August 2008 Archives

Spellbinding Tales

If you enjoyed Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman or Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel you may want to try these books by Sarah Addison Allen:

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Garden Spells
Sisters Claire and Sydney Waverly struggle to accept their family legacy. As the story unfolds the sisters learn to love each other and themselves. An apple tree, garden and recipes with fantastic powers along with colorful local characters help lead the Waverly sisters on their journey and discoveries. Check the catalog for availability.

The Sugar Queen
Quiet, awkward Josey Cirrini's peaceful life--caring for her elderly mother, enjoying romance novels, and indulging in her secret passion for sweets--is turned upside down when Della Lee Baker, a sassy, confident, and bold waitress fleeing an abusive boyfriend, decides to hide out in Josey's home. Check the catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Paula & Jacki @ Central

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

If you can squeeze in one more book before summer ends, make it The Lace Reader. This debut novel was self published in 2006 and then picked up by William Morrow and is undoubtedly 2008's 'it' book.
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Ms. Barry opens with an ominous, "My name is Towner Whitney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time. . ." So, how much of the rest should we believe?

Towner Whitney is part of a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light. Secrets, lies, and half-truths abound. It can be difficult to separate what's real from what isn't, but as Towner points out early in the story, "There are no accidents." Check the catalog for availability.

Bitterroot by James Lee Burke

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When former Texas Ranger and current attorney Billy Bob Holland is invited to visit his friend Doc in Montana, he grabs his flyrod and looks forward to some quality R & R. All hopes of a quiet vacation are shattered after Doc's daughter is raped by a group of brutal bikers. Soon, the bikers involved with the crime are turning up dead and Doc is charged with murder. In addition, a psychopath rodeo clown named Wyatt Dixon, who has a grudge against Billy Bob for prosecuting his sister for murder back in Texas, shows up and adds to the mayhem. The beautiful Montana setting and equally majestic prose from Burke are in direct contrast with the violence that erupts. Check catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Dan @ MPL Central

Author: Joe Meno

Hailing from Chicago, Joe Meno has emerged as one of my favorite writers of contemporary fiction. He has a new book, Demons In The Spring, on the way in September. In the meantime, his previous two efforts are well worth a read:

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The Boy Detective Fails (2006)
Meno's semi-surreal tale of Billy Argo, a noted detective as a child, now back on the beat at 30-years-old and having just been released from a long stay at a mental hospital. Though often classified as Young Adult, this equally melancholic and charming novel will also appeal to young-minded adults of any age. Check catalog for availabilty.


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Bluebirds Used To Croon In The Choir: Stories (2005)
This collection of short stories seamlessly wanders between mundane blue collar reality and surreal moments of pure beauty. At times comic, at times tragic, hands down the best short story collection I've read in quite some time and represents Meno's most "adult" writing to date. Check catalog for availabilty.

Author's website.

- Submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

Author: Geraldine Brooks

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People Of The Book: A Novel (2008)
Hanna Heath, a book conservator and scholar, researches the history of a rare and priceless Hebrew illuminated manuscript. Each chapter reveals more details about the travels, creation and people connected with the manuscript. The characters all narrate their own part of this fascinating story engaging the reader in multiple histories going farther and farther back in time. Check catalog for availability.


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March: A Novel (2005)
Geraldine Brooks recounts the life and adventures of the absent father, March, from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. This is an interresting twist to be sure. March narrates his life events and thoughts as he encounters different people and difficult situations. Unfortunately, his choices are often to his detriment. At the close of the novel Brooks writes a very interesting chapter narrated by March's wife. Check catalog for availability.


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Year Of Wonders: A Novel Of The Plague (2001)
An unforgettable tale of the Black Death hitting the small English village of Eyam in 1666 is told through the eyes of a young woman in this beautifully written historical novel. Anna, a young widow, is an engaging and strong lead character in this gripping novel of the power of Nature, and ultimately, hope. Check catalog for availability.

For more information see the author's website.

- Submitted by Paula & Dan @ MPL Central

Focus on the Family?

Notes On A Life by Eleanor Coppola

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If you’d surmise that the matriarch of this family would be flamboyant, commanding, and larger-than-life, then you’d be wrong. Eleanor’s writing style is quiet and reserved; she has the centered Zen energy of an observant monk. Ranging episodically over several decades, Coppola offers an honest portrait of middle age and marriage— she’s just turned 50 as her book begins in 1986. She has Wife Problems (a ubiquitous affliction compounded by the fact that she’s married to a genius)--- for decades she has put her husband and their family first and her own aspirations second. She ponders the choices she’s made:

"I have an ongoing internal war, a conflict between wanting to be a good wife and mother and also to draw, paint, design, write and shoot videos. I focus on the family and imagine there will be time for my interests, but there rarely is."

She’s an artist and a documentary filmmaker in her own right, but feels like an invisible shape-shifter. She overhears Tom Waits’ speaking on a movie set and acknowledges his wisdom ruefully. He says: “Family and career don’t like each other … one is always trying to eat the other. You’re always trying to find balance. But one is really useless without the other. What you really want is a sink and a faucet. That’s the ideal.”

There are some interesting Brando stories (“I felt as if I were standing in a special beam of light”), a fascination with numerology, some anecdotal references to Francis’ temper tantrums, a biography of the ancient psychic oak tree on The Niebaum- Coppola estate, and a bizarre account of a trip on Ellen Barkin’s preposterous yacht.

Coppola’s revelation of the enormous personal costs of being married and raising a family might be an emotional life raft for all wives and mothers, famous or otherwise.

Submitted by Jane @ King

Kill Zone

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Kill Zone: A Sniper Novel by Jack Coughlin, 2007

Kyle Swanson, a crack sniper for the Marine Corps, is summoned by the National Security Advisor to rescue a kidnapped Marine General from political opponents in the Middle East. This relentless story from the author of the acclaimed Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top Ranked Marine Sniper, takes us from White House conference rooms to the dunes of the Syrian desert and into a sandstorm of political intrigue and high intensity military action. Can Sgt. Swanson follow out his orders and save the General, or is he being set up by a political coup? This fast moving novel packs a .50 caliber wallop! Check catalog for availability


- Submitted by Dan @ MPL Central


The Sister by Poppy Adams

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This understated debut novel tells the story of two sisters, Ginny and Vivi, and how families are capable of doing anything for one another.
sister.gif Ginny watches from their childhood mansion, now in ruin, as her sister Vivien arrives home for the first time in nearly fifty years. Ginny follows a strict routine, rarely goes out and carries on her father’s work as a lepidopterist. As they talk about the past, they realize their memories of childhood differ in crucial and disturbing ways. Deeply buried resentments resurface and Ginny won’t stand to have her schedule disrupted so she uncharacteristically takes action.

This story took me a little time to get into, and I couldn’t say for sure which ‘sister’ is The Sister from the title. Probably, it doesn't matter. If you get through the authors somewhat detail laden chapters on the specifics of moths you’ll likely find the end to be quite a surprise. I sure did! Check the catalog for availability.

Urban Fiction: The Sequels

Shameless Hoodwives by Meesha Mink and De'nesha Diamond is the second installment in the "Hoodwives" series (after Desperate Hoodwives.) Miz Cleo and Osceola return to bequeath more wisdom on the young women of the Bentley Manor housing project. Check the catalog for availability.

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Who’s Loving You by Mary B. Morrison is the follow-up to Sweeter Than Honey and tells the story of one woman’s journey to reclaim her lost lover and her lost self-love. Zane readers won’t be disappointed; the steamy, erotic scenes may not be for those with more conservative tastes. Check the catalog for availability.

Never Enough by Miasha is effectively a sequel to the best-selling Secret Society and continues transgendered Celess’s tumultuous life story. Check the catalog for availability.

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The new book from the author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals takes us along on his often hilarious tour of China. We travel from Beijing (bad air!) to Shanghai (more bad air!) to the Gobi Desert and Tibet, with a stop in Hong Kong along the way. The author's keen eye for detail and extraordinary wit make this journey as fun as it is informative! While snacking on Yak and singing the Eagles in a karaoke bar, Troost guides the reader through a China that is a modern industrial giant, with teeming cities and towering skyscrapers, but we also see a China where Mao is ever present and an underlying feeling of menace treads under the urine soaked streets. To get an insiders look at the home of the 2008 Olympic Games, this fun book comes highly recommended.

Check catalog for availability.

- Submitted by Dan @ Central


Photographer: Stephen Shore

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Uncommon Places: The Complete Works
Stephen Shore made several road trips across America during the 1970's, stopping off along the way to photograph ordinary, everyday subjects such as random cityscapes, small town storefronts, rural homes and motel interiors. The resulting photos are nothing short of striking (especially due to their supersaturated color) and provide a quintessential snapshot of the American landscape. Check catalog for availability.

Shore's work from this period is currently on display at Marquette University's Haggerty Museum of Art. The exhibition runs through September 28th and admission is free.

- Submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

Tana French Thrills

Fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones have a new star in the thrillers of Tana French. Her first novel, In the Woods takes place in 1984 when mothers in a Dublin suburb call their children home for the evening. Three do not return from the dark and silent woods. Police search and find only one child gripping a tree in fright, wearing bloody sneakers and unable to remember anything from the preceding hours.

Now, its 20 years later and the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a Dublin Murder Squad detective. In the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox find a 12 year old girl murdered and find themselves investigating a case alarmingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Check the catalog for availability.

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In her second novel, The Likeness, it's six years later and Detective Cassie Maddox is transferred out of the murder squad and starts a relationship with Detective Sam O’Neill, but she’s too badly shaken from the events of In the Woods to make a commitment to him or to her career. Then Sam calls her to the scene of his new case: a young woman found stabbed to death in a small town outside Dublin. The dead girl’s ID says her name is Lexie Madison—the identity Cassie used years ago as an undercover detective—and she looks exactly like Cassie. Should Cassie go undercover to find information and tempt the killer out of hiding? What kind of secrets will be uncovered? Check the catalog for availability.

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