Sue A.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Anthony Marra
A Constellation of Vital Phenmena

The story begins in a small war torn village in Chechnya  when 8 year-old Havaa, sitting silently in the snowy woods,  watches her father become “disappeared” and her house burn to the ground. When her father’s friend and neighbor Akhmed discovers her there he knows he must get her somewhere safe before the Feds come back to finish the job of wiping out the little family. He takes her to the only remaining hospital in a nearby city where the single remaining  doctor, Sonja Rabina, struggles to care for the sick and wounded brought to her. Akhmed strikes a deal with Sonja to house and care for Havaa on a trial basis in return for which, he must work in the hospital and use his own medical training to assist in surgeries. While taking place over the course of five days, the author manages to tell the intricate and intersecting stories of the remaining citizens. This is a deeply moving story, not about the historical and political aspects of the Chechnyan struggles, but about the impact on ordinary people trying to etch out a meaningful existence in ways they never imagined, and ultimately, about the power of love. I think I can safely say that A Constellation of Vital Phenomena will be on my list of top ten reads this year. Check the catalog.

Sue A., Reference

Leaving Everything Most Loved

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Jacqueline Winspear
Leaving Everything Most Loved

The Maisie Dobbs mystery series is one of my favorites. In her 10th adventure, Maisie is called in by Scotland Yard to investigate the deaths of two young Indian women. By all accounts, both are well regarded in the community, so unraveling the threads of both past and present events proves to be a challenge. Maisie handles all in her usual fashion, while at the same time sorting out personal issues that weigh heavily upon her.  Some questions are successfully resolved while others open to new possibilities for Maisie and those around her. Winspear’s writing is layered and thoughtful, her characters are touching, and the London setting between the First and Second World Wars is intriguing. I highly recommend this series to anyone who reads mysteries, particularly if you like English settings and historical context. Check the catalog.

Sue A., Reference

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photgraphs of Edward Curtis

Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Timothy Egan
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

In 1900 renowned Seattle photographer Edward S. Curtis began his life’s quest to chronicle the rapidly vanishing cultures of the North American Indians. He spent the next three decades traveling the American West and documenting the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. Through the patronage of men such as J.P. Morgan and Theodore Roosevelt, he eventually took more than 40,000 photographs, preserved 10,000 audio recordings, and made the first narrative documentary film. His obsessive dedication to his work came at great cost to his personal life. The long absences from home ultimately resulted in divorce and the loss of the portrait photography business that supported his family. He eventually died penniless and virtually unknown in Hollywood, just a few years after publishing the last of twenty volumes. Author Timothy Egan, winner of the National Book Award for The Worst Hard Time, does a masterful job of bringing this personal struggle to life.  Highly recommended! Check our catalog.

Sue A., Reference

 

The Bookseller

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Mark Pryor
The Bookseller

Hugo Marsten, the head of security at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, helplessly witnesses the abduction of his friend Max from the bookseller's stall on the banks of the Seine. When it seems that the Paris police are not giving the crime proper attention, Hugo takes matters into his own hands to investigate with the help of a semiretired CIA agent/buddy and an attractive local crime reporter. As more bouquinistes turn up dead, Hugo begins to unravel the mysterious connections between historical events and current day violence - at his own peril. This is an excellent first novel by Mark Pryor and I, for one, hope we haven't seen the last of Hugo Marsten. Check our catalog.

Sue A., Reference

Force of Blood

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Joseph Heywood
Force of Blood

I have always loved the Woods Cop Mysteries set primarily in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and really expected this one to follow suit - especially since most of the action takes place in and around the area where my husband and I own property, and which was, in fact, evacuated when the 2007 Sleeper Lake Fire that plays a part in the book actually occurred. Unfortunately, that was also where the fascination left off for me. The plot, which supposedly centered on the discovery of a Native American archeological site and the illegal dealing of artifacts rambled all over the place. The author's attempt to insert himself into the plot in the fashion of Clive Cussler (in the Dirk Pitt novels) was self-serving at best. I was hugely disappointed in this one. Check our catalog.

Sue A., Reference

The Darlings

Thursday, March 1, 2012
Christina Alger
The Darlings

The Darling family of New York is definitely part of the 1%. They live in fabulous Park Avenue apartments and summer at their estate in the Hamptons. Dad Carter is partner in a Wall Street hedge fund company, while mom Ines is the ultimate socialite. When a close friend and business associate commits suicide the Darlings are thrust into an SEC investigation that threatens everything they know, especially family loyalty. The author deftly weaves all of the pieces of the plot together as events unfold over the course of the long Thanksgiving weekend. All of the characters are well-drawn – from the Darlings, to their lawyers, the reporters, and the chain-smoking secretary.  A good, fast-paced read. Check our catalog.

Sue A., Reference

The Winter Palace

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Eva Stachniak

Set amidst the dazzling decadence and intrigue of the mid-eighteenth century Russian royal court, Winter Palace traces the rise of Catherine the Great through the eyes of the orphaned servant girl/spy who befriends her.  I’m a big fan of historical fiction, but this was my first venture into the realm of Russian history and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you’ve enjoyed  Phillipa Gregory and Alison Weir’s books about the Tudor courts you’ll appreciate the change of scenery. Check our catalog

Sue A., Reference

Burnt Mountain

Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Anne Rivers Siddons
Burnt Mountain

Anne Rivers Siddons is an author I have both loved and hated. Burnt Mountain falls somewhere in between. Thayer Wentworth is born and raised in a small town near Atlanta, the youngest daughter of the wealthy head of a private boys school who married the local pharmacist’s daughter. Largely ignored by her mother who is preoccupied with social aspirations for herself and her oldest daughter, Thayer becomes the apple of her gentle, scholarly father’s eye. Life is fairly idyllic until the age of nine, when her father is killed in a car accident on Burnt Mountain and things begin to spiral out of control,  eventually leading and adult Thayer back to Burnt Mountain. Siddons’ prose is often evocative, but the implausibilities in the story line are frustrating and the last several chapters are just plain strange. Check our catalog!

Sue A., Reference

The Litigators

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
John Grisham
The Litigators

When David Zinc, a young, over-worked lawyer for a Chicago mega-firm finally burns out, he does so spectacularly. In the drunken aftermath of his meltdown he ends up in the offices of Finley & Figg, a two-man “boutique” firm known for ambulance chasing and other low-end cases, where he signs on to resurrect his career. Always looking for “the big one”, Wally Figg drags the firm into a lawsuit against a major pharmaceutical company expecting a huge settlement for clients and a big payday for the attorneys. While an interesting read, if you’re looking for the suspenseful storytell ing of early Grisham novels you won’t find it here. His last novel The Confession was one of his best in a while, The Litigators….not so much.  Check our catalog

Sue A., Reference

Juliet

Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Anne Fortier

The intricate plot of this delightful novel unfolds in alternating chapters that tell the story of the original Romeo and Juliet in 1340 Sienna, Italy, and their modern day descendants who are caught up in the mystery and intrigue that has surrounded the families for decades.  When American Julie Jacobs' aunt dies she leaves a letter that sends Julie off to Sienna to find a treasure supposedly left by her mother who died in a tragic accident when Julie and her twin sister were young.  Once there, Julie is off on a whirlwind as she attempts to solve the puzzle not only of the treasure, but of her family, and her own Romeo.  This book has enough history, romance, mystery and humor to please just about everyone.

Sue A., Reference

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