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Here is part two of the new additions to our Baker & Taylor popular fiction and non-fiction collection. I hope you find something that peaks your interest.  Our talented and savvy Rebecca Whitten did us proud with picking these really great and diverse titles.

Bartels was working as a secretary in the Ghanaian Embassy when she received a phone call that would change her life. The king of Otuam, a small coastal town of 7,000 people, had passed away, and the tribal elders had elected her as his replacement. Thus begins this winning tale of epic proportions, full of intrigue, royal court plotting, cases of mistaken identity and whispered words from beyond the grave. Upon arrival, King Peggy–who left Ghana three decades earlier and has since become an American citizen–found an uphill battle and vowed to tackle the issues plaguing her community: domestic violence, poverty and lack of access to clean water, health care and education. In doing so, Bartels faced issues of gender discrimination, corruption and inexperience. And of course there was the minor matter of her day job, inconveniently located an ocean away. Surrounded by a Greek chorus of aunties and cousins, Bartels worked to stamp out corruption and improve the lives of townspeople who warily regard her as an interloper. She invested $30,000 of her own money into renovating the ramshackle palace she inherited and recruited donors to build schools and libraries outfitted with computers. Bartels and Herman (Mistress of the Vatican: The True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini: The Secret Female Pope, 2008, etc.) team up to craft a fast-paced potboiler. Florid description of the landscape, culture and characters work together to fully evoke the rhythms of African life. Ultimately, readers come away with not only a sense of how KingPeggy was able to transform Otuam, but also an understanding of how the town and its inhabitants transformed her.(Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2012)

Following the example of monks and writers, award-winning teacher (and sometimes poet) Haskell (biology, Univ. of the South) turns his gaze to the small things—insects, plants, and birds—living in a single square meter of one of Tennessee’s old-growth forests. He returns to the same patch of forest over the course of a year and, in a series of vignettes, draws readers’ attention to the quiet details of the place. For instance, he sees a chickadee shiver for warmth in the wintertime and a mosquito feast to stomach-swelling proportions in the spring. Haskell uses these moments to remind readers of their position in a shared, common ecosystem that reaches far beyond the forest. VERDICT: Haskell brings the aspects of forest life that most often go unnoticed to the forefront with vibrant detail as he easily moves from microscopic to global observations. His book should prove engaging for a variety of audiences—from serious readers of nature writing to casual readers of nonfiction. Recommended.  (Library Journal, vol 136, issue 21, p128)
The talented Livesey updates Jane Eyre, changing the setting to Scotland and the Orkneys during the 1950s and ’60s but taking care to home in on the elements of this classic story that so resonate with readers: a resourceful orphan makes her way in an uncaring world and not only endures but also triumphs. Despite readers’ familiarity with the story line, they will be held rapt as Gemma Hardy, orphaned at age 10, is taken in by a loving uncle only to lose him, too. Her aunt so cruelly shuns her in the wake of her uncle’s death that she looks forward to attending boarding school, but her status as a working girl means that she has little time for her schoolwork, often laboring to the point of exhaustion. Still, Gemma’s high intelligence and fierce resolve see her through many difficult experiences until she lands a dream job as an au pair on the isolated yet beautiful Orkney Islands. There she meets the family that will change her life (minus the madwoman in the attic). A sure bet for both book clubs and Brontë fans.  (Booklist, vol 108, number 8, p22)

How will brittle, needy, fanciful Evvie cope when her husband Ben falls out of love and leaves her? Badly, is the answer, in this sensitive, offbeat second novel. We know breaking up is hard to do, but it’s harder still if you are Evangeline (Evvie) Muldoone, burdened by fears of abandonment and “magnificent vulnerability.” You’ve spent 16 happy years in Pittsburgh with Ben, variously working a pushcart together selling Middle Eastern food, laughing, sharing music, but now Ben has changed, he’s no longer charmed by your preoccupation with animal rights or your tendency to procrastinate. And he’s met someone else, Lauren. Switching between Evvie and Ben’s perspectives, McCafferty (Thank You for the Music, 2004, etc.) captures Evvie’s ditzy, thin-skinned eccentricity and Ben’s cooler isolation as their lives diverge, hers deeper into dreams of making a film about a convenience-store clerk and his into more conventional happiness with Lauren. Tragi-comic in tone, the novel offers some nicely observed insights into guilt and despair—”He was tired of the prison of his old affection”—until heartbreak and delusion lead to an act of lunacy that will redefine the landscape. Everyday tragedy takes a surreal spin in this slight but soulful, idiosyncratic tale.(Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2011)

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