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Kern County Library Staff Suggests...: July Recommendations for Adults

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July Recommendations for Adults


So Cold the River by Michael Kortya - It started with a beautiful woman and a challenge. As a gift for her husband, Alyssa Bradford approaches Eric Shaw to make a documentary about her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, a 95-year-old billionaire whose past is wrapped in mystery. Eric grabs the job even though there are few clues to the man's past--just the name of his hometown and an antique water bottle he's kept his entire life. In Bradford's hometown, Eric discovers an extraordinary history--a glorious domed hotel where movie stars, presidents, athletes, and mobsters once mingled, and hot springs whose miraculous mineral water cured everything from insomnia to malaria. Neglected for years, the resort has been restored to its former grandeur just in time for Eric's stay. Just hours after his arrival, Eric experiences a frighteningly vivid vision. As the days pass, the frequency and intensity of his hallucinations increase and draw Eric deeper into the town's dark history. He discovers that something besides the hotel has been restored--a long-forgotten evil that will stop at nothing to regain its lost glory. Brilliantly imagined and terrifyingly real, So Cold the River is a tale of irresistible suspense with a racing, unstoppable current. (review from Publisher’s Weekly)

The Taken by Inger Ash Wolfe - Lovers of twisty but plausible plotting and an out-of-the-ordinary lead will embrace Wolfe's standout second police procedural featuring Canadian Det. Insp. Hazel Micallef (after 2009's The Calling). A bizarre case brings Micallef, who depends on her ex-husband and his new wife as she recovers from a serious back injury suffered in the line of duty, back into action sooner than planned. A body fishermen dredge up from the bottom of a lake in Port Dundas, Ont., turns out just to be a mannequin, but numbers on the dummy lead Micallef to a Web site streaming video that appears to show a man being tortured by his abductor. In a frantic search for clues, Micallef concludes that the kidnapping is somehow linked to a fictional story being run in installments in the local newspaper. It's a testament to Wolfe's storytelling gifts that her reveal of the criminal's identity about midway through heightens rather than diminishes the tension.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin - Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only "Alice." Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories. That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war. For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.

A love story and a literary mystery, "Alice I Have Been" brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire.

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman - If any contemporary author deserves to wear the mantel of Jane Austen, it's Goodman, whose subtle, astute social comedies perfectly capture the quirks of human nature. This dazzling novel is Austen updated for the dot-com era, played out between 1999 and 2001 among a group of brilliant risk takers and truth seekers. Still in her 20s, Emily Bach is the CEO of Veritech, a Web-based data-storage startup in trendy Berkeley. Her boyfriend, charismatic Jonathan Tilghman, is in a race to catch up at his data-security company, ISIS, in Cambridge, Mass. Emily is low-key, pragmatic, kind, serene—the polar opposite of her beloved younger sister, Jess, a crazed postgrad who works at an antiquarian bookstore owned by a retired Microsoft millionaire. When Emily confides her company's new secret project to Jonathan as a proof of her love, the stage is set for issues of loyalty and trust, greed, and the allure of power. What is actually valuable, Goodman's characters ponder: a company's stock, a person's promise, a forest of redwoods, a collection of rare cookbooks? Goodman creates a bubble of suspense as both Veritech and ISIS issue IPOs, career paths collide, social values clash, ironies multiply, and misjudgments threaten to destroy romantic desire. Enjoyable and satisfying, this is Goodman's (Intuition) most robust, fully realized and trenchantly meaningful work yet. review from Publisher’s Weekly)


Role Models by John Waters - Waters's role models range from icons like Johnny Mathis and Tennessee Williams to a gay reality-porn auteur, a lesbian stripper called Lady Zorro, and ex-Charles Manson groupie and murderer Leslie Van Houten. When he pays attention to them, Waters produces vivid portraits of his subjects, especially those with really lurid backstories, but he's happier when the spotlight is on him and his studied outrageousness. He discusses celebrity (I've...gone out drinking with Clint Eastwood, and spent several New Year's Eve parties in Valentino's chalet in Gstaad, but what I like best is staying home and reading), regales readers with scatological scandals, disdaining religious beliefs while graciously tolerating people who hold them. (review from Publisher’s Weekly)
"John Waters has a great gift for appreciation—whether for toothless lesbian strippers in Baltimore or the most rarefied painters and writers of our day. He is a dandy who has done away with everyone else’s hierarchies and created a new world that conforms only to his own taste for trash and the sublime. He is frank, funny, and (strangely enough) both sensible and outrageous." —Edmund White, author of City Boy

Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Mary McDonagh Murphy - To mark the fiftieth anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, Mary McDonagh Murphy reviews its history and examines how the novel has left its mark on a broad range of novelists, historians, journalists, and artists. In compelling interviews, Anna Quindlen, Tom Brokaw, Oprah Winfrey, James Patterson, James McBride, Scott Turow, Wally Lamb, Andrew Young, Richard Russo, Adriana Trigiani, Rick Bragg, Jon Meacham, Allan Gurganus, Diane McWhorter, Lee Smith, Rosanne Cash, and others reflect on when they first read the novel, what it means to them—then and now—and how it has affected their lives and careers. Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a lively appreciation of the many ways in which the novel has made—and continues to make—a difference to generations of readers. Harper Lee has not given an interview since 1964, but Murphy's reporting, research, and rare interviews with the author's sister and friends stitch together a brief history of how the novel, as well as the acclaimed 1962 movie, came to be.

How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley - Crosley still lives and works in New York City, but she's no longer the newcomer for whom a trip beyond the Upper West Side is a big adventure. She can pack up her sensibility and takes us with her to Paris, to Portugal (having picked it by spinning a globe and putting down her finger, and finally falling in with a group of Portuguese clowns), and even to Alaska, where the "bear bells" on her fellow bridesmaids' ponytails seemed silly until a grizzly cub dramatically intrudes. Meanwhile, back in New York, where new apartments beckon and taxi rides go awry, her sense of the city has become more layered, her relationships with friends and family more complicated. As always, Crosley's voice is fueled by the perfect witticism, buoyant optimism, flair for drama, and easy charm in the face of minor suffering or potential drudgery. But in How Did You Get This Number it has also become increasingly sophisticated, quicker and sharper to the point, more complex and lasting in the emotions it explores. And yet, Crosley remains the unfailingly hilarious young Everywoman, healthily equipped with intelligence and poise to fend off any potential mundanity in maturity.

The Golden Gate, the Life and Times of America’s Greatest Bridge by Kevin Starr - The Golden Gate Bridge links the urbanity of San Francisco with the wild headlands of Marin County, as if to suggest the paradox of California and America itself—the place that Fitzgerald saw as the last spot commensurate with the human capacity for wonder. The bridge, completed in 1937, also announced to the world America's engineering prowess and full assumption of its destined continental dominance. The Golden Gate is a counterpart to the Statue of Liberty, pronouncing American achievement in an unmistakable American fashion. The nation's very history is expressed in the bridge's art deco style and stark verticality.

Kevin Starr's Golden Gateis a brilliant and passionate telling of the history of the bridge, and the rich and peculiar history of the California experience. The Golden Gate is a grand public work, a symbol and a very real bridge, a magnet for both postcard photographs and suicides. In this compact but comprehensive narrative, Starr unfolds the hidden-in-plain-sight meaning of the Golden Gate, putting it in its place among classic works of art.


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