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5 Star Reviews

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Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout

A protestant minister in a small town in Maine in 1959 deals with the loss of his wife and the impact this has had on his two small daughters, while trying to remain the steady shepherd to his congreagation he feels he needs to be. This is a wonderful, quiet, beautifully written novel from the author of Amy and Isabelle which really packs a punch at the end. Reviewed by: Reference Librarian Jane Brown


 Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

I had read this book many years ago, but when it came to my attention recently, I decided it was time to reread this classic novel of South Africa. The opening is especially lyrical, expressing the beauty of a beloved land and grief at the destruction of its fertility in over-grazed lands. But within a couple of pages, the story moves into a foreboding of the deeper grief that arises from the system of apartheid. A standout image for me was that of white drivers going out of their way to offer rides to black Africans who walked 11 miles each day back and forth to work during a protest boycott of the bus system. Reviewed by: Anonymous


Domus: Wall Painting in the Roman House Donatella Mazzoleni; essay and texts on the sites by Umberto Pappalardo; photographs by Luciano Romano

I joined "Book Lovers" so that I could tell other readers about this magnificent book, which portrays wall frescoes of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Rome and other ancient cities. I asked the library to purchase it because I wanted to see the frescoes of Pompeii that are not easily viewed at the site. They are first photographed as part of the rooms in which they are situated. Next, they are shown up close, so that fresco details can be seen. Finally, the frescoes are blown up in exacting detail on special paper, so that one can see aspects of each painting as if it were under a magnifying glass. The photography is amazing, the commentary is excellent, and the book is pure pleasure!

Reviewed by: Francesca B.


East Side Story by Louis Auchincloss

I always enjoy Louis Anchincloss' portraits of wealthy WASP society (how pleasant it would be to sit next to him at a dinner party!) and East Side Story is no exception. The book is basically a collection of short stories featuring different members of a large New York family, the Carnochans – and the format of the book seems particularly well-suited to the author’s special talents. Although some stories succeed better than others as literature, they are all fascinating as examples of keen social observation and commentary. I like Anchincloss’ lucid example of sensible prose, but I occasionally find his dialogue a little stilted, sort of like an old-fashioned play. However, that is a small flaw in an otherwise elegant book. Reviewed by: Anonymous* Read more about Louis Auchincloss


The Girls: A Novel by Lori Lansens

This novel is the enduring story of Rose and Ruby, the world's oldest surviving craniopagus twins. It is a fictionalized autobiography of two lives joined forever. Raised by "Aunt Lovey" and "Uncle Stash" after being abandoned by their birth mother, Rose and Ruby are simply known as "The Girls" in the small southernwestern Ontario town where they live. Rose has decided to write a book about her life as a conjoined twin, but of course her story can never be told without Ruby's story being told as well. She convinces Ruby to write her own parts for the story and promises not to ready what Ruby has written -- just as Ruby will not read what Rose has written. The result is an extraordinary story of everyday life lived under daunting conditions and of a profound love of two sisters for one another. A book worth reading and not to be forgotten.

Reviewed by: Janie Hermann, Technology Training Librarian



Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

Fascinating theory with lots of evidence about the development of human civilization. Reviewed by: DanielF


Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult

This is a story of a woman whose mother left her when she was five years old and she was raised by her father. Because she never knew why her mother left she doubted that she could be a good mother to her child. She has few memories of her mother. She marries a medical student and supports him until he becomes a heart transplant surgeon. When her baby is three months old she leaves as her mother did and does find her mother. There is much more to this story and it is a page turner. There are graphic descriptions of heart transplant surgery and other medical procedures that may bothersome. I found them interesting. Reviewed by: D.C.


Hubble: The Mirror On the Universe Robin Kerrod Wow! I don't know which are more amazing - the book's fabulous Hubble photographs of stars, galaxies, star nurseries, and other wonderful objects in the universe, or the equally astounding information it contains about our universe. The author's examples were helpful in understanding distances in space, positing an imaginary spaceship traveling at the speed of light. (It would take 25,000 years to reach the center of the Milky Way galaxy and 12 billion years to reach the farthest object we can see...) Kerrod also helped me to grasp scale. (The solar system is a billion times bigger than the earth, the Milky Way galaxy 100,000 times bigger than the solar system...) I enjoyed learning about quasars , blazars, machos and wimps! I learned about astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, who discovered an important law about the variable stars Cepheids (and seems to have been the only astronomer who didn't have anything named after her.) In the end, I kept returning to the magnificent photographs...

Reviewed by: Francesca B.


An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It by Al Gore

Gore's book is the best I've read on the important topic of global warming and subsequent climate change. Striking graphs and graphics show the increase in wildfires and hurricanes in the last decade, the effects of a rise in sea levels worldwide, and the correlation of this and other data with increased CO2 in the earth's atmosphere. Before-and-after photos of glaciers and melting ice caps are stunning, and relevant facts are clearly presented. It's obvious that we need to change our ways and use energy more efficiently, but Gore reminds us that we've solved serious problems before, and the book ends with specific suggestions for change on individual, national and global levels. Reviewed by: Francesca B.


Kindred by Octavia Butler

I'm not a science fiction fan, but when I saw that no sci fi books had been reviewed this summer, I decided that it was time to read "Kindred", which I've had on my "to read" list for some time. It's an amazing, chilling book. The heroine, a 20th century African-Americn woman named Dana, finds herself transported across time and space to a slave-owning plantation, where she saves Rufus, a drowning white boy. Dana soon returns to the 20th century and to Kevin, her white husband, but a repeat of the time travel experience gives her further evidence that Rufus is her ancestor, and that he will mate with a black woman to produce her great grandmother. Viewing the whippings, brutality and powerlessness of slavery through the eyes of a 20th century woman brings the experience home in an especially horrifying way. I won't forget this compelling, brilliant story. Reviewed by: Francesca B.


Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Astoundingly well-written novel about the life of a Norwegian woman, mother of seven boys, in medieval times when Norway was deeply religious (Catholic). Reviewed by: J. Harford"


The Other Side of Israel by Susan Nathan

An amazing read, Ms. Nathan is a brave and principled woman. Why are there not more books like this published? Part travelogue, part history, always insightful, and fearlessly written. Should be part of everyone’s curriculum.

Reviewed by: Mark S.


The Pearl Diver  by Jeff Talarigo

Beautifully done story about a Japanese leper who starts her career as a pearl diver but is then confined to an island leper colony . A painful story of coping. THis story is set in the 40s and we watch the heroine's life progress in tiny steps as the disease takes its toll on some, while medication is able to help others. Reviewed by: L. Sandburg


Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

A dead newborn is discovered in the barn of an Amish farmer. The guilt points to an eighteen year old daughter of the farmer though she denies ever being pregnant, even after she is rushed to the hospital bleeding and a Dr. confirms that she just gave birth. It is suspected that the baby was murdered and Katie, the eighteen year old is charged with murder. Ellie Hathaway, a New York defense attorney is visiting an aunt in the area and is convinced to take up the case. Ellie finds herself not only in a clash of wills with a client who doesn’t want to be defended but also in a clash of cultures with a people whose culture is markedly different from her own. The only way Katie can stay at home is if the lawyer is with her at all times so Ellie moves in with the Amish. From the book cover: Picoult has a remarkable ability to make us share her characters’ feelings. The locale is a small town, Paradise, in Lancaster County, PA. It is on of the few books that I have read lately that I couldn’t put down. In fact I didn’t. It was also one I didn’t want to end. I highly recommend it. The author received a AB in creative writing from Princeton and a MA in education from Harvard. Reviewed by: D. C.


Swithering by Robin Robertson

"Swithering" is a small, stunning book of poetry, full of rich but concise language and evocative images. Many of Robertson's poems reflect his Celtic heritage and its mysterious echoes in nature. I read one of the "Swithering" poems originally in the New Yorker, and I was startled by its beauty. (The poem, "A Seagull Murmur", is quoted in its entirety in John Banville's review of Robertson's poems in the July 13 edition of the New York Review of Books. I've read and re-read the poems, and I've finally decided to ask for my own copy as a birthday present!

Reviewed by: Francesca B.


The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer

Even if you aren’t a “bar” person you would enjoy this book about a fatherless boy being brought up by a very caring struggling mother. They live with his grandparents in a run down house. The boy’s father, a disk jockey and a drunk, isn’t in the picture except for a few times. He was sent to the bar to buy cigarettes for an uncle and was fascinated by the talk there. He finds his male companionship in the bar and the regulars there take him in and this is where he gets his “education”. The descriptions of the people frequenting the bar are so great that you feel that you know them all personally. The reader of this audio was very good taking on the voices of the people in a very realistic way. I would highly recommend reading or listening to this book I would rate it a 5 star. The author won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing and from the book jacket, is an accomplished wordsmith. From Newsweek—the only thing wrong with this terrific debut is that there has to be a closing time.

Reviewed by: D. C.


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Rereading this book after decades proved unexpectedly enjoyable. It is beautifully, thoughtfully and carefully written and depicts interesting and touching aspects of living in a small southern town during the depression, including racial conflict and misunderstanding. Characters are sympathetically drawn; humor is found throughout - to make you smile, not laugh aloud. Sadly this book is no longer often taught in schools (although it has been ranked second to the Bible in changing lives) because of some dismissive, no longer acceptable language. This is another Pulitzer Prize Novel well worth your time. You'll be rewarded if you pick it up again or if you read it for the first time.

Reviewed by: Martha R.


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Jacob Jankowski, a 90 something year old man in a nursing home recounts his days working in a circus. He was taking his final exams at Cornell Veterinary School when he was told that his parents were killed in a car accident. He walked out and found out that he was penniless. His parents had mortgaged everything to send him to college. He hopped a train to get out of there and it turned out to be a circus train---a third rate circus. He has memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain, and anger and passion: a world with its own irrational rules, its own way of life and death. To Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell. This took place during the early part of the great depression.. The chapters of this novel go back and forth from Jacob in the nursing home and his memoirs. His insight into both stages is------insightful. One can feel how it is to be of that age and in a nursing home. The author was attracted to a book of pictures of a photographer who followed circuses and took pictures. She visited the circus winter home in WI and the museum in Sarasaota,FL. She said she took some of the stories most outrageous details from facts or antidote. In the circus history the line between the two is famously blurred. This is a book that I couldn’t put down until I had finished it. This is unusual for me nowadays. I highly recommend it. It is among the best I have ever read.

Reviewed by: D. C.


The Woman at the Washington Zoo

by Marjorie Williams

This book was sharp, witty, and touching. Williams grew up in Princeton, which made this collection of her writings particularly interesting. The section on her fight wtih cancer was humorous and moving at the same time. What a loss of a wonderfully intelligent writer.

Reviewed by: Donna W.''

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