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Summer Reading Pick: Under Magnolia, by Frances Mayes

Under Magnolia, by Frances Mayes

A lyrical and evocative memoir from Frances Mayes, the Bard of Tuscany, about coming of age in the Deep South and the region's powerful influence on her life. The author of three beloved books about her life in Italy, including Under the Tuscan Sun and Every Day in Tuscany, Frances Mayes revisits the turning points that defined her early years in Fitzgerald, Georgia. With her signature style and grace, Mayes explores the power of landscape, the idea of home, and the lasting force of a chaotic and loving family.

From her years as a spirited, secretive child, through her university studies--a period of exquisite freedom that imbued her with a profound appreciation of friendship and a love of travel--to her escape to a new life in California, Mayes exuberantly recreates the intense relationships of her past, recounting the bitter and sweet stories of her complicated family: her beautiful yet fragile mother, Frankye; her unpredictable father, Garbert; Daddy Jack, whose life Garbert saved; grandmother Mother Mayes; and the family maid, Frances's confidant Willie Bell.

Under Magnoliais a searingly honest, humorous, and moving ode to family and place, and a thoughtful meditation on the ways they define us, or cause us to define ourselves. With acute sensory language, Mayes relishes the sweetness of the South, the smells and tastes at her family table, the fragrance of her hometown trees, and writes an unforgettable story of a girl whose perspicacity and dawning self-knowledge lead her out of the South and into the rest of the world, and then to a profound return home.

- (W.W. Norton)

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Patron Review: No man's nightingale

Now retired, former Inspector Wexford has been recruited as a consultant to assist with the homicide of a local vicar. The vicar was responsible for a small church in the community but the local people are skeptical of her because not only is she a woman but also a single parent of mixed race teen. Discovering the killer is complicated given the circumstances with few definite leads. The locals have not formed a relationship with her, know very little about her life, and are not particularly forthcoming about what they do know. Even her friends give minimal information sometimes failing to share all they know or twisting some of the facts, accuracy not a consideration.

The character of the former inspector is that of an older man, one who likes to curl up with a good book, his private time finally his own. He is pleased to be an advisor but he finds himself critical, at times, in his mind, of changes that he wouldn’t have done while he was in charge. He also finds himself holding back rather than sharing some of his findings because his suggestions aren’t always appreciated by the current inspector who is far more close-minded. I could almost palpably feel the two men struggle mentally even though they needed each other!! For former Inspector Wexford, the changes he is facing are far less old-school with modern trains of thought taking precedence and further frustrating the relationship between the inspectors.

This is a light-hearted mystery with interesting characters in a typically small community in England and written by a well-known writer who has earned many accolades over the years. It is clear that despite the differences of thought between the inspectors, some things never change: the end result! Enjoy!

Written by Joy B., Lake Arlington patron

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7/28/2014 by Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Books, Mysteries

New Releases July 29-August 4

A riot at an elementary school leaves one person dead-was it murder? Find out in Liane Moriarty's new novel Big Little Lies. Moriarty also wrote The Husband's Secret, one of the biggest sellers of last year.


7/27/2014 by Linda S Add a Comment Share this:

Patron Review: The art of racing in the rain by Garth Stein

Do dogs really think? Reason? Understand the human world? Watch and understand TV? Talk to us? Believe it or not, Enzo fits the profile of a highly unusual, almost human, dog as he tells his story, describes his life as he lives with a family that understands him, takes care of him, and relates to his language! Enzo lives with a racecar driver, Danny, his wife, Eve, and daughter Zoe.

The author skillfully guides the reader through the value of a professional driver, Danny, and his total devotion to the road, shifting the values learned to equal the in’s and outs of life’s daily challenges, the Christian values clearly outlined throughout the story. 

Danny’s wife has brain cancer and his in-law's feel that he is less than a capable husband to manage Eve’s illness. In fact, the in-laws also feel that Danny is unable to properly see to their granddaughter Zoe’s needs and proceed to sue Danny for custody. True to his gentle nature, Danny hires an attorney and spends years and his life savings to gain his rightful place as Zoe’s rightful guardian, her father.

This is a heartwarming story, one that endears you to Danny, Zoe, and most of all to the loving family animal, Enzo, the true unsung hero in this story because he guides the family to success.

I loved the concept of what animals are capable of doing and feeling strongly that they do have special powers to take good care of their owners, feel the emotion, and know right from wrong, I really loved this story and everything it represents.

Written by Joy B., Lake Arlington patron

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7/24/2014 by Add a Comment Share this:

Summer Reading Pick: Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis

Is anyone looking for a good book this summer? If so, come see what we have! I’ll be highlighting some exciting new titles over the next few months. The publisher's summary is given below. Check one out to read by the pool, on vacation, or as part of your usual routine. Let us know where you read it at or by turning in a summer reading log at any branch. You’ll earn a free water bottle. You’ll also be entered for our grand prizes at the end of summer. These include Kindle Fires and an Arlington Staycation package worth over $900!

Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis

Flash Boys is about a small group of Wall Street guys who figure out that the U.S. stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders and that, post–financial crisis, the markets have become not more free but less, and more controlled by the big Wall Street banks. Working at different firms, they come to this realization separately; but after they discover one another, the flash boys band together and set out to reform the financial markets. This they do by creating an exchange in which high-frequency trading—source of the most intractable problems—will have no advantage whatsoever.

The characters in Flash Boys are fabulous, each completely different from what you think of when you think “Wall Street guy.” Several have walked away from jobs in the financial sector that paid them millions of dollars a year. From their new vantage point they investigate the big banks, the world’s stock exchanges, and high-frequency trading firms as they have never been investigated, and expose the many strange new ways that Wall Street generates profits.

The light that Lewis shines into the darkest corners of the financial world may not be good for your blood pressure, because if you have any contact with the market, even a retirement account, this story is happening to you. But in the end, Flash Boys is an uplifting read. Here are people who have somehow preserved a moral sense in an environment where you don’t get paid for that; they have perceived an institutionalized injustice and are willing to go to war to fix it.

- (W.W. Norton)

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7/23/2014 by Allison Denny Add a Comment Share this:

Patron Review: Elizabeth the Queen: the life of a modern monarch

She is regal, especially while in her royal presence, always diplomatic with those she consults or counsels, be it her ministers or heads of state, intent on following the English constitution to the letter, fully conscious of her constituents, and, in most cases, willing to act on public concerns. Having exceeded Victoria’s reign, Elizabeth II, now in her 80’s, continues to run her monarchy saying she “does not” plan to step down for her son, Charles, the heir apparent.

Well written with exhaustive research covering her life up to this point, this is a book that will give the reader an in-depth portrait of Elizabeth II: her responsibilities not only to the Mother country of England but to the Commonwealth as a whole. What impressed me the most are her people skills as she sometimes changes her approach to a touchy situation to meet the needs of a situation. She is a good listener, well versed on current events, and open to change the course of the conversation to suit her audience. I really liked that she is willing to change, modernize with the times, and make herself more accessible to the people.

Describing her many homes, be it Windsor Castle, Balmoral, Sandringham, or Buckingham Palace, there is a delicious peek into private moments when she enjoys herself: her ability to imitate others, her love of hunting and fishing, her devotion to horses, and her willingness to play games, and even cook and wash dishes, on occasion.

Horses are her passion as she loves immersing herself in their lives, be it raising them, breeding them, or racing them. She once made the comment that she loved riding a horse because it gave her a rare opportunity to be “free.”

Travels across the Commonwealth are exhausting events as she meets with her constituents and heads of state. There are endless rounds of State events and parties and meet and greet affairs, the schedule tightly controlled down to the minute by her staff. The diplomatic ties that are secured and sealed make these journeys well worthwhile. Over the course of her monarchy, Elizabeth II has released some of the countries to become republics as they wished to be independent but still under the protection of the realm.

Elizabeth II and Phillip have 4 children: Charles, the heir apparent, Anne, Andrew, and Edward. Reading about these children, all fully grown now, I had the feeling they were the result of a loving mom and dad, but they are expected to do what is asked, to be strong, and to be willing to stand on their own two feet. Elizabeth II’s schedule, especially in the beginning of her monarchy, demanded self-sufficiency from her children. Charles seems to have taken offense to both of his parents and has been openly derogatory about his feelings in writing and with the press. With age and time, Elizabeth II has mellowed and become more openly affectionate with her children and grandchildren. Marital issues for her children plagued her life and were aggravated by the endless press and public outcry, particularly in regard to Diana and Charles’ failed marriage. The author details Diana giving the reader a behind the scenes view of her true psychological personality. With good counsel and guidance, Elizabeth II was eventually able to guide her children forward.

This is an amazing story, a true to life fairy tale come true. It is clear that Elizabeth II’s reign will leave a lasting legacy because it is evident she really loves her country and they love her, too! 

Written by Joy B., Lake Arlington patron

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7/22/2014 by Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Books, Biography

New Releases July 22-28

The ever popular J. A. Jance is back in the desert southwest, with a new Sheriff Joanna Brady mystery-Remains of Innocence.

7/20/2014 by Linda S Add a Comment Share this:

Patron Pick: When the Morning Comes by Cindy Woodsmall

Sisters of the Quilt series, Book Two

Hannah joins her shunned aunt, her dad’s twin sister, who left the Amish Old Order because of her love for music. It is a good experience for her as she begins to assimilate into the Englisher’s world for the first time exposed to electricity, plumbing, computers, cell phones, and cars.

Seeing a different side of life as she begins the healing process, she meets a doctor in a birthing clinic who helps her face her life in a new healthy approach. Interested in the medical field, she enters nursing school, runs a support group, and begins to make choices for the first time in her life.

Meeting a friend of her aunt’s, she finds romance along a different tract, one that gives her a chance to spread her wings, dress in a more stylish fashion, and find happiness along the way. She experiences the affection of her aunt, a relationship that opens the way to confiding her deepest confidences, thereby providing her with the much needed chance to heal, her past left behind in the process.

This is a fun read full of happiness, romance, and a sense that Hannah has found a repose from all the negative energy, criticism to plague her from those she loved while living amongst her family.


7/19/2014 by Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Books, Fiction

Patron Pick: Bitter River by Julia Keller

Words come alive, descriptions gave me the feeling I was there, and could actually “see” what I was reading about, visualize the characters’ temperament, the landscape of the town and the surrounding countryside.  I also liked that the author italicized what the character was thinking, giving additional insight to the unspoken word!

Losing a 16-year old pregnant unmarried girl to a “bitter river” in a small Appalachian mountain town gives you a sense of what this story is about. The main character, Bell, is a divorced mom, a prosecuting attorney, and her main contact is the sheriff. Relating to the loss because of her own daughter, Bell seeks to find answers from a town of people who all know one another, know the local gossip, and feel the pain of loss. The author does a great job characterizing Bell who is not one to mince words, is opinionated, speaks her mind, but at the same time, cares and wants justice served.

The girl’s mother, a single mom, supports her daughter by spreading her wares about her yard, a colorful collage of what could be interpreted to be a junkyard and to others, a delicious treat of trinkets to take home, appealing to tourists. The description is colorful, one that can be “seen” with the imagination: all the colors of a rainbow, the innumerable items littering the yard. After reading the description, I closed my eyes and could actually visualize what I was reading, taking me to her yard!

I particularly liked the description of Bell’s office: the peeling paint, the dust and smells actually permeating my senses. The lack of maintenance and money seems to have compromised those who manage law enforcement in this small town, those held accountable for finding the killer of a 16 year old girl!  What is even more amazing is that they don’t even complain, just accept the circumstances, what they consider the norm!

This is a fun read, a murder mystery, a take me away page turner, one that is really well written by an author that I will want to pursue because her words are so well crafted that I found myself totally immersed in this story. There is a second mystery that overlaps the girl’s death but, in my opinion, was not necessary for the author to achieve her goal.

Written by Joy B., Lake Arlington patron

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7/19/2014 by Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Books, Fiction, Mysteries

Patron Pick: When the Heart Cries

by Cindy Woodsmall

Rumors, gossip: Are they true? Do they reflect the essence of the loved one? Or, do they satisfy a sense of vengeance or perceived wrong? The brunt force of a hurt of this magnitude is affecting Hannah, a seventeen year old Amish maiden. Some of the tales bear what on the surface is true but not the whole story, snippets of truth. After all, she takes incredible risks with her maidenhood, her Amish upbringing frowning on her escapades!

Hannah is just a young woman, a willful young girl, who does what most young ladies her age do and are not questioned. But, Hannah comes from a strict Amish community with rules not to be questioned, rules that leave no latitude for common sense. Losing respect from her community, the possibility of being banned by the Bishop, all leave her with very few options.

The author paints a clear picture of the Amish life, one based on strict living standards. Hannah strays from her upbringing even going so far as to fall in love on the sly with a boy from a Mennonite background. She is not trying to leave her heritage, but rather is attempting to work within the confines of all that she knows to be safe so that she can marry Paul. After all, he is willing to join her faith. Along the way, she is accosted by a stranger on the road who changes her life forever!

This is an interesting story, one that I found myself looking forward to reading each and every day. It takes the reader back to another level of understanding, a faith intolerant of those who stray, forgiveness not there to draw on.

Joy B., Lake Arlington Patron

7/18/2014 by Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Books, Fiction