TWISTED SUMMER READS

A summer read for twisted minds, Bum Rap, by James Levine, arrives at the library on July 1. How can you not love a character whose motto is “Buckle your chin strap and hit somebody”, especially if the character in question is a lawyer?  Granted, he’s a lawyer who used to be an NFL linebacker (this particular piece of advice is not usually taught in law school), but still, when you have to hunt for a vital witness who might save your client’s life or might be killed by the Russian mob if you don’t get to her first, that attitude could be very helpful.  Set in Miami, the book should be an entertaining mix of suspense and humor.

A former kidnap victim, trying desperately to put her four years of captivity behind her and move on with her life, is horrified to learn that her kidnapper has managed to escape from the psychiatric hospital where he’d been confined for years.  Reeve LeClaire, the heroine of What Doesn’t Kill Her, by Carla Norton, is put in a nightmarish position: little as she wants to even remember her time with Darryl Wayne Flint, she may be the only person who knows him well enough to be able to stop him. Reviewers have called this a nail-biter of a novel, with a memorable and courageous heroine to cheer for.

It’s always unsettling to discover that a person close to you is not what you thought he was. It’s more unsettling when your discovery is prompted by the sudden and ugly death of that person, and when it appears that your pets were responsible for killing him. This is the situation in which Morgan Prager, the protagonist of The Hand that Feeds You, by A. J. Rich, finds herself.  Not only is her fiancee brutally killed, apparently by her dogs, but she discovers she wasn’t his only fiancee and basically everything he told her was a lie.  And then his other fiancees are murdered, one by one, as well, and Morgan’s quest for the truth takes on a personal urgency.  A chilling book for the hot days of July.

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THE THRILLS OF HISTORY : REBEL QUEEN REVIEW

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m crazy about history.  I’m the sort of person who reads a nonfiction book of history and reads the footnotes (hey, don’t knock it!  Sometimes there’s really interesting stuff in footnotes!), but I’m kind of picky when it comes to historical fiction.  Sometimes writers don’t do their homework and mess up the history in a so-called historical novel, not so much changing major events as giving people in the past attitudes and thoughts and behaviors they would never have had (I’m thinking of the movie Titanic here, but don’t get me started on that!).  However, when an author knows his or her history AND has the ability to tell a gripping story, I’m one happy camper.

Which brings me to Michelle Moran’s book (still on the New Fiction shelf), Rebel Queen.  It’s a terrific book in all respects: set during the Sepoy Mutiny in India in 1857, a thrilling and dangerous period in Indian history, it focuses on one of the most intriguing real life characters of the uprising, the Rani of Jhansi, Queen Lakshmi, who raised two armies to fight the British and protect her country.  One army was composed of men, the other was composed of women (all historically accurate, by the way!), and it is Sita, a young woman chosen to be a soldier in the Rani’s female army, who is our protagonist and first person narrator.

You could hardly go wrong with this historical setting for action and suspense (even if you know how the war turns out, and what ultimately happened to Jhansi, as I did, the book keeps you on tenterhooks), and Sita is an engaging heroine, far from the perfect amazon you would expect, but strong and determined and going through all this to protect her family, as Queen Lakshmi is fighting to protect her people.

For an exciting, well-written historical novel about a period many Americans are unfamiliar with, you could hardly do better than to take out Rebel Queen, by Michelle Moran.

THE THRILL OF IT ALL: NEW MYSTERIES AND THRILLERS

For those who want their blood pressure raised and their brains challenged to solve new and intriguing puzzles, we have some fascinating new mysteries and thrillers coming to the Field in the near future.

Out this week, on June 23, is The Cartel, by Don Winslow, which brings us to the terrible Mexican-American drug wars of the last decade.  DEA agent Art Keller retired in 2004 after sending Adan Barrera, head of one of the worst cartels, to prison. Keller hoped this would end Barrera’s reign of terror once and for all, but when Barrera is released and starts rebuilding his empire, Keller begins a ten year odyssey to get rid of Barrera forever.  Is he seeking justice or revenge, and what will it cost him to “win” in this case?  The background of the drug war draws the reader from Mexico to Washington, DC, to Berlin and Barcelona, as powerful cartels battle for domination and corruption is everywhere. This should be an engrossing read.

Daniel Silva, a well known bestselling author, adds another to his string of successful spy thrillers starring Gabriel Allon in The English Spy, released on June 30.  The book begins with the explosion of a bomb on a yacht occupied by the former wife of a British prince. Gabriel is called into action to track down a notorious but famously elusive bombmaker and merchant of death, Eamon Quinn, and on the trail with Gabriel is Christopher Keller, a British Commando turned assassin.  Pulse pounding action, twists and turns, international intrigue: what more could you ask from a thriller?

There are many different sorts of heroes and heroines of the mystery genre, but the protagonist in Time’s Up, by Janey Mack, which comes out on June 30, may be unique in her profession.  She’s a meter maid.  Not that Maisie McGrane intended to end up in that role.  She wanted to follow her father and brothers into the police department, but when she got expelled from the police academy, she had to lower her expectations.  However, she hasn’t given up hope nor her sense of justice, and when she happens across a dead body, even though her police officer brothers warn her off further investigations, she’s not going to stop digging until she finds out what happened and who was responsible. Maisie is gutsy and determined, and we can only hope this isn’t the last we’re going to see of this character.

Excitement, intrigue and vivid characters: come to the Field and get acquainted.

TRAVEL WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR HOME

As summer begins to grind on into those hot humid days we all remember so fondly (ha!) from summers past, it’s a good time to get away from it all.  Rather than spend the money and deal with all the aggravation of trains, planes and automobiles at this time of year, why not try some new books set in faraway places?  It’s easy to get absorbed in another culture, another country, when you’re reading a well-written novel, and you’re in luck because we have some intriguing new books set in unusual places coming out in the next couple of weeks, just begging to take you away from it all.

Only Wounded: Stories of the Irish Troubles, by well known and much loved Irish author Patrick Taylor, is set in the not-too distant past, the time of the sectarian violence known euphemistically as “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland.  With his usual skill at characterization and his empathy for ordinary people caught up in difficult times, Taylor brings the reader into the world of bombings and attacks, people trying to survive and live decent lives in the midst of chaos. Only Wounded will be on our shelves on June 23.

Moving from the tragedies of Northern Ireland in the 1970’s to Argentina in and around 1913, The Gods of Tango, by Carolina deRobertis, brings us an intriguing heroine, Leda, a young Italian woman who comes to Buenos Aires to join her husband there. Upon discovering, to her shock, that her husband is dead, Leda takes a bold step: she disguises herself as a man to play the violin with tango bands, bringing the music from brothels and bars to high society.  Atmospheric, filled with music and intrigue and the rhythms of the tango, this is a book to dive into and savor when it arrives at the library on July 7.

Coming to the library on June 30, Flame Tree Road, by Shona Patel, takes us to 1870’s India and a young man, Biren Roy, who sets out to change the narrow rules of his society. After seeing his mother’s suffering upon her widowhood, he  becomes a lawyer and goes to work for the government, fighting for academic equality for girls in a caste-ridden, colonialized society.  Progress always comes with a price, and Biren finds his efforts make him a stranger among his countrymen. The love of Maya, an independent-minded daughter of an educator, ignites his energies and gives him strength to continue struggling for what he believes is right.  The language is rich and evocative, bringing the world and the time to life.

Come in and check us out!

WHY YOU — YES, YOU — SHOULD TAKE OUT A NOOK FROM THE LIBRARY

Perhaps you’re reading that headline and resisting the idea.  Perhaps you’re just opposed to the whole concept of electronic books and love books on paper, as physical objects.  Or, contrariwise, perhaps you’ve got an e-reader of your own already and see no need to take one out from the library.*  In either case, I’m going to try to persuade you to give our Nooks a try.

Let’s start with the first group of people.  I have great sympathy for anyone in the “I don’t want my beautiful books superseded by electronic devices!  I want a library with shelves of books, not screens!” camp.  I’ve been there myself, and (obviously) love books to excess.  However, there are times when an electronic reader makes more sense than carrying around an armful of books.

One of those times is when you’re traveling.  I personally have had one occasion when I was flying internationally and I foolishly brought only a couple of books, which I finished reading (even more foolishly!) before the beginning of my return trip.  Imagine being stuck in an airport with nothing to read!  Imagine a seven hour flight with no books!  Yes, it was horrifying and I don’t know how I managed to survive. Each of the library’s Nooks is preloaded with a hundred books.  This could have stood me in good stead for a trip around the world (all right, maybe not that long, but you get the idea).

Nooks are also lightweight and very portable, and you can read them in semi-darkness with the glow-light feature. The weight issue alone makes them worth bringing on a long trip (realistically, there are only so many physical books you can carry at a time, even if they’re all paperbacks).

Another advantage of Nooks is print size.  Sadly, not every book you want to read is in large print and sometimes large print is your best option for reading (especially those of us who are no longer in our 20’s or even 30’s).  You can change the print size of any book contained in any Nook by a simple touch.  All books can be large print if you want!

Finally, you should at least try a Nook so you can have a rational basis for telling people that you prefer reading books on paper to books on devices. It might turn out that once you’ve tried a Nook, you’ll like it, perhaps not to the point where you prefer them to books on paper, but perhaps as a supplement to “real” books.  How will you ever know for sure if you don’t give a Nook a try?  And where will you ever get the opportunity to try a Nook with less risk than by taking one out of the library?

Now, for people in the second category, the people who have their own electronic reading devices, whether Nooks or Kindles or iPads or whatever.  You’re probably thinking you don’t need to take out a Nook; you already have one (or the equivalent) and you’re already sold on the idea of reading on electronic devices.

For you, the issue isn’t the Nook itself, but all the things on the Nook.  Each one is unique, with a slightly different set of books.  There are five specialized Nooks: one is for nonfiction, one is for romance, one is for thrillers and mysteries, one is for urban fiction, one for science fiction and fantasy.  If you take one of the specialized ones out, you are likely to find books in that genre you haven’t read before, maybe even ones you haven’t seen before. Even if you take one of the non-specialized ones, you’re likely to find books you haven’t encountered before.

Not to mention that a Nook can be (to some extent) personalized.  Is there a hot book that you want that’s got hundreds of holds so you won’t get it for ages? How about that book for your book club that you can’t get anywhere in time for the meeting.  It’s possible we can download it to a Nook while you’re waiting!  Talk about service!

Interested?  Come on over to the Nook Catalog of the Field Library and see what we have, and then come in and take a Nook for a spin yourself.  You won’t regret it.

*Or perhaps you have no idea what a nook is or why anyone would want one, in which case this entire post will be incomprehensible to you, and I apologize for that.

BRING ON THE BESTSELLERS!

Come in to the Field to discover the latest books by bestselling authors, hot off the presses!

James Patterson, whose output volume is almost frightening, has a new standalone thriller arriving on our shelves on June 22, called Truth or Die.  His main character, a lawyer named Trevor Mann, accidentally comes into possession of a secret so powerful that governments as well as terrorist organizations all want to get their hands on it.  Mann, together with his sidekick, a teenage computer genius, have to protect the secret from getting into the wrong hands. Of course, the first and harder task is to figure out which are the wrong hands.  This is James Patterson, so you know it will be a quick roller coaster of a read.

A master of suspense, Mary Higgins Clark also has a new book coming out on Tuesday, June 23. The Melody Lingers On brings a young interior designer, Lane Harmon, into the middle of a mystery when she starts a job at the home of a missing financier.  The financier in question disappeared years before, along with the billions of dollars invested in the fund he managed. Lane is drawn into the question of the man’s fate when she meets his wife (or widow?) and his son, both of whom believe in his innocence.  As Lane develops feelings for Eric, the financier’s son, she doesn’t realize she is putting her life and the life of her four year old daughter into jeopardy. Will the truth come out? And if it does, what will the truth cost Lane and those she’s becoming involved with?

Lizzy and Diesel, the protagonists of Janet Evanovich’s Wicked series, return in a new mystery, Wicked Charms, on the 23rd as well. Here LIzzy and Diesel are thrown into the search for a Stone of Avarice, supposedly buried as part of a famous pirate’s treasure a hundred years before.  They are, of course, not the only ones seeking this treasure, and some of the other treasure hunters are desperate enough to do anything to get what they want.  A swashbuckling adventure with Evanovich’s trademark charm and humor, this book should thrill all Lizzy and Diesel’s fans and make new ones as well.
Candace Bushnell may not be as much of a household name as Patterson, Clark and Evanovich, but as the creator of Sex and the CIty, she’s quite experienced at writing fun books that entertain millions.  Her newest book, Killing Monica, obviously plays on her own fame and history.  Pandy Wallis, the main character, is sick of her famous character, Monica, the star of a series of novels made into movies.  Pandy, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, wants to write something completely different, but her public, her publisher and even her husband all want her to keep writing Monica books, like it or not.  Given an opportunity to reinvent herself, Pandy leaps at the chance to get away from her character once and for all, with the help of her ex-best friend who plays Monica in the movies, and who may or may not want the same things Pandy does. Filled with wit and delicious details about life in the fast lane, Killing Monica is a fast fun summer read.

THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH: NEW AND HOT NONFICTION

You know how people say truth is stranger than fiction?  Well, sometimes a really well-written nonfiction book on a fascinating subject can be better, more engrossing reading than a novel.  Hard to believe?  Take a look at three new nonfiction books on our shelves and decide for yourself.

First, for all of us who are devotees (whether we admit it or not) of the television show Orange is the New Black (the source book for this show, by the way, is also on our shelves and an interesting read, but not the one I’m highlighting now), haven’t you wondered about the real women behind some of the other characters besides Piper Chapman?  It turns out that the real Alex Vause was a woman by the name of Cleary Wolters, and she’s come out with a memoir entitled Out of Orange.  Naturally, her true life story differs from that of her fictional counterpart, but she spins an exciting tale and sheds a new light on Alex Vause and the realities of women running drugs and ending in prison.

Looking for something more practical but still very readable?  Parents of high school and college students (and perhaps the students themselves) will find a lot to consider in the new book, Will College Pay Off? A Guide to the Most Important Financial Decision You’ll Ever Make, by Peter Cappelli.  This clearly written (and well-researched) and non-ideological book, filled with graphs and charts, not only talks about the link between a college education and a well-paying job, but delves deeper into how students can get the most out of college when they’re there, whether financial aid applications change a college’s decision to admit someone, how to get that first job after college and whether unpaid internships are a good idea or not, and other questions you wouldn’t necessarily assume are covered by the book’s title.

And finally, who doesn’t like a story about scandal, fraud and wild living, especially one that involves other people and doesn’t actually affect you?  The book Empire of Deception, The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated a Nation, by Dean Jobb, takes us to Chicago in the Roaring Twenties and introduces us to a fascinating con man, one Leo Koretz, who swindled people out of $30 million in 1920’s money (probably something like $400 million in present day money) by enticing them to buy nonexistent timberlands and oil wells.  Then, when things got hot, he disappeared altogether, leading to an international manhunt lasting almost a year. After he was finally caught, his trial became one of those juicy criminal trials, of which there were so many in this period, which fascinated the whole nation.  Not being a man to do anything the ordinary way, Koretz died mysteriously in prison.  Greed, illicit sex, dirty politics, corruption of all kinds and a character at the center of it all who’s charismatic and brilliant: what’s not to like?  Check it out at the Field.

ANNIHILATION: A WILD RIDE

The 2015 winner of the Nebula award, a prestigious science fiction award voted on by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, is Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer, and it is an amazing read!  Even if you don’t think you like science fiction, you may find yourself enthralled by this page-turner of a novel.

The book is set in a near future earth, where an expedition is being sent into Area X, a part of North Carolina which is blocked off from the rest of the country due to some undescribed event that changed the flora and fauna and the very earth and sea of the place.  A shadowy organization, the Southern Reach, has been sending expeditions of explorers into this area for some time, with terrible results.  This book is about the experiences of the members of (what they think is) the 12th expedition.  The people from the 11th expedition appeared at their homes mysteriously, with no memory of how they left Area X and very changed personalities; all of them died of cancer within six months after returning.  None of the other expeditions had any survivors.

I’m reluctant to say much about the plot, because half the fun of the book is making discoveries as our protagonist, described only as the Biologist (the other members of her expedition are the Anthropologist, the Surveyor and the sinister Psychologist), does.  As she and her group explore tunnel (or perhaps a tower buried underground) with living writing on its walls, everything they encounter brings up more questions, not only about Area X and what might have happened there, what might still be happening there, but also about the nature of these expeditions and the disturbing things the Southern Reach has been doing to the people who have undertaken these explorations.

The book has a powerful sense of place, though it’s no place you’d want to be for very long.  The plants and animals, the deserted village, the lighthouse which seems to have been used as a fortress as well, all come alive vividly enough to haunt your dreams.

The Biologist is a somewhat unreliable narrator, dropping hints early on about what happened to this expedition and leaving out significant blocks of information about her background and her connection to the 11th expedition until fairly late in the book, but these omissions and additions just add to the tension and mystery, pulling the reader deeper and deeper into the strange world where nothing is as it seems and revelation after revelation shakes your sense of what is going on and what might happen next.

This book is atmospheric and disturbing, but absolutely un-put-down-able.  The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America knew what they were doing when they chose this as the best Speculative Fiction novel published in 2014.  Do yourself a favor and enter the weird world of Area X in Annihilation.

THE ALTERNATIVES AWAIT: NEW SPECULATIVE FICTION AT THE FIELD

Welcome to the future, or to alternate versions of this reality.  If you want to really get away from it all this summer, why not try some of our new speculative fiction books, coming out in the next couple of weeks?

Let’s start with the nature of reality itself. In Beyond Redemption, by Michael R. Fletcher, belief defines reality, and so the people with the strongest delusions are able to warp reality to match their delusions. If you’re thinking, “How would religion work in such a world?”, you’re thinking along the right track. High Priest Konig shapes the beliefs of his followers, focusing on turning a young man, Mogen, into a god, a god he can control.  Of course, there are other people who would like to control this would-be god, and time is running out.  The author has been compared to Neil Gaiman, which is a powerful recommendation by itself.

Or we could turn to urban fantasy with Trailer Park Fae, by Lilith Saintcrow, which arrives on our shelves on June 23.  In this world, the fae (fairies) interact with a somewhat gritty world of trailer parks, diners and dive bars.  A half-fae, Jeremiah Gallow, is minding his own business, working in a garage, trying to forget his past with the other world, his closeness to the Summer Queen, the tattoos on his arms that could transform into weapons.  Naturally, he will not be allowed to remain a semblance of an ordinary man, as he is dragged back into the Fairy world, the fate of which depends on him, by a woman who looks disturbingly like his late wife.  A quirky beginning to a new series by a prolific writer.

In a similar vein, The Devil’s Only Friend, by Dan Wells, brings us to a world where the FBI hires our protagonist, John Wayne Cleaver, to hunt and kill demons and other monsters, at which he’s very skilled and has been very successful so far.  Of course it’s cost him: demons have killed his neighbors, his family, and the girl he loved, and his best friend is locked away in a mental institution.  He’s not thrilled to be bossed around by the FBI, either, and when all hell breaks loose (literally), it’s his job to serve and protect, like it or not.

The title of Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War, by P. W. Singer and August Cole, gives a hint of what this book is about. In 2026, a new Cold War has turned very hot, with China, the United States and Russia battling it out on land, sea, air and in cyberspace, with drones, battleships, veterans as insurgents, teenage hackers, Silicon Valley billionaires and even a serial killer all playing their parts in a war for the survival of America, written by experts in modern warfare.  It’s been billed as a futuristic Hunt for Red October and should be a page-turner that will make our current political climate seem almost quaint.

NEW THRILLERS AND MYSTERIES : WHERE THE ACTION IS

If you want to lose yourself in a dynamic, exciting read, head for the Field Library and check out our newest mysteries and thrillers, by authors you know and authors you might not have heard of yet. Let’s start with bestselling author Brad Meltzer.  His new book, The President’s Shadow, arrives on our shelves on Tuesday, June 16, and begins with an arresting premise: a human arm is discovered, buried in the Rose Garden at the White House. Whose is it? Is it a threat?  And if so, who’s being threatened?  Beecher White, a young man with an ordinary title but a secret responsibility to protect the Presidency, begins to investigate the arm and its meaning, and his investigation takes him deep in to American history, to uncover a shocking secret. Eleanor Kuhns, beloved author of A Simple Murder, Death of a Dyer and Cradle to Grave, takes readers back to 18th century New England in her new novel, Death in Salem, where a young woman is accused of murder and a man tries to prove her innocence while navigating the murky politics and secrets of a town with much to hide. As usual, Kuhns brings the setting and the characters to vivid life and engrosses her readers in an intriguing whodunnit. For a different, and darker, read, there’s Tom Wright’s new novel, Blackbird. Set in the deep South, on the Arkansas-Texas-Louisiana border, it opens with the crucifixion of a woman the day after a terrible storm. Detective Bonham, investigating the horrific crime, recognizes the victim as Dr. Deborah Gold, the town’s psychologist.  Who would do such a thing and why?  The investigation brings him to questions of cults and therapy, the victim’s relationships with other people in the town and area, and deeper questions about violence and savagery and small-town life.  Not for the squeamish (as you might guess from the opening scenes), but for those who like a walk on the dark side, this should be an enthralling read. Moving from the deep South to the Maine portion of the Appalachian Trail, Paul Doiron’s book, The Precipice, presents Game Warden Mike Bowdoin and wildlife biologist Stacey Stevens with a pair of missing hikers amidst increasingly savage coyote attacks in the area. When two corpses are found, the bones picked clean by coyotes, the obvious question is whether these are the missing hikers, and of course the coyotes are blamed for killing them.  But the obvious answers are not necessarily the right ones, and it may be that there are other predators, more dangerous and deadly, hiding behind the bad reputation of the coyotes, and these predators are still active. Come check out the new thrillers and mysteries and get away from it all.