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Book Reviews
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2010  
  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  The Room by Emma Donoghue
  The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
  NO book this month, but a heartfelt thank you to our friend Michele Lonergan
  When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  A group of renowned editors to give us their best summer reading recommendations
  The Lakeshore Limited by Sue Miller
  At Least Someone in the City would hear me Scream by Wade Rouse
  Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
  The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
  Perfume Dreams by Andrew Lam


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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Virginia's book of the month is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Though it deals with a dark period in history, this first novel is an essentially sunny work. London, 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of Guernsey during the German occupation, and about a society as extraordinary as its name. Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. Born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island, boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society's members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever. Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

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The Room by Emma Donoghue

Julie and Jacqueline''s book of the month is The Room by Emma Donoghue. Room earns a place of honor that distinguishes itself with a gripping subject that never sinks into gloom, but always floats on a current, which is Donoghue's signature creativity. At the start of Donoghue's powerful new novel, narrator Jack and his mother, who was kidnapped 7 years earlier when she was a 19-year-old college student, celebrate his fifth birthday. They live in a tiny, 11-foot-square soundproofed cell in a converted shed in the kidnapper's yard. Talented, versatile Donoghue relates a searing tale of survival and recovery, in the voice of a 5-year-old boy--wrenching, as befits the grim subject matter, but also tender, touching, and at times unexpectedly funny.

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The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

Sue's book of the month is The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse. "We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours." With these words, spoken by an illegal Mexican day laborer, The Madonnas of Echo Park takes us into the unseen world of Los Angeles, following the men and women who cook the meals, clean the homes, and struggle to lose their ethnic identity in the pursuit of the American dream. Skyhorse writes with great compassion and wit (and a touch of magic) about the lives of people who are often treated as if they are invisible. The stories that make up this novel weave together to create a complex and vivid portrait of a Los Angeles we seldom see in literature or film.

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NO book this month, but a heartfelt thank you to our friend Michele Lonergan, who for years has contributed her recommendations to this newsletter. She owned and operated Treehouse Books in Holland for the last 7 years, a small independent bookstore, and with great sadness she closed her doors last week. In her own words, "The bookstore has been a gathering place for all ages, where people came to discuss books, meet authors, and share their love of the written word." When we meet a friend for coffee or at a party, we talk about what we are reading, and we connect in ways that are not like any other, whether it is meaningful and insightful, or just humorous. Many thanks to Michele, your store will be missed, but may the next path you take be an adventure that shines the light wherever you tread (and read). In closing, we ask that you support your independently-owned bookstore, the place where the owners can get to know you and can recommend some great reads to you, your family, and your friends. Our local indie is the Singapore Bank Bookstore in Saugatuck (269-857-3785). They have a fine selection of books, and they can also order anything your heart desires. Also, to find an indie bookstore in your neighborhood, check out the link provided and enter your zip code at http://www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder.

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When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Virginia's Book of the Month is When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. I read the entire book yesterday afternoon and I could not stop laughing. His descriptions, dialogue, and demented details are uniquely Sedaris. Older, wiser, smarter and meaner, Sedaris defies the odds once again by delivering an intelligent take on the banalities of an absurd life. He has a deft touch, moving between sarcasm and sadness or, in this collection, between redneck babysitters and quitting smoking. This book did not disappoint.

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A group of renowned editors to give us their best summer reading recommendations

Last month, more than 5,000 librarians from around the country gathered in Portland, Oregon, for the Public Library Association Convention.

At the convention, internationally known literature expert and librarian Nancy Pearl convened a group of renowned editors to give us their best summer reading recommendations. We've listed the authors alphabetically (we only have room through the letter C):

Bender, Aimee; The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
(A girl tastes her mother's emotions through cake)

Blake, Sarah; The Postmistress
(What havoc can ensue if a postmistress keeps a letter instead of delivering it?)

Brown, Harriet; Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia
(A mother struggles to save her daughter from anorexia)

Bronsky, Alina; Broken Glass Park
(A young Russian immigrant in Berlin)

Caldwell, Gail; Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship
(Friendship formed over a dog walk sustains two women through life and death of one of them)

Cameron, W. Bruce; A Dog's Purpose
(What happens when a dog has unfinished business and can't get to heaven?

Castillo, Linda; Pray for Silence: A Thriller
(In Ohio, Amish country Police Chief Kate Burkholder comes face to face with pure evil)

Coonts, Deborah; Wanna Get Lucky?
(Set in Las Vegas with a protagonist named Lucky)

Cousteau, Jean-Michael and Daniel Paisner; My Father, the Captain: My Life With Jacques Cousteau
(Just what it sounds like - a tribute to a father and his life's work by his son)

Cronin, Justin; The Passage
(An apocalyptic novel)

The rest of the list can be found at http://heightslibrary.org/wordpress/director/?p=26

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The Lakeshore Limited by Sue Miller

Sue's book of the month is The Lakeshore Limited by Sue Miller. Four multilayered characters--Leslie, Billy, Rafe, and Sam --come to life in the pages of this devastating and elegant novel set in 2007. They intersect in the repercussions of the memory of Gus, who died on September 11, 2001, when the plane on which he was a passenger slammed into the World Trade Center. Miller wades into the realm of post-9/11 grieving complications. A central theme is the question: "How does one properly grieve the loss of someone with whom the relationship was falling apart when death intervened? What are the rules that govern such a situation?" In a broader context, Miller seems to be asking the questions: "What does it mean for the four main characters in this novel--and all of humanity, by extension--to play by the rules or to choose to break the rules? What are the consequences of those choices to obey or to flaunt or to make up new rules?".

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At Least Someone in the City would hear me Scream by Wade Rouse

Mary's book of the month is At Least Someone in the City would hear me Scream by Wade Rouse. Finally fed up with the frenzy of city life, Wade Rouse decided to make either the bravest decision of his life or the worst mistake since a botched Ogilvy home perm: uproot his life and try, as Thoreau did some 160 years earlier, to survive...living a plain, simple life in radically reduced conditions. At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream is what happens when a self-obsessed gay man with a penchant for bronzer and he-capri's leaves the lattes behind and wanders into the wild to dwell in a knotty-pine cottage and live up to the tenets set forth in Walden. Battling bloodthirsty critters, enduring nosy neighbors with night-vision goggles, and inhaling the distinct whiff of boredom no firewood-scented Henri Bendel candle can hide, Rouse's spirit, sanity, relationships, and Kenneth Cole pointy-toe boots are sorely tested. But he ultimately discovers something in the woods outside Saugatuck, Michigan, that he always dreamed of but never thought he'd find--happiness and a home.

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Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Sue's book of the month is Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. McCann chooses to describe one day in the life of New York City, the day in 1974 that the aerialist walked between the not-quite-finished Twin Towers. The chasm between rich and poor, the joy of connection, and the inevitability of our mortality are told through the lives of six different New Yorkers, including that incredible man dancing on that thin wire who epitomizes joy and triumph, there is Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk who struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. There is a group of mothers who gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a 38-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but also to prove her own worth. Elegantly weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann's powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city's people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the artistic crime of the century.

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The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

Melissa and Michele's book of the month is The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson. In his second novel, the seething heroine, Lisbeth Salander, once again finds herself paired with journalist Mikael Blomkvist on the trail of a sinister criminal enterprise. Only this time, Lisbeth must return to the darkness of her own past (more specifically, an event coldly known as "All the Evil") if she is to stay one step ahead--and alive. The Girl Who Played with Fire is a break-out-in-a-cold-sweat thriller that crackles with stunning twists and dismisses any talk of a sophomore slump. Fans of Larsson's prior work will find even more to love here, and readers who do not find their hearts racing within the first five pages may want to confirm they still have a pulse. Expect healthy doses of murder, betrayal, and deceit. An amazing sequel to an amazing first book.

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Perfume Dreams by Andrew Lam

Micheles Book of the Month is Perfume Dreams, a brilliant first collection of the work of frequent NPR contributor, journalist, and Pacific News Service Editor Andrew Lam. He uses his work over the last two decades to explore his life as an American and to return to his Vietnamese heritage. His struggle and that of a million other Vietnamese expatriates is much the same as many others who belong to two countries. His insights point out the unique situation of today and what it is like to go home. Andrew Lam writes with such great passion and sensitivity that one becomes totally absorbed in his essays that are in his award winning book Perfume Dreams. Truly a gifted effort that delivers a literary image of what it feels like to be a Vietnamese-American immigrant.

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Please support your local and independent bookstore.

 
   


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