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February 15, 2009 Edition

A Blessed Child, by Linn Ullmann

A moment of uncontrolled desire to belong leads to a tragedy for three half-sisters accustomed to spending their summers with their father on a small Swedish island. Erika, the oldest, and Molly, the youngest, live with their mothers the rest of the year, while Laura, the middle half-sister, lives with their father, Isak, and her mother, Rosa. But after the summer Erika turns 14, neither she nor Molly are invited back to the island again, though the girls remain close. None ever tell their mothers why the summers stopped, but now, while each makes a lonely winter trip to the island to see their aging father, each woman revisits the summer that everything changed in her own mind. Meditative and lovely, this is as chilling as the land they travel through.

Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

If you’re one of Stephenson’s legions of fans, you know already that he believes his readers are as smart and capable as he is. His books are filled with new language, philosophical riffs, and mathematical puzzles which make for a rich background to his worlds but often slow going for the reader. In this far-distant Earth, the once-in-a-decade weeklong celebration of Apert has nearly arrived, and teenage Fraa Erasmas and his colleagues in the cloistered sanctuary of Saunt Edhar are looking forward to getting out into the Extramuros and reconnecting with their friends and families outside. Their secluded order protects not only the philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians of the world, but enables them to protect the world’s knowledge from the vagaries of politics and war. But Raz and his friends soon find their week of revelry disrupted by a visit from extraterrestrials when their order is called upon to help save the world.

When We Were Romans, by Matthew Kneale

When nine-year old Lawrence’s mother Hannah announces that their estranged father is stalking them and determined to cause trouble, he has no reason to disbelieve her. She’s smart, resourceful and has a plan to protect them, and so the two of them pack a few boxes and flee to Italy with Lawrence’s three-year old sister Jem. Though he doesn’t understand all that’s going on, through his first-person narration readers will soon see that all is not well with Hannah in this sad and gripping story. Reminiscent of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night” for its young narrator in over his head, this has the added complication (some might say annoyance) of a nine-year old’s spelling errors. But wading through the text is worth it for the moments of happiness Lawrence finds in odd places and inside look at the mind of a small boy when everything comes crashing down again.

Into the Storm , by Taylor Anderson

Crusade, by Taylor Anderson

When Lieutenant Reddy of the USS Walker, trying desperately to escape from pursing Japanese battleships, sends his ship directly into a storm, it emerges… somewhere new. Still in the ocean, but an ocean filled with enormous, vicious fish. Still on Earth, but an Earth where humans never evolved. Still caught in a war, but one not of their own interests. The humans have the power to tip the balance in the war between the two sentient species on this new Earth: which side will they choose? These are books one and two of the trilogy Destroyermen.

The Pyramid, by Henning Mankell

The Kurt Wallander detective series has been immensely popular in the States ever since it was first translated from Swedish. With these five new stories, readers can follow the very human Wallander from his first homicide case as a promising 21-year old police officer in the title story, to life with his wife and daughter in the second story, through a separation, divorce, and middle age by the end of the book. Wallander’s cases are notable as much for their look at modern life in Sweden as well as their glimpses into the mind of an excellent detective.

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