Saturday, December 14, 2013

More Great Reads Fresh On The Shelf
The remarkable life of P.L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins.

The spellbinding stories of Mary Poppins, the quintessentially English and utterly magical nanny, have been loved by generations. She flew into the lives of the unsuspecting Banks family in a children's book that was instantly hailed as a classic, then became a household name when Julie Andrews stepped into the title role in Walt Disney's hugely successful and equally classic film. But the Mary Poppins in the stories was not the cheery film character. She was tart and sharp, plain and vain. She was a remarkable character.

The story of Mary Poppins' creator, as this definitive biography reveals, is equally remarkable. The fabulous English nanny was actually conceived by an Australian, Pamela Lyndon Travers, who came to London in 1924 from Queensland as a journalist. She became involved with Theosophy, traveled in the literary circles of W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot, and became a disciple of the famed spiritual guru, Gurdjieff. She famously clashed with Walt Disney over the adaptation of the Mary Poppins books into film. Travers, whom Disney accused of vanity for "thinking you know more about Mary Poppins than I do," was as tart and opinionated as Julie Andrews's big-screen Mary Poppins was cheery. Yet it was a love of mysticism and magic that shaped Travers's life as well as the character of Mary Poppins. The clipped, strict, and ultimately mysterious nanny who emerged from her pen was the creation of someone who remained inscrutable and enigmatic to the end of her ninety-six years.

Valerie Lawson's illuminating biography provides the first full look whose personal journey is as intriguing as her beloved characters.
The remarkable account of an extraordinary family of explorers who spurred innovation and accomplished incredible feats—even when the popular consensus was against them.

Meet the Piccards. Swiss, all taller than 6'5", with high foreheads and leonine hair. Great Uncle Jules helped build the world’s first hydroelectric power plant. In 1931, Grandfather Auguste flew higher than any man before him in a balloon he designed himself. And when his twin brother, Jean-Felix, beat his record, Auguste constructed his own submersible and went deeper into the ocean than any man before him. Even Auguste’s grandson, Bertrand, who tried to escape the family legacy and become a psychiatrist, inevitably had his own breakthrough: in 1999, he became the first person to circumnavigate the world in a balloon.

In The Explorer Gene, author Tom Cheshire tells the stories of wildly ambitious, highly risky enterprises—all conducted by members of one unusual family. Combining gripping storytelling with thoughtful, in-depth research, Cheshire captures the spirit of adventure that defined the era in which the early Piccards lived. Although the Piccards coasted through triumph after triumph, this book tells how they won their success as private individuals, without government support, and were frequently ridiculed for their efforts. Nonetheless, nothing has put a stop to them, and even today the Piccard name lives on: Bertrand is building a solar-powered plane and aims to circumnavigate the globe with it in 2014.

The first book from a remarkable new writer,The Explorer Gene is a fascinating story not just about the astonishing feats of one family, but about the limitless bounds of human potential.
A powerful and elegant debut novel about love, memory, exile, and war.

One snowy December morning in an old European city, an American man leaves his shabby hotel to meet a local woman who has agreed to help him search for an apartment to rent. The Apartment follows the couple across a blurry, illogical, and frozen city into a past the man is hoping to forget, and leaves them at the doorstep of an uncertain future-their cityscape punctuated by the man's lingering memories of time spent in Iraq and the life he abandoned in the United States. Contained within the details of this day is a complex meditation on America's relationship with the rest of the world, an unflinching glimpse at the permanence of guilt and despair, and an exploration into our desire to cure violence with violence.

A novel about how our relationships to others-and most importantly to ourselves-alters how we see the world, The Apartment perfectly captures the peculiarity and excitement of being a stranger in a strange city. Written in an affecting and intimate tone that gradually expands in scope, intensity, poetry, and drama, Greg Baxter's clear-eyed first novel tells the intriguing story of these two people on this single day. Both beguiling and raw in its observations and language, The Apartment is a crisp novel with enormous range that offers profound and unexpected wisdom.
"Follow the rules and everybody gets hurt . . . " 
One Sunday morning after a long night of partying, Henrik “HP” Pettersson, a slacker with a lot of ego and very little impulse control, finds a cell phone of an unfamiliar make on a commuter train. Through insisting and slightly uncanny messages that refer to him by name, the phone invites him to play a game. HP accepts without hesitation.

The rules are that HP must complete tasks that range from childish pranks to criminal acts, as allocated by the mysterious Game Master. HP is the perfect contender—alienated from society, devoid of morals, and desperate for fame. His completion of the assignments are filmed and uploaded onto a protected server where viewers rate the Players’ performances.

The Game starts out innocently enough and then becomes increasingly risky, threatening the safety of someone close to HP. He is determined to become a superstar, but when the dark and tragic secrets of his family’s past are at stake, HP must make a choice. Will he suffer the humiliation of defeat, or will the need to win push him to the limit—no matter the cost?

First in a fast-paced and riveting trilogy, Game will leave you guessing. Follow the rules, and everybody gets hurt . . .
Reality TV hunk and People magazine's "sexiest man alive", Sepp Gregory goes on a book tour to promote his debut novel, a thinly veiled autobiography. Not that Sepp has actually read the book, he doesn't have to, he lived it! The book becomes a sensation, a New York Times bestseller, and, surprisingly, it even gets rave reviews from serious critics. Aside from Harriet Post, that is.

One of the blogosphere's most respected critics, Harriet hears the host of her favorite, high-brow, radio show gush about Sepp’s abdominal muscles on-air and fears the end of civilization is upon us. She takes matters into her own hands and sets off to reveal the truth behind the bestseller and to show Sepp as the buff fraud he really is. But then Harriet reads Totally Reality, Sepp’s novel, and it’s totally great. Now she needs to find Sepp’s ghostwriter and find out why he’s wasting his talent.

She finds him, appropriately enough, at the Playboy Mansion, where he’s supposed to be interviewing Sepp’s former television love Roxy Sandoval for his next, highly lucrative, project. Reality and “reality” collide, and a tragic accident sends Sepp and Harriet off on a sex-fueled roadtrip through the southwest. The mind meets the body, and both will be changed forever. Raw: A Love Story is Mark Haskell Smith at his best, dangerously sexy and wickedly funny.
Maeve Conlon's life is coming apart at the seams. Her bakery is barely making ends meet, and one of her daughters spends as much time grounded as the other does studying. Her ex-husband has a new wife, a new baby, and a look of pity for Maeve that's absolutely infuriating. Her father insists he's still independent, but he's slowly and obviously succumbing to Alzheimer's. And now, her cousin Sean Donovan has been found dead, sitting in his car in a public park, shot through the head.

There was never much love lost between Maeve and Sean and she's not exactly devastated by his death, but suddenly the police are poking around asking the family questions. It's just one more hassle Maeve doesn't have time for, until she realizes that her father, whose memory and judgment are unreliable at best, is a suspect in the murder. Maeve is determined to clear his name, but is she prepared to cope with the dark memories and long-hidden secrets that doing so might dredge up?

Maggie Barbieri will mesmerize readers with Once Upon a Lie, a gripping novel about family, justice, and the choices we make that define who we are.

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