Local librarians have spent the year perusing the latest in books. Here are some of their favorites:

I HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE, Mary Higgins Clark, Simon & Schuster, fiction, 318 pages

At the center of the novel is Kay Lansing, who has grown up in Englewood, N.J., daughter of the landscaper to the wealthy and powerful Carrington family. Their mansion — a historic 17th-century manor house transported stone by stone from Wales in 1848 — has a hidden chapel.

One day, accompanying her father to work, 6-year-old Kay succumbs to curiosity and sneaks into the chapel. There, she overhears a quarrel between a man and a woman who is demanding money from him. When she says that this will be the last time, his caustic response is: "I heard that song before."

That same evening, the Carringtons hold a formal dinner dance, after which Peter Carrington, a student at Princeton, drives home Susan Althorp, the 18-year-old daughter of neighbors. While her parents hear her come in, she is not in her room the next morning and is never seen or heard from again.

As much as I have enjoyed Mary Higgins Clark in the past, this wasn't my favorite from her. It seemed like it took so long for the story to begin. I almost figured out "who did it" by the end, but most of the characters I just didn't really get that interested in. Not her best, but still a good read. — Ann-Marie Marchent, Provo city reference librarian

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS, Khaled Hosseini, Penguin, 2007, fiction, 384 pages

Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns," like "The Kite Runner" before it, is both heartbreaking and heartbreakingly beautiful. Hosseini tells the story of two Afghan women — Mariam, the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy Kabul businessman who is married to a much older man to get her out of the household, and Laila, who, through a series of disasters you should be allowed to encounter as the story unfolds, is separated from her one true love and forced into a loveless and abusive marriage.

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" is dedicated to "the women of Afghanistan," and the text is charged with the relentless, hopeless constraint of their lives during the Soviet occupation and the reign of the Taliban. Hosseini's story is of interior lives, in both meanings of the phrase. Afghan women must physically live indoors, not allowed outside without a man and, likewise, must never express their true feelings. It would seem impossible to find redemption in such lives, but redemption does come. How could we not remember these two women forever? — Laura Wadley, Provo city reference librarian

THE CAMEL BOOKMOBILE, Masha Hamilton, Harper Collins, fiction, 308 pages

Fiona Sweeney leaves her job as a librarian in New York City to participate in the camel bookmobile project in Kenya, delivering books to isolated tribes. When one member of a tribe refuses to return his books, the project is threatened, and Fiona stays with the tribe to try to retrieve the books, becoming intimately connected to the group.

This is a very good book for several reasons. First, Masha Hamilton, an international journalist, has a very nice writing style. Second, the camel bookmobile is a real and interesting project. And, third, it's a book about a librarian. Librarians make wonderful protagonists. This would also be a good book club discussion book, addressing topics like tradition, cultural conflict, education and family obligations.— Mary Beth Cox, Provo city reference librarian

WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE, Julie Otsuka, Anchor Books, 2002, 144 pages.

This is the story of a Japanese-American family, known only as Mother, Girl and Boy, and their experience in a Utah internment camp. The father was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy prior to this and had been sent to a similar camp in New Mexico.

The story begins when the mother sees notices posted around Berkeley, Calif., instructing Japanese residents that they must evacuate. The next three years are spent in shoddy lodgings in the Utah desert with highs over 100 in the summer and below freezing in the winter. Family members must return returns to their home in Berkeley after the war and must assume their old lives, but nothing is the

same for them. They must deal with the trauma from their experiences and hostility from their neighbors.

This book really drives home the injustice of the Japanese-American experience during World War II. They did not see themselves as Japanese anymore and, indeed, had nothing to go back to in Japan. The children didn't even know how to speak Japanese. The author has created a quick but thorough look at this moment in history. — Angie Jones, Provo city reference librarian

BIDDING FOR LOVE, Katie Fforde, St. Martin's Press, 2007, fiction, 390 pages

Having inherited 51 percent of a family auction house, Flora moves to the country to learn the business. Her cousin, Charles, the other shareholder in the business, and his fiance don't relish help from an inexperienced city girl, though, and Flora has to work hard to prove she deserves a share in the business. Naked men (well, just one) doing tai chi in her garden, a position in a local choir and attention from a local cad keep Flora busy in her spare time, between sparring with Charles and Annabelle at work.

A chick-lit novel milder than most (although still a little steamy at the end), this will appeal to fans of Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsella. — Mary Beth Clark, Provo city reference and teen services librarian

EVERYTHING IS MISCELLANEOUS: THE POWER OF THE NEW DIGITAL DISORDER, David Weinberger Times Books, 2007, nonfiction, 277 pages.

The Internet has prompted a revolution in information science. This book is about the emerging methods of finding information. These methods are applied to locating music (iTunes), books (Amazon and WorldCat), real estate (Zillow and PropSmart), photographs (Flickr), encyclopedias of information (Wickipedia), used stuff of every sort (eBay) and the list goes on.

Weinberger explores three orders of information. The first order is the arrangement of things (books alphabetical on a shelf, for example), the second order involves a representation, such as cards in a card catalog. With the first two orders, things are like leaves on a tree, and to get to any given leaf, one has to follow the correct path of branches and twigs to get to it. The third order is digital. Now we forget about the branches and just rake the leaves into the piles we're interested in.

Very accessible with plenty of examples (that will have you pulling up Web sites on your computer), this book includes a little library science, a few facts from history, a bit about biology, while being essentially a work of philosophy. — Steve Law, Provo city reference librarian

THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TO RAIN: Alexander McCall Smith, Pantheon Books, c2006, mystery fiction, 276 pages

For everyone who can't get enough of Alexander McCall Smith and his best-selling "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series, he started another. This time, they are set in his very own native Scotland. This novel is the third in the Isabel Dalhousie mystery series. Isabel is a comfortably well-off Scottish woman in her 40s with a love of her country and kin. An intellectual, she's the editor for the "Review of Applied Ethics," a philosophy journal, which allows her (and the reader) to contemplate the never-ending moral dilemmas facing humankind. She's always engaged in a mystery of sorts, some truly ethical conundrum, and her cautious undertakings in a May/December romance (the cast-off boyfriend of her niece, no less).

This novel is an interesting mix and the stories always leave me wondering if Isabel isn't just an autobiographical figure of Smith. It's full of Scottish tradition, poetry, art, and music — so you're in for a treat if you've always wanted to explore Scotland, but your budget has been less than convenient. — Dawn Andrus, Provo city reference librarian

THE GLASS CASTLE: A MEMOIR, Jeanette Walls, Scribner, biography, 2006, 288 pages

Jeanette Walls' parents weren't exactly Ma and Pa Cleaver. In fact, they were negligent, at best. This book is largely about Walls' nomadic parents, who follow their free-spirited whims to many parts of the country — with four children in tow.

While based on a mostly sad childhood, this book doesn't have an ounce of self-pity or bitterness. I felt angrier about Walls' selfish parents at the end of the book than she did. To some extent she champions her parents for making life seem like an adventure and teaching her about "truth," as the dedication states. In addition to a memoir of an outrageous childhood, this book explores the vices that make us human and the breaking of unhealthy cycles. A quirky, entertaining read — even if almost ruined by a "Family Christmas Letter" last chapter. — Brooke Stoneman, Provo city reference librarian

HOW TO TAKE THE EX OUT OF EX-BOYFRIEND, Janette Rallison, Putnam Juvenile, young adult, 265 pages

Sixteen-year-old Giovanna Petrizzo finds it hard enough to fit in. Three years since her family moved to Texas, she's still the newcomer compared to everyone around her. It doesn't help matters when her twin brother, Dante, takes on the mayor's son by running for class president. The least she could expect, though, would be for her boyfriend, Jesse, to support their cause. But Jesse's apparent defection triggers Giovanna's rash emotional side, and before she knows it, she's turned Jesse from the boy of her dreams to the ex-boyfriend she dreams of winning back.

This was a quick, enjoyable read. I laughed out loud at some of the predicaments Giovanna gets herself into. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something light and humorous.— Ann-Marie Marchent, Provo city reference librarian


StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization that allows individuals to record the stories of their lives with the people they care about in small, sometimes traveling, studios. Listening is an Act of Love is a transcription of a number of interviews that have been recorded through the project. The stories are so diverse and so touching. A grandson interviews the grandmother who raised him. A 9/11 survivor describes his escape from one of the towers. A woman from India tells her American daughter-in-law about her arranged marriage. Each story is only a few pages long, but the entire collection is a powerful testament to the strength, resilience and goodness of humanity. — Mary Beth Cox, Provo city reference librarian


The title says it all. Two professionals, William Alexander and his wife Anne, bought a home in the Hudson River Valley and set out to create their dream garden as a hobby. The couple almost immediately encountered problems with poor soil, unreliable contractors, and a groundhog Alexander named Superchuck for his apparent super powers in bypassing all measures to keep him out of the garden. Deer, grubworms, a helper who resembled Christopher Walken, and other pests continued to thwart Alexander's attempts at gardening until the project ultimately became very expensive and troublesome. In fact, the author did do the math to figure that one year each of his Brandywine tomatoes cost $64 to produce. Alexander asserts in his humorous memoir, though, that gardening is an exercise in hope over experience. Maybe next year the tomatoes will only cost $40. — Mary Beth Cox, Provo city librarian (852-6661)

CASTING WITH A FRAGILE THREAD: A STORY OF SISTERS AND AFRICA: Wendy Kann: Henry Holt and Company: Nonfiction: 284 pages

Growing up in a tumultuous part of Africa would be hard for anyone. Add to that a plethora of familial problems and you get a general idea of Wendy Kann's life. This autobiography mainly deals with the author's struggle to find, and sometimes create, herself. The book follows Kann's life from when she was a little girl in colonial Rhodesia to a worrisome mother in Connecticut. It portrays her feelings and thoughts — or occasional lack thereof— about her mother's alcoholism, her father's death, her stepmother's precarious acceptance of her, her reactions to the Rhodesian war, her courtship and marriage, her attempts to belong in America, her experiences in Hong Kong, and her aspirations on being a good mother. Dealing with her sister's untimely, premature death and the pressing need to take care of her sister's child helps Kann realize how her past and where she comes from have made her who she is.

It is amazing and refreshing to see the author put all of herself in the book. She is not the admirable heroine. She has faults and fears. She makes mistakes. She is human. Her emotions are real, her opinions are honest. And her quest to feel like she belongs is one that any reader can relate to, no matter how their background compares with Kann's. A realistic though sad story, it is a unique journey.

— Heidi M. Tice, Provo city librarian (852-6661)

THE MAYTREES: Annie Dillard: Harper Collins: 2007: Adult: 224

The narrative of this book follows sturdy and simple Lou who lives at the edge of the sea with her carpenter husband Maytree. Maytree is easily distracted and after 14 years of marriage moves away to Maine with longtime friend, Deary. The two return 20 years later when Deary is dying and needs hospice.

Simple, and seemingly callous in its plot, Dillard's "Maytrees" is anything but. Maybe it's about the courage it requires to live a life of commitment, or perhaps the nuances of forgiveness. Either way, the language Dillard uses to describe the sea and this small cast of tragic characters is otherworldly and truly haunting. A thought-provoking, if heartbreaking read. — Brooke Stoneman, Provo city reference librarian (852-6661)