Friday, September 19, 2014

The Blacklist

FBI profiler Liz Keen is leading a quiet life, married to a schoolteacher and planning to adopt a child, when one of the FBI’s most wanted former agents turns himself in. Raymond Reddington only has one condition for turning over his blacklist of criminals who have evaded capture. He will only work with Liz. She is immediately pulled in to work with Reddington, but is under constant suspicion from the FBI for the reason Reddington would insist on working with her.

Each episode of The Blacklist focuses on a different criminal from Reddington’s “blacklist.” While the episodes can stand alone, the series shines as a continuous story where the audience is kept guessing as to the connection between Raymond and Liz, and whether Liz’s life is actually as simple as she lets on. The series is a fast paced ride with constant twists and turns that keep viewers guessing.

I first tuned in to The Blacklist because the role of a mischievous criminal mastermind seemed tailor made for James Spader. His portrayal of Raymond is a pleasure to watch, and Megan Boone excels as the straight-laced rookie FBI profiler pulled into his world of international crime.

Search the VBPL catalog for The Blacklist. Fans of this television series might also enjoy 24 or Person of Interest. Also be sure to check out James Spader’s performance on Boston Legal.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

In Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems, poor Leonardo wants nothing more than to scare the tuna salad out of someone. Unfortunately he is a truly terrible monster. No matter how hard he tries, he does not scare anyone. To rectify this sad state of affairs, he researches all the kids in the world and finds Sam, who is the biggest scaredy-cat of them all. 

After sneaking up on Sam and making him cry, Leonardo thinks he has finally achieved his dream. Sam lets him know in no uncertain terms that he is crying because he’s had a really bad day and not because he was scared.

Leonardo decides that maybe it is better to be a good friend than a terrifying monster and gives Sam a hug. This heartwarming picture book has very simple illustrations on large pages that are fun to look at with a child. The monsters in the book are all silly and spark the interests of monster-loving kids.

Search the VBPL catalog for Leonardo, the Terrible Monster and other books by Mo Willems. Children who enjoy this picture book might also like The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt.

Monday, September 15, 2014

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Jess is not having an easy time of it. Her husband left her with his bullied teenage son Nicky and their precocious math prodigy daughter Tanzie. Tanzie has a chance to attend a prestigious private school, if only Jess had the funds for tuition. As they are already living hand to mouth, the chances are small, until they find out about a math championship with a prize that could bridge the gap between a scholarship and tuition. When they set out on a road trip to the competition, the dubious car that has been languishing in the garage breaks down.

Enter Ed, a millionaire software developer under investigation for insider trading. Jess hates everything Ed represents, but can’t turn down his offer to drive them to the competition.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes is a touching and humorous road trip novel. Tanzie is delightfully quirky and is always turning everything into a math problem. Jess and Ed both have preconceived notions about each other that are challenged when they are forced to spend so much time together. This character-driven novel will appeal to readers who like family oriented stories with quirky characters. The story was very reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine and may appeal to fans of the film.

Search the catalog for One Plus One and other novels by Jojo Moyes. For another lighthearted road trip book, try My One and Only by Kristan Higgins.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The People's Dynasty and Waking Dragon

One way to stay on top of an ever-changing world is to tune into the thoughts of cultural and global issues experts.  With the Modern Scholar audiobook series, you can do just that.  For an in-depth overview of contemporary China, Modern Scholar offers two richly informative titles:  The People’s Dynasty: Culture and Society in Modern China and Waking Dragon: The Emerging Chinese Economy and Its Impact on the World.

Professor Robert Shepherd addresses the opening of the Chinese economy to the world in The People’s Dynasty.  An influx of capital into such a closed society and culture resulted in the transformation of the Chinese economy.  Although the Communist Party still dominates the political and social structure of China, more freedoms have been gained—at least by Chinese citizens who possess some degree of material means.  More opportunities in education, employment, marriage possibilities, family life and places to live are part of the equation of life in modern day China.

In Waking Dragon Dr. Peter Navarro argues that China’s recent economic gains have resulted in as many problems as improvements in the overall Chinese quality of life.  Industrial production in China has contributed to global warming and worldwide pollution.  Overpopulation has led to a “one child per family” policy.  The fairness of relocating peasants to urban areas and appropriating their farms in exchange for urban high-rise dwellings has been questioned.  All in all China’s economic growth hasn’t been problem-free.

For more information about the economic and cultural advances and challenges of this fascinating country, try The End of Cheap China by Shaun Rein or Jonathan Fenby’s Tiger Head, Snake Tails.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett

I’m choosy about my cozy mysteries.  I like interesting settings and plausible characters with just enough faults and foibles to make them realistic.  When I came across the Booktown Mystery series by Lorna Barrett, I found the perfect sleuth and setting.

Our heroine, Tricia Miles, moved to Stoneham, New Hampshire, to follow through on her lifelong wish of opening a bookstore.  Reincarnated as “Booktown” this sleepy community boasts numerous specialty bookstores on its main street, including The Cookery, History Repeats Itself and Tricia’s mystery book store Haven’t Got A Clue.  The first installment of the Booktown series, Murder Is Binding puts Tricia in the thick of a murder investigation before the end of Chapter One when she discovers a body.

The Cookery is spotted full of smoke.  Tricia races in to check for anyone who may be inside.  She literally stumbles over the body of Doris Gleason, the store’s owner.  Tricia notices that the protective glass case housing Doris’s prize antiquarian cookbook has been broken and the contents are missing.  Thus begins Tricia’s quest to find the missing book—and the bookstore owner’s murderer.

Interesting characters abound in the Booktown series.  There’s prickly Sheriff Wendy Adams, glad-handing real estate agent Bob Kelly, intrepid local newspaperman Russ Smith, Tricia’s eccentric sister Angelica and even a tabby cat named Miss Marple.  These characters and others become enmeshed in solving the mystery of who killed their bookstore-owning friend.

For more cozy mystery reads set in bookstores or the publishing world, try the Death on Demand series by Carolyn Hart and the Bibliophile series by Kate Carlisle.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures by Emma Straub

A life transformed.  That’s what happens in the picturesque yet somewhat mundane existence of little Elsa Emerson in Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Staub.

In the 1920s Elsa is living her childhood in the Wisconsin countryside where her parents run a summer stock theater company.  Actors come and go in Elsa’s life, bringing with them the lure of an outside world unknown to her.  In her teenage years a tragedy turns the family’s life upside-down, and Elsa never recovers.  She marries one of the actors in the troop and runs away with him, abandoning the stifling smallness of her rural existence.  Catching a bus to California, they make their way to Hollywood.  Elsa never looks back.

It doesn’t take long for her to be spotted by talent scouts looking for the next big star.  Elsa’s flaxen hair is dyed a rich brunette.  She’s outfitted in the most glamorous of fashions.  She’s even renamed, gracing the silver screen as Laura Lamont.  Her career takes off and soars to the greatest heights imaginable.  Discarding the bit-actor husband she met in her parents’ theater, she marries a studio big-wig and assumes a whole new life and identity. 

Alas, the fairy tale is too good to be true.  “Happily ever after” isn’t in the cards for Laura Lamont.  What started out as the perfect dream life becomes awash with disappointments.  Rediscovering the resilience she knew as Elsa Emerson, Laura soldiers.  For more “make it or break it” show biz stories there’s Fallen Beauty by Edna Robuck and Lisa See’s China Dolls.

Monday, September 08, 2014

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton

Ever heard of “wild swimming?”  I hadn’t, but I was intrigued when I read the inside cover notes of Sharon Bolton’s new crime novel A Dark and Twisted Tide.  I wanted to know more, and I found out in the most entertaining way.

London policewoman Lacey Flint has had a tenuous relationship with the Thames.  In the recent past she nearly drowned in the London river while on the job.  Now she lives on a boat along the bank, with an array of unique characters as her neighbors in the riverboat community.  “Wild swimming,” swimming in a large body of open water, is one of Lacey’s hobbies.  However, the treacherous Thames is a dangerous place to do it.  Currents are strong, river traffic is heavy, and floating debris is common.  If those factors weren’t bad enough, Lacey discovers a body while taking a swim one morning.

An in-depth investigation ensues as additional bodies of young women are discovered by marine police scouting the Thames.  Similar in age and ethnicity, the women are wrapped in linen shrouds and tied securely, sometimes still tethered to drainage grates or sewer pipes along the riverbank.  Are the women illegal immigrants?  What circumstances befell them?  Why are they being killed and ritually shrouded?  While exploring the evidence of the case with her colleagues, Lacey realizes that she is being stalked in her riverboat residence by another wild swimmer in the Thames.  Who’s watching Lacey, and why?

These mysteries and more confound Lacey and investigative team.  Sharon Bolton has created a fast-paced, page-turner of a tome in her fourth Lacey Flint novel.  For other thrillers featuring explicit scenarios of crime and criminal intrigue, try The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams and Simon Beaufort’s Murder House.