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Karen G.'s Picks

Book Cover for Certain Girls Weiner, Jennifer
Certain Girls

Fiction
Currently, there are 174 people in the Allegheny County library system waiting for Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner. I would certainly suggest getting on that list! This is a great book—the kind you never want to put down. A sequel to Weiner’s earlier Good in Bed, the story centers on Cannie Shapiro, a 42-year-old married writer and her now 12-year-old daughter Joy. While planning Joy’s bat mitzvah, Cannie tackles some common mother-daughter squabbles over the dress and the after-party. With Joy’s perspective in alternating chapters, though, the story takes on a more complex tone dealing with family secrets. Finally, a heartbreaking turn of events turns Certain Girls into an uplifting tale of motherhood, love, and growing up.
Recommended August 2008

 
Book Cover for At Bertram’s Hotel Christie, Agatha
At Bertram’s Hotel

Mystery
In the past few years, many of the Agatha Christie classics have been rebound in sturdy hardcover. This makes it a perfect time to revisit the best selling fiction writer of all time, whose mystery novels have sold over two billion copies. One of the best selections is At Bertram’s Hotel, featuring Miss Jane Marple. While vacationing at a classic hotel, she notices that the staff is perhaps a little too perfect and accommodating. When a man is murdered, Miss Marple, utilizing her acute listening skills and ability to disappear in the background, helps the police uncover the truth. I read this book for the first time many years ago, but still thoroughly enjoyed it the second time through.
Recommended May 2008

 
Book Cover for Conservatize Me Moe, John
Conservatize Me : How I Tried to Become a Righty with the Help of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith & Beef Jerky

Nonfiction
If your political leanings are to the left, and you enjoy a good laugh, give Conservatize Me : How I Tried to Become a Righty with the Help of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith & Beef Jerky a try. The author, an NPR contributor from Seattle, develops a plan to spend thirty days immersing himself in the conservative culture. He adds some Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood to his iPod and boycotts NPR. He forgoes The New York Times and instead gets all of his information from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. He dons a new wardrobe which includes NASCAR gear and a very expensive suit. On a more serious note, he travels around the country meeting a variety of people whom he hopes will give him the conservative perspective. One memorable visit is with the mayor of Rexberg, Idaho, the legendary city that had the highest percentage of votes for George W. Bush in 2004 (92%). Moe tours the Reagan and Nixon visitor centers and attends an evangelical Christian church service. While the conclusions of the book are somewhat weak, his experiences are completely entertaining.
Recommended January 2008
Book Cover for Getting Rid of Matthew Fallon, Jane
Getting Rid of Matthew

Fiction
Getting Rid of Matthew has all the ingredients for a perfect romantic comedy film. Helen is tired of the limited time she has with her older married lover and demands that he make a choice between his wife and her. When he surprisingly chooses her, Helen soon comes to realize that a terrible mistake was made and tries to "get rid of Matthew." After turning herself into a very unattractive roommate doesn't motivate Matthew to leave, she resorts to more outlandish and comical attempts. Helen invents a second identity as Eleanor and then befriends Matthew's wife for the purpose of bringing the married couple back together. And of course she meets a wonderful guy while under her Eleanor guise, which throws even more complications into her plan. A great ending tops off this funny and touching novel.
Recommended January 2008
Book Cover for Listerdale Mystery Christie, Agatha
Listerdale Mystery and Eleven Other Stories

Mystery Audio Book
Listerdale Mystery and Eleven Other Stories, read by Hugh Fraser of the PBS series "Agatha Christie's Poirot", includes 12 unabridged stories that are each about a half hour long: perfect for the daily commute. Fraser, who has read numerous other Christie novels, has a relaxing voice and makes the stories easy to understand and enjoy. One highlight of the collection is, "Jane in Search of a Job". In the story, a young English woman applies for a job and gets mixed up in international intrigue. "Philomel Cottage" is another interesting tale, in which a new wife discovers some suspicious secrets about her husband and questions if he can be trusted. In "Listerdale Mystery," a widow wonders why she is able to rent a charming cottage at such a low price. A downfall of Fraser's reading is his tendency to use the same voice for all of the non-English characters. This does not detract from the quality of the short stories which are well worth the listen.
Recommended by Karen G., November 2007
Book Cover for The Remorseful Day Dexter, Colin
The Remorseful Day

Mysteries
This is the final book of 13 in the Inspector Morse collection. Newcomers to the series should definitely begin with the first one, Last Bus to Woodstock, and continue reading through the series in order. While the criminal investigations are unique in each book, the characters of Inspector Morse and his sidekick Sergeant Lewis are wonderfully developed as the series progresses. The Remorseful Day showcases the unsolved murder case of Yvonne Harrison, which inexplicably leads to a more complex crime after the case is assigned to the brilliant but unwilling Morse. While the mystery has many surprising twists and is quite entertaining by itself, the book soon becomes even more of a gem. The reader is given a closer glimpse into the life of the lover of opera music, difficult crossword puzzles, and fine ale - Morse himself. I would highly recommend this to mystery fans.
Recommended by Karen G., May 2007

 
Book Cover for Blind Dates Can Be Murder Clark, Mindy Starns
Blind Dates Can Be Murder

Mysteries
This combination of chick lit, Christian fiction, and mystery makes for a story that is difficult to put down. The novel centers on Jo Tulip, a delightful 25-year-old who writes a newspaper column about housekeeping that is quite reminiscent of "Hints from Heloise." While researching a dating service for her employer, she stumbles into a kidnapping plot that puts her life into danger. Jo must cope with the aftermath of the crime while grappling with her feelings for her best friend, Danny. There is also an interesting supporting character named Lettie, who struggles between her life of crime and her blossoming friendship with Jo and her religious friends. This is volume two in the "Smart Chick Mystery" series; I will definitely be reading the others.
Recommended by Karen G., April 2007

 
Book Cover for Enchantment Spoto, Donald
Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn

Nonfiction
Audrey Hepburn was born into a wealthy family in Belgium in 1929. Her father left the family when she was six, and because of the current political climate in Europe, her mother decided to seek refuge for the family in the Netherlands with her parents. However, Hepburn's sheltered life of school and ballet lessons changed quickly when the Netherlands came under Nazi control in 1940. For the next five years, her family endured great anxiety about future military attacks, strict food and heat rations, and daily fears about their Jewish neighbors. After the war ended, Hepburn continued with her ballet lessons and began acting in small plays throughout Europe. She attracted some attention in America and was soon on Broadway playing the lead in Gigi. At the age of 22, she won the coveted role of a princess in Roman Holiday, which earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress. She then went on to star in such classics as Sabrina (in which she was paid a paltry $3,000, compared to co-star Humphrey Bogart's $200,000), Funny Face, The Nun's Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and My Fair Lady. She married twice, had two sons, and spent a great deal of her later years in Europe, only occasionally coming to America to continue her film career. Towards the very end of her life, she devoted countless hours to the UNICEF organization acting as their spokesperson and logging thousands of miles to visit children in Africa and South America. Donald Spoto, who has written many biographies including ones on Ingrid Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock and Princess Diana, does a wonderful job of portraying Hepburn's professional accomplishments while also giving the reader the chance to know the person behind the famous face. This is a highly readable biography of a fascinating woman.
Recommended by Karen G., February 2007

 
Book Cover Jill Watts
Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood

Biography
Hattie McDaniel gained worldwide recognition in 1939 when she became the first African American to win an Academy Award for her role as Mammy in Gone With The Wind. Her success however, was a two-edged sword. The Black community expected her to use her newfound notoriety to expand opportunities for African Americans, while the studio heads continued to offer her acting roles portraying maids and cooks. She made some enemies by accepting the movie offers and was famously quoted as saying, "I'd rather play a maid than be one". An entertaining and informative look at the Hollywood system.
Recommended by Karen G., January 2006

 
Book Cover Eyman, Scott
Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer

Biography
The MGM studio in the 1930's and 1940's was the largest and most prestigious in Hollywood. Most of the major stars of the time including Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Jeannette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy, Greta Garbo, Esther Williams, and Myrna Loy were contracted to MGM. At the head of the company from 1924-1951 was Louis B. Mayer.
Much has been written about Mayer's tyrannical ways. While not glossing over his negative attributes, this biography also shows his loyalty to relatives and long term employees, almost perfect business sense, and great love of movies. His personal life is explored here beginning with his humble upbringing in Canada and continuing through his two marriages and many affairs. Mayer's relationship with his daughters is especially emphasized.
Recommended by Karen G., August 2005