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In the Stacks: New fiction at the public library includes tale of a mountaineer

Posted: Friday, May 26, 2006

Here's a sample of some of the new fiction for adult readers at the Juneau Public Libraries.

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"The Widow's War," by Sally Gunning. In 1700s Cape Cod, widows became the property of their nearest male relative, and so when Lyddie Berry's whaler husband drowns in the bay, she is taken in by her son-in-law, and her husband's property is prepared for sale. But Lyddie, buoyed by the rebellion fomenting throughout the land, mutinies. By law, she is entitled to a third of her husband's property, and while that usually means a third of the proceeds of the sale, she decides she wants a portion of the house instead. Flaunting convention at every turn, she returns to her home and ekes out a living caring for the couple next door. An engrossing story and a fine example of historical fiction.

"Of Rice and Men," by Richard Galli. Here's a side of the Vietnam war that's seldom written about: the civil affairs unit, where death isn't as close as the rice paddies, pigs and peanut farms. Guy Lopaca, the unit's interpreter and the book's unifying presence, is helping rebuild the Vietnamese economy by inoculating pigs and spraying plants with pesticides. He's woefully unprepared for any of it, but gradually manages to learn to avoid cultural faux pas, love rice plants, and even speak a little Vietnamese. Heartfelt wonder vies with comedy and tragedy in this amazing book written by a veteran.

"One Tribe," by M. Evalina Galang. Isabel Manalo is a drama teacher who's surrounded by teens on the edge of gangs. Recruited by the Filipino community to teach about cultural history, which parents believe will help keep their children tied to tradition, she's torn between giving her students what their parents want for them and giving them what they need to navigate a world their parents don't truly understand.

"The Dramatist," by Ken Bruen. For the first time in years, Jack Taylor is clean and sober and no longer hanging out in seedy Irish pubs. Not by choice - his dealer's in jail, and just as Jack is beginning to enjoy the novelty of clear thought, his dealer asks him for a favor. It sounds easy enough - just find out what he can about the death of the dealer's sister, but Jack's got a bad feeling about it. Sure enough, things turn lethal quickly when Jack starts his investigation.

"Gentlemen & Players," by Joanne Harris. Masquerading as just another teacher, Snyde returns to the boarding school he was drummed out of as a student, determined to bring the august St. Oswald's to its knees. Snyde has an excellent understanding of human nature and the disruptions are small at first, but quickly escalate until faculty and students alike are at each others' throats. Standing in his way is the classics teacher, Roy Straitley, whose love for the school at which he has taught for 30 years and his experience with humans in distress make him a formidable opponent.

"The Ice Soldier," by Paul Watkins. Captain William Bromley, formerly one of the world's great mountaineers, lives his life quietly and without passion, teaching in a boys' school and trying to forget his role in the deaths of three of his climbing partners on a mission during World War II. Now, with the death of a founding member of the London Climber's Club, Bromley finds himself committed to climbing again in the same area his friends met their fate.

"Prodigy," by Dave Kalstein. In 2036, Stansbury School is full of geniuses. Alumni from the school have cured AIDS and performed other miracles of science that have brought the government to the school's doors, eager to hand out research grants. But the caliber of the student is no accident; in addition to the excellent academics, there is a drug regime that guarantees optimum health and intelligence at the expense of individuality. When the suspicious deaths of several alumni come to light, the administration is chary of police involvement. And so, they ask another alumnus to investigate. Part sci-fi, part thriller.



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