Book Beat

  • Sat Mar 13th, 2010 12:47am
  • Life

For this week’s book review we have taken the most recent winners of Lopez Library’s Winter Adult Reading Program.

The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

Reviewed by Jan Scilipoti, 1/9/2010

I started my winter reading by re-visiting a few of my favorite Jane Austen books and movies, and with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. If this is your kind of fun, “The Thirteenth Tale” is for you. It’s filled with delicious passages about books, about writing stories, and ultimately about living your own story.

You’ll find yourself being engrossed in the progression of two personal stories, wondering what had happened in the past, and what was to happen in the future. You’ll notice a remarkable resemblance to certain effects prominent in Jane Eyre, including mysterious family circumstances, fire, hints of ghosts, and admirable female characters.

I left the book marveling at how well the author ‘disguised’ the time in which the book occurred. For much of the book I felt drawn back in time, and then a scene would suddenly bring me to contemporary times. Since much of my reading is by authors of previous eras, I am pleased to find a story that combines elements of past fiction that is rooted in our time.

This is available on CD on Lopez as well, and the readers represent the main characters beautifully. Whether in audio or book form, this is sure to keep your interest, and keep you by the fire.

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Reviewed by Maya Borhani,


Strictly speaking, this book was filed in the Children’s section; but for a young adult read, or for those children-at-heart who love tales of intrepid girls and the natural world, I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

This captivating tale of “almost-twelve-years- old” Calpurnia Tate builds on the unique relationship between Calpurnia and her grandfather (whom six brothers barely know). It’s also the tale of a girl on the brink of childhood’s end, and the unique perspective that this offers: not yet an adult, not yet a woman, she is yet uniquely positioned to observe the changes in herself, her family, and in the world at large at the turn of the (20th) century.

Set in 1899, the book unfolds the evolution of Calpurnia during the summer before her 12th birthday. She discovers her grandfather, who has previously seemed inaccessible and distant, as an ally and guide on her journey of scientific discovery. At his side, she discovers the wonders of the natural world, as well as becoming a fan and student of Mr. Charles Darwin. Each chapter begins with a quote from The Origin of Species, offered as an opening peek into the social and “evolutionary” issues swarming in the sultry summer heat around her. In addition to discovering an entirely new species together and that Grandfather actually owns a copy of Darwin’s already infamous The Origin of Species which she alone is allowed to borrow, Calpurnia finds out what it is to grow up in a changing world where women can begin to choose their own destinies.

The book’s strength, and unavoidable appeal, is in the voice of the 12 year old witnessing her world honestly, with open eyes, and finding her place in it. Heartwarming, realistic, and deeply funny in the way only a 12-year-old could posit, this is a rollicking and satisfying read. P.S. The author of this book, Jacqueline Kelly, is a lawyer and a medical doctor – and now the author of one very fine children’s book. Overachiever!

…And Never Let Her Go by Ann Rule

Reviewed by Jasmine Luckhurst, 2/8/2010

This week I read the book “….And Never Let Her Go” by Ann Rule. It’s a true crime story about a young woman who naively falls for an older, powerful, married man. She is doing so well in her career as a personal assistant for a political official, but her personal life is tough for her. She came from a broken home, where her older brothers and sister cared for her like her parents should have.

She soon meets this man who confides in her, tells her secrets that he has told no one else. Or so he says. She thinks she is in love. He is a predator who looks for young women that need a father figure, and manipulates them into staying with him, all the while keeping his wife and the public thinking he is a wonderful, caring man.

I had a hard time at the beginning of this book where she is laying all the groundwork for the story, there are a lot of dates and facts that seem unimportant at the time, but end up being useful later on in the book. I would recommend this book only if you are a true crime junkie, it isn’t a book you can just read in a weekend.

Cutting for Stone

by Abraham Verghese

Reviewed by Ann Behan, 1/21/2010

This semi-autobiographical novel is set in Ethiopia and the United States, with frequent references to India, the country of origin of several of the main characters. The author, Abraham Verghese, is a doctor by profession, but also a skillful writer. Cutting for Stone is his first novel. It is an exquisitely written, absorbing tale which explores the meaning of family — and so much more. I learned a lot in the reading: about Ethiopian history and culture; Eritrea’s battle for independence from Ethiopia; and about MEDICINE. Five of the book’s main characters are surgeons, and the author invites his readers to participate in a myriad of surgical procedures. He makes the incision, then beckons you to follow — right into the blood and guts of the patient. Literally. This is not a turn-off. On the contrary, it’s fascinating. There is occasional humor; I particularly enjoyed the protagonist’s initial impressions of America on his first trip to our country. I’ve read a lot of fiction. This is without a doubt one of the most memorable titles I have ever encountered; both the story and the characters will stay with me for a long, long time. The library has both print and audio copies. I’d recommend the audio, which is 18 hours.

Promises of Change

By Joan Medlicott

Reviewed by Nancy Butte – 1/6/2009

I have just finished the latest in the “Covington” Series by Joan Medlicott, Promises of Change. Now I have read all the books in the series. The stories are all about three ladies who are all around 65 and, for various reasons, all single at that stage of life. They end up living together in a house in the country. There the adventures begin! The books are reminiscent of the Mitford series, if you know those books. At different times I identified with various antics, troubles and

attitudes of each of the characters. The books are an easy read and I suggest reading them in order. The first book is The Ladies of Covington Send their Love. It is in the

Lopez Library collection.

~ Nancy Butte

Anybody Out There?

by Marian Keyes

Reviewed by Stephanie Froning – 1/9/2010

I’ve just finished Marian Keye’s novel, “Anybody Out There?” I was held hostage by how really good this book was for me. I couldn’t wait to get back to it; so hard to put down. Marian writes with such wit and humor; I was laughing when I should have been crying.

The story volleys back and forth between five Irish sisters and their mum; some living in Ireland and some in New York. They laugh, poke fun of and completely love each other throughout the story. The main character, Anna (the youngest of the five) goes through a very painful and life shattering experience; that leaves her completely emotionally wrecked. She struggles with being at peace with what happens to a loved one when they pass on and if it’s possible to make contact? Her journey back to a place of feeling “normal” and hopeful about life is both hilarious and heartwarming.

I recommend this book! I listened to this story on CD, which was fun because the Irish accents really brought the characters to life.

~ Stephanie Froning

Cordelia Underwood and the Marvelous

Beginnings of the Moosepath Leage

It is difficult to write a review of this wonderful

book and its whole fascinating series – their

content runs counter to many of today’s most

popular reads.

So perhaps I will have to start with what Cordelia

Underwood lacks. It lacks sarcastic humor,

steamy sex, cheap cleverness, bloody forensic

work, disgusting language, twisted feminism, and

horrific descriptions of murdered corpses.

Cordelia Underwood is the first book in a series by this author, Van Reid, a Maine

resident who is self-educated with an incredible breath of knowledge of literature

and of Maine and the world. His works, set in Maine in the late nineteenth century,

have been compared most to Dickens, Irving, and Walpole. While each book in

the series stands alone, it is best to read them in order, in my opinion, as the

congeniality of the characters grow on you best that way. The book that stands

outside the series is Peter Loon, which is a novel about the ‘great proprietors’ who

owned vast tracts of land in Maine in the 1800’s.

In Cordelia Underwood, when this young woman inherits a parcel of land in upstate

Maine from a seafaring uncle, a chain of events is set in motion that involves the

warmhearted, generous Mr. Tobias Walton and soon ensnares his hapless trio of

friends Ephram, Eagleton, and Thump. The group finds themselves in the northern

Maine woods where Cordelia’s fiancé shows himself for the dastardly fellow he is.

Cordelia and her shy cousin Priscilla are in danger but to the rescue comes the

Maine forest guide, with the Moosepath League mopping up the damage and

bringing the miscreants to justice on a train ride home.

These are books you can dip into when today’s world gets too prickly. Sometimes

you will laugh out loud. These books will amuse and comfort and restore your hope

for the human race.

You can get Cordelia Underwood and most of the others in the series at our

own library. Cordelia is ISBN 0670880973.

~Linda Brainerd