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June 24, 2005 Edition

The Family Tree, by Carole Cadwalladr

The nature versus nurture argument is given a fresh twist in this wry and introspective first novel. Is happiness hereditary? Or do our experiences determine whether or not we can be happy? Rebecca wonders about the specifics: was she destined for unhappiness because her grandmother married her first cousin, setting Rebecca’s mother up for suicide? And if so, was it bad genes or bad decisions that brought her grandmother and grandfather together? Tracing three generations of variously unhappy family members, Rebecca carefully untangles her own future in this complex and rewarding novel.

Harbor, by Lorraine Adams

When Aziz Arkoun stows away aboard an Armenian freighter bound for the US, he trades familiar danger for a new kind. At 24, he has spent time as a soldier for his country and now is escaping a price on his head for being a double agent. In America, he finds both prejudice and opportunity. Rescued by a childhood friend after a jump into Boston Harbor, he is taken in, taught English, and helped to find a job. But his friend has secrets that could jeopardize Aziz’s new life and bring more than American law enforcement down upon his head. There are no easy answers in this novel of terrorists and intrigue.

CUSP, by Robert A. Metzger

The world is changed forever when two great walls erupt out of the Earth and dissect it into quadrants, forcing civilization to struggle to rebalance itself in the face of political and geological upheaval. By 2051, the survivors have regrouped, lemurs have evolved, velociraptors have been reintroduced to the world, and Bill Gates has become cyber assistant to a biocyborg who is working to evolve humans into superbeings. Too much for one book? Not in Metzger’s hands - add to the mix an entity that lives in cyberspace, a computer that runs on the “software” of the human mind, and 65 million-year plans for the salvation of humanity and you’ve got a masterpiece of hard science fiction.

A High and Hidden Place, by Michele Claire Lucas

Christine Lenoir was just six when she was brought to a convent to live. World War II is raging throughout Europe, and though she is told her family died of influenza, this is not true. It isn’t until years later, when she hears the gunshot that ends Lee Harvey Oswald’s life, that memories surface in her dreams, which become nightmares full of smoke and screams and gunshots, sending her back to Oradour to unravel her true history.

An Outline of the Republic, by Siddhartha Deb

Amrit, a journalist from Calcutta, is sent on assignment by his newspaper to the hill regions in northeast India. He’s got his own agenda, though, having become interested in the photo of a young woman held captive by gun-wielding insurgents that he’s found in his newspaper’s morgue, and obsessed with discovering her story. His quest takes him through an area where political unrest is the norm and riots and abductions are a way of life. The stories he’s told by people he meets along the way form a rich background tapestry to the story of the photo.

To Kingdom Come, by Will Thomas

This sequel to “Some Danger Involved” is set in 1884 and contains the further adventures of young Welshman Thomas Llewelyn and his mentor Cyrus Barker, a Scottish investigator in London. The two men go underground as bomb experts in hopes of being recruited by the Invincibles, an Irish nationalist group responsible for blowing up Scotland Yard. Their plan works and Llewelyn soon finds himself forgoing tai-chi for stick-fighting while his master gives up his gourmet meals for plates of peas and bomb-making in this fast-paced historical mystery.

Waldo Chicken Wakes the Dead, by Alan Goldsmith

Waldo is a walrus, created by cartoonist Constable O’Toole, and Chicken is the hen who roosts on Waldo’s head. Together, they act as advisors to Connie, helping him find the neighborhood’s lost items and keeping him on his toes. And the missing item today is a large cat named Mr. Woo, who, it seems, has made a few discoveries of his own in this laugh-out-loud murder mystery. Silly? Definitely. Irresistible? Absolutely!

Small Island, by Andrea Levy

It is 1948 and Hortense Joseph has left Jamaica to meet her husband in London. He has moved to England, hoping that, as a war hero, he will be treated well, but finds that his color is a bigger barrier than he ever imagined. She, the well-educated daughter of an important man, imagined no barriers at all. It is a story of disappointments, compromises, and heartbreak, set in an era of changing attitudes towards class and color.

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