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What are we reading?

Daily Staff Report

1. “Adventures of Fraser the Yellow Dog,” by Jill Sheeley: Fraser follows Courtney, a young girl skiing Vail Mountain on a sunny powder day. When she’s caught in a snow slide, her faithful dog Fraser leads ski patrollers to her rescue in this uplifting story about courage, companionship and ski safety. 2. “The Broker,” by John Grisham: Before he was sent to federal prison for treason (among other things), Joel Backman was an extremely powerful man. Known as “the broker,” Backman was a high roller – a lawyer making $10 million a year who could “open any door in Washington.” That is, until he tried to broker a deal selling access to the world’s most powerful satellite surveillance system to the highest bidder. When caught, Backman accepted prison as the one option that would keep him safe and alive, since the interested parties (the Israelis, the Saudis, the Russians and the Chinese) were all itching to get their hands on his secrets at any cost. Little does he know that his own government has designs on accessing that information – or at least letting it die with him. Now, six years after his incarceration, the director of the CIA convinces a lame duck president to pardon Backman, and the broker becomes a free man – and an open target.3. “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime,” by Mark Haddon: Christopher John Francis Boone cannot stand to be touched. He relates well to animals, though, like his pet rat, Toby, and his neighbor’s dog, Wellington. He can calculate complicated mathematical problems in his head for fun … and uses this device when he faces something he cannot comprehend – like emotions. Christopher is autistic. When Wellington is killed with a garden fork, Christopher cannot help but find the killer. He turns to his favorite fictional character to help him “detect” the clues he’ll need, even though he “doesn’t like Arthur Conan Doyle.” His sleuth-work gets him into all kinds of trouble, not only with the local constabulary, but his father and neighbors as well.4.”Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini: This is the story of a friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Raised in the same household and sharing the same wet nurse, Amir and Hassan nonetheless grow up in different worlds: Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant, is a Hazara, member of a shunned ethnic minority. When the Soviets invade and Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him. 5. “Vail: Triumph of a Dream,” by Peter Seibert: This is the inside story of Vail by the man who created it. A ski trooper and member of the famed 10th Mountain Division during World War II, Seibert came back from the war with wounds so severe he was not expected to ski again. Against all odds he became a champion ski racer and a member of the 1950 U.S. Men’s Alpine Team. Then he focused on the dream he had since childhood – of building his own ski resort.6. “On the Road to Vail and Beyond,” by Dick Hauserman: Interstate 70 through Colorado is one of the most scenic interstate highway trips in the nation. It’s common for residents and visitors to drive I-70 simply to experience the natural beauty of snowcapped mountains, changing aspen leaves, summer greenery and rocky canyons. It’s hard to imagine how history and tales of the past can enhance what is already a spectacular drive, but after reading this book, travel along the I-70 corridor is sure to be filled with new wonderment. 7. “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” by Mark Maguire: Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil. 8. “Middlesex,” by Jeffrey Eugenides: Spanning eight decades and chronicling the wild ride of a Greek-American family through the vicissitudes of the 20th century, Jeffrey Eugenides’ witty, exuberant novel on one level tells a traditional story about three generations of a fantastic, absurd, lovable immigrant family – blessed and cursed with generous doses of tragedy and high comedy. But there’s a provocative twist. Cal, the narrator – also Callie – is a hermaphrodite. And the explanation for this takes us spooling back in time, through a breathtaking review of the 20th century, to 1922, when the Turks sacked Smyrna and Callie’s grandparents fled for their lives. Back to a tiny village in Asia Minor where two lovers, and one rare genetic mutation, set our narrator’s life in motion.9. “The Plot Against America,” by Philip Roth: “The Plot Against America” explores a wholly imagined thesis and sees it through to the end: Charles A. Lindbergh defeats FDR for the Presidency in 1940. Lindbergh, the “Lone Eagle,” captured the country’s imagination by his solo Atlantic crossing in 1927 in the monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis, then had the country’s sympathy upon the kidnapping and murder of his young son. He was a true American hero: brave, modest, handsome, a patriot. According to some reliable sources, he was also a rabid isolationist, Nazi sympathizer and a crypto-fascist. It is these latter attributes of Lindbergh that inform the novel.10. “He’s just not that Into You,” by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo: It’s a classic single-woman scenario: You really like this guy, but he’s giving mixed messages. You make excuses; decide he’s confused, afraid of commitment. Behrendt, a former executive story editor for Sex and the City – and a formerly single (now happily married) guy who knows all the excuses – provides a simple answer: He’s just not that into you. Stop kidding yourself, let go and look for someone else who will be. After all, as Behrendt sensibly puts it, “if a (sane) guy really likes you, there ain’t nothing that’s going to get in his way.” If you’re not convinced yet, by all means read this smart, funny and surprisingly upbeat little book, full of Q’s and A’s covering every excuse woman has ever made to avoid admitting to herself that a man just wasn’t that smitten with her.

1. “Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini: This is the story of a friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Raised in the same household and sharing the same wet nurse, Amir and Hassan nonetheless grow up in different worlds: Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant, is a Hazara, member of a shunned ethnic minority. When the Soviets invade and Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him. 2. “Birth of Venus,” by Sarah Dunant: Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family’s Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities.But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola’s reactionary followers. 3. “News from Paraguay,” by Lily Tuck: A historical epic that tells an unusual love story, “The News from Paraguay” offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of 19th-century Paraguay, a largely untouched wilderness where Europeans and North Americans intermingle with both the old Spanish aristocracy and native Guaraní Indians. 4. “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions,” by Ben Mezrich. 5. “Five People You Meet in Heaven,” by Mitch Albom: From the author of the phenomenal No. 1 New York Times bestseller “Tuesdays with Morrie,” a novel that explores the unexpected connections of our lives, and the idea that heaven is more than a place; it’s an answer. 6. “On the Road to Vail and Beyond,” by Dick Hauserman: Interstate 70 through Colorado is one of the most scenic interstate highway trips in the nation. It’s common for residents and visitors to drive I-70 simply to experience the natural beauty of snowcapped mountains, changing aspen leaves, summer greenery and rocky canyons. It’s hard to imagine how history and tales of the past can enhance what is already a spectacular drive, but after reading this book, travel along the I-70 corridor is sure to be filled with new wonderment. 7. “Under the Banner of Heaven,” by Jon Krakauer: Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. In “Under the Banner of Heaven,” he shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders. At the core of his book is an appalling double murder committed by two Mormon fundamentalist brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a revelation from God commanding them to kill their blameless victims. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this “divinely inspired” crime, Krakauer constructs a multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy and unyielding faith. Along the way, he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest-growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief. 8. “Virgin’s Lover,” by Philippa Gregory: In the autumn of 1558, church bells across England ring out the joyous news that Elizabeth I is the new queen. One woman hears the tidings with utter dread. She is Amy Dudley, wife of Sir Robert, and she knows that Elizabeth’s ambitious leap to the throne will pull her husband back to the very center of the glamorous Tudor court, where he was born to be. Amy had hoped that the merciless ambitions of the Dudley family had died on Tower Green when Robert’s father was beheaded and his sons shamed; but the peal of bells she hears is his summons once more to power, intrigue and a passionate love affair with the young queen. Can Amy’s steadfast faith in him, her constant love, and the home she wants to make for them in the heart of the English countryside compete with the allure of the new queen? 9. “State of Fear,” by Michael Crichton: Once again Michael Crichton gives us his trademark combination of page-turning suspense, cutting-edge technology, and extraordinary research. “State of Fear” is an eco-thriller with a superb blend of edge-of-your-seat suspense and thought provoking commentary on how information is manipulated in the modern world. From the streets of Paris, to the glaciers of Antarctica to the exotic and dangerous Solomon Islands, State of Fear takes the reader on a rollercoaster thrill ride, all the while keeping the brain in high gear. 10. “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” by Mark Haddon: Christopher John Francis Boone cannot stand to be touched. He relates well to animals, though, like his pet rat, Toby, and his neighbor’s dog, Wellington. He can calculate complicated mathematical problems in his head for fun … and uses this device when he faces something he cannot comprehend – like emotions. Christopher is autistic. When Wellington is killed with a garden fork, Christopher cannot help but find the killer. He turns to his favorite fictional character to help him “detect” the clues he’ll need, even though he “doesn’t like Arthur Conan Doyle.” His sleuth-work gets him into all kinds of trouble, not only with the local constabulary, but his father and neighbors as well.Vail Colorado


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