Sunday, February 20, 2011

Worth Dying For: A Reacher Novel by Lee Child

Jack Reacher fans: New book alert! My husband brought me a special gift late last week: I had put the new Lee Child book on reserve, and thought I would have a much longer wait. However, once it was in the house, I couldn't wait to start reading it!

This book picks up where the previous book left off (61 Hours), when Jack was stranded in a small town in South Dakota after a bus crash. After his adventures there, he hitches a ride and gets let out in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska. At first, he figures he will get some sleep at the little motel and then hitch a ride in the morning; however, he gets caught up in some local drama when he drives an intoxicated doctor to treat a patient and figures out why the whole small town seems so afraid of the powerful Duncan family. The Duncan family consists of three brothers in their 50s or 60s who own a trucking business and seem to run the whole area. They employ a crew of big, corn fed young men who act as enforcers, and are dubbed the cornhuskers by the locals.

Their handiwork is evident in the bruised faces of the motel owner and doctor, but Jack senses that there is more going on than anyone wants to admit. The Duncans are involved in something dangerous and illegal, but what--drugs? weapons? He isn't sure, but keeps asking questions and discovers that there is also a cold case at the heart of the bullying. A local child went missing 25 yeasrs earlier, and the mother accused the Duncans of kidnapping her, but no evidence was found. The Duncans have targeted her, and anyone who supported her cause.

One of the Duncan brothers has a grown son, Seth, who is married: Seth's hobby seems to be drinking and beating his wife, which Jack doesn't like. So after helping the doctor tend to the young wife's wounds, Jack decides to pay Seth a visit. Naturally, this stirs things up: the Duncans aren't used to having anyone stand up to them.

Jack has to decide if he is going to ride out of town and let the people fend for themselves or stay and help them fight the Duncans. It's a great read, but not one you can put down easily. Lee Child has created such a compelling character in Jack Reacher: he is a former military cop who is tough, solitary, and hypervigilant. His experience serves him well, and he manages to walk away, battered but not beaten.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if I did wince a time or two at the description of some of the action. The characters, dialogue, and plot twists are excellent, and I recommend it to current and prospective fans of Lee Child alike.

You can find Worth Dying For on the New Fiction Shelf; I had Mike return it tonight, so if you put it on reserve, it could be your turn to read it.

c Waterloo Public Library 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Borderline by Nevada Barr

I just finished listening to this audio book: this is a very tense read, and one that I found especially compelling, since there has been so much attention focused on the dangerous conditions near the border with Mexico. I have missed one or two books in the series and need to go back and fill in the gaps. However, Anna is newly married and on a vacation with her husband, after undergoing some trauma in her last assignment.

Anna and Paul go on a river rafting trip, when something unexpected happens, and they get all get stranded, without their raft or supplies. As they are trying to regroup, they first find a stranded cow and try to rescue it: then, they encounter what they think is a dead woman trapped in some undergrowth. They then discover she is pregnant, and still barely alive. As they struggle to save her and her baby, and themselves, shots ring out and things become much more complicated.

Politics, border issues, and a fierce need to protect the dead woman's baby make for a very good story. I recommend it.

You can find Borderline in the Audio Books section of the Waterloo Public Library.

c Waterloo Public Library 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected AgeCognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm only on page 9, but already very hooked. Shirky's previous book, Here Comes Everybody, talked about the power of the internet to connect people. He continues and expands on that theme in this book.....

I just finished this book yesterday: I read chunks of the last chapter out loud to Mike as we drove to Marshalltown. I have been reading it for several weeks, in between working on handouts for fall and finishing up other books. It is not a quick read: it is packed with information, examples, stories, and is a book that makes you stop and think.

Shirky argues very convincingly that with the abundance of free time we now enjoy (created by the idea of the 40 hour work week), our society now has "cognitive surplus," or the potential to do great things, working together. He points to things like the Apache Web server project, where thousands of programmers have worked on open source software, as well as Wikipedia, where thousands of people contribute to the site,whether it is adding content or editing it.

Early on, he talks about the way we used to watch TV--it was almost like our second jobs, with many in my generation knowing a little too much about the plotlines and characters of Gilligan's island. He also talks about the way that technology or progress disrupts society, and the impact of things like the printing press. Later, he gives numerous examples of how the internet, and social media, have been used to mobilize people to action.

In his closing pages he discusses what is needed to use social media with groups, and how we can learn how best to work with groups to accomplish great things. He reminds us that there is no such thing as a magical recipe: we can, however, learn from others' mistakes, and look at what has worked.

This is a good book for ANYONE working with people & using social media to accomplish their goals: I highly recommend it for teachers, librarians, political activists, and anyone else!

View all my reviews >>

c Waterloo Public Library 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an incredible book -- one of those rare finds for me that is a memoir, but much more. Janzen shares her childhood memories of growing up in the Mennonite culture, with all of the wonderfully funny and strange tales of Sunday school, family trips, school lunches, and coping with parents who took thriftiness to the extreme. She also takes a very painful and honest look at her own journey in life--marrying a man struggling with depression and diagnosed as being bipolar. He was not only not Mennonite, he was not religious in any way and ultimately left her for a man he met online named Bob.

In a very wierd way, I could really relate with her life, having grown up in a fundamentalist home with a long list of "Thou shalt nots." I married a minister and had two children; I also became a licensed minister, and then my life fell apart. While my ex-husband did not leave me for a man named Bob, I was just as shattered as Rhoda sounds in this book. Like her, I was blessed with friends and family who helped me heal, and helped me raise my two beautiful children.

Janzen writes about teaching and writing, food and sex, grief and longing, childhood passions and terrors, truth and God and doubt and redemption. I may not make any of the recipes included at the end of the book, but I felt satisfied all the same.

You can find Mennonite in a Little Black Dress on the New Fiction shelf.

View all my reviews >>

c Waterloo Public Library 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Extracurricular Activities by Maggie Barbieri

I discovered Extracurricular Activities before reading the first book in the Alison Bergeron mystery series; however, you can certainly enjoy this book without reading the other one first (Murder 101). In the first book, we met Alison, an English professor at a private Catholic college in New York. She has divorced her perpetually unfaithful husband, Ray, and is moving on with her life. Her two best friends are Kevin, a priest at the college, and Max, her former college room mate.

When one of her students was found dead in Alison's stolen car, Alison and Max met two NY detectives, Bobby Crawford and Fred Wyatt, who were investigating the case. Fortunately, Alison was able to clear her name and she and Bobby became better acquainted. So did Max and Fred--as the second book opens, they are planning their wedding. In contrast, Alison is trying to figure out what to do about Bobby: while he is separated, he is still married and she tells him that she cannnot be in a relationship with him.

However, she comes home one day to find her ex-husband waiting for her in her kitchen. When she discovers that he's dead, she calls the police--and later, Bobby. It becomes clear that someone wanted to make her look guilty. As Alison and Bobby try to reach a compromise someone takes a shot at her outside a restaurant. Although her wound is not serious, it requires stitches and care; Bobby stays with her and helps to take care of her.

In the aftermath of his death, Alison finds out about yet more of Ray's affairs--including one with the next door neighbor and one with with his students named Julie. Suddenly there seems to be a whole list of suspects. When Peter Miceli, local mob boss, confronts her with yet another ugly story, it is almost more than she can bear--he is the father of Kathy, the girl found dead in Alison's car. Now Peter tells Alison that his daughter was also pregnant and he suspects that Ray was the father. Alison knows that this cannot be true: she had discovered that Ray had secretly gotten a vasectomy, knowing that she wanted children. But she cannot seem to convince Peter.

Max and Fred get married, with Alison and Bobby as witnesses. Bobby's wife tells him that she will give him a divorce--that it is time for them to each move on.

There are more twists and turns before the last page: I will let you enjoy them for yourself. This is a book that is at points funny, suspenseful, touching, and thoroughly enjoyable. However, the newly single Alison gains a roommate in this story: the next door neighbors leave town suddenly and leave behind their dog, Trixie.

c Waterloo Public Library 2010

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My Hawkeye Book Club recently read the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. For clarification, Mary Ann wrote the book; when she became ill, Annie, her niece, did the rewrites at the very end. This book has a clever title but it is also wonderful writing: it consists of a series of letters written by a group of residents on Guernsey Island to a writer named Juliet. It takes place during the aftermath of World War II.

Juliet has written a book and started to do the book tour for it; she is already trying to come up with her next project when she gets the first letter from Guernsey. A man named Dawsey found a book by Charles Lamb that she had once owned; he wants her to know how much he enjoyed it, and could she help him find more by Mr. Lamb? When she supplies him with more books, their friendship is established. Soon, more residents are writing Juliet and telling her their stories of survival during the long period of occupation by the German soldiers. As each new writer tells his or her story, the reader is drawn further into the present day experience.

We also learn more about Juliet; she is an orphan and her two dearest friends are Sophie and Sidney (who are brother and sister). She met them as a young girl when she was sent off to a boarding school. Now, Sidney is her editor and Sophie has married and had a child.

Juliet becomes so intrigued that she soon plans a trip to the island; she wants to meet these wonderful people. She feels that she has already gotten to know them (and so has the reader). When she arrives, she stays in a little cottage owned by the absent Elizabeth--who was taken prisoner by the Nazis and sent off to a prison camp. Her friends --and young daughter, Kit--are waiting for her return. Juliet discovers that Kit's father was a German officer, a doctor, and that he, too, was sent off to a prison camp. Unfortunately, his ship sank and he drowned. Elizabeth's friends care for young Kit in her absence: they take turns taking her to one of their homes. However, Kit warms up to Juliet and they bond.

I did not expect to enjoy this book; however, I found it tremendously compelling. My husband and I were on a vacation, and I read chunks of it out loud to him while we were driving up to South Dakota. Not to sound trite, but I found myself laughing, crying, and re-reading a number of the letters. Not only was this an amazing read, it also made me realize how little I knew about the Nazi occupation of the islands so close to France and England. I want to read more and learn more about this almost forgotten aspect of the war.

Not only do I recommend the book, I urge you to read it. You can find it in the Adult Fiction, Large Type and CD Book collections.

c Waterloo Public Library 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Murder 101 by Maggie Barbieri (2006)

This spring I discovered yet another mystery series featuring an English teacher at a small college: Maggie Barbieri focuses on Alison Bergeron, who teaches at the same small Catholic college she once attended. I read her books out of order: Murder 101 is the first one. Alison has two best friends: Kevin is a priest and works at her college; Max is a very glamorous, worldly woman and her old college roommate.

She has recently gone through a divorce; her husband Ray teaches at the same college, and while he seems to be a handsome, friendly man he has a problem with monogamy. He has never been faithful and Alison can no longer tolerate it.

As the story begins, Alison's car gets stolen--which seems frustrating enough. Then, one of her Shakespeare class students is found dead in the trunk. She gets interrogated by a pair of police detectives and when one of them shows her the pictures of the dead girl, she throws up on his shoes. Detective Bobby Crawford is a smart man and decides she is probably innocent; however, his partner, Fred Wyatt, seems to be a little tougher. Alison soon decides that she has to find out who did this to clear herself, and her friend Max offers to help.

I liked the little details about the college, some of the description about Alison's relationships with her colleagues as well as the details about her classes. Of course, the developing friendship/romance with the very hunky Detective Crawford also adds to the storyline--as does her boss, Sister Mary, and Gianna, Alison's former classmate whose father is in the mob. If you like mysteries with an academic twist and great characters, and have a slightly twisted sense of humor, you will like this series. Alison is no Wonder Woman; she is flawed, stubborn, and really needs to eat more fruits and vegetables, and buy comfortable shoes. However, she cares about her college, her students, and her friends and as a character she grows on you!

You can find Murder 101 in the Mystery area of the Waterloo Public Library.

c Waterloo Public Library 2010