April 2009 Archives


In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Quanta A. Ahmed (c2008)

Prompted by the loss of her U.S. visa, Ahmed, a British-born Pakastani and self-described moderate Muslim, impulsively accepts a position as a doctor at a Hospital in Riyadh, an extremely conservative city in Saudi Arabia. Since the Saudi kingdom is ruled by a strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, women are not allowed to drive and must wear an abbaya, which is a large black square of fabric that covers the entire body. Despite these and other restrictions on daily life, Ahmed is surprised and pleased to find that her female friends and colleagues are able to live fulfilling lives.

She also encounters a very distinct social order that weighs ancient tribal allegiances along with interpretations of what it means to be Muslim and finds that in gender relations and other aspects of Saudi life, the medieval constantly battles with the modern. In addition, this book shows how the western world’s view of the Muslim world as a monolithic “other” ignores the fact that as a non-Saudi, Ahmed is seen as an outsider.

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- Submitted by Melissa @ Central

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith


This is a book that readers will either ‘get’ or they won’t. Your level of familiarity with the original work by Jane Austen will determine how much you are amused by the authors’ tweaks to the original story. Certainly, a number of them went right over my head, but I was laughing out loud over those that I did catch. If you’re a literary purist, remember that this is a parody, that is to say, a literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule. Check catalog for availability.

The Hotel Dick by Axel Brand


The Hotel Dick by Axel Brand (c2008)

The setting for this engaging mystery is Milwaukee in 1948. As a period piece, this mystery about a hotel detective that is murdered by, according to an eyewitness, Spencer Tracy, works on many levels. It includes references to most of the Hollywood stars of 1948, has an abundance of local references and locales, and makes some interesting observations on the morals, laws and society of post-war Milwaukee.

That being said, the mystery itself was rather unfulfilling. The motives of the killer were never fully explained and I felt cheated at the end. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book based on it's local interest and Noir-ish storytelling. Highly recommended for people who enjoy Milwaukee history. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Dan @ MPL Central

The Wild Trees by Richard Preston

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The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston (c2007)

The coast redwood, existing only in coastal forests in northern California and southern Oregon, is the world’s tallest tree species. In 1963, the National Geographic Society launched an expedition to locate the tallest living specimen and christened the Libbey Tree (aka the Tall Tree), standing at 367.8 feet, as such. With the Libbey Tree serving as its focal point, Redwood National Park was established in 1968.

Since that time (and even prior to it) very little actual research was conducted in the redwood forests. But in the late 1980’s, a small group of college science students managed to climb to the top of a redwood and discovered a complex and previously unknown ecosystem of living things thriving in its canopy. Meanwhile, a separate small group of oddball amateur naturalists began exploring the forests as well and discovered a number of specimens that were taller than even the Libbey Tree. Eventually these two groups would come together and become the leading authorities on redwoods.

Preston’s account of these individuals and their findings makes for a compelling and fascinating read. And for me at least, it’s refreshing to know that there are still pockets of unexplored earth out there to be found. Check catalog for availability.

- submitted by Tom @ MPL Central

The Glister by John Burnside


Innertown’s economy was fueled for decades by George Lister’s chemical plant, but now it's closed. Poverty, rare cancers and a plethora of misshapen wildlife now permeate the area. Then, Mark Wilkinson, the first of several boys to disappear, is found hanged in the woods over an odd shrine of boughs, glass and tinsel. The constable decides to cover up the crime and let the youth take care of themselves. This is an out of the ordinary story, almost falling into the genre of horror. If you enjoy Dennis Lehane’s thrillers, check out The Glister. Check catalog for availability.

Sundays at Tiffany's


Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

This is the first James Patterson book I have ever read. It is also yet another book I found on the Staff Recommends table at the Central Library. This story reminds me a bit of those written by Mitch Albom and Nicholas Sparks. The main characters in Patterson's book, Jane and Michael, meet when Jane is a child and then reunite later in life when she is an adult. Growing up without Michael has been difficult for Jane. Her mother controls her life, boyfriends disappointment her, and hopelessness settles in for her future. Everything changes for Jane and Michael when they miraculously reunite. This is a fast and heart warming read that I really enjoyed, a departure from the heavy fact filled historical fiction novels I usually read. I recommend this novel to everyone who likes to read about personal transformations, and the pursuit of true love and happiness. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey


First published in 1962, this bleak satire of institutionalized treatment for mental health sufferers is poignant, beautifully written and socially aware. Set inside a Northwestern mental institution and narrated by a half-Indian inmate named Chief Broom, the story revolves around McMurphy, a con man, who chooses to be institutionalized instead of working on a prison farm after being convicted for statutory rape.
Clearly sane and avoiding prison, McMurphy begins to influence others on his mental ward, including a thirty-three year old stutterer named Billy and a man who suffers from severe hallucinations named Martini. (How’s that for a double entendre!)
The ward is “ruled” over by Nurse Ratched, who is referred to as “The Big Nurse.” Nurse Ratched is a cold, calculating woman who commands the inmates and two orderlies on the ward with a ruthless and tyrannical demeanor.
The on-going battle for psychological supremacy of the ward between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched comes to a head after McMurphy organizes an after hours party that eventually leads to the suicide of an inmate.
Though the tone of the novel is mostly grim, melancholy and desolate, the ending has the emotional impact of the sun rising over a lake, reflecting hope, beauty, enlightenment and freedom.

A film adaptation starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 1975.

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Submitted by Dan@Central

Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper


This is my first time reading Ms. Cooper and I really enjoyed her style. In this book we go to Wideland, Oklahoma where an older woman relates an African American family saga about the people of Wideland and about love: hard-to-find, hard-to-get, hard-to-keep love.

Our narrator explains that the story (which covers much of the 20th century) is shaped like a “Y” with two strands coming together. In one strand we meet Val, a Native American and Irene, the Afr. Am. woman he comes to love as well as their daughters, Rose and Tante. Tante can’t wait to leave Wideland and make her own life, while Rose stays and becomes a teacher, making sure the poor children learn how to read and write. She also marries Leroy and has her own daughter, Myine. But Leroy is bad news and brings an old girlfriend into the picture. There is a lot of evil here, people being poisoned to death and children being sold to others…

The story of Herman Tenderman is the other strand. Much of his story occurs at the same time as that of Tante and Rose, but it isn’t until later, when they merge, that the love story begins. Herman makes his way in the world, gets a college degree, joins the Navy and works hard as a garage mechanic. Years pass and Herman and Myine’s paths cross more and more until they realize they were meant to be. Even still, it takes them a long time to get through past hurts and admit to themselves and each other that their love completes the “Y” of the narrators’ story. Check catalog for availability.

The House at Midnight


The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse

"The stone mass of it [the house] was bulked up against the wood behind like a dog with raised hackles and I had a premonition of the unease I was coming to associate with the place."

Written in a slow but well crafted manner, this is not a novel for those who love speed and action. Whitehouse fully develops each character in the book including the landscape and architecture. Almost immediately this story has a feeling of suspense and foreboding as it describes the painful degeneration of a close-knit group of friends. Joanna, the narrator, blames her friend's recently inherited house as the cause for everyone's sudden bizarre and sometimes violent change in personality. Relationships become twisted as each friend warps under the eerie powers of house leading to an explosive and shocking conclusion. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central


In late November, during the frigid winter of 1950, on the hills surrounding the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, a company of U.S. Marines were given the job of protecting a hill that overlooked a road of vital importance during the Korean War. The week-long battle that ensued added another illustrious chapter to the heralded battle history of the Marine Corps. Surrounded and heavily outnumbered by hordes of Chinese troops, the 234 men of Fox Company gallantly refused to give up the ground they were ordered to hold. Besides battling a determined enemy, the Marines fought below zero temperatures, hunger, lack of medical supplies and communication problems. Three members of Fox Company were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions during this stirring battle in an often forgotten war. The first-hand accounts of combat from survivors that were interviewed by the authors lend a personal feeling to this brutal story. Maps and photos add to the authenticity of this tale of dedication, friendship and determination.
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Submitted by Dan@Central

Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen


Madcap mayhem abounds in this deliciously demented thriller. When millionaire eco-terrorist Twilly Spree spies litterbug Palmer Stoat tossing trash from his Range Rover while driving through Florida, Spree's need for anger management counseling shines bright. Incensed by Stoat's disrespect of the environment, Spree kidnaps the litterbugs' labrador and wife!
What ensues is a rollicking romp of farcical exploits that involves protecting a pristine Floridian island from a developer who has an unhealthy obsession with Barbie Dolls; a crazy ex-governor who is fond of roadkill for dinner, and a hit man who enjoys sexual romps while listening to emergency calls! The double entendre of the title fits most characters in this book!

Though outrageously themed and paced, the heart of this book tells a story of corrupt politicians, unscrupulous developers and a environmental extremist who loves puppies and fights the good fight by extraordinary means.

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For more Floridian funnies, try Tim Dorsey and Dave Barry.

Submitted by Dan@Central




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This page is an archive of entries from April 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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