Category Archives: Popular

The Fear Index

fear index

Title: The Fear Index

Author:  Robert Harris

Publisher: Knopf, 2012

Summary/Review: If you like to read about the stock market,financial markets worldwide, and are concerned about the gyrations in the markets caused by computers using mathematical formulas for lightning fast trades (Remember the flash crash?) then this work of fiction is for you.

Dr. Alex Hoffmann, the main character, is a mathematical genius and is obsessed with artificial intelligence.  When he is unable to continue his work at CERN(due to a mental breakdown), he turned to the development of  a form of artificial intelligence, VIXAL, that utilizes a set of algorithms to buy and sell financial instruments based on what in reality is known as the VIX or volatility index, otherwise known as “the fear index”. The computers monitor events worldwide, and when the sense “fear” they will buy or sell — depending on the situation. Dr. Hoffmann and his hedge fund company become ultra-rich and everyone is very happy with the working of VIXAL–  until events start to go terribly wrong – starting with an intruder at Hoffmann’s home.

At the beginning of each chapter there is a quotation from Charles Darwin’s Origen of the Species– a work about evolution and natural selection.  At first you may not make the connection between the twists and turns of the plot and the quotation, but as you near the end of the book you realize WHAT has been evolving right under the nose of Dr. Hoffmann.

Recommended by: Sue Z, Reference Librarian

Who will like this?: Those who are interested in Artificial Intelligence and its impact on human life.  Those who are looking for a thriller with lots of twists and turns.

If you like this, try this:  If you liked Robert Harris’ writing, he has a number of other books such as “The Ghost” and “Lustrum”.   If the topic of Artificial Intelligence interests you, try the classic “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur Clarke or “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov.

If you are trying to break into the science fiction genre, try the classic “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card or “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury.  More recent science fiction includes the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins or “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth.

If this looks like a book you’d like to read, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and to place a hold!

Canada

canada

Title: Canada

Author: Richard Ford

Publisher: Ecco , May 2012

Summary/Review:  Dell (the narrator) and Berner Parsons are ordinary fifteen year old twins living a somewhat isolated life with their parents in Montana circa 1956.  Their father has failed at a number of ventures in his life but has oddly always envisioned himself as a successful bank robber.   So being a little short on money, he decides to carry out a plan and takes their mother along as his accomplice.  They are undetected for a little while, but one day the police finally come and take the parents away to jail, leaving the brother and sister to fend for themselves.  Mrs. Parsons, fearing they would be caught had arranged for a friend to look after the kids, but by the time she shows up, Berner has left for California on her own.  So she drives Dell to Canada to be taken in by her brother.  The brother turns out to be not at all what he first appears to be and when the reasons he is in Canada become evident it provides a twist in the story. Amazingly, Dell never assigns blame or feels anger and continues to believe that both his parents, though misguided, did truly love him and his sister. What happens in this novel is very unpredictable and leaves you wanting to read more to see what finally happens.  There is some foreshadowing as Dell alludes to events which he has not yet related, but you don’t see how can occur until they unfold. The themes of crossing all sorts of boundaries and the force and effect of corrupt acts make this a thought provoking and absorbing read.

Who will like this book:  Someone who likes thought provoking fiction.

Recommended by:  Jan,  Administration

If you would like to see if this book is available or place a hold, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog [Link will open in a new window]

Harold Fry

harold fry

Title: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Author: Rachel Joyce

Publisher: Random House, 2012

Review/Summary: Harold Frye, recently retired, lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does. They have settled into a mundane existence. Then one morning he receives a letter from an old friend who is dying. When he composes a reply letter and goes to post it, he becomes convinced that he must hand deliver it. Thus, begins his quest as he takes off in his tennis shoes to walk 600 miles, because he believes Queenie will live, as long as he walks. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another. Memories flood him of his wedding day, fatherhood and regrets and losses. Maureen reminisces too and finds herself missing him. This funny, poignant, charming story about an ordinary man on an extraordinary journey will move and inspire you.There also mysteries that will be solved about his friend and son. Fans of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand will embrace another hero in Harold Frye.

Recommended by: Cindy B., Children’s Librarian

Who will like this? Someone who recognizes that sometimes heroes come from the most unlikely of places.  Anyone looking for a story about second – or maybe even last – chances.

If you like this, try this: “The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed out a Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson is also about last chances, and what we do with them.  You may also enjoy “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson.

This is playwright Rachel Joyce’s first novel, but was named as an Amazon “top book of the month”, so be on the lookout for more from her!

If you would like to see if this book is available, please visit our Fairfield Public Library catalog [Link will open in a new window]

Forgotten

forgotten

Title: Forgotten: A Novel

Author: Catherine McKenzie

Publisher: William Morrow, An imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 2012

Summary/Review: Emma Tupper’s mother passed away and leaves her a round trip ticket to Africa. Emma promised her dying mother that she would take the trip and not return for one month. However, Emma is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future at a big city law firm. Taking this trip means she will have to forfeit her partnership with the firm. When Emma’s boyfriend Craig offers to go with her on the trip, she tells him she wants to do this by herself so she can think about where her life is headed.

Emma becomes ill while on the tour in Africa. She is transported to a medical center to be cared for. While she is recovering, a massive earthquake occurs in Africa which leaves them without communication and transportation for several months. Because Emma’s illness was never reported to her tour guide company, her last known location was in the city of the earthquake, therefore, she was presumed dead.

Six months later, Emma returns home to London. She soon realizes that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead, and that her life has moved on without her. She has no money, no job and no place to live. Read about Emma’s struggles to get her old life back and follow her on her most important journey of self-discovery. This book does not have a predictable ending. The question is….if you had a chance to start over, would you take it?

Who will like this book: Those who like fast-paced contemporary novels.

If you like this, try this: Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult. Catherine Mackenzie also writes a number of other novels if you are a fan of the writing style.

Recommended by: Beverly, Circulation

If you would like to check if this book is available or place a hold, visit the Fairfield  Public Library catalog [Link will open in a new window]

The Dog Stars

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Title: The Dog Stars

Author: Peter Heller

Publisher: Knopf, August 2012

Summary/Review: After a pandemic kills 99% of the population, a survivor tries to find some hope for the future.

Hig, along with his dog Jasper and fellow survivor Bangley, is living on a fortified compound in Colorado after a flu pandemic. Their safety is precarious and hinges on Hig’s piloting his 1956 Cessna to scout their area from the air, and Bangley’s uninhibited penchant for killing intruders. Though Bangley seems content with their situation, Hig can’t forget a radio transmission he heard 3 years ago coming from Grand Junction, and the hope that came with it. Hig must decide between his commitment to Bangley and the search for a better existence.

Powerful and beautifully written, Heller’s debut novel not only illustrates the horror and isolation that come with the near-annihilation of mankind, but the new bonds that are forged and the humanism that remains.

Who will like this book: Someone who is sick of reading zombie-pocalypse books and is looking for something a little deeper and more focused on human psychology. Fans of dystopias who are looking for something new.

If you like this, try this: If you would like to read more books about the apocalypse that aren’t centered around zombies, try “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson (the movie remake stars Will Smith). “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy (also made into a movie) is centered around global climate change. Both show the bonds humans form with either one another or the living things around them in hopes of survival. “The Pesthouse” by Jim Crace is more focused on the dark side of humanity and what people can do to out-survive one another- including slavery, thievery, and murder.

This is Peter Heller’s debut, so be on the lookout for more from this author- who is featured on Amazon and shares a picture of the real-life inspiration for Jasper!

Recommended by: Sue B, Circulation Coordinator

If you would like to see if this book is available or place a hold, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog! [Link will open in a new window]

Age of Miracles

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Title: The Age of Miracles

Author: Karen Thompson Walker

Publisher: Random House, 2012

Summary/Review: Julia is only eleven years old when the earth’s rotation begins to slow. “The Slowing” as it comes to be called, adds minutes to the days and nights. Scientists have no idea why it is happening or when it will end. Though fear creeps into the lives of people around the world, most adopt a “wait and see” attitude and try to adjust.

As the days grow from 24 to 26 to 30 hours long and longer, the slowing starts to take its toll. Gravity and the earth’s magnetic field are altered, wreaking havoc on wildlife and the food supply. Birds can no longer fly, ocean mammals can no longer navigate, and vegetation can no longer survive the long hot days and the long cold nights. People begin to suffer from gravity sickness and radiation poisoning and still the earth continues to slow. The title of this novel refers to the middle school years when bodies are changing and the adult you will become starts to emerge. For Julia, this “age of miracles”, with its typical dramas and hardships, comes with the additional stress of an uncertain future. Relationships are dissolving and people are taking more risks and making questionable decisions. It’s clear that life will never again be the same.

Though this may seem like a science fiction novel, the emphasis is clearly on the effect that the threat of extinction has on human relationships. Some relationships will become stronger and others will wither and die under the pressure of a crumbling future. “The Age of Miracles” is a wonderful debut novel; more than just a coming-of-age story but a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit.

Who will like this? Adults and teens looking for a moving story with unforgettable characters.

If you like this, try this: If you like the theme of nature-driven dystopias, try “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy or “After the Snow” by S.D. Crockett. For dystopias in general, try the wildly popular “The Hunger Games” series (Suzanne Collins), “Never Let You go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, or “Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. For younger ones, “the Giver” is an excellent place to start.

If you’re more attracted to the teenage drama, try “Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd, “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, or “Catcher in the Rye”, J.D. Salinger’s classic.If you like the author’s voice, keep an eye out for more books coming soon, since this is Karen Thompson Walker’s debut.

Recommended by: Sue B, Circulation Coordinator

To check if this book is available and/or to place a hold, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog [link will open in a new window]

The Thieves of Manhattan

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TitleThe Thieves of Manhattan

Author:  Adam Langer

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (2010)

Summary: Ian Minot is a struggling writer working at the Morningside Coffee diner. Ian works alongside Joseph, a struggling actor, and Faye, an aspiring artist. Of the three, Ian has been the least successful in his career. His Romanian girlfriend Anya, however, is very close to getting her collection of short stories published while Ian continues to get rejection letters. One of the most memorable of these comes from the literary agent Geoff Olden who simply wrote “good luck placing this and all future submissions elsewhere”.

When Faye draws Ian’s attention to a customer they have nicknamed The Confident Man, Ian is appalled to see that he is reading a copy of the recently published memoir “Blade by Blade”. In Ian’s opinion, the book is a “bogus piece of crap”. As it turns out, The Confident Man feels the same way about it. The Confident Man is Jed Roth, a former editor at a very respectable publishing house. Jed left his position at Merrill Books when his decision not to publish “Blade by Blade” was overruled by the owner of Merrill Books. Jed has devised a plan to bring down Merrill Books and agent Geoff Olden and recruits Ian to play a crucial role in his scheme. Ian agrees but soon finds himself in over his head and unsure who to trust.

This is a fun story, full of humor and intrigue, which takes a few shots at the publishing industry along the way. The last few pages contain a glossary of selected terms used throughout the book, all based on literary figures.

Who will like this book? Anyone looking for a fun read, especially those who like intrigue. Anyone familiar with the publishing industry.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Red Hook Road

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TitleRed Hook Road

Author:  Ayelet Waldman

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing, July 2010

Summary:  A young couple is killed on the way to their wedding reception in coastal Maine. Red Hook Road takes the reader on a journey with the surviving members of their families over four summers.  Iris and Daniel Copaken are the parents of the bride and they are native New Yorkers who summer in Maine; they are “from away”.  Jane Hewins, the groom’s mother, is their cleaning lady who was never happy with the union of the young couple. Emil Kimmelbrand, Iris’ father, is a famous violinist who discovers that Jane’s adopted Cambodian niece is a musical prodigy.  There are many layers to this novel but rather than being complicated and confusing Waldman manages to build each story gradually and thoroughly.  The relationships between husband and wife, mother and daughter, father and daughter, mother and son, brothers and sisters are all so believable that you can relate to their tensions, their frustrations, their joy and their pain.

Waldman is a skilled writer whose descriptions of Maine and its inhabitants are so real that she had this reader yearning to visit this fictional place.  Although a story of loss and grief it is also a story of possibilities and hope. This book is a quick read that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Whi will like this book? Readers of Jodi Picoult, Chris Bohjalian, and Anna Quindlen.

Recommended by: Claudia, Technical Services Department

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

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TitleMajor Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Author:  Helen Simonson

Publisher: Random House, March 2010

Summary: I fell in love with widower Major Ernest Pettigrew about six pages in! The story takes place in a quaint English village, where the Major’s brother’s sudden death and the propriety of a family heirloom spark an unexpected friendship with a local shopkeeper, Mrs. Jasmina  Ali.  His quiet world changes as he deals with his growing affection for Mrs. Ali (after all they share a love of literature), his yuppie, shallow son, and the various unattached ladies in the village vying for him.  It is a charming and endearing love story. The Major’s wry, witty humor combined with his chivalrous old fashioned courtesy, yet sarcastic jabs about modern situations had me laughing out loud. There is a gentle humor and a quiet lovely rhythm with a romantic twist that will appeal to both sexes. I kept picturing Sir John Gielgud delivering the Major’s lines! Such a wonderful debut novel!

Recommended by: Cindy B., Children’s Department

The Nobodies Album

Title: The Nobodies Album

Author:  Carolyn Parkhurst

Publisher: Knopf, June 2010

 Summary: Writer Octavia Frost and her son Milo had a game they used to play together when he was a young boy.  He’d ask “have you ever heard the Beatles version of I’ve Been Working on the Railroad?” And she’d say, no, I didn’t know they’d ever recorded that.  He’d respond “they didn’t, it’s on The Nobodies Album.”  So “The Nobodies Album” is an album made up of songs that don’t exist.  It also happens to be the working title of Octavia’s yet-to-be published book, which is made up entirely of the last chapters of all her previous novels, completely rewritten with the purpose of taking her characters in the exact opposite direction she’d originally taken them – a book made up of endings that don’t exist.

It seems that Octavia is a woman who’s trying to bring many things into existence, and trying to change lots of original endings. Octavia’s relationship with her son and her career as a writer are at the top of the list, and the two are woven together brilliantly in this novel.  It is when Octavia’s on her way to deliver the manuscript of “The Nobodies Album” to her publisher that she sees her son’s name displayed in the news crawl in Times Square – Milo, a successful musician, has been accused of murdering his girlfriend.  This is the beginning of her journey back to Milo – they haven’t spoken in four years.  And it’s also the beginning of the reader’s journey through Octavia’s fiction.  The novel is interspersed with the last chapters of her previous books, both the original and the revised endings.  The family drama, the short story and the classic mystery all come together in Parkhurst’s incredibly creative, inventive and unforgettable book.

Recommended by: Mary, Branch Reference