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Staff Book Reviews

Book Review: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
Cahalan, Susannah
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I started out giving this book 4 stars - it is a fascinating inside look at this author's hospitalization for a rare autoimmune disorder which caused her complete memory loss of the time she was ill and could have eventually led to her death had her doctor given up on her.

The more I think about this book, however, the more I liked it - I've found myself talking about it with friends and family over the past few days and marveling at this author's tenacity on recreating her "month of madness" through interviews and tapes. I feel this is a wonderful and well-written book, not only of one woman's experiences with an illness that displayed itself so quickly and violently, but a fascinating look into our brains and how they work (or don't work).

Krista
Book Review: Honeymoon With My Brother: A Memoir
Wisner, Franz.
4 stars = Really Good

Franz Wisner was dumped at the altar, but his honeymoon was already paid for. In an attempt to cheer himself up, he takes his younger brother, Kurt, on his "honeymoon" to Costa Rica, and the two brothers connect in a way that they hadn't as adults. Upon their return from Costa Rica, Franz and Kurt decide to quit their jobs, sell their houses, and embark on a year long trip around the world, and this book tells of the adventures. Part travelogue, part relationship story, after finishing this book I called my sister to try to convince her that we, too, could quit our jobs, travel the world, and become better friends!

Emilie
Book Review: The Book of Air and Shadows
Gruber, Michael
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Do you long for another heart thumping thrill a minute ride similar to the Da Vinci Code? Then, you might consider this excellent book. With narrative lines from 2 different points of view that eventually meet up, this book is a conspiracy thriller with a very personal vendetta. There aren't any huge evil organizations, but there is an unknown mastermind who seems to have an uncanny knack for knowing what all the major players are up to at any given time. This hunt for a previously unknown Shakespeare manuscript is action packed and engaging. Where else will you find the worlds of academia, intellectual property law and Russian mobsters all mixing it up hoping for the big score?

Debbie
Book Review: The Bonesetter's Daughter
Tan, Amy
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This book was really wonderful! It's about a young girl who is embarrassed by the things her mother does. Then she is given a manuscript to read. It is written in Mandarin, written by her mother. She has someone translate it and is taken back to her mothers time and finds out things about her mother she never knew. This story is heart warming and full of interest. I highly recommend it.

Erin
Book Review: A Mass for the Dead
McDuffie, Susan
4 stars = Really Good

This exciting historical mystery tale takes place in 14th century Scotland. The Prior of Oronsay, an unpopular and unsavory character, is found strangled on the beach, his mouth stuffed with sand. Muirteach, the crippled bastard son of the Prior is assigned the nearly impossible task of finding out who of the many people who had motives to end this man's life is the murderer. Susan McDuffie, in her first published novel, very successfully introduces her readers, via this suspenseful plot and surprise ending, to what is to become a series of mysteries involving the main character, Muirteach.

Linda
Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon
Cowell, Cressida
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Don’t expect this book to be much like the movie-DO expect it to be even better! Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III does not want to be the next Chief of the Hooligan tribe, but as the chief’s son, he must. When he is only able to capture a small, toothless dragon to train, he’s sure he is doomed. But Old Wrinkly assures him “A Hero of the Future is going to have to be clever and cunning, not just a big lump with overdeveloped muscles.” Hiccup’s cleverness allows him to become the best dragon trainer ever, but is it enough to save the tribe from Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus? These nine books are hysterically funny, especially in audio, but then you’ll miss the author’s amusing illustrations-a difficult choice!

Elisabeth
Book Review: Listen to the Silent Night
Mackall, Dandi Daley
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

“It was not such a silent night,” repeats this beautifully illustrated story of Christmas. We hear the whoo of owls, the knock on a door, the moo of cows, and the flutter of angels on the night Jesus was born. Each sound brings a different part of the biblical story to life and paints the setting in bustling Bethlehem.

Elisabeth
Book Review: Before Your Dog Can Eat Your Homework, First You Have to Do It
O'Hurley, John
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This a gently humorous and touching book about an elderly dog and the baby who is brought into his household. The author is an actor and singer, currently hosting the Family Feud. Scoshi, his aging Maltese, has been a constant friend and companion through years of struggle, happiness, and sadness. In the twilight of his wonderful life he is introduced to William, the infant son of the author and his wife. Scoshi, by way of notes scribbled and placed under "the big blue elephant toy", inparts words of wisdom and encouragement to young William. The author "assists" in putting these notes in order for presentation. It is sweet, thought-provoking, and probably will bring the reader to gentle tears. I loved it!

LuAnn
Book Review: The Book of Joe
Tropper, Jonathan
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Joe Goffman grew up in the small town of Bush Falls, where everyone knows your name and the local high school basketball team is made up of demigods. Joe left this town at 17, wrote a best selling tell-all novel based on the town, and hasn't returned until he got the phone call that his father suffered a stroke and was in a coma. While dealing with his sick father, terminally ill best friend, high school sweetheart, delinquent nephew and hundreds of townsfolk who hate him, Joe discovers that leaving Bush Falls couldn't make him forget Bush Falls. Tropper writes a terrific homecoming story that is both funny and heartbreaking, and you will find yourself laughing out loud while crying.

Emilie
Book Review: The Art Forger
Shapiro, Barbara
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

A painter who is shunned by the art world suddenly receives the opportunity of a lifetime, to redeem herself as a true and original artist. She just has to copy one last Degas painting and her dreams will come true. However, is the painting that she is mysteriously given to reproduce a real Degas that was stolen in the Gardner art heist in 1990?

I found this book utterly fascinating. I personally consider a book compelling if it makes me want to learn more, and I found myself researching the Gardner heist, the paintings by Degas, and Isabella Gardner herself.

I feel like I also learned a little more about the interesting process of creating a painting, and will look a little more closely the next time I am in a museum! Very enjoyable read.

Krista
Book Review: Anne of Green Gables
Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud)
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I love Anne. She is such a terrific role model for girls young and old. This book is very well written. The story unfolds in a leisurely way with lush descriptions of nature and imagination. I enjoyed how the relationship between Marilla and Anne grew into one of deepest love. Each time I read this book I get something new out of it. This time it was the understanding that achievement means hard work and sacrifice. Simple enough, but not something one necessarily thinks of when stating a lofty ambition. I can't wait to read Anne of Avonlea!

vfranklyn
Book Review: The Girl With No Shadow
Harris, Joanne
4 stars = Really Good

Having been a huge fan of both the book and the film Chocolat (as well as Joanne Harris' other books such as Five Quarters of the Orange and Blackberry Wine), I was looking forward to reading this sequel to Chocolat. Although I read Chocolat MANY years ago, and some of the scenes have been replaced with scenes in the film, I still thoroughly enjoyed this sequel. The character development is not as strong as the first novel, and magic seemed to be more dominant, but the story was interesting and kept me intrigued to the end. As each chapter is narrated by one of three characters, I originally was confused as to who was "talking," but noticed that each character has a symbol (Yanne is a cat, Anouk is a bunny, and Zozie is a cloud) which identifies the speaker, and this made it a little easier to read. The ending was slightly abrupt, and I'm hoping that she will continue the story in a another novel!

Krista
Book Review: The Sword
Johnson, Jean
4 stars = Really Good

A curse and being exiled to a land where women are forbidden should drive any man crazy. In Nightfall Isle, there are eight men, all brothers and all four sets of twins, starved for women's attention. The only problem is that there is a curse looming over their heads that states that if a woman comes into their lives, let alone eight women, it will be the end of the land of Katan. Saber, former Count of Corvis, and the Eldest son of the eight, knows this more than any for it is HIS curse that is supposed to wreak that certain Destruction should he find his Predestined Bride. So when a certain Kelly Doyle, from Earth, happens to magically drop in to their castle, he wants nothing more than to rid him and his brothers of her immediately. Complications rise and feelings twist. Can Kelly Doyle somehow manage to find a place in Saber's heart or will he do EVERYTHING in his power to change destiny and reject his "Predestined Bride?" The first book of the Sons of Destiny is a delightful book with humor, romance and even some serious catty fights. The ending definitely leaves you wanting to rush to your bookstore or library and pick up the second.

Katrina
Book Review: Sundays at Tiffany's
Patterson, James
4 stars = Really Good

Very sweet and touching novel about a woman who meets her childhood imaginary friend as an adult. Neither Jane nor Michael (the imaginary friend) knows why they've been reunited, and the end has a little twist that is satisfying. This is a quick read (Patterson's books are usually broken up into very short chapters), but you will not want it to end! Also available in Audio Format.

Krista
Book Review: The Spellman Files
Lutz, Lisa
4 stars = Really Good

This debut novel introduces Isabel (Izzy) Spellman and her family. Izzy has a history of excess drunkenness, failed relationships and creative vandalism. Izzy is employed by the family business Spellman Investigations. Mom, Dad, younger sister Rae and Uncle Ray all contribute to the family business and eventually live in the family home too. Older brother, perfect human being and man about town David escaped the clutches of the Spellmans by becoming a lawyer. The book is funny and quirky but turns serious quickly when Rae disappears and Izzy has to focus all her talents and energies to find her. Also available in Audio Format and Large Print. Look for the second in the series, Curse of the Spellmans.

Debbie
Book Review: Zoli
McCann, Colum
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

"McCann has created a stunning work that sets up a resonance between heart and mind that sustains until the very last word. 'Zoli' is a world filled with music alien and remote - yet ultimately as familiar as a mother's lullaby." -Terry Cooper (from Amazon review) This is one of the best books I have ever read. The writing is so beautiful, it made me cry. McCann hits on truths long forgotten and rarely pondered. It is a story of a Romani writer/singer who became famous, but was alienated from her people for it. It is a beautiful story about love, hope, desire, despair, and redemption. Read it!

Jennifer
The Know-It-All : One Man's Humble Quest To Become The Smartest Person In The Wo
Jacobs, A. J.
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

A.J. Jacobs sets out on a quest (of sorts) to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. His stated objective was to get more intelligent. Over the course of the year it took him to finish this task he revealed a bit of competition with his father, a very accomplished man. His father had started to read the EB in the 1970s and didn't get past the B volume. There may have been a little one-upsmanship in the quest. Jacobs' book gives you the Cliffs Notes Encyclopedia Britannica along with his observations, an introduction to his family, his job and his attempts to prove he is indeed getting more intelligent as he progresses through the hugh task he set for himself. He enters a crossword puzzle tournament, takes part in a debate with a college debate team, joins Mensa and appears on the television game show Who wants to be a Millionaire. The book is by turns funny, thoughful, touching and educational. There were times I laughed outloud. At the end he draws some life lessons from what he learned, but I really think it was about the journey, not the destination.

Debbie
The Shack
Young, William P.
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This book had me in tears many times. It is such a clear, unclothed picture of the gospel. I loved it, and I think everyone should read it because it speaks of things that resonate with anybody. It's been called a modern-day "Pilgrim's Progress", and I think that sums it up pretty well.

Jennifer
Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight : An African Childhood
Fuller, Alexandra
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This book is so amazing because it offers a unique view of Zimbabwe's history. Seeing it through the eyes of a British child lets you experience the trials of the country in a more sheltered way. This book was very honest and funny and interesting and sad. I loved it. Also available in Audio Format.

Jennifer
Dog Man : An Uncommon Life On A Faraway Mountain
Sherrill, Martha
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I don't really know why I picked this book up. I'm not particularly interested in Japan or Akita dogs but there was just something that seemed so other worldly about the book. Published in 2008 the book details the life of Morie Sawataishi and his wife Kitako and to a lesser degree their children. To a large degree it explores Morie's relationship with the dogs we now know as Akitas. Morie grew up in the mountainous snow country but Kitako was a pampered daughter of a prosperous Toyko family. She fell for Morie, who had quite good prospects, and was completely taken aback by his decision to move back to the mountains. In the years after World War II life in Japan was hard, in the mountains it was doubly so. Kitako had to learn to cook and clean and get by on very little and with no modern conveniences. Morie was gone much of the time and when he was home he was consumed by his growing passion for snow country dogs. It was a passion that seemed to come out of nowhere, but one that has stayed with him to this day. Akitas were on the brink of extinction after World War II. They had been exterminated for their thick pelts for use in lining the winter gear of soldiers. Morie's quest takes the reader into an old Japan that is largely non-existant today. Old customs, old traditions and things done the way they had been done for centuries. No electricity, no roads, no cars, no trains. Morie helped change all that too with his work as an engineer constructing the first power plant in the area. It's a really fascinating read and a glimpse into a world I would never otherwise have known anything about.

Debbie
Skeletons At The Feast : A Novel
Bohjalian, Chris
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

An epic journey, disparate travelers, World War II as the backdrop, a love story, death, birth, cruelty, kindness and a growing awareness of the atrocities that have actually been happening in Germany and it's conquered lands are all part of this compelling novel. The story of a motley group of refugees including a traditional German frau, her daughter and son, a Scottish POW and an escaped Jewish man masquerading as a German soldier make up the core characters in the book but along the way they encounter German soldiers, German citizens, Russian soldiers. They endure cold, hunger, and constant danger. There are many losses along the way and much despair but somehow this story is hopeful and life affirming. Also available in Audio Format (CD) and Large Print.

Debbie
The Godfather
Puzo, Mario
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Many people do not realize that the Godfather movies are actually based on Mario Puzo's book. Most people are familiar with the plot of The Godfather, it is a novel that follows the Corleone family as they live a Mafia life. What many people may not realize is that this book is about people like themselves, dealing with issues of family, love and business, just probably not the family, love and business situations they have experienced. You may think you know the story from watching the movies, but until you read the book, you have no idea how much more complete the story can be. If you are having withdrawal symptoms now that the Sopranos is off the air, I think The Godfather will more than satisfy you. Also available in Audio Format and on DVD.

Emilie
Bright's Passage : A Novel
Ritter, Josh
4 stars = Really Good

This is a great effort of singer/songwriter Josh Ritter's first novel. If you've ever listened to his music, the novel is reminiscent of his songwriting. It's quite beautiful, yet very down-to-earth. It is a strange journey of a man named Bright, his horse, and his newborn son who could very possibly be the next saviour of heaven. There are angels, war, love, and vengeance. He keeps you guessing the whole way through.

Cassie
Book Review: A Land More Kind than Home
Cash, Wiley
4 stars = Really Good

It may be North Carolina, but it sure ain't Mayberry, in Wiley Cash's powerfully written debut. Instead, we get secrets, snake handlers and tragedy that ripples forward and back in all the character's lives. A great first effort from a writer to watch!

Alan
People Of The Book: A Novel
Brooks, Geraldine
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

An extraordinary book written about a beautifully illustrated codex that survived over 500 years. A rare book conservator goes to Sarajevo to report on the book and make repairs to it. Within the pages, she finds an insect wing, missing clasps, a drop of salt, a wine stain, and a white hair. Sprinkled throughout the modern story of this woman trying to find out what happened to the book, a love story, and much political intrigue, you are also taken back through the books' history to find out where these clues came from. If you have enjoyed books such as "Girl in Hyacinth Blue" by Susan Vreeland, you will enjoy this book. Also available in Audio Format (CDs) and Large Print.

Krista