The Lost City of Z

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In 1925, famed British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon with his son Jack and Jack’s best friend, Raleigh, in search of the remains of a lost city Fawcett cryptically named “Z”. Despite the assurances of anthropologists that the Amazon was a “counterfeit paradise” unable of sustaining a large population, Fawcett was certain that the tales of the Indians he had encountered, the shards of exquisite pottery he had unearthed in the jungle, and the shadows of ancient thoroughfares he thought he had traced over the landscape all pointed to a lost civilization built by a populous and highly advanced people. Fawcett’s dream of finding Z would not be easily achieved. The Amazon was still largely an unexplored mystery full of poisonous pit vipers, massive anacondas, and an abundance of deadly insects that spread yellow fever and malaria. And although some Indian tribes greeted white explorers with friendly caution, others were not so benevolent.

Yet Fawcett, who had become a preeminent South American explorer, seemed assured of success. When he and his companions sent a dispatch back from the village of a friendly Indian tribe they warned friends and relatives that they might be unable to communicate for up to two years. They were confident that during the course of those years they would find Z and unlock its ancient secrets, and the world waited with baited breath for the conclusion of their daring adventure. It never came.

Percy Fawcett disappeared, and it is the fate of he and his young companions – as well as the existence or illusion of Z – that David Grann explores in his book The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. Grann ventures into the Amazon, following Fawcett’s trail and seeking out the Indian tribes who may hold the key to the explorers’ fates. Through the narrative of his own journey he weaves the tale of Fawcett’s early expeditions, his remarkable ability to survive the most treacherous conditions, and his growing obsession with a lost civilization which may be the fabled El Dorado. It is an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones, a thrilling peek into a part of the world where the past is alive, jealously guarding its secrets.

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

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Adriana Trigiani has been one of my favorite authors ever since Big Stone Gap. She comes through for us once again with Very Valentine. Valentine has worked for years with her grandmother, making custom wedding shoes. The business is now in trouble and Valentine has to dig deep in her creative reserves to figure out how to save the century-old tradition. A new romance and a trip to Italy help her to adjust her perspective. This story of a woman coming into her own in the midst of a wonderful and sometimes overwhelming Italian family is sure to please.

The Associate

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John Grisham’s latest entry into the legal thriller genre, The Associate, will initially remind fans of his earlier book The Firm. In this story, Kyle McAvoy is a law school student about to graduate when he is confronted with a videotape of a crime that could send him to jail and end his dreams of becoming a lawyer. McAvoy is blackmailed into joining a high-powered law firm enmeshed in a huge lawsuit involving defense contractors, where he is asked to pass on inside information about the aircraft involved. The suspense builds as the story unfolds and Grisham fans will appreciate his latest work.

Native American History and Culture

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The PBS Series “We Shall Remain”–a 5 part series about Native American history–is set to premiere on April 13. In conjunction with this series, the Manhattan Public Library has an exhibit available for viewing through April 5, “A Photographic Narrative: The Indians of Kansas”, which illustrates the diversity of contemporary Indians in Kansas. The library is also sponsoring a performance by internationally-known Navajo performer and cultural educator Dennis Lee Rogers. He will be performing on Saturday, April 18 at 2:00 in the library auditorium.

In addition, the library has added new resources about Native American history, including the DVD’s 500 Nations, Geronimo and the Apache Resistance, and Trail of tears: Cherokee Legacy. If you would like to find more information about library programs or about Native American history, please ask at the Information Desk or at Reference.

It All Began With a Red Pencil Skirt

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Last Dance at Jitterbug Lounge by Pamela Morsi is told from two perspectives. First there’s Bud, a World War II veteran who has suffered a stroke. We travel with him in his flashbacks of the war, memories of his beloved wife, fears, and hopes as he lay immobile in his hospital bed. We also read the story of his grandson, Jack, who has reluctantly rushed to be at Bud’s side. Jack is absorbed in his work and his troubled marriage and feels ambivalent towards his grandfather. As Jack gets to know his family, hearing the stories that Bud was hesitant to tell, he comes to see what is important in his own life.

Along with the serious tale, there are also funny stories, glamorous nights dancing, and music in the air. You won’t want to miss this beautiful story.

Fables

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You know all about Snow White, right? Her stepmother was an evil queen, her roommates were dwarves, and she had the misfortune to take a bite out of a poisoned apple – and the good fortune to be revived by the kiss of a handsome prince. How about the Big Bad Wolf? He had a taste for pigs and huffed and puffed to blow their houses down around them. And Beauty and the Beast? Beauty’s love undid an evil curse and freed the dashing nobleman inside the monster. And of course they all lived happily ever after…

Or did they? Imagine now that Snow White is the over-worked administrator of a secret government whose ineffectual king – named Cole, by the way – is more of a figurehead than a leader. The Big Bad Wolf, under a spell that renders him human, is a grizzled, chain-smoking detective prone to violently interrogating suspects. And Beauty and the Beast are having marital problems. This is the world of Bill Willingham’s Fables, a series of graphic novels chronicling the (mis)adventures of classic fairy tale characters thrust into modern New York City. Driven from their homelands by an evil sorcerer, Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, and other familiar names establish a secret community called Fabletown and try to conceal their magical natures from mortal eyes. Yet being immortal doesn’t keep these characters from getting tangled up in some very human – and very adult – troubles. Murder, infidelity, gambling, and blackmail are just some of the problems Snow and the Wolf find themselves obliged to sort out on behalf of Fabletown’s wayward citizens. Clever, witty, and a lot of fun, Fables is a graphic novel series perfect for adult fairy tale fans.

Dog On It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery

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Chet the Jet is Bernie’s partner in crime detection. He has sat through a million stakeouts. “Okay, possibly not a million. Truth is, I’m not too sure about a million, what it means, exactly–or any other number for that matter–but I get the drift from Bernie. A million means a lot , like “out the yingyang,” another favorite number of Bernie’s, maybe even bigger.”

When Bernie is distracted or not paying attention a growl from Chet will save the moment. His canine nose also provides the next step in many sticky situations. This time 15-year-old Madison is missing. Chet notes her pillowcase smells of young human female, with hints of honey, cherry, and a kind of sun-colored flower he sometimes sees along roadsides. He also smells a smell familiar from his days in K-9 school and sees under her table a small bag of marijuana. Madison soon shows up but within a few days Cynthia, her distraught mother calls again with news that Madison has been missing for a day.

Chet narrates this entertaining story from his doggie perspective which causes me to look twice at every dog I see and consider just what is going on behind those cute faces. Enjoy Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery.

A Bit of Fluff

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Whether you’re heading out to the beach or curled up in bed with a cold, sometimes a paperback romance is the ultimate companion. I prefer the romantic comedy variety so I curled up last week with my two favorite fluffy authors, Kristan Higgins and Rachel Gibson. Fools Rush In by Higgins is the story of Millie, a doctor who returns to her home town after finishing her residency. She still hasn’t recovered from a schoolgirl crush, but begins to see that maybe her dream guy isn’t all she dreamed of. Not Another Bad Date by Gibson is about Adele, a successful novelist with a history of really bad luck in dating. She returns home to help out her sister and runs into a past love that she hopes will break the streak.