Tag Archives: reviews

Review:Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

The only thing one can be sure of as the story of the McAllan and Jackson families unfolds in Mudbound by Hillary Jordan is that someone has died and a grave must be dug.  Henry and Jamie McAllan, brothers separated by a generation, a war and so much more, are desperately trying to dig a grave in between torrential rainstorms in rural Mississippi in the years following World War II.  As the hole goes from three feet to four feet deep they unearth the remnants of a crime that, while having occurred perhaps decades before,  foreshadows the events that transpire within the narrative.  The crime?  The murder of a runaway slave in a part of the country that even after World War II hadn’t changed its perception of the African Americans who helped to farm their land and fight their war.  African Americans still entered and exited from the back door, sat on the back of the bus, and replied “yes suh” and “no suh” with downturned eyes.

But while race relations play a central part in Mudbound, love (familial, carnal, and romantic) is ever present.  Laura McAllan, wife of Henry, believes “Death may be inevitable, but love is not.  Love you have to choose.”  Laura , a college educated spinster of 31, meets and marries Henry.  Was it love or fear of “petrification” on Laura’s part?  Henry tears Laura away from her gentle existence to settle on a farm in rural Mississippi in a home that’s more shack than house.  Farming was a dream that he had had all his life, a dream he never shared with her, a dream that was his alone.  Not only does Henry impose this harsh existance on Laura, he also thrusts the care and keeping of his nasty, abusive, racist father upon her.  From the first moment that Pappy meets Laura, her dislike for him blooms.  Life on the farm is hard on everyone: the family, the share croppers, and the tenant farmers.

The Jackson family lives on Henry’s land as tenant farmers trying to eke out a living by paying a portion of what they produce to Henry for the use of his land.  Hap and his wife, Florence, eagerly await the return of their son Ronsel.  The war is over, but he’s found life over in Europe so freeing that he dreads coming home. From the moment Ronsel hits town the characters’ lives spiral out of control until the inevitable conclusion.

Mudbound is a beautifully constructed story about racism, and the extent to which a family can be melded together or broken apart by secrets, betrayals, and misplaced love.  A must read.

Please join the Monthly Book Club on Tuesday, October 26 at 1:00 PM or 7 :30 PM as we discuss this marvelous novel.

– posted by Susan, Readers Services’

Syosset Patron Picks

See what your neighbors are reading, and then share your favorite book with us.

Here’s another review from one of your neighbors:

James A. recommends Conquering Gotham by Jill Jonnes.

Review: The dream of Alexander J. Cassatt, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad (1899-1906) was to bring the railroad across the Hudson into New York (or “Gotham”-Washington  Irving first called New York this in his Salmagundi 1807) to link the main line with New England and provide a more convenient transportation to NYC-bound passengers (who up until Penn Station was built, had to take a time consuming ferry ride.)  Author Jill Jonnes escorts the reader through the complex events, the colourful and able personages, there several construction related accidents and the incredible engineering, technical, political and financial difficulties that had  to be me in order that the Doric Temple-styled artist’s delight could stand on august 1, 1910 where a blighted and seedy “Tenderloin” District had stood before– and area covering seven and a half acres.  This new edifice was not only the world’s largest train station but was the world’s fourth largest building, bested only by St. Peter’s in Vatican city, the Tuileries in Paris, and the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.  It was not only functional,but a class act.

It was the advent of the automobile and Feral and State government’s support of private transportation (tax-payer funded tunnels, bridges and interstate highways) that precipitated the downfall of the rail industry and brought about the 1961 demolition of Penn Station and the ascendance of an artless Madison Square Garden and an office tower.  The LIRR now carries the greatest numbers (as compared to Grand Central Station) but instead of entering the city “like a god.” Wrote architect Vincent Scully, “one scuttles in now like a rat.” (p.315)

We want to hear what you think:  Fill out a Patron Picks form, send us an e-mail at readersservices@syosssetlibrary.org,  leave your picks in a comment below, or stop at the Readers’ Services desk and share your favorites with us, and then we’ll in turn share them with you.

– posted by Susan, Readers’ Services

The Latest Inspector Lynley Mystery

Jemima Hastings is brutally murdered in an isolated London cemetery.  An unknown man is seen running from the scene.  Why she was in the cemetery to begin with has everyone puzzled.

Ten years earlier, three boys, aged between ten and eleven, quietly abducted twenty nine month old John Dresser from the local shopping mall.  His mutilated body was ultimately found in an abandoned construction site.

What these two incidents have in common will become evident when you read Elizabeth George’s latest installment in her Inspector Lynley series, This Body of Death.  Fans of the books and BBC-TV shows will not be disappointed. 

Inspector Thomas Lynley, having taken a leave after the senseless death of his wife, is recruited by Detective Superintendent Isabelle Ardery, on temporary (hoping to make it permanent) assignment to New Scotland Yard.  While Lynley is monopolized by Ardery, Barbara Havers, in typical fashion, is off following her own leads, not necessarily obeying Ardery’s orders. 

This Body of Death is fun and suspenseful and perfect for mystery fans.

-posted by Ed G., Reference Services

Book Review “Mistress of the Art of Death”

Mistress of the Art of Death

by Ariana Franklin

It’s 1176, young Adelia makes the long journey from Sicily to Cambridge, England along with Simon of Naples and her ever present body guard Mansur.  Their mission: find out who has brutally killed four children.

The murders seem to have been committed using anti-Catholic rituals, leading to an assumption that the Jews of Cambridge are behind them.  King Henry II has been forced to give the Jewish community protection in a fortress and he is not happy.   The interruption to their daily businesses is cutting into his tax revenues and he wants the mystery solved as soon as possible.  King Henry requests help from his cousin, the king of Sicily, whose realm includes the famed and progressive medical school of the University of Salerno.  A “master of death” is needed to divine the perpetrator from the evidence.  What Henry doesn’t know is that Sicily’s king has sent a “mistress of death”, a young doctor of medicine Adelia.

Adelia, her traveling companions Simon, the Sicilian king’s fixer who happens to be a Jew and Mansur, an imposing Moor who is assumed to be the doctor, make their way to Cambridge and soon they discover that the murders are the act of a serial killer.  Along the way to discovering the murderer’s identity, the trio is helped by the head of the local monastery, Prior Geoffrey and King Henry’s tax collector, Sir Rowley Picot.

This first book in a series featuring Adelia is a page turner for those who like to gain knowledge while reading their mysteries.  There are plenty of historic and forensics details to learn about as well as a little romance thrown in.

– posted by Sonia, Readers” Services

Debut Author Visits the Library

Author, Sonya Chung, joins us on Friday, May 21 at 1:30 PM, to discuss her critically acclaimed debut book, Long for This World.

Library Journal says, “Readers who enjoy superbly crafted, globe-trotting family sagas will swoon over Chung’s breathtaking debut”.  The author will be available to sign books at the end of the program.  The book will be sold by the Friends of the Library at the event.

Read our review and take a look at the event flyer.

– posted by Susan, Readers’ Services

Book Review: Natural Born Charmer

Natural Born Charmer

by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

William Morrow 2007 (392 pp.)

Blue Bailey, walking alongside the road wearing a beaver costume gets picked up by “to die for” Dean Robillard, all star NFL quarterback.  It all goes up and downhill from there.

Blue’s car has broken down, along with most everything else in her life.  The man she came to Colorado for has taken up with another woman and her bank account has been mysteriously emptied.  Down to her last eighteen dollars, she is on her way from a job doing promotion for Ben’s Big Beaver Lumberyard when Dean enters the picture.  She takes the ride and sparks fly between them immediately.  Dean is on his way from his native California to his newly purchased East Tennessee farmhouse.  It isn’t too long before Blue is on her way to East Tennessee too, having no where else to go.

Amid very amusing and constant bickering, Dean and Blue get to know each other and the attraction between them grows.  On the surface, they might not have much in common but it soon becomes clear that the childhood abandonment issues each of them have might provide glue for a serious attachment: if they let it happen.  Once they get to Tennessee, the plot thickens and we meet some of Dean’s relatives and some other colorful denizens of the town of Garrison, including the cantankerous and nasty old woman who literally “owns the town”.  Getting to know all of the characters populating this book is a lot of fun and the plot moves along with breakneck speed.  Possibly a little too fast, as some of the conflicts that arise between Dean and Blue, and between them and others, are resolved a little too quickly to be believed.

“Natural Born Charmer” which contains most of the hallmarks of romance fiction including a very feisty heroine who is matched up with an impossibly good looking, very talented, yet down to earth man, manages to have enough unpredictably to keep the reader engrossed until the end.

– posted by Sonia, Readers’ Services

Book Review


BY Rebecca Skloot

In 1951 a woman named Henrietta Lacks went to Johns Hopkins University Hospital for treatment of cervical cancer.  Unbeknown to her, during her treatment doctors took samples of her normal cells and those of her cancerous tumor.  Unfortunately, Henrietta Lacks lost her battle with cervical cancer, but the sample of the cancerous tumor lived on.  Lacks’ cancerous tissue was divided by technicians in a lab at Johns Hopkins Hospital into dozens of one-millimeter squares and placed into test tubes labeled HELA (short for Henrietta Lacks).  Within a week Lacks’ cancerous cells began multiplying at an alarming rate.  The doctors and technicians were amazed at what they were witnessing and had previously thought was impossible.  The cells doubled their numbers every 24 hours.  The HELA cells were the first human cells found to be “immortal”, they were able to reproduce indefinitely outside of the human body.

Henrietta Lacks’ cells are still alive today and were vital in the development of the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, advances in invitro fertilization, gene mapping and cloning.  Much money was made from these HELA cells, however, the Lacks family was not aware of their existence until over 20 years after Henrietta’s death.  At the time the book went to press, most of Henrietta’s children could not afford health insurance and were heavily in debt.  Author Rebecca Skloot’s book reads like a novel.  She touches upon medical ethics, science, cancer, racism as well as poverty.  The science and clinical portions of the book are done in layman’s terms, not laced with scientific jargon.  A truly fascinating read!

– posted by Lisa J., Readers’ Services