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Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick

The jacket notes of Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick promise readers that the novel they have picked up will "retrace the story of Henry James's The Ambassadors --- the work he considered his best --- but as a photographic negative, in which the plot is the same but the meaning is reversed."  A tip of the hat to James promises Americans in Europe, and sure enough Ozick's tale involves one Bea Nightingale and her efforts to track and retrieve a nephew gone astray in post-World War II Paris.

Bea's journey [beginning in the summer of 1952]  takes her inside the lives of her brother's family, forces her to retrace the path of her own life, and expands her world view as she comes into intimate contact with Europe's "ghosts," the waves of refugees displaced, wounded who have "washed up in Paris," the war "still in them."

The Knitter's Year: 52 Make-in-a-Week Projects - Quick Gifts and Seasonal Knits by Debbie Bliss

For anyone whose New Year's resolution is to knit more The Knitter's Year: 52 Make-in-a-Week Projects - Quick Gifts and Seasonal Knits by Debbie Bliss offers great inspiration by providing patterns for 52 quick (depending on your skill level) knitting projects.

Bliss offers a project per week, grouped by season. The projects she's chosen are a nice mix of home decor and functional items (pillow cases, chair covers and door stops), clothing (baby cardigan, hat and sandals), accessories (scarves, hats, gloves and bags), and whimsical items (bunny egg cozies, tech gadget covers, Christmas tree decorations and pompom garland). Of course, all projects call for Debbie Bliss yarns, but you could easily substitue a yarn of your choice. However, Bliss's yarns are beautiful and luxurious, so it might be worth a little bit of a splurge to use her line. Since the projects are small you wouldn't have to make a huge investment.

Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire, by Ruth Downie

Gaius Petrius Ruso has just arrived for duty in the Britain, a far backwater of the Roman Empire. He’s been assigned to the Valeria Victrix Legion as Medicus, serving the legion and the natives living in the town surrounding the barracks. When the only other doctor on staff is poisoned by a plate of oysters at the local bar/bordello, Ruso works on alone. Tramping the town in an exhausted stupor, he encounters an odious merchant beating an unconscious slave girl—who clearly has a badly broken arm.

Ruso wants to forget he ever saw the girl. He doesn’t have the money to buy her. He has no use for her. But it’s clear that if she stays as she is, she’ll die. So Ruso does buy her, with the plan to heal her and put her to work.  But pretty and clever Tilla has other plans. As a point of honor, she wants to die, and there’s very little Ruso can do about it as she has no plans to tell him.

Chase away winter blues with books about Key West

As a tremendous beach fan I find myself growing sad as the winter approaches. One place that I have always wanted to go, but have unfortunately never been is Key West, located at the southern most point of the Keys in Florida and known for its beautiful blue waters and white beaches, flowers, tamarind trees, guava trees, and coconut palms.

Even though he was an international jetsetter, Ernest Hemingway fell in love with Key West and called it his home for ten years. While he was there, he wrote A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Death in the Afternoon, and To Have and Have Not. Hemingway said that it was like being in a different country while still being in the United States. As he wrote, he had his beloved 6-toed or polydactyl cats around him. His home there has been preserved as a historical attraction which still cares for the cats.
 

Bone by Jeff Smith

Banished from their small village, three small, bald cousins aimlessly wander in the desert. The one with a star on his shirt is greedy and sneaky. The tallest one is jolly but dim-witted. The quietest one is a hero in the making, though he doesn’t know that yet. They quickly become separated and when they reunite they are wrapped up in the beginnings of a brutal war involving humans, dragons, and a frightening race of giant rat-creatures…stupid stupid rat creatures.

Jeff Smith’s graphic novel series Bone manages to combine the look and humor of Disney cartoons while tackling the sort of epic adventure that one might find in J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis.

Fone Bone, our hero, and his cousins owe their looks to early Disney characters, particularly the work of Carl Barks, who created Scrooge McDuck comics and revolutionized the drawing style of Donald Duck for the company. Recognizing Barks’ influence baffled me at first. Donald was not someone’s subject to be reformed and retooled. Similar to Athena, he sprung forth from Walt Disney’s head, already wearing his sailor suit…without the pants. Right?
 
Apparently not. Just like those famous ducks, the Bone cousins have large heads, round bellies, low centers of gravity, and the same aversion to pants. All of this might make it hard for a reader to take their epic quest seriously, but Smith valiantly strikes at the importance of their mission.

If you like The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading  recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you.  Available for adults, teens, and kids.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory is about: "Two sisters competing for the greatest prize: the love of a king. When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family's ambitious plots as the king's interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king, and take her fate into her own hands." (Book Summary).

If you like The Other Boleyn Girl and historical fiction about royalty that explores the details of court life, you may enjoy these selections:

The Creation of Eve
by Lynn Cullen
Renaissance portraitist Sofonisba Anguissola joins the Spanish court of Felipe II after a scandal in her native Italy and becomes embroiled in a love triangle involving the royal couple and the king's illegitimate half-brother, Don Juan. (catalog summary)


 

Crowner Royal
by Bernard Knight
It is April 1196. At the command of King Richard and his Chief Justiciar Hubert Walter, county coroner Sir John de Wolfe -- along with his officer Gwyn of Polruan and clerk Thomas de Peyne -- has left Exeter for London where he is to become the first Coroner of the Verge. Thrust into the intrigues of the closed world of the Royal Court, John quickly finds himself embroiled in a case of theft, blackmail, espionage, and murder. (catalog summary)
 

Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann

In Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann, Pinkalicious is a little girl who is obsessed with pink and cupcakes. On a rainy day, she makes pink cupcakes with her mom. And she can’t stop eating them! She eats so many, in fact, that she turns a bright shade of pink. Pinkalicious is delighted. How perfect that from the top of her head all the way down to the tip of her toes she is the prettiest bubblegum shade of pink!

Even after a bath, Pinkalicious’s dad cannot make the pink go away. Her parents take her to the doctor who prescribes a strict diet of green vegetables and no more pink. No more pink cupcakes?! No more cotton candy?! Not even watermelon?!

Last Night at the Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

The Chateau Marmont is an opulent hotel in Hollywood where the rich and famous go to misbehave. In Last Night at the Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger, Brooke is dressing for the Grammys with her newly famous husband, wearing her first Valentino gown, her own plain gold wedding band replaced by a diamond the size of a macaroon when she finds out her “Rock Star” husband was at the Chateau Marmont with another woman—there are pictures just published in the tabloids—and then her boss calls from the hospital where she works as a nutritionist and fires her for missing too much time for following her husband to his gigs. Her Cinderella moment turns into a nightmare.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

There’s no understating the dangers of life in Africa: malaria, spitting cobras, poisonous spiders, intestinal parasites and worms, landmines, terrorists, corrupt government officials, and its many wars.  In Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood Alexandra Fuller - nicknamed Bobo - chronicles her childhood in Rhodesia during the tulmultuous Rhodesian Civil War, which culminated in the end of white rule. It was not an easy, carefree childhood. Three of Bobo’s siblings died in infancy or early childhood, and Bobo herself had a few close scrapes with death. She learned at an early age to load guns and not to startle her parents during the night for fear that they may accidentally shoot her.

Bobo’s parents are the most profound characters in this memoir, especially her mother. Mum could drink all night, sitting “yoga-cross-legged,” and still be awake in the morning to greet the dawn with “stupefied wonder.” She can round up cattle all day like the toughest ranch hand, and yet she can also minister to the farm workers’ ailments with mercy. She could spend the day quietly reading books with Bobo on the bed and listening to radio programs, and the night singing at the “club” with a bottle in her hand. With the death of each child Mum goes into a steeper downward spiral.

Lockdown:Escape from Furnace

"Beneath heaven is hell.  Beneath hell is furnace."  That is the description by 14-year-old Alex of Furnace, a prison one mile below the surface of the earth.  When you are sentenced to Furnace you are sentenced for life.  This gripping tale is Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith.  In this story we meet Alex, who is arrested after he and a friend are caught during a burglary.  However, the police are not your typical law-enforcement officers, as they are clothed all in black.  Without any of the requisite procedures, during the arrest they shoot Alex's friend dead in front of him.  Alex is taken to court and found guilty of murder.  Despite his and his parents' pleas for an appeal he is sentenced to life in prison with no parole.  Not just any prison but Furnace, where there are no visitors and no chance of ever getting out.

Alex arrives to find a tough world where survival is a daily concern.  He quickly learns that friendships are not part of the Furnace world, and it is every man for himself.  Gangs abound, the food is disgusting,  and guard dogs tear the inmates apart.  Alex quickly learns from his street-smart roommate to keep a low profile and not to draw attention to himself.  This is especially the case when, during the night, evil guards manuever through the prison and randomly select the next victim.  The victims are taken away and return as killing machines.  Alex decides he wants out.  So he and his roommate devise a clever escape plan.  But it is very risky.