The Faithful Spy, by Alex Berenson
Originally published in 2006, Faithful Spy was not only Alex Berenson's debut as a writer of espionage thrillers, but the first in his series featuring the American spy John Welles. Berenson created a very intriguing plot with Welles imbedded in al-Qaeda and seemingly accepted as a fellow terrorist by members of that group. Some of his American handlers begin to question where his true loyalties lie as time goes on and Welles has no communication with any American governmental agency. The dual track-story takes off as the Americans try to locate Welles after he accepts an al-Qaeda assignment to participate in a terror attack in the United States. Berenson's background as a Middle East reporter for the New York Times is strongly reflected as he writes about al-Qaeda camps, the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, the passionate beliefs among the terrorists that they are performing the will of Allah, and the inner workings of the United States government. The characters in the story are equally well created. The Faithful Spy is a great read and made this reviewer want to read his subsequent books with the character of John Welles, The Ghost War and The Silent Man. Both of these titles are also available at The Greenwich Library.
September 2009 Archives
The Faithful Spy, by Alex Berenson
Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography, by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
If you like the music of the 50s and 60s, or just want a look at the inside of the music industry, then Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography is just the book for you. No two people could have been more diametrically opposed than lyricist Jerry Lieber and musician Mike Stoller. Yet, they clicked right from the beginning. This duo wrote many well-known songs performed by such artists as the Drifters, Peggy Lee, the Chiffons and even Elvis. Their titles include "Hound Dog", "Yakety Yak", "Is That All There Is?", "Kansas City", and "Ruby Baby". They hit it big when they were only in their twenties, and rubbed elbows with the likes of Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, and Frank Sinatra. Lieber and Stoller worked in the famous Brill Building in New York, home to such song writers as Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond and Bobby Darin, just to mention a few. It was not all wine and roses, as they got hooked up with some very shady characters, who tried to take advantage of them. They also got hooked up with the very strange Phil Spector, who managed to get sole credit for some of their work. Yet, in this very competitive industry, they were able to survive and flourish despite the setbacks. Interestingly enough, they state that they felt very lucky to be involved in the industry as the music changed and evolved. The composers felt they were in the right place at the right time. I contend that it wasn't luck, but their talent that changed the music. If you read this book, you'll see exactly what I mean. It's written in a very unusual format - in tandem. That is, Leiber speaks, then Stoller gives his version of the same incident. You won't want to put this book down!
For those who enjoy early Twentieth Century British family sagas transformed into a television series, The Forsyte Saga will be a total delight! Beautifully filmed with a great cast, this multi-disc set is totally entertaining. Based on the book by John Galsworthy (also available in the fiction and audio book collections at the Greenwich Library), this dvd collection wonderfully tells the story of the fictional Forsyte family over many years and is great viewing.
The Gift of Rain, by Tan Twan Eng
Tan Twan Eng makes a great literary debut with this fictional account of Phillip Hutton's life on the island of Penang, off the coast of Malaysia. Set primarily during the brutal Japanese occupation of Malaysia in World War II, Eng writes an absorbing tale of intrigue, betrayal and survival of Hutton and his family. Half British and Chinese, Hutton is anchored in the tradition of a colonial British family, but is drawn to the powers of Oriental philosophy through his friendship with a mysterious Japanese visitor to the island before the war shatters his existence. Eng is a talented writer who vividly creates Hutton's world. The characters are strongly drawn, the historical detail makes for absorbing reading and the island of Penang is beautifully created. The Gift of Rain is highly recommended.
Dessert First, by Hallie Durand
Who wouldn't like to eat dessert first? Certainly Dessert Schneider (her real name) thinks that's an excellent idea. When her new third grade teacher, Mrs. Howdy Doody, advises the class to march to one's own drummer, Dessert decides her first project will be convincing her family to start dinner with dessert. Her love of sweets, especially chocolate, and especially her French grandmother Reine's recipe for double-decker chocolate bars, becomes her undoing. When her mother warns her, "Stay away from the Double-Ds" in the refrigerator, Dessert cannot resist and before she knows it, she has devoured all twelve bars. When the empty box is discovered, Dessert must find a way to say she's sorry and make amends to her family. Christine Davenier's humorous black and white illustrations add to the fun. First-time novelist Durand has created a plucky eight-year-old who will be gobbled up by fans of Ramona, Clementine and Junie B. and will long for more desserts to come. Grades 2 and up.
Closed for the Season, by Mary Downing Hahn
"What happened in our house?" Logan asks his new next door neighbor Arthur. "Mrs. Donaldson died there... She was murdered." That's not exactly the news 13 year-old Logan wants to hear about the house he just moved into with his family. Arthur's grandmother thinks Mrs. Donaldson knew someone was stealing money from the Magic Forest Amusement Park, which was shut down soon after she died. Arthur and Logan search the house, the small Maryland town, and the creepy overgrown park to find the money...and the murderer. Great mystery read for grades 4 and up.
No Talking, by Andrew Clements
The 5th graders at Laketon Elementary are the noisiest class in history, so when Dave Packer challenges Lynsey burgess to a boys vs. girls "no talking" contest, it's not going to be easy. Who will win, the boys or the girls? Read this funny, thought-provoking tale from a master of school stories.
by Cynthia Leitich
Miranda's life as an ordinary 17 year-old changes after she falls into an open grave and is "saved" from a certain death when bitten by a vampire. But it is not just any vampire that bites her; Miranda is now the daughter of royalty and is adjusting to her new life among the undead as the daughter of the current Count Dracula. Meanwhile, the guardian angel who watched over Miranda, saw her death coming, and broke all the rules in attempt to save her, is ousted to live life among mortals for failing at his job. Zachary is determined to find Miranda, and this story is told from their alternating view points as Zachary aims to get as close to Miranda as possible (without being killed) if there is any chance to save them both. Age 14 and up.
by Aprilynne Pike
Fifteen year-old Laurel only eats fruit and vegetables (anything else makes her sick), has never needed medicine or been to the doctor, and is just starting public high school after being home-schooled up until now. And Laurel is also a faerie---that fact she discovers after sprouting wings. Laurel places her trust in her best friend Sam to help her discover the truth of her life before she was placed on her parent's doorstep in a basket. The faerie world of Avalon and her real world collide, introducing Laurel to evil, to love and to her role in keeping her two worlds safe. Age 13 and up.
by Maggie Stiefvater
As a young girl, Grace is attacked by a pack of wolves, only to be saved by one of them. Over the years, she and that wolf have formed a bond...from a distance. Then her yellow-eyed wolf is seriously injured and in her care transforms back into a human teen. That teen, Sam, was also bitten by a wolf as a child and is one of a pack of werewolves. Grace and Sam find truelove but may not have much time together, since Sam will once again join his pack. The wolves may no longer be safe in the town after the mysterious disappearance of another local teen. Age 13 and up.
Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run, by Michael Hemphill and Sam Riddleburger
12 year-old Stonewall Hinkleman's T-shirt says it all --"Are we having fun yet?". Stonewall is dragged once again to the Civil War reenactments his parents love. Forced again to be in uniform (Confederate of course, since Stonewall is named after his dad's favorite Southern General ). To reenact again The Battle of Bull Run (the one his great-great-great uncle died in after being shot in the.....well Stonewall doesn't even want to think about it). But this time, when Stonewall leads the charge, the battle cry of the bugle transports him back to The Battle of Bull Run. There, Stonewall discovers that war is definitely not boring, that his ancestor is more heroic than he could have imagined, and most importantly --that someone is trying to change the outcome of the war. It's up to Stonewall to keep history on the right path and try to get back to the future. Putting a present day tween into the Civil War allows the reader to appreciate both the humorous and serious differences between modern life and life in the late 1800's. For grades 4 and up.