Monday, April 7, 2014

Collins Hill Branch Staff Picks

This month's staff picks come from the staff of the Collins Hill Branch in Lawrenceville. GCPL's tenth branch and the last to be built in the twentieth century, Collins Hill opened in 1999. For fifteen straight years now the Collins Hill Branch has been one of the county's busiest. Be sure to wish the staff there a happy crystal anniversary the next time you visit, and don't forget to thank them for sharing these great recommendations.

Basket Case
by Carl Hiaasen

This 2002 novel by native Floridian and newspaperman Carl Hiaasen follows an investigative reporter who has been demoted to the obituary beat yet refuses to give up on his newspaper career. In Hiaasen's typical style, it is a story full of characters so peculiar that the whole tale is entirely probable. A satisfying read that is hard to put down.
Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Triology #1)
by Margaret Atwood

Initially released in 2003, Oryx and Crake introduces a post-apocalyptic vision of a future America where gene splicing, genetically modified animals, and a yawning gap between rich and poor are commonplace. Told from the perspective of Snowman, the story moves from past to present, slowly weaving a tale of friendship, love, violence, and a social order that is doomed to fail. Snowman’s journey is both enlightening and terrible in a future that is not too difficult to conceive.

The Plantagenets
The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England
by Dan Jones

A single volume covering the Plantagenet dynasty from its founding in the late 12th century under Henry I to Richard III's downfall in the 15th century. We all know how Richard III became King of England after displacing his nephew (one of the princes in the tower). But have you heard about how the ill-suited Edward II was overthrown by his own wife? In many ways, Plantagenet history is a medieval soap opera filled with infighting, betrayals, and shifting alliances that plagued each generation of rulers. A reader can get a bit lost while sprinting through nearly 300 years of English royal history, but this book does something that few history can do: it makes the struggles of long-dead people seem relevant and immediate. Highly recommended for history buffs, Anglophiles and royal watchers.

The Selection (Selection #1)
by Kiera Cass

In a future where America has been remade into a monarchy complete with a strict caste system, when a prince comes of age a bride is chosen for him in a nationwide competition. Low caste America Singer enters the competition and is surprised to be selected to compete against 34 other girls for the chance to marry Prince Maxon. Unsure at first, she soon realizes the importance of winning the competition not just for herself but for the kingdom. Complicating matters, her ex-boyfriend Aspen shows up at the palace as one of the guards. Will America fight for her place as a princess or will she return to Aspen and her old life? Cross a beauty pageant with The Bachelor, add some surprisingly strong characters and a bit of intrigue, and you have one enjoyable read.

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1)
by Richelle Mead

One of the better teen vampire series, Vampire Academy is more enjoyable than Twilight. The main charactera half-vampire named Rose Hathawayis brave and fierce and can take care of herself. The series opens after she and her best friend have run away from their exclusive vampire boarding school and been hauled back by the guards. Now they are back and someone is leaving them threatening notes. Rose must figure out who is stalking and harassing her best friend before it is too late. To make matters worse, they live under the constant threat of a vampire gang that wants to kill the students to increase their own power. Full of teen drama as well as action and adventure, this is one not to miss.

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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