Great Reads

Richards, Keith. Life.

Keith Richards, a musician and bibliophile who was greatly inspired by the Chicago Blues, recounts with an impressive candor and humor his journey with one of the most important rock’n’roll bands of all times, the Rolling Stones.  The focus is not on each of the band’s albums or how every song came about, but it centers on the Richards’ childhood poverty, struggle with heroin addiction, and marriages to actress Anita Pallenberg and later, model Patty Hansen--whom many believe saved his life. The often turbulent, brotherly relationship between the band members is fascinating. The book also contains many photographs, and even the Richards' famous recipe for Bangers and Mash.  It also provides an interesting perspective on how the music industry as a whole has evolved, from the days of single vinyl records up to to mega stadium concerts.

Richards’ lengthy memoir is sure to please even those who are not big rock’n’roll fans, from 18 to 80. Even if your primary genre is fiction, you will enjoy Richards’s frank and insightful, conversational narrative.

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Baker, Tiffany. The Gilly Salt Sisters

The Gilly women work in salt. Owners of Salt Creek Farm, the women undertake backbreaking labor to harvest salt from their marsh.  And every December Eve, it is their duty to throw a small packet of salt into the celebratory bonfire to predict the future of their tiny Cape Code community of Prospect.  Because of this long tradition and because the salt is believed to have mysterious qualities, the Gilly women are feared rather than loved—necessary for the town’s well-being, but outside its community all the same.  Claire Gilly has always longed for more, ever since childhood. She rejected the salt and rejected her family and, after a disastrous accident that left her sister Jo scarred by fire, Claire married Whit Turner, a scion of the wealthiest family in town, leaving the salt marsh for good.  But the salt wasn’t done with her, it seems. Long-buried family secrets come to the fore when teenaged Dee ends up pregnant by Claire’s husband and Claire’s first true love, now a priest, returns to town.

Whimsical and dark by turns, The Gilly Salt Sisters is not quite as strong as Baker’s debut, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. However, the characters are nuanced and the atmosphere and setting are evocative and sharply drawn. There is much to enjoy here.

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Kiernan, Caitlin R. Drowning Girl

India Morgan Philips, Imp to her friends, is insane.  And she knows it. The diagnosis of schizophrenia came as no surprise to her; both her mother and grandmother suffered from similar disorders, both ending their lives as suicides. An artistic, troubled young woman, Imp tries to control her disorder with medication and therapy, but those only go so far.  Her obessions—or intrusive thoughts, as her therapist wishes her to call them—sometimes get the better of her. This is the case when she meets Eva Canning, a woman who so strongly evokes a painting called “The Drowning Girl” which Imp had seen as a child that she throws Imp into a fever of artistic madness, compelling her to draw Eva’s face over and over and repeatedly scrawl the words to Lewis Carroll’s “The Lobster Quadrille” over everything at hand.  But who is Eva? A hitchhiker? A mermaid? A werewolf? The charimatic priestess of a doomed cult? In Imp’s fevered brain, Eva is all of these things and none of them. And so, in a desperate attempt to find her way through the labyrinth schizophrenia has made of her own past, Imp sets down her story—or stories, as her memory plays tricks on her—in a complex, layered, and utterly compelling narrative.

Haunting and magical, The Drowning Girl questions our understanding of reality. Kiernan’s Imp knows, in a way most of us do not, that she is an unreliable narrator in the story of her own life. What in our life and memory is true and factual, and what is a compelling or comforting fantasy we tell ourselves to cover over the truth? The Drowning Girl does not provide easy answers to these most fundamental questions.

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Just a Thought -- What's On the New Book Cart?

One of the perks of being a librarian is seeing all the new books come in before they go out to the shelves. In the past, we've occasionally picked some new, yet-to-be-shelved titles to feature here and let our readers in on the fun. We haven't done a post like that in too long, so here are some picks from our newest new book cart!



Boudinot, Ryan.  Blueprints of the Afterlife

Blueprints of the Afterlife is a tour de force--part George Saunders, part Philip K. Dick--delivering bracing intelligence about who we are, why we're here, and what Ted Williams has to look forward to when he's defrosted. (From the back cover.)

Levine, Sara.  Treasure Island!!!

When a college graduate with a history of hapless jobs (ice cream scooper; gift wrapper; laziest ever part-time clerk at The Pet Library) reads Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island, she is dumbstruck by the timid design of her own life...our heroine embarks on a domestic adventure more frightening than anything she'd planned. (From the inside flap.)

Sjon.  From the Mouth of the Whale

Jonas Palmason, a poet and self-taught healer, has been condemned to exile for heretical conduct, having fallen foul of the local magistrate. Banished to a remote island, Jonas recalls his exorcism of a walking corpse on the remote Snjafjoll coast, the frenzied massacre of innocent Basque whalers at the hands of local villagers and the deaths of three of his children. ...a magical evocation of an enlightened mind and a vanished age. (From the back cover)


Non Fiction

Castor, Helen.  She-Wolves: the women who ruled England before Elizabeth

Between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries three [more] exceptional women -- Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, and Margaret of Anjou -- discovered how much was possible if presumptions of male rule were not confronted so explicitly -- and just how quickly they might be vilified as "she-wolves" for their pains. The stories of these women, told here in vivid detail, expose the paradox that female heirs to the Tudor throne had no choice but to negotiate. (From the inside flap)

Deardorff, David and Kathryn Wadsworth.  What's Wrong with My Vegetable Garden?

What's Wrong with My Vegetable Garden? teaches you how to keep your vegetables healthy, so they're less susceptible to attack, and when problems do occur, it shows you how to recognize the problem and find the right organic solution. (From the back cover)

Zuiker, Anthony E.  Mr. CSI: how a Vegas dreamer made a killing in Hollywood, one  body at a time

In 1990, Anthony Zuiker was just another Hollywood wannabe...But twenty years later, Zuiker stands as the mastermind behind the most popular television show in history, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spin-offs.... How he got the narrative lifeblood of Mr. CSI, only, like the show, there's a catch.... (from the inside flap)

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Penney, Stef. The Invisible Ones

Private investigator Ray Lovell thought he’d left his Gypsy roots far behind him. His father left the travelling life long ago to “live in bricks” with Ray’s gorgie—non-Gypsy—mother and Ray himself has never lived on the road. His main connection to that life was childhood trips to visit his father’s family in their trailers.  But he finds himself pulled back into the often tangled webs of Gypsy family when Leon Wood, a Gypsy man, hires him to locate his missing daughter. No one but a Gypsy would get far, Leon insists, and Ray reluctantly takes the case. Rose Wood—Rose Janko at the time of her disappearance—has been missing for seven years and Ray doesn’t think he’ll get too far. But when he interviews the seemingly cursed Janko family—not only did Rose vanish, but the males of the family are plagued by an always-fatal degenerative disease of mysterious origins—Ray soon finds that nothing is as it seems and that it’s finally time for the Janko family secrets to come to light. When Ray lands in the hospital, poisoned near-fatally and partially paralyzed, his drive to see this case through to the end intensifies.

Narrated alternately by Ray Lovell, a flawed but driven man; and young JJ, a Gypsy boy trying hard to understand his place in both the Janko clan and the greater world, The Invisible Ones is both a compelling mystery and also a fascinating glimpse into an unfamiliar culture and lifestyle. Between this and her debut novel, The Tenderness of Wolves, it is obvious that Stef Penney is an author to watch.

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