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

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Recommendations for Adults


A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley - Award-winning author Alan Bradley returns with another beguiling novel starring the insidiously clever and unflappable eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce. The precocious chemist with a passion for poisons uncovers a fresh slew of misdeeds in the hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey. Flavia had asked the old Gypsy woman to tell her fortune, but never expected to stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer had abducted a local child years ago? Certainly Flavia understands the bliss of settling scores; revenge is a delightful pastime when one has two odious older sisters. But how could this crime be connected to the missing baby? Had it something to do with the weird sect who met at the river to practice their secret rites? While still pondering the possibilities, Flavia stumbles upon another corpse—that of a notorious layabout who had been caught prowling about the de Luce’s drawing room. Pedaling Gladys, her faithful bicycle, across the countryside in search of clues to both crimes, Flavia uncovers some odd new twists. Most intriguing is her introduction to an elegant artist with a very special object in her possession—a portrait that sheds light on the biggest mystery of all: Who is Flavia? As the red herrings pile up, Flavia must sort through clues fishy and foul to untangle dark deeds and dangerous secrets.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown - Three sisters, a scholarly father who breaks into iambic pentameter, and an absentminded but loving mother who brought the girls up in rural Ohio may sound like an idyllic family; however, when Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia return home—ostensibly to help their parents through their mother’s cancer treatment—readers begin to see a whole different family. A prologue introduces characters and hints of the dramas to come, while the omniscient narrator, seemingly the combined consciousness of the sisters, chronicles in the first-person plural events that occur during the heavy Ohio summer and end in the epilogue, which describes an (overly?) hopeful resolution. Brown writes with authority and affection both for her characters and the family hometown of Barnwell, a place that almost becomes another character in the story. A skillful use of flashback shows the characters developing and evolving as well as establishing the origins of family myth and specific personality traits. There are no false steps in this debut novel: the humor, lyricism, and realism characterizing this lovely book will appeal to fans of good modern fiction as well as stories of family and of the Midwest. (reviewed by Ellen Loughran, Booklist.)

What You See in the Dark by Manuel Muñoz - Bakersfield, California, in the late 1950s is a dusty, quiet town too far from Los Angeles to share that city’s energy yet close enough to Hollywood to fill its citizens with the kinds of dreams they discover in the darkness of the movie theater. For Teresa, a young, aspiring singer who works at a shoe store, dreams lie in the music her mother shared with her, plaintive songs of love and longing. In Dan Watson, the most desirable young man in Bakersfield, she believes she has found someone to help her realize those dreams. When a famous actress arrives from Hollywood with a great and already legendary director, local gossip about Teresa and Dan gives way to speculation about the celebrated visitors, there to work on what will become an iconic, groundbreaking film of madness and murder at a roadside motel. No one anticipates how the ill-fated love affair between Dan and Teresa will soon rival anything the director could ever put on the screen.

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon - In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls... You learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain. You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, and, best of all, no more front doors slamming before dawn as they trudge out for their early formation, sneakers on metal stairs, cars starting, shouts to the windows above to throw them down their gloves on cold desert mornings. Babies still cry, telephones ring, Saturday morning cartoons screech, but without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life.

There is an army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas. Through a series of loosely interconnected stories, Siobhan Fallon takes readers onto the base, inside the homes, into the marriages and families-intimate places not seen in newspaper articles or politicians' speeches. When you leave Fort Hood, the sign above the gate warns, You've Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming. It is eerily prescient.


American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen - In January 1811, five hundred slaves, dressed in military uniforms and armed with guns, cane knives, and axes, rose up from the plantations around New Orleans and set out to conquer the city. Ethnically diverse, politically astute, and highly organized, this self-made army challenged not only the economic system of plantation agriculture but also American expansion. Their march represented the largest act of armed resistance against slavery in the history of the United States. Through groundbreaking original research, Daniel Rasmussen offers a window into the young, expansionist country, illuminating the early history of New Orleans and providing new insight into the path to the Civil War and the slave revolutionaries who fought and died for justice and the hope of freedom.

American Uprising is the riveting and long-neglected story of this elaborate plot, the rebel army's dramatic march on the city, and its shocking conclusion. No North American slave uprising—not Gabriel Prosser's, not Denmark Vesey's, not Nat Turner's—has rivaled the scale of this rebellion either in terms of the number of the slaves involved or the number who were killed. More than one hundred slaves were slaughtered by federal troops and French planters, who then sought to write the event out of history and prevent the spread of the slaves' revolutionary philosophy. With the Haitian revolution a recent memory and the War of 1812 looming on the horizon, the revolt had epic consequences for America.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua - Chua promotes what has traditionally worked very well in raising children: strict, Old World, uncompromising values--and the parents don't have to be Chinese. What they are, however, are different from what she sees as indulgent and permissive Western parents: stressing academic performance above all, never accepting a mediocre grade, insisting on drilling and practice, and instilling respect for authority. Chua and her Jewish husband (both are professors at Yale Law) raised two girls, and her account of their formative years achieving amazing success in school and music performance proves both a model and a cautionary tale. Sophia, the eldest, was dutiful and diligent, leapfrogging over her peers in academics and as a Suzuki piano student; Lulu was also gifted, but defiant, who excelled at the violin but eventually balked at her mother's pushing. Chua's efforts "not to raise a soft, entitled child" will strike American readers as a little scary--removing her children from school for extra practice, public shaming and insults, equating Western parenting with failure--but the results, she claims somewhat glibly in this frank, unapologetic report card, "were hard to quarrel with." (~ Publisher’s Weekly, Jan. 2011)

Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All by Russell Simmons - Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

In straight-talking inspiring chapters, Simmons provides unforgettable true stories from his own road to riches, delving into the principles and practices that have kept him energized and focused. Whether we're in the boardroom or on a yoga mat, Simmons says, we have to be able to listen to our inner voices. Finding our unique potential, we can make the right moves, ruled not by money but by the joy of conscientious living and giving. With these philosophies and more, Simmons brings us a stimulus package of consciousness that will never run dry, backed by the power of the higher self.

Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees, and the Trail of Tears by Brian Hicks - In 1838, the Cherokees were the last of the "Five Civilized Tribes" to be forcibly removed from their tribal lands. Brian Hicks’s Toward the Setting Sun chronicles one of the most significant but least explored periods in American history, recounting the little known story of the first white man to champion the voiceless Native American cause. The son of a Scottish trader and a quarter-Cherokee woman, Ross was educated in white schools and was only one-eighth Indian by blood. It was not until he was twenty-two, when he fought alongside "his people" against the Creek Indians, a neighboring rebel tribe, that he knew the Cherokees’ fate would be his. As Cherokee chief for four decades in the early- to mid-nineteenth century, he would guide the tribe through its most turbulent period, at once civilizing it for a new era and furiously defending it from white encroachment. The Cherokees’ plight lay at the epicenter of nearly all the key issues facing a young America: western expansion, states’ rights, judicial power, and racial discrimination. Clashes between Ross and President Andrew Jackson raged over decades, from battlefields and meeting houses to the White House and Supreme Court. But Jackson began to methodically evacuate each of the other "Civilized Tribes" to land beyond the Mississippi River and felt no shame in ignoring decades of U.S.-Indian treaties. As increasing numbers of whites settled illegally on the Nation’s native land, including Ross’s beloved home at Head of Coosa, the chief remained steadfast in his refusal to sign a treaty agreeing to removal. Only when a group of renegade Cherokees betrayed their chief and negotiated an agreement with Jackson’s men behind Ross’s back was he forced to give way and begin his journey west. In one of America’s great tragedies, thousands of Cherokees died during the tribe’s migration on the Trail of Tears, and the survivors who made it to Oklahoma were left to build a new life. Toward the Setting Sun retells the story of our nation’s expansionist aspirations from the native perspective, and takes a critical look at the well-rehearsed story of American progress.


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