Tag Archives: 2009 Releases

Still Alice


Title: Still Alice

Author: Lisa Genova

Publisher: Gallery Books, 2009

Summary/Review: Alice Howland is a psychology professor at Harvard University with 3 grown children.  First, she can’t find her Blackberry, can’t quite remember names and blames it on stress.  But then one day while she’s jogging, she becomes hopelessly lost and can’t find her way home.  After a visit to a doctor, she’s diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and her life is changed forever.  But as the disease worsens and steals pieces of what Alice always thought of as herself, she discovers that she is made up of more than just her memories.

Lisa Genova, the author of “Still Alice” holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University.  She wrote the novel, which is her first, for a couple of reasons.   First, while she was in graduate school, her 80-year-old grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so she had a personal experience with the disease.  Second, as a scientist, she found that what was happening to her grandmother was fascinating and wanted to know more about it.  Her grandmother was in a pretty advanced stage of the disease, so she couldn’t really talk to her about it.  She knew that she needed to talk to someone for whom the disease was new, so she decided to focus on people who had early-onset Alzheimer’s – someone in their late forties or early fifties.

This dichotomy comes across very clearly while reading Still Alice.  While it is so hard to read about what Alice and her family goes through, it’s fascinating to read about the biology of the disease, how it develops, and some of the things that are being done to help treat people with the disease.  The book review that appeared in Booklist magazine states it best:  “Clearly explaining the testing, treatment options, and symptoms of the disease within the context of an absorbing family drama, Genova has written an ideal primer for anyone touched by Alzheimer’s.”

Who will like this?: While this book may be a difficult read for some, if you are looking for a deeper understanding of Alzheimer’s, or life in middle age in general, this book may be for you.  Someone who is interested in the medical facts of Alzheimer’s or related diseases.

If you like this, try this:  Lisa Genova has written additional books, including “Loving Anthony” (autistic son dies, two women become friends, husband of one having an affair) and “Left Neglected” (after a car accident, a young woman wakes up with a brain injury called Left Neglect – the brain completely ignores the left side of her body).

Recommended by: Mary, Branch Reference Librarian

If this looks like a book you’re interested in, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to check its availability and/or place a hold


The Devil’s Alphabet

TitleThe Devil’s Alphabet

Author:  Daryl Gregory

Publisher: Random House, November 2009

Summary: Paxton Martin, a preacher’s son, is returning to his hometown of Switchcreek, TN, for the funeral of a childhood friend. Pax left Switchcreek 12 years ago, soon after an outbreak of Transcription Divergence Syndrome devastated the population of the small town. TDS, or The Changes, killed a third of the people living in Switchcreek and caused three different mutations in most of the people left alive. The victims of TDS-A, or Argos, became gray-skinned and grew to abnormal heights. TDS-B victims, or Betas, became hairless and seal-like, and TDS-C victims, or Charlies, became grotesquely obese. A few residents, Paxton included, were unaffected and remained unchanged. When Paxton returns for the funeral, he finds that there are many unanswered questions surrounding the suicide of JoLynn, and with the help of his friend Deke he tries to unravel the mystery of her death.

I would not describe myself as a science fiction fan, but I really enjoyed this one. It had great characters, bits of mystery and humor, and a few parts that rated about a 9.5 on my ickiness scale.

Who will like this book? Science fiction fans.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

One Amazing Thing

TitleOne Amazing Thing

Author:  Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Publisher: Unbridled Books, October 2009

Summary:  There are nine strangers in an Indian visa and passport office who are thrown together when an earthquake hits and leaves them trapped under the rubble. As time passes and there is no communication available to the outside world anxiety rises and tempers flare! After organizing what little provisions they have and securing themselves in the office as well as they can, tensions increase and a young graduate student sizes up the situation and suggests that they all tell a story about an “amazing” thing that has happened in their lifetimes. After initial reluctance and suspicion each character reveals their stories. These stories range from a young Chinese woman who has to flee India during the Sino-Indian War of 1962 leaving her Indian lover and family behind, to a seventy year old accountant orphaned at nine who only found comfort in doing math. Other stories include a young Muslim man struggling with America’s prejudice after 9/11, a rebellious teenager who discovers the gift and healing of music and a woman whose entire view of life changes after glimpsing a display of affection between an elderly couple.

These stories bring the characters to life and also give many different pictures of India. Divakaruni’s writing is beautiful and you can hardly wait for her to get to the next story. A novel about nine people trapped in the rubble of an earthquake would have been compelling enough but the author raises the bar by making these characters jump off the page with their “amazing” stories. This is a fast read that you will not be able to put down until you get to the last page!

Who will like this book? Fans of historical and contemporary fiction.

Recommended by: Claudia, Circulation



Author:  Colin Dickey

Publisher: Unbridled Books, September 2009

Summary: What do Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart all have in common besides being great composers? For one thing, they all had their skulls, or at least part of their skulls, stolen from their graves. Cranioklepty relates the intriguing history of Phrenology and the attempts made by phrenologists to validate their beliefs. According to Webster, phrenology is “the study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it indicates mental faculties and character traits.” It was developed in 1796 by Franz Gall and was very popular through the 1800’s. There were famous supporters of phrenology, including Walt Whitman who made references to it in some of his writings. There were famous skeptics as well. Mark Twain was openly critical when writing about the skull readings he received. Phrenologists were careful to “not to predict genius from the shape of the skulls but instead to confirm the already established genius in the heads before them.”

Skulls of prisoners and insane asylum patients were easy to acquire, but phrenologists were desperate to study the skulls of famous citizens, especially anyone with creative or intellectual genius. Since no one was offering to donate their skulls to this strange science, practitioners had to resort to grave robbing. The collecting of skulls became a hobby for some, and an obsession for others. Elaborate glass cases were designed to display the skulls in homes and offices. What we think of as morbid today, was thought of very differently in the 19th century. Keeping relics of someone you knew or admired was considered an honor. One collector, Joseph Hyrtl, donated his collection which is now housed in Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum. If you are a fan of the macabre, you should read Cranioklepty. If you are ever in Philadelphia, you should visit the Mutter Museum.

Who will like this book? Fans of  the bizarre and slighly morbid.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

31 Hours

Title31 Hours

Author:  Masha Hamilton

Publisher: Unbridled Books, October 2009

Summary:  Carol Meitzner wakes with a feeling of dread. She knows in her heart that her 21 year old son, Jonas, is in trouble. She doesn’t know what kind of trouble or how much, but he has not been returning her calls. Carol soon learns that his girlfriend, Vic, has not seen or heard from him recently, either. Jonas’s father doesn’t think they should be so worried. Wrong. In 31 hours, their son Jonas and 6 others are planning to walk into key terminals of the NYC subway system and detonate explosive vests strapped to their bodies. Blond haired, white, and from a privileged background, Jonas is set to become the new face of terrorism.

Jonas’s radical mentor has disabled his phone to keep him completely isolated from the people who care about him the most. Throughout this gripping novel we meet some of the potential victims of this terrifying act, many of whom Jonas knows and loves. As we watch Jonas prepare for his martyrdom, without the fanaticism one would expect, it becomes clear that this could really happen. This possibility makes 31 Hours all the more chilling.

Who will like this book? Fans of  suspense novels.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator


Title: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

Author: Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papademitriou

Publisher: Bloomsbury, September 2009

Summary: Bertrand Russell, mathematician, philosopher, pacifist and lightning rod, was one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. This ambitious graphic biography focuses equally on his turbulent personal life and his groundbreaking work in the area of mathematical logic. We follow Russell as he discovers a paradox and works (and reworks) his theories. He teams with and is opposed by heavyweights of early twentieth-century philosophy,  including Wittgenstein and Godel, all the while searching for truth and remaining haunted by the madness he believes is constantly circling him.

Bertrand Russell affected – and was affected by – some of the most dramatic personalities and events of the twentieth century. While a graphic  novel about math and philosophy might not seem like the most enticing subject, in the hands of  these gifted writers and illustrators, Russell’s story comes to life in surprising and compelling ways.

Who will like this book?: People interested in the history of science, technology and math.

If you like this, try this: For another unique take on philosophy, try The Book of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley. Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities by Ian Stewart. If you are as clueless about math and science as I am, check out 100 Most Important Science Ideas by Mark Henderson.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Evolution of Shadows

TitleThe Evolution of Shadows

Author:  Jason Quinn Malott

Publisher: Unbridled Books, October 2009

Summary:  After having his heart-broken, American photographer Gray Banick travels to Bosnia and into a war zone. Gray’s interpreter Emil, and his mentor Jack, often question Gray about the girl in the picture he carries with him. They know she is the reason he is here, but do not know the story behind his heartbreak. Her name is Lian Zhao and she and Gray were very much in love. Lian, however, wasn’t strong enough to face her parent’s disapproval of Gray so she chose to marry another man. Gray has traveled to Bosnia to kill her memory, or kill himself.  It is now almost 5 years since Gray disappeared, last seen by Emil in a Bosnian killing field. Lian, Emil, and Jack have met in Sarajevo to find out what happened to the man they all loved.

This debut novel brings to life the horrors of the Bosnian war and its aftermath. Smoothly fading from past to present and back again, the author tells the stories of Gray and Lian, Emil, Jack, and their families. This is a story of searching for lost loves and forgotten lives. Only when the search is over can the healing really begin. This is a fabulous story.

Who will like this book? Fans of literary fiction that can stand some descriptions of the horrors of war.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

The Kids Are All Right

Title: The Kids are All Right: A Memoir

Authors: Diana, Liz, Dan and Amanda Welch

Publisher: Harmony, September 2009

Summary: In 1983, the four Welch children lose their beloved father in a tragic car accident, and within months their still-grieving, soap opera-star mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. This gripping saga is emotional, poignant and hard to put down. The family lives in upper crust Bedford, New York. Their father is an investment banker who, unknown to the rest of the family, was in deep financial debt, forcing their mother to support the family. Sadly, the mother succumbs to the illness early in the story, leaving four young children in a state of shock and confusion. This is the story of these lost souls who muddle their way through a dysfunctional childhood and tumultuous teenage years.

The memoir is told in alternate voices of the four Welch children, giving each of them the opportunity to recall their own memories. The combination of despair, hurt, hope and survival makes this memoir a captivating read. I very much look forward to hearing Liz Welch tell her personal story when she visits the Fairfield Woods Branch Library on February 17 at 7:00.

Recommended by: Laurie, Branch circulation and book club leader

How I Became a Famous Novelist

Title: How I Became a Famous Novelist

Author: Steve Hely

Publisher: Grove Press, July 2009

Summary: Pete Tarslaw writes for a living: He works for a slightly-shady company that rewrites entrance essays for grammar-challenged college and grad school applicants. When he learns that his college girlfriend (who betrayed him by being ambitious enough to apply to law school while he drifted through his slacker senior year) is getting married, he decides to take action. Pete sets out to become rich and famous enough to make Polly see the error of her ways – or at least really depressed at her wedding – by writing the best selling novel…ever. Pete discovers it’s not so hard to do: Just examine the best seller list and insert every last literary cliche into one story.

Poking fun at nearly every blockbuster author, the publishing industry, and the staggering entitlement of a certain segement of  post-collegiate Americans, the story of the rise and fall and rise of Pete and his book, The Tornado Ashes Club will have fiction fans laughing out loud. And while he is a scoundrel, you’ll find yourself rooting for Pete in his scandalous adventures. A terrific book for the post-holiday season.

Who will like this book?: Readers (and writers) who go crazy looking at best seller lists. People who ‘don’t get’ the popularity of trash fiction authors. Fans of literary satire. Recent liberal arts college grads.

If you like this, try this: Books by Christopher Buckley (Boomsday, Thank You For Smoking) and Christopher Moore (Lamb, The Stupidest Angel.)

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian



Author:  Cody McFadyen

Publisher: Bantam, October 2009

Summary: Smoky Barrett is a special agent with the FBI, leading a team that specializes in hunting down and capturing serial killers. While Smoky and several other agents are attending the wedding of one of their own, a woman is pushed from a vehicle in full view of the guests. The victim looks ghostly with a shaved head, pasty white skin, and an undernourished body. Staggering into the wedding party, she lets out a wail and doesn’t stop. The victim is Heather Hollister, missing for more than 7 years – just long enough to be declared dead. As details of Heather’s abduction and captivity are revealed, Smoky realizes they are hunting a killer more cold and calculating than any they’ve seen before.

Abandoned is the fourth in the series by Cody McFadyen, though this is the first that I’ve read. When I started this book, I thought it was a little over-the-top with more sex and violence than needed. Not Quentin Tarantino over-the-top, just a few more details than necessary. As I continued to read, and yes, I continued to read, I found myself drawn into this story and the lives of its characters. I started to believe that it was possible, probable even, that every member of Smoky’s team had a loved one murdered by a serial killer. I realized that it wasn’t really too far-fetched that not only was Smoky’s first husband and daughter murdered in front of her eyes, but she was now raising the daughter of her best friend who was also a victim of murder. In other words, after the first few chapters of this book I was hooked and no longer questioned whether it was realistic or not. I just wanted Smoky to catch the monster before anyone else was killed or, “gulp”, lobotomized. If you like your thrillers with a little more blood and guts than usual, you’ll like Abandoned.

Who will like this book? Fans of  thrillers and suspense novels.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator