The Mamaroneck Public Library staff reviews and recommends a handful of special books.
Ever wondered what life looks like from a dog’s point of view? Garth Stein lets you see through the eyes of Enzo, a lab-terrier mix, in his bestselling novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain. Aspiring race car driver Denny Swift stumbles upon Enzo at a farm outside of Seattle and takes him home to stay. Enzo immediately becomes “man’s best friend” to Denny, and learns to love riding shotgun in Denny’s chaotic, winding life. Enzo observes as Denny falls in love, marries, and becomes a father, all the while remaining his master’s most ardent supporter and companion. Whenever tragedy strikes, Enzo is at Denny’s side. Though Enzo loves his owner and his life, his lack of voice and opposable thumbs frustrates him; he longs to be like Denny and believes he will be reborn as a a man when he dies. Through laughter and tears, Stein truly allows his readers to see the world through a dog’s perspective. With each turn of the page, you’ll fall in love with Enzo over and over again.
This is a big book, and often on high school reading this. The story is fast-paced and complex. Set in the 1900’s in the Salinas Valley of California, the book is about two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons. It is also about the struggle between good and evil and explores the concept of “timshel,” or free will. John Steinbeck’s mother is an actual character in the book so it is somewhat autobiographical. The author considered it is finest work.
Tired, prone to panic attacks and tired of living in the shadow of his gregarious older brother, 12-year-old Linus hopes moving to Africa will be a life-changing experience. Little does he suspect! No sooner do he and his family arrive at the Monrovia airport then they are confronted by the African man running toward them on the tarmac, waving a machete. There is scarcely time to react before the man swings his machete, not at them but at the ground before them. When Linus looks down, he sees a long, dull, thin gray snake lying at his feet, his head now six inches from his body. What looks like a common rat snake proves instead to be a black mamba, the first of many to cross Linus’ path, though everyone assures him the deadly snakes are rare in Liberia and only found in the jungles, miles and miles away. As the snakes appear with increasing frequency, Linus begins to lose his fear and accept the local folk wisdom. Could the snake really be his wisdom, his bearer of strength? Or could Linus be in for a very rude awakening? Scaletta has concocted an engaging character and a compelling coming-of-age story based on his own years in Liberia. A winner.
The Moor by Laurie R. King. Reviewed by Susan Benton
A retired Sherlock Holmes returns to Dartmoor to visit an old friend and investigate a death, 30 years after his first foray with the famous hound. He summons his wife, Mary Russell, from her studies in Oxford to assist him. Much younger than Holmes but like him in nature and powers of deduction, “Russell”, as Holmes calls her, mucks through the moor to help solve the crime as well as the mystery of a phantom coach and dogs seen by the locals. Part of a series about the unlikely union of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, The Moor keeps the spirit of the dazzling Conan Doyle series alive.
Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire, reviewed by Hilary Hertzoff
Once October (Toby) Daye was a Knight of Faerie; once she’d also had a human husband and a child. But that was before she was trapped in the form of a fish for fourteen years. Now, feeling burned by both sides, she’s trying to rebuild her life in the human world, but a curse pulls her back into the world of Faerie when she is compelled to investigate the death of the Countess Evening Winterrose. Still not certain who was behind her transform Once October (Toby) Daye was a Knight of Faerie; once she’d also had a human husband and a child. But that was before she was trapped in the form of a fish for fourteen years. Now, feeling burned by both sides, she’s trying to rebuild her life in the human world, but a curse pulls her back into the world of Faerie when she is compelled to investigate the death of the Countess Evening Winterrose. Still not certain who was behind her transformation, she must step warily through the intricate politics of the Faerie Kingdoms, rebuild old alliances and figure out who she can trust to cover her back. Seanan McGuire melds the fantasy and detective genres effortlessly into a page turner. First in a series.
Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes, reviewed by Lori Friedli
Having thoroughly enjoyed Jennifer Vanderbes’ Easter Island (2003), I was eagerly awaiting the release of her newest title, Strangers at the Feast (August 2010). Unlike Easter Island, Strangers at the Feast does not span the centuries or the world stage. I was surprised to find that the story takes place in Mamaroneck and lower Fairfield County, CT and in the present, the major plot action taking place in the course of twenty-four hours on Thanksgiving Day. Strangers at the Feast explores the lives of three generations of the Olson family, the choices made by each family member, and the consequences (unfortunately tragic) of those choices. As in Easter Island, Vanderbes’ characters are memorable, her story is moving, and her understanding of the political and social picture of the times is acute. Highly recommended!
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, reviewed by Marianne Pei
Although slow to start, once the scene is fully set and we get to know the many characters, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell is difficult to put down. This historical novel is set in Edo-era Japan, a hierarchical feudal society completely isolated from the rest of the world, and on the man-made island of Dejima, a trading post of the Dutch East Indies Company where Dutch merchant officers and a few slaves comprise an equally hierarchical society. A pious and naïve young clerk sent to root out the corruption on Dejima, Jacob de Zoet hopes to make a name for himself and earn enough money to return to Amsterdam after one year and marry his fiancée. The incorruptible young man instead finds himself forced to remain on Dejima for an additional five years when he refuses to ignore the pervasive corruption at all levels of the company. Forbidden romance, intrigue between and among the Dutch and the Japanese, and high adventure carry the reader easily through to an exciting finale.