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Community of Readers Reviews: Summer 2007

July 2007 Reviews

1. Book: Camping and Tramping with Roosevelt by John Burroughs
Call Number: E757.B97 1907 - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

In the Spring of 1903, naturalist and essayist John Burroughs accompanied President Roosevelt on a trip to Yellowstone National Park and recorded his observations of and interactions with Roosevelt in this interesting book. The first part of the book describes their adventures within the Yellowstone, and the second part looks more generally at Roosevelt's keen interest and abilities in natural history, emphasizing his appreciation for birds. The stories Burroughs weaves are insightful and often humorous. Would we ever see a modern day president chasing a herd of elk up a mountainside just to get a better view or bursting with enthusiasm at the sight of a pigmy owl on the banks of Hellroaring Creek?!

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Andrew Tessandori, Cataloging Assistant, Leatherby Libraries

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2. Book: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

If you enjoyed The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini's new book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, is a must for your summer reading. This time the author tells his story of modern day Afghanistan through the eyes of the women who suffered through it, some of whom survived and some who did not. This book touched my heart.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Cathy Elliott, Business & Finance Technician, Law Library

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3. Book: The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

In this novel we meet Athena, a woman on a spiritual quest who is mislabeled a witch, through the numerous voices of people who knew her. The narrative structure of the various characters intertwining to tell a story is clever, but the writing is often over simplistic or fractured. This is the third book I have read by Coelho, a unique writer of the mystical realm whose work I admire. Unfortunately, this book is far inferior to his earlier novels The Alchemist and By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Reviewer: Stacy Russo, Instruction Librarian, Leatherby Libraries

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4. Book: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Call Number: PS3555.U4 M53 2002 - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

In 2003 Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer in Fiction for Middlesex, the story of Calliope/Cal a hermaphrodite, who was raised as a girl but realizes at puberty that he is a male. This novel traces a Greek family from their start in Asia Minor to their settling in America. It covers 80 years, beginning in the early 1920s, through the race riots of the 60s, and ending at the turn of the century.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Cathy Elliott, Business & Finance Technician, Law Library

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5. Book: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Call Number: PR6063.I785 C58 2004 - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

This novel is so loaded with trickery, foreshadowings and device that Mitchell pokes fun at himself over its gimmicks on more than one occasion and freely invites the skeptical reader, like history, to be the judge. This is a fun book full of genre-hopping, cliffhanging play that keeps a keen focus on some real ideas and issues like race, colonialism, class and corporatization. A great read.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Chris Rynd, Development Writer, University Advancement

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6. Book: The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

The story line is set in England. The reader is introduced to many new English (British) words & phrases. It's fun! The main character Samantha Sweeting worked for 7 years for a very prestigious London law firm but was unknowingly framed by one of her co-workers and walked away from her job because of this. The book follows the ups and downs of Samantha's adventures as a housekeeper and a regular everyday person in a small English town after walking away from her lawyer position. It is written in a very light funny manner and is very enjoyable to read. It's a hard book to put down!

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Marilyn Potts, CUC Administrative Assistant

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7. Book: Lessons of a Lakota by Billy Mills
Call Number: BJ1481 .M64 2005 - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

I was skeptical when I first picked up this book, but in the end I am actually glad that I read it. It is primarily a self-help book focusing on happiness, positive thinking, and self-awareness through an allegorical story with a few Lakota words and ideas interspersed. What I thought to be some fundamental Lakota ideas were not covered until the last parts of the book and even then only briefly. If one is interested in learning more traditional Lakota lessons, I would recommend checking out books by such authors as Joseph Epes Brown, Eagle Man, Black Elk, Lame Deer (John Fire), or Crow Dog.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Reviewer: Andrew Tessandori, Cataloging Assistant, Leatherby Libraries

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8. Book: I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

This is an outrageously funny book covering many subjects briefly in individual chapters. Some topics covered are why women carry a purse and what is contained in them to the vision problems that plague us all as we advance in age. This was a Saturday afternoon read (quick read) for me that had me laughing out load many times and reflecting on various areas of my own life. I highly recommend this book.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Marilyn Potts, CUC Administrative Assistant

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9. Book: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Call Number: PR9199.3.A8 H3 1987 - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

Atwood explores a dystopia of a future wherein democracy is uprooted by theocracy and gender roles are enforced by law. The main character, Offred, tells her story in a diary-like narrative and often interrupts herself to make a personal aside, suspicious observation or plea for help. This novel is unsettlingly realistic and will engage almost any reader with its futuristic yet familiar setting.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Jessica Cioffi, Holocaust Education Coordinator, Rodgers Center

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10. Book: Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Call Number: PR6013.O35 L6 1954b - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

This is the first in my list of "Books I Should Have Read in High School." I was pleased with how quick it was to read (I had imagined impossible metaphor and sledge-hammer symbolism); it was a good story as well as being good literature. The frightening fable of young boys shipwrecked on a safe(ish) yet adult-less island is timeless.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Nancy Stenerson Gonzales, Cataloger, Leatherby Libraries

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11. Book: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Call Number: PR6013.O35 L6 1954b - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

This book is the first installment of Maya Angelou's autobiography, spanning her life from age 5 to about age 17. With the help of her brother, and two strong women (her mother and her grandmother), Angelou journeys through twelve years full of fears and disappointments. She exquisitely writes of the obstacles, both constructed in her own mind as well as in the social climate, that pushed her toward knowledge, experience and, ultimately, independence.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Jessica Cioffi, Holocaust Education Coordinator, Rodgers Center

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12. Book: Beach Road by James Patterson
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

This is a murder mystery that includes a great twist at the very end. The story moves along quickly with characters that keep the story suspenseful and very interesting. This has been my favorite Patterson book so far.

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Linda Greeley, Admin, CUC Training and Development

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13. Book: Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan
Call Number: PS3570.A48 S23 2005 - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

This novel is not an exploration of mother/daughter relationships nor does it comment on the Chinese-American experience. In short, this isn't your typical Amy Tan novel. Instead it is about a group of friends who set out for Burma/Mayanmar on a tour that was doomed before it even began and, even more, it's about the nature of good intentions. Through her twelve characters, thirteen if you include the narrator, Tan uncovers the fate of the fish who were saved by well-meaning fisherman.

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Jessica Cioffi, Holocaust Education Coordinator, Rodgers Center

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14. Book: For One More Day by Mitch Albon
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

I like thought-provoking stories, so I really liked this book, even though it has a dream-like angle to it. The book is about a boy/man who chased a baseball dream and sided with his father, because he thought he could gain his father’s love by doing so. At the same time, he now realizes he had thrown his mother under the bus on several occasions, but she actually loved him completely and without fail - like a mother can. The book begins with the guy attempting suicide and his mother shows up (she's actually dead) to walk with him through their old neighborhood and to educate him. It is during this time that he learns who his mother really was AND who his father really was. I cried almost every time I read the chapters.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Linda Greeley, Admin, CUC Training and Development

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15. Book: The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

Evil exists and the members of The Mephisto Club want to do something about it. With the same cast of characters found in her other bestsellers, Tess Gerritsen has written another thriller. As with her other books, parts of this one are rather gruesome and the faint of heart might want to pass.

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Cathy Elliott, Business & Finance Technician, Law Library

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16. Book: The Playboy Interviews: Larger Than Life by Stephen Randall
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

Playboy was able to get interviews no other publication was able to get, because the subjects were comfortable and confident they would get a fair shake. I enjoyed finding out what some old famous people were like. Frank Sinatra was arrogant and not so nice. Bob Hope was a really nice guy. The Beatles were scared kids; John Lennon ran the show way back from the start. In an early Bob Dylan interview, he was unable to put a clear thought together, but he apparently loved the sound of his own voice.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Reviewer: Linda Greeley, Admin, CUC Training and Development

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17. Book: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Call Number: PS3552.U827 P37 1993 - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

I really liked Blood Child and Kindred by this author, so I wanted to like this SF story about a girl who comes of age in a sort of post-apocalypse California where global warming and economic degeneration have resulted in social chaos. Her vision, while well-conceived, fell flat for me in the end though -- tripped up by too few interesting twists and a religion that promises much but doesn't deliver. Maybe the sequel, Parable of the Talents, has all the answers. Will I read it? Maybe not...

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Reviewer: Chris Rynd, Development Writer, University Advancement

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18. Book: Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

This may not be the best of the Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books (numbers 11 and I think either 7 or 8 were my favorites), but you can't help but root for a bounty hunter armed with big hair and lots of mascara, accompanied by a former "ho," and lusted after by two unbelievably hot men (I'm partial to Ranger). Stephanie rarely does anything right as she tries to round up the bad guys, but things always work out in the end. Don't look for metaphors or messages in this book; just lie back and enjoy the ride.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Nancy Stenerson Gonzales, Cataloger, Leatherby Libraries

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19. Book: Plum Lovin by Janet Evanovich
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

This book is an "entertainment" novel - it's a book that exists merely to distract the reader and it doesn't offer the reader anything to think about. It is a story, actually a vignette, that should not be used as an introduction to this author. Her characters come across as flat, since she assumes that the reader has read her "number" novels and is already familiar with her cast. I don't recommend this book to anyone who isn't already familiar with her works.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Reviewer: Jessica Cioffi, Holocaust Education Coordinator, Rodgers Center

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20. Book: Third Girl by Agatha Christie
Call Number: PR6005.H66 .T4 1987 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

In these days of high rents, young (and old) people share apartments. This story is about the "third girl," the one who wasn't asked to share with a friend, but who was needed to reduce everyone's share of the rent. The question is, who is REALLY the third girl? Is it the one who is slightly "out there," the one who is the competent businesswoman, or the beautiful artist's model?

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Isa Lang, Head of Information Services, Law Library

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21. Book: Invisible Prey by John Sanford
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

This story of multiple, seemingly unrelated murders is fast-paced and catchy. What I really liked about the book, besides the good plot, was that the dialogue sounded very real; some profanity, sex and crude jokes by the characters. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys murder mysteries.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Linda Greeley, Admin, CUC Training and Development

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22. Book: Cowboy Logic by Kinky Friedman
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

This is a book of quips, quotes and wisdom from a Jewish cowboy who now lives in Texas. Some of my favorites: "Courtesy is owed. Respect is earned. Love is given."

"A happy childhood is the worst possible preparation for life." "My father once said, A man can be judged by the size of his enemies." "Money may buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail."

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Reviewer: Linda Greeley, Admin, CUC Training and Development

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23. Book: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Call Number: PS3568.A854 .W447 2001 - 3rd FL Education Muth Library

This is another of the "Books I Should Have Read in High School." I grew a little tired of the folksiness of it all, and I wanted to know what became of Billy and how he ended up in Idaho. The story moves along well enough and will certainly make many readers cry, so if you're looking for something that reads quickly and leaves you feeling like your dog just died, this is the book for you.

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Nancy Stenerson Gonzales, Cataloger, Leatherby Libraries

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24. Book: A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Call Number: PS3561.N68 S4 1975 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

So, the third Book I Should Have Read... is making me wonder: just how violent are boys? Maybe it's just the books I've chosen so far, but I seem to be getting the message that boys are only barely civilizable. I found Knowles's syntax occasionally confounding, but the story kept me interested. The issues of war and honor and loyalty and integrity are ever timely.

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Nancy Stenerson Gonzales, Cataloger, Leatherby Libraries

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25. Book: Murder with Mirrors by Agatha Christie
Call Number: PR6005.H66 M88 1985 - 2nd Floor Humanities Library

"All the world's a stage" comes to life (and death) in this mystery about illusion and reality. It takes a director who loses his life to figure out how a murder was staged to redirect the attention of the listening "audience." A brilliant puzzle where everyone has motive and no one has means.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Isa Lang, Head of Information Services, Law Library

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26. Book: Hey Rube by Hunter S. Thompson
Call Number: GV583 .T56 2004 - 2nd Floor Social Science Library

This is a book that contains Dr. Thompson's submitted articles to ESPN.com's Page 2 from late 2000 to 2003. Being that his journalism career started at the Sports desk (while in the USAF), these articles show Thompson's true colors. Whether it was the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, March Madness, running the Hawaiian Marathon (with buddy Sean Penn), or Nude Bowling, Thompson was a sports addict. Hunter fans should read this book; others should ease their way into his style before tackling this book.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended
Reviewer: Zach Vickery, Circulation Assistant, Leatherby Libraries

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27. Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Call Number: PQ9698.13.O3546 A4513 1998 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

Dana Goodyear's skeptical profile ("The Magus," The New Yorker, May 7, 2007, p. 38) of Coelho as writer/sage combined with Stacy Russo's tepid review of The Witch of Portobello made me finally pick up this classic to see what all the fuss is about. While I'm far from credulous -- I liked very much the idea that in attending to nature we can understand the language of "the soul of the world." -- A finely wrought fable that lives up to expectations.

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Chris Rynd, Development Writer, University Advancement

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28. Book: Echo Park by Michael Connelly
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

This Harry Bosch novel by L.A. crime beat journalist-turned-novelist Michael Connelly is one of his best. An exciting combination of bravado and psychological unrest is unleashed by L.A. homicide detective Bosch. Bosch juggles the urgent needs of a serial killer case gone bad with shadows from a past unsolved murder, and a romance with an FBI agent he’s enlisted to help! Complications and red herrings violently abound as Bosch pits himself against a ruthless killer.

Rating: Highly Recommended (Graphic Content)
Reviewer: Julie Artman, Public Services Librarian, Leatherby Libraries

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29. Book: On Call in Hell by Richard Jadick
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

ON CALL IN HELL: A DOCTOR’S IRAQ WAR STORY is a remarkable narrative by Richard Jadick, an experienced Marine Officer who completed osteopathic medical school on a Navy scholarship. While waiting for a urology residency spot to open up and the increasing need for surgeons in the Military, destiny would have it that Jadick would be deployed to Iraq as a volunteer in the summer of 2004, accompanying the first battalion, eighth Marine regiment (1/8). ON CALL IN HELL offers a graphic glimpse into wartime triage. Devastating injuries are described in detail as well as the makeshift ambulances used by the medics to follow their unit through the streets. The battalion aid station had to be moved constantly as the battle approached. The motto for the medical team to keep pressing on was through the gates of hell for a wounded Marine. This story inspires you to appreciate what these brave American heroes encountered day after day in the front lines in order to do their jobs.

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Claudia Alfaro, UC Quality Control Coordinator

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30. Book: The Mistress’s Daughter by A. M. Homes
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

Writer A.M. Holmes recounts in vivid detail her experiences and feelings as an adoptive child when she tries to discover her heritage. Her accounts of dealing with the people who chose to give her up for adoption and then make contact with her after she was an adult are gut wrenching. It took courage not only to live through it but also to write about it so others could understand and possibly benefit.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Cathy Elliott, Business & Finance Technician, Law Library

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31. Book: The Sacred Depths of Nature by Ursula Goodenough
Call Number: QH331 .G624 2000 - 3rd Floor Science & Technology Library

Goodenough, a biologist, presents her theory of “religious naturalism” in this relatively slim, but information-packed, volume. She comments in the introductory pages that the format resembles a daily devotional. Each chapter begins with a discussion of biology and ends with a “reflection” on the topic. Goodenough’s writing will appeal to those with or without a science background. This book is interesting, unique, and thought-provoking.

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Stacy Russo, Instruction Librarian, Leatherby Libraries

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32. Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

The ending won't appear in this review for those of you who have not yet read the final installment of the Harry Potter series. I made short work of devouring this book; a task made quite easy due to how well Rowling crafted it. The characters are true to form and the loose ends tie up gorgeously. The hardest part, other than saying goodbye to some dear fictional-friends, is not talking about it to those who haven't finished! (Is there a rating above "highly recommended?!)

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Jessica Cioffi, Holocaust Education Coordinator, Rodgers Center

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33. Book: On Gold Mountain by Lisa See
Call Number: F870.C5 S44 1995 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

Having never read a Lisa See novel, I had no idea what to expect from this book. I came to find out later that this book, technically a memoir, doesn't fall into the realm of See's usual writings. She beautifully intertwines her family's history, traced through her great-grandfather, with the history of California. She shares, through the experiences of the Chinese-Americans in her own family, the issues that arise when people don't fit in with Chinese culture or American culture and must learn to find a place in-between.

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Jessica Cioffi, Holocaust Education Coordinator, Rodgers Center

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34. Book: Murder in Retrospect by Agatha Christie
Call Number: PR6005.H66 M845 1985 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

How do you reconstruct and "re-solve" a crime that was committed 16 years ago without DNA evidence? Leave it to Hercule Poirot, Christie's noted detective. Through interviews and personality studies of the victim and his family, he takes apart the jigsaw puzzle and puts it back together correctly. An excellent psychological study.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Isa Lang, Head of Information Services, Law Library

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35. Book: Caroline’s Journal by Katherine Stone
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

Carolyn and Jeffrey Wynn, a Seattle couple, have finally gotten pregnant. This story is a journal of that pregnancy. It is a beautiful story of hope and courage and her love for Jeffrey and their baby. I strongly recommend this book.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Marilyn Potts, CUC Administrative Assistant

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36. Book: Fool Me Once by Fern Michaels
Call Number: McNaughton Collection (1st Floor)

The main character Olivia Lowell has been led by her father to believe that her natural mother died in child birth, which is not really the truth. One day a lawyer contacts Olivia to tell her that her natural mother has died and left a sizable sum of money to her with one stipulation and a confession about how the money was obtained. This book was cute and held my interest. And, of course, there was a love interest involved which added more interest to "Fool Me Once," which was a fun book to read.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Marilyn Potts, CUC Administrative Assistant

37. Book: Jean Rhys: The Complete Novels by Jean Rhys
Call Number: PR6035.H96 A15 1985 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

Apparently semi-autobiographical, these novels depict the desperate straits of women -- situated in England in the late 1920's and 1930's -- who were dependant on fickle and oft uncaring men for money. Rhys' self-portraits are not artists. The artist is revealed on the page in the form of finely-tuned sentences that render streams of consciousness as pure as thought itself. I recommend Wide Sargasso Sea, a small, easy read that surprises with its breadth and complexity.

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Chris Rynd, Development Writer, University Advancement

38. Book: Two Quiet Lives by David Cecil
Call Number: DA429.T2 C4 1948a    

This pleasant book is made up of two essays on the lives of Dorothy Osborne (she of the letters to William Temple) and Thomas Gray (he of the Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard). Cecil does a nice job of keeping us interested in his subjects, and though I find Dorothy a more sympathetic character than Gray, both come off as [usually entertainingly] touchy and fussy. Even so, after reading this book I thought of them as people one might like someday to meet (though they may or may not find one’s company bearable).

Rating: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Nancy Stenerson Gonzales, Cataloger, Leatherby Libraries

39. Book: The Black Stranger and Other American Tales by Robert E. Howard
Call Number: PS3515.O842 A6 2005 – 2nd Floor Humanities Library

If you look for subtle and nuanced prose style and characterization -- this is not the book for you! However, if you enjoy rousing, action-pack, vital and visceral *story-telling*, this is a very fine book indeed. Rousing tales of adventure and the supernatural, all set, however, in the New World, by the creator who brought us Conan the Barbarian, Kull, and Solomon Kane. Not great literature, perhaps, but fantastic entertainment.

Rating: Recommended
Reviewer: Lorin Geitner, Lawyer/Librarian, Law Library


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