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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Fresh Finds: Recently Published Books

Staff Reviews of New Releases


The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad (publication date: November 7, 2017)

Allie's Review:

(5 out of 5 stars) It's a very rough biography (meaning it's not for the faint of heart) but it deals with the personal resilience of the body, soul, and what it means to be a woman (particularly the inherent danger and uncertainty) during a time of war.



The Milk Lady of Bangalore by Shoba Narayan (publication date January 23)

Mary's Review:

(4 out of 5 stars) Entertaining, humorous, and touching. About a woman of indian heritage who spent most of her life in New York but moved back to Bangalore to care for her aging parents. Revolves around her relationship with the milk lady she befriends. I found myself learning a lot about India, the customs, and the importance of cows in their lives in a very readable manner.




Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth (publication date February 6)

Jill's Review:

(5 out of 5) I just finished Only Killers and Thieves, and I’m heartbroken to be at the end. I was hesitant to read it, because it's clear by reading the description that this wild west saga set in 19th century Queensland will be violent & cruel which is not my favorite.
Even though there is brutality which is painful to read, this is a gorgeous story. I was especially impressed by how convincingly the different characters were written.
Tommy is a teenager searching for himself and a place to belong in terrible circumstances, and I was completely wrapped up in his story. Even though his experiences ripped my heart out, there was so much beauty is his perspective even in hellish circumstances.
Noone is a tremendously complex villain, and he added depth because even though he was full of violence and his actions were disgusting, he saw through everyone and knew what motivated them and I couldn’t help respecting him in some kind of twisted way.
A perfect ending is so rare. Often a good book ends up disappointing by the end, but this bittersweet end was perfect in my opinion, and I read the last paragraph several times. I loved this book. It goes on my favorites shelf.


Katherine's Review:

(4 out 5 stars) I am not generally a fan of westerns, or of violent books, so I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this one. I ended up enjoying it more than I expected. There are beautifully written parts of this book and I loved how the location is described. I really felt immersed in the setting - the dry heat, emptiness and the desolation. Such a hard place to try to survive.

I found the violence in the book very hard to read, but I enjoyed seeing Tommy's character develop and evolve. Noone's character I found fascinating and, of course, disturbing. He is the perfect villain - sanctioned by the law, able to see into your motivations, intelligent, and able to twist scientific reasoning to justify his actions. Such a complex character.

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein: Based on a True Story by Jennifer Roy, Ali Fadhil (publication date February 6)

Tirzah's Review:

(4 out 5 stars) The unique title is what made me research this book. When I found out it was based on a true story of a boy who had survived Operation Desert Storm, I knew I had to read it. I haven’t read any literature on that particular historical event and I was glad to see that this book was specifically geared towards the younger audience. I was a toddler during Desert Storm, but when the Second Persian Gulf War took place, I was old enough to be aware of the situation and remember it. Some children today may not be informed about Desert Storm and Saddam Hussein, so I think this book is a great way for teachers and/or parents to educate children. While there are heavy themes of war (i.e., bombing, shooting, reference to torture), it is told in a non-graphic tone that makes it appropriate for children approx. 3rd grade+ to handle (unless they are sensitive readers in which I suggest parents/guardians read it first). It was interesting to me as an adult and American to learn some of the Iraqi culture and be shown some first person accounts of how many innocent people suffered and died during this ruthless time. Besides the tragedy of war, there are shining moments of friendship and family bonds. Recommend for teachers and history buffs, young and old.

Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (publication date: September 14, 2017)

Joyce's Review:

(4 out of 5 stars) The Downton Abbey connection drew me to this book which combines a real murder with a fictional heroine in 1920s England. A truly enjoyable read reminiscent of the “golden age” of mysteries (think Agatha Christie).



Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (publication date: February 13)

Katherine's Review:

(4 out 5 stars) I always appreciate reading books that are as unique as this one. It would be impossible for me to categorize it and nearly as difficult to describe it to someone. I believe each reader will interpret this book in their own way. Is this book about a woman with mental illness who has been repeatedly traumatized and who has reacted to these events by creating separate personalities to help her cope, or about a woman who is also a God and has spirits trapped inside her? It all depends, I suppose, on your own understanding and beliefs.


Jill's Review:

(5 out of 5 stars) I picked up this book on a whim never having heard of it or the author before. The book description is accurate, but this book is so much more.
The Ada, as the alternate selves refer to their body, transforms from a victim of sorts to something much more powerful. I especially loved the conversations in the marble room which refer to the internal conversations between the selves and Asughara’s conversation with Christ. This book is certainly a stretch of the imagination but it is unique and full of strength. It reminds me of how full of mystery our spirituality is.
I will be watching for more from Akwaeke Emezi.

The Traitor's Game by Jennifer Nielsen (publication date: February 28)

Tirzah's Review:

(4 out 5 stars) The Traitor’s Game is yet another book by Jennifer Nielsen that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is full of action, romance, and an exciting storyline with plenty of twists that keep the reader engaged. It is the first of a planned trilogy and I am looking forward to reading more about Kestra and the kingdom of Antora.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Irv's Book Reviews

 Posted by patron and guest blogger, Irv S.

Raven's Prey by Slim Randles
Slim Randles is a raconteur, if that term can be applied to a former mule packer and cowboy. In any case he makes good use of his personal experiences to the great fortune of his readers. Raven’s Prey is told in the first person by Jepsen “Jeep” George, an Alaskan hunting guide, dog musher, and lover of Mozart and Brubeck. He sets out alone into the Alaskan “Bush” in pursuit of the man believed to have killed Jeep’s best friend. Local and state law enforcement officers decide not to pursue the killer because of the difficulty of finding him in the vast wilderness and the likelihood that he will not survive the trek. While contemplating the upcoming pursuit, Jeep takes his business phone answerer to dinner. She is a young lady whom he has largely treated as a business associate until the eve of his trip. After leaving her, he meditates: “But there was more than the physical feelings to this. ..It was seeing those deep green eyes through the depths of her tears that moved me…So I told myself to ration these memories..…I was going to treat myself to a remembrance of that kiss when I could, though. I would do it just before going to sleep each night….I’d keep it tucked away and only bring it out and dust it off and polish it when my work was finished and I could afford the luxury of the remembrance.”

He then starts his hike and shares his thoughts about his dog team, moose hunting, grizzly and black bear habits, and pursuit of a killer. The sentimental stuff is left behind and the adventure begins. Raven’s Prey is a very enjoyable read.

How Come Every Time I Get Stabbed In The Back My Finger Prints Are On The Knife?: And Other Meditations On Management by Jerry B. Harvey How Come Every Time I Get Stabbed In The Back My Finger Prints Are On The Knife?: And Other Meditations On Management by Jerry B. Harvey (1999) is a book of 11 essays some instructive, but all humorous. The serious side of the book deals with stratified systems theory, a management tool developed and explained by Elliott Jaques in A General Theory of Bureaucracy (1976). The first essay provides the answer to the question posed by the book’s title. The second analyzes Jesus’ Last Supper and argues that Judas was not a traitor but was merely doing his job and that the other 11 disciples were “spin doctors” who conspired to cast all the blame on Judas though they also had a hand in the betrayal of Christ. Harvey has some interesting ideas about teaching, or as he describes his classroom efforts: not*teaching. He writes a lot about anaclitic depression blues, a condition of alienation attributed by psychologists to infants who are deprived of their mother’s care. Harvey believes that the condition is rampant among adults who discover that their job or company or fellow workers are changing. I agree to some extent, having survived a 52 year professional career just barely; I dealt with some traumatic changes but had probably reached the end of my rope when I retired. Not being an expert in management theory, I sometimes had trouble separating the serious arguments from the satire but I enjoyed the book a great deal.

The English Spy by Daniel Silva
The English Spy (2015) by Daniel Silva is (another)excellent novel featuring Israeli spy/ art restorer Gabriel Allon. Fast-paced and fascinating. The budget for spy activities appears to be limitless and is certainly mind boggling, but adds to the story. Silva can craft page-turners and has done so again.  

Testimony by Scott Turow
Testimony is not up to Scott Turow’s standards. It lacks his usual subtlety, includes gratuitous sex, and features a huge logical gap. His 50+ year old protagonist is a victim of his seemingly uncontrollable libido. The anticipated exposition of the International Criminal Court never materializes. Turow’s usual strict adherence to legal procedures and terminology is sorely lacking. Turow is a brilliant writer who missed the boat on this one. Perhaps he was writing with a movie deal in mind. Having said all that, he is still better than most and Testimony is better than most current novels of its genre. He makes some insightful comments about behavior, especially male sexual proclivities. He leaves some significant plot lines unresolved. I wish that I had spent my time reading another of his books, or even re-reading one. I look forward to his next, I’m confident that it will be better. 


Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen
Carl Hiaasen is a clever writer with a sharply honed talent for making the absurd seem almost plausible who demonstrated his skills admirably in Razor Girl. He describes entertaining and complex characters in unusual situations who sometimes do the predictable, often the unpredictable, and generally produce unexpected consequences. It takes several chapters to determine who is the protagonist, i.e., the least offensive character, Yancy, who happens to be a former sheriff's detective, reassigned to health inspection duties after accosting a girlfriend's husband with a dustbuster. His adventures with a beautiful redhead who works for gangsters, creating auto accidents for the purpose of kidnap/debt collection; a Miami product liability lawyer; a contractor who steals sand from beaches to remediate erosion on others; and a Wisconsin accordionist who has become a star of a redneck reality show produce a highly entertaining novel. The book is indeed a real page-turner, not because of the several unlikely plot lines, but due to the humorous characters and situations. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Learn about Amazing Women: Children's Biographies

Posted by Cassandra

For every well-known woman who has made her mark on history, there are countless other women who were just as significant and indispensable to the past but whose names aren’t always as familiar.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, here are summaries of Children’s Biographies detailing the lives of three fascinating, intelligent, and brave women whose names and contributions aren’t always as recognizable (particularly to children) but whose stories are powerful and must be shared.

Margaret Hamilton was a curious and clever little girl (with a particular interest in mathematics) who grew up to invent the term “software engineer” because the computer programming she was doing needed an official title. Margaret was inquisitive, intelligent, and inventive and is best known for the detailed computer code she wrote that allowed Apollo 11 to land on the moon even though it was experiencing several computer errors at the time.  With simple yet endearing illustrations and an educational Author’s Note in the back to elaborate on Margaret’s life story, this book is a great option for the curious and clever little girls (and boys!) in your life.

The daughter of an artist and a poet, Maya Lin grew up learning to use both her hands, her heart, and her head in equal measure. As a young adult, lines and interesting architecture fascinated her and Maya knew she wanted to create interesting structures as well. It was during her senior year of college when Maya submitted an entry into the contest which would choose the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; she was shocked to find out she had won! However, not everyone was thrilled with the news of her accomplishment and Maya had to fight for her vision. This book provides a glimpse into not only the life of Maya Lin but into the conviction behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and that is surely worth a read for young and older alike.
Adults can check out Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Handsby Susan Rubin, available through inter-library loan.

Wangari Maathai was an environmental activist who bravely fought against the deforestation of her beloved country, Kenya. She planted trees, united the Kenyan people, and battled against powerful government officials who had her imprisoned numerous times. Wangari Maathai: The Woman who Planted Millions of Trees is the fascinating story of her life, her struggles, and her victories.
Adults can check out Wangari Maathai’s autobiography Unbowed:A Memoir for an even closer look at Wangari’s captivating life. 

For even more children’s books highlighting the lives of strong, courageous, and intelligent women, visit the Women’s History Month book display in the Children’s Library or check out these additional titles: