Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What you're reading: Grown-up Summer Readers

What Grand Adventure Awaits? is Burbank Public Library's summer reading club for grown-ups. These are reviews of books read by some of our registered grown-ups:

The Savage Garden, by Mark Mills

Reviewed by Margaret M.   

The author is an accomplished screenwriter and award-winning novelist. The Savage Garden is a darkly provocative mystery set in the Tuscan hills; the story of two murders, four hundred years apart, and the ties that bind them together. Anyone with a background in art or architecture will feel very much at home with the narrative. I have a background in neither, and found that I couldn't put the book down.

LaRose, by Louise Erdrich

Reviewed by Rebecca F.   

This story turns on a terrible accident, an extreme sacrifice, love, jealousy, pain and the many winding journeys through it all. The story spans several generations of a family navigating between Native and European cultures in America. Where Erdrich is masterful is in her use of language, such as when she describes the quiet but devastating path of tuberculosis, or a young woman's reclaimed freedom after being released from Indian school. Unfortunately, the story lags in places despite the intriguing plot and well-drawn characters. Still, I am curious to read the two books that preceded it in this series: The Plague of Doves and The Round House. This book works as a stand-alone if so desired.

The Soloist, by Steve Lopez

Reviewed by Margaret M.   

An outstanding account of the dilemma facing the homeless, those battling mental illness, and the loved ones and friends of these individuals. Mr. Lopez explains that tackling this problem is 'do-able' but it is a process. This book is a must-read for every American citizen who wonders how to help those suffering mental illness and those who may have been driven to homelessness because of it.

A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Reviewed by Erisa B.   

Yesterday, I finished A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burrows. I originally picked up the book for the "read a book by an author with your same initials" assignment . I've always been a huge fan of fantasy and sci-fi but I had never read this one. I don't know why it's taken me so long to read this classic piece of literature. You would never know that it was released in 1912, more than 105 years ago! A Princess of Mars was originally released in a serial format from February–July, 1912 as Under the Moons of Mars in the pulp magazine All Story Magazine. It was later renamed and re-released in its entirety in 1917, and is the first of 11 books in the Barsoom series, the last known as John Carter of Mars, released in 1964.

For this serial publication, Burrows used the pen-name "Normal Bean" to show that his fantastic story was actually written by someone in his right mind. (It was accidentally "corrected" to Norman Bean in the publication). The narrative device is a great one: Edgar Rice Burrows has been made the executor of John Carter's estate, and has been given his autobiography. He is told to publish it 21 years after his death, and Burrows follows his instructions to the letter. This was intelligent on Burrows's part, as you feel part of the story right away and you feel as if you know John Carter intimately. Though Burrows set the majority of the story in Percival Lowell's version of Mars, A Princess of Mars seems to be more fantasy than scientific, with plenty of adventure, fighting and romance. Burrows's style and genre is timeless and it has been imitated time and again. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series and getting to know John Carter a bit more. I'm so glad I finally met him.

One Step Behind, by Henning Mankell

Reviewed by Ellen S.   

For those who love mysteries and police procedurals, this is the series for you! Part of the charm of Henning Mankell's books for me is that all of his characters have a true depth to them, and are fallible. The crimes are vicious, yet plausible. In One Step Behind, a police officer is killed and the search for his killer coincides with the search for a group of missing young people who are also suspected of being murdered. How can these two very different crimes possibly be linked? This is one of my favorite Inspector Wallander books yet!

Flirting with Forever, by Gwyn Cready

Reviewed by Bonnie Y.

Trying to download a book to my reader brought me into contact with this time-travel historical romance by an award-winning writer. It's very Outlander-like, with the 17th-century painter Peter Lely of the court of Charles II meeting the modern Pittsbugh art historian, Campbell (Cam) Stratford, who is researching the artist Anthony Van Dyck. Back stories, art history, and historical figures brought richness to this fun summer read. Romance can happen between the centuries!

If you are not yet registered for the Summer Reading Club for Grown-ups at Burbank Public Library, it's not too late! Go here to do so (scroll to the bottom for the adult program), and then write some book reviews, play our activities game and, when you get tired of sitting at home alone, come to our programs! Summer fun at the library!

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