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I Know What You Read This Summer: 13 Book Reviews from Staff

Posted In: Recommendations, Summer Reading for Adults - Groundbreaking Reads, Summer Reading
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By Shaileen B.

I know what you read this summer... maybe! To be precise, I know what you read if you participated in our Groundbreaking Reads summer program and if your entries landed in the pile I perused. If you were one of this community of readers, you brightened my June and July. Thank you!

The prizes are a little different, but library staff also participate in Groundbreaking Reads. Here are some of my favorite reviews from colleagues:

The AxeTom W. on The Ax by Donald Westlake:
When the going gets tough, the tough get killing... the competition, that is! Imagine "Dexter" as a downsized ("ax"-ed) papermill manager who thinks a killer resume means killing any qualified candidates for his old job. Burke Devore's prospects improve even as his family and the economy decline. A great read with a surprising twist ending!

Naomi H. on Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet:
Mamet discusses plays and their organization. A bit quirky, interesting.

Valerie D. on The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
A 15-year-old Florida girl is sent away to boarding school/horseback riding camp after a scandal involving her boy cousin during the Great Depression. The first-person point of view toggles between the girl's present life at school, learning to get along with other girls, and experiencing her first (and total) separation from home, and her vivid and fragmentary memories of the event that resulted in her exile, and what led up to it. This is tense and absorbing look at the life of a privileged girl in the 1930s. The reader has the odd vantage point of being forced to look through the eyes of a not-especially-likeable character, and to empathize with her. Highly recommended!

Brothers GrimmHolly T. on Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman:
In recent years, popular film and TV seem to be revisiting fairy tales (Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror Mirror, Once Upon a Time, Grimm, etc.), and for good reason. Fairy tales are beautiful, and frightening, and silly, and violent. Phillip Pullman retells fifty of the Grimms' stories, tightening up some loose ends and combining elements from different translations. The result is a wonderful collection of tales most readers already know ("Rapunzel," "Snow White") as well as some of the obscure ones ("The Three Snake Leaves," "The Little Shroud"). Pullman ends each story with a bit of scholarly commentary. This is a truly beguiling book.

Meredith Veatch on The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater:
One of the best books I've read in a long time. I hesitate to call it a fantasy, in spite of the carnivorous water horses, because it feels so real.

Tamara F. on Batgirl: Year One by Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon:
Barbara Gordon sets out to prove to her adoptive father, James Gordon, the world, and her mentor, the infamous Batman, that she is tough, daring, and just as courageous. So she becomes Batgirl (superheroine). Will she prove to be a victor or does this Batgirl discover that it will always be a Batman's world?

Anne C. on Beyond the Beachhead by Joseph Balkoski:
This book examines the experience of the U.S. Army's 29th Infantry Division in Normandy during WWII during the 45 days of combat from Omaha Beach on D-Day to the liberation of St. Lo. The soldiers of the 29th were "citizen soldiers" made up of National Guard units from Virginia and Maryland. One of the National Guard units was from my hometown, Farmville, VA, and my father, his cousin, and many of his friends were members. I grew up hearing of the best of their experiences during WWII, but this book tells the whole story—the horrible loss of life during the invasion, trials of combat, the gratitude of the French people at liberation. I learned much I didn't know from this book.

Other Side of GoodnessBarbara C. on The Other Side of Goodness by Vanessa Davis Griggs:
A great book to read. A story of power, cover-ups, extreme selfishness, and the opposite story of a changed life, selfless giving. I am glad that I have the next book in the series ready to read.

Emma B. on Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic by Elaine G. Breslaw:
Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic is a wonderfully informative read about the evolution of disease and healthcare in America. Anyone interested in life in early America through the nineteenth century would find this a valuable resource to use to learn a bit more about the problems that plagued everyday life and how various aspects of society dealt with them. In this book, Breslaw explains how disease spread in different environments and how American doctors and even everyday people attempted to deal with it. It is interesting to note the contrasts in European methodology versus the oftentimes ineffectual and outdated methods of Americans insistent upon maintaining methodology that had consistently been prone to failure in an effort to maintain the authority. This is a great read which will bring you to reflect on modern healthcare and the ways in which it came to pass.

Donna B. on Sum It Up by Pat Summitt with Sally Jenkins:
Prior to reading this memoir I was never a fan of Coach Pat Summitt, now former head coach of the University of Tennessee Women's Basketball team. I did not agree with the way she "broke" her players and then built them back up the way she wanted them to be. But, after reading this book, I have a much better sense of who she is, why she is the person she is and how that blended with the way she coached her teams. She is the greatest women's basketball coach in history and now that she has early onset dementia I had to know her story. If you are a basketball fan, especially of the women's college game, you will hear a perspective from someone who not only participated but was a driving source to bring women's basketball to where it is today. I'm still not really a fan of UT but I am definitely a fan of Pat Summitt and so sorry that an inspirational and hard-driven woman such as her has to deal with this.

Bitter and SweetPoonam M. on Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford:
I really enjoyed reading this title... journey of one man from war to finding his lost love. Another recommendation would be Honolulu by Alan Brennert or Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

Will R. on Green Lantern, Volume 2: Revenge of the Green Lanterns (on Amazon) by Geoff Johns:
The second volume in author Geoff Johns' run on the epic Green Lantern comic series. The artwork is fantastic. Some of the action cannot be contained in a single panel. A great graphic novel for those who love superheroes and science fiction.

Julie S. on The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs:
This is just the greatest, most iconoclastic book written on city planning ever—written by a non-city-planner. Even after 52 years, her wisdom still rings true. It's a worthwhile read for anyone concerned about the health of their city.


The Death and Life of Great American Cities is one of my all-time favorite books!
Posted by: Lisa Greenhouse at 7/30/2013 2:25 p.m.


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