Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Crescent Dawn

Who needs James Bond? No one since Clive Cussler has written another Dirk Pitt novel. Crescent Dawn is the latest in a series about the suave and highly skilled Dirk Pitt. Pitt now the head of NUMA ( the National Underwater and Marine Agency) and is on board a trademark turquoise colored ship diving near the coast of Turkey. Along with his pals Rudi Gunn and Al Giordino he discovers another ancient wreck.

Cue the bad guys. This time they take the form of terrorists who are descended from the last of the Ottoman rulers. They are bent on destroying ancient Muslim, Jewish and Christian artifacts and archaeological sites in hope of spreading more unrest in the region. Aided by his kids Dirk and Summer, Pitt manages to foil the bad guys once again.

There are beautiful women, high tech gadgets, chase scenes, a little romance and bad guys who are real bad guys and bad guys who aren't such bad guys. The book is written in very short chapters to keep the story moving along, and move along it does. This book will keep you entertained.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Eighteen Acres

Eighteen Acres is the story of a female American president and her trials in office both personal and professional. The story line is told from 3 different perspectives - all female. Charlotte Kramer is the president of the United States. She is nearing the end of her first term and she is tired. Tired of the political life, tired of her job, and in a tried marriage. She doesn't know if she wants to run again. She makes a decision to secretly go to Afghanistan. And the trip goes horribly awry. Insurgents succeed in blowing up Marine 1, the president's helicopter. She was not on board having been forced off by one of her senior advisers. Once back in the United States Charlotte must face a reelection campaign, the resignation of her vice president and her husband's affair with a White House correspondent.

That brings us to the second narrator. Dale Smith. She has clawed her way up to network anchor for a major news network. Part of her success comes from her affair with the President's husband. Her career comes to a crashing halt after Afghanistan. The third woman in the mix is Melanie Kingston, White House Chief of Staff. She has been in the position through 3 administrations and she too is tired. She needs a life outside the White House even though she is great friends with the President. Melanie takes up with a younger reporter who is new to the White House beat.

I thought this book would be better. The author, Nicolle Wallace is a political commentator and she was a White House communications director for George W. Bush. She has lots of insider political knowledge. It is an interesting exercise trying to figure out who some of the characters are. Could the new vice presidential candidate really be Sarah Palin in disguise? What about the cheating husband? The eighteen acres referred to in the title is the amount of space the White House compound takes up. But basically this is a chick lit sort of book. The women are all beautiful, highly competent, well educated and all survive in the end. There are some highly improbable scenes in the book - like how did the insurgents get on a US military base to shoot a grenade at the president's helicopter? The book moves along and Melanie is a great character, but if you think you are going to read some inside information about the White House you will be disappointed.
Enjoy the book for what it is - an easy chick lit read.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Staff Picks for 2010

Here is the list you have been waiting for! Your favorite librarians have listed their favorite fiction and non-fiction books for 2010. Read and enjoy!

Auster, Paul. Sunset Park
Bender, Aimee. The Particular Sadness of the Lemon Cake
Blake, Sarah. The Postmistress
Bradley, C. Alan. The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag
Chevalier, Tracy. Remarkable Creatures
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee. One Amazing Thing
Donoghue, Emma. Room
Durrow, Heidi. The Girl who fell from the sky
Glass, Julia. The Widower’s Tale
King, Lily. Father of the Rain
Kostova, Elizabeth. Swan Thieves
LeCarre, John. Our kind of traitor
Mantel, Hilary. Wolf Hall
McCann, Colum. Let the Great World Spin
Norman, Howard. What is left the Daughter
Nothomb, Amelie. Hygiene and the Assassin
Ogawa, Yoko. The Housekeeper and the Professor
Rachman, Tom. The Imperfectionists
Pintoff, Stephanie. A Curtain Falls
Simonsen, Helen. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Smith, Alexander McCall. The Charming Quirks of Others
Steinbeck, Thomas. In the Shadow of the Cypress
Turow, Scott. Innocent
Verghese, Abraham. Cutting for stone
Zambra, Alejandro. Bonsai

DeWaal, Edmund. Hare with Amber Eyes; A family’s century of art and loss.
736.88 DEW
Doggett, Peter. You never give me your money 782.42166 DOG
Gunn, Deana. Cooking with all things Trader Joe’s. 641.5 GUN
Kundera, Milan. Encounter 809.04 KUN
MacIntyre, Ben. Operation Mincemeat 940.5486 MAC
Myron, Vicki. Dewey: The small town library cat who touched the world.
636.8 MYR
Oliver, Mary. Swan: Poems and Prose Poems. 811.54 Oliver
Philbrick, Nathaniel. The Last Stand 973.82 PHI
Richards, Keith. Life Biography
Scottoline, Lisa. Why my third husband will be a dog 814.54 SCO
Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Biography
Zinczenko, David. Eat this, Not that! 613.2 ZIN
------ Cook this, not that! Kitchen Survival Guide. 641.5635 ZIN

Friday, December 10, 2010

I Still Dream About You, by Fannie Flagg

Fannie Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, has given us yet another delightful read. The main character of I Still Dream About You is Maggie Fortenberry, a former Miss Alabama. Hired by the founder of Red Mountain Realty after a failed modeling career, Maggie has spent her career in real estate. Charming, beautiful, and caring, Maggie is opposite in nature to her best friend and colleague, Brenda. The ever-dieting member of Over-Eaters Anonymous, Brenda is outgoing and sure of herself. She is a delightful foil to the insecure and selfless Maggie.

Both Brenda and Maggie are grieving the loss of the owner of Red Mountain Realty--Hazel Whisenknott. Although now deceased, Hazel's spirit lives in the hearts of all who knew her. She was a "little person," a spit-fire at 3 feet 4 inches. Everyone loved her, and all her friends sincerely mourn her loss. Maggie, especially, is affected. Now 60, she is single and without family. She feels she has never lived up to her potential as Miss Alabama. The love of her life--a married man--remains her secret shame.

Despondent, Maggie plots her demise by drowning. But in an attempt to make her suicide easier for others, she constantly gets side-tracked. The biggest diversion occurs when she and Brenda discover a skeleton in the closet of a home newly on the market. Indeed, this skeleton, a former owner of the estate now for sale, has quite a history. Brenda and Maggie have discovered a skeleton in both a real and figurative sense!

I Still Dream About You is a funny, upbeat book that uses quirky characters and a dash of mystery to substantiate its theme: life may, at times, disappoint, but it never fails to surprise and amaze.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Distant Hours

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton will take readers back to a family during the upheaval of World War II in Great Britain. The Raymond Blythe family lives in Milderhurst castle and has done so for generations. Raymond, a writer and survivor of World War I lives there with his three daughters, Percy and Saffy, who are twins and Juniper. The sisters live in the castle their entire lives because their father believes that family and creativity are the most important things in life.

Raymond was a strange man. Mentally damaged in World War I no one thought he would recover until he started writing again. His story about the Mud Man turned his life around and set the stage for his daughters disturbed lives. The mud man was a creature who lived in a moat surrounding a castle. His daughters saw life differently than Raymond did. When they were young the twins were completely consumed by their father - their mother was suffering from postpartum depression. The marriage and the family deteriorated ending with the mother burning to death and her lover having a similar fate.

The daughters are brought up to love the castle as if it were a living thing. Having the family continue to live at Milderhurst becomes all important to Percy. She takes her father's beliefs to heart and insists her sisters do likewise. She carries her mission to extremes that have her interfering in her sisters lives.

The story line is told in 2 parts. Events that happened during World War II when a child from London (Meredith) comes to stay with them during the early days of the war. The second story line involves Meredith's daughter Edith. Edith discovers on old copy of the Mud Man and becomes interested in the author and his castle, Milderhurst. When she realizes that her mother had lived there during the war, she wants even more information. Her chance arrives when she is asked to write the introduction to the anniversary edition of the Mud Man.

The story lines come together with a resounding clash. The sister's past combined with current events prove too much for the Blythe sisters and their lives once again are changed forever. This book is well written. The characters are interesting (especially Percy) and the plot lines move along even as they weave back and forth through time.

The book should be read in long stretches to get the full flavor of the story. Curl up by the fire and give this book a read.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Friday Night Lights

Our excellent film collection contains many fine television series in addition to feature films, documentaries, foreign films, and informational DVDs. One of the new series we have purchased is Friday Night Lights. Based on the 1990 nonfiction book by H. G. Bissinger, entitled Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, the series chronicles the life of Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), his wife, Tammy (Connie Britton), their family, and assorted members of the team and the town.

Although there was a 2004 film based on the book, it lacks the in-depth portrayal of the people Bissinger describes. Peter Berg, Bissinger's cousin and the film's director, said that "he regretted having to jettison many of the interpersonal topics covered in the book because of the time constraints of a feature film. Creating a TV series, particularly one based on fictional characters, allowed many of those elements to be brought back and addressed (fully)." (NPR Interview, April 11, 2007, as cited in Wikipedia.

Indeed, what is most engrossing about this series is the level at which the characters and their lives are explored. The angst of adolescence is sympathetically portrayed, as are issues such as racism, teen pregnancy, sex, alcoholism, and troubled families. It is not melodramatic, but instead, conveys these problems realistically.

Although the series revolves around the fanatic devotion of the town of Dillon for their high school teams, one does not have to be a football fan to enjoy this program. This reviewer has never watched a game of football in her life, and, prior to watching this show, did not know the difference between a quarterback and a running back. The series is less about the game than about the role football plays in the lives of everyone in the town.

To quote Wikipedia, "(Friday Night Lights) was awarded a Peabody Award, a Humanitas Prize, and a Television Critics Association Award, as well as several technical Primetime Emmy Awards. At the 2010 Emmy Awards, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton were nominated for the Outstanding Lead Actor and Actress awards for a drama series." If you are looking for a series with fine acting, a good storyline, and terrific filming, check this one out.

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