Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin

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Whether Branch Rickey was a good man is still up for debate. It is beyond question, however, that he was a man that influenced the course of American history. Rickey had the radical idea of signing the first African American man to play Major League Baseball, legendary hero Jackie Robinson. According to Breslin, Rickey was motivated by both altruism and money, but, regardless of his reason, he shook up the world of baseball and eventually the entire country. Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin is a short biography, focused mostly on this monumental time in Rickey’s life which became his greatest legacy. The story is covered more thoroughly in other works, but Breslin has the incredible ability to write like someone gathered in a bar telling tales over a few beers. If you’re interested in American history or baseball and want a brief glimpse into the story behind the story, this is that book.

A Bloodhound to Die For by Virginia Lanier

>In the beginning, I chose A Bloodhound to Die For by Virginia Lanier because it is about dogs but found many other reasons to read it. The story is fast-paced, starting on Fri. Aug 23rd and stopping on Fri. Sept. 20th with loads of action packed in. Jo Beth trains bloodhounds and uses them for tracking. In these 31 days, Jo Beth struggles with the local sheriff; deals with a crazed jealous gun carrying wife; tracks down an Alzheimer suffering woman twice; meets with a local jailed ever escaping criminal that has the hots for her; is hospitalize when poisoned; deals with the romance in her life; carries on her bloodhound training business; and tracks down the hoodlum that kidnaps her most favorite bloodhound. The characters are fun and interesting and I learned much about the bloodhound. Whew! Now, if you like fast paced light mysteries, take a breath and enjoy reading this book for yourself.

Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts

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Fans of romantic suspense by Nora Roberts will be pleased to find that her latest novel Chasing Fire is available at the library. Roberts explores the world of elite smoke jumping fire fighters in this story of adventure and intrigue. Rowan Tripp, daughter of a famous smoke jumper, has also trained to become a skilled smoke jumper. She loves her work but is haunted by the death of a fellow jumper in a fire during the last season. She trains a new crop of jumpers for the Missoula, MT group and over the season they are bonded into a close knit, efficient unit whose lives are dependent upon each other. Gull Curry is a new member of the team, intelligent and capable, and attracted to Rowan. Rowan is a strong, competent female character who fights her attraction to Gull. As the fire season progresses, the team is plagued by troubling incidents, arson, murder and life-threatening sabotage. The interplay between Rowan and Gull is entertaining and touching, and both are very much equals in the relationship. The smoke jumping crew is filled with vivid and believable characters. Roberts has done her research on smoke jumping and her descriptions of parachuting into forest fires and fighting the fires are exciting and enthralling. This is an absorbing mystery as well as an homage to the bravery of the dedicated people who work as smoke jumpers to save our forested wilderness areas.

Farewell, Oprah

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Ah, Oprah, how we will miss you. Oprah Winfrey has been a huge influence on many things, but she has probably influenced the book world more than anything, inspiring an amazing thirst for reading. In honor of her last show, Nielsenwire created a list of the top 10 bestselling Oprah’s Book Club Books in the past 10 years. I’ll pass it along in case you missed one along the way. Enjoy!

The Dry Grass of Autumn by Anna Jean Mayhew

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This book by first-time novelist, Anna Jean Mayhew, had a hold on me that wouldn’t let go. The Dry Grass of August shares similarities with the knock-out best seller The Help by Kathryn Stockett which is a film in production and scheduled to be released in August. It also tells a story of the south in the 1950′s and 1960′s when black family helpers were essential to running homes and raising children.
Jubie, a thirteen year old girl from North Carolina, narrates a tragic story of racism that changes her world with it’s personal and horrific impact. Her mother, siblings and black maid, Mary, are heading to visit an uncle in Florida. Signs of racism are experienced by Mary which are upsetting for Jubie, who loves Mary and is ashamed that she must endure scorn and primitive conditions in motels and at rest stops. On the return trip a tragedy occurs that forever changes the family.

The history of race relations in the south is painful to experience through Mayhew’s book. As a young teen during the 60′s I remember viewing some of the same unfair conditions on a trip through the south to visit an aunt and uncle in Florida. The truth of the hate exhibited toward blacks in the south during that time is a dark blot in my memory.

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels–A Love Story

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In this memoir, popular blogger and cookbook writer Ree Drummond, better known as The Pioneer Woman, tells the story of how she met and fell in love with her cowboy husband who she calls Marlboro Man. After attending college in California, Ree made what she thought would be a pit stop in her home town in Oklahoma while she made plans to start a new life in Chicago. While out with friends one night, she meets Marlboro Man, a rugged and handsome rancher from the next town over who turns her plans to move to Chicago upside down as their love continues to blossom. This true tale follows Ree as she makes the hilarious transformation from country club city girl to rancher’s wife all the while serving up a generous helping of romance. Black Heels to Tractor Wheels is a delightful read for the warm summer days to come.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Lemmon

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Kamila Sidiqui is an Afghani teacher whose life was changed drastically in the 1990′s when Taliban forces took over the city of Kabul. Kamila’s family was forced to separate–her parents leave for the northern provinces in fear for their lives, as her father had supported a previous government. Her older brother flees to Pakistan to avoid being forced to join the Taliban army, leaving Kamila, her sisters and younger brother in Kabul, as it is too dangerous for women to travel. With strict rules enforced by the Taliban, women who previously held positions in government or jobs teaching or in hospitals, were no longer allowed to be outside in public without a male escort, and were forced to live their lives indoors. When outside their homes, they were forced to wear chadris, which covered them head to toe. As the violence in Kabul increases and the Taliban regime imposes more and more rules upon the citizens, Kamila realizes that they will not survive without an income with which to purchase the basic necessities. She learns to sew from her older sister, and they begin a dress making business in their home. As the word spreads about their business, more women ask to participate, wanting the opportunity to learn a trade and to support their families. Under the ever-present threat of discovery, Kamila and her family continue to build a business that helps to support and empower the women of her neighborhood.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is a fascinating look into the lives of women in war time, responsible for the support of their families, who have the courage and creativity to build a business under the watchful eye of the Taliban regime–an inspiring story of courage and resourcefulness.

Dogs Don’t Lie by Clea Simon

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In the new pet noir, Dogs Don’t Lie, Pru Marlowe has survived a nervous breakdown caused by her newly-found ability to hear animals’ thoughts. Seeking some peace from the cacophony of animal thoughts in the big city, Pru flees New York, and doesn’t finish her degree as an animal behaviorist. Pru sets up shop as an animal trainer in her small hometown. She is accompanied by Wallis, her cat, who helps Pru understand the animal thoughts she is hearing.

Pru finds her best client, Charles, dead on his living room floor, his throat ripped out and his newly-adopted pit bull, Lily, covered in blood-standing next to him. Spurred on by the desperate cries from Lily, and convinced that Lily is innocent, Pru commits herself to saving Lily and solving the murder. Billed as the beginning of a new Pru Marlowe series, Simon launches a delightful book that will appeal to fans of Shirley Rousseau Murphy and Rita Mae Brown.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

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Marion Chesney has written over 100 historical romances under half-a-dozen different pseudonyms, but her mystery novels are written under the name M.C. Beaton. Author of the Hamish MacBeth mystery series, MPL has a number of videos for check-out from the television series that is loosely based on her novels.

I recently picked-up one of her Agatha Raisin novels while looking for a cozy writer that might have a lenthy series to read and recommend. What fun to find the formidable but hilarious Agatha Raisin. This fifty-three year old advertising professional has chucked life in cosmopolitan London, sold her business and moved to the charming Cotswold’s for a change of pace. Trying to fit in, un-domestic Agatha enters a baking contest with a quiche purchased from her favorite deli in London, only to be accused of murder when the judge dies of cowband poisoning. Agatha’s life is in jeopardy as she searches for the killer and tries to fit into village life. I can believe one would find Agatha embroiled in all kinds of mischief in this 22-book series and enjoy every one. Sample Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death for a cozy British mystery.

Eve, a Novel by Iris Johansen

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In Eve, Johansen’s gripping 11th Eve Duncan novel, and the first of a trilogy, the forensic sculptor zeros in on the kidnapper and serial killer who years earlier abducted and murdered her seven-year-old daughter, Bonnie.

For the first time, light is shed on forensic sculptor Eve Duncan’s past, and brings to the forefront the father of Eve’s missing daughter. When Eve tries to find out if the mysterious John Gallo had anything to do with Bonnie’s disappearance, she ends up as bait in a perilous game between Gallo and dangerous ex-military men.

Death by Cashmere by Sally Goldenbaum

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Come join the group in Izzy’s knit shop, gathered together knitting, talking, eating good food, and drinking good wine. In this sleepy tourist town on the Massachusetts coast, four women come together: Nell is a retiree who makes sure everyone is fed and taken care of, Birdie is old enough to tell it straight and not care what anyone thinks about it, Izzy left a law firm in Boston to come home and open her shop, and Cass has to wash off the smell of her lobster boat before she comes to gather with her friends and knit the same scarf over and over. Their quiet world is disturbed when Izzy’s upstairs renter, Angie, washes up on shore. The friends come together to console one another and figure out who brought this element of evil to their peaceful community. Death by Cashmere is a sumptuous story, providing a sweet escape to summer.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

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Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants is an hysterically funny reflection on her busy and chaotic life. She offers fascinating glimpses into her life as a performer with Second City, as a writer on Saturday Night Live and the creation of her hit show 30 Rock. Most interesting were her descriptions of her experiences as a female working in the world of comedy. Fey’s love of comedy and performing is apparent through out her stories. Her observations on the hectic life of a working mother juggling schedules, in-laws and holidays are ones that all working moms can relate to–and laugh about. This is a smart, interesting and laugh-out-loud funny book.

Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

>Moon and Ba have done something wonderful in creating Daytripper, a stunning and emotionally resonant graphic novel following the life of Bras de Oliva Domingos. This graphic novel is the collection of a miniseries of ten issues, each issue about an important day to Bras and showing what would have happened if it was the day he died. This is not a story about death, however, it’s a story about life. It’s about the important things that happen to people during their life and how each of us interact with friends, family, lovers and acquaintances. The events in Bras’ life do not unfold chronologically, but something new is revealed about him and his life and the people important to him with each story, though many years can lapse between the events portrayed in each episode of Daytripper.

Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson

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Fans of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will be pleased to immerse themselves into the continuing story of the Darcy family in Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister. C. Allyn Pierson has taken us into their world to tell the story of Georgiana, Darcy’s ward and younger sister. After her heart is broken and she is humiliated by her involvement with Wickham, Georgiana has become a shy and quiet young woman, lacking confidence in herself and in her judgment. She is preparing for her debut into society and her presentation before court, and is nervous and anxious about the upcoming event. Her sister-in-law Elizabeth comes to the rescue, offering Georgiana love and support, practicing the art of conversation, offering her advice on her wardrobe and serving as her confidante in matters of the heart. Their relationship unfolds throughout the story, as does Georgiana’s growth in confidence and maturity. She wants to be seen as an adult by her brother and by Colonel Fitzwilliam, and although her first season in society has placed her in the marriage market, she desires a love match like that of her brother and Elizabeth. After a kidnapping, lessons on deportment from her aunt, friendships with Kitty, Jane and Bingley, Georgiana finds the courage to seek out love . Although the plot revolves around Georgiana, this is a charming story and a wonderful opportunity to continue reading about the lives of some of our favorite characters in literature.

The Book of True Desires by Betina Krahn

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In order to prove herself to her grandfather, Cordelia Blackburn, independent adventuress, agrees to search for the Mayan “Gift of the Jaguar.” Grandfather Blackburn, a rather grouchy old man, adds a twist to the deal at the last minute by insisting his arrogant and sarcastic butler, Hartford, accompany her to keep an eye on her. Of course, Hartford is not what he seems. Her headstrong determination to succeed combined with his pessimistic determination to survive the expedition with as little effort and injury as possible, create an explosive mix. With themes that are reminiscent of Romancing the Stone combined with a historical romance, the The Book of True Desires by Betina Krahn is a delightful adventure.