Parker’s Picks: April/May 2011

The Bird Sisters: A NovelThe Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

 I’m proud to be able to share my review of Rebecca’s debut novel you!  It’s a coming of age story about family, relationships, secrets, and the realization that when you trust someone you love, you might be disappointed:  “…a secret she would have to keep forever: you can’t count on me.” (The Bird Sisters, Rasmussen)  Tucked away in the heart of the Midwest in the small town of Spring Green, Wisconsin, live two spinster sisters, Milly and Twiss, who have spent a life time growing old together in their childhood home.  This is their story and reflections on how their lives evolved and what might have been.  The story moves along effortlessly connecting the present day to the past and the astounding string of events that changed their family’s lives forever.   Throughout the book Milly and Twiss think back on their youth and their parents’ troubled irreparable marriage which is emblazoned in their minds. While reading, The Bird Sisters, the narrative element of foreshadowing led me to anticipate something heartbreaking and foreboding would transpire later in the book.  There is a great deal more to impart on you — but I cannot spoil the book for you! I will leave you with this hook, Twiss tries to alter the outcome of her parents’ relationship or so she thinks by passing along a note to her mother from her father. 

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal... Clockwork Angel: (The Infernal Devices, #1) by Cassandra Clare

For those of you who love fantasy series this will be a book to place on your reading list!  Heroine, Tessa Gray, journeys to England in search of her brother Nate but is kidnapped by a group of warlocks, the Dark Sisters. She soon discovers another world beneath Victorian London and what the Dark Sisters have in store for her.  Clare has just the right balance in this coming of age story full of stratagem, the unexplained, and clashes between good vs. evil. You will easily get drawn into the tale. If you enjoy a story full of twists and turns and most importantly – romance -you’ll enjoy reading the first book in this trilogy!

Full Dark, No StarsFull Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

King’s newest book is a collection of short stories and has been compared to one of his previous book of novellas, Different Seasons.  If you are a fan of Stephen King you will thoroughly NOT be disappointed! My favorite story was, 1922: “My name is Wilfred Leland James, and this is my confession. In June of 1922 I murdered my wife, Arlette Christina Winters James, and hid her body by dumping it down an old well.” Enough said!!

The Girl Who Chased the Moon The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

There is something about magical Southern fiction that always seizes my attention.  The Girl Who Chased the Moon is no exception! I was quite fond of this particular story about Emily Benedict who returns to her mother’s hometown of Mullaby, North Carolina after her mother dies. Emily discovers she has a grandfather she never knew existed and moves into his home with him to observe: “Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood.” (Allen)  Then there is Julia Winterson whom Emily hopes will answer many questions about her mother.  Julia is quite special as well because she,bakes hope in the form of cakes.”  (Allen) This is entirely a delightful read and you’ll want to find the answers to these two important questions:Is there really a ghost dancing in her backyard? Can a cake really bring back a lost love?” (Allen)

The Girls of Murder City: Fame... The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired Chicago  by  Douglas Perry  

Are you a fan of the Broadway musical Chicago AND intrigued by Chicago history?!  I most definitely am! When I first happened upon this book; I knew I had to read it!  I love to research and investigate the “true story behind the story.”  This book examines the account of the real killers, “Stylish Belva” Gaertner and “Beautiful Beulah” Annan, who shot their lovers in cold blood.  Chicago Tribune “girl reporter,” Maurine Watkins brought this story to the forefront for readers first as news story and eventually as a play based on these true life accounts. This play later was immortalized on the stage and the screen as CHICAGO. Fascinatingly enough it illustrates how the media coverage helped to sensationalize the crimes committed by Belva and Annan.  Also interwoven into the book is another “pair of killers,” the infamous, Leopold & Loeb! This will be one of my book club’s summer selections.

The Hangman's Daughter The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch, Lee Chadeayne (Translator)

An amazing historical thriller set in 1680 Germany!!  Is it witchcraft that is killing young children or is there a serial killer on the loose??!!  Helping with the investigation as further children go missing, is hangman, Jacob Kuisl.  With the help of his daughter, Magdalena and a local young man they try to unravel the mystery of the murders??  Will they be able to stop the evil that is lurking in their small village of Shongau?!

Kings of the Earth Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch

Living together on a farm in upstate New York are the three Proctor brothers, Vernon, Audie, and Creed. At the onset of the story, Vernon is found dead in his bed.  As the police are called to investigate questions begin to arise.  Was it murder?  If so, did one of the other brothers kill him and why??  The family saga spans many years and is told from various points of view.  You’ll discover bleak and sad circumstances surrounding the characters in this tale which is loosely based on the true life story of the Ward Brothers which was made into a documentary, ‘Brother’s Keeper” in the 1992. A well written memorable book!

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murde... The Poisoner’s  Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

I found this to be an absolutely fascinating book to read! I’ve told more people to read this book!  Author Deborah Blum has written a flawless and well-researched account of actual crimes which took place in New York during the 1920’s. Each chapter is devoted to a particular poison, the deaths related to them, and the research done by Chief Medical Examiner, Charles Norris. He and his department, along with Thomas Gonzales explored, made inquiries, and eventually aided in solving many of these cases finding the killer to these crimes. Both Norris and Gonzales were forensic pioneers. What I found most intriguing was that at the beginning of Prohibition the numbers of deaths related to alcohol were fairly low in comparison to what the death toll was by the end of Prohibition.  Amazing!  This utterly intriguing work of non-fiction will capture the attention of fans of today’s television shows such as CSI and Criminal Minds.

Receive Me FallingReceive Me Falling by Erika Robuck

I loved this historical fiction book told in two voices from two different time periods! It vacillates from the present day as Meg Owen tells her story to the nineteenth century where we learn about a young woman Catherine Dall. Catherine lives on the plantation of Eden.   After the untimely death of her parents, Meg learns she has inherited the plantation of Eden on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean.  Meg sets off for the island of Nevis in search of some family secrets.  She soon discovers the island is haunted and some sort of tragedy occurred many years ago. Both women deal with their fathers’ respective weaknesses.  Meg soon finds out her father had been swindling his clients prior to his death. Catherine runs the family plantation due to the fact her drunken father cannot.  Catherine struggles with slavery issue and the wicked overseer of the plantation. What is the connection between Meg and Catherine?  What mysteries surround Eden and are there really ghosts roaming the island?! This book already is on hold in the Media Center for several patrons! Yeah!

Unbroken: A World War II Story... Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand 

When you finally read the last page of Unbroken, the name, Louis Zamperini, the ordeals and obstacles he encountered during WWII will be emblazoned in your memory forever. I cannot begin to tell you enough about his story – you must read it and experience for yourself! Louis Zamperini was an extraordinary athlete during the 1936 Berlin Olympics who consequently shook the hand of Adolf Hitler. Later, Zamperini would find himself protecting our country against the enemy nations during WWII only to experience the horror and awfulness of war as a POW.  The atrocities he suffered at the hands of his captors were unimaginable and a living nightmare for him.  Hillenbrand also wrote the bestselling book, Seabiscuit. I highly recommend that you read Louis Zamperini’s story!!

A Vintage Affair A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

For those of you who love clothes, especially vintage clothing you will be in for a treat with this story! Thirty-something Phoebe Swift quits her very comfortable job to open a vintage clothing shop which was a life-long dream for Phoebe. There are many central characters revolving around Phoebe that feature and encompass the major concepts of relationships, friendships and love throughout the story. Interestingly enough you’ll notice a very important character in the book are the clothes themselves. It was remarkable and noteworthy to watch how each person was affectionately drawn to the particular clothing in the shop and the effect it had on them. Simply put, this is a delightful read!



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2 responses to “Parker’s Picks: April/May 2011

  1. I’m waiting for the new Stephen King book to come in the mail. My hubby belongs to the SK Book Club. Sarah Addison Allen toured with The Girl Who Chased the Moon when it first came out. Reviewers loved it! I hope you enjoy it too.

    • How did he like this most recent book of Kings? I really enjoyed reading The Girl Who Chased the Moon! As I said in the review there is something that I just love about stories that take place in the South. Plus there was the element of magic added which made it an even sweeter read!

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