Confessions of a Hasty Librarian

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Just like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, I also have been too quick to judge. Two years ago when Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler first came out, I read it eagerly and loved it until the end. The only problem with this book is that only half of the story is presented, leaving too many questions unanswered. Recently, I decided to forgive Rigler and try to struggle through the sequel, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. It was so delightful, I had to go back and read Confessions again, which was much more enjoyable on the second reading.
Both stories are about a young woman who is unhappy with the current conditions of her life. They each suffer a head injury and wake up in a different life in a different time. Courtney is an assistant in 21st century Los Angeles. Having just suffered a humiliating end to her engagement, she suffers a diving accident and wakes up in the body of Miss Mansfield in 1813. Jane is 30 and unmarried in in Regency era England. She has just seen something that may mean the end to her only prospect for marriage. She races off on her horse, hits her head and wakes up in Courtney’s apartment and life.

As each of them adjust to new surroundings, we get to see how many things concerning love and life have not changed very much, as well as how the resposibility of living someone else’s life causes them to make better decisions than they might have on their own behalf. An overall fun read.

Personalized Reading Lists from the Manhattan Public Library

> We’ve been thrilled by the enthusiastic response we’ve gotten to our Personalized Reading List service. For months now we’ve been helping patrons find their next favorite book. If you’re wondering what to read next, why not let us help by providing you with a list of fiction and/or non-fiction titles suited to your reading tastes and interests. Just pick up a reading survey at the library, or click here to print one you can mail or bring in at your convenience. Give us at least two weeks and we’ll give you a list of books we think you’ll enjoy.

Here are a few of the well-received titles we’ve recommended to Personalized Reading List users recently:

Vanished by Joseph Finder

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Nick Heller, ex-Special Forces member and current security expert and intelligence investigator, receives a call from his nephew Gabe that his brother Roger is missing and his sister-in-law is in a coma, the result of an attack on a Georgetown street. Vanished tells the story of Nick’s search to find his brother. Although not close to his brother since their wealthy financier father was arrested and convicted of fraud, Nick digs deep into Roger’s disappearance and uncovers corporate greed, money laundering, bribery and murder. The characters are believable and interesting and the plot twists and turns are too numerous to keep track of–lots of action and an unexpected ending. Vanished is an exciting suspense thriller that will keep you guessing until the end.

Her Fearful Symmetry

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Historic Highgate Cemetery in London would be a fascinating place to visit this time of year with it’s gothic tombs and occult past, including the Highgate Vampire. Audrey Niffenegger takes you there in her newest book, Her Fearful Symmetry. Twins Julia and Valentina inherit a flat in London on the edge of Highgate Cemetery from their Aunt Elspeth. Their mother and Elspeth were estranged twins so Julia and Valentina had never been to London or met their aunt. The beautiful old apartment is home to the ghost of Elspeth and other interesting characters, including Robert, Elspeth’s former lover and Martin who suffers from agoraphobia/ocd. The unusual story of love after death, twin-sister estrangement, and life with mental disorders is complicated but wonderfully twisted. Enjoy a ghost tale this season.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

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There have been several theories on the cause of the Salem witch trials of 1692, ranging from the oppression of women to moldy bread. In The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe dares to ask the question “What if there were women guilty of practicing witchcraft?”

Connie Goodwin, a Ph.D. student, is spending the summer cleaning out her grandmother’s house in Marblehead, Mass. when she discovers a mysterious key with the name “Deliverance Dane” curled up inside it. Armed with her love of research, she sets out to discover what this means, uncovering centuries of secrets about an ancestor she didn’t know existed.

Interspersed with Connie’s story, Howe gives us glimpses of the lives of Deliverance Dane and her daughter and grandaughter, exploring what it may have been like to live through the trials and how the following generations would have continued to face judgement long after 1692 was over.

This book is a fascinating mix of magic and mystery. It contains enough creepiness for an October read, but that is balanced by the life details of Deliverance and Connie. It calls to question the line between healing and witchcraft, the possibility of things we don’t understand, and if good and evil are always what they seem to be.

Kept: A Victorian Mystery

>No one writes like Charles Dickens these days, but D.J. Taylor comes awfully close with his novel Kept: A Victorian Mystery. Full of period detail and atmosphere, Taylor’s story – which ranges from the grimy, fog-choked streets of 1860′s London to the wild expanses of the Scottish Highlands and Canadian tundra – explores the unseemly labyrinth of secrets, desires, and crime that lay just below the genteel surface of the Victorian era. A mentally unstable widow, an eccentric naturalist, a lawyer with a scandalous past, an inquisitive young kitchen maid, and a cunning debt collector are some of the colorful characters connected by a web of obsession, blackmail, and theft and brought vividly to life by Taylor’s evocative descriptions of 19th century life. You can almost smell the smoke from the coal fires and feel the rain pattering upon your head as you immerse yourself in every page of Kept.

Halfway to Heaven

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I love the mountains of Colorado, summer or winter, and our family camping trips there hold many wonderful memories. We’ve managed lots of hikes–long and short–but I have never attempted to summit a “Fourteener”–one of the 54 peaks in Colorado that are over 14,000 ft. in altitude. (My highest hike is 13,500 on a summit near Loveland Pass. I was very proud of making it that high, even as I watched my teenagers scramble ahead of me and sit and wait at the summit!) Mark Obmascik tells the story of his quest to climb the fourteeners in one summer in his book Halfway to Heaven: My White-Knuckled and Kunukle-headed Quest for the Rocky Mountain High. Self-described as middle-aged, balding and overweight, Obmascik challenges himself to complete his climbs of the 54 fourteeners, having summited 12 of the mountains when he was younger, fitter, thinner and unmarried. His memoir of his experiences are amusing and memorable. His wife insists he climb with a partner, resulting in the author’s searching online for “man-dates” to accompany him. His variety of climbing partners are wonderful characters and Obmascik conveys the enthusiasm and interest he has in learning about both the people he is with as well as the nature and history surrounding him. Not a technical book about climbing, this is instead a funny and sometimes touching tale of the people who love climbing and mountains. He illustrates the dangers of high-altitude climbing but intersperses these details with hilarious stories about hiking-pole chewing marmots, elk in heat, attacks by mountain goats and with many tidbits of Colorado history. He completes his quest with a hike up Pike’s Peak with his 12 year old son. I found this book thoroughly enjoyable–a great mix of adventure and humor that anyone–especially someone who has been the slowest one on the trail– can relate to!

Books of the Undead

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If the movies or the upcoming holiday have gotten you in the mood for zombies, check out the latest in action-filled zombie fiction.

In Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Zeke Wilkes braves the underworld of 1880s Seattle in an attempt to save his father’s name. The underworld contains a vein of toxic gas that turns people into zombies. Zeke’s mother is his only hope for survival.

Manhattan N.Y. becomes Monster Island in the novel by David Wellington. A plague has turned most of the world into zombies. Only one couple has managed to stay alive in New York. They are joined by a group of well armed teenage girls from the Free Women’s Republic of Somaliland, searching desperately for medicine.

In Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry, Baltimore detective Joe Ledger discovers terrorists that have created a bio-weapon that can make zombies. He must lead a team of elite fighters against them in order to save the world.

Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay

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If you are looking for an exciting page-turner, look no further than Linwood Barclay’s new novel Fear the Worst. The plot is compelling–this is the story of an ordinary father, Tim Blake, whose teen-aged daughter does not come home after a shift at her summer job. When he goes to her workplace to find her, there is no record of her working there and no one knows her. This begins Blake’s hunt for his daughter. Blake is an ordinary middle-ages car salesman caught in extraordinary circumstances, making his fear, anger and obsession very believable. Barclay’s characters are realistic and the plot is filled with twists and turns, adding to the suspense. The pace of the story is relentless–plan to lose some sleep while reading this thriller–it’s hard to put down!

Barclay has several other novels at Manhattan Public Library ( Too Close to Home and No Time for Goodbye among others) and I plan to read them all!

>The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë

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I will never forget the first time I read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I had watched the Timothy Dalton film version and loved it, so I thought I’d trudge through the book. There was no trudging involved. It took no time for me for me to become completely absorbed by this amazing story. I loved reading the trials of a small, plain girl who dealt with difficult circumstances on her own terms.

So I jumped on the opportunity to read a fictionalized version of the author’s life when I saw The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James. Like Jane Eyre, Brontë did not have an easy life. Her mother died when she was young and she lost two sisters at a school very similar to her infamous Lowood Institution. But the life that James describes, while full of trials, also shows how her life was full of love, friendship, and the joy of creativity.

James’s interpretation of this famous life reads like a novel, but demonstrates diligent research. She uses the factual framework of Brontë’s life, culled from past biographies and letters, and adds her own interpretation of the details that have been left out. This beautiful book told the story of a remarkable life in a such a way that will satisfy both true Brontë devotees and those who just want to read a great book.

The Pretend Wife

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Anything with a dress and a pink stripe on the cover must be a bit of fluff, right? I picked up The Pretend Wife expecting a light read and found myself asking the big questions of life and getting unexpected answers.

Gwen Merchant is coasting along in her quiet, stable life until the day she runs into an old boyfriend, Elliot, while ordering ice cream. In a odd turn of events, she ends up agreeing to pretend to be Elliot’s wife in order to please his dying mother. Strangely enough, her husband approves of this decision, even encourages her to help Elliot out. Her time with Elliot and his family forces her to take a second look at everything about her life.

This book has substantial fare, but the language and story line keep it from becoming too heavy.