At the local - Books for a lighter Spring

The days are longer, the weather is nicer and there's never a better time to grab a good book and head to a park.

In May at the Capitol Hill branch library, Preschool Story Times will continue at their regular time: every Wednesday morning at 10:30 for a half-hour, (except for May 4).

Also, a reminder: All city libraries, including the Capitol Hill branch, will be closed on May 30 in observance of Memorial Day.

Here a few choice titles worth considering before summer vacation.

"The Prince of Fire" by Daniel Silva

Gabriel Allon is back! When the Israeli Embassy in Rome is bombed, the art restorer and rather unwilling spy is called upon to track down those responsible for the crime. In addition to the bombing, another tragedy strikes - it is discovered that the bombers possess a complete file of Allon's life, including every detail of his personal and professional history. Currently living in Venice with his girlfriend Chiara, Gabriel reluctantly departs for Israel to begin the hunt for the terrorists.

The mastermind behind the bombings is a French archeologist named Paul Martineau, who is also known as Khaled, the "sword of Palestine." Khaled was orphaned when his father was killed by Israelis, and is the adopted son of Yasir Arafat, who has trained him to wreak vengeance on his enemies. Gabriel must identify and track Khaled against a backdrop of generational violence and hostility (a truly Herculean task), find him and stop him from carrying out his next attack.

With a labyrinthine plot and packed with action and suspense, "Prince of Fire" is a thrill. Silva does a masterful job of explaining, and exploring, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict , and uses his very real and complex characters to show both sides of the issue in a balanced and understandable way. Fans of the series will be pleased, and those who like espionage tales, adventure stories, or just really good writing, will enjoy the book as well.

"The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls"

Jeannette Walls is a successful freelance writer who lives on Park Avenue in New York City. She has achieved a lot in her life - a mind-boggling feat when you consider the chaos and turmoil of her childhood. In "The Glass Castle," Walls presents a painfully honest retelling of her life that will leave you astonished at her courage and strength of character.

Rex and Rose Mary Walls shared a love of nonconformity - and an aversion to "regular" work. When their four children were young, the family wandered among Southwest desert towns, living in camping tents. After what little money they had ran out, the Walls moved to be near Rex's family in a poor West Virginia mining town. They were so poor that the children ate out of the trash at school, and painted their skin so holes in their clothing didn't show.

The family had had a dream of building a 'Glass Castle,' their dream house for which Rex had meticulously drawn a set of plans. They got as far as digging a hole for the foundation and then ran out of steam. Tellingly, the hole became the family's dumpsite when they couldn't afford to have the trash picked up by the town.

The children endured hunger, teasing, and unbelievable poverty (they often would huddle in cardboard boxes with their pets to keep warm), but they always stuck together. Every time they got a little of their own money saved up, their father would steal it and go on a bender (he routinely stole the grocery money to go drinking).

Incredibly, one by one, they managed to get away from West Virginia, and all four ended up in New York City leading productive lives. But their parents eventually followed and wound up living on the streets out of choice. Walls even relates an episode where she sees her mother rooting in a dumpster one day while looking out a cab window - then, ashamed, ducks down, in case her mother looks over and recognizes/greets her.

What is so amazing about this book is that Wells recognizes her parents' shortcomings but still loves them anyway. Although they treated the worst kinds of adversity as mere "adventures," the Walls did teach their children to take on life's challenges without fear, a gift few parents ever pass on. At times the book is funny, painful and startling, but is always absorbing - a definite 'can't put down' book. "The Glass Castle" is a wonderful book by a master storyteller.[[In-content Ad]]