Posts Tagged ‘Death Penalty’

Best ‘New to Us” Books in 2014: Ruth F’s Picks

December 19, 2014

I am a children’s librarian in Holly Springs. Next year, I will celebrate my 40th birthday and will most likely be fitted for my first pair of bifocals. Here are five books, some written by my contemporaries and others about middle age, that I recommend for those of you still able to read small print in dim lighting.

Life After DeathLife After Death by Damien Echols
Author Damien Echols was born just a few months before me and he would have graduated high school the same year I did — had he been born into the same world of middle class privilege that I was. Instead, he spent the first 18 years of his life in and economically depressed Arkansas hamlet. As teenagers, when I was fretting over my SAT scores, he was fretting over the verdict of his capital murder trial.  When I went off to college, he went off to Death Row. Then, after spending his first 18 years of adulthood in prison, Echols and two others incarcerated in connection with the same crime were released when DNA evidence was tested and deemed exculpatory. Shortly after, he landed a deal to publish a memoir based on the journals he kept in prison. I challenge any member of Generation X to read Echols’ story without noticing similar parallels between his life and ours.

Good in a CrisisGood in a Crisis by Margaret Overton
Sometimes, the best books are the ones you most love to hate. When life handed baby boomer Margaret Overton lemons in mid-life, she tried to make lemonade by writing a memoir. But it came out a little tart. I cringed at every supposedly funny story in this memoir about the author’s Internet dating escapades. And yet, I compulsively turned page after page because it is so easy to identify with Overton. For every good choice I have made that she did not, I feel relief that her train wreck of a life can’t possibly be what’s in store for me. And for every stroke of bad luck she endured, I feel a humbling sense that it probably is.

Lean InLean In:  Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
Women like me, on the precipice of converting their households from DINK (double income, no kids) to what New York Times Columnist Pamela Druckerman famously called DITT (double income, toddler twins), will find this book fascinating. The rest of you might not be too interested in how author Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, wishes she had done more to secure reserved parking for expectant mothers at her company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. But you should read this book anyway. If you can overlook the usual gripes about late meetings and early carpools, there is a universal message about setting the terms of personal success and a refreshing new definition of what it means to be a feminist.

SisterlandSisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
This is a fiction story of twin sisters on the brink of 40. They share a psychic connection, but occupy separate sides of the Mommy divide. I’m not sure anybody will see themselves in either sister, but author Curtis Sittenfeld nailed the subtext and sanctimony between the childfree and the parents. The stay-at-home mother in the story, Kate, is affluent and secure. Mothering has given her lots of responsibility and purpose, but very little satisfaction. She is the very definition of a desperate housewife. Her childless sister, Violet, lives on the edge. By that I mean she is reckless, frivolous and completely unmoored. As the sisters decide whether to embrace the DNA that makes them the same or the choices that set them apart, their psychic prediction comes true in a way neither could have expected. Read another review.

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Who among us has not aspired to write the Great American Novel or regretted reaching middle age without having done so? Mark Zusak, that’s who. His 40th birthday is six months from now and his literary masterpiece is 10 years old. The Book Thief has earned a slew of awards, dominated best-seller lists, been canonized on high school required reading lists and been adapted for a movie. But a technicality prevents it from being called my generation’s Great American Novel: the author is Australian and the setting is Nazi Germany. It seems counter intuitive for a book about genocide in World War II Europe to also be about a post-racial American ideal. But Zusak makes it work. In this war story, humanity trumps race or creed. Young or old, Jew or Gentile, German or not, everybody faces a common enemy in the villainous narrator: Death.  Read another review.

Cell 8 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

April 23, 2012

Does one get a chance to live two lives…..maybe and maybe not. John Meyer Frey is on death row in Marcusville, Ohio waiting to be executed for the murder of his 16 year old girlfriend, Elizabeth Finnegan. For almost a decade Edward Finnegan has waited for some closure for the murder of his daughter. And so starts the latest thriller from Swedish award winning authors Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom.

On death row, one is known by his cell number and there is nothing to do but to count the seconds, minutes and hours until you are put to death. Frey makes only one friend in prison, the man in the next cell , a 65 year old African-American who will die before Frey. The only other person having any compassion for Frey is senior prison  guard, Vernon  Eriksen. And then a strange thing occurs……Frey collapses and dies before he is executed.

Six years later, while entertaining on a tourist ferry,  John Schwarz, a singer for the band has an altercation with a patron on the boat. A drunken tourist is harassing a  young  woman and John intercedes by violently kicking the man in the face. The injuries are severe enough so that Schwarz is taken into custody and held in jail in Stockholm. As the Swedish police try to identify the singer, who has a Canadian passport, a strange thing comes to the surface.  John Schwarz does not exist; the fingerprints and passport are for someone else.

Now the case is thrown into the lap of irascible Detective Superintendent, Ewert  Grens and his two able assistants, Mariana Hermansson and Sven Sundkvist.  Readers of their first best seller, Three Seconds, will well remember the team. (See the blog entry for Three Seconds here.)  From then on it is a race to put the pieces of the puzzle together because we know – or think we know – that John Meyer Frey died back in Ohio. And is it possible that Frey is really  innocent ?? Roslund and Hellstrom will capture your attention as they did in Three Seconds and you won’t put this down until you complete this terrific book.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Cell 8 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

February 20, 2012

Cell 8 is the latest novel by Swedish writing duo, Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom.  Set in both Ohio and Sweden, cell 8 is on death row in an Ohio penitentiary.  Its occupant, John Meyer Frey, is awaiting his execution. Although a young man, he dies in his cell of heart disease. Six years later a man named John Schwarz is arrested by Stockholm police for aggravated assault.

At this point, the plot begins to move forward quickly.   The writers’ elegant, suspenseful style will keep the reader engaged until the last page.  Although the death penalty is ultimately the main character, readers can easily omit execution scenes.

Fans of Henning Mankell and Michael Connelly will enjoy this book.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


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