The Comment Section

The Comment Section

More books from our collection with great reviews in the comment sections!


“Different in a positive way.  There is an always present sadness.”

ANDREW’S BRAIN by E.L. Doctorow

Speaking from an unknown place and to an unknown interlocutor, Andrew is thinking, Andrew is talking, Andrew is telling the story of his life, his loves, and the tragedies that have led him to this place and point in time. And as he confesses, peeling back the layers of his strange story, we are led to question what we know about truth and memory, brain and mind, personality and fate, about one another and ourselves.

 

 


A wonderful overview of 20th century America told by a charming narrator.  MUST READ!”

“Beautifully written but such a waste of two extraordinary men!  They could have given much to the world.”

HOMER & LANGLEY by E.L. Doctorow

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, THE KANSAS CITY STAR, AND BOOKLIST

Homer and Langley Collyer are brothers—the one blind and deeply intuitive, the other damaged into madness, or perhaps greatness, by mustard gas in the Great War. They live as recluses in their once grand Fifth Avenue mansion, scavenging the city streets for things they think they can use, hoarding the daily newspapers as research for Langley’s proposed dateless newspaper whose reportage will be as prophecy.

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What We’re Reading at Home

What We’re Reading at Home

We’ve been busy reading while we #stayhome. See what our staff has been reading below.


Emily

The Book of Essie by Meghan by MacLean Weir

The youngest daughter of a famous reality show evangelical family becomes pregnant. Essie helps her mother manufacture an engagement to a classmate in order to cover for the public, all the while providing the true story to a reporter with her own background trauma from religious fanaticism. An absorbing read with a trio of central characters you won’t want to leave behind. This book will appeal to adult and high school-age fiction lovers, reality TV junkies.


Phoebe

Flight Season by Marie Marquardt

This novel trails two characters trying to navigate their own personal worlds. It is a cleverly designed novel that allows insight into each of the characters minds. I finished this book in one go because it was so captivating. Young Adult readers who like self realization novels with a touch of romance would love this!


Michelle C.

Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman

I found myself drawn into the Netflix miniseries “Unorthodox” about a young woman growing up in the Hasidic Jewish Community of Williamsburg, NY in present day.  It was a limited series, only four episodes, I think, but I was fascinated to learn about this religious community, their beliefs and traditions. That led me to the book upon which the series was based, an autobiography also titled Unorthodox and written by Deborah Feldman. I found her coming of age story to be fascinating and a triumph about how to follow your own path in the most extraordinary of circumstances. The description of Jewish food, the kosher preparations they follow, the clothing and hairstyles allowed by single and married women and what they represent, were all very interesting to me in addition to the main story itself.  Readers of biography, history, and religious and women’s studies will love this book.


Carolyn

Camino Island by John Grisham

I listened to and really liked Camino Island, which is about a young woman is recruited to recover priceless F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts that were stolen during a daring heist. I thought it was interesting that the book was loosely inspired by Amelia Island in Florida and that the town with the bookstore in the book was modeled off Fernandina, Florida. I recommend it for anyone looking for a good mystery.


George

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook or The Methods and Mysteries of the Worlds Greatest Detective by Ransom Riggs

The book is a reader’s companion to the casework of Sherlock Holmes and it explores the methodology of the world’s most famous consulting detective. Written in a lively fashion, it covers everything from analyzing fingerprints to bee keeping. 224 pages, but can be read in a Pittsburgh rainy afternoon. The Sherlock Holmes Handbook will appeal to Baker Street Irregulars of all ages. Fun read.


Blair

The Bad Seed by William March

I’m just finishing The Bad Seed, the novel by William March.  I had just re-watched the film of the same name – powerful performance by Nancy Kelly as the mother of the murderous Rhoda – and wondered about source material.  The book is vastly different from the film but it is a deep and abiding portrait of a mother faced with the horrific circumstances involving a child (think “The Exorcist”).  It is complex because the mother is as responsible for what occurs as the child. Great stuff!


Lynne

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I recently read The Glass Hotel. Beautifully written and with intriguing characters. From the author of Station Eleven— which was even better. I’m currently reading Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffith (which just won the Edgar Award for 2020); a slightly spooky mystery — can’t wait to find out whodunit!

 


Richelle

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

This well-written story keeps you guessing until the end. It’s a modern mystery with a mid-level pace and several red herrings thrown in to keep readers engaged. I could barely put the book down & enjoyed several late-night reading sessions! Mystery lovers will enjoy this title.

 


Dustin

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

I enjoyed it because it had elements of true crime as well as history. It tells a piece of the story of how to FBI came to be through the narrative surrounding a number of unsolved murders.

 


Laura M.

The Five Silent Years of Corrie Ten Boom by Pamela Rosewell Moore

The book I’m reading is really old, but really inspiring! So inspiring that I’m reading it a second time back-to-back! During World War II, Corrie and her family were arrested and sent to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in their home in Holland. The library also has Corrie’s best-selling book The Hiding Place which launched for Corrie a worldwide ministry of travel and speaking for 30 + years. Rosewell’s book is an inspiring account of how Corrie’s ministry amazingly continued after she suffered a stroke and could no longer speak! But the book I would recommend first is The Hiding Place because that would introduce readers to this inspiring lady, Corrie Ten Boom!


Jen

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

Right now I am reading The Mirror & the Light. Although I am only about half way through it, I am enjoying it. I love the way she writes; you really feel like you are right there, talking to Henry VIII. Mantel is descriptive and the book is really well researched.  This is the third book in the Wolf Hall Trilogy, so if  you liked Wolf Hall (personal favorite) or Bring Up the Bodies, also by Mantel, you will enjoy this book!


Stephanie

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Based on a true story, this book explores the secret Cold War plot to bring Doctor Zhivago to the world. The idea that literature can change the world prompted the CIA to try and smuggle this masterpiece out of the USSR. Prescott weaves the tales of Pasternak, his muse Olga, and the CIA to create this delicious blend of historical fiction and espionage thriller. Read if you like historical fiction, spies, and Russian literature.


Alex

So Much Longing In So Little Space / The Art of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I am reading So Much Longing In So Little Space / The Art of  Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Loving this book, a brilliant writer’s thoughts and opinions about  the work and psyche of one of my favorite painters, Munch. Every sentence is rich and provocative, with many references to philosophers and other painters (including interviews with) and of course a plethora of information about Munch’s life.


 

Sage

UnTamed by Glennon Doyle

I loved this book!  Honest, raw and gave me so much to think about in regards to relationships and how to live life authentically.

 


Bette

Virgin River by Robyn Carr

I have read many books during this time but here are three I really enjoyed: Virgin River a light read from Robyn Carr. When you finish the book you can binge watch the original Netflix series of the same name based on the book. The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grimes is a debut novel that delves into the family secrets of an Italian American family. I could not put down this timely family story. And also once again local author Marie Benedict’s Lady Clementine entertains while giving us a gentle history lesson.


Ellen

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

This is the perfect book for anyone who needs a laugh.  Especially if you have kids.  Comedy Lovers will really enjoy this title.  I also read, When Life Gives You Pears by Jeannie Gaffigan (writer, director & Jim’s wife). When you are a mother of five and writing partner of a well-know comedian, learning that you have a tumor the size of a pear in your head is not great news.  Well, it’s not really great news for anyone.  Even though medical scares are serious, Gaffigan is able to tell her story humor and heart. This title is really great for Biography readers.


 

Mysterious Reads: Mysteries and Thrillers That Will Keep You Guessing

What makes a book impossible to put down? For fans of mystery and crime fiction, the answer is a good story, plenty of twists, and a mystery that keeps you on your toes. If you fall under this category, or if you’d like to find a book that keeps you guessing, here is a list of thriller and mystery books to appease your inner detective.

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Rainy Day Reads: April Showers Bring Book-Filled Hours

What makes a good rainy day read? For some, it’s the sort of beautiful, introspective novel that reflects the feeling of finding a comfy place to read and enjoying some alone time. For others, it’s a book that grabs your attention from the first line and refuses to let go until the very last page, engrossing you in its world and letting you forget the dreary weather.

With plenty of rain in the forecast, here are some great rainy day books to for all manner of readers.
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Looking for a Thriller?

Check out these new titles for something to get your heart racing this summer.

The DestroyersThe Destroyers by Christopher Bollen

Arriving on the Greek island of Patmos broke and humiliated, Ian Bledsoe is fleeing the emotional and financial fallout from his father’s death. His childhood friend Charlie–rich, exuberant, and basking in the success of his new venture on the island–could be his last hope.

At first Patmos appears to be a dream–long sun-soaked days on Charlie’s yacht and the reappearance of a girlfriend from Ian’s past–and Charlie readily offers Ian the lifeline he so desperately needs. But, like Charlie himself, this beautiful island conceals a darkness beneath, and it isn’t long before the dream begins to fragment. When Charlie suddenly vanishes, Ian finds himself caught up in deception after deception. As he grapples with the turmoil left in his friend’s wake, he is reminded of an imaginary game called Destroyers they played as children–a game, he now realizes, they may have never stopped playing.

 

Fierce KingdomFierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

An electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.

The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running.

 

Final GirlsFinal Girls by Riley Sager

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie-scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to–a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

 

Now, Quincy is doing well–maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiance, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past. That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep.

 

Magpie MurdersMagpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

From the New York Times bestselling author of Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, this fiendishly brilliant, riveting thriller weaves a classic whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie into a chilling, ingeniously original modern-day mystery.

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.

 

Big Fall Books

Summer is almost over, and autumn is approaching. Here are some books to get excited about as the temperature falls.

FICTION

CommonwealthCommonwealth by Ann Patchett

The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives.

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

 

 

A Great ReckoningA Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

#1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny pulls back the layers to reveal a brilliant and emotionally powerful truth in her latest spellbinding novel.

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes. Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

 

Here I Am by Jonathan Sanfran FoerHere I Am

A monumental new novel from the bestselling author of Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Showcasing the same high-energy inventiveness, hilarious irreverence, and emotional urgency that readers loved in his earlier work, Here I Am is Foer’s most searching, hard-hitting, and grandly entertaining novel yet. It not only confirms Foer’s stature as a dazzling literary talent but reveals a novelist who has fully come into his own as one of our most important writers.

 

 

Razor GirlRazor Girl by Carl Hiassan

When Lane Coolman’s car is bashed from behind on the road to the Florida Keys, what appears to be an ordinary accident is anything but (this is Hiaasen!). Behind the wheel of the other car is Merry Mansfield–the eponymous Razor Girl–and the crash scam is only the beginning of events that spiral crazily out of control while unleashing some of the wildest characters Hiaasen has ever set loose on the page.

 

 

Today Will Be DifferentToday Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Eleanor knows she’s a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won’t swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action-life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother’s company. It’s also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office-but not Eleanor-that he’s on vacation. Just when it seems like things can’t go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret.

Today Will Be Different is a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living.

 

 

NON FICTION

Born To RunBorn To Run by Bruce Springsteen

In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That’s how this extraordinary autobiography began.

Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs.

 

Killing the Rising SunKilling the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly

Autumn 1944. World War II is nearly over in Europe but is escalating in the Pacific, where American soldiers face an opponent who will go to any length to avoid defeat. The Japanese army follows the samurai code of Bushido, stipulating that surrender is a form of dishonor. Killing the Rising Sun takes readers to the bloody tropical-island battlefields of Peleliu and Iwo Jima and to the embattled Philippines, where General Douglas MacArthur has made a triumphant return and is plotting a full-scale invasion of Japan.

New Mysteries in March

Take a look at these new mysteries, of all varieties, just arrived at Sewickley Public Library. Remember to click the titles of any book in this post to see them in our online catalog, where you may place a hold.

 


Death Comes to the VillageDEATH COMES TO THE VILLAGE, by Catherine Lloyd

Major Robert Kurland has returned to the quiet vistas of his village home to recuperate from the horrors of Waterloo. However injured his body may be, his mind is as active as ever. Too active, perhaps. When he glimpses a shadowy figure from his bedroom window struggling with a heavy load, the tranquil façade of the village begins to loom sinister. Unable to forget the incident, Robert confides in his childhood friend, Miss Lucy Harrington. As the dutiful daughter of the widowed rector, following up on the major’s suspicions offers a welcome diversion-but soon presents real danger…

Death Comes to the Village is the first in Catherine Lloyd’s “Kurland St. Mary Mysteries.” Be one of the first to get swept up into a new mystery series!

THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC, by Mary Jane Behrends Clark

Aspiring actress and wedding-cake decorator Piper Donovan has barely arrived in New Orleans to perfect her pastry skills at the renowned French Quarter bakery Boulangerie Bertrand when a ghastly murder rocks the magical city. Though Piper has a full plate decorating cakes for upcoming wedding celebrations, she’s also landed an exciting but unnerving role in a movie being shot in the Big Easy. When the murderer strikes again, leaving macabre clues, she thinks she can unmask the killer. But Piper will have to conjure up some old black magic of her own if she hopes to live long enough to reveal the truth.

That Old Black Magic is the fourth in Clark’s “Wedding Cake Mysteries.” If this sounds interesting and you haven’t read the first three, check out To Have and To Kill.


ROSEMARY AND CRIME, by Gail Oust

Piper Prescott, a transplanted Yankee living in the South, has got her sass back. Recently divorced, Piper decides to pursue a dream she’s secretly harbored: owning her own business, Spice it Up!, a spice shop in her adopted hometown, Brandywine Creek, Georgia. But Piper’s grand opening goes awry when the local chef who’s agreed to do a cooking demo is found stabbed. Not only did Piper find the body, she handled the murder weapon and doesn’t have a witness to her alibi, making the case look like a slam dunk to brand new police Chief Wyatt McBride. Desperate to uncover the truth-and prove her innocence-Piper enlists the help of her outspoken BFF Reba Mae Johnson to help track down the real culprit.

Rosemary and Crime is also the first in a new mystery series by Gail Oust.

NANTUCKET SAWBUCK, by Steven Axelrod

When Nantucket homeowner Preston Lomax is killed in his McMansion, everyone on the island could be a suspect. Chief of Police Henry Kennis, a newcomer from California, finds himself investigating with help from the State Police. Together they solve the case–or so it appears.


The Blood PromiseTHE BLOOD PROMISE, by Mark Pryor

In post-Revolution Paris, an old man signs a letter in blood, then hides it in a secret compartment in a sailor’s chest. A messenger arrives to transport the chest and its hidden contents, but then the plague strikes and an untimely death changes history. Two hundred years later, Hugo Marston is safeguarding an unpredictable but popular senator who is in Paris negotiating a France/U.S. dispute. The talks, held at a country chateau, collapse when the senator accuses someone of breaking into his room. Theft becomes the least of Hugo’s concerns when someone discovers a sailor’s chest and the secrets hidden within, and decides that the power and money they promise are worth killing for. But when the darkness of history is unleashed, even the most ruthless and cunning are powerless to control it.

This is Mark Pryor’s third Hugo Marston mystery. If you like this description but want to start from the beginning, check out The Bookseller.

LION PLAYS ROUGH: A LEO MAXWELL MYSTERY, by Lachlan Smith

The Maxwell brothers are living together in Oakland while Leo, chafing in his role as junior attorney in his former sister-in-law’s small criminal defense firm, is on the lookout for the big case that will make his reputation. He thinks he’s found that when a mysterious woman nearly runs him down, then appears at his office to hire him to defend her brother on a murder charge. One problem: Leo hasn’t actually met the client when he sets out to investigate what seems like a hot tip on a burgeoning scandal in the Oakland Police Department. Leo takes a series of photographs that seem to blow the lid on deep-set corruption in the Department, however when he brings these pictures to the attention of the District Attorney’s office, he quickly learns that all is not as it seems, beginning with Leo’s client and the alluring woman who hired him.

This is Lachlan Smith’s followup to the beginning of his Leo Maxwell mystery series after his debut, Bear is Broken.


HUNTING SHADOWS, by Charles Todd

Inspector Ian Rutledge is summoned to the quiet, isolated Fen country to solve a pair of seemingly unconnected murders before the killer strikes again in August 1920. Despite his experience, Inspector Ian Rutledge can find no connection between the two deaths. Then the case reminds Rutledge of a legendary assassin whispered about during the war. His own dark memories come back to haunt him as he hunts for the missing connection-and yet, when he finds it, it isn’t as simple as he’d expected.

Hunting Shadows is the 16th Ian Rutledge mystery, by Charles Todd. A list of all sixteen in order can be found here on Goodreads. If you want to start at the beginning, check out A Test of Wills.

NPR Book Concierge 2013

The folks over at NPR Books usually write a variety of end-of-year ‘Best Of’ lists to highlight the outstanding literary offerings of the past year. However due to the number of lists ballooning from 13 in 2008 to 20 in 2012, they decided to try a different format.

And so, NPR’s Book Concierge was born! It’s billed as ‘Our Guide to 2013’s Great Reads,’ and I encourage you to go check it out. The site allows you to choose what you’d like to read along the left-hand side (in categories such as ‘Eye Opening’ or ‘ It’s All Geek To Me’) and displays a collage of books recommended by NPR Staff that fit you chosen category or genre.

Of course, not all of the books will be available at Sewickley Public Library, but if one grabs your attention, it never hurts to give us a call or stop in to ask a librarian whether it can be requested from another library in Allegheny County.

Here are a few from the site you may not have heard a lot of buzz about that can be found at Sewickley Public Library, to get you started:

FICTION

LexiconLEXICON by Max BarryBooklist Review *Starred Review* – Words have power to persuade, to coerce, even to kill. And so they have since the days when wordsmiths were called sorcerers. Streetwise teenager Emily knows nothing of this until she is recruited to join a clandestine international organization that seems bent on taking over the world through the power of language—the reason, perhaps, that its members call themselves poets. In the meantime, a young man, Wil, is kidnapped from an airport by two mysterious men determined to unlock a secret buried deep in his brain. Yes, Wil and Emily will be brought together in due course, but in the meantime, there is a great deal, some of it abstruse, about language in this fast-paced, cerebral thriller that borders on speculative fiction, but none of it slows the nonstop action that takes readers from Washington, D.C., to a small town in the Australian desert, a town whose 3,300 residents have all died mysteriously and violently. Could the cause have been the power of words at work? The poets sometimes seem a bit too omnipotent, and the book’s chronology is occasionally a bit confusing, but otherwise this is an absolutely first-rate, suspenseful thriller with convincing characters who invite readers’ empathy and keep them turning pages until the satisfying conclusion.–Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist

Night FilmNIGHT FILM by Marisha PesslBooklist Review *Starred Review* – When the daughter of a notorious film director is found dead in New York, an apparent suicide, investigative reporter Scott McGrath throws himself back into a story that almost ended his career. But now McGrath has his Rosebud, and like Jedediah Leland in Citizen Kane, who hoped to make sense of media mogul Charles Foster Kane by understanding his last word, so the reporter sets out to determine how Ashley Cordova died and, in so doing, penetrate the heart of darkness that engulfs her reclusive father, Stanislas. Like Pessl’s first novel, the acclaimed Special Topics in Calamity Physics (2006), this one expands from a seemingly straightforward mystery into a multifaceted, densely byzantine exploration of much larger issues, in this case, the nature of truth and illusion as reflected by the elusive Cordova, whose transcend-the-genre horror films are cult favorites and about whom rumors of black magic and child abuse continue to swirl. His daughter, piano prodigy Ashley (her notes weren’t played; they were poured from a Grecian urn ), is almost as mysterious as her father, her life and death equally clouded in secrecy and colored with possibly supernatural shadings. Into this mazelike world of dead ends and false leads, McGrath ventures with his two, much younger helpers, Nora and Hopper, brilliantly portrayed Holmesian irregulars who may finally understand more about Ashley than their mentor, whose linear approach to fact finding might miss the point entirely. Pessl’s first novel, while undeniably impressive, possessed some of the overindulgence one might expect from a talented and precocious young writer. All evidence of that is gone here; the book is every bit as complex as Calamity Physics, but the writing is always under control, and the characters never fail to draw us further into the maelstrom of the story.–Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist

NONFICTION

Lawrence in ArabiaLAWRENCE IN ARABIA: WAR, DECEIT, IMPERIAL FOLLY AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST by Scott AndersonBooklist Review *Starred Review* – To historians, the real T. E. Lawrence is as fascinating as the cinematic version in Lawrence of Arabia is to movie fans. The many reasons interlock and tighten author Anderson’s narrative, yielding a work that can absorb scholarly and popular interest like. Start with Lawrence’s WWI memoir, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922). A rare-book collectible, it inspired many of the scenes in David Lean’s film and is also subject to cross-referencing interpretations of Lawrence’s veracity. For lyrical though Lawrence could be about Arab leaders and desert landscapes, he could also be enigmatically opaque about the truth of his role in events. Accordingly, Anderson embeds Lawrence and Seven Pillars in the wider context of the Arab revolt against Turkey, and that context is the British, French, German, and American diplomacy and espionage intended to influence the postwar disposition of the territories of the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence was Britain’s agent in this game, and the other powers’ agents, although none enjoy his historical celebrity, assume prominence in Anderson’s presentation. Its thorough research clothed in smoothly written prose, Anderson’s history strikes a perfect balance between scope and detail about a remarkable and mysterious character.–Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist

To the End of JuneTO THE END OF JUNE: THE INTIMATE LIFE OF AMERICAN FOSTER CARE by Cris BeamBooklist Review *Starred Review* – Whenever newspaper headlines scream about the abuse of foster children, the public is outraged, child protection agencies radically change their policies, and poor children go on living in a hodgepodge of foster care and suffering myriad unintended consequences, according to Beam, whose background includes a fractured childhood and experience as a foster mother. Here she offers a very intimate look at a system little known to most people. Beam spent five years talking to foster children, parents and foster parents, and social workers, mostly in New York. Her profiles include Bruce and Allyson, with three children of their own, taking in as many as five foster children, and Steve and Erin, fostering a child they want to adopt, whose mother signed away her rights on a napkin. Beam also writes about teens who’ve been bounced from home to home, some longing for adoption, others sabotaging their chances out of fear, many hoping for promised aging-out bonuses. Beam offers historical background and keen analysis of the social, political, racial, and economic factors that drive foster-care policies, noting the recent swing from massive removals to support for keeping families together. A very moving, powerful look at a system charged with caring for nearly half a million children across the U.S.–Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist

Sources:

Best Books of 2013: NPR(http://apps.npr.org/best-books-2013/)

Booklist Online: Book Reviews from the American Library Association (http://www.booklistonline.com/)