Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Four Sentence Book Reviews

Here are some titles that I've recently picked up:

1. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple: Semple is a quick-witted satirist,which makes the overall tone of this novel delightful. She stocks her story with eccentric characters whose relationships with themselves and with others are complex, but, even after Bee's mother goes missing, Semple manages to keep the mood light. The format of the book is unique in that it is a series of exchanges in various formats between a handful of different characters. The ending of the book feels a bit rushed but will satisfy readers who prefer neat resolutions.

2. The Kill Room by Jeffrey Deaver: This is part of the Lincoln Rhyme series, but it can be read as a standalone novel. This is a dense, intricate mystery, which means that it can be a slow read at times. Some of the murder details are gruesome and might disturb individuals with a weak stomach. The ending is chock full of twists and turns- Deaver will keep you guessing until the last page.

3. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green: A tearjerker about a terminally ill teen who falls in love. Green's adolescent characters use poetic language and may seem larger than life, which can be difficult to swallow, but, all in all, Green tells a beautiful story about love, loss, and hope. While you may forget the plot over time, you won't forget lines like, "I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once." Also, there is something to be said about a writer who makes you want to read a non-existent book that is a favorite of one of his fictional characters.

4. Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra: Based on a true story (purportedly), the brutality and injustices exposed by Carcaterra will haunt you. The courses of four best friends' lives are changed forever the day that they enter Wilkinson Home for Boys where they endure torture- both physically and psychologically. This is a horrifying and touching story of four broken men who come together to take the law into their own hands.

5. The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver: Noa P. Singleton is on death row and, as her story unfolds, you'll debate not her innocence but her motivation. By the end of the novel, you'll be preoccupied with the following question: with whom should the guilt rest? The best aspect: an unreliable narrator. My one gripe: Silver's use of metaphor borders on excessive.

6. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black: Black's take on what the world might look like if vampires existed is an interesting and original one albeit with the requisite vampire/human love story thrown into the mix. The characters' motivations in this book are hard to pinpoint at times, and the back-story concerning the creation of coldtowns (towns of debauchery in which vampires and humans are quarantined to their delight) is more than a little unconvincing. The plot drags often throughout the four hundred and nineteen pages.With that being said, I wouldn't be surprised if Hollywood snatches this one right up.

7. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella: This is a fun, humorous read about a somewhat frivolous, well-intentioned young woman, Poppy Wyatt, who misplaces her engagement ring. You'll fall in love with Poppy and laugh out loud at her frequent social blunders. There is never a dull moment in Kinsella's storytelling despite the predictability of the plot. Plus, a little romance never hurt anyone.

8. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick: Today is Leonard Peacock's 18th birthday. It is also the day that he will kill his best friend, Asher Beal, and then himself. Even with the knowledge of his neglectful upbringing and personal torment, Leonard can be a difficult character to sympathize with because of his "uber" condescending attitude, but, throughout the novel, Quick humanizes him by bringing several people into Leonard's life that offer him solace. Leonard's story is a reminder that one person can change someone's life- both for the worse and for the better.

If you've read any of these titles, I'd love to hear what you think! : )

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Guest Review: Police by Jo Nesbo

Here is a guest review by Shirley Ayres of Jo Nesbo's Police. Thanks again, Shirley!

If you'd like to submit a review, email sharlene@bradleybeachlibrary.org or drop off a copy of your review at the library.

The latest book featuring the Oslo, Norway Police Investigator, Harry Hole (pronounced Hol-ley).

In the city of Oslo, police officers are being brutally murdered.  The Police Department believes the killer is baiting officers to get more victims. As the suspects are eliminated, one name keeps popping up.  The name of a child molester who was thought to have been killed in prison. At last, Special Investigator Harry Hole is called back in to serve on a Special Task Force to find the murderer.  He is teamed up with several of his former colleagues who have worked cases with Harry in the past. The reader never suspects the outcome because Nesbo cleverly weaves the plot and characters well.

The usual gory murders, nasty murderers, and complicated plot twists just make this book, and all the other Nesbo books so interesting to read and impossible to put down once you have started to read the book.

SPOILER ALERT.  On the last pages, you can see that there will be another Harry Hole mystery very soon. That, to me, is very good news.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Perennial Favorites

It's funny how some books are being discussed in book clubs long after they have been printed.

My book club is reading, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Our copy was out, because another book club was reading the book, but I got a copy through inter-library loan. This seemed like a remarkable coincidence for a book that was published in 2001.

Another favorite is The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal We have a beautiful copy that includes pictures of the netsuke that are such an important part of the story.

Do you have an all-time favorite book club read? Let us know.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Wonderful World of Large Print Books

Have you tried a large-print book lately? Once a fusty afterthought, the volumes are slimmer and many best sellers release the large-print versions at the same time as the hardcover version.

For a small library, we have a thriving large-print collection. Check it out!

Our large-print book club recently read The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. This illustrates another trend in large-print publishing: reissuing old-favorites such as Tey and Agatha Christie in large print. The book club was divided on The Daughter of Time: some enjoyed the fresh look at Richard III and some felt it was just too complicated.

Next month we're reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. We're offering bonus points for reading his newest book Songs of Willow Frost (simultaneously released in large print :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Guest Review: Silencing Eve by Iris Johansen

Guest Review by Shirley Ayres:

1. Silencing Eve by Iris Johansen (2013)

Book 2, Hunting Eve, ends with Eve Duncan and her kidnapper, James Doane, being in the house when a massive explosion takes place. FBI agents confirm that two people were seen just as the house exploded. No one could have lived through it.

But there are doubts about the facts. A well-hidden escape route is discovered and Eve's lover, Joe Quinn, her adopted daughter, Jane MacGuire, and friends are almost positive that Eve and Doane survived and are hiding out. But where?

From the beginning, Doane has an evil plan and Eve Duncan is a big part, and the man who killed Doane's son, Kevin (the mass murderer of children) is another part. What is the connection between the two soon-to-be murdered persons? Johansen has prepared a surprise that will floor you.

Publicly pretending that Eve is dead gives Joe Quinn and the gang a head start in finding Doane and rescuing Eve from his clutches.

Will Joe find and rescue Eve before Doane finally kills her? Are you ready for an unhappy ending? The final book of the Eve Duncan trilogy is filled with twists and turns and surprises and even a good guy being killed. You won't be sorry when you read all three books, in order of course.

Thanks, Shirley!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Guest Review: The Eve Duncon Trilogy by Iris Johansen

Shirley Ayres on the first two books from Iris Johansen's Eve Duncan Trilogy:

1. Taking Eve (2013)

Eve Duncan, Forensic Sculptor, has been kidnapped from her Atlanta, Georgia, home by Jim Doane and held in an unknown location forced to do a reconstruction of the skull of a serial killer. Doane's son, Kevin. Her lover and longtime companion, Atlantic Police Department Detective Joe Quinn, Eve's and Joe's adopted daughter, Jane McGuire and others are drawn into the hunt for Eve. Positive she will be killed once the reconstruction is finished, Eve looks for ways to escape.

2. Hunting Eve (2013)

The second book of the trilogy has Eve Duncan realizing her goal. After planning her escape into the surrounding forest and wilderness of Colorado, she takes food, water, warm clothing, and Kevin's skull with her, but Doane is close behind her. When he catches up with Eve, she throws Kevin's skull over a cliff, hoping that Doane will go after it, giving her time to escape but that does not happen. She does escape again, but Doane is always close to her. 

Meanwhile, Joe Quinnn, Jane McGuire, the FBI, and lots of others try to find Eve's location so that they can rescue her. Will they find her? Who will get there first? The FBI? Quinn? And will Eve be alive when they find her? Stay tuned for the third and final book of the Johansen trilogy.

Thanks, Shirley!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book 10: Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter

This review for Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave is a long-time coming. The reason being that it took me several months to read it from cover-to-cover.

It is my experience that this is not a book that lends itself to being devoured. The content is too dense and just a bit too dry.....the literary equivalent of Shredded Wheat. This isn't to say that it isn't worthwhile. The subject matter is fascinating, and you'll step away from this book wondering if any attempts to thwart your inner biases are anything more than futile. If you like the work of Malcom Gladwell, you'll enjoy this book that is chock-full of facts and cutting-edge experiments. 

A few quick thoughts on some other books that I've read in the past few months:

1. The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne: While this book did get decent reviews owing to its criticism of the fame machine, I thought it was pretty tame. There is nothing new here. Jonny Valentine's career seems to be very closely modeled after Justin Bieber's career even down to the small details. Ultimately, this novel is a missed opportunity. 

2. Summerland and The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand: I picked up both of these novels because I needed a break from heavy reads. I'm so glad that I did. Hilderbrand writes stories full of scandal (everyone's a cheater and everyone has secrets) and sets them in the beautiful Nantucket Bay area. The bottom-line: Hilderbrand is a quality writer. While her content won't win her any Nobel Prizes, she knows how to tell a tale.

3. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: I loved this book. I was hooked after the first four pages. Google worship, ancient cults, conspiracy, and booklove - what more could you ask for? This will feed your inner tech geek/bibliophile (and the cover glows in the dark)!

4. Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates: A young boy is abducted and "raised" by a serial-killer/pedophile. This is a story of horrifying abuse and depravity. I could say that I enjoyed this book but that would be misleading. This isn't a book that you enjoy- it's a book that shakes you up inside and makes you uncomfortable. It is raw and disturbing. JCO is a master at her craft. 

5. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: I waited entirely too long to read this hilarious, brilliant work of fiction! Seconds before the destruction of the earth, the unsuspecting Arthur Dent is saved by his friend Ford Prefect, an extraterrestial who has been posing as an out-of-work actor on Earth for the past fifteen years. The two go on a wild adventure through the Universe with the help of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Adams has an insight into existence that will blow you away. I found myself laughing out loud and dying to share his book with all of my friends. 

6. The Dinner by Herman Koch: Koch explores the ever-intriguing question: how far would you go to protect a loved one who has committed a terrible crime? This has been touted as a European Gone Girl. While both authors explore the dark side of society, Koch's writing is less action-packed and his characters are not as well-done. 

7. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline: The story shifts between the perspective of Molly, a troubled foster teen, and Vivian, a 91year old woman who was an orphan train rider in the early 1900s. The best parts of this novel are the ones that include descriptions of the orphan train movement. Kline did her research, and it shows. The present-day story, which details the blossoming friendship between Molly and Vivian, is one that has been done many times over. Kline is not a brilliant writer, but this book is worth the read if you're a fan of historical fiction. 

8. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler: What a doozy. I couldn't put this book down. Fowler's narrator is witty, engaging, and believable, and the family issues dealt with in this novel are familiar but refreshingly unique. 

9. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: This is a hefty novel- in size, not in scope. The reader is subjected to a main character whose unabated jealousy of friends of higher socioeconomic status will make you cringe...over and over...and over...and over again.

10. Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas: This is a work of nonfiction that begs to be talked about among friends. The author is a diagnosed, non-criminal sociopath. Her intent is to convince the reader that sociopaths can be productive, successful members of society. To do this, she uses her life and the lives of other noncriminal sociopaths as examples. I was blown away by the layer of delusion and mental illness that is readily apparent in her writing. This memoir will make you question whether anyone can really KNOW another person. 

Happy Reading!

Sharlene Edwards

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Banned Book Week

From our dear friends at Better World Books, who truly make a better world by selling and donating unwanted books: 

It’s Banned Books Week, a time to celebrate the freedom to read. As readers, we are thankful to have access to lots of books. (Our warehouses in Indiana and Scotland have around 5 million between them!) The American Library Association keeps an eye on books that are challenged in the U.S. for removal from a school curricula or a library, or even banned. Here are their top 10 books that have been challenged or banned in the US in 2012—you might be surprised at what titles made the list! - 

1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.

cpt_underpantsReasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
The-Absolutely-True-Diary-of-a-Part-Time-Indian-9780316013697Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.

Thirteen-Reasons-Why-Asher-Jay-9780141328294Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group

4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.

Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-James-E-L-9780345803481Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.

And-Tango-Makes-Three-9780689878459Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group

6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.

The-Kite-Runner-Hosseini-Khaled-9781594480003Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.

Looking-for-Alaska-Green-John-9780525475064Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz.

Scary-Stories-to-Tell-in-the-Dark-Rpkg-9780060835200Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence

9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls

The-Glass-Castle-9780743247535Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Listen to Your Uncle Mark

Were you lucky enough to have a favorite uncle who could tell you what it's all about? Among all the family hubbub, his take on things seemed so same and simple.

That's how I felt about Mark Bittman's new book:

He describes the middle way of good health and diet: eat like a vegan during the day and have whatever you want at night. 

If you succumb to temptation and eat a cheeseburger for lunch, no problem; eat a healthy dinner and try again tomorrow. 

Over time, he came to crave the healthier beans, grains and vegetables that he ate during the day, his cholesterol went down and he lost weight. Best of all, the "diet" was easy to maintain -- even for a food writer -- because it is so flexible and wide-ranging. 

It's an enjoyable read and the recipes are delicious. Thank you Mark Bittman (and a shout out to my dear Uncle Phil). 

The Joy of Growing Older

I hate to start on a shallow note, but Oliver Sacks is adorable:

And while I didn't like his newest book as much as some of the old favorites (like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), it is illuminating and beautifully written.

He created a sensation over the 4th of July weekend with his New York Times op-ed piece, "The Joy of Old Age (No Kidding)." Here's a link to the article.  Enjoy!

PS. Samuel Beckett was also adorable, and liked to wear his glasses on his forehead, but considerably less joyful about aging.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Guest Review: Eve, Quinn, and Bonnie Iris Johansen

Guest Review by Shirley Ayres! Thanks, Shirley!

1. Eve by Iris Johansen (2011)

When Eve Duncan, forensic sculptor went to Colombia, South America, to identify a skull for arms dealer Luis Montalvo, his payment was to find and name the killer of Eve's seven year old daughter, Bonnie. Montalvo, true to his word, gives Eve three names of possible Bonnie killers. Eve's long time lover, Atlanta Police Department Detective, Joe Quinn and CIA Agent, Catherine Ling find evidence that Eve's former boyfriend and Bonnie's father, John Gallo, may be the killer. At the same time, Montalvo's third name, Paul Black, is being investigated for Bonnie's murder. 

Gallo comes back into Eve's life and she is sure he is innocent and tries to prove it. Quinn, of course, is jealous of Eve's connection to Gallo. Eve tries to keep Quinn out of harm's way by excluding him from her investigations. Eve's teen years with Gallo are told in detail and set up the characters in a different light. 

Plot twists. Murder. Romance. Hot stuff!

2. Quinn by Iris Johansen (2011)

Part two of the trilogy takes up where part one (Eve) left off. Quinn was stabbed in the back by murderer Paul Black and is on the edge of death. Eve, watching Quinn from outside the ICU, sees her daughter Bonnie's ghost standing next to Joe and Eve suspects that Joe will die. 

Not this time. Joe's recovery is long and hard for him and Eve. New friend, CIA Agent Catherine Ling, on the hunt for John Gallo, convinced that he murdered Bonnie. Ling catches up with Gallo but winds up his prisoner and almost his lover. Meanwhile, Quinn is getting stronger and wants to find Ling to help her catch Gallo. As Quinn recuperates, the story of his entrance into Eve's life is told in detail. 

More intrigue. Romance. Lots of killings. Good stuff. 

3. Bonnie by Iris Johansen (2011)

Although the main character in these books by Johansen is Forensic Sculptor Eve Duncan, her kidnapped and murdered seven year old daughter is the "glue" that holds these stories together. The whole purpose of becoming a Forensic Sculptor is because Bonnie is missing. Eve wants to bring closure to other families of lost children by identifying the remains of long buried bodies. 

Bonnie has always appeared to Eve and talks to her. Then, she becomes known to other characters in the books. Quinn and John Gallo, Bonnie's father, have dreams about Bonnie. Soon, more and more people claim to have had contact with the little, red-headed ghosts in her Bugs Bunny t-shirt. Will Eve find out who killed Bonnie? Will she find Bonnie's grave and bring her home? Will any one confess to killing Bonnie? Stay tuned. Murder, mayhem, romance, and ghosts. Oh my!

Althought I like the stories Johansen writes, the narrative is repetitive and, dare I say, boring at times. Sometimes it seems like the characters stand around and talk to each other a lot. But, there is a lot of action and mayhem. So I guess the boring parts are out numbered by the gory parts. All in all, I liked the Eve Duncan series. It was always interesting to see what challenges would present themselves to Eve. But, with every new skull reconstruction, came another lead to the mystery of what happened to Bonnie. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Guest Review: Iris Johansen's Eve Duncan Series

Guest Review of Iris Johansen's Eve Duncan series by the fabulous Shirley Ayres: 

"Eve Duncan is a survivor, still tortured by the kidnapping and murder of her seven-year-old child, Bonnie. Years after this tragedy, Eve is one of the world’s foremost forensic sculptors and tries to bring closure to other parents who have lost their children. Iris Johansen's bestselling and critically acclaimed suspense thriller series will keep you turning the pages—and will chill you to the bone." (Goodreads)

1. The Face of Deception (1998) 

Eve Duncan, forensic sculptor helps to identify missing and unknown dead people by rebuilding their skulls. From her reconstruction, the dead can be named and, as Eve puts it, "brought home for rest." Several years ago, Eve's seven year old daughter, Bonnie was kidnapped and murdered, but Bonnie's body was never found. Throughout the series, Eve is searching for Bonnie, trying to bring her home, but it just never happens. When Bonnie was kidnapped, FBI Agent Joe Quinn was assigned tot he case but soon became infatuated with Eve Duncan. After a while, Joe quit the FBI and joined the Atlanta, GA Police Department to be closer to Eve.

In this book, Eve is hired by billionaire John Logan to identify a skull. Logan contributes to politician's campaigns to help elect the candidates of his choice. John and Eve spend a lot of time in Virginia while she sculpts the skull of what may be an American President. Serial killers, murder, and mayhem are the givens in this series. Exciting plot twists, too. Very good reading

2. The Killing Game (1999)

Eve Duncan is called upon by the Atlanta Police Department to identify a child's skull. A number of murdered people were at a Talladega Fall landfill, and one is the child assigned to Eve. Atlanta Detective Joe Quinn is on hand to make sure Eve is safe and to help catch the serial killer responsible for all the bodies. 

Meanwhile, the killer has focused on foster child ten year old Jane MacGuire as his next victim. Jane, wordly beyond her years, is helping a homeless six year old boy, Mike, stay away from his abusive parents. Rescue team, Sarah Patrick and her golden retriever Monty are hired by John Logan to find the killer's victims. Twisted relationships and blood and gore are again themes of this novel. 

3. The Search (2000)

Once again Sarah Patrick and Monty are hired by John Logan to search for survivors in Columbia, South America. Sarah and Eve Duncan remained friends and, when Eve adopted Jane MacGuire, one of Monty's pups is given to Jane.  ****Spoiler Alert****At last, Eve's murdered daughter Bonnie's bones were found and buried in Atlanta ****End of Spoiler****. Logan's right hand man, Sean Galen is introduced to the mix of characters. Now, despite all the murder and mayhem, LOVE rears its head and two couples hook up. Which ones? You will have to read the book to find out. 

4. Body of Lies (2002)

Eve Duncan is hired to go to Baton Rouge, LA to identify a murder victim. Her lab is set up next to a church out on a plantation. Inside the church is the victim's coffin. As soon as she arrives, Eve is poisoned and ends up near death in the hospital. John Logan and associate Sean Galen are called in to protect Eve, but despite their efforts, people begin to be murdered and Eve is in the thick of things, again. 

5. No One to Trust (2002)

Elena Kyler, trained at an early age to be a guerrilla by her father in the hills of Columbia, was captured and tortured before she was able to escape from prison. Sean Galen is sent to Columbia to help Elena and save her from the Cali drug lord, Chavez. As in all Johansen's books, there are lots of murders and plot twists and some romance. 

6. Dead Aim (2003)

Celebrated photojournalist, Alex Graham, is assigned to take pictures of a dam collapse at Araphoe Junction, CO. Alex was working with Sara Patrick Logan and her rescue dog, Monty. Alex uncovers a conspiracy in her investigation of the so-called natural disaster. John Logan's associate, Judd Morgan, is hired to protect Alex as she is surrounded by murder. Eve Duncan is not the central character in this book, but these characters are connected with Eve Duncan in the past and will be in future books. 

7. Blind Alley (2004)

A serial killer is slicing off the faces of his murder victims and Eve Duncan is once again called in to identify the dead. A link is discovered between Eve's seventeen year old adopted daughter, Jane, and the killer. Scotland Yard Inspector Mark Trevor and associate John Bartlett are on the trail of the killer and connect with Eve and Jane. Lots of blood, murder victims and some fantasy. The book moves fast and has an intricate plot. 

8. Countdown (2005) 

Eve Duncan's adopted daughter, Jane MacGuire meets up again with Mark Trevor. Jane is now twenty-one and a student at Harvard University and the problems of Herculeneum, Mount Vesuvious, and Cira's Gold come up again. This time with different villains and different motives, but all seem to involve Jane's uncanny resemblance to Cira, who died over two thousand years ago. 

9. Stalemate (2007)

Eve Duncan reluctantly agrees to go to Columbia to do a reconstruction job for arms dealer Luis Montalvo. She goes without telling Joe Quinn, and when Joe realizes the fact, he and Sean Galen follow. Montalvo promises Eve that he can find her murdered daughter Bonnie's body and her killer. Montalvo's enemy, Ramon Diaz tried to kill Eve to stop her from doing the reconstruction on Montalvo's wife, Nalia, but winds up wounding Joe instead. Eve finds herself attracted to Montalvo but fights it because of her love for Joe. Lots of mini wars, gunfire, explosions, and, of course, murder. Another exciting page-turner from Johansen. 

10. Blood Game (2009)

As part of her payment for a reconstruction job for Luis Montalvo, Eve Duncan is given a list of three names of possible murderers of her beloved daughter, Bonnie. Soon it is clear that Eve is the target of a self-named Vampire, Kevin Jelak. Lots of blood and many murders keep readers in suspense. Good characters

11. Eight Days to Live (2010)

Once again artist Jane MacGuire is the target of a sadistic killer. Jane's adopted mother Eve Duncan and Atlanta Detective Joe Quinn are also involved as well as Scottish Laird John McDuff and his ward, Jock Gavin. They take over Jane's protection and want to take Jane, Eve and Joe back to Scottland where they will be safe from the killer. Seth Caleb, a strange hunter of men, joins the group and revives Jane's attraction to him. A cult, which reveres Judas Iscariot as a wronged martyr, concentrates on Jane for a blood offering. She has only eight days to live. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Bradley Beach Top Titles

Have you been wondering about which books are most popular at your Library?

Wonder no more!

Here's the list of the top tiles (based on checkouts) in the last year:

Gone Girl
Catching Fire
The Racketeer
Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades Darker
Stay Close
I, Michael Bennett
The Innocent
The Language of Flowers
Low Pressure
Winter of the World
The 11th Hour
The Last Boyfriend
Winter of the World
Black Box
The Bone Bed
Fifty Shades Freed
Guilty Wives
Notorious 19

What's your favorite book so far this year?

I'm still floored by Vampires in the Lemon Grove.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Book 9: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

Our Library Director, Janet Torsney, recommended The Antidote to me and sent me a neat YouTube.com video introduction to this book. You can find it here: The Antidote. I've never been into self-help books or any book that claimed to hold the secret to happiness or success (it always just seemed too easy!). I attempted to read The Secret, I perused How to Win Friends and Influence People, but, in general, they just aren't my cup of tea. The Antidote is not your typical self-help book (and perhaps not even in the same category). It is an exploration of happiness. Burkeman surveys experts and gurus in his quest to find out what it really means to be "happy" and how to get there. His surprising conclusion is: we are already there, and we just don't know it. In fact, it's our dogged effort to become happy that is precisely what is making us miserable.

I felt like a big ol' grouch reading this on the bus.

Burkeman, as well as many of the psychologists, philosophers, Buddhists, and modern-day gurus that he interviews, rejects the idea that "positive thinking" equates to happiness and provides the reader with an alternative route to happiness and success- one that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty.

My favorite little piece of wisdom in this book: When you're feeling unhappy or overwhelmed, always ask yourself, "Do I have a problem right now?" The answer is usually an emphatic "No." Our right-now problems are often simply problems that we are anxious to avoid in the future. Problems that stem from our fear of failure, insecurity, and uncertainty.

Burkeman has a wonderful wit and an admirable willingness to put himself in uncomfortable situations in the name of research. I'd highly recommend this book!

Here's a few quick reviews for other books that I've read in the past few weeks:

1. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker- The Earth's rotation is slowing down, and there are serious consequences for the human race. The premise is excellent, but the story is a predictable coming of age tale. The writing can be hard to swallow. Walker uses more metaphors and similes than a...just kidding.

2. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn- This book IS dark. I was in tears reading the passage about the satanic sacrifice of a cow. Flynn is a wonderful writer, and, while I was disappointed by the ending (which was a little too deus ex machina for me), I did appreciate Flynn's skill in crafting unforgettable characters.

3. After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey- Hainey's father dies when he is just six years old. At age 18, he finds discrepancies in several of his father's obituaries. At age 35, Hainey decides to investigate his father's death to find out the truth about how and where he died. I was really looking forward to reading this real-life mystery, but the reality of Hainey's ultimate discovery falls flat. Hainey's writing is choppy and his trip backwards and forwards through time is confusing.

4. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill-Hill, the niece of Scientology Leader David Miscavige, speaks out against the Church of Scientology and its abusive practices. While this book won't win any awards for being well-written, the content is captivating.

Stay tuned for a review of "Drunk Tank Pink" by Adam Alter!

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Guest Review: The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Frils

The first book in the Nina Borg character series finds Red Cross nurse, Nina Borg, meeting long-time friend Karin who wants a favor. Karin's boss has asked her to retrieve a package from the Copenhagen train station. Karin does not explain why she cannot do the errand, but asks Nina to help her out by getting the package.

Nina goes to the train station locker and finds a suitcase in the one she opens. Nina lugs the heavy suitcase out of the train station and opens it. Inside is a naked three-year-old boy who somehow has managed to stay alive, folded into the suitcase. Nina puts him in the back seat of her car and covers him with a blanket and starts to look for help for the boy.

The boy does not understand either Danish or English and cannot tell Nina anything about himself. While looking for help, Nina discovers a huge man following her and tries to evade him.

The plot twists are very surprising and keep the reader guessing until almost the end of the book. Please read this book first because some of the events and characters in this book are referred to in the next Nina Borg book. The next book by the Danish authors featuring Nina Borg is Invisible Murder,  reviewed elsewhere in this blog. The authors have a very strong hero in the main character of Nina Borg. I look forward to the next episode.

Shirley Ayres

Monday, March 25, 2013

Guest Review: The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Soderberg

Guest Review by Shirley Ayres:

The book liner notes say the book is about Nurse Sophie Brinkmann whose patient, Hector Guzman, a Spaniard from the Andalucian region, starts a friendly relationship with Sophie while he is in the hospital recovering from a broken leg. To me, the most interesting character is Lars Vinge, a Policeman who works for National Crime, a Special Division of the Stockholm, Sweden Police Department. Lars is put on stake out duty following and photographing Sophie, due to her relationship with Hector, a known crime boss. Lars, addicted to pain medicines since childhood, is clean and sober when Sophie is first put under his watchful eye. 

Sophie and Hector start to date once Hector is released from the hospital, and Lars follows them everywhere they go, photographing the pair and writing detailed notes about them. The relationship between the two is strictly friendly. They never become lovers. Soon Lars becomes obsessed with Sophie. She is everything Lars' girlfriend, Sara, is not. Sophie's house is clean, bright, and tastefully decorated, whereas Sara is a hippie with no sense of style. Lars lets himself into Sophie's house when she is at work and takes lots of pictures to transfer to his computer when he gets home. 

The National Crime Unit plants "bugs" in every room in Sophie's house, including her teenage son, Albert's, room. Lars has to stay in the van outside Sophie's house and record everything that is said. Lars is not very well-liked by his co-workers and is ridiculed and given jobs, like stakeouts, which no one else wants. Soon Lars is back on painkillers, and everything starts to change. Lars protects Sophie and son Albert from the National Crime Unit. Finally, revenge and Lars' form of justice shows his character to be more analytic and strategic than any of his co-workers ever imagined he could be. 

Although Sophie and Hector remain friends, Sophie realizes who he is. Then,  and old boyfriend, Jens, comes back into Sophie's life, but he turns out to be an illegal arms dealer. Poor Sophie, she just seems to be  always attracting the wrong sorts of men. Hector, the Spanish crime boss, Lars, the drug-addicted police spy, and Jens, the international illegal arms dealer. 

I am strongly attracted to Scandinavian writers because I am half Norwegian. Reading these books, I find the names of my relatives and recognize certain words that I have not heard in decades. 

Thanks for your review, Shirley!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Book 8: A Private History of Happiness: Ninety-Nine Moments of Joy from Around the World by George Myerson

Happy Monday!

My original Book 8 was John Lehrer's Imagine: How Creativity Works, which I was thoroughly enjoying until I learned that the book was withdrawn from the market by its publisher after it was discovered that parts of the book were fabricated. I couldn't bring myself to continue reading it because the thought of remembering "facts" that aren't actually facts is kind of a nightmare to me. Lehrer had another book pulled from the market titled How We Decide. Lehrer seems highly adept at imagining.

After much dragging of my feet, I decided to take a look at George Myerson's A Private History of Happiness, which was published in 2012. This lovely book celebrates small, seemingly insignificant moments that, for whatever reason, filled an individual's heart with joy at a particular moment in time. The passages are often taken from diaries and memoirs. An afternoon chat with an old friend, a day spent serenely in a garden, a view of a frosty winter morning from an upstairs window-  the simple happiness evoked by the commonplace are what make our life truly worth living. This is the type of book that you keep in a bedside table and flip through on days when you're feeling uninspired.

I finally decided to give audio-books another go (I had tried one in the past, but the reader was painfully slow). I've been listening to A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson on my commute to work. What a wonderful book! Bill Bryson never disappoints. If you're interested in better understanding the universe and the origins of our existence, I'd recommend you read this fascinating book.

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book 7: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M. D.

I'm one or two books behind with regard to the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, but it isn't because I haven't been reading! In the past two weeks, I've done my fair share of book consumption. I devoured Zeitoun by Dave Eggers for the Bookworms Book Club, Stay Close by Harlan Coben for the Mystery Lovers Book Club, and The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis for our Black History Month book discussion. Tonight, I managed to finish Book 7 of the Challenge: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander.

"Proof" is used very loosely here.
Alexander, a neurosurgeon who has been employed by several prestigious institutions, spends one week in a coma after his brain is attacked by a rare illness: bacterial meningitis. During this time, he has a Near Death Experience that persuades him that there is a God. Prior to this experience, Alexander considered himself an agnostic and found NDEs to be easily explained away by science. His main, and I might go so far as to say only, "proof" that his NDE was the real deal is his insistence that he could not have had the realistic NDE that he did with a non-functional neocortex, which was out of commission while he was comatose. My problem with his proof is this: while Alexander is a neurosurgeon, which makes it safe to assume that he knows quite a lot about the brain, there are so many things that we DON'T know about the brain. Coincidentally, he touches upon this in the last few chapters of the book when he discusses consciousness and quantum mechanics. Ultimately, I think that this book is "proof" that the brain, consciousness, and the universe remain a mystery.....not necessarily "proof" that there is a heaven.

I wasn't a huge fan of this book, and it didn't help that Alexander coined a few phrases that I thought were a bit silly to relate his NDE to the reader, such as the "earthworm eye view" to describe the first level of his experience.

This was a mildly interesting, albeit unconvincing, read.

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director