Cop Town - Author Visit

Having a hot, new thriller just in time for summer reading – what could be better? How about that hot, new thriller AND two chances to meet the bestselling author at a library right here in Orange County?

Karin Slaughter, who is well known for her “Will Trent” and “Grant County” series, has a brand-new stand alone novel, Cop Town, which is out June 24, and she will be making appearances at two of OC Public Libraries’ branches this July as part of her book tour.

On Saturday, July 19th at the Rancho Santa Margarita Library, and Sunday, July 20th at the Laguna Niguel Library (both 2pm), Ms. Slaughter will be appearing to talk about her new book: Cop Town. Cop Town is a tense, fast-moving thriller that covers only a few days in the summer of 1974, but Slaughter twists together themes of racism, sexism, and homophobia into an exciting and thoroughly readable package. The novel believably evokes the seventies, but the motivations and actions of the characters ring true today.

It’s hard enough to be a woman in the man’s world of the Atlanta Police Department; Maggie comes from a cop family and knows the drill. When she gets saddled with the beautiful Kate on her first day, things get dicey as a serial killer stalks police officers. The different worlds of Atlanta collide - men, women, black, white, rich, and poor. With shifting points of view and a range of well-defined characters, Slaughter delivers a stand-alone novel that will appeal to any fan of police procedurals, serial killer thrillers, and psychological thrillers.

Whether you read it ahead or get your copy at the event, join us at one of the two special events; here’s your chance to meet Karin Slaughter and learn more about her writing.

Rancho Santa Margarita Library 30902 La Promesa, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

Laguna Niguel Library 30341 Crown Valley Parkway, Laguna Niguel, CA


Don't Judge a Book...

"Do yourself a favor. Before it's too late, without thinking too much about it first, pack a pillow and a blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it. One day it will be too late." -- Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

If you look at the cover for Gina Frangello’s A Life in Men, you’d expect a light-hearted novel about a girl traipsing about the world and having encounters with various men, until she undergoes some sort of self-discovery, goes back home and finds a nice boyfriend. This is not what you’ll actually get. Frangello’s novel is much, much more. It tackles the big topics: life; death; coincidence; who we love and why; how we view ourselves over time. And yet, all of this is presented in a way that makes you want to keep reading, to find out where the main character, Mary, will go next and what successes and failures she’ll see.

Mary is not your typical heroine of a travel novel. She suffers from cystic fibrosis and by most medical standards, she really shouldn’t still be alive. Yet she is determined not to let her illness take over and to squeeze every possible drop out of her life (often to the dismay of her doctors). Her travels start before her junior year in college when she is convinced by her best friend, Nix, to take a trip island hopping in Greece. This trip does not end well, but it triggers something in Mary, a kind of wanderlust that keeps her moving, against her family’s advice, in search of herself and her connection to her friends and the world.

Frangello writes convincingly about the foreign settings in the book (among them, Greece, London, Amsterdam, Kenya and Mexico), as she has visited them all herself (the one exception being Newfoundland). As you read, you can taste the salty anchovies in Greece, hear the lions roaring in Kenya and feel the oppressive heat of Morocco. If you can’t get away this summer, get this book to upgrade your beach reading and travel vicariously.

The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality

The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (2004) by Brian Green

The book Fabric of the Cosmos takes the reader on a fantastic journey through space and time that is, in essence, "out of this world." In five major sections the physicist, author, and documentary film maker Brian Greene builds a working model of the universe that readers who might be unfamiliar with modern physics will be able to understand. Only a basic understanding of mathematics is required.

The main focus of the book is on the nature of space-time (the macro-universe) and quantum mechanics (the micro-universe). The author starts out with a discussion of classical/Newtonian physics and then builds on that foundation to explain the nature of space and time using the theories of special and general relativity as developed by Albert Einstein. The author then switches gears to discuss the micro-universe using the theory of quantum mechanics. The book states that there are unresolved theoretical problems between the theory of relativity and the theory of quantum mechanics, and Mr. Greene introduces string theory as an attempt to create coherence between the two disciplines of physics.

Additional topics covered in the book are the big bang theory, entropy, dark matter, dark energy and the Higgs boson. Finally, this book proved to be so popular when it was originally published that it was made into a four-hour NOVA series on PBS.


Supervillains, Superheroes, and Middle School . . . the perfect combination

Joshua Dread by Lee Bacon sports a dazzling, electrifying cover that strikes, well, dread in the heart of the average 3rd to 5th grader. Inspired as I was by this bright, beckoning cover, I chose the book to see if I liked it enough for recommendation. And surprisingly, I did.

With movies such as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Green Lantern, to name a few, the superhero is alive and well. Kids are fascinated with superheroes, and our requests are abundant from younger and younger ages. But unlike Maximum Boy by Dan Greenburg, who obtained his superpower by touching some radioactive space rocks in a museum, Joshua has been born with a "gyft" although he doesn't know it when the book first begins.

We begin with Joshua's class getting out of sixth period early that day due to catastrophic weather that "will destroy civilization as we know it". And what luck, Mrs. Lange was about to give a quiz. On the bus heading home the extreme weather becomes increasingly more deadly: trees are shaking, power lines are snapping loose, then suddenly all is quiet when they reach the center of town. The Dread Duo are hovering in the air on their hovercrafts  demanding a private jet full of $100 dollar bills or else they will inflict devastating weather causing world annihilation. Then . . . in swoops Captain Justice to save the day. It seems clear doesn't it: good guy Captain Justice; bad guys The Dread Duo. But here's the twist--what happens when the supervillains are your parents. Interested now?

We are first introduced to Joshua as a weakling who is mercilessly bullied by the brain dead thugs Brick and Joey. Segue to an average cafeteria setting where Joshua and his best friend Milton are sitting at the table listening to the ever catty cafeteria girls (as they are coined for their endless gossiping) discussing the "new girl" Sophie Smith. There is something secretive about Sophie, but what is it? After Joshua's parents are taken by the smoke monster that also broke into the Vile Fair and caused the supervillain leader Phineas Vex to disappear, Joshua and Milton decide to look into the new girl a little more closely. All these events began after she and her father moved into town; she must be in on it . . .

At first I thought, what on earth is Bacon going to do with this, but he manages to spin an amusing but suspenseful tale that will subtly encourage the reader to examine the sometimes blurred lines between the idea of good and evil. Here's Bacon's second book: Joshua Dread: The Nameless Hero.

Bacon does nod at Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians. But Percy is an XFICU which is an upper read suitable for 6th to 9th graders. Joshua is an XFICI Intermediate read, producing a gentler treatment of the "I've been born with superpowers" theme. So here's my challenge to all of you reading this blog: read both the first and second Joshua Dread books and weigh in: thumbs up for the treatment of this theme for the younger crowd or, boo, thumbs down. For me, I liked it, and will definitely read The Nameless Hero. So let me know what you think, does it go on the Staff Picks wall or not? And parents reading this blog, most certainly have your kids read this book because I think they will like it (no matter what the others say).


"Rosie" is Riveting!

In The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion a brilliant genetics professor by the name of Don Tillman is closing in on his fortieth birthday and decides it is time to get married.  Unfortunately, Don suffers from undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome and is unable to pick up on social cues, and he often disregards the feelings and reactions of others. His social ineptness leads to disastrous attempts at dating, and makes for humorous reading.  But this is also a touching and sometimes sad book. Don yearns for companionship, but lacks the means to connect with others. 

Rosie, life-long student and bartender, is searching for her biological father and enlists Don’s scientific expertise. She in turn helps him in his quest for a compatible mate.  Their madcap adventures evolve into a romantic entanglement that befuddles them both.  Will Don ever recognize that Rosie might be the perfect match he is seeking?  Rosie has feelings for Don, but can she cope with some of his extreme idiosyncrasies?

Don Tillman may be completely clueless at times, but he’s a very likable and endearing character.  Readers who have experienced awkward social situations can surely relate to his plight. I wholeheartedly cheered him on in his quest to connect with, and be accepted by, society at large. Perfect for Book Clubs looking for a lighter read that still deals with meaty issues.


In the News: Nigeria

Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno is currently in the news, due to the Boko Haram group’s involvement in the abduction of many girls and other incidents.  If, like me, you’d like to gain some understanding of the country of Nigeria as a whole by reading about its culture and history and experiencing its rich literature, here are a few nonfiction and fiction titles to get you started.  All are available at OC Public Libraries.


Nigerian-born Noo Saro-Wiwa was raised in England, but spent every summer in Nigeria with her activist father, Ken Saro-Wiwa.  After Ken was executed by the Nigerian government in 1995, Saro-Wiwa stayed away from  the country for several years.  However, she recently returned to Nigeria and describes her experience in Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria.  She details her travels within the country, from the capital of Lagos, to  collegiate Ibadan, urban Abuja and the Islamic north.  She also visits nature preserves; Benin, formerly the principal city of the Edo kingdom of Benin and the oil city of Port Harcourt where she was born. She discusses diverse topics, from religion, slavery and the effects of the petroleum industry to Nollywood (Nigerian cinema) and the Trans-Wonderland amusement park itself.  Along the way, she develops a nuanced perspective on Nigeria, noting the existing corruption but also struck by the country’s beauty and variety. Saro-Wiwa’s travelogue is an excellent starting point for those who wish to learn about Nigeria.

Nigerian Chinua Achebe is the author of the acclaimed novel, Things Fall Apart, in which he depicts Nigerian tribal life before and after colonialism.  However, in There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, Achebe covers another topic, his memoir of Biafra, a country which existed from 1967 to 1970. During the military coup and countercoup in Nigeria in the early 1960s, thousands of members of the Igbo ethnic group were killed.  Igbo survivors fled to the east and pronounced this region of the country to be the independent Republic of Biafra.  This led to a civil war between the Nigerian government and Biafra, which ended with Biafra's defeat in 1970. In There Was a Country, Achebe employs both prose and poetry to discuss politics, history and his own experience of Biafra as an Igbo and as a cultural ambassador for the country.  He also describes his childhood in the town of Agidi, where he was surrounded by both Christian and Igbo culture.  This is a great book for anyone wanting to learn more about Achebe, Biafra or Nigeria.

Nigerian Teju Cole received the PEN/Hemingway Award and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for Open City, a novel in which he describes a Nigerian psychiatry resident’s walk through post-911 New York City.   Before Open City, however, he wrote Every Day Is for the Thief, which was published in Nigeria in 2007 and then revised and updated for its first publication in the United States in 2014.  In Every Day, Cole depicts an unnamed narrator’s walk through Lagos, the capital city of Nigeria, after he has spent time in the U.S.  Although the narrator seeks inspiration from his walk, character development is not the main focus of this novel.  The novel is a series of observations of contemporary life in Lagos, with settings ranging from local markets to buses to Internet cafes to the national museum.  Cole addresses culture, poverty and the changes that have occurred in Nigeria.  Also included are the author’s own black and white photographs.  Those who want to be immersed in the city of Lagos or simply enjoy the writings of novelists and poets who have described their journeys through urban areas -- Baudelaire, J. M. Coetzee, W. G. Sebald and others --  should definitely not pass up this work.
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

During the most recent “Storytime for Grown-Ups” at my library branch, I read aloud a short story by Nigerian-born author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called “A Private Experience”.  It depicts the interactions between two women sheltering in an abandoned shop in a Nigerian city, the affluent Christian narrator and a poor Muslim mother who helped her find this hiding place during a riot.  As a result of their time together, the narrator realizes that the stereotypes about Muslims promulgated by the media are inaccurate.  This story is part of the short story collection entitled The Thing Around Your Neck, in which Adichie writes about a range of topics, including romantic and familial relationships, Nigeria and the experience of Nigerians living in the United States.  Individual stories concern family secrets, infidelity, the loneliness of the immigrant experience and self-examination. Adichie’s novel Americanah, a fictionalized yet semi-autobiographical account of a young woman who leaves Nigeria to attend university in the U.S., won the 2013 National Book Critics’ Circle Award for fiction.  I highly recommend The Thing Around Your Neck to anyone who wants to gain insights into human nature or the Nigerian or Nigerian-American experience. 


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