Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

September 3, 2014

Skinny DipEmbarking on a cruise with her husband Chaz, Joey Perrone has high hopes it will rekindle their faltering relationship – until he tries to murder her. Finding herself abruptly thrown overboard, Joey’s pretty grateful she’s an expert swimmer. (Chaz is an idiot, so it’s no big surprise he overlooked this one giant flaw in his plan.) Floating on a wayward bale of Jamaican pot, she finds her way to a very small island inhabited by ex-cop Mick Stranahan, who is just the person to help her plan her revenge. Wanting to find out why Chaz tried to kill her, Joey decides to play dead and “haunt” Chaz as her own ghost. In the meantime, she and Mick poke around, trying to find out why Chaz would opt for murder over divorce.

Chaz, it turns out, is a marine biologist in name only, and has been doing some pretty terrible things in the Everglades and making a tidy profit. Certain that Joey had found him out, he decided that dispatching his wife was the most expedient way to ensure his shady revenue stream would continue uninterrupted. Boy, is he going to wish he’d just left well enough alone!

I love it when the bad guys get what’s due them, and Carl Hiaasen never fails to come up with creepy, satisfying ways to stick it to his bad guys. He’s not for everyone – he has a sick, sardonic sense of humor and is far from G-rated, but if you like his kind of humor, he’s hilarious. If you enjoy the quirky, the bizarre and the ridiculous, Hiaasen provides it on every page, and with every character, no matter how minor.

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Duma Key by Stephen King

May 8, 2014

dumaskeybookcover.phpI’m a huge fan of Stephen King. I’ve loved his books since I was in high school and picked up a paperback copy of Carrie. I like his classics including Pet Sematary, Salem’s Lot and It. I tend to lean more toward his horror stories than his fantasy series like Wizard and Glass. King is such an amazingly talented, unique and prolific writer. Stephen King had his own horror story unfold when he was hit by a car in 1999. Although King had published many good books after the accident, they were just okay. I worried that he might have lost the ability to write stories that were as great as he used to write. King put my worries to rest when I read Duma Key.

Although most of King’s novels are set in New England (no writer captures New England locals’ attitude and accents quite like King), Duma Key is set in Florida. Edgar Freemantle rents a beach house on Duma Key after nearly dying in a construction accident. The accident makes him an instant millionaire, but costs him his right arm and his wife of twenty-five years. During his stay at the beach house, Freemantle gets to know his neighbors, the wealthy and elderly Elizabeth Eastlake who owns Duma Key and her caretaker Wireman.

As Freemantle recuperates, he discovers his unquenchable need to draw and paint. He finds that he is compelled to paint to sooth the twitching of his missing limb. His art is so good he acquires a following in the community. As with most of King’s stories, things are not what they appear on the surface. Freemantle’s art has the power to heal and to harm. His paintings can predict and change future events.

During Freemantle’s stay on Duma Key he becomes close to Wireman and Elizabeth Eastman and discovers they all hold tragic secrets that may destroy them and those they love. It falls on Freemantle to find a way to save them all. This is classic King psychological horror with a little supernatural thrown in the mix. The book is long as most of King’s are, but the reader won’t mind because the writing is so creative and well crafted. King has written several books since Duma Key including short story collections Just After Sunset and Full Dark, No Stars, his epic novel about the Kennedy assassination, 11/22/63, Under the Dome, now a popular television series, and Doctor Sleep, the long awaited sequel to The Shining. I have devoured them all.  It’s good to be King.

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Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King

May 2, 2014

devilbookcover.phpI love it when I read a book and it leads me to another book and another, etc.  A few years ago I read the award winning book Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Isabel Wilkerson. It was indeed epic as Wilkerson followed the lives of three individuals leaving the Jim Crow Era South for a better life elsewhere. One of the gentleman was leaving the volatile citrus groves of Florida. She made mention of the Groveland case (Florida) as an example of the danger faced by African American men in the South and I filed that away in my brain, hoping to find out more one day.

As a result, I finally picked up the Pulitzer prize-winning book Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King and it is much more than an account of the trial of three young African-American men accused of kidnapping and raping a white woman in rural 1948 Florida. It is a detailed glimpse in the complex machinations of the Civil Rights Movement as played out in the courtroom. Many things impress me about this book. As always, I am astounded by the cruelty of the Jim Crow era South. Freedom from slavery was an important first step towards equality for African Americans, but given the discrimination faced in the years after slavery was abolished, it really seems like more of a baby step. This book was also a reminder that the landmark Plessy vs Ferguson (1896 Supreme Court decision providing a legal basis for “separate but equal” segregation) was a tremendous hindrance on the path to equality since “equal” is a subjective term that never actual measured up. Thurgood Marshall’s landmark case Brown v. Board of Education (1954 Supreme Court decision disallowing school segregation) was the result of years of planning and small victories that ultimately overturned Plessy v. Ferguson. I just had no real understanding of the complex planning it took to make it to that one important case.

Thurgood Marshall (chief counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund) and the NAACP frequently took on lots of cases like the Groveland Boys (often referred to as “Little Scottsboro” in comparison to a similar case in Alabama 15 years earlier). Their strategy was never acquittal but to kick the case up to higher courts through appeals with a decision that not only acquits the innocent but also has broader significance to civil rights with each case building on top of one another.

If you think this book sounds like a somewhat interesting, but probably overly detailed academic snooze fest you are wrong. Devil in the Grove is a well-written, accessible and at times, a page-turner. Gilbert King is comprehensive as he explores this unbelievable and sad event in American history.

In addition to Devil in the Grove, I also do recommend the above mentioned Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. If you are looking for a shorter read about the Civil Rights Movement, I cannot say enough wonderful things about March (Book One) by John Robert LewisAndrew Aydin and Nate Powell which is a graphic memoir about non-violence during the Civil Rights Movement.

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Best New Books of 2013: Marcy H’s Picks

December 2, 2013

While I work primarily in Youth Services, for pure pleasure I mostly read adult contemporary fiction.  I have read quite a few new books published this year and here are my list of favorites.  I hope you’ll enjoy them too!

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
This is the fictionalized story of Anne Morrow Lindberg and her marriage to Charles Lindbergh.  This well-written novel is filled with historical information in the context of a deeply moving story about Anne’s journey to find herself and her voice through the tragedies of her life and the difficulty of her marriage to America’s hero.

Insane City by Dave Barry
Wildly entertaining and seriously funny, this wild romp through Miami with Seth Weinstein on the eve of his wedding has everything from pirate, illegal immigrants, an orangutan, a snake, and medicinal brownies…a crazy plot that could easily be envisioned as a successful movie (think Hangover or Bridesmaids).  This book is pure escapism but with enough social commentary to give it a little substance as well.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
This is a story of first love between two 16 year old misfits who by happenstance have to sit next to each other on the school bus. What starts out as awkward indifference to each other transcends into a sweet, and endearing loving relationship that helps each other cope with the realities in their lives. You will find yourself reliving your own teenage angst while rooting hard for these two characters.

The Supremes at Earl’s All You Can Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore
While not in the genre of highbrow literature, this delightful book takes you into the world of three engaging middle class African American women, Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean, as they deal with life and death issues over the course of one year’s time.  The three have been fast friends since high school days when the proprietor of the local hangout christened them “The Supremes,” hence the name of the book.  Warm, witty and intelligently written, this book was a page turner that didn’t disappoint and one I was sorry to see end.

Z:  A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler
This fictionalized autobiography of Zelda Fitzgerald is a very compassionate, well-written book that fleshes out this oft-maligned wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  This book shows us a fully-formed, somewhat flawed individual filled with dreams and aspirations of her own that were never fully realized due to the intensity and volatility of her relationship with her husband and the excessive lifestyle they lived.  A well-researched book that immerses the reader into the lives of these larger than life characters.

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane

June 3, 2013

Dennis Lehane has described his newest book, Live by Night as an homage to the gangster genre. Taking place mostly around Prohibition time, in Tampa with the rum trade as its vocation, the story makes heavy use of the political and ethnic backdrop that defined the place and era. The revolutionary spirit sweeping through the Hispanic world has made its way through Florida and into gangster organizations seeking to profit from Cuban rum.

Joe is a small time Boston outlaw who, after a violent prison stint, is tapped by the local mob boss to shape up the rum operation in Florida. Some of the best action takes place during Joe’s prison time, but the pace barely slackens once he heads south. He slaps arrogant grifters into shape and turns a sloppily managed illicit trade into a criminal empire. Yet, we are always on his side. Joe doesn’t shy from violence, but he has a conscience: he feels bad when he destroys the people who are worth feeling bad about, and he becomes something approaching a respectable figure for his straight-dealing. When the KKK comes after him, he puts them down for good just like any other rival gang.  Somehow, we always cheer for him and want him to succeed in his criminal enterprise.

Lehane explores the premise that the gangster code is no less ethical than the legal behavior of legitimate business — that a gangster who throws a man out of a window is no less ethical than a banker who throws his entire family out of his house. It’s an idealized principle that may not stand up to real-world scrutiny, but it is a large part of the appeal behind movies like The Godfather and Scarface. It also captures some of the current zeitgeist after the financial meltdown. As usual, Lehane spends as much time building character as he does with moving the plot forward with explosions. If you like your criminal epics delivered with a deft touch of artistry, Live by Night will satisfy.

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Shop till You Drop by Elaine Viets

April 11, 2012

Helen Hawthorne is a woman with a secret!  She is on the run from a court order to pay alimony to her cheating ex-husband, Rob.  Helen, a PR person in a respectable St. Louis company, has been the bread winner for several years while Rob stayed home.  All that changed when she came home early from work and caught Rob kissing the neighbor.  When the divorce judge ordered her to pay alimony, Helen fled St. Louis, refusing to pay money to her cheating ex-husband.  She ends up in Fort Lauderdale, FL trying to stay off the radar of law enforcement.

In order to do so she needs to take jobs that pay “under the table.”  She discovers Juliana’s, an exclusive boutique, where women must be buzzed in beyond the green door.  The women who frequent Juliana’s are trophy wives or mistresses to older rich gentlemen. Their lives are very different from Helen’s. They get the latest cosmetic procedures and spend more money than Helen earns in a week on a purse.

Things change for Helen when her customers began to turn up murdered. Helen fears the women murdered might be a result of something fishy going on inside Juliana’s. These fears escalate when someone is found murdered inside Juliana’s itself. Can Helen manage to keep a low key profile while a murder investigation is going on around her? Will the publicity allow Rob to find her?  Shop Till You Drop is the first in the series with the 11th book in the series being released May 1st. Elaine Viets writes books that are the perfect read for a long beach weekend.

Find and request this book in our catalog.

The Cat Sitter’s Pajamas by Blaize Clement

March 14, 2012

The Dixie Hemingway mystery series written by Blaize Clement is one of my favorites. You shouldn’t judge this series by its covers or titles. They are quite misleading causing the reader to expect  very light and fluffy cozy mysteries.

When I read Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, I discovered the first book in a very complex, skillfully written and at times heart wrenching mystery series. Her books are brimming with sensitively portrayed characters who deal courageously with trauma and adversity.  The Cat Sitter’s Pajamas is her most recent book in this series.

Living on the tropical barrier island of Siesta Key, located off the coast of Sarasota Florida, pet sitter Dixie Hemingway has a propensity for stumbling across bodies.  Entering the home of famous football star Cupcake Trillin, to care for his pampered cats, Dixie unexpectedly encounters a beautiful semi-dressed woman claiming to be Cupcake’s wife. There’s a problem with that assertion, Dixie knows Cupcake is vacationing in Italy with his wife Jancey.

When the police arrive to arrest the intruder, they discover the body of a woman. However, it’s not the body of the woman claiming to be Cupcake’s wife. So begins the tale of past secrets, deception and people not being who they seem or claim to be.

Cat Sitter’s Pajamas can be read as a stand-alone mystery. However, I strongly recommend you read the series in order. Doing so will help you better appreciate Clement’s characters’ development and the back story of the family relationships that have shaped Dixie. You’ll have more opportunities to feel the soft breezes of Florida, hear the gulls squawking as parakeets fly by and smell the salty air of Siesta Key.  Siesta Key is a character and place you will want to embrace and return to again and again.

Sadly, Blaize Clement passed away in July 2011.   Her eighth book is about half completed, with an extensive outline, according to her son John Clement.

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Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

December 30, 2011

 Serial killers scare me.  Just the idea of them gives me the creeps.  Why then, you must ask, did I pick up a book about serial killers?  Well, I had heard that Dexter was a little different.  And trust me, “a little different” is putting it nicely.

Dexter Morgan is likable, funny, mild-mannered, and blends in entirely as a nondescript human being.  The only thing different about him, according to Dexter himself, is that he probably lacks a soul.  Because of this tiny defect, Dexter is a serial killer.  But, don’t be put off, he’s one of the good guys. He only kills those truly deserving; the bad guys who earn death by their heinous crimes.  And Dexter’s job as a blood splatter expert on the Miami Police Department put him in prime place to keep up his helpful habit.  But, then a serial killer emerges that commits such perfect crimes that Dexter finds himself intrigued or even jealous.  When the killer’s style veers too close to Dexter’s own particular activities, Dexter doesn’t know whether to be frightened or flattered.  And starts to doubt his own innocence in the whole matter.

I was quite surprised that I enjoyed Dexter as much as I did.  The book is a perfect balance of humor, horror, and intrigue.  There is just enough horror (i.e. cut up bodies, unknown killers, and general creepiness), yet there is enough of something else to keep it from being full on horror.  For me, the humorous, self-deprecating, often ridiculous narration by Dexter keeps your from being pulled in too far.  The author, Jeff Lindsay, has managed to create an entirely unique idea and one can tell why the series of books and the show based upon them are wildly popular.

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Tricky Business by Dave Barry

April 23, 2010

Well, another week comes to a close, so I’ll leave you with one more funny book in honor of National Humor Month.  No list of funny books could be complete without including Dave Barry, and I actually paused for several minutes while trying to decide which of his many books to discuss.  I finally selected his second novel, Tricky Business, which is set, of course, in Florida.  Briefly, it’s the story of what happens when a cast of colorful and eccentric characters all end up on a gambling ship off the coast of Florida during one of the worst hurricanes in memory.  But, it’s also much more than just that.

When talking about why we enjoy certain books, librarians use the term “appeal factors” and there are generally four or five different factors.  This book hits me on three of them: character, story and language.  If you’ve ever read Dave Barry before, you know that he’s a master of language and has a talent for finding the funny side in just about anything.  Of course, every novel could be said to have the appeal of story, but some authors are just much better story-tellers than others.  Dave Barry is one of the very good ones, who crafts a tale that keeps me turning pages and muttering “just one more chapter” to see what happens next.  And lastly, Barry’s characters are the heart of his stories.  They are identifiable and interesting, and Barry makes me care what happens to them, whether I’m rooting for the hero or hoping the bad guys get what’s coming to them.

The characters in this particular adventure include Fay, an attractive cocktail waitress trying to make ends meet for her kid; a pair of feisty octogenarians who’ve escaped from their rest home; a motley group of dope smoking wanna-be rockers who make up the ship’s band, Johnny and the Contusions; and some south Florida mobsters who use the ship’s nightly voyages for smuggling drugs.  The ship is ostensibly simply used to take tourists out to international waters where they can gamble and drink their cares away.  But, the owner, tired of being used by the gangsters, decides that tonight is the night to take back his ship and intercept the drug deal for his own.  No matter that the news is reporting one doozy of a tropical storm just off the coast, no matter that there are no other ships foolhardy enough to venture out in weather like this.  Naturally, wacky antics ensue, but, as I mentioned, Barry does a fabulous job of making the reader actually care about his characters.

This novel, much like Barry’s first, Big Trouble, could easily be pictured as a movie.  Unfortunately, as we all know, sometimes great books make for not-so-great movies (as was the case with the movie Big Trouble – a great book and a talented cast, somehow made a rather mediocre movie.)  But, I’m still hopeful that Barry will write more novels (he’s been working on a series of Peter Pan adventures with Ridley Pearson lately) and am confident that they’ll be every bit as funny as his first two.

Don’t forget to also try some of  Dave Barry’s numerous books that contain collections of humorous essays, located in the 814-818 section of our Nonfiction area, too.

Find and reserve Tricky Business in our catalog.

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