first floor of the Provo Library when they are checked in. You can also call the library to have a hold placed on this title for you.

SH

Double Shot

DOUBLE SHOT: Diane Mott Davidson: William Morrow: Mystery: 310 pages

The latest in the Goldie Bear culinary mysteries has Goldie sleuthing in a very personal case. Goldie’s ex-husband Dr. John Richard Korman, “The Jerk,” has been murdered and she is the number one suspect. Knowing that she is not the only person Korman has mistreated, Goldie and her friend Marla take the investigation into their own hands. All the while she has her catering events to worry about.

Fans of the series will be pleased with the energized storyline that Davidson has created that will bring new life to the series in the books to follow. Reading this book makes you glad that food and murder go hand in hand. The mouthwatering recipes prepared by the characters are provided in the back of the book.

KK

Devil's Corner

DEVIL’S CORNER: Lisa Scottoline: HarperCollins: fiction: 393 pages

Vicki Allegreti pushes the limits investigating the murder of her partner, an ATF agent killed during a routine procedure. Formerly in the DAs office and now an Assistant US Attorney, Allegreti is young and petite, yet tough and determined. When she begins investigating on her own her superiors tell her to let the police handle the investigation—it’s not her job. She persists even after being placed on suspension.

From its first line this novel caught my attention and took me for a ride through the dangerous world of drug-trafficking, murder, and conspiracy in Philadelphia. The novel is suffused with a bit of grittiness and detail that comes from Scottoline having sat through a major drug trail in Philadelphia. This story has good pacing, a few twists and turns, a portion of humor, and some genuine warmth. A particularly good read.

SML

Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life

COACH: LESSONS ON THE GAME OF LIFE: Michael Lewis: W.W. Norton & Co.: Biography: 93 pages

As a mother with a teenage football player I was interested to read this book about life lessons learned from having an intensely driven coach. Author Lewis recounts his experiences with his high school baseball coach, Coach Fitz. This man coached with a passion that Lewis had never experienced before. In the book he recounts many of the uplifting and difficult lessons that Coach taught him that were often painful, but necessary to his growth into a purpose-driven young man. Coach Fitz taught his players to fight “the natural instinct to run away” when the going got tough, and that in order to achieve anything meaningful they would have to fight hard to get it. In contrast, you see that the parents of today’s players are less willing to allow their children to suffer from the results of breaking the rules or not giving the game their all. Responsibility and drive have been replaced with entitlement by these players and their parents.

Lewis makes the point that the lessons he learned from Coach Fitz did not make him a star athlete but did help him to grow into a purpose-driven and successful individual.

DEF

The Christmas Hope

THE CHRISTMAS HOPE: Donna VanLiere: St. Martins Press: Fiction: 213 pages

Patricia and Mark Addison have long given up the hope of having a meaningful Christmas. But this year, Patricia’s job as a social worker will lead her to a very special five-year-old: Emily. Against her better judgment, Patricia bends the rules and takes the little girl into her own home. Through the presence of Emily in their house, and her penetrating questions about heaven, the Addisons will learn that there is no sorrow so great that faith cannot help you find your way through. And Christmas will once more be a time of warmth in their home.

I really enjoyed this sweet holiday tale! The Addisons learn how to love again as they work through the grief that they each feel and are brought together by Emily, a child who has borne grief of her own. This story pulled at the heart strings and left me with the feeling of Christmas.

AMM

Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light

CHOCOLATE: A BITTERSWEET SAGA OF DARK AND LIGHT: Mort Rosenblum: North Point Press: Nonfiction: 290 pp.

Almost everyone loves chocolate. Those interested in learning more about this “food of the gods” will find entertainment as well as information in this book. The saga presented here is more anecdotal than truly historical, although it does include some interesting history of the cacao tree as well as the various products made from its beans. But, what is most interesting is Rosenblum’s account of his travels from Central America to Europe to Africa as he researches chocolate’s history and then follows the production of chocolate from the cacao plantations to the chocolatiers who transform the cacao bean into something delicious.

Be warned: This book’s descriptions of chocolate tastings and the nuances of flavors that differ from one chocolate maker to the next may send you on a quest of your own.

DW