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2006 Reviews

See index of all past Customer Reviews

Blackberry Wine - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
Blackberry Wine
by Joanne Harris

Jay Mackintosh's book, "Jackapple Joe" was a bestseller ten years ago, but he's written nothing since and not living up to his potential, as his lover puts it. Impulsively, Joe buys a farmhouse in the remote French village of Lansquenet. Is Joe's spirit really calling to him, or is it something else? Readers of Harris' Chocolat, or those who've seen the movie of the same name, can guess the outcome, but it's fun in the telling and romantic in the armchair traveler's glimpse of rural French life. The Seattle Times says, "(Blackberry Wine) is a well-crafted escape..." I agree.

Score - 8
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of the Gere Branch Library
December 27, 2006

The Italian Secretary - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
The Italian Secretary
by Caleb Carr

Sherlock Holmes is back in action, summoned by brother Mycroft, in the service of Queen Victoria. A strange game is afoot at Holyrood, the Scottish castle, and all signs point to the spirit of Rizzio, the "italian secretary" of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was murdered here. Can Holmes and Watson solve the nocturnal puzzle before the Empire itself is threatened? Carr is the bestselling author of "The Alienist" and "Angel of Darkness." This book is based on a short story he wrote at the urging of the Arthur Conan Doyle estate representative.

Score - 8
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of the Gere Branch Library
November 18, 2006

Memory Keeper's Daughter - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
by Kim Edwards

Kim Edwards has crafted a compelling tale of two families, held together by a tissue of lies. It starts in 1964, when Dr. David Henry must make an agonizing decision during the birth of his son Paul, and his daughter, Phoebe, born with Down's Syndrome. The repurcussions of that decision echo for years in all of their lives -- and others. The "Chicago Tribune" said it best: "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" is rich with psychological detail and the nuances of human connection."

Score - 9
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of the Gere Branch Library
September 29, 2006

Crossworld - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
Crossworld: One Man's Journey Into America's Crossword Obsession
by Marc Romano [793.732 Rom]

Maybe crosswords are just on my mind after just seeing the film "WordPlay," but I couldn't put this book down once I'd run across it. (Humor intended.) Romano is a veteran of the New York Times crossword puzzle and relates the facts, history, tidbits, personalities and vagaries of the crossword trade. Find out what New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz has in his basement. Discover how some of the best constructors create crosswords. And, most important, do the crosswords in the back of the book, remnants of an earlier American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and see how you do. I found it enormous ___. (Here's your clue: three letters, something you have with Dick and Jane.)

Score - 8
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of the Gere Branch Library
August 8, 2006

The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters With Extraordinary People
by Susan Orlean [920.02 Orl]

Perhaps you know Susan Orlean as the author of The Orchid Thief, which was made into the movie Adaptation a few years ago. Or maybe you've read her new travel book, My Kind of Place. If neither, try out this collection of short essays written while she was on "The New Yorker" staff. The "Washington Post Bookworld" section says, "Orlean's snapshot-vivid, pitch-perfect prose is fast becoming one of our national treasures." No argument from me. Orlean's stories range from the famous (designer Bill Blass) to the almost unknown (the 1960s girl group the Shaggs) and several folks in-between including Cristina Sanchez, the bullfighter of the title and the first female matador of Spain. My favorite is "Her Town," about the editor of a small weekly newspaper in New York. Well-written, funny and down-to-earth, it's something you don't have to read all at once, but you'll probably want to. Not a beach book, but surely not everything has to be a beach book in July?

Score - 10
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of the Gere Branch Library
July 6, 2006

Who's Your Caddy? - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 7
Who's Your Caddy? Looping for the Great, Near-Great and Reprobates of Golf
by Rick Reilly [796.352 Rei]

If you've already read -- or heard on tape -- one of "Sports Illustrated" writer Rick Reilly's many sports books, you know he doesn't pull his punches in talking about the famous, the near-famous and the wanna-bes, including himself. "Who's Your Caddy" is no exception. Find out what it's like out there on the green with the likes of Nicklaus and Daly, button-down comedian Bob Newhart and many, many others in-between. I'm not a golfer but enjoyed his fresh and occasionally foul-mouthed humorous approach to golfers good and bad. For example, here's the "caddyspeak": "So we go Yogi Bear on the last six holes and he goes Helicopter City with every one of his bats right there, straight into the Jacques Cousteau. Then he gives me the bullet, bang, just like that. Looks like I'm trollin' at Winchester." And here's the "normalspeak": "So we played each of the last six holes in one-over-par bogey. This made my player very angry and he began throwing each of his clubs in a whirling manner into the nearby body of water. This is the point at which he fired me. It appears I'll be in the parking lot asking players if they need a caddy at the next tournament on the schedule, which is Westchester." And I learned a lot about golf, too.

Score - 7
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of the Gere Branch Library
June 19, 2006

More Than You Know - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
More Than You Know
by Beth Gutcheon

Dundee, Maine isn't a large or urban community, but its residents have known tragedy. One of them, Hannah Grey, is elderly now, but at age 14 she fell desperately in love with Dundee's bad boy, Conary Crocker. A century earlier, in the same town, a tempestuous union between Claris and Danial ended in tragedy, with the answers to what really happened unknown to this day. In More Than You Know Gutcheon seamlessly weaves together both stories to create a great summer page-turner. The Boston Herald said Gutcheon "(c)ombines the chilling tension of a murder mystery with the most tender elements of a youthful romance." Gutcheon is the author of several other novels, including Five Fortunes, Domestic Pleasures and Still Missing.

Score - 10
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of the Gere Branch Library
June 3, 2006

Linus and Lucy - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
Linus and Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi
performed by George Winston [Compact Disc 781.65 Gua]

I never get tired of the music from "A Charlie Brown Christmas," but, really, you can't play it all year long and not be thought strange. Luckily, you can fill that many-season gap with a CD I discovered: George Winston's solo piano homage to the late jazz composer Vince Guaraldi. "Linus and Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi" offers up not only the "Peanuts" music we know and love from the Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and other Charlie Brown specials (did you know there have been 16?), but a great version of Guaraldi's classic, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind." It's a great CD to play when grandchildren come over or just to enjoy on your own.

Score - 10
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of the Gere Branch Library
May 31, 2006

Chinaman's Chance - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
Chinaman's Chance
by Ross Thomas

Let me come right out and say that Ross Thomas is one of my all-time favorite writers. Consider the lead in the first of the Artie Wu/Quincy Durant series by him: "The pretender to the Emperor's throne was a fat thirty-seven-year-old Chinaman called Artie Wu who always jogged along Malibu Beach right after dawn even in summer, when dawn came round as early as 4:42. It was while jogging along the beach just east of the Paradise Cove pier that he tripped over a dead pelican, fell, and met the man with six greyhounds. It was the sixteenth of June, a Thursday." Who can resist reading more? The series, which began back in 1978, features Wu and Durant as rogues, who've been partners in crime since their early and mutual placement in a San Francisco orphanage. In Chinaman's Chance Wu and Durant are on a search for Silk Armitage, formerly of the folk trio Lace, Silk and Ivory. Lace Piers, wife of the man with the six greyhounds, hires Wu to find her sister, Silk. The characters and the situations they encounter are not always G-rated, but "Chinaman's Chance" gets an A rating from me.

Score - 10
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of the Gere Branch Library
May 4, 2006

Kiss Me While I Sleep - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
Kiss Me While I Sleep
by Linda Howard

Don’t ever make an assassin mad. Kiss Me While I Sleep is the latest in a string of tense, edgy thrillers by Linda Howard. When Lily gets tired of killing people for an ultra secret branch of the United States government, she wants to retire quietly. And then Salvatore kills her best friends, who have also retired. Worse yet, they kill a little girl Lily thinks of as her daughter. She needs Salvatore dead, and she needs to know why her friends died. What made them come out of retirement and put their lives on the line? She goes AWOL from her agency and stalks Salvatore. Lily is running from Salvatore’s men and the government agency that needs to stop its rogue assassin from working free lance. She uncovers a monstrous plot to enrich the Salvatore empire at the cost of countless lives. Lily could get her agency to trust her again if she could reveal this plot, but a mole in the agency makes it impossible to call for help. When help comes in the form of Lucas, an American mercenary, Lily goes against years of suspicion and isolation to trust him.

Linda Howard is my favorite. She has, for years, written the best alpha males in the business. Nobody does it better. But in her last few books, she’s switched over to making her females alpha, too. It’s like she needs to top herself with each book. As if she’s testing how ruthless a heroine can be and still be feminine and loveable. Sure, our heroine is a murderer, a serial killer, in fact. But she only kills people who are bad. It’s possible Howard has gone too far. I enjoyed Kiss Me While I Sleep and I’m looking forward to her next book, something about a time traveler sent to save the universe—you know, the usual. But I don’t know if someone who wasn’t already a fan would enjoy Kiss Me While I Sleep. Better to go back to the beginning with the MacKenzie’s, Howard’s family of quintessential alpha males and the more usual damsel’s in distress -- who were only tough when they absolutely had to be. Once you love Howard, you’ll enjoy anything she writes. It’s a thriller, no doubt about it, and I read it in one sitting. -- Reprinted from the Lyons Mirror-Sun with this reviewer's permission.

Score - 10
reviewed by Mary C.
visitor to the BookGuide site
April 11, 2006

Ella Minnow Pea - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
by Mark Dunn

If you're a language lover, who's up for something just a little different, try Ella Minnow Pea (sound it out aloud). Ella is set in an English community founded by the author of "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." For complicated reasons, the despotic town board decides that certain letters of the alphabet can no longer be used without risk of death or banishment. Ella and comrades must race against time to compose another pangram, or sentence no more than 32 letters in length that uses all the alphabet, while continuing to keep their community together. (This is not as easy as you would think.) Publishers Weekly said "Wordsmiths of every stripe will appreciate this whimsical fable," and I couldn't agree more.

Score - 10
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of Gere Branch Library
April 2, 2006

Leonard Bernstein's New York - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 10
Leonard Bernstein's New York
by Leonard Bernstein [Compact Disc 782.14 Ber]

If you're a fan of Broadway musicals, as I am, and also appreciate a tune you can either hum or whistle yourself, find yourself a copy of Leonard Bernstein's New York. You'll hear songs from "On the Town," "Fancy Free," "West Side Story," "On the Waterfront" and "Wonderful Town" by Mandy Patinkin, Dawn Upshaw, Donna Murphy and others, it's upbeat, fun and very, very good. My two favorites are from "Wonderful Town: "A Little Bit In Love" by Audra McDonald and a four-voice vesion of "What a Waste."

Score - 10
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of Gere Branch Library
April 2, 2006

The Teammates - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship
by David Halberstam [796.357 Hal]

Historian David Halberstam hits a high, fast one with this biography of four former Boston Red Sox greats -- Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky. All four played together on the Red Sox teams of the 1940s, detailed further in Halberstam's Summer of '49. While it's helpful to have read Summer of '49 first, so you see these four at their best, Teammates offers an insightful, human and warm-hearted look at a friendship that stands the test of time. Even if you're not a baseball buff, try a swing or two at this.

Score - 8
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of Gere Branch Library
March 7, 2006

River of Doubt - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 8
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
by Candice Millard [B R67m]

In 1913, Theodore Roosevelt, his son Kermit, a physician and a Brazilian geographer, among others, headed down an unmapped tributary of the Amazon. As always, the fearless Roosevelt was after adventure. This time, however, it almost killed him. Equal parts history, geography, ethnography, anthropology, biography and natural resources, River of Doubt tells of a harrowing journey surmounting starvation, piranhas and even murder. The writer, Candice Millard, is a former writer and editor for National Geographic and lives in Kansas City.

Score - 8
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of Gere Branch Library
February 5, 2006

8:55 to Baghdad - Cover
Average Score:
Score - 9
The 8:55 to Baghdad
by Andrew Eames [915.6 Eam]

Eames, a young Londoner, decides to retrace Agatha Christie's famous journey on the Orient Express in 1992 and recounts his travels. A must for the armchair traveler, although Eames' travel acquaintances can be coarse at times and I thought he spent too much time explaining Balkans political history, despite his thoughtfulness and wit in doing so. Geographical Magazine said, "a thoroughly enjoyable read that combines an Agatha-centric travelogue with a thought-provoking journey through a benighted land." May not be in paperback yet.

Score - 9
reviewed by Barbara R.
patron of Gere Branch Library
January 11, 2006

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