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Ape House by Sara Gruen: When a family of bonobo apes who know American Sign Language are kidnapped from a language laboratory, their mysterious appearance on a reality TV show propels scientist Isabel Duncan, together with reporter John Thigpen, on a personal mission to rescue them. An entertaining book that calls into question our assumptions about these animals who share 99.4% of our DNA.
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A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog's search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, this touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here? Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey's search for his new life's meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8 year old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog. But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey's journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders, will he ever find his purpose?
Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh out loud funny, this book is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog's many lives, but also a dog's eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man's best friend. This story teaches us that love never dies, that our true friends are always with us, and that every creature on earth is born with a purpose. (Catalog summary)
The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson
Deeply soulful and richly imaginative, this magical adventure tells the story of two baby elephants and the young man who accidentally finds himself their keeper. (Catalog summary)
Amy Henderson could not wait to leave Ruby Falls, New York, and start her life in This Must Be the Place, by Kate Racculia. She wants to go to Los Angeles and make monsters—her hero is Ray Harryhausen, talented maker of special effects with stop-action animation and creator of the Kraken in the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans. But like many a movie monster, Amy Henderson leaves disaster in her wake.
The seventy-year-old widower and retired librarian, Percy Darling, in Julia Glass’ The Widower’s Tale, has been entrenched in his old house for 30 years after the tragic death of his wife. He’s definitely set in his eccentric ways. But in order to help his daughter Clover find a job, he has allowed the local preschool, Elves and Fairies, to renovate his barn to use as their new venue if they hire Clover. The changes begin with a small purchase: Percy has to give up his daily skinny dipping in the pond on his property and wear a garish pink pineapple print swimsuit for his daily swim.
If you’re determined to avoid any books guaranteed to trigger tears, then forget The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I, however, am a sucker for an exceptional dog story and accustomed to the accompanying waterworks. From White Fang through Marley and Me to A Dog Year, the unconditional love, loyalty and goodness of (wo)man’s best friend keep me coming back for more.
In a reverse chronological sequence of events, Julia Alvarez takes her readers through the immigration experience of the four Garcia sisters: Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Leaving behind a life of privilege surrounded by their large extended family, the four girls move with their Papi and Mami to New York City, and begin the long, never-ending process of assimilating into American culture. The story is as much a coming of age tale as it is a feminist, Latino perspective on American culture, beautifully conveyed with a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary here and there.
Lurking in the shadows of the Dark Ages is the howling form of Grendel. He is the monster of midnight, the bone-gnasher, the ardent hunter of warriors who strews their bones and howls his fury to the world as he wreaks havoc on the safety of civilization. No hall fire burning brightly, no line of armed men can keep him back when he desires destruction. But as John Gardner tells of Grendel, this was not always so. For the bane of the Hrothgar’s hall has a soul much tormented by his desire for good and fellowship with the humans even as his demonic appearance frightens them into violent action. To them, he is a thing, and so he becomes what they believe him to be--an adversary whose fame has spanned the centuries.
Occasionally you’re lucky enough to find a book you just can’t put down. Its gripping plot grabs hold of you and, chapter by chapter, propels you along. Equally compelling is that rare title where the action isn’t paramount, but the key players are so real you find yourself reading into the wee hours. The Good Daughters, by Joyce Maynard, falls into the second category with its unforgettable characters.
Dateline: Hampstead, London, 1851
We are all familiar with Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. We also remember the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. Finally, I’d be willing to bet that many of you know the Bard’s famous play was set in Verona, Italy. However, here are a few facts that might surprise you. Shakespeare’s telling was the culmination of several previous versions by various other authors. The original lovers were Giuletta Tolomei and Romeo Marescotti. There was, indeed, bad blood between the families, and the tale was set in Siena, not Verona. In a new telling, Anne Fortier’s Juliet alternates between a 20th-century pairing of Guiletta and Romeo and their 15th-century alter egos.
Julie Jacobs’ father perishes in an unexplained fire. Two years later, her mother dies in a suspicious auto accident. Fearing harm to toddler Julie and her twin sister Janice, their Aunt Rose whisks the children from Italy to the United States. Together with her live-in assistant Umberto, she raises the girls but for years avoids discussing anything related to the twins’ parents and their untimely demise.
Do you ever wonder how you might react under extreme duress? Would you rise to the occasion and become an example to those struggling around you or would you withdraw and cower in fear? In One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, nine everyday men and women are put to that exact test as their lives change over the course of one disastrous event.
In advance of a planned trip to India, the above-mentioned people—most solo, but several in pairs—have all chosen this day to go to the consulate in California to obtain a travel visa. As with many bureaucratic departments, the wait is interminable. Graduate student Uma is preparing to visit her parents who have recently moved back to India. In her irritation with the long delay, she ignores the first slight rumble. The second quake, however, rips apart what was only seconds earlier a solid building.