Monday, December 14, 2009

Staff Pick: Sharp Objects

Book Cover

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

The main character of this dark debut thriller is Camille Preaker, a newspaper reporter in suburban Chicago who has worked hard to leave her troubled past and dysfunctional family behind her in southern Missouri. She is forced to revisit her old life, however, when her editor sends her back to her hometown to get a personal angle on the story of two murdered girls found there, the victims of a suspected serial killer. She returns to her childhood home and reunites with her distant, cold mother, her ghostly/ghastly stepfather, and her half sister, who is at thirteen, the ultimate mean girl. As the murder investigation unfolds, the reader peers into both Camille's troubled past as well as the small town's darkest corners. Flynn does an excellent job at conveying an impending sense of doom as well as misdirecting the reader right up until the last page. An original and satisfying literary mystery.

Gillian Flynn was born in Kansas City, graduated from KU with degrees in English and journalism, and went on to be the chief TV critic at Entertainment Weekly. Sharp Objects was a finalist for an Edgar Award and the winner of several Dagger Awards. The author is currently working on the screenplay adaptation of this book. Her second book, Dark Places, was also a critically acclaimed best seller.

Susan - Adult Services

More about the book

Friday, November 27, 2009

If You Liked The Kite Runner...

If you enjoyed The Kite Runner, you might also like one of these stories of individual struggles and triumphs in the midst of overpowering regimes and repressive cultures.

The Swallows of Kabul
by Yasmina Khadra

This short, compelling novel follows the lives of two men, one a jailer and the other a shopkeeper, and their wives as they struggle to live under the Taliban’s oppressive regime. An act of brutal public violence sets off a chain of events that affect them all in unforeseen ways and intertwine their lives forever.

More about the book

Madras on Rainy Days
by Samina Ali

Layla, a young Indian woman who spent much of her life in America, returns to India for an arranged Islamic marriage . There, she tries to reconcile the freedom she has experienced with the traditions she is now expected to uphold, all the while trying to keep secrets hidden and appearances proper.

More about the book

The Power of One
by Bryce Courtenay

A powerful coming of age story set in apartheid-era South Africa, this novel is told by young Peekay, a white boy who must fight to find his place amidst black and white, Boer and English, and ultimately good and evil as he makes his way from farm life to boarding school to the boxing ring to adulthood.

More about the book

Sister of My Heart
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Two cousins are born on the same day into vastly different worlds of Indian society, one is the daughter of a wealthy upper-caste scion and the other the child of the family’s black sheep. Despite their differences, the two girls always feel a deep, inexplicable bond that is eventually shattered by a dark family secret that will set them on two very different paths.

More about the book

Sons of Heaven
by Terrance Cheng

Xiao-Di is a an intelligent and idealistic young man who, having been blacklisted by the Chinese government and shunned by his older brother, joins the growing student protest movement in Beijing. Inspired by the famous photo of a lone, unknown young man standing in front of an army tank during the Tiananmen Square uprising, this novel speculates on the people and events that led up to that iconic moment.

More about the book

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If You Liked Twilight...

Just in time for the theatrical release of New Moon, here are more vampire tales you might enjoy.

Books written for a young-adult audience:

Blue Bloods
by Melissa de la Cruz

The students at an exclusive New York City prep school are rich, powerful, and have a thirst for human blood. When 15-year-old Shuyler Van Alen starts to crave raw meat and have flashbacks to ancient times, she begins to grasp her family’s deadly secret. Sequels: Masquerade and Revelations.

More about the book

Vampire High
by Douglas Rees

The students at Cody Elliot’s new high school seem a little odd. They avoid sunlight, have superhuman strength, and make frequent trips to the blood bank. Cody thinks they might be vampires and is a little worried about fitting in.

More about the book

Vampire Kisses Series
by Ellen Schreiber

A new family has moved into the local abandoned mansion. Raven, a 16-year-old, vampire-obsessed goth girl, suspects that they might be vampires and soon finds herself falling for the new boy in town. First book in the series is Vampire Kisses.

More about the book

by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Orphaned 17-year-old Quince Morris is reopening her parent’s vampire-themed restaurant with the help of her uncle. Her plans start to hemorrhage when the chef is mauled to death, possibly by Quince’s boyfriend who happens to be a werewolf.

More about the book

Companions of the Night
by Vivian Vande Velde

Kerry Nowicki, a 16 year-old girl, encounters a vampire-lynching party during a late night trip the laundromat. When she helps the accused vampire escape, a complicated game of cat and mouse follows.

More about the book

Peeps: A Novel
by Scott Westerfeld

After moving to New York, 19-year-old Cal Thompson contracts a parasite that causes vampirism. Luckily for Cal, though he is a “peep”, he is partly immune. Cal is recruited to work for a shadowy organization that tracks down dangerous peeps and starts to believe that things are not what they seem.

More about the book

by Kate Cary

This novel uses diary excerpts from each main character to piece together the story of a World War I nurse who falls in love with a descendant of count Dracula. She travels to Romania to be married before understanding the disturbing truth about her future in-laws. Followed by the sequel Bloodline: Reckoning.

More about the book

Books written for an adult audience:

Southern Vampire Mysteries Series
by Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in rural Louisiana who tries to keep to herself for a good reason: She can read minds. Her life starts to get a little stranger, and a lot more violent, when she starts dating a vampire named Bill. First book in the series is Dead Until Dark.

More about the book

Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter Series
by Laurell K. Hamilton

Anita Blake, a detective who happens to be able to temporarily raise the dead, lives in a version of St. Louis where vampires, werewolves, and other fantastic creatures have been partially integrated into society. First in the series is Guilty Pleasures.

More about the book

by Robin McKinley

On one eventful night, the self-proclaimed “Cinnamon Roll Queen of Charlie's Coffeehouse” discovers her dormant magical powers after being chained to a good-hearted vampire named Constantine. Together, they’ll need to outrun and outwit the group of evil vampires that brought them together to begin with.

More about the book

Rachel Morgan Series
by Kim Harrison

Rachel Morgan is a witch from Cincinnati who is in the private investigator/bounty hunter business with a vampire and a four-inch-tall pixie as partners. Her problems, however, are all too human. First in the series is Dead Witch Walking.

More about the book

Black Dagger Brotherhood Series
by J.R. Ward

In this romance series, Beth, a twenty-five-year-old with dim career prospects, learns that she is half-vampire after she awakens one night to find a very large, very dangerous-looking man standing at her door. First in the series is Dark Lover.

More about the book

Dark-Hunter Series
by Sherrilyn Kenyon

This long-running and immensely popular romance series revolves around the Dark-Hunters--vampire-like creatures in and around New Orleans. Start with Night Pleasures, the story of an ancient warrior who falls for a human woman after nearly two thousand years alone.

More about the book

Friday, November 6, 2009

Staff Pick: Out of Sheer Rage

Book Cover

Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence by Geoff Dyer

Out of Sheer Rage takes its title and epigraph from a letter penned by D.H. Lawrence in 1914. “Out of sheer rage,” he wrote, “I've begun my book on Thomas Hardy. It will be about anything but Thomas Hardy I am afraid -- queer stuff -- but not bad.''

Like his subject before him, Geoff Dyer wrote a book on Lawrence that is not really about Lawrence. If anything, it is a book about Dyer’s inability to write a book about Lawrence. Not only is it not bad, it’s very smart and very funny.

Out of Sheer Rage seamlessly and quite discursively mixes travelogue, literary criticism, biography, memoir, and cultural commentary. As Dyer and his “almost wife” Laura embark on a series of trips to former homes and haunts of Lawrence, he holds forth on topics as diverse as the limits of contemporary fiction and his own bad knees. In the end, the book offers some well-earned lessons about the practice of daily life and the roles and possibilities of art. The reader will also learn a little about D. H. Lawrence.

Jacob - Adult Services

More on the book

Friday, October 30, 2009

Have You Read...Haruki Murakami?

Quirky, surreal, bizarre, ironic, and completely original are all adjectives used to describe Japanese author Haruki Murakami's fiction. Acclaimed by critics world-wide, he writes about themes of modern life, especially the alienation that comes from an increasingly technological society. His works often center on a young, modern man who approaches the bizarre circumstances he finds himself in with a dry, deadpan perspective. Although they almost always take place in Japan, his stories and novels are full of references to American popular culture and could almost take place anywhere. If you are looking for a fresh voice and a unique point of view, check out one of Murakami's books. We recommend the following:

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria. - Publisher Description

More about the book

A Wild Sheep Chase

It begins simply enough: A twenty-something advertising executive receives a postcard from a friend, and casually appropriates the image for an insurance company's advertisement. What he doesn’t realize is that included in the pastoral scene is a mutant sheep with a star on its back, and in using this photo he has unwittingly captured the attention of a man in black who offers a menacing ultimatum: find the sheep or face dire consequences. Thus begins a surreal and elaborate quest that takes our hero from the urban haunts of Tokyo to the remote and snowy mountains of northern Japan, where he confronts not only the mythological sheep, but the confines of tradition and the demons deep within himself. - Publisher Description

More about the book

Norwegian Wood

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman. - Publisher Description

More about the book

Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. - Publisher Description

More about the book

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Have You Read...Penelope Fitzgerald?

British author Penelope Fitzgerald penned her first book at age 58, after a career as a teacher, bookseller, and mother. The winner of England's prestigious Booker Prize and the first non-American to win the National Book Critics Circle Award, she is known for a spare writing style applied to intricate plots and deft characterizations. Though her novels rarely exceed 200 pages, they are as satisfying as a longer yarn because of their attention to detail, distinct settings, and the complex moral situations her characters confront. Many of her novels were based very loosely on her own life experiences. Fitzgerald died in 2000, at the age of 83. If you're interested in trying one of her novels, we recommend one of these:

The Blue Flower

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. In eighteenth-century Germany, the impetuous student of philosophy who will later gain fame as the Romantic poet Novalis seeks his father's permission to wed his true philosophy -- a plain, simple child named Sophie. The attachment shocks his family and friends. This brilliant young man, betrothed to a twelve-year-old dullard! How can it be? -Publisher Description

More about the book


Winner of the Booker Prize. On the Battersea Reach of the Thames, a mixed bag of eccentrics live in houseboats. Belonging to neither land nor sea, they belong to one another. There is Maurice, a homosexual prostitute; Richard, a buttoned-up ex-navy man; but most of all there's Nenna, the struggling mother of two wild little girls. How each of their lives complicates the others is the stuff of this perfect little novel. -Publisher Description

More about the book

The Bookshop

In 1959 Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop - the only bookshop - in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town's less prosperous shopkeepers. By daring to enlarge her neighbors' lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne. Florence's warehouse leaks, her cellar seeps, and the shop is apparently haunted. Only too late does she begin to suspect the truth: a town that lacks a bookshop isn't always a town that wants one. -Publisher Description

More about the book

Human Voices

When British listeners tuned in to the BBC's Nine O'Clock News in the middle of 1940, they had no idea what human dramas-and follies-were unfolding behind the scenes. Targeted by enemy bombers, the BBC had turned its concert hall into a dormitory for both sexes, and personal chaos rivaled the political. The tense relationship between two departmental directors is at the center of Human Voices, as is Annie, a sixteen-year-old assistant who falls hopelessly in love with the monstrously selfish one. Reading this intimate glimpse behind the scenes of the BBC in its heyday, "one is left with the sensation," William Boyd wrote in London Magazine, "that this is what is was really like." -Publisher Description

More about the book

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Reintroducing BookLetters

BookLetters is a service that provides libraries with newsletters tailored to every age and taste and up-to-date lists of bestselling and award winning books. You can access all BookLetters lists and newsletters through the new links on the right side of the page. Check out some of our favorites:

Book Sizzle: Books in the news.

BookPage Daily: A new book review every morning.

Books on the Air: Books featured on television and public radio during the past week.

Past and Present: Recommended reading about history and current events.

Meet the Author: A new author interview every week.

Science and Nature: New books about science, medicine, and the great outdoors.

Want to see more? View all newsletters and lists, or sign up to receive email newsletters or RSS feeds.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

If You Like Jodi Picoult...

If you like Jodi Picoult, you might enjoy these titles as well.

Amy and Isabelle
by Elizabeth Strout

A teenage girl's affair with her teacher shatters her relationship with her mother, dredging up deep-seated guilt and long-buried secrets.

More about the book

The Condition
by Jennifer Haigh

After the youngest child of a well-to-do family is diagnosed with a rare disorder that prevents her from physically maturing, the family unravels over several decades.

More about the book

The Good Mother
by Sue Miller

A newly divorced mother's affair leads to accusations of child abuse, a bitter custody battle, and gripping courtroom drama.

More about the book

by Chris Bohjalian

When a home birth goes awry, a midwife finds herself at the center of a medical debate and on trial for murder.

More about the book

More Than It Hurts You
by Darin Strauss

A child's sickness leads a doctor to suspect Munchausen-by-Proxy syndrome, a diagnosis that will forever change the lives of everyone involved.

More about the book

My Abandonment
by Peter Rock

A father and daughter's "off the grid" homeless lifestyle is turned upside down when a jogger accidentally discovers them and reports them to the authorities.

More about the book

The Rest of Her Life
by Laura Moriarity

A teenager's careless driving leads to a fatal accident that shatters a family's already fragile existence and polarizes a small town in Kansas.

More about the book

The River Road
by Karen Osborn

Two brothers and the girl they both love make a reckless choice that ends in death for one and a lifetime of tragic consequences for the other two.

More about the book

A Theory of Relativity
by Jacquelyn Mitchard

A bitter family drama unfolds in the courtroom after a young child is left orphaned by a car crash, leaving relations to fight over her custody.

More about the book

We Need To Talk About Kevin
by Lionel Shriver

The mother of a 17-year-old in jail for a school shooting tries to resolve her parental guilt by writing a series of brutally honest letters to her estranged husband.

More about the book

Thursday, October 1, 2009

If You Liked Marley & Me...

If you liked John Grogan's Marley & Me, you might enjoy these "tails" of the remarkable bonds shared by people and their pets.

Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
by Vicki Myron

A librarian rescues a kitten left in the overnight book return and is rewarded with a library mascot who has a positive impact on her own life and that of the entire Iowa town.

Enslaved by Ducks
by Bob Tarte

An impulse purchase of a bunny at Easter time leads to the acquisition of a parrot, a couple of canaries, several cats, a turkey or two, and yes, ducks.

Good Dog. Stay
by Anna Quindlen

A Pulitzer Prize-winning writer pays tribute to her beloved black lab, Beau, with heartwarming anecdotes of new tricks taught and old lessons learned.

Merle’s Door: Lessons From A Freethinking Dog
by Ted Kerasote

A nature writer on a camping trip takes in a stray dog and spends thirteen years learning about and loving the animal’s independent, intelligent ways.

My Cat, Spit McGee
by Willie Morris

A life long “dog man” marries a cat lover and finds himself won over by a quirky, cranky cat named Spit. By the author of My Dog Skip.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of An Owl and His Girl
by Stacey O’Brien

A young research biologist adopts an injured four-day-old barn owl and spends the next nineteen years learning about and loving the remarkable creature.

Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs
by Caroline Knapp

A renowned memoirist recounts the ways her canine confidante helped her through the death of her parents, a bad break-up, and the trials of sobriety.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

If You Like Michael Connelly...

If you like Michael Connelly and his Harry Bosch series, you might enjoy these authors and series as well.

John Rebus series
by Ian Rankin

This series is set in Edinburgh, Scotland and features a brooding, troubled cop who loves include good scotch, classic rock, and the crime-filled streets of his city. First in the series is Knots & Crosses.

Strange & Quinn series
by George Pelecanos

This series features two police-officers-turned-private-investigators working the drug-ridden, racially-charged streets of inner-city Washington, D.C.. First in the series is Right as Rain.

Prey series
by John Sandford

This series centers around Twin Cities cop Lucas Davenport, a compelling, complex character who goes up against criminals of all kinds — from bank robbers and serial killers to corrupt politicians and computer hackers. First in the series is Rules of Prey.

Elvis Cole series
by Robert Crais

This series takes place in Los Angeles. Wisecracking P.I. Elvis Cole and his brooding sidekick (and former LAPD officer) Joe Pike take on cases that lead them to the darkest corners of the city and of human nature. First in the series is The Monkey’s Raincoat.

Alex McKnight series
by Steve Hamilton

This series features a former Detroit cop trying to escape the demons of his past in the isolated locale of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He starts over as a P.I. and finds that crimes old and new abound. First in the series is A Cold Day in Paradise.

Matthew Scudder series
by Lawrence Block

This series is about a hard-boiled, hard-drinking P.I. in New York City trying to piece together crimes and put back together his personal life. First in the series is The Sins of the Fathers.

Dave Robicheaux series
by James Lee Burke

This series features a former New Orleans cop who is suspended from the force and retires to a small town. There he must do battle with the demons of his past and of the bottle, while facing crimes old and new. First in the series is The Neon Rain.