wind is not a riverA gripping tale of survival and an epic love story in which a husband and wife – separated by the only battle of World War II to take place on American soil – fight to reunite in Alaska’s starkly beautiful Aleutian Islands.

Following the death of his younger brother in Europe, journalist John Easley is determined to find meaning in his loss, to document some part of the growing war that claimed his own flesh and blood. Leaving behind his beloved wife, Helen, after an argument they both regret, he heads north from Seattle to investigate the Japanese invasion of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, a story censored by the U.S. government. While John is accompanying a crew on a bombing run, his plane is shot down over the island of Attu. He survives only to find himself exposed to a harsh and unforgiving wilderness, known as “the Birthplace of Winds.” There, John must battle the elements, starvation, and his own remorse while evading discovery by the Japanese.

Alone in their home three thousand miles to the south, Helen struggles with the burden of her husband’s disappearance. Caught in extraordinary circumstances, in this new world of the missing, she is forced to reimagine who she is – and what she is capable of doing. Somehow, she must find John and bring him home, a quest that takes her into the farthest reaches of the war, beyond the safety of everything she knows. A powerful, richly atmospheric story of life and death, commitment and sacrifice, The Wind Is Not a River illuminates the fragility of life and the fierce power of love. (description from publisher)

cooks clown and cowboysYou know the question’s coming: what did you do on your holiday? Master the experiences in Cooks, Clowns and Cowboys : 101 Skills and Experiences to Discover on Your Travels and you can reply:

I created a perfume in France.

I danced the flamenco in Seville.

I mixed the perfect martini in New York.

I earned my cosmonaut stripes in Russia.

I rode with cowboys in Argentina.

Saddle up for a new you, and come back from your travels with more than just a suntan. (description from publisher)

eighty daysOn November 14, 1889, Nellie Bly, the crusading young female reporter for Joseph Pulitzer’s World newspaper, left New York City by steamship on a quest to break the record for the fastest trip around the world. Also departing from New York that day—and heading in the opposite direction by train—was a young journalist from The Cosmopolitan magazine, Elizabeth Bisland. Each woman was determined to outdo Jules Verne’s fictional hero Phileas Fogg and circle the globe in less than eighty days. The dramatic race that ensued would span twenty-eight thousand miles, captivate the nation, and change both competitors’ lives forever.

The two women were a study in contrasts. Nellie Bly was a scrappy, hard-driving, ambitious reporter from Pennsylvania coal country who sought out the most sensational news stories, often going undercover to expose social injustice. Genteel and elegant, Elizabeth Bisland had been born into an aristocratic Southern family, preferred novels and poetry to newspapers, and was widely referred to as the most beautiful woman in metropolitan journalism. Both women, though, were talented writers who had carved out successful careers in the hypercompetitive, male-dominated world of big-city newspapers. Eighty Days brings these trailblazing women to life as they race against time and each other, unaided and alone, ever aware that the slightest delay could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

A vivid real-life re-creation of the race and its aftermath, from its frenzied start to the nail-biting dash at its finish, Eighty Days is history with the heart of a great adventure novel. Here’s the journey that takes us behind the walls of Jules Verne’s Amiens estate, into the back alleys of Hong Kong, onto the grounds of a Ceylon tea plantation, through storm-tossed ocean crossings and mountains blocked by snowdrifts twenty feet deep, and to many more unexpected and exotic locales from London to Yokohama. Along the way, we are treated to fascinating glimpses of everyday life in the late nineteenth century—an era of unprecedented technological advances, newly remade in the image of the steamship, the railroad, and the telegraph. For Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland—two women ahead of their time in every sense of the word—were not only racing around the world. They were also racing through the very heart of the Victorian age. (description from publisher)

mistbornI read a review of this book that described it as “Lord of the Rings meets Ocean’s Eleven”, and I just knew it would be love at first page.  In Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, the Final Empire has been taken over by the evil Lord Ruler and much of the population has been enslaved.  The oppressed citizens of the Final Empire (known as Skaa) are forced to work in the Pits of Hathsin mining the most valuable metals in the land for the Lord Ruler’s personal treasury.  No Skaa has ever escaped the Pits….until now.

Kelsier is no ordinary Skaa; he is a Mistborn, a type of Allomancer who is gifted with special powers when he ingests metals.  After using his powers to escape the Pits, Kelsier vows revenge on the Lord Ruler.  He begins to assemble a team of other Allomancers, which includes a young girl named Vin who is just discovering her powers as a Mistborn.  Together, they devise the ultimate heist  in order to remove the Lord Ruler from power and free the people of the Final Empire.

This was such a fun book to read; it is fast-paced and exciting, and the magic system is unique and fascinating.  Sanderson’s impressive world building made the Final Empire really come alive.  And bonus, the trilogy is already completed!  As soon as you finish Mistborn you can check out copies of The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages right away instead of having to wait years and years for the thrilling conclusion.

This classic children’s novel has been weathering the storm of censorship and controversy for 4 decades now. Jean Craighead George won the 1973 Newbery Medal for her novel, Julie of the Wolves, which tells the story of a Yupik Eskimo girl called Miyax (Julie to her pen pal in San Francisco) who survives alone on the Arctic tundra by communicating with a wolf pack. The outside world has wrought changes on Julie’s culture, and when she is forced to choose between an arranged marriage and a harsh, desperate flight across the wild tundra, she runs away. She eventually learns the language of the wolves and becomes a member of the pack, a process that’s terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure.

Julie’s journey of survival and self discovery has resonated with young and old readers since its publication in the seventies, despite being challenged for including violence and being “unsuited to age group.” To learn more about this book, censorship, and Banned Books Week, check out the ALA Banned Books Week website.

For this segment of Amazing Audiobooks, I’m focusing on the behemoth novels that fill up disc after disc of listening material. These exciting, immersive *bugcrushers will eat up time spent on the road, on the treadmill, or doing chores – listen while you cook dinner or fold the laundry; listen when your knitting needles click or break out your headphones when you want to keep reading but your partner insists on lights out!

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, read for you by John Lee: A beloved gargantuan novel of the people building a cathedral in 1100s England – filled with mystery, suspense, rich historical detail, and captivating characters. This 32-disc novel is a winner! Its sequel, World Without End, is similarly enthralling.

 

A Game of Thrones, written by George R.R. Martin and masterfully performed by Roy Dotrice. This single novel takes up 28 CDs, or 33.5 hours. More than enough for the usual road trip! The four sequels to this novel are each around 30 discs of listening material, which would supply your listening needs long enough to drive from Davenport to Orlando Florida and back – three times!

 

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, written by Susanna Clarke and performed by Simon Prebble, is a fantasy novel that answers the question: what if a society of proper London magicians were around to magically assist the armies of England in the Napoleonic wars? And what if the leaders of that group were fighting against each other as well as taking on malevolent forces from the realm of Faerie? And what if all of this was written in a superb Jane-Austen-esque style that evokes all the sparkling wit and manners of the times without sacrificing the edge-of-your-seat action that modern audiences expect? Or, to put it more simply: This is an amazing novel and you should listen to it or read it right away. 32 hours of listening pleasure on 26 discs.

Some more excellent, lengthy novels:

*Bugcrusher: A book that is so big and heavy, you’d like to have it in hand to squish a scary bug.

Summer is here at last and it’s a great time to get out there and explore a new part of the world. The library has lots of great new travel books – here is just a sampling.

One of the best ways to explore is on foot and many of the great cities of the world are perfect for walking. National Geographic’s new series Walking shows you the highlights of Paris, New York, London and Rome.

Also from National Geographic, 100 Best Affordable Vacations offers advice on out of the ordinary vacation opportunities, from the Texas state fair to “unknown” national parks.

Embrace your American heritage and hit the road with Reader’s Digest The Most Scenic Drives in America, and discover the most beautiful road every time from Florida’s Road to Flamingo to Hawaii’s Oahu Coastal Lo; from British Columbia’s Sea to Sky Highway to Cape Cod’s Sandy Shore.

 We have lots of new travel books arriving every day for destinations all over the world. Whether you’re planning a trip-of-a-lifetime, or indulging in some armchair travel, you’ll find plenty of ideas for adventure at the library!

 

The kids are out of school, the temperatures are topping ninety degrees, and gas prices are creeping up: it must be summer, and with it, Beach Reading Season! Even if your vacation plans don’t take you as far as a sandy beach, you’ll still need the perfect novel to get lost in while your kids play in the pool or you soak up the sun on a porch swing. These books all share engrossing, captivating stories, but they’re still light enough to be picked up and set down whenever a distraction arises.

Just Kids by Patti Smith: This engaging memoir is one of the best of the past few years. Smith’s life story, centered around her love affair with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, takes place in an exciting city (New York in the ’70s) and is a great look at the development of artistic talent. Smith’s tender authorial voice is a lovely surprise and has earned high praise – an uncommon feat in the memoir genre.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: for the fantasy fans, the perfect summer reading novel. Kvothe, the protagonist, is a brilliant boy wizard – but his journey and his wizard school are far darker and less predictable than the other Boy Wizard of recent cultural significance. And: Kvothe is much smarter and more devious than Harry could ever be, so though he isn’t as kind and endearing, he’s much more interesting. There’s plenty of action, but it’s got enough moral grey areas and gritty realism to keep it from being all fluff. If you loved Harry Potter, this is the logical next step.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: A paragon of the time-travel romance subgenre, this well-loved book is a treat. Claire, a WWII nurse, steps through a stone circle in Scotland from 1945 to 1743, where she is swept away by a dashing Scotsman. Her ensuing struggle is beautifully romantic and entirely thrilling, and has a lot more to offer than a simple love story. (If you’ve already read the Outlander series, try The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley for a similar experience)

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas: The first book of the Wallflower series, this romance tells the story of Annabelle, who is torn between the seductive charm of her admirer Simon and her need to make a respectable marriage. The friendship Annabelle shares with the other “Wallflowers” – a group of four female friends – makes this series a favorite of romance readers.

 

The Summer Reading Program is in full swing for kids, teens, and adults. Stop by any library location to sign up!

When Doug Mack picked up a 1963 edition of Europe on Five Dollars a Day, he stumbled on an inspired idea: to boldly go where millions have gone before, relying only on the advice of a travel guide that’s nearly a half century out-of-date. Add to the mix his mother’s much- documented grand tour through Europe in the late 1960s, and the result is Europe on Five Wrong Turns a Day, a funny and fascinating journey into a new (old) world, and a disarming look at the ways the classic tourist experience has changed – and has not – in the last generation.

After a whirlwind adventure spanning eight countries – and costing way more than five dollars a day – Mack’s endearing account is part time travel, part paean to Arthur Frommer’s much-loved guide, and a celebration of the modern traveler’s grand (and not-so-grand) tour. (provided by publisher)

What happens when an adventure travel expert – who’s never actually done anything adventurous – tries to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu? That’s exactly what Mark Adams does in Turn Right at Machu Picchu and lucky for us, we get to ride along vicariously.

July 24, 1911, was a day for the history books for on that rainy morning, the young Yale professor Hiram Bingham III climbed into the Andes Mountains of Peru and encountered an ancient city in the clouds: the now famous citadel of Machu Picchu. Nearly a century later, news reports have recast the hero explorer as a villain who smuggled out priceless artifacts and stole credit for finding one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites.

Mark Adams has spent his career editing adventure and travel magazines, so his plan to investigate the allegations against Bingham by retracing the explorer’s perilous path to Machu Picchu isn’t completely far- fetched, even if it does require him to sleep in a tent for the first time. With a crusty, antisocial Australian survivalist and several Quechua-speaking, coca-chewing mule tenders as his guides, Adams takes readers through some of the most gorgeous and historic landscapes in Peru, from the ancient Inca capital of Cusco to the enigmatic ruins of Vitcos and Vilcabamba. Along the way he finds a still-undiscovered country populated with brilliant and eccentric characters, as well as an answer to the question that has nagged scientists since Hiram Bingham’s time: Just what was Machu Picchu? (description from the publisher)