Saturday, December 14, 2013

2014 Shopping List

State of Wonder - Ann Patchett
Samaritan's Pistol - Eric Bishop
Lowland - Jhumpa Lahiri
The Fault in Our Stars - John Greene
When I Found You - Catherine Hyde
Defending Jacob - William Landy
Wonder - R.J. Palacio
The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd
The Rent Collector - Camron Wright
The Tiger's Wife - Tea Obreht
Same Kind of Different as Me - Ron Hall & Lynn Vincent

It's going to be a GREAT year!! :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sirpa's Suggestions

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
353 pages

Infidel shows the coming of age of this distinguished political superstar and champion of free speech as well as the development of her beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary determination to fight injustice. Raised in a strict Muslim family, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings, adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled, unstable countries ruled largely by despots. She escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she earned a college degree in political science, tried to help her tragically depressed sister adjust to the West, and fought for the rights of Muslim women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament. Under constant threat, demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from family and clan, she refuses to be silenced. . . Hirsi Ali’s story tells how a bright little girl evolves out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no other book could be more timely or more significant.

Killing Kennedy
by Bill O'Reilly
325 pages

In January 1961, as the Cold War escalates, John F. Kennedy struggles to contain the growth of Communism while he learns the hardships, solitude, and temptations of what it means to be president of the United States. Along the way he acquires a number of formidable enemies, among them Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Alan Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  In addition, powerful elements of organized crime have begun to talk about targeting the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

In the midst of a 1963 campaign trip to Texas, Kennedy is gunned down by an erratic young drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escapes the scene, only to be caught and shot dead while in police custody.

The events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century are almost as shocking as the assassination itself. Killing Kennedy chronicles both the heroism and deceit of Camelot, bringing history to life.

The Signature of All Things
by Elizabeth Gilbert
512 pages

Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rosalie's Suggestions

by Robert Crais
Fiction-–312 pages

Maggie, a German Shephard military dog, was severely injured by a sniper while she was guarding the body of her Marine partner who died while hunting for explosives in Afghanistan.  A vet saved her life, but she now suffers from PTSD. So her superb training won't go to waste, she is eventually adopted by the LA K-9 unit.

LAPD officer Scott James also suffers from PTSD from an ambush shooting that left his partner dead.  He requests the K-9 unit instead of a medical discharge. The K-9 unit captain doesn't quite know what to do with the emotionally and physically disabled hero who refuses to retire quietly and a dog that startles at loud noises. Both are on the verge of washing out of the service .   Against his better judgment, the captain assigns Maggie to Scott.   Man and dog begin to form an alliance as they endeavor to heal themselves and each other, while Scott searches for the criminals who murdered his partner.

I liked the way short sections  are told from Maggie's  perspective–how the dog sees with her nose and sorts out the various scents, and also how she finds her greatest joy in being part of a pack.  By the end she and Scott are "pack."  This was a satisfying read.

In a Dry Season
by Peter Robinson
Detective Mystery--422 pages

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is called to investigate a skeleton found in the ruins of a deserted village. Flooded by a reservoir shortly after World War II, Hobb's End had been under water until a recent drought exposed its remnants. Thanks to modern forensics, Banks and the local Detective Sergeant, Annie Cabbot, learn that the remains were those of a young woman who had been strangled and then stabbed.  An apparent 50-year-old crime faces Banks and Cabbot as they go about gathering facts in an attempt to determine the identities of the victim and her murderer. The charm of this story lies in the way it is played out. Readers are privy to the thoughts of the characters from 50 years ago as their story is told as it happened.  Readers learn about life in a small village in England during World War II. Interspersed with these chapters are the investigations, interviews, and research conducted by the detectives in the present day. The traits and foibles of the townspeople take shape and a portrait of the victim emerges. Despite its length,  this book is an easy read.