Friday, April 01, 2011

Friday Fiction: Tell Me A Story

--by CQL Staff

With spring cleaning, outdoor gardening, and travel season here, now is the time for us to spotlight some of the newest audiobooks we've added to the library's collection. With audiobooks, you can bring a hands-free novel along for an entertaining cross-country ride (especially through the long, empty Panhandle), block out the sounds of an airplane engine, put some fun into spring cleaning, or bring the indoors out while you weed, water, and wonder at Bisbee's beauty.

The titles listed here represent just some of the wide variety of audiobooks available at the Copper Queen Library.

Bad Boy (Peter Robinson) - Acclaimed internationally bestselling author Peter Robinson delivers a fast-paced, nail-biting thriller in which Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks must face his most challenging and personal case yet. A distraught woman arrives at the Eastvale police station desperate to speak to Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. But, since Banks is away on holiday, his partner, Annie Cabbot, steps in. The woman tells Annie that she's found a loaded gun hidden in the bedroom of her daughter, Erin: a punishable offense under English law. When an armed response team breaks into the house to retrieve the weapon, the seemingly straightforward procedure quickly spirals out of control…

Big Boned (Meg Cabot) - Life is reasonably rosy for plus-size ex-pop star turned Assistant Dormitory Director and sometime sleuth Heather Wells. Her freeloading ex-con dad is finally moving out. She still yearns for her hot landlord, Cooper Cartwright, but her relationship with "rebound beau," vigorous vegan math professor Tad Tocco, is more than satisfactory. Best of all, nobody has died lately in "Death Dorm," the aptly nicknamed student residence that Heather assistant-directs. Of course every silver lining ultimately has some black cloud attached. And when the latest murdered corpse to clutter up her jurisdiction turns out to be her exceedingly unlovable boss, Heather finds herself on the shortlist of prime suspects—along with the rabble-rousing boyfriend of her high-strung student assistant and an indecently handsome young campus minister who's been accused of taking liberties with certain girls' choir members.

Blood Moon (Garry Disher) - Two major crimes occupy Det. Insp. Hal Challis and his subordinate and now lover, Sgt. Ellen Destry, in this superior police procedural from Australian Disher, the fifth entry in the Ned Kelly Award–winning series (after 2007's Chain of Evidence). Challis and his team of Waterloo, Queensland, officers investigate the brutal assault on a private school chaplain as well as the murder of a public official in charge of enforcing compliance with land use regulations. Extra pressure for the first case's resolution comes from a prominent politician who already has an axe to grind with the police. That Challis's relationship with Destry violates police regulations complicates matters. Disher has a gift for terse description (e.g., Challis's boss wore the look of a man who'd been adored but only by his mother and long ago).

Bone Fire (Mark Spragg) - Award-winning author Mark Spragg writes about the American West with unmatched skill and vision. In Bone Fire Spragg weaves the tale of Ishawooa, Wyoming, a city marred by the realities of modern life. Sheriff Crane Carlson is having enough trouble with his pot-addled and alcoholic wife when he finds a teen murdered in a meth lab. Violence seems to be exploding all over the small town, but even as the situation spirals out of control, Carlson finds moments of compassion and beauty.

Crescent Dawn (Clive Cussler) – Cussler doesn’t disappoint in his latest, in which the bizarre cargo carried by a Roman galley in 327 CE and the mysterious explosion of a British battleship in 1916 have tremendous ramifications on the current political climate of the Middle East. Brother-and-sister baddies Ozden and Maria Celik aim to resurrect the Ottoman Empire, to which they lay claim as the allegedly last surviving royal heirs, by fomenting a fundamentalist uprising in Turkey and the surrounding Middle Eastern countries. But they’ll succeed only if they can keep Dirk Pitt and his NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency) team from discovering what was being transported in that ancient galley…

Dancing at the Rascal Fair (Ivan Doig) - In 1889, two young Scotsmen, Rob Barclay and Angus McCaskill (grandfather of the narrator of English Creek, arrive in Montana, where for 30 years they struggle to find personal happiness and wrest a living from this demanding land. After losing the woman he loves, Angus marries Rob's sister Adair; their difficult relationship creates conflict, and then a bitter breach, between the two men. But if the thorny individualism of Rob and Angus results in lives that are never easy, they are rich in incident and growth, beautifully described in Doig's strong, savory prose. America's frontier history comes vividly to life in this absorbing saga filled with memorable characters.

The Dark Design (Philip José Farmer) - In the third installment of the Riverworld series, Milton Firebrass plans to use the dwindling iron supply on the Riverworld to create a great airship which can fly to the North Polar Sea far more quickly than any boat can travel. There he hopes to learn the secret of the mysterious tower thought to house the beings who created this planet. Jill Gulbirra does not care as much about the mission as she wants the chance to captain the great airship, which in all likelihood will be the last airship ever constructed by humankind. But in landing the coveted role, she faces stiff competition -- especially from the greatest swordsman of all time, Cyrano de Bergerac, who turns out to be a natural pilot. But even if Jill can win the command of the airship and even if the ship can reach the river's headwaters, there is no guarantee it can get through the mountain wall that surrounds the tower. And it's likely that one or more agents of the Ethicals -- the creators of Riverworld -- are on board the airship, plotting its downfall…

Devil's Dream (Madison Smartt Bell) - Bell returns to his native ground, Tennessee, to tell the tale of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a feared Confederate general of profound contradictions, strategic brilliance, and outrageous valor. Bell conceives of Bedford as a sharp-tongued, virile, dangerously charismatic, and seemingly invincible slave trader who treats the people he “owns” with respect and compassion, and an equestrian who loves horses yet rides many to death in audacious cavalry maneuvers. Irascible rebel Bedford loves his white wife, black mistress, and all his children, legitimate and otherwise. Bell subtly contrasts America’s Civil War with Haiti’s slave revolt via his narrator Henri, a Haitian with “the sight” (the ability to communicate with the ghosts of those killed in battle) who gets drawn into Bedford’s orbit. Exciting and authentic, Bell’s novel of a world in violent transition is flush with action and ravishing evocations of forests and fields, heat and rain, the muddy churn of hungry troops, and fleeting moments of respite as tragedy is leavened with sensuality and mystery.

The Dragons of Babel (Michael Swanwick) - Hugo-winner Swanwick introduces Will le Fey, an orphan of uncertain parentage. After defeating an evil mechanical war dragon who has enslaved him and his village, Will finds himself displaced by war, first imprisoned in an internment camp and then transported to the many-miles-high city of Babel. On the way, he falls in with Esme, an immortal child with no memory, and Nat Whilk, a donkey-eared confidence man of superhuman abilities. Fusing high technology seamlessly with magic, Swanwick introduces us to a wide range of marvelous conceits, fascinating digressions and sparkling characters. His language bounces effortlessly back and forth between the high diction of elfland and thieves' argot to create a heady literary stew. This is modern fantasy at its finest and should hold great appeal for fans of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys or China Miéville's novels.

Fall of Giants (Ken Follett) - Welcome to the 20th century as you've never seen it. Follett delivers all the elements that his fans have come to treasure: historical accuracy, richly developed characters, and a sweeping yet intimate portrait of a past world that you'll fully inhabit before the first chapter is through. The story follows five families across the globe as their fates intertwine with the extraordinary events of World War I, the political struggles within their own countries, and the rise of the feminist movement. Intriguing stories of love and loyalty abound, from a forbidden romance between a German spy and a British aristocrat to a Russian soldier and his scandal-ridden brother in love with the same woman. Action-packed with blood on the battlefield and conspiracies behind closed doors, Follett brings the nuances of each character to life and shifts easily from dirty coal mines to sparkling palaces. There is much to love here, and the good news is the end is just the beginning: Fall of Giants is the first in a planned trilogy.

Full Dark, No Stars (Stephen King) - When a master of horror and heebie-jeebies like Stephen King calls his book Full Dark, No Stars, you know you’re in for a treat -- that is, if your idea of a good time is spent curled up in a ball wondering why-oh-why you started reading after dark. King fans (and those who have always wanted to give him a shot) will devour this collection of campfire tales where marriages sway under the weight of pitch-black secrets, greed and guilt poison and fester, and the only thing you can count on is that "there are always worse things waiting." This collection features four one-sitting yarns showcasing King at his gritty, gruesome, giddy best, so be sure to check under the bed before getting started.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Stieg Larsson) - Lisbeth Salander –- the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels –- lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge -– against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life. Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Stieg Larsson) - Part blistering espionage thriller, part riveting police procedural, and part piercing exposé on social injustice, the second title in Larsson's Millennium series is a masterful, endlessly satisfying novel. Mikael Blomkvist, crusading publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation. On the eve of its publication, the two reporters responsible for the article are murdered, and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to his friend, the troubled genius hacker Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, convinced of Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation. Meanwhile, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous game of cat and mouse, which forces her to face her dark past.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson) - An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson's first Millennium book combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue intoone satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel. Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families, disappeared over 40 years ago and was never found -- alive or dead. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

The Glass Room (Simon Mawer) - Jewish newlyweds Viktor and Liesel Landauer meet with architect Rainier von Abt, not just an architect but "a poet...of light and space and form," who builds their dream home, a "modern house...adapted to the future rather than the past, to the openness of modern living." World events, however, are about to overtake 1930s Czechoslovakia. Viktor, like most in the community, dismisses rumors of impending pogroms, but once the signs of Nazi occupation become impossible to ignore, the Landauers must abandon their beloved home. As the world spins into chaos, the highly symbolic Landauer house is the only constant; though it shifts identities more than once, the house remains "ageless," a place "that defines the very existence of time."

I'd Know You Anywhere (Laura Lippman) - Near the start of this outstanding novel of psychological suspense from Edgar-winner Lippman (Life Sentences), Eliza Benedict, a 38-year-old married mother of two living in suburban Maryland, receives a letter from Walter Bowman, the man who kidnapped her the summer she was 15 and is now on death row. The narrative shifts between the present and that long ago summer, when Eliza involuntarily became a part of Walter's endless road trip, including the fateful night when he picked up another teenage girl, Holly Tackett. Soon after Walter killed Holly, Eliza was rescued and taken home. Eliza must now balance a need for closure with a desire to protect herself emotionally. Walter wants something specific from her, but she has no idea what, and she's not sure that she wants to know. All the relationships, from the sometimes contentious one between Eliza and her sister, Vonnie, to the significantly stranger one between Walter and Barbara LaFortuny, an advocate for prisoners, provide depth and breadth to this absorbing story.

Murder on Lexington Avenue (Victoria E. Thompson) - Set in turn-of-the-20th-century New York City, Thompson's latest Gaslight Mystery finds police detective Frank Malloy investigating the murder of a wealthy businessman whose only daughter is deaf, just like Frank's son. Midwife Sarah Brandt becomes involved in the investigation when the wife of the victim goes into unexpected labor after hearing the news of her husband's death. The politics of deaf education play an important role in the story, as the daughter, educated only to read lips, was secretly learning sign language from an instructor at the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, the same school attended by Malloy's young son. Thompson expertly weaves in details about the history of the era and the educational system and does a solid job bringing the past to life.

Remarkable Creatures (Tracy Chevalier) - From the moment she's struck by lightening as a baby, it is clear that Mary Anning is marked for greatness. On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, she learns that she has "the eye"-and finds what no one else can see. When Mary uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious fathers on edge, the townspeople to vicious gossip, and the scientific world alight. In an arena dominated by men, however, Mary is barred from the academic community; as a young woman with unusual interests she is suspected of sinful behavior. Nature is a threat, throwing bitter, cold storms and landslips at her. And when she falls in love, it is with an impossible man. Luckily, Mary finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a recent exile from London, who also loves scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy. Ultimately, in the struggle to be recognized in the wider world, Mary and Elizabeth discover that friendship is their greatest ally.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (David Sedaris) - The ancient Greeks had Aesop, seventeenth-century French people read the fables of La Fontaine, and now we, jaded inhabitants of the modern era, possess the distinct privilege to enjoy the beloved Sedaris’ first collection of short animal tales. The appeal of this aesthetically pleasing little volume is inherent, as the American ambassador of the comedy memoir, human division, turns now to creatures of the hoofed and winged variety to make us laugh and, perhaps, learn a lesson.

Ysabel (Guy Gavriel Kay) - Set mostly in twenty-first-century Aix-en-Provence, 15-year-old Ned Marriner is spending a spring vacation with his celebrated photographer father during a shoot of the Cathedral of Saint-Sauveur. His mother, a physician with Doctors without Borders, is in the Sudan, so Ned and Dad are extremely worried. Exploring Saint-Sauveur, Ned meets Kate Wenger, a geeky but attractive American girl who's a walking encyclopedia of history. In the ancient baptistry, the pair are surprised by a mysterious, scarred man wielding a knife who tells them, “I think you ought to go… You have blundered into a corner of a very old story. It is no place for children." But Ned and Kate, then the rest of his family, including an aunt and uncle from England and his mother, can't avoid becoming dangerously entangled in a 2,500-year-old conflict with the shades of Celtic spirits.