Monday, October 29, 2012

Decisions, Decisons

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions - by Dan Ariely

Adult Nonfiction. Ever wonder why something free is so hard to pass up, even if you don't need it and you have to stand in line to get it? It's this sort of odd behavior that author and professor Dan Ariely assesses in Predictably Irrational, using scientific studies and behavioral economics to explain some of the reasons why we act and spend our money the way we do. Readers who choose to check out this bestseller will likely find it to be a "fascinating, eye-opening read" (Publishers Weekly).
Decision Points - by George W. Bush
Adult Nonfiction. No matter their political party leanings, many readers are interested in why George W. Bush made the choices he did while acting as the 43rd President of the United States. Here, he offers a candid journey through his decisions, discussing the hotly contested 2000 election, his selection of key appointees, 9/11, the Iraq War, and his controversial choices during the financial crisis and Hurricane Katrina. Getting personal, he also addresses his decision to quit drinking as well as his faith and relationship with his family.
Deadly Décisions - by Kathy Reichs
Adult Fiction. In her 3rd outing, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan once again divides her time between North Carolina and Montreal. In Canada, a motorcycle gang war claims the life of a nine-year-old girl with black ringlets and a pink backpack. Back in the states, the body of a long-missing teenager is found hundreds of miles from her home. Are the two cases related? If so, how? That's what Tempe wonders even as she faces surprising trouble in her love life and with her nephew. The popular television series Bones is based on these bestselling novels.
The Choice - by Nicholas Sparks
Adult Fiction. Veterinarian Travis Parker loves his life in the lovely coastal town of Beaufort, North Carolina: he boats, swims, hangs out with friends, and is content to be single and blissfully free of the entanglements of marriage. But when an attractive new neighbor, Gabby Holland, moves in and sparks fly between them, he wants Gabby in his life -- even if she does have a long-time boyfriend. Not only is this a "tender and moving love story" (Publishers Weekly), it also addresses the difficult decisions people sometimes have to make.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Armchair Travel

King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village  - by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman
Chances are most of us will never be crowned king...especially if we're women! But that's just what happened to Ghana-born Peggielene Bartels, who'd been working in the U.S. for three decades. After receiving a 4 a.m. phone call telling her that her uncle, the former king of a 7,000-person African village, was dead and that she had been elected the new king, Peggy faced the biggest challenge of her life. "How can a secretary be king?," she wondered, but she proves to be the perfect person for the job, from getting clean water for her villagers to watching out for trouble-making witches. Descriptions of people and places provide an authentic look at village life that's sure to please armchair travelers who wish they were Africa-bound, crown or not.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity - by Katherine Boo
Reading about exotic destinations is great, especially if you can't travel...and it's also handy if you want to learn more about a place, but don't really want to vacation there. For instance, who wants to hang out in the slums of India? Not many of us, but Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo spent three years learning all about life in the Annawadi slum, located right next to Mumbai's International Airport. Critics love this "exquisitely accomplished first book" (The New York Times) which reads like a novel and is full of amazing people living in stunning circumstances, such as a possibly college-bound teen. On the hold list for Behind the Beautiful Forevers and like fiction? Try Gregory David Roberts' popular novel Shantaram, part of which is set in a Mumbai slum.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - by Cheryl Strayed
In this "unsentimental memoir" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), recently divorced 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed sets out on the 1,100-mile Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), walking solo from California, through Oregon, and on to Washington State. Strayed, a completely inexperienced hiker, has plenty of baggage with her, and we're not just talking about her too-heavy backpack. Though the book is centered around Strayed's time on the trail and her dealings with snakes, bears, and blisters, sensitive readers should be aware that sections of Wilddiscuss the troubles that sent her (back)packing, including her heroin use and promiscuity. For a couple's look at hiking the PCT, try A Blistered Kind of Love by Angela and Duffy Ballard. Interested in the Appalachian Trail? Try Bill Bryson's gut-busting A Walk in the Woods.
Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now -- As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Have Left It, and Long for It - by Craig Taylor
The eyes of the world will turn to London this summer as it hosts the 2012 Olympics, but some people keep an eye on London all of the the people who call it home. Canadian author Craig Taylor, who's lived in London for over a decade, conducted hundreds of interviews over the course of five years to get an idea of what more than 80 regular people -- an airline pilot, a manicurist, a cabbie, and many others -- think of the city. The New York Timescalls the result "a rich and exuberant kaleidoscopic portrait of a great, messy, noisy, daunting, inspiring, maddening, enthralling, constantly shifting Rorschach test of a place." Many travelers love talking to locals and getting their views -- if that describes you and you want to know more about London, you'll definitely want to queue up for this book.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

At Sea

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War - by Nathaniel Philbrick
Nonfiction. If you've ever wondered if the legends surrounding the first Thanksgiving in 1621 are fact or fiction, National Book Award-winning author Nathaniel Philbrick tells the real tale in Mayflower. This well-researched and engaging history of the New England Pilgrim settlement discusses the famed voyage and landing at Plymouth Rock, set-backs such as violence, disease, and King Philip's War, and the relationship between the newcomers and the native peoples. This "fascinating story" is the perfect read for American history buffs traveling over the river and through the woods.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Presidential Thrillers!

The President's Assassin - by Brian Haig
Political Thriller. In his 5th appearance, military lawyer Sean Drummond has just accepted a job with the CIA, where he gets involved with the investigation into the murder of the White House Chief of Staff. If that weren't bad enough, the unknown killer has threatened to assassinate the President in just three days. Like Vince Flynn's similarly committed counter-terrorism agent Mitch Rapp, lawyer Sean Drummond marches to the beat of his own drummer, and the fast-paced action and behind-the-scenes atmosphere make for a rousing ride as the clock winds inexorably down.

A Devil Is Waiting - by Jack Higgins
Spy Fiction. A top level Al Qaeda leader in London has just publicly declared that he will bless anyone who kills Western leaders, including the soon-to-arrive U.S. president. Aligned against this sudden new (and widespread) threat are counter-terrorism agents Sean Dillon and Daniel Holley, General Charles Ferguson, and the rest of the "Prime Minister's private army," including a new intelligence recruit, the beautiful and talented Sara Gideon. Though this 17th entry in the Sean Dillon series is set mostly in England, the action moves to New York and Afghanistan as several intelligence agencies move to neutralize the threat. Because the series has evolved over time, you may be confused if you've skipped a few books; to start at the beginning, pick up Eye of the Storm.

Executive Privilege - by Phillip Margolin
Suspense Fiction. How's this for a premise: the sitting U.S. president, who's fighting for reelection, might be a serial killer. Private detective Dana Cutler witnessed an assignation between the president and a young woman; the next day, the woman's mutilated body is found, possibly the victim of a killer stalking the streets of D.C. known as "the D.C. Ripper." Meanwhile, on the West Coast, a junior lawyer uncovers a link between a long-ago murder and the current president. Coincidence? Is the president in fact a serial killer? Or is someone else protecting his serial philandering? While some readers may find it a bit hard to believe, most will be rewarded with a fast-paced, twisty read.

The First Commandment - by Brad Thor
Thriller. U.S. president Jack Rutledge has violated the first commandment of war: he has negotiated with terrorists. One of the Guantanamo detainees released in this "negotiation" is now systematically attacking series hero Scot Harvath's friends and family. Though Scot doesn't know why they're being attacked, and his president has forbidden him to retaliate, he can't sit idly by while his loved ones are decimated. His global search for truth makes for a "violent, shoot-'em-up pulse pounder" (Publishers Weekly) that will have you finishing The First Commandment and reaching for the next in the series, The Last Patriot (6th & 7th, respectively, in a series that now numbers 11 -- Black List was published earlier this year).

Friday, October 05, 2012

Best of the Banned

Banned Books Week, September 30th to October 6th, is the national book community's annual celebration of the freedom to read.  You'll be surprised to see the 10 most challenged books of 2011 (The Hunger Games, anyone?  And To Kill a Mockingbird?!).  Here's a look at some of the best in the banned category.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Set in the not-too-distant future, when religion is used as a tool of repression and social control, this is the story of a young woman, Offred, recruited for reproductive purposes at a time of plummeting birth rates. The gripping narrative switches between her memories of being a working mother and the terrifying realities of her life as a state-controlled breeding machine—a Handmaid.

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Collier

All his life, Tim Meeker has looked up to his brother Sam. Now Sam is part of the new American Revolutionary Army. He talks about defeating the British and becoming independent and free. But not everyone in town wants to be a part of this new America. Most people are loyal supporters of the English king—especially Tim and Sam’s father. How can he choose a side—when it means fighting his father on one side, and fighting his brother on the other?

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

On the island of San Piedro, a Japanese-American fisherman stands trial for murder. It is 1954, and the shadow of World War II's brutal internment of Japanese-Americans hangs over the courtroom. Ishmael Chambers, who fought in the war and now runs the island newspaper, is covering the trial that brings him close to Hatsue Miyamoto, the wife of the accused and Ishmael's first love. The island community is faced with the ambiguities of justice, racism, and the necessity of moral action.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Cloning, feel-good drugs, anti-aging programs, and total social control through politics, programming and media—has Aldous Huxley accurately predicted our future? This compelling narrative that dawns in the year 632 A. F. (After Ford, the deity). When Lenina and Bernard visit a savage reservation, we experience how Utopia can destroy humanity.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones is the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven. It is a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her—friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, a grief-stricken family unraveling. Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, this story builds tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy.

Monday, October 01, 2012


Madame Tussaud : a novel of the French Revolution - by Michelle Moran
Pub Date: February 2011Call Number: F MOR
Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie’s museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, and even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, yet her greatest dream is to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI; their stamp of approval on her work could catapult her and her museum to the fame and riches she desires. After months of anticipation, Marie learns that the royal family is willing to come and see their likenesses. When they finally arrive, the king’s sister is so impressed that she requests Marie’s presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. It is a request Marie knows she cannot refuse.  Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.
Beneath the Lion's Gaze : a novel - by Maaza Mengiste
Pub Date: January 2010Call Number: F MEN
This memorable, heartbreaking story opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mother’s prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hailu, a prominent doctor, has been ordered to report to jail after helping a victim of state-sanctioned torture to die. And Dawit, Hailu’s youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movement—a choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze tells a gripping story of family, of the bonds of love and friendship set in a time and place that has rarely been explored in fiction. It is a story about the lengths human beings will go in pursuit of freedom and the human price of a national revolution. Emotionally gripping, poetic, and indelibly tragic, Beneath The Lion’s Gaze is a transcendent and powerful story  
Patriot Hearts : a Novel of the Founding Mothers - by Barbara Hambly
Pub Date: January 2007Call Number: F HAM
The passion, politics, triumphs, and turmoil of early America come to life through the fictional portraits of four extraordinary women--Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Sally Hemings, and Dolley Madison--who played key roles behind the scenes of four presidential administrations.
When Martha Dandridge Custis marries her second husband, George, she never suspects that the soft-spoken Virginia planter is destined to command the founding of a nation—or that she is to be “Lady Washington,” the woman at the first President’s side.  Seeing farm and family through each harsh New England season, Abigail Adams is sustained only by the fervent reunions stolen between John’s journeys abroad. She will face the terror of an ocean crossing to join her husband in France—and write her own page in history.  Just as Sally had grown from a clever child to a beautiful woman, so had her relationship with Thomas Jefferson grown from a friendship between slave and master to one entangled in the complexities of black and white, decorum and desire. It is a relationship that will leave Sally to face an agonizingly wrenching choice. Dolley Madison, too, must live with the repercussions of a forbidden love affair—although she will confront even greater trials as a President’s wife. But Dolley will become one of the best-loved ladies of the White House—and leave an extraordinary legacy of her own.
Shanghai Girls : a novel - by Lisa See
Pub Date: June 2012Call Number: F SEE
In 1937 Shanghai—the Paris of Asia—twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree—until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth. To repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America. Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. Along the way they make terrible sacrifices, face impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are—Shanghai girls.