Monday, March 31, 2014

No harm in a little prank...

The Man Who Japed
By Philip K. Dick

In honor of April Fool's Day I thought I'd present a work by a master of science fiction that uses a prank as its main plot point.

In the year 2114 Allen Purcell is an upstanding citizen of a totalitarian society that strictly enforces a moral code using spying robots called "juveniles." He has a wife and a good job in the entertainment industry and he's worked hard to get where he is. But something isn't quite right in the world, and he just can't figure it out. One morning he wakes up to discover that someone has vandalized a statue of their government's founder. Everyone is shocked, but no one more so than Allen who finds red paint on his shoes. He's pretty sure he's the one who played the little prank, but he can't remember doing it. And he's worried that he might do it again.

What does it take to crumble a totalitarian government? Maybe it just takes a sense of humor.

To request this book click the title or cover above.

Review by Danny Hanbery

Friday, March 28, 2014

Two Different Love Stories

The Rosie Project is a love story for those who can relate to the socially inept. Don Tillman, a professor of genetics, lives his lie in a logical, organized, systematic way. He knows that he tends to think and react differently than others so when he decides that he is ready to take the steps of finding a wife he of course goes about it very methodically. He makes a questionnaire and creates the Wife Project.

However, along the way he makes a friend named Rosie who ends up turning his life upside down in a very good way as he helps her find her father. Don learns that love is more than what can be put on paper. This is a funny and touching story as much as learning about oneself as it is about recognizing love. 

It is 1880 in London and 19 year-old Frances Irvine is living a privileged life under her father's roof. She wants for little until her father sickens and passes away. Investments her father had made have fallen through and left her with nothing. With few choices she agrees to an unwanted marriage to a man she doesn't like in South Africa. On the trip over she falls in love with another passenger. When she arrives in Africa, though she marries as intended, she continues to pine for the other man.

She must decide whether to stay with her husband or leave with the man she has fallen for. Out in the harsh country with no skills Frances is forced to leave her sheltered way behind and learn about the harsh realities of life. She must challenge her perceptions and learn who to trust. The Fever Tree is a story of learning about oneself, discerning the truth and following your heart. 

Review by Arlene  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Historical Fiction Set in Constantinople

Theodora is an excellent read for those who prefer books other than New York Times bestsellers and a great choice for lovers of historical fiction. Set in Constantinople under the rule of the Emperor Justin the novel explores the human story of Theodora with many details of history, geography, politics, and the royal family. Theodora loves the city of Constantinople, the surrounding sea, the smells, and especially the church of Hagia Sophia where she always feels safe from harm.

Theodora grew up poor, the middle child of a bear handler and went on to become a dancing star, comic, and actress of the Hippodrome. Theodora’s story has been largely marginalized in the history books of the ancient world, mainly because she was female. Duffy does much to flesh out the real woman behind the myths.

When Theodora’s father, the chief animal handler was killed by his bear and dies the family of three girls is thrown into poverty. The three girls are sent to the eunuch, Menander, the strictest dance teacher in The City. Theodora was cheeky and she longed for Menander’s approval above all else, so she was also the most likely to incur his wrath. She was not beautiful in the traditional sense, she didn't have the most beautiful voice or the best skill at dancing but her comic routines and her seductions were legendary. At 12 years of age Theodora saves a floundering production by ad libbing and soon becomes the leading lady of the Hippodrome. That means that she is expected to make most of her money flat on her back. Theodora befriends the diva of her new troupe, Sophia, a dwarf and pimp. Her friendship with Sophia assures that Theodora gets men who are generous and kind to her in the bedroom. Sophia’s affection for Theodora makes her transition to courtesan a smooth one.

Monday, March 24, 2014

2014 Townsend Prize finalists named

The Georgia Center for the Book and The Chattahoochee Review, the literary journal of Georgia Perimeter College, will announce the winner of the 2014 Townsend Prize for Fiction in a ceremony at the Atlanta Botanical Garden on Thursday, April 24. Named for Jim Townsend, founder of Atlanta magazine and mentor to some of Georgia's most distinguished authors, the Townsend Prize is presented biennially to a Georgia writer judged to have published an outstanding work of fiction during the preceding two years.

2014's finalists reflect the prize's celebration of the diverse nature of today's Southern writing:

Stacia Brown, Accidents of Providence (2012)
Brown lives, works and writes in Atlanta; Accidents of Providence is her first novel.

Amber Dermont, The Starboard Sea (2012)
Dermont is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Agnes Scott College in Decatur; she is also the author of the story collection Damage Control.

Joshilyn Jackson, Someone Else's Love Story (2013)
Jackson is the author of six bestselling novels, including Gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. She lives in Decatur with her husband and their two children.

Sheri Joseph, Where You Can Find Me (2013)
Joseph is the author of Stray and Bear Me Safely Over. She lives in Atlanta and teaches creative writing at Georgia State University, where she is fiction editor of the literary journal Five Points.

Charles McNair, Pickett's Charge (2013)
McNair's first novel, Land O' Goshen, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1994. He lives in Atlanta and writes full time.

Jamie Quatro, I Want to Show You More: Stories (2013)
Quatro is a contributing editor at Oxford American magazine. She lives with her family in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

Josh Russell, A True History of the Captivation, Transport to Strange Lands, and Deliverance of Hannah Guttentag (2012)
Russell is the author of the novels Yellow Jack and My Bright Midnight. He is a professor of English at Georgia State University and lives in Decatur with his wife and daughter.

Susan Rebecca White, A Place at the Table (2013)
White is the author of the novels Bound South and A Soft Place to Land. An Atlanta native, she teaches creative writing at Emory University.

Philip Lee Williams, Emerson's Brother (2012)
Williams is a member of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame and has published over a dozen books of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. He lives with his family in Oconee County, Georgia.

Anthony Winkler, God Carlos (2012)
Winkler has published more than eight works, including the novel The Painted Canoe and a biography, Trust the Darkness: My Life as a Writer. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Cathy.

Click a title to view the catalog or make a request.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Noir-ish campus murder mystery

Death of the Black-Haired Girl
by Robert Stone

A married, middle-aged writing professor; his sultry, brilliant star pupil; and his wife, unexpectedly, blissfully pregnant. You know the story. But then the girl is killed, struck by a speeding car during a quarrel outside the professor’s house. Was it just a tragic accident or something more sinister?

Death of the Black-Haired Girl is being peddled as a murder mystery—which it isbut it's no simple whodunit. For starters, the reader knows all along that the prime suspect did not kill the girl. But does the fact that he is hardly blameless make the professor guilty? Of what, exactly? And what about the threats made against the girl's life for an incendiary "pro-choice" editorial published just days before her death? Never mind a Church whose clergy preach violence and practice cruelty. Nobody's hands are clean in this fallen world.

Faith, equally grief's source and its solace, is the center that cannot hold in this wintry novel. The principal characters are Catholic: the girl, lapsed and bitter; her father, widowed and guilt-wracked; the college counselor, a onetime novice and missionary; the dean's wife, left leaning but devoted to the Latin Mass; and errant clerics of all persuasions. The professor's wife, an anthropology professor, is the sole Protestant: a deracinated Mennonite, devout and matter-of-fact in her belief. The professor, of course, is secular through and through. But "faith" means more than just religious belief, and he proves himself a shockingly faithful father when his family comes under threat.

Toward the end of the book, the professor and the deanboth Marine veterans—cross paths and say what both "certainly hoped would be their ultimate goodbyes":
[Professor] Brookman gave him his hand and said, "Semper fi."
"Yes," Spofford answered. "Right."
Immediately Brookman realized that the choice of words, in the circumstances, in the present company, was awkward. Spofford's attempt to disappear the phrase was no less so. It was very painful.
A knockout campus mystery, Death of the Black-Haired Girl is no less a first rate philosophical novel in which contradictory visions of faith and loyalty are pitted against one another in a grand cosmic brawl that will draw you in and leave you reeling.

Click the title or cover to view the catalog or make a request.

Review by Don Beistle

Monday, March 17, 2014

Author Samuel G. Freedman coming to GGC

Meet the Author
Samuel G. Freedman
Georgia Gwinnett College 
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

New York Times columnist and bestselling author Samuel G. Freedman will discuss and sign his books at the Georgia Gwinnett College Student Center, LVIS Room on Tuesday, March 25.

Freedman's latest is Breaking the Line, which reveals how the 1967 black college football season blazed a new trail for the civil rights movement even as it transformed both college and pro ball. It's a great read, chock-full of nail-biting drama, heartbreak and inspiration. Even those with only a passing interest in college football will find it readable and compelling.

Freedman's work exhibits a passionate interest in personal, ethnic, religious and political identity. His earlier books wrestle with such wide-ranging topics as the black church, inner-city teaching, Jewishness, the rightward political drift of American Catholics, and the riddle of who his mother (who died when he was in his teens) was before marriage and motherhood.

Freedman's appearance is free and open to the public; no reservations are required.

To request these books click the titles or covers above.

Review by Don Beistle

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait 
By Kendra Bean 

Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait takes the reader on a pictorial journey through pages that record events in the life of a movie legend. Vivien Leigh’s talent, beauty and complexity is showcased in Kendra Bean’s biography. A striking collection of photos depict her journey to prominence from the wife of a magistrate in India to a British stage actress to her celebrated Oscar-winning roles in film: Scartlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind and Blanche DuBois in the film version of A Street Car Named Desire. The catalyst for her ascent was her love affair with British actor Lawrence Olivier who would become her husband, mentor and collaborator in film and theater productions. History would acknowledge the success of her career despite the physical and mental health issues that would eventually result in her untimely death at age 53. First-time author Kendra Bean’s lavishly illustrated life of one of stage and screen’s greatest tragic figures was published in time for the centennial of her birth (1913-2013). It is a wonderful tribute to this celebrated star. 

To request this book click the title or cover above.

Review by Karen J. Harris, Librarian, Norcross Branch Gwinnett County Public Library

Monday, March 10, 2014

True Love

True Love 
 By Jude Deveraux

Bestselling romance writer Jude Deveraux begins a new chapter in the lives of the Montgomery-Tagger family. Set on Nantucket Island, the atmospheric island is home to ancestral secrets, including the disappearance of Valentina Kingsley more than 200 years ago. Recently deceased matriarch Adelaide Kingsley has bequeathed Alix Madsen a year in the family home named “To Sea Forever.” Alix’s charge is to determine what happened to Valentina Kingsley all those years ago. This quirky gift comes at an opportune time since she is completing her architectural studies and is at the end of a romantic breakup. Jared Montgomery-Kingsley is a renowned architect who is staying in the guest house, and is none too pleased with the new tenant. Together they traverse the bounds of time with the assistance of the family ghost, Caleb Kingsley, to resolve a complex and emotionally charged mystery. The meaning of the title is not simplistic and the resolution of the plot lines most enjoyable.

To request this book click on the cover or title above.

Review by Karen J. Harris, Librarian, Norcross Branch Gwinnett County Public Library

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Do you dig gardening?

Spring is just around the corner and now is an ideal time to start planning your garden! Maybe you’re looking for ways to reinvent your yard, or perhaps you’re just starting out and need some good advice. Whatever your level of expertise, the Georgia Getting Started Garden Guide: Grow the Best Flowers, Shrubs, Trees, Vines & Groundcovers by Erica Glasener and Walter Reeves will provide useful information on what plants will thrive in our hot, humid environment.  As the authors point out, knowing what plants are best for your area can make the difference between a beautiful garden, or a miserable failure!  

Glasener and Reeves start their book with some basic gardening advice for Georgia gardeners, and then break the book up into sections focusing on the various types of plants (annuals, bulbs, ferns & groundcovers, etc.). Each chapter includes general growing information by plant type, and then recommends specific cultivars that will do well in Georgia gardens.  Each plant description includes both the common and botanical names, a color photograph, the bloom period and seasonal colors, the height and spread of the plant when mature, planting instructions, growing tips, and more. Gardeners who enjoy visiting community spaces for added inspiration will also be happy to find a list of public gardens in the back of the book.  

For those who are not familiar with either author, Erica Glasener is a horticulturist, author and lecturer, and the host of HGTV’s A Gardener’s Diary (find out more about Erica at:  Walter Reeves is the host of The Lawn and Garden Show radio call-in show on NewsTalk WSB.  He also writes a weekly column of garden questions and answers for the Thursday Living section of The Alanta Journal-Constitution (find out more about Walter at:
To request this book click on the title or cover above.

Review by Christina J. J. Gangwisch

Monday, March 3, 2014

Centerville Branch Staff Picks

This month's staff picks come from the Centerville Branch, which is located not in Centerville (a good hundred miles south of Gwinnett) but in Snellville. It is in fact one of two branches serving the city “where everybody's somebody” and sits just west of Centerville Highway on Bethany Church Road. The branch is housed in the Centerville Community Center, giving it the distinction of being the only GCPL branch currently sharing a building with an entity other than the Library.

Enough trivia, let's get reading:

Left Neglected
by Lisa Genova

Sarah Nickerson lives on the fast track, juggling a successful career at a Boston consulting firm and a family life with an equally driven husband and three very active children. Her world of multitasking and deadlines is turned upside down when a car accident damages the right hemisphere of her brain, leaving her unable to process any information from the left. Her vision is fine but her brain just doesn’t see anything on the left, whether her own husband standing next to her or the words on the left side of a page. Initially, she’s not even aware that she isn’t seeing everything. This condition is called “left neglect,” and Sarah has to retrain her brain to see what’s actually there. All of her incredible strength and determination is needed to rebuild her life and see what’s really important.

Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson

Could that sense of déjà vu mean that you really have lived this life before? For Ursula Todd that’s exactly what it means. Born in 1910, Ursula livesand diesrepeatedly, but her life progresses a little further each time. Sometimes she experiences an urgent need to do something, or avoid doing something, though she rarely knows why. Sometimes events outside her control simply play out differently, providing different results. At times you will be glad that you know she’s going to have a chance to start over.

Long Way Down
by Nick Hornby

This book delves into the backstories of four individuals who accidentally meet after they have decided that life isn't worth the struggle. Hornby uses realism and a biting sense of humor to create characters that draw you into this misguided adventure.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan

Unemployed Clay Jannon finds a job working the night-shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. In the midnight hours, Clay becomes acquainted with the peculiar customers who frequent the even stranger bookstore. Determined to unravel the mystery of their puzzling requests, Clay unearths more than he ever bargained for within the mysterious bookstore.

Still Life
by Louise Penny

The first book of Louise Penny’s award-winning Chief Inspector Gamache series is set in Three Pines, a quiet Quebec village that can’t be found on any map. The plot is intricately woven, revealing Penny’s deep understanding of human strengths and frailties. Although each of the nine books in this series stands quite proudly alone, the plot of each contributes chronologically to the series as a whole.

To request these items click the titles or covers above.