Bluffton Staff Picks
September 2008

Compiled by Francesca Denton

Divining Women cover

Sheryl recommends…Divining Women by Kaye Gibbons

Kaye Gibbons takes the reader to a darker yet redemptive place during the 1918 Spanish influenza. Mary Oliver is fiercely protective of her Aunt Maureen who must suffer an abusive husband and difficult pregnancy during this tragic time of epidemic and despair. This story is a tribute to personal strength, forbearance, and the rallying forces of hope and love.
Magic Kingdom cover

Amber recommends… Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold! by Terry Brooks

If a local department store advertised a magic kingdom for sale in their exclusive holiday catalogue, would you spend the $1,000,000 asking price? What if the store was well known to secure and guarantee only the most exotic collectables, vacations, and fantastical items? Take the chance. Step into the magic kingdom of Landover.
Magic Kingdom cover

Amber recommends…Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Blackmail, grand theft, kidnapping, and attempted murder, and he’s only eleven. Meet Artemis Fowl, genius criminal mastermind extraordinaire. This not-so-average teenager makes for a not-so-average fantasy/sci-fi story. Artemis encounters environmentally friendly fairies, a clever centaur, and gas-propelled dwarfs to name a few. Plus, the stories just keep on coming!
Life of Pi cover

Francesca recommends…Life of Pi by Yann Martel

This book “takes the cake” for imaginative plot and unusual characters. Pi, a boy of 16, finds himself adrift in a life raft with a 450-pound Bengal tiger, the only survivors of the wreck of the ship that was taking his family and their zoo animals to America. Pi must use his cunning, new understanding of human and animal motivations, and innate skills of reflection and calculation, to outwit his hungry and equally calculating shipmate.
The Known World cover

Francesca recommends…The Known World by Edward P. Jones

This is the Edward P. Jones first novel and it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. This is a fictional account of the historical fact that free Negroes owned slaves in the Antebellum South. Set in Virginia, this engrossing read tells the story of freed and enslaved blacks, whites, and Indians who daily faced the realities of the “Peculiar Institution”. The identity of the narrator will surprise you.
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Barbara recommends…The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

The beautiful writing of Eudora Welty makes this simple story rich with emotion and unforgettable characters. It is the story of a young woman, Laurel McKelva Hand, returning to the South, after years away, to be at her father’s death bed. Laurel (and the reader) is transformed as she reconnects with the small Mississippi town where she grew up and ultimately with herself.
Year of Wonders cover

Halle recommends…Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

The subtitle of this book is: “A Novel of the Plague”, but don’t let that dissuade you from reading this truly wonderful book, based on the historical coming of the Black Plague, in an unassuming bolt of cloth, to a small village in England. Author Geraldine Brooks draws the reader into the lives of the villagers and the affect the plague has on both family and community dynamics. This book successfully blends historical fact with a finely crafted fiction.
Samurai's Garden cover

Ann recommends…The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama

This is a lovely and poignant story about a 20 year old Chinese man, Stephan, who is sent to his family’s summer home in Japan to recuperate from tuberculosis. The time - the late l930s just before WWII and while Japan was invading China – is vividly described by the author. The story of Stephan and the three other main characters in the novel is beautifully woven with the history and the setting of the small seaside village where Stephan is recuperating. His relationships with these people develop very naturally and easily, but there are many struggles, indeed that each of them face.
Ellen Fostercover

Sheryl recommends…Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

If you loved the feisty Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, then you will be enthralled by her “alter ego” 11-year old Ellen Foster. Ellen has the same strength of character grown from a young lifetime of abuse, abandonment, but ultimate triumph over circumstances set on pulling her down. Her resilience shines through the observant and forthright voice of a young Southern girl caught up in the dysfunction of the grown-up world around her. Author Kaye Gibbons writes in the tradition of classic Southern writers like Faulkner and Flannery O’Conner. I read this in one sitting because I could not put it down!
Shipping News cover

Halle recommends…The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx won the Pulitzer Prize for this engrossing, dark tale of lives colliding in the past and present amongst the stark beauty of Newfoundland. The frozen harbors and stinging winds make this perfect reading on hot, humid days. The characters will pull you in as will the harsh but arresting landscape of Newfoundland.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas cover

Barbara recommends…The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

This is the unforgettable story about a boy and a fence. As the book jacket says… to say more than that would “spoil the reading of the book.” Intrigued? This book does not disappoint!
To Kill a Mockingbird cover

Barbara recommends…To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is a classic book that is on many readers’ “favorites” list, meant to be read again and again. Author Harper Lee (this is the only book she ever wrote) provides a revealing look at race and people who are different, through the eyes of a young girl named Scout.
Kite Runner cover

Barbara recommends…The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Fascinating characters and a rich backdrop of a culture most of us know too little about makes this a book will you will hate to finish.
Rocket Boys cover

Joe Selleck recommends…Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.

This is the engaging autobiography of Homer H. Hickam, Jr. (who inspired the feature film, October Sky.) Rocket Boys is a witty, moving memoir of young men coming of age in a small West Virginia mining town in the late 1950’s. Specifically, they are four young men who pursue the shared dream of launching a rocket into space. This is their story, along with the family, teachers, and friends who helped them achieve their “lofty” goal.
The House Gun cover

Barbara recommends…The House Gun by Nadine Gordimer

Violence becomes personal to a family when something terrible happens. Author Nadine Gordimer skillfully conveys the tension and frustration of living in post-Apartheid South Africa.
The Photograph cover

Barbara recommends…The Photograph by Penelope Lively

A photograph discovered after the death of his beautiful young wife leads a husband on a journey of discovery. His quest reveals not only the truth behind the mysterious photograph, but the truth about himself.
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Francesca Denton recommends…Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

Smilla Jaspersen, an aloof Greenlander and unemployed glaciologist, finds herself thrust into international intrigue and a harrowing adventure when her six-year-old neighbor falls from a snow-covered roof, and it is declared an accidental death. Smilla knows snow, and also knows that her young friend’s death was no accident. Her Inuit heritage helps her solve this murder from the scene of the crime at her apartment building in Copenhagen to a mysterious island off the coast of Greenland. This thriller will keep you guessing and reading on as it catapults the reader through lands of snow and ice, and a culture totally foreign and mesmerizing.
Rise to Rebellion cover

Joe Selleck recommends…Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara

This work is the first of a two-book series on the American Revolution. It covers the period from the Boston Massacre to the Declaration of Independence. Jeff Shaara covers such vital characters as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Gage, and George Washington. This is a fascinating, absorbing historical novel giving new insight into this most crucial time in American democracy. Importantly, the book shows how the new Americans beat the odds against the British to begin their meteoric rise as an independent nation and world power.
Tallgrass cover

Virginia Davis recommends…Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas

Author Sandra Dallas writes another page-turner, this time set during World War II in a small Colorado town that finds itself suddenly host to a Japanese internment camp. A girl is murdered and everyone suspects their new and foreign “neighbors” at camp Tallgrass. You will come to care for the characters and their troubles on both sides of the fence.
Luncheon of the Boating Party cover

Amber recommends…Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland

Get inside the artist’s head, meet his friends, and enjoy the French country. With Vreeland’s over-expressive vocabulary and fine attention to detail, I can practically smell the paint and hear the brushstrokes. What an amazing novel!
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Sheryl recommends…Run With The Horsemen by Ferrol Sams

This is an oldie (1982) but goody that is very worthy of a first or second read. It follows the hilarious escapades of a young farm boy in rural Georgia. This is the first volume of the author’s trilogy and you will be thankful that this endearing story continues in the sequels.
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