Saturday, May 31, 2014

World War I in Fiction

This summer marks the beginning of the centenary of World War I. To commemorate the anniversary, many new books featuring World War I as a backdrop are being published and older, more "classic" titles are receiving renewed attention.

There is a diverse range of fiction written about this time period. Some novels tell of the brutal experience of war in the trenches, while others focus on the struggle to adjust to life after the shattering experiences of war ...or on the grief of those left behind. If you have an interest in reading fiction about this historical time period, below are some new and notable World War I fiction titles. Perhaps one or two will pique your interest.

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole (2013)
A love story told in letters spans two world wars and follows the correspondence between a poet on the Scottish Isle of Skye and an American volunteer ambulance driver for the French Army, an affair that is discovered years later when the poet disappears.

The Cartographer of No Man's Land by P.S. Duffy (2013)
When his beloved brother-in-law goes missing at the front in 1916, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing to join the war and find him. Assured a position as a cartographer in London, he is instead sent directly into the visceral shock of battle.

Wake by Anna Hope (2014)
Three women confront the aftershocks of World War I and its impact on the men in their lives, including dance teacher, Hettie, who pursues a dubious relationship; Pensions Exchange worker, Evelyn, who mourns, the changes in her brother; and Ada, who sees her missing son everywhere.

The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally (2013)
Joining the war effort as nurses in 1915, two spirited Australian sisters, carrying a guilty secret, become the friends they never were at home and find themselves courageous in the face of extreme danger.

In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl (2012)
Traveling to France during World War I to bring home her 15-year-old brother who ran away to enlist, Iris, a young Australian nurse, decides to stay in Paris to help establish a field hospital staffed entirely by women.

The Canal Bridge: A Novel of Ireland, Love, and the First World War by Tom Phelan (2014)
After suffering the horrors of World War I, two friends return to a changed Ireland, as the effect of the war make them violent participants in the Irish struggle for freedom from Britain.

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve (2013)
Suffering from shell shock and memory loss from her time spent as a nurse's aide on a French battlefield during World War I, American Stella Bain is taken in by London surgeon August Bridge and his wife.

The First of July by Elizabeth Speller (2013)
This novel follows the lives of four very different men--Frank, Benedict, Jean-Batiste, and Harry--as their fates converge on the most terrible and destructive day of World War I, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

For mystery lovers...Charles Todd (the pseudonym of a mother/son writing team) has a new 2014 title in the Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series. Hunting Shadows is Book 16 in the series that began in 1996 with A Test of Wills. Inspector Ian Rutledge, a shell-shocked veteran of World War I, tries to pick up the pieces of his previous Scotland Yard career. Horrors of the war haunt each book of the series set in post-World War I England.

For even more World War I fiction titles, view the list recently created by the Reader Services Department here.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Congrats to the Agatha Awards Winners Announced on May 3, 2014!

The Agatha Awards, named for Agatha Christie, are literary awards for mystery and crime writers who write in the cozy mystery subgenre. They honor the "traditional mystery" - books similar to the works of Agatha Christie. So, think of mysteries that contain no explicit sex or excessive gore or gratuitous violence. Mysteries deemed "hard-boiled" are also not appropriate. At an annual convention in Washington, D. C., they are handed out by Malice Domestic Ltd, in the following six categories:

Best Contemporary Novel -
The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Investigating allegations against an adoption agency that is suspected of reuniting adopted children with the wrong birth parents, Jane Ryland finds her efforts suspiciously tied to Jake Brogan's case involving a young woman's brutal murder and the disappearance of a baby.

Best Historical Novel -A Question of Honor by Charles Todd
While tending to the wounded on the battlefields of France during World War I, Bess Crawford discovers that an officer from her father's regiment who had killed five people in India and England is still alive, and sets out to clear her father's name.

Best First Novel -Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz
The town of Jewel Bay, Montana—known as a Food Lovers' Village—is obsessed with homegrown and homemade Montana fare. So when Erin Murphy takes over her family’s century-old general store, she turns it into a boutique market filled with local delicacies. But Erin’s freshly booming business might go rotten when a former employee turns up dead.

Best Short Story -"The Care and Feeding of House Plants" by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013
A tale about a deadly case of adultery.

Best Nonfiction -
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower
Presents the true story of the "Baltimore Plot" conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War, tracing the efforts of detective Allan Pinkerton and private eye Kate Warne to identify and stop the would-be killers.

Best Children's/Young Adult Novel -
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Christ Grabenstein
"Twelve-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero (the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello), with other students but finds that come morning he must work with friends to solve puzzles in order to escape.

Congratulations to all! 

Hope you choose and solve one of these "best" mysteries!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bridal Lit

Here comes the bride, all stressed inside. If you enjoy reading about weddings, then you will love this sub-genre of Chick Lit. Bridal Lit are books that disclose the humor and anxiety of planing a wedding or have characters trying to stop or sabotage the "big day".  You never know if the bride will turn into Bridezilla or if the interfering relatives or friends will ruin the big day.  Here's your invitation to some fun bridal lit books.

Amanda's Wedding: a novel by Jenny Colgan
Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger by Elizabeth M. Harbison
Diary of a Mad Bride by Laura Wolf
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
Here Comes the Bride by Whitney Lyles
I Do (But I Don't): a novel by Cara Lockwood
Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot
Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella
Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
Wedding Season by Katie Fforde

Friday, May 16, 2014

Old Favorites

There have always been some books I've read that stick in my mind forever. They range from thriller to historical to heartwarming saga, but what they all have in common is that I never forgot them. Here are just a few of those titles.

The settlement of Montana between 1890 and 1919 is recounted through the quiet but compelling life of Angus McCaskill, a young Scotsman who travels with his friend Rob Barclay to Montana's Two Medicine Country to homestead. Doig writes fervently of the voyage from Scotland and the lean first years, as the two share the work and hardship of establishing claims and building up flocks of sheep. 

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Joe Kavalier, a young artist and magician, escapes pre-World War II Czechoslovakia, making his way to the home of Sam Clay, his Brooklyn cousin. Sam dreams of making it big in the emerging comic-book trade and sees Joe as the person to help him. As the cousins gain success with their masked superhero, the Escapist, Joe banks his earnings to bring his family from Prague.  But when the ship carrying his brother to America is torpedoed, Joe joins the navy and is posted to Antarctica. What results is a novel of love and loss, sorrow and wonder, and the ability of art to transcend the hardships of this world and gives us a magical glimpse of "the mysterious spirit world beyond.

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billy Letts
The neon sign had seemed appropriate when the Honk and Holler Opening Soon was being built. But twelve years later, the once-busy highway outside Sequoyah, Oklahoma, is little traveled, and "opening soon" is a tired joke. Today the sign is as battered and beaten as the cafe and its owner, Caney Paxton, a Vietnam War veteran who hasn't ventured outside since its opening. The characters who drift in and out of the Honk don't change much: Molly O, a four-times married earth mother who recognizes a wounded spirit when she meets one; Life Halstead, a widower who eats three meals a day in the cafe so he can be near Molly O; Hooks Red Eagle, Soldier Starr, and Quinton Roach, Cherokee veterans of World War II; and Bilbo and Peg Porter - Bilbo steadily puffing his smokes while Peg struggles for breath through her oxygen mask. With Christmas only days away, their lives are to be forever changed with the arrival of Vena Takes Horse, a Crow woman on a quest, and Bui Khanh, a Vietnamese refugee looking for home.

Shooters and Chasers by Lenny Kleinfeld

A young Chicago cop chases a pair of killers-for-hire who are also star-crossed lovers.As he steps from a taxi, prominent Chicago architect Wilson Willetts is murdered by an inept assassin who thereupon gets himself nabbed with indecent haste. Apart from Willetts's friends and relatives, just about everyone is happy that such a high-profile case has been cleared with such admirable efficiency. But the arresting officers, sexy Mark Bergman and grizzled John Dunegan, his mentor/trainer/partner, are excellent cops, however, and something about a case so impeccably neat and complete begins to rankle. Sensibilities alerted, they take a fresh look, and soon enough find themselves in an alternative investigation, awash in an archipelago of hidden agendas .Appealing heroes and villains, a quirky love story, wit, style and suspense with a Chicago setting.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

A mystifying puzzle involving the execution of an innocent man is interwoven into this monumental masterpiece of medieval intrigue and ingenuity. When a pious monk and an ambitious stonemason conspire to erect a magnificent cathedral, they are plagued by the malevolent machinations of an unscrupulous priest and a rapacious landowner. Though cursed by an extended series of political battles, military campaigns, and natural disasters, Prior Philip and Tom Builder transcend adversity and exploit every opportunity in order to continue construction. Follett has skillfully crafted an extraordinary epic buttressed by a succession of suspenseful subplots. A towering triumph of romance, rivalry, and spectacle.

Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy

Haunted by a series of horrifying and violent episodes in their past, Grace McBride and the oddball crew of her software company, Monkeewrench, create a computer game where the killer is always caught, where the good guys always win. But their game becomes a nightmare when someone starts duplicating the fictional murders in real life, down to the last detail. By the time the police realize what's happening, three people are dead, and with seventeen more murder scenarios available online, there are seventeen more potential victims. While the authorities scramble to find the killer in a city paralyzed by fear, the Monkeewrench staff are playing their own game, analyzing victim profiles in a frantic attempt to discover the murderer's next target. In a thriller populated by characters both hilarious and heartbreaking, a rural Wisconsin sheriff, two Minneapolis police detectives, and Grace's gang are caught in a web of decades-old secrets that could get them all killed.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nonfiction—A great story

A good storyteller can mine either fact or fiction and pull a reader into another world. Nonfiction books that let readers forget they are examining real lives and events can be among some of the most riveting reads. In the case of historical stories, the facts of wars and human suffering border on the unthinkable. But if you enjoy a gripping read that happens to be factual, you will be very satisfied reading about slices of history or historical figures.
Then there are nonfiction tales about more ordinary lives and events, but their beauty lies in their ability to paint a portrait of people dealing with the human condition just like the reader.
If you enjoy nonfiction stories that read as if they were novels, you may want to consider these titles.

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared--Lt. Louis Zamperini. He spent 47 days on a life raft. Captured by the Japanese and driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity, suffering with hope, resolve and humor. Published in 2010, Time magazine chose “Unbroken” as the Best Nonfiction Book of the year, while Newsweek wrote this:  “It takes only a few pages of Unbroken, Hillenbrand’s marvelous account of Zamperini’s adventures…to see why his story so captured her imagination—and to see how well her seven years of work have paid off. Unbroken is wonderful twice over, for the tale it tells and for the way it’s told.”

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
This stranger-than-fiction story details how the cells of a poor Southern woman suffering from cancer were taken from her without her knowledge. The cells from Henrietta Lacks became one of the most important tools in medicine as they’ve been growing in cultures since before she died more than 60 years ago. Her cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than 20 years after her death, when scientists began using her husband and children in research. The story of the Lacks family is connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over our bodies.

The Glass Castle, a Memoir by Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Later, when the money ran out, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town and family that Rex Walls had tried to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home. What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life.  For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story.

The Girls From Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow
On a much lighter note, a male writer has captured the essence of a 40-year friendship among a group of women originally from Ames, Iowa. The women, although guarded at first, let Zaslow attend their reunions, study their scrapbooks and meet their families. What develops is a very relatable story about where life takes the women—to different colleges, parts of the country and lifestyles. The story examines how friendship triumphs over a host of challenges and how it multiplies the joys in life. If you happened to come of age in the ’80s, you will find yourself in the hairstyles and gym shorts you had long forgotten. And if the times aren’t familiar, the relationships will be. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Edgar Award Winners for 2014

The Edgar awards are chosen by the Mystery Writers of America and the winners were announced on May 1, 2014. This year the Grandmaster awards went to Carolyn Hart and Robert Crais.

This year the award for best book went to: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger 

Looking back at a tragic event that occurred during his thirteenth year, Frank Drum explores how a complicated web of secrets, adultery, and betrayal shattered his Methodist family and their small 1961 Minnesota community.

The award for best paperback original went to: The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

A gritty, psychological thriller that asks the question: How well can you know anyone? On a fateful summer morning in 1986, two eleven-year-old girls meet for the first time. By the end of the day, they will both be charged with murder. Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside vacation town when her investigation leads her to interview carnival cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it's the first time they've seen each other since that dark day so many years ago. Now with new, vastly different lives--and unknowing families to protect--will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden? 

Best first novel by an American author: Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

Russian state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the bureaucracy of post-Soviet intelligence. Drafted against her will to become a trained seductress in the service, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a CIA officer who handles the CIA's most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. The two young intelligence officers collide in an atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers. 

Best fact crime award went to: The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War  by Daniel Stashower  

Two-time Edgar award-winning author Daniel Stashower uncovers the riveting true story of the "Baltimore Plot," an audacious conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War. 

For the full list of the Edgar winners and nominees for each category, click here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Forthcoming Fiction for June

Here are some titles coming out in June. You can reserve them by clicking the links to our Online Catalog

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews
A Dark and Twisted Tide by S.J. Bolton
Rescue Mode by Ben Bova
Nine Lives to Die by Rita Mae Brown
Earth Awakens by Orson Scott Card
Christmas in Cowboy Country by Janet Dailey
Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich
Terminal City by Linda Fairstein
The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank
Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst
Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery by Martha Grimes
Problems with People: Stories by David Guterson
A Shiver of Light by Laurell K. Hamilton
Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand
The Director by David Ignatius
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Red as Blood by Mercedes Lackey
Child of Mine by Beverly Lewis
Stormy Persuasion by Johanna Lindsey
Robert Ludlum’s the Bourne Ascendancy by Eric Lustbader
Circles in the Snow: A Bo Tully Mystery by Patrick F. McManus
The Arsonist by Sue Miller
Invisible by James Patterson
The Red Room by Ridley Pearson
The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett
China Dolls by Lisa See
Yarn Over Murder by Maggie Sefton
The Smoke at Dawn: A Novel of the Civil War  by Jeff Shaara
Cop Town by Karin Slaughter
Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer
Shockwave: A Thriller by Andres Vachss
All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
Eyes on You: A Novel of Suspense by Kate White
A Deadly Business by Lis W. Wiehl
The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs

Friday, May 2, 2014

Celebration of Motherhood

Celebrate Mother's Day by enjoying titles that reflect on the true sense of the spirit of motherhood, with all its ups and downs, joys and sorrows.

The Three Daughters of Madame Liang
Buck, Pearl S.

Book Jacket

 Madame Liang had sent her three daughters--Grace, Mercy and Joy--to America for safety and an education, while she herself continued to hold a fairly secure position as owner of a "fashionable" restaurant. However, Madame is forced to send for Grace, now a doctor, to apply her knowledge to China, which Grace is willing to do. Mercy, married to scientist John Sung, also returns so that they may share their country's future. Madame Liang, still retaining her faith in the eventual triumph of the real spirit of the Chinese people, is beaten to death by Red Guards. Inheriting her mother's stubborn dedication to the Eternal Way, Grace is determined to preserve the best of old and new through her marriage to the man of the people she loves.

The Secret Between Us
Delinsky, Barbara 

Deborah Monroe and her daughter, Grace, are driving home from a party when their car hits a man running in the dark. Grace was at the wheel, but Deborah sends her home before the police arrive, determined to shoulder the blame for the accident. Her decision then turns into a deception that takes on a life of its own and threatens the special bond between mother and daughter.

Firefly Lane
Hannah, Kristen
Book Jacket

Tully Hart and Kate Mularkey come from different backgrounds: vivacious Tully has been abandoned by her hippie mother while studious Kate comes from a stable and loving family. After a devastating incident at a party, 14-year-old Tully finds herself confiding in Kate, thus beginning their unlikely friendship. Through dogged determination, ambitious Tully, who longs to be an anchorwoman, manages to secure them both jobs at a small television station after college; but while Tully pursues her dream of being a reporter, Kate falls for their handsome boss. The women's friendship remains strong as Tully fights her way to the top of the journalistic ladder and Kate finds a new purpose in motherhood, until a betrayal and a tragedy threaten their long-standing bond. 

Unaccustomed Earth: Stories
Lahiri, Jhumpa

Book Jacket

Lahiri returns to the short story, the form that earned her the Pulitzer Prize for her debut, Interpreter of Maladies (1999).  This collection's five powerful stories and haunting triptych of tales about the fates of two Bengali families in America map the perplexing hidden forces that pull families asunder and undermine marriages. The title story, dramatizes the divide between immigrant parents and their American-raised children, and is the first of several scathing inquiries into the lack of deep-down understanding and trust in a marriage between a Bengali and non-Bengali. An inspired miniaturist, Lahiri creates a lexicon of loaded images.

Labor Day
Maynard, Joyce

Book Jacket

In her sixth novel, Maynard (To Die For ) tells the story of a long weekend and its repercussions through the eyes of a then 13-year-old boy, Henry, who lives with his divorced mother, Adele. On Labor Day weekend, Henry manages to coax his mother, who rarely goes out, into a trip to PriceMart, where they run into Frank, who intimidates them into giving him a ride. Frank, it turns out, is an escaped convict looking for a place to hide. He holds Adele and Henry hostage in their home, an experience that changes all of them forever, whether it's Frank tying Adele to the kitchen chair with her silk scarves and lovingly feeding her or teaching the awkward, unathletic Henry how to throw a baseball. The bizarre situation encompasses Henry's budding adolescence, the awakening of his sexuality and his fear of being abandoned by his mother and Frank, who are falling in love and planning to run away together.

Mothers and Sons
Toibin, Colm

Book Jacket

The collection's title indicates the general theme upon which each story elaborates--each story taking the theme in its own direction. Whether in a 9-page sketch of an inadvertent encounter in a pub between an estranged mother, who is a famous singer, and her grown son, or a 70-page, more fully wide-ranging scenario involving a runaway mother, his exacting control over both form and material never varies; in other words, his adaptability in writing short or long, and in working with characters far different from one another, is astonishing.