Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Library Loot ~ January 2-8

The Peach Keeper ~ by Sarah Addison Allen, 2011, fiction (North Carolina), 9/10
The author of Garden Spells (which I totally enjoyed)welcomes us to a new locale:  Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.  It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago.  The Blue Ridge Madam — built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home — has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal.  And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow.  No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.  But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate — socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood — of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn.  Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes.  But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.  For the bones — those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago — are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind.  Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.  Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families — and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.
Amazon has a letter from Sarah Addison Allen that includes this interesting tidbit:
"The original title of The Peach Keeper was God Eats Peaches, which I took from the old saying, 'When God eats peaches, He saves the pit.'  I had a cousin who would never throw away a peach pit based on that saying.  She thought it was bad luck.  My family is full of strange Southern superstitions."
I needed a novel for a change of pace, after reading so many nonfiction books.  This looked like a good one, so I got it, read it, enjoyed it, and rate it a 9 of 10, an excellent book.

Why Does the World Exist? : An Existential Detective Story  ~ by Jim Holt, 2012, philosophy
The metaphysical mystery of how we came into existence remains the most fractious and fascinating questions of all time.  Jim Holt examines our latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe, contending that we have been too narrow in limiting our suspects to God versus the Big Bang.  This work becomes philosophy in its own right.
The Age of Miracles ~ by Karen Thompson Walker, 2012, fiction
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow.  The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray.  Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life the fissures in her parents' marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions.  As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.
London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets ~ by Peter Ackroyd, 2011, history (England)
A study of everything that goes on under London, from original springs and streams and Roman amphitheaters to Victorian sewers, gang hideouts, and modern tube stations.  The depths below are hot, warmer than the surface, and this book tunnels down through the geological layers, meeting the creatures, real and fictional, that dwell in darkness rats and eels, mon­sters and ghosts.  When the Underground's Metropolitan Line was opened in 1864, the guards asked for permission to grow beards to protect themselves against the sulfurous fumes, and named their engines after tyrants Czar, Kaiser, Mogul and even Pluto, god of the underworld.  To go under London is to penetrate history, to enter a hid­den world.  As Ackroyd puts it, "The vastness of the space, a second earth, elicits sensations of wonder and  of terror.  It partakes of myth and dream in equal measure."
Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body ~ by Neil Shubin, 2008, science
Why do we look the way we do?  What does the human hand have in common with the wing of a fly?  Are breasts, sweat glands, and scales connected in some way?  To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today's most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources:  worms, flies, and even fish.  Neil Shubin, a leading paleontologist and professor of anatomy who discovered Tiktaalik the "missing link" that made headlines around the world in April 2006 tells the story of evolution by tracing the organs of the human body back millions of years, long before the first creatures walked the earth.  By examining fossils and DNA, Shubin shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our head is organized like that of a long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and bacteria.  Shubin makes us see ourselves and our world in a completely new light.
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Marg @ The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share titles of books they’ve checked out of the library.  To participate, just add your post to their Mister Linky any time during the week.  And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries this week.


Helen's Book Blog said...

That first book sounds good. And I'll admit that liking the cover is really influencing my thoughts :-)

Linda said...

I read the Peach Keeper last year and enjoyed it.

Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

A great set of books to start the year with, Bonnie! Enjoy!

Stephanie said...

I got your email. I'm so glad to know you are doing better!! I have to tell you, I think of you and Donna often. I would love the chance to get together with you again. I've been so busy. I swear, the month of December with finals....and the 2 jobs was a blur. I worked every available hour to have enuf for Christmas...and to be able to take some time off.

I've missed you...but I promise to be back around a lot more this year.

Anonymous said...

The Ackroyd is a wonderful read. Keep meaning to pick it up again, what with the next few weeks being the Steam on the Underground celebrations... (