Friday, February 28, 2014

Five Titles New To The Shelves
A modern classic being introduced to the United States for the first time, Tatamkhulu Afrika's autobiographical novel illuminates the profound and  incomparable bonds forged between prisoners of war.
Bitter Eden is based on Tatamkhulu Afrika’s own capture in North Africa and his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II in Italy and Germany. This frank and beautifully wrought novel deals with three men who must negotiate the emotions that are brought to the surface by the physical closeness of survival in the male-only camps. The complex rituals of camp life and the strange loyalties and deep bonds among the men are heartbreakingly depicted. 
Bitter Eden is a tender, bitter, deeply felt book of lives inexorably changed, and of a war whose ending does not bring peace.
It's been a sleepy summer for the folks of Lake Eden, Minnesota. In fact, it's been a whole four months since anyone in the Swensen family has come across a dead body. And that means Hannah Swensen can finally focus on her bakery. . .or can she?

Life is never really quiet for Hannah. After all, her mother's wedding is a little over a month away and guess who Delores put in charge of the planning? Yet just when Hannah believes her biggest challenge will be whether to use buttercream or fondant for the wedding cake, she accidentally hits a stranger with her truck while driving down a country road in a raging thunderstorm. Hannah is wracked with guilt, and things get even worse when she's arrested. . .for murder But an autopsy soon reveals the mystery man, his shirt covered in stains from blackberry pie, would have died even if Hannah hadn't hit him. Now, to clear her name, Hannah will have to follow a trail of pie crumbs to track down the identity of the deceased, find a baker who knows more about murder than how to roll out a perfect pie crust--and get herself to the church on time. . .
 An immensely talented writer whose work has been described as “incandescent” (Kirkus) and “poetic” (Booklist), Thomas Christopher Greene pens a haunting and deeply affecting portrait of one couple at their best and worst.

Inspired by a personal loss, Greene explores the way that tragedy and time assail one man’s memories of his life and loves. Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the Headmaster of Vermont’s elite Lancaster School. It is the place he feels has given him his life, but is also the site of his undoing as events spiral out of his control. Found wandering naked in Central Park, he begins to tell his story to the police, but his memories collide into one another, and the true nature of things, a narrative of love, of marriage, of family and of a tragedy Arthur does not know how to address emerges.
Luminous and atmospheric, bringing to life the tight-knit enclave of a quintessential New England boarding school, the novel is part mystery, part love story and an exploration of the ties of place and family. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, The Headmaster’s Wife stands as a moving elegy to the power of love as an antidote to grief.
In the tradition of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife and Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone comes a sweeping historical love story and a portrait of an age. Vienna Nocturne is a deeply moving debut novel that brings to life two extraordinary figures—a thirty-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a young English soprano, Anna Storace, who was his muse—in prose as spirited, timeless, and touching as Mozart’s greatest compositions.

In late-eighteenth-century London, a young girl takes her first singing lessons with a mysterious castrato in exile. Her life is forever changed. Having learned everything he can teach her, Anna leaves behind all the security and familiarity of home and journeys to Naples and Venice to struggle and triumph in Italy’s greatest opera houses. Only sixteen, she finds herself in an intoxicating world of theaters, nobility, and vice, overwhelmed by her newfound freedom and fame. Her first bitter experience of love and heartbreak inevitably follows.

Within a few years, Anna is invited to sing in Vienna, the City of Music, by the emperor himself. There, in a teasing game of theft and play, Anna first meets Mozart, a young virtuoso pianist and striving, prodigiously talented composer. They are matched in intellect and talent, and an immediate and undeniable charge occurs between the two, despite both being married to others.

As her star rises in Vienna and her personal life deteriorates, Anna experiences an ultimate crisis. During this trying time, her only light is Mozart: his energy, his determination for her, and his art. She, in turn, becomes his hope and inspiration, and his joy, as he writes for her some of his most exquisite and enduring arias—music that will live on as his masterworks.

Rich in historical detail and beautifully wrought by Vivien Shotwell, an author who is herself an opera singer, Vienna Nocturne is a dramatic tour de force of a woman’s struggle to find love and fame in an eighteenth-century world that controls and limits her at every turn.
In Pictures at a Revolution, Mark Harris turned the story of the five movies nominated for Best Picture in 1967 into a landmark work of cultural history, a book about the transformation of an art form and the larger social shift it signified. In Five Came Back, he achieves something larger and even more remarkable, giving us the untold story of how Hollywood changed World War II, and how World War II changed Hollywood, through the prism of five film directors caught up in the war: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens.

It was the best of times and the worst of times for Hollywood before the war. The box office was booming, and the studios’ control of talent and distribution was as airtight as could be hoped. But the industry’s relationship with Washington was decidedly uneasy—hearings and investigations into allegations of corruption and racketeering were multiplying, and hanging in the air was the insinuation that the business was too foreign, too Jewish, too “un-American” in its values and causes. Could an industry this powerful in shaping America’s mind-set really be left in the hands of this crew? Following Pearl Harbor, Hollywood had the chance to prove its critics wrong and did so with vigor, turning its talents and its business over to the war effort to an unprecedented extent.

No industry professionals played a bigger role in the war than America’s most legendary directors: Ford, Wyler, Huston, Capra, and Stevens. Between them they were on the scene of almost every major moment of America’s war, and in every branch of service—army, navy, and air force; Atlantic and Pacific; from Midway to North Africa; from Normandy to the fall of Paris and the liberation of the Nazi death camps; to the shaping of the message out of Washington, D.C.

As it did for so many others, World War II divided the lives of these men into before and after, to an extent that has not been adequately understood. In a larger sense—even less well understood—the war divided the history of Hollywood into before and after as well. Harris reckons with that transformation on a human level—through five unforgettable lives—and on the level of the industry and the country as a whole. Like these five men, Hollywood too, and indeed all of America, came back from the war having grown up more than a little.

Eric Is Recommending:
"F. Scott Fitzgerald meets Wes Anderson" (The Village Voice) in this inventive and witty debut about a young man’s quest to become a writer and the misadventures in life and love that take him around the globe

As early as he can remember, the narrator of this remarkable novel has wanted to become a writer. From the jazz clubs of Manhattan to the villages of Sri Lanka, Kristopher Jansma’s hopelessly unreliable—yet hopelessly earnest—narrator will be haunted by the success of his greatest friend and literary rival, the brilliant Julian McGann, and endlessly enamored with Evelyn, the green-eyed girl who got away. A profound exploration of the nature of truth and storytelling, this delightful picaresque tale heralds Jansma as a bold, new American voice.
In this mysterious and chilling novel, girls, mostly Native, are vanishing from the sides of a notorious highway in the isolated Pacific Northwest. Leo Kreutzer and his friends are barely touched by these disappearances—until a series of enigmatic strangers arrive in their remote mountain town, beguiling and bewitching them.

It seems as if the devil himself has appeared among them.

The intoxicatingly lush debut novel by the acclaimed author of The King of Limbo, A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is an unsettling portrait of life in a dead-end town, as seductive and beautifully written as the devil’s dark arts are wielded.

TC Tidbit: 50 Years of Harriet the Spy

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sonia's Debut Review Has Some Magical Realism To It.
The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness tells the story of George Duncan, a divorced and too-nice American man living in England who is awoken one night by an otherworldly keening sound. He stumbles outside his house to find a huge white crane, wing shot through by an arrow. The next morning, a mysterious and beautiful woman (and skilled artist) arrives in George's print shop, introducing herself as Kumiko, inspiring in George and immediate and desperate love and changing his life forever.

Interwoven in the chapters that tell the story of George and Kumiko is a myth, a love story about a crane and a volcano, or a story about the relationship between anger and forgiveness, depending on how you look at it.

The Crane Wife is great in a lot of ways. It's creative and fun and thematically interesting and the art described inside of it is beautiful. There's some structural experimentation, the myth being told in a series of very short sections, and that's exciting. The dialogue is fun and the characters are lively and true to life. Though it strays a little into sentimentality at points, I think for the most part it's romantic in a way that doesn't feel cloying or overdone. In fact there are revelations in The Crane Wife about love, with all its difficulty and sadness, that feel honest and ring true, the kind of sentences that make you want to write them down somewhere and revisit them later, which I very much enjoyed.

If you like magical realism, or books about love, give it a shot.


Liz and Michele Are Recommending:
The mesmerizing story of Hillary Clinton's political rebirth, based on eyewitness accounts from deep inside her inner circle

Hillary Clinton’s surprising defeat in the 2008 Democratic primary brought her to the nadir of her political career, vanquished by a much younger opponent whose message of change and cutting-edge tech team ran circles around her stodgy campaign. And yet, six years later, she has reemerged as an even more powerful and influential figure, a formidable stateswoman and the presumed front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, marking one of the great political comebacks in history.

The story of Hillary’s phoenixlike rise is at the heart of HRC, a riveting political biography that journeys into the heart of “Hillaryland” to discover a brilliant strategist at work. Masterfully unfolded by Politico’s Jonathan Allen and The Hill’s Amie Parnes from more than two hundred top-access interviews with Hillary’s intimates, colleagues, supporters, and enemies, HRC portrays a seasoned operator who negotiates political and diplomatic worlds with equal savvy. Loathed by the Obama team in the wake of the primary, Hillary worked to become the president’s greatest ally, their fates intertwined in the work of reestablishing America on the world stage. HRC puts readers in the room with Hillary during the most intense and pivotal moments of this era, as she mulls the president-elect’s offer to join the administration, pulls the strings to build a coalition for his war against Libya, and scrambles to deal with the fallout from the terrible events in Benghazi—all while keeping one eye focused on 2016.

HRC offers a rare look inside the merciless Clinton political machine, as Bill Clinton handled the messy business of avenging Hillary’s primary loss while she tried to remain above the partisan fray. Exploring her friendships and alliances with Robert Gates, David Petraeus, Leon Panetta, Joe Biden, and the president himself, Allen and Parnes show how Hillary fundamentally transformed the State Department through the force of her celebrity and her unparalleled knowledge of how power works in Washington. Filled with deep reporting and immersive storytelling, this remarkable portrait of the most important female politician in American history is an essential inside look at the woman who may be our next president.
A profound mystery is at the heart of this magnificent new novel by Yiyun Li, “one of America’s best young novelists” (Newsweek) and the celebrated author of The Vagrants, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Moving back and forth in time, between America today and China in the 1990s, Kinder Than Solitude is the story of three people whose lives are changed by a murder one of them may have committed. As one of the three observes, “Even the most innocent person, when cornered, is capable of a heartless crime.”

When Moran, Ruyu, and Boyang were young, they were involved in a mysterious “accident” in which a friend of theirs was poisoned. Grown up, the three friends are separated by distance and personal estrangement. Moran and Ruyu live in the United States, Boyang in China; all three are haunted by what really happened in their youth, and by doubt about themselves. In California, Ruyu helps a local woman care for her family and home, and avoids entanglements, as she has done all her life. In Wisconsin, Moran visits her ex-husband, whose kindness once overcame her flight into solitude. In Beijing, Boyang struggles to deal with an inability to love, and with the outcome of what happened among the three friends twenty years ago.

Brilliantly written, a breathtaking page-turner, Kinder Than Solitude resonates with provocative observations about human nature and life. In mesmerizing prose, and with profound insight, Yiyun Li unfolds this remarkable story, even as she explores the impact of personality and the past on the shape of a person’s present and future.

TC Tidbit: The New Classics: 21 Writers Tell Us Which Books They’d Add to the Canon

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Sometimes humorous, always honest and straightforward, this little book offers the perfect combination of practical advice and personal musings to help any woman, her family and her friends handle the complicated road through Cancerland."- Kirkus Reviews

A definitive and approachable guide to life during, and after, breast cancer

The biggest risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman. Madhulika Sikka's A Breast Cancer Alphabet offers a new way to live with and plan past the hardest diagnosis that most women will ever receive: a personal, practical, and deeply informative look at the road from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.

What Madhulika Sikka didn't foresee when initially diagnosed, and what this book brings to life so vividly, are the unexpected and minute challenges that make navigating the world of breast cancer all the trickier. A Breast Cancer Alphabet is an inspired reaction to what started as a personal predicament.

This A-Z guide to living with breast cancer goes where so many fear to tread: sex (S is for Sex - really?), sentimentality (J is for Journey - it's a cliché we need to dispense with), hair (H is for Hair - yes, you can make a federal case of it) and work (Q is for Quitting - there'll be days when you feel like it). She draws an easy-to-follow, and quite memorable, map of her travels from breast cancer neophyte to seasoned veteran.

As a prominent news executive, Madhulika had access to the most cutting edge data on the disease's reach and impact. At the same time, she craved the community of frank talk and personal insight that we rely on in life's toughest moments. This wonderfully inventive book navigates the world of science and story, bringing readers into Madhulika's mind and experience in a way that demystifies breast cancer and offers new hope for those living with it.

Jackie says:
"This book is going to help a whole lot of people.  Sikka has been through Cancerland and she has some great advice and maps to get through the tough times.  She tells what to expect, what happens, what it takes to make your life as comfortable as possible, but most importantly, she tells the straight up truth in very short chapters by letter, explaining that chemo-addled minds need their reading clear and short.  And, equally important, she will make them laugh while still staying with the truth that 'It sucks to get cancer.' "

More Titles For Black History Month
On December 9, 1938, the state of Georgia executed six black men in eighty-one minutes in Tattnall Prison’s electric chair. The executions were a record for the state that still stands today. The new prison, built with funds from FDR’s New Deal, as well as the fact that the men were tried and executed rather than lynched were thought to be a sign of progress. They were anything but. While those men were arrested, convicted, sentenced, and executed in as little as six weeks---E. D. Rivers, the governor of the state, oversaw a pardon racket for white killers and criminals, allowed the Ku Klux Klan to infiltrate his administration, and bankrupted the state. Race and wealth were all that determined whether or not a man lived or died. There was no progress. There was no justice.

David Beasley’s Without Mercy is the harrowing true story of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the violent death throes of the Klan, but most of all it is the story of the stunning injustice of these executions and how they have seared distrust of the legal system into the consciousness of the Deep South, and it is a story that will forever be a testament to the death penalty’s appalling inequality that continues to plague our nation.
In 1962, James Meredith became a civil rights hero when he enrolled as the first African American student at the University of Mississippi. Four years later, he would make the news again when he reentered Mississippi, on foot. His plan was to walk from Memphis to Jackson, leading a “March Against Fear” that would promote black voter registration and defy the entrenched racism of the region. But on the march’s second day, he was shot by a mysterious gunman, a moment captured in a harrowing and now iconic photograph.

What followed was one of the central dramas of the civil rights era. With Meredith in the hospital, the leading figures of the civil rights movement flew to Mississippi to carry on his effort. They quickly found themselves confronting southern law enforcement officials, local activists, and one another. In the span of only three weeks, Martin Luther King, Jr., narrowly escaped a vicious mob attack; protesters were teargassed by state police; Lyndon Johnson refused to intervene; and the charismatic young activist Stokely Carmichael first led the chant that would define a new kind of civil rights movement: Black Power.

Aram Goudsouzian’s Down to the Crossroads is the story of the last great march of the King era, and the first great showdown of the turbulent years that followed. Depicting rural demonstrators’ courage and the impassioned debates among movement leaders, Goudsouzian reveals the legacy of an event that would both integrate African Americans into the political system and inspire even bolder protests against it. Full of drama and contemporary resonances, this book is civil rights history at its best.
Black Stats--a comprehensive guide filled with contemporary facts and figures on African Americans--is an essential reference for anyone attempting to fathom the complex state of our nation. With fascinating and often surprising information on everything from incarceration rates, lending practices, and the arts to marriage, voting habits, and green jobs, the contextualized material in this book will better attune readers to telling trends while challenging commonly held, yet often misguided, perceptions.

A compilation that at once highlights measures of incredible progress and enumerates the disparate impacts of social policies and practices, this book is a critical tool for advocates, educators, and policy makers. Black Stats offers indispensable information that is sure to enlighten discussions and provoke debates about the quality of Black life in the United States today--and help chart the path to a better future.

There are less than a quarter-million Black public school teachers in the U.S.--representing just 7 percent of all teachers in public schools.

Approximately half of the Black population in the United States lives in neighborhoods that have no White residents.

In the five years before the Great Recession, the number of Black-owned businesses in the United States increased by 61 percent.

A 2010 study found that 41 percent of Black youth feel that rap music videos should be more political.

There are no Black owners or presidents of an NFL franchise team.

78 percent of Black Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, compared with 56 percent of White Americans.
A year-by-year history of people and events, this lively multi-layered account tells the whole story of jazz music and its personalities. The Chronicle of Jazz charts the evolution of jazz from its roots in Africa and the southern United States to the myriad urban styles heard around the world today, Mervyn Cooke gives us a narrative rich with innovation, experimentation, controversy, and emotion. The book is completely up to date, exploring the exciting recent developments in the world of jazz, from the rise of modern Big Bands and the renaissance of the piano trio to the popular appeal of Jamie Cullum and HBO's Treme. Featuring hundreds of rare images, from record-cover artwork to pictures of live performances, each chronologically arranged section contains special box features on such topics as the unique tonal qualities of the bass clarinet, jazz clubs in Paris, personality sketches, and seminal gigs and albums. A substantial reference section features information on international jazz festivals, a glossary of musical terms, biographies of musicians, and extensive discography, and further reading. A celebration of the most imaginative and enduring music of the last 120 years, The Chronicle of Jazz is an essential work of reference for all music lovers.
Richard Pryor was arguably the single most influential performer of the second half of the twentieth century, and certainly he was the most successful black actor/comedian ever. Controversial and somewhat enigmatic in his lifetime, Pryor s performances opened up a new world of possibilities, merging fantasy with angry reality in a way that wasn't just new--it was heretofore unthinkable. His childhood in Peoria, Illinois, was spent just trying to survive. Yet the culture into which Richard Pryor was born--his mother was a prostitute; his grandmother ran the whorehouse--helped him evolve into one of the most innovative and outspoken performers ever, a man who attracted admiration and anger in equal parts. Both a brilliant comedian and a very astute judge of what he could get away with, Pryor was always pushing the envelope, combining anger and pathos, outrage and humor, into an art form, laying the groundwork for the generations of comedians who followed, including such outstanding performers as Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K.  Now, in this groundbreaking and revelatory work, Joe and David Henry bring him to life both as a man and as an artist, providing an in-depth appreciation of his talent and his lasting influence, as well as an insightful examination of the world he lived in and the influences that shaped both his persona and his art.
A magnificent poetry collection to follow-up the debut Kevin Young compared to the those of Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Elizabeth Bishop's.

From the poet whose stunning debut was praised as "transcendent" by Kevin Young and "steadily confident" by Carl Phillips, Dangerous Goods tracks its speaker throughout North America and abroad, illuminating the ways in which home and place may inhabit one another comfortably or uncomfortably -- or both simultaneously. From the Bahamas, London, and Cairo, to Bemidji, Minnesota, and Milledgeville, Georgia, Sean Hill interweaves the contemporary with the historical, and explores with urgency the relationship between travel, migration, alienation, and home.

Here, playful "postcard" poems addressed to Nostalgia and My Third Crush Today sit alongside powerful reflections on the immigration of African Americans to Liberia during and after the era of slavery. Such range and formal innovation make Hill's second collection both rare and exhilarating. Part shadowbox, part migration map, part travelogue-in-verse, Dangerous Goods is poignant, elegant, and deeply moving.
A collection spanning the whole of Derek Walcott’s celebrated, inimitable, essential career

“He gives us more than himself or ‘a world’; he gives us a sense of infinity embodied in the language.” Alongside Joseph Brodsky’s words of praise one might mention the more concrete honors that the renowned poet Derek Walcott has received: a MacArthur Fellowship; the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry; the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 draws from every stage of the poet’s storied career. Here are examples of his very earliest work, like “In My Eighteenth Year,” published when the poet himself was still a teenager; his first widely celebrated verse, like “A Far Cry from Africa,” which speaks of violence, of loyalties divided in one’s very blood; his mature work, like “The Schooner Flight” from The Star-Apple Kingdom; and his late masterpieces, like the tender “Sixty Years After,” from the 2010 collection White Egrets.

Across sixty-five years, Walcott has grappled with the themes that have defined his work as they have defined his life: the unsolvable riddle of identity; the painful legacy of colonialism on his native Caribbean island of St. Lucia; the mysteries of faith and love and the natural world; the Western canon, celebrated and problematic; the trauma of growing old, of losing friends, family, one’s own memory. This collection, selected by Walcott’s friend the English poet Glyn Maxwell, will prove as enduring as the questions, the passions, that have driven Walcott to write for more than half a century.

TC Tidbit: The Gates Notes

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dispatch from the Fields: "This is a compelling novel I found hard to put down, and when I did, I found it lingering in my thoughts." ~Joe
A boy witnesses men who come into his isolated country home and kill every member of his family except his mother, who was not home. When she does come home, he shoots his mother mistaking her through his fear to be one of the killers returned to finish the job. Once his mother has recovered enough to venture into the unrelenting winter, she and the boy leave their home behind. The boy searching for revenge, the woman, atonement.

Thus begins the incredible tale in James Scott’s debut, The Kept. The novel takes place on the New York shore of Lake Erie, in the late 1890’s. The story follows Elsbeth, the mother, and Caleb, her twelve year-old son. Elsbeth is a midwife who has stolen all of her children, because she can not have them on her own. Caleb is a boy entering manhood early, a boy who does not know the woman he has thought his mother until now. Elsbeth is plagued by guilt, and trying to find redemption, if only in the eyes of Caleb.

James Scott’s writing is beautiful: from the descriptions of his landscapes, to the sounds within it, to the secrets hidden in his characters. This is a compelling novel I found hard to put down, and when I did, I found it lingering in my thoughts.


Kate M. Is Recommending:
What does it mean when a fictional hero takes a journey? Shares a meal? Gets drenched in a sudden rain shower? Often, there is much more going on in a novel or poem than is readily visible on the surface—a symbol, maybe, that remains elusive, or an unexpected twist on a character—and there's that sneaking suspicion that the deeper meaning of a literary text keeps escaping you.

In this practical and amusing guide to literature, Thomas C. Foster shows how easy and gratifying it is to unlock those hidden truths, and to discover a world where a road leads to a quest; a shared meal may signify a communion; and rain, whether cleansing or destructive, is never just rain. Ranging from major themes to literary models, narrative devices, and form, How to Read Literature Like a Professor is the perfect companion for making your reading experience more enriching, satisfying, and fun.
The only novel by avant-garde literary star Jane Bowles, the highly influential wife of legendary writer Paul Bowles, Two Serious Ladies is a modernist cult classic, mysterious, profound, anarchic, and funny, that follows two "respectable" women as they descend into debauchery--updated with an introduction by Claire Messud, bestselling author of The Emperor's Children and The Woman Upstairs.

Christina Goering, eccentric and adventurous, and Frieda Copperfield, anxious but enterprising, are two serious ladies who want to live outside of themselves. Old friends, each will take a surprising path in search of salvation: during a visit to Panama, Mrs. Copperfield abandons her husband, finding solace in a relationship with a teenage prostitute; while Miss Goering, a wealthy spinster, pursues sainthood via sordid encounters with the basest of men. At the end the two women meet again, each radically altered by her experience.
An absorbing novel of romance and revolution, loyalty and family, sacrifice and undying love

We have three souls, or so I'd been told. But only in death could I confirm this....

So begins the haunting and captivating tale, set in 1935 China, of the ghost of a young woman named Leiyin, who watches her own funeral from above and wonders why she is being denied entry to the afterlife. Beside her are three souls—stern and scholarly yang; impulsive, romantic yin; and wise, shining hun—who will guide her toward understanding. She must, they tell her, make amends.

As Leiyin delves back in time with the three souls to review her life, she sees the spoiled and privileged teenager she once was, a girl who is concerned with her own desires while China is fractured by civil war and social upheaval. At a party, she meets Hanchin, a captivating left-wing poet and translator, and instantly falls in love with him.

When Leiyin defies her father to pursue Hanchin, she learns the harsh truth—that she is powerless over her fate. Her punishment for disobedience leads to exile, an unwanted marriage, a pregnancy, and, ultimately, her death. And when she discovers what she must do to be released from limbo into the afterlife, Leiyin realizes that the time for making amends is shorter than she thought.

Suffused with history and literature, Three Souls is an epic tale of revenge and betrayal, forbidden love, and the price we are willing to pay for freedom.
A witty and engaging history of the first botanists, interwoven with stories of today's extraordinary plants found in the garden and the lab

In Paradise Under Glass, Ruth Kassinger recounts with grace and humor her journey from brown thumb to green, sharing the lessons that she learned from building a home conservatory in the wake of a devastating personal crisis.

In A Garden of Marvels, she extends the story. "This book was born of a murder, a murder I committed," she begins. The victim was a kumquat tree. Though she diligently did her best—watering, fertilizing, repotting, and pruning—the plant turned brown and brittle. Why did the kumquat die when other plants in the garden that received the same attention thrived? she wondered. It was an experience that offered invaluable insight.

While she knew the basic rules of caring for indoor plants, Kassinger realized that she understood very little about plant physiology—how roots, stems, leaves, and flowers actually function. Determined not to repeat her failure, she set out to learn the fundamentals of botany in order to become a better gardener. A Garden of Marvels is the story of her wise and enchanting odyssey to discover the secret life of plants.

Kassinger retraces the progress of the first botanists—including a melancholy Italian anatomist, a renegade French surgeon, a stuttering English minister, an obsessive German schoolteacher, and Charles Darwin—who banished myths and misunderstandings and discovered that flowers have sex, leaves eat air, roots choose their food, and hormones make morning glories climb fence posts. She goes out into the world as well, visiting modern gardens, farms, and labs to discover the science behind extraordinary plants like one-ton pumpkins, truly black petunias, ferns that eat the arsenic in contaminated soil, biofuel grass that grows twelve feet tall, and the world's only photosynthesizing animal. Kassinger also introduces us to modern scientific research that offers hope for combatting climate change and alleviating world hunger.

She then transfers her insights to her own garden, where she nurtures a "cocktail" tree that bears five kinds of fruit, cures an ailing Buddha's Hand plant with beneficial fungi, and gets a tree to text her when it's thirsty. Intertwining personal anecdotes, accessible science, and little-known history, A Garden of Marvels takes us on an eye-opening journey into Kassinger's garden—and yours—offering us a new appreciation of this exquisite gift of nature: "Our garden is more than a marvel. It's as close to a miracle as there is on Earth."

TC Tidbit: The First Trailer for "Unbroken"

Monday, February 24, 2014

Jackie's Impressed With This Debut Novel, and Invites You To Meet The Author Tomorrow Night

Their average age was twenty-five. They came from Berkeley, Cambridge, Paris, London, Chicago—and arrived in New Mexico ready for adventure, or at least resigned to it. But hope quickly turned to hardship as they were forced to adapt to a rugged military town where everything was a secret, including what their husbands were doing at the lab. They lived in barely finished houses with P.O. box addresses in a town wreathed with barbed wire, all for the benefit of a project that didn’t exist as far as the public knew. Though they were strangers, they joined together—adapting to a landscape as fierce as it was absorbing, full of the banalities of everyday life and the drama of scientific discovery.

And while the bomb was being invented, babies were born, friendships were forged, children grew up, and Los Alamos gradually transformed from an abandoned school on a hill into a real community: one that was strained by the words they couldn’t say out loud, the letters they couldn’t send home, the freedom they didn’t have. But the end of the war would bring even bigger challenges to the people of Los Alamos, as the scientists and their families struggled with the burden of their contribution to the most destructive force in the history of mankind.

The Wives of Los Alamos is a novel that sheds light onto one of the strangest and most monumental research projects in modern history. It's a testament to a remarkable group of women who carved out a life for themselves, in spite of the chaos of the war and the shroud of intense secrecy.
Jackie says:
"I've never read a book like this.  It's done in straight on point of view, but in a collective.  The entire book was 'We did this. We learned this.  We rarely saw our husbands.  We tried to make this muddy and unpleasant into a home. We were kept completely in the dark. They had to change their names and become someone else.  Los Alamos was a city with barbed wire surrounding it, started by a handful of people but ending up with thousands.  There was a military presence as well as a lay scientific group (the husbands and a handful of women in the labs).  The wives took turns being the teachers, the babysitters, trying to raise a family in this place of little explanation.  No one there could tell their extended family and friends where they went or why they couldn't visit.   It was years before grandparents, aunts and uncles got to see their new family members born at Los Alamos (they didn't even know the name or even the state their family had been whisked out to--all they could say is 'we're in the west').  Everything was monitored and rationed.  This is a very interesting book about an era that has been kept quiet since it was first conceived.  It's a window into a not so free United States and what genius can do for the world and to individuals."

The event is free and open to the public.   

"Arresting . . . Ms. Kolbert shows in these pages that she can write with elegiac poetry about the vanishing creatures of this planet, but the real power of her book resides in the hard science and historical context she delivers here, documenting the mounting losses that human beings are leaving in their wake." —The New York Times

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

Read an interview with the author HERE.

Read an interesting conversation between the author and her editor HERE.

TC Tidbit: John Green Talking Very Fast About His 18 Favorite Books

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fresh To The Shelf: New Suspense,Thriller and Horror Books
What if our civilization is more advanced than we know?
The New York Times bestselling author of Daemon—“the cyberthriller against which all others will be measured” (Publishers Weekly) —imagines a world in which decades of technological advances have been suppressed in an effort to prevent disruptive change.

Are smartphones really humanity’s most significant innovation since the moon landings? Or can something else explain why the bold visions of the 20th century—fusion power, genetic enhancements, artificial intelligence, cures for common diseases, extended human life, and a host of other world-changing advances—have remained beyond our grasp? Why has the high-tech future that seemed imminent in the 1960s failed to arrive?

Perhaps it did arrive…but only for a select few.

Particle physicist Jon Grady is ecstatic when his team achieves what they’ve been working toward for years: a device that can reflect gravity. Their research will revolutionize the field of physics—the crowning achievement of a career. Grady expects widespread acclaim for his entire team. The Nobel Prize. Instead, his lab is locked down by a shadowy organization whose mission is to prevent at all costs the social upheaval sudden technological advances bring. This Bureau of Technology Control uses the advanced technologies they have harvested over the decades to fulfill their mission.

They are living in our future.

Presented with the opportunity to join the BTC and improve his own technology in secret, Grady resists, and is instead thrown into a nightmarish high-tech prison built to hold rebellious geniuses like himself. With so many great intellects confined together, can Grady and his fellow prisoners conceive of a way to usher humanity out of its artificial dark age?

And can they hope to defeat an enemy who wields a technological advantage half a century in the making?
When a couple's lost child resurfaces they are forced to embark on a journey into their shared past—one rife with dark secrets and lies

Tangiers. Harry is preparing his wife's birthday dinner while she is still at work and their son, Dillon, is upstairs asleep in bed. Harry suddenly remembers that he's left Robin's gift at the café in town. It's only a five minute walk away and Dillon's so tricky to put down for the night, so Harry decides to run out on his own and fetch the present.

Disaster strikes. An earthquake hits, buildings crumble, people scream and run. Harry fights his way through the crowd to his house, only to find it razed to the ground. Dillon is presumed dead, though his body is never found.

Five years later, Harry and Robin have settled into a new kind of life after relocating to their native Dublin. Their grief will always be with them, but lately it feels as if they're ready for a new beginning. Harry's career as an artist is taking off and Robin has just realized that she's pregnant.

But when Harry gets a glimpse of Dillon on the crowded streets of Dublin, the past comes rushing back at both of them. Has Dillon been alive all these years? Or was what Harry saw just a figment of his guilt-ridden imagination? With razor-sharp writing, Karen Perry's The Innocent Sleep delivers a fast-paced, ingeniously plotted thriller brimming with deception, doubt, and betrayal.
Sam Dryden, retired special forces, lives a quiet life in a small town on the coast of Southern California. While out on a run in the middle of the night, a young girl runs into him on the seaside boardwalk. Barefoot and terrified, she’s running from a group of heavily armed men with one clear goal—to kill the fleeing child. After Dryden helps her evade her pursuers, he learns that the eleven year old, for as long as she can remember, has been kept in a secret prison by forces within the government. But she doesn’t know much beyond her own name, Rachel. She only remembers the past two months of her life—and that she has a skill that makes her very dangerous to these men and the hidden men in charge.

Dryden, who lost his wife and young daughter in an accident five years ago, agrees to help her try to unravel her own past and make sense of it, to protect her from the people who are moving heaven and earth to find them both. Although Dryden is only one man, he’s a man with the extraordinary skills and experience—as a Ranger, a Delta, and five years doing off-the-book black ops with an elite team. But, as he slowly begins to discover, the highly trained paramilitary forces on their heels is the only part of the danger they must face.  Will Rachel’s own unremembered past be the most deadly of them all?
Winner of the Scerbanenco Prize for the best Italian crime thriller, The Deliverance of Evil is a masterful psychological thriller about an edgy policeman’s personal evolution—or devolution—as seen through the lens of a devilish case that consumed him early in his career and continues to haunt him twenty-four years later.

With excitement over Berlusconi rise to power and Italy in a state of gleeful and frenzied anticipation over the national soccer team’s improbable run to the 1982 World Cup, Italians are filled with hopeful feelings. The night before the big match, Elisa Sordi—an attractive eighteen year-old employed by the Vatican—vanishes. The case falls to a young, hedonistic post-Fascist officer named Michele Balistreri. Headstrong and ambivalent about spending his life as a policeman, Balistreri is annoyed to be interrupted during the festivities and takes the case lightly. But when Elisa’s tortured corpse surfaces in the Tiber, Balistreri doubts he will ever be able to forgive himself for his inattention. After the man he arrested for the murder is exonerated, and tantalizing links to the Vatican and top right-wing politicians ignored, the case is never solved. Despondent, Michele spirals into drinking and depression.

Twenty-four years later Italy is victorious once again in the World Cup, but the nation has changed. The balloon of optimism from the Eighties has deflated, and the now-gloomy nation suffers under the arrogant and corrupt Berlusconi government. A weak economy and chaotic immigration policies that have inflamed racist sentiments provide a stark contrast to the last time Italy tasted sweet soccer victory. Disturbingly, more lax divorce laws have spawned a trend of “revenge” violence against women who try to assert their independence.

Suddenly Sordi’s mother apparently commits suicide, and then a slew of female corpses begin to turn up all with a letter of the alphabet carved into their bodies. The apparent hate behind the murders causes Balistreri to realize that the case that has haunted for twenty-four years may be heating up again, and with a newfound sense of purpose he charges into his work: the opportunity to redeem the darkest part of his past.

The murders continue, and what initially seemed to be the work of a lone psychopath reveals itself to be part of something much bigger and more dangerous. Finally Balistreri realizes that the letters marking each victim are spelling out a chilling message . . . addressed directly to him.
First Glen Duncan gave us his monstrously thrilling, genre-reinventing The Last Werewolf: the tale of Jake, a werewolf with a profoundly human heart, considering bringing to an end the timeless legend of his kind . . . Then Talulla Rising: Jake’s werewolf lover, mother to newborn twins, on the run from those who want her destroyed . . . And now By Blood We Live: a stunningly erotic love story that gives us the final battle for survival between werewolves and vampires, and one last searing—and brilliantly ironic—look at what it means to be, or not to be, human.

The story opens: Talulla has settled into an uneasy equilibrium. With her twins safely at her side, and the devotion of her lover, Walker, she has what appears to be a normal family life—except for their monthly transformation into werewolves hungry for human flesh. But even this hard-won, tenuous peace is undermined for Talulla by nagging thoughts of Remshi, the twenty-thousand-year-old vampire who haunts her dreams. For his part, Remshi can’t escape the feeling that he knows Talulla from many (many, many) years before. Still, they have their distractions: Talulla is being pursued by a fanatical, Vatican-based Christian cult, and Remshi is following a trail of reckless feedings by a newly turned vampire bent on revenge. But, as the novel unfolds, Talulla and Remshi are inexorably drawn to each other—and toward the moment when an ancient prophecy may finally come to pass.

“Blackwell treats readers to a retelling that makes historical fiction of the fantasy … Following in the inspired footsteps of Gregory Maguire’s fairy-tale twists, this debut novel puts a spellbinding new spin on a classic yarn.” —Booklist

Historical fiction at its best — The Brothers Grimm meets The Thirteenth Tale
I am not the sort of person about whom stories are told.
And so begins Elise Dalriss’s story. When she hears her great-granddaughter recount a minstrel’s tale about a beautiful princess asleep in a tower, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has long kept locked. For Elise was the companion to the real princess who slumbered—and she is the only one left who knows what actually happened so many years ago. Her story unveils a labyrinth where secrets connect to an inconceivable evil. As only Elise understands all too well, the truth is no fairy tale.

TC Tidbit: 2014 Spring /Summer Picture Book Preview

Saturday, February 22, 2014

New History Titles, Fact and Fiction
In Chaucer's London, betrayal, murder, royal intrigue, mystery, and dangerous politics swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the death of England's kings in Bruce Holsinger's A Burnable Book, an irresistible historical thriller reminiscent of the classics An Instance of the Fingerpost, The Name of the Rose, and The Crimson Petal and the White.

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers--including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt's flamboyant mistress, Katherine Swynford--England's young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London--catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the end of England's kings--and among the book's predictions is Richard's assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a "burnable book," a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low.

Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king's court to London's slums and stews--and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.

Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail--on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels--to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed epic literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.
Nancy Turner burst onto the literary scene with her hugely popular novels These Is My Words, Sarah’s Quilt, and The Star Garden. Now, Turner has written the novel she was born to write, this exciting and heartfelt story of a woman struggling to find herself during the tumultuous years preceding the American Revolution.

The year is 1729, and Resolute Talbot and her siblings are captured by pirates, taken from their family in Jamaica, and brought to the New World. Resolute and her sister are sold into slavery in New England and taught the trade of spinning and weaving. When Resolute finds herself alone in Lexington, Massachusetts, she struggles to find her way in a society that is quick to judge a young woman without a family. As the seeds of rebellion against England grow, Resolute is torn between following the rules and breaking free. Resolute’s talent at the loom places her at the center of an incredible web of secrecy that helped drive the American Revolution. Heart-wrenching, brilliantly written, and packed to the brim with adventure, My Name is Resolute is destined to be an instant classic.
Henry David Thoreau has long been an intellectual icon and folk hero. In this strikingly original profile, Michael Sims reveals how the bookish, quirky young man who kept quitting jobs evolved into the patron saint of environmentalism and nonviolent activism.

Working from nineteenth-century letters and diaries by Thoreau’s family, friends, and students, Sims charts Henry’s course from his time at Harvard through the years he spent living in a cabin beside Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.

Sims uncovers a previously hidden Thoreau—the rowdy boy reminiscent of Tom Sawyer, the sarcastic college iconoclast, the devoted son who kept imitating his beloved older brother’s choices in life. Thoreau was deeply influenced by his parents—his father owned a pencil factory in Concord, his mother was an abolitionist and social activist—and by Ralph Waldo Emerson, his frequent mentor. Sims relates intimate, telling moments in Thoreau’s daily life—in Emerson’s library; teaching his neighbor and friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne, to row a boat; exploring the natural world and Native American culture; tutoring Emerson’s nephew on Staten Island and walking the streets of New York in the hope of launching a writing career.

Returned from New York, Thoreau approached Emerson to ask if he could build a cabin on his mentor’s land on the shores of Walden Pond, anticipating the isolation would galvanize his thoughts and actions. That it did. While at the cabin, he wrote his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and refined the journal entries that formed the core of Walden. Resisting what he felt were unfair taxes, he spent the night in jail that led to his celebrated essay “Civil Disobedience,” which would inspire the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Chronicling Thoreau’s youthful transformation, Sims reveals how this decade would resonate over the rest of his life, and thereafter throughout American literature and history.
The true story of Eliot Ness, the legendary lawman who led the Untouchables, took on Al Capone, and saved a city’s soul

Eliot Ness is famous for leading the Untouchables against the notorious mobster Al Capone. But it turns out that the legendary Prohibition Bureau squad’s daring raids were only the beginning. Ness’s true legacy reaches far beyond Big
Al and Chicago.

Eliot Ness follows the lawman through his days in Chicago and into his forgotten second act. As the public safety director of Cleveland, he achieved his greatest success: purging the city of corruption so deep that the mob and the police were often one and the same. And it was here, too, that he faced one of his greatest challenges: a brutal, serial killer known as the Torso Murderer, who terrorized the city for years.

Eliot Ness presents the first complete picture of the real Eliot Ness. Both fearless and shockingly shy, he inspired courage and loyalty in men twice his age, forged law-enforcement innovations that are still with us today, and earned acclaim and scandal from both his professional and personal lives. Through it all, he believed unwaveringly in the integrity of law and the basic goodness of his fellow Americans.
The ultimate history of the Allied bombing campaigns in World War II

Technology shapes the nature of all wars, and the Second World War hinged on a most unpredictable weapon: the bomb. Day and night, Britain and the United States unleashed massive fleets of bombers to kill and terrorize occupied Europe, destroying its cities. The grisly consequences call into question how “moral” a war the Allies fought.

The Bombers and the Bombed radically overhauls our understanding of World War II. It pairs the story of the civilian front line in the Allied air war alongside the political context that shaped their strategic bombing campaigns, examining the responses to bombing and being bombed with renewed clarity.

The first book to examine seriously not only the well-known attacks on Dresden and Hamburg but also the significance of the firebombing on other fronts, including Italy, where the crisis was far more severe than anything experienced in Germany, this is Richard Overy’s finest work yet. It is a rich reminder of the terrible military, technological, and ethical issues that relentlessly drove all the war’s participants into an abyss.

"A multifaceted tale that explores love and the fragility of life; the author creates an introspective, poetic story that's deeply moving." ~Kirkus Reviews

A bestseller in France and winner of Japan s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, The Guest Cat, by the acclaimed poet Takashi Hiraide, is a subtly moving and exceptionally beautiful novel about the transient nature of life and idiosyncratic but deeply felt ways of living. A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo; they work at home, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much to say to one another. But one day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. Soon they are buying treats for the cat and enjoying talks about the animal and all its little ways. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife the days have more light and color. The novel brims with new small joys and many moments of staggering poetic beauty, but then something happens .

As Kenzaburo Oe has remarked, Takashi Hiraide s work "really shines." His poetry, which is remarkably cross-hatched with beauty, has been acclaimed here for "its seemingly endless string of shape-shifting objects and experiences, whose splintering effect is enacted via a unique combination of speed and minutiae."

Read an excerpt HERE.

TC Tidbit: 5 Steps To Purge Your Books

Friday, February 21, 2014

This Is The First Horror/Thriller That Made Jackie Cry

I loved this book.  It's creepy in a muted way for most of  the book, but it revs up considerably towards the end, with what I found to be a bit of a surprising closing.  I can't tell you how many bus/train stops I missed while engrossed in this novel.  The story goes back and forth between 1908 and the present day, creating puzzle pieces that the reader must put together right along with the characters.  It's a book about profound loves and losses, and what that does to your mind and heart.  It's about strong women fighting for their family.  It will have you checking door and window locks eventually (and probably hesitant about closets),  If you are like me, your own heart will hurt at the end of the book.  Me--I cried.  This is my first McMahon book, but it will not be the last.


Just a reminder