Thursday, October 31, 2013

It'll Shine When It Shines

The Shining
by Stephen King

The month of October is great for a good scary read. And Stephen King’s The Shining is so spine-tinglingly scary and suspenseful that little bumps in the night become very alarming. A sleeping-with-both-eyes-open-and-the-light-on kind of alarming. It is certainly a book to be read only during daylight hours.

Originally written in 1977, The Shining tells how 6-year-old Danny Torrance’s family is going through a little bit of a rough patch. His hot-tempered, alcoholic father has just gotten fired from his teaching position, and the caretaker job at the Overlook Hotel is his father’s last hope at doing something right with his life. But Danny already secretly knows all of this, along with the violent act that got his father fired, too. Danny has something his friend Dick Hallorann calls “the shine.” It’s a little bit more than your average psychic ability, and Danny has a mighty hefty dose of it. Of course he can sense people’s thoughts and feelings, but he also can see the futureand there is something about the Overlook Hotel that doesn't sit quite right. The soul of this hotel seems to be coming to life, along with some of its more demonic, ghostly occupants. Danny’s psychic abilities seem to have awakened something in this hotel, and the Overlook will stop at nothing to make Danny (and his abilities) a more permanent resident.

 Doctor Sleep, Stephen King's much anticipated sequel to The Shining, was published last month.

To request these books click the titles or cover above.

Review by Jennifer Green

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lisa Scottoline's Latest

Mary DiNunzio should be on top of the world. She has been made partner at Rosato and Associates and her boyfriend has given her a beautiful engagement ring. When the firm is contacted by the high powered Gardner family, it seems like the icing on the cake. Representing the family could mean bringing in huge money for the firm. However, the Gardner case is not what Mary expects. 

Allegra Gardner, aged thirteen, wants to hire a firm to look into her sister Fiona's murder. Lonnie Stall, the man convicted of her murder, is safely behind bars, but Allegra is convinced of his innocence. Against her parents' wishes and tapping into trust fund money she is now allowed to access, Allegra wants answers. Her parents, convinced that Allegra is obsessed with Fiona's murder, are not happy about the possible reopening of the case.

Mary, experienced with the trauma that occurs when a loved one is murdered, accepts Allegra's case. She soon realizes that going up against the formidable Gardner family will not be easy. Mary is determined to help Allegra find the answers she is seeking, whatever the cost. 

Accused is the latest in Lisa Scottoline's Rosato and Associates series. For those not familiar with the series, it is set in Philadelphia and is about an all female law firm headed by Bennie Rosato. Filled with twists and turns, Accused will have you wondering to the very end if Mary can help Allegra find the answers she seeks. 

The public is invited to meet Lisa Scottoline, New York Times best selling author and Edgar award winner on Monday, November 4th at the Norcross Cultural Arts and Community Center at 7 PM. The event is free. For more information about the event, please check the GCPL Fall Into the Arts information page.

Review by Cara 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Learn to Homebrew

Next Saturday, November 2, is Learn to Homebrew Day. If you've ever had the itch to brew your own, GCPL can help you get started with any of the great books for both aspiring and experienced homebrewers in our collection.

If you're an absolute beginner, Basic Homebrewing: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started is a great resource, with color photos to guide you through the entire process step by step. George Hummel's Complete Homebrew Beer Book is more thorough and detailed. It's not flashy but has loads of practical advice and 200 very good, contemporary recipes. And Sam Calagione's Extreme Brewing is surprisingly helpful for beginners. Calagione is the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, and his well-illustrated book is packed with easy-to-follow recipes for some of the best of Dogfish Head's famously big, hoppy and exotic brews.

After you've got a batch or two under your belt, Zainasheff and Palmer's Brewing Classic Styles will help you improve your technique to achieve cleaner, more consistent results. Though geared toward beginning-to-intermediate homebrewers, it's also an invaluable guide for anyone looking to bring home some ribbons from a competition.  The Craft of Stone Brewing is another great book for experienced brewers. It recounts the history of San Diego's Stone Brewing from upstart startup to international success and includes dozens of recipes for Stone's famously in-your-face brews.

Eventually it will be time to turn to Dave Miller's Brew Like a Pro, which is anything but a beginner's guide. Miller favors by-the-book German-style brewing, and he's unwavering in his belief that the only beer worth brewing is made from fresh malt (not from powder or syrup extracts) and served on draft (not from bottles). Even if you're not looking to go over to the lager side, Miller's advice on how to put together a compact, low-cost all-grain home brewery is not to be missed by anyone considering making the leap to all-grain brewing.

There's still plenty of time to pick up a how-to book, purchase some supplies and be brewing by next weekend. Drop by your local branch today to get started. Cheers!

To request these books click the titles or cover above.

Review by Don Beistle

Monday, October 21, 2013

A gorgeous enigma from a prose master

All That Is
by James Salter

All That Is is James Salter's first novel in more than three decades, and it's a knockout. A pitch-perfect example of crisp midcentury prose, it traces the life of Philip Bowman from naval service in the Pacific during the Second World War to his postwar return to the East Coast, college on the GI Bill, and 30-year career in publishing.

It covers such vast territory in just over 250 pages by revealing Bowman's story through the lens of his relationships with women: mother, first love, marriage, divorce, affairs, marriage again, and so on. Though told in the third person, the book's episodic structure (months or years pass with the turn of a page) gives it the feel of a memoir. As Bowman's conquests mount, it may seem as though Salter is trafficking in little more than shameless male fantasy. But a careful reader cannot fail to notice that the narrator is altogether too sympathetic, too non-judgmental of Bowman to be anyone other than the protagonist himself. Is this the book he always wanted to write?

Salter's deceptively straightforward-seeming prose and his preoccupation with sexuality and family dynamics recalls the best of Updike and Cheever. His treatment of the world of publishing and New York's literati in the 1950s and '60s is richly detailed and wonderfully inviting—imagine Mad Men as penned by George Plimpton. Come to think of it, All That Is has everything viewers have come to expect from sophisticated basic-cable dramas: vividly drawn characters, a strong sense of place, nuance and moral ambiguity, and office and bedroom as microcosms of broader social upheaval.

To request this book click the title or cover above.

Review by Don Beistle

Friday, October 18, 2013

Monster Mash: Witches

We're winding down our week of wickedness with some witches. While technically not monsters, witches are a common feature of Halloween celebrations, so here we go. From Hermione Granger to Snow White's stepmother, witches have a long history in our popular culture. And with recent titles like A Discovery of Witches and the TV series based on the book Witches of East End, it doesn't look like they're going away any time soon.

Dead Witch Walking
By Kim Harrison

Rachel Morgan is a witch working for Inderland Security, the law enforcement agency that polices witches, vampires, pixies, and whatever other supernatural beings happen to break the rules. Rachel doesn't like her job anymore, but the thing about witches who quit the I.S. is that they don't seem to live very long. They might not even make it out of the building. But with a little luck, some wishes from an uncooperative leprechaun, and help from her vampire pal Ivy, she decides to make a go of it. Rachel and Ivy move into the Hollows, which is the neighborhood in Cincinnati where the otherworldly live. She wants to open her own practice, but soon she's dodging spells and assassins. Fortunately, she stumbles across a case that might, if she can manage it, pay off the contract on her life. Unfortunately, she might not survive until then.

To request this book click the title or cover above.

Review by Danny Hanbery

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Monster Mash: Werewolves

Our second creature feature this week is a little hairier than the last, but just as bloodthirsty. By the way, did you know that there's a full moon this Friday? Pleasant dreams!

Red Moon
By Benjamin Percy

Billed as a political novel about werewolves, this book imagines what the United States would be like if a percentage of the population could shift into vicious animals at will. In this world there is a werewolf underground full of radicals who believe they shouldn't be expected to take the drug that suppresses their ability to change. There is a werewolf homeland in Europe that is occupied by U.S. forces. There is even a college with an exclusively werewolf student population. But the werewolves live on a razor's edge of tolerance from those around them.

Claire, a teenage girl, knows that her parents are to the political left. But until the government kills them after a werewolf terrorist attack she doesn't realize how deep their history with the radicals goes.

Patrick, a teenage boy, knows that his dad is gone to bolster the U.S. forces in the Lupine Republic, but he doesn't have any personal experience with werewolves until he's the only survivor of an attack on an airplane.

These two characters make their way from kids who have been sheltered from the complexities of life to young adults who have to make tough decisions about loyalty, family, and survival. As a presidential election is in the works, with an anti-werewolf third party candidate leading the polls, the entire country wrestles with what is wrong and what is right when it comes to the monsters among them.

To request this book click the title or cover above.

Review by Danny Hanbery

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monster Mash: Vampires

Because October is the spookiest month, we thought we'd offer a week full of monsters and mayhem. Each post this week will feature a different creature of the night to give you chills as you huddle beneath your covers. But don't worry, the sun'll come out tomorrow. At least I hope it will.

Anno Dracula
By Kim Newman

Fast-paced and blood-soaked, this alternate history imagines what would have happened if Dracula had not been stopped by Van Helsing and the Harkers as he was in Bram Stoker's novel. In this story Dracula rises to power, bringing Queen Victoria under his thrall. As Prince Consort he begins reforming England in his image, with vampirism spreading throughout the land. Some of the new vampires are just as bloodthirsty as Dracula himself. As a new draconian legal system cracks down on the populace, Jack the Ripper begins killing vampires in Whitechapel and the hunt is on to stop this killer before he causes the tensions in London to boil over.

This is a book chock full of literary and historical references. Bram Stoker is in it along with the characters he created. Oscar Wilde walks the same streets as Sherlock Holmes and a few thousand Victorian vampires. This is a horror novel for the literate and the thrill-hungry.

And better yet, it's a series!

To request this book click the cover or title above.

Review by Danny Hanbery

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Nobel Prize in Literature goes to...

Alice Munro received the Nobel Prize in Literature this week. You can read the New York Times article about it here.

Munro is a short story writer whose work I've found moving and beautifully written. I even wrote a paper on her stories in college. It feels a little like my team won the playoffs...of literature. Not a great analogy, but if you'd like to read some better prose I highly recommend Alice Munro.

If you'd like to read her stories, you can request some of her books from Gwinnett County Public Library here.

If you don't want to wait, you can find several of her stories online for free via this post at Open Culture.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Psychological Thriller

Defending Jacob by William Landay tells the story of Andy, an assistant district attorney investigating the surprising murder a high school boy who is a classmate of his son. The shocked and frightened community wants answers, and  Andy is determined to find out who committed this heinous crime so close to home. The students at the school, not questioned until legal releases can be obtained, are not communicative about the death. Andy discovers through social media that the whole school is buzzing, and the buzz concerns his son Jacob.

Due to pressure from the district attorney's office who feel that his involvement is a conflict of interest, Andy releases the case. Andy knows that his office isn't being forthcoming, but is blindsided when Jacob is arrested for the murder. Jacob swears his innocence despite the mounting evidence. Andy is convinced of Jacob's innocence and conducts his own investigation to seek the truth.

Filled with secrets, twists, and turns, Defending Jacob is a thrill ride for those who enjoy a good psychological thriller. If you enjoyed Gone Girl, give this one a try.

Review by Cara 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Peachtree Corners Branch Staff Picks

October's staff picks come to us from the Peachtree Corners Branch in Norcross, up on the northwest edge of the county. Thanks, Peachtree Corners staff for sharing some of your favorite titles!

Night Road
by Kristin Hannah

Jude Farrady and her twins Zach and Mia are at the heart of this family saga. Lexi Ball moves into town, becoming Mia’s best friend and soon her inseparable companion. Lexi forms a close friendship with Zach as well, and soon it blossoms into full-blown first love. There is more to Lexi than meets the eye, but secret past or no, Jude and her husband find out the truth but choose to love and accept Lexi all the same. Jude soon becomes a surrogate mother to Lexi, who becomes a constant at the Farrady house. But having grown up on the wrong side of the tracks it is a bit hard for her to conceive of their opulent lifestyle. It is a tough challenge for Jude to give the teens their freedom as they grow older. Jude’s worst fears come true and tragedy strikes during the Senior year of high school for Lexi and the twins. An emotionally complex and satisfying read about love, forgiveness, and suffering long and hard consequences for your actions.

The Legacy
by Katherine Webb

The Legacy is set in the English countryside, where the estate of Storton Manor and its inhabitants figures greatly in the story. The main characters are sisters Erica and Beth Calcott. Beth is tormented by a day in their youth when her cousin Henry mysteriously vanished and was never seen again. Though Erica believes it is irrational, Beth has always blamed herself. The book is big on both plot and character development and will not disappoint readers who love family sagas, suspense, or mystery as it contains all three. The book contains a reader’s guide and is perfect for book clubs. The Peachtree Corners book club couldn’t stop talking about the many layers of this fast-paced story.

The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats
edited by Richard J. Finneran

William Butler Yeats was the most influential Irish poet of the 20th century. Whether waxing lyrical for his long-lost muse Maud Gonne, the feminist and Irish Revolutionary who spurned his love, or retelling ancient Celtic myths, Yeats never fails to hit the heart of the reader. He writes of Helen of Troy, of wandering Aengus, of political figures Cromwell and Parnell but also of growing old and learning to deal with his mortality in “The Four Ages of Man” and “A Prayer for Old Age.” Yeats was very involved in the occult society The Golden Dawn, and several poems deal with esoteric subjects. This anthology reveals how his work changed as Ireland became an independent country and he a statesman. Yeats dedicated one of his books to Lady Gregory, who dominated the theater with him during the Irish Renaissance, and this anthology includes his dramatic poems for several voices.

The Enchanted life of Adam Hope
Rhonda Riley

One rainy day in the last months of World War II, 17-year-old Evelyn Roe, tending the farm she has inherited from her aunt and uncle, literally pulls what appears to be an unconscious man from the bottom of a large mud puddle. His adult-sized body is strangely unfinished and embryonic, and he seems to have come from nowhere: he has no clothes, no discoverable identity, no language. Evelyn takes him into her house and eventually into her heart, and thus begins their strange story. As Evelyn and Adam attempt to live normal lives with the burden of Adam’s unknown origins and strange natural gifts, they learn too well the price of being different from those around them. The Enchanted life of Adam Hope is a novel about otherness, about what it means to have a secret that is wonderful and yet must be kept hidden.

The Uninvited Guests
Sadie Jones

On the eve of the 20th century, Sterne, a grand old English manor, sits on the brink of financial ruin. But Emerald and Clovis Torrington are selfishly absorbed with the details of Emerald’s twentieth birthday dinner, a ruinously expensive gala which has all the household in preparatory uproar. Unfortunately, just as the illustrious guests begin to arrive for the celebration, tragedy strikes nearby in the form of a deadly railway accident. When Sterne is commandeered by the local authorities as a waystation for stranded passengers, mayhem envelopes the estate. Dark, campy, facetious, and strangely funny, the plot unfolds well beyond a comedy of manners, and in the end takes some surprising twists on its way to resolution. A good read for October shivers!

To request these books click the titles or covers above.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Who writes narrative verse anymore?

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish
by David Rakoff

Looking for a short novel in verse about a cast of characters whose interlocking stories span the length and breadth of America over most of the 20th century?

Well, neither was anyone else. But that's the brilliant thing about this book. It's like the first iPod: something that nobody was asking or waiting for but which was such a beautiful, wonderful surprise that it seemed as if you had somehow dreamed it into existence.

Having read some glowing reviews, I picked up the book almost as a dare. Neither the form (narrative verse) nor the content (enough woe and misadventure to fill a week's programming on the Lifetime channel) held any great appeal for me, but I had to see what all the buzz was about.

Rakoff was a frequent contributor to public radio's This American Life and has a well-honed knack for bringing compelling characters to life in short order with a telling detail or well-turned phrase. From misfit teenagers and mid-century steno-pool girls to exuberantly gay pop artists and soulless yuppies, Rakoff's characters capture and hold the reader's interest. Their stories are spun in rhyming couplets, which actually send the reader's eye (ear?) galloping onward in a way that straight prose cannot. Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish is not especially good poetry, but Rakoff's almost comical verse  sustains a mordant counterpoint to his often dark subject matter. It's great storytelling.

Sadly, this will be David Rakoff's last book. He died of cancer in August 2012; he was just 47.

To request this book click the title or cover above.

Review by Don Beistle

Family Saga is a Stunning Debut

by Amanda Coplin

Amanda Coplin knows the Pacific Northwest, she was born and bred there and still resides in the area.  The Orchardist is a love song to her homeland.  Set in Washington State at the turn of the century we get to see the major characters take their first ride on a railroad and of course they are enthralled and see it as almost a magical contraption.

William Tallmadge raises apples and apricots with the care usually reserved for a lover.  He is a completely solitary man and self sufficient except for his friendship with neighbor Caroline Middey, a fellow introvert.  The Orchardist is the story of what happens when the reclusive Tallmadge is at a fruit stand and two feral and very pregnant teenage runaways steal fruit from him. Tallmadge decides they need the nourishment and doesn’t retaliate.  The girls are so surprised by his lack of vindictiveness that they sneak through the woods and follow him home. Della and Jane have been held against their will since they were children in a brothel not too far from Tallmadge’s orchard.  Tallmadge opens his seldom used heart and lets the girls in and they become a close-knit family.  The girls are like scared animals at first, painfully shy and skittish.  Tallmadge works long and hard to earn their trust.  The main focus of the novel is the relationship between Jane and Tallmadge who work the land together just the two of them for many years.  It is enlightening and unusual  to see the earnest character development in a story filled with so many introverts.

The opening chapters are a bit slow setting the background of how Tallmadge comes to live alone, with no kin, on a huge orchard.  After that, the novel is a real page turner. It would not be an overstatement to call The Orchardist a great American tragedy.  It is a novel of epic proportions.  Before you worry that the novel is morose, let me assure you that is an uplifting and lyrical work of fiction. The book is truly a delight!  I can hardly wait for Coplin to write another!  I gave it five of five stars on GoodReads.  I’ve read around seventy novels in 2013 and there is only one I’d rank as highly and that is The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, another must read that is available at the library.

This book so set in a specific region of the country and when railroad travel is novel is reminiscent of Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons albeit Frazier’s setting is the South.  If you like Frazier give the Orchardist a try. Those of you who enjoy Westerns will also enjoy The Orchardist.

Review by Kathleen Richardson