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New fiction for adult readers awaits at the library

Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2009

"The Ingenious Edgar Jones," by Elizabeth Garner.

The night Edgar Jones is born, a meteor shower fills the sky. His father, a night watchman at Oxford University, is sure this means his son is destined for great things. His mother is more cautious: she wanted - no, expected - a girl, and her son feels alien to her. As he grows, Edgar's intense and odd personality thwarts both parents' expectations, and it becomes obvious that he is far better suited to discover the world by taking it apart than to learn about it through books. Against his father's will, he is apprenticed to a blacksmith. He learns skills that stand him in good stead when an Oxford professor with a passion for bone collecting discovers his quick wit and seemingly magical inventions. But in the end, a moment's ambition brings the whole family down in the eyes of Victorian Oxford, and the three are scattered in a fantastic fashion.

"The Penny Pinchers Club," by Sarah Strohmeyer.

When her husband returns from a business trip, Kat is stunned and hurt to find mint condoms in his pants pocket. Her lawyer advises her to start saving money to cushion the blow of a surely-imminent divorce, and to figure out how to do it, shopaholic Kat joins the local Penny Pinchers Club. First Kat dips her toe in by cutting out Starbucks, and then ditches shopping-as-sport, and finally takes the plunge into real penny pinching. Dumpster diving, anyone? With the encouragement of the club and fear of being divorced and homeless at her back, Kat pays off her credit cards and packs as much as possible into her savings account in this chick-lit-with-a-message.

"Water Ghosts," by Shawna Yang Ryan.

On a foggy day in 1928, three women in a small boat float through up to Locke's dock like ghosts. They seem solid enough, but Poppy, the psychic madam of the local brothel, is uneasy. Her dreams revealing the futures of the town's residents become troubled and seem connected with the three newcomers but Poppy cannot tell whether her dreams are true sight or fueled by jealousy, since one of the women is the Chinese wife of Richard Fong, Poppy's lover and the owner of the local gambling hall. Ryan shrouds the hidden lives of the community in the tule fog of the California delta in this lyrical romance.

"Homunculus," by Jerry Stubblefield.

What happens when you deny your innermost, primeval urges? For playwright Hector Owen, a lifetime of repression culminates in an afternoon of what he thinks is bad gas that resolves in the birth of a homunculus through his navel. The small man calls himself Robin and becomes Hector's greatest (perhaps only) friend, but quickly shows himself to be untrustworthy. Is Robin real? Or the psychotic episode that Hector's wife thinks he is? This is a quirky and somewhat grotesque look at one man's psychology.

"The Stranger," by Max Frei.

Likened to "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" and the Thursday Next novels, this Russian import introduces readers to an insomniac named Max, whose dawn dreams often contain a mysterious man named Sir Juffin. One morning, Sir Juffin plucks Max out of his dream and into another dimension, offers him a job that better suits his nocturnal existence, and proceeds to teach Max how to live in the world of Echo. Magic exists in Echo, and it turns out that Max is a natural magician, and that, together with other skills help propel Max into a high-ranking position in the Department of Absolute Order, solving mysteries and setting things straight. As with nearly every translated novel, there are some rough patches linguistically speaking, but overall, this dark comedy fuses mystery, philosophy, and fantasy into an appealing and fun original story.

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Film buffs: Come to the downtown library on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. to hear Warren Ethredge, film critic of the Warren Report, discuss his interviews and conversational series, and his newest documentary, "Humor Me."

All the public libraries will be closed Thursday, Nov. 26, for Thanksgiving. The Valley library will be open on Friday, Nov. 27, from 12-5 p.m. The downtown and Douglas libraries will reopen on Saturday, Nov. 28.

For information about upcoming programs, or to place a hold, visit www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.



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