“Slated for Death”

Slated for Death: A Penny Brannigan Mystery by Elizabeth J. Duncan is the 5th Penny Brannigan mystery set in Wales. The author is American and has spent a lot of time there.  Penny Brannigan is a 50-something single woman who has moved to Wales from America after a friend died and leaves her a house. Penny’s latest mystery surrounds an upcoming concert scheduled to take place in the local, now-defunct mine. When the organizer of the concert is found murdered down in the mine, Penny does some snooping to uncover the killer.  Gareth Davies is the local police detective who has asked Penny to marry him. She turned him down, preferring her independence. This is a cozy mystery without much blood/violence. I’ve read all 5 Penny Brannigan mysteries and enjoy their slow, character-driven plot lines.

“The Wright Brothers”

9781476728742_p0_v2_s114x166Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough truly makes history come alive.  The subjects of his books have been extremely varied from presidents–John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman to the Panama Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge.  His newest work tackles the amazing feats of two shy brothers from Dayton, Ohio, who can be rightly called the first family of flight.

Wilbur and Orville Wright would today probably be diagnosed as suffering from Asperger’s syndrome.  How does an author tell a story of such two extremely shy men?  McCullough reaches into the Wright family focusing on Wilbur and Orville’s father Bishop Milton Wright and their very supportive sister Katharine Wright.  By exploring the lives of all the family members he humanizes their story.

You cannot tell the story of the first successful air flight without discussing the technical aspects of their achievement.  McCullough traces the history of the Wright Brothers interest in flight to their success at Kitty Hawk.

McCullough is a great storyteller.  No doubt “The Wright Brothers” will succeed as a biography because of the ability of its author to tell the compelling story of these two men and their unbelievable achievement.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

This book compliments “Drive” by Daniel Pink and would also be of interest to those who like Malcolm Gladwell and the Freakonomics series.

Would yo9780061353246_p0_v1_s260x420u walk across town to save $7 on a $25 pen at another stationary store? Would you make the same trip to save $7 on a $400 suit?

Would you take a red pencil home from work to help your daughter complete a class project? If there was no red pencil would you take $.10 from petty cash to buy one on the way home?

This was an entertaining and thought-provoking book. After reading it you may pause and observe some of your biases and how they might influence your decisions.

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

obriensI like Lisa Genova as a writer. She holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard and has written 3 other novels. This novel takes place in Boston and Joe, the main protagonist is a policeman in the Boston PD. One day his world as he knows it is shattered: he finds out his recent falls and involuntary actions are due to the fact that he is developing Huntington’s Disease. Genova pulls no punches as the reader discovers along with Joe and his family just how horrifying the disease can be. Since the gene is in his family, (he realizes that his mother died from the disease,and not alcoholism), each of Joe’s adult children, two daughters and two sons, have a 50% chance that they will inherit the gene and develop the disease. Each character wrestles with the choice of being tested vs. waiving the test and not knowing if they will develop the disease. The reader will certainly empathize with the dilemma of the characters and their choices. Genova presents a clear case of life with Huntington’s disease here, as she ends the novel with a compassionate plea for the reader to donate to the cause.

New Children’s Books

Two new children’s books will fit two parenting needs.  “Yard Sale” by Eve Bunting deals with having to move to a new home.9780763665425_p0_v3_s114x166A little girl sees many of her family’s possessions spread out on the front lawn.  Mom and Dad have explained to her that they are moving to a small apartment, and they won’t have room for many of their things.  The reason for the move is not stated, but it is inferred that they can’t afford the house in which they live.  She is very sad when she sees people leaving the sale with furniture, and other family possessions.  She really gets upset when a man buys her bicycle.

Sensitively handled by the author, this is a topic that may help clarify to children why they or their neighbors move.  The watercolor illustrations by Lauren Castillo are bright, but not heavily detailed.  In the end, the little girl realizes that even though she had to part with some possessions, the family is taking with them the most important things:  “We are taking us.”

In a lighter vain, “Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred)” will resonant with many parents who are frustrated in trying to put their child to bed.  Told in very funny rhymes, Fred has a long list of things he must accomplish before going to sleep.  Fred has lots of jumping to do, shouting to practice, testing his horn collection, etc.  Eventually, Fred does fall asleep when his parents turn to a book of poetry to read to him.

Although there are many books on trying to get kids to sleep, Josh Schneider offers a new twist on the subject. His illustrations are big and colorful.  9780544339248_p0_v2_s114x166 They will help readers and listeners to enjoy Fred’s antics.