Letters to Juliet

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Letters to Juliet tells the story of the hundreds of letters that arrive in Verona, Italy, addressed merely to “Juliet”–letters from people around the world who want to express their feelings about love–loves lost, love remembered or elusive love. They are seeking the advice of Juliet–the romantic character in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The Juliet Club is a group of women of Verona who have volunteered to send each correspondent a hand-written letter from Juliet, offering compassion along with advice in their replies. The book details the history of the first letters that arrived for Juliet and the man, a custodian at Juliet’s tomb, who began the tradition of replying to each letter. It also contains several of the letters that have been left in the hopes that Juliet’s romantic advice can be of help, as well as the replies from the Secretaries of Juliet. It is a fascinating look at the hopeful nature of love and romance.
The film with the same title Letters to Juliet is a charming romantic comedy loosely based on the book–an American tourist Sophie comes across a hidden letter left 50 years ago at Juliet’s tomb, and joins the Secretaries of Juliet to answer the letter. Her touching letter prompts Claire–now a grandmother–to return to Verona and search for the love she left 50 years earlier. Vanessa Redgrave is touching as Claire, as is the supporting cast. And a true star of the film is the Italian countryside, filmed beautifully. The film takes the “what if’s” of the letters left for Juliet and follows the characters on their journey to find the courage to follow their hearts and find love.

Mad, Bad and Blonde

> Faith West is a children’s librarian in Chicago who is jilted on her wedding day for not being exciting enough. She decides to go on her honeymoon to Italy by herself, where she meets and spends her time with the handsome Caine. After finding out he is the employee of a rival private investigation firm to her family’s firm and was sent to keep an eye on her (and that he blames her father for precipitating his own father’s suicide), she ditches him and heads back to Chicago. Taking her ex-fiance’s cricism to heart, she quits her job at the library and goes to work for her father as a researcher and investigator. In her new job, Faith keeps running into Caine, and things just continue to become more complicated wtih each encounter.

I picked up Mad, Bad and Blonde because the main character is a librarian. I kept reading because the story was funny, and I liked the main character and the love interest. Cathie Linz has great secondary characters and we’ll see Faith and Caine again in her next romantic comedy about Faith’s cousin, Megan, in Luck Be a Lady.

In the Heart of the Sea: the Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathan Philbrick

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Nathan Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea is an account of the voyage of the whaleship Essex–the story which is the basis for Melville’s novel Moby Dick. This is a fascinating and well-researched account of the 1819 ramming of the Essex by a gigantic sperm whale and of it’s subsequent sinking. The crew of the ship, forced into small whale boats, attempted to cross the vast reaches of the pacific Ocean in hopes of finding land or rescue by another ship. The account of their battle to survive their ordeal and the decisions they were forced to make are both harrowing and tragic. Philbrick relates their horrific story with a concise and scholarly approach. He enhances the story with descriptions of the life history of whales, descriptions of the whaling industry and life aboard a whaling ship in the 1800′s. He bases much of his story on the diaries of two of the survivors of the tragedy. This is a powerful, well-written narrative about endurance and the will to survive and overcome hardships–a story that will stay with you long after you have read the final chapter.

High Country Bride by Linda Lael Miller

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Angus McKettrick has worked hard all his life, raising himself from poverty to the owner of one of the largest ranches in the Arizona Territory, only to raise the three sorriest sons around. Rafe, Kade, and Jeb work the ranch as little as possible, spending the majority of their time drinking, fighting, and carousing. Deciding that something must be done, Angus declares that the first to get married and produce offspring will get the ranch, producing a mad scramble of activity. Rafe takes action by ordering a bride through the mail.

Emmeline Harding has had a loving if lonely life as the neice of a madame in Kansas City. She has somehow managed to be raised as a respectable lady while surrounded by a life of sin. As she gets older, however, that sin starts to come closer and she suddenly finds it necessary to get out of town as soon as possible.

Rafe is a rascal who loves to fight more than anything and Emmeline is a sweet girl who is determined to make this marriage work, even if that means keeping a few details from her past secret from Rafe. In High Country Bride, Miller creates a story filled with drama, humor, and love.

A Secret Kept

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Tatiana de Rosnay has written ten books in her native French and the first one to be written in English was her smash hit Sarah’s Key that has sold over 2 million copies.. In that book she jumps between two time periods to tell the story of a secret hidden during the 1942 round-up of Jews in Paris and discovered 60 years later.
This newest story follows a similar premise of a family secret kept hidden for decades. Antoine, a divorced architect, wants to surprise his sister on her fortieth birthday with a trip to a special vacation place from their childhood. Together they experience mixed feelings as sights and people remind them of their mother who died when they were small. As they travel back to Paris Melanie remembers a startling repressed memory that disturbs her to the point of driving off the highway and rolling their auto. Melanie is hospitalized with a broken back and no memory of the event.
A Secret Kept delves into family relationships that mold us into the adults we become. Do we really know who our parents were and why they relate to us as they do? What are our expectations of each other and how can we forgive those we love when they don’t meet our expectations.

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

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Jennifer Crusie’s new, offbeat, entertaining romance combines two orphaned children, a remote Gothic house, an ex-husband as well as a fiancee, visitors from the spirit world and lots of eccentric characters, creating a light-hearted romantic adventure. Andie Miller confronts her ex-husband, North, in order to return his alimony checks and close this chapter in her life. Instead, he convinces her to spend a month caring for two children under his guardianship, after the three previous nannies have abruptly quit the job. Her adventures begin when she arrives at the house, to find an odd housekeeper, two sullen and quiet children and more than one ghost. This book is filled with witty dialog, fun and unique characters and, of course, romance. If you enjoy romance with a ghostly twist, Maybe This Time is for you!

Blindsided: Surviving a Grizzly Attack and Still Loving the Great Bear by Jim Cole

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This riveting memoir by Jim Cole relates his amazing survival and recovery from not one but two attacks by grizzly bears. Cole walked away from a lucrative real estate business to follow his passion–studying the great bears. In Blindsided, he relates not only the stories of his attacks but also his fascination with bears, and tells of his miles (thousands!!) hiking and following grizzlies throughout their habitat to observe, photograph and document their behavior. His account of his survival and recovery after his second attack is inspiring, as is his continued love and respect for the animals he studies and to which he has dedicated his life. As he writes “The bottom line is that grizzly bears–and every powerful creature, from the bison to the wolf–should be treated with a mixture of awe, admiration and reverence.” Whether Cole’s actions in his study of the grizzly venture into the foolhardy are unclear, but what is clear is his love for the bear and his commitment to study and learn about their behavior, in the hopes that this intelligent mammal does not vanish from our wilderness.

In the Company of Others by Jan Karon

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Experience the beauty and romance of Ireland at Jan Karon’s website before you begin her newest Father Tim novel, In the Company of Others. The Celtic music and charming photographs will prepare you for a wonderful read.
Those of us who have been waiting for the newest book from Karon can be most pleased with the result. This second book in the Father Tim series takes us to Ireland for a two week vacation with Timothy and Cynthia in the land of their ancestors. Cynthia’s ankle is injured when she is unpleasantly surprised by a stranger hiding in their room. This incident keeps them close to their quaint fishing lodge rather than touring the countryside as planned. Here we become deeply involved in the lives of Liam and Anna Conor, owners of Broughadoon,and Anna’s musically talented daughter Bella. There are many sad, dark secrets complicating their lives in which Father Tim and Cynthia begin to share and counsel. A journal written by Fintan O’Donnell, a surgeon in the nineteenth century, is a focal point of much of the book which brings insight into the history of the people of Catharmore, the nearby ancestral home of Liam and current home of his elderly, alcoholic mother. This journal also leads to the solving of mysteries involving a stolen painting and the stranger hiding in the Kav’nas room.
Cynthia and Tim have a deeply joyous, committed marriage and their dialogue is truly motivating as they share their faith and wisdom with this hurting family. Fans of the Mitford series will learn bits of news regarding those wonderful characters as Father Tim telephones and emails his thoughts back home.

Young Adult Books for Adults

>There’s been some talk in the news in recent months about the trend of adults reading young adult literature. This New York Times article addresses the trend. There is also a blog called Forever Young Adult for adults who read young adult fiction. This trend seems to have really taken off with the Harry Potter series and continued with books like Twilight and The Hunger Games. These books were a gateway into young adult literature for many adults who continue to pick up YA titles. For those who haven’t read these runaway bestsellers or picked up a young adult title in recent years, here are some suggestions of young adult literature that appeals to many adults.

Sabriel is a young adult fantasy novel first published by Garth Nix in 1995 (two years before the first Harry Potter novel was released). Sabriel is the daughter of the Abhorsen, a necromancer who puts the dead to rest and prevents the restless Dead from returning to Life. When Sabriel receives a message from him while she is away at school in Ancelstierre (where magic does not work), she must return to the Old Kingdom (where magic works) to take up his duties and try free him from where he is trapped in Death. Sabriel is the first in a trilogy, followed by Lirael and Abhorsen.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the first young adult offering from the talented Sherman Alexie. Junior is a Native American high school student living on a reservation. He likes to play basketball and draw and is often picked on by other students. He transfers to a different school to try to escape the poverty of the reservation. He starts making friends and joins the basketball team. Junior’s world starts to fall apart partway through the novel as he deals with the realities of reservation life and the death of loved ones. This novel addresses difficult issues such as race and identity and overcoming poverty with humor and grace.

Miranda is a typical high school sophomore and her diary is filled with the typical high school sophomore student concerns. In Life As We Knew It, everything changes, though, when a meteor hits the moon and knocks it off its normal axis. The earth is wracked by tsunamies, floods and volcano eruptions. The weather changes drastically and food and gas shortages abound. Miranda doesn’t focus so much on the death and destruction in her journal as she does on the reality of how much everyday life has

changed and the stresses of living in such an uncertain world.
Taylor Markham is a 17-year old student at Jellicoe Boarding School on Jellicoe Road where she has lived since her mother abandoned her at the age of 11. She leads the Jellico School faction against the Cadets and the Townies in the teen wars of the Australian countryside. Taylor already questions the role she is playing in this conflict and when her mentor and teacher, Hannah, disappears and Taylor finds her book manuscript and reads it, her questions and doubts only increase in number. This novel is very complex and mixes elements of romance, mystery and realistic fiction to compelling effect.
There are many more wonderful YA titles available at the library. Here are a few more suggestions:
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Bloodtide by Melvin Burgess
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Klause
Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

Montana Rose by Mary Connealy

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Cassie Griffin is standing heartbroken and pregnant over her husband’s freshly dug grave when the suitors start fighting for her hand in marriage. Montana territory in 1875 is a harsh place for a woman on her own, but Cassie wasn’t expecting to have to choose a new husband when the old one isn’t even cold in the ground. Through the crowd she sees Red Dawson, maybe not the man of her dreams, but kind and hardworking. Neither of them wants to get married, but they know it must be done to save her from men who are more interested in her land than her well-being.

Although the story starts with a sad and brutal theme, Montana Rose becomes the hopeful and often humorous tale of a woman learning to trust her instincts and her husband, as well as a reluctant husband learning to appreciate his wife’s previously untapped talents for being a good ranch wife and a loving companion.

Oogy by Larry Levin

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Oogy, a severly injured puppy, finds a chance for a new life when Larry Levin and his twin sons, Noah and Dan, take their very ill family pet cat to a local vet. The family did not expect to return with another pet, much less a young puppy who was nearly torn apart by a fighting dog.

But, when Oogy rushed through the doors of the office and into their arms, he claimed them as his family and there was no turning back. Larry focuses on the relationship between himself (a new father at age 45) and his adopted sons, Noah and Dan and of course, Oogy. This story is humanity at its worst and at its best.