Check out these new arrivals at the Astoria Public Library, and visit the new Web site www.astorialibrary.org

Does one own a dog or is it more a partnership? Middle-aged, childless college professor Jill Rosen is about to find out. "Dog," by Michelle Herman, presents Jill with the possibilities of life, love, friendship and goodness she thought had passed her by.

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Bill Bryson lived in England for almost 20 years and is married to a Brit. In "Notes from a Small Island," he gives us his affectionately irreverent view of Stonehenge, tea and zebra crossings. Fans of Bill Bryson won't want to miss this travelogue of England.

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Maria Rosalia Inzerillo is a mystery. Rising from maid to a local wealthy family to administrator of their affairs, rumors say she was also very wealthy. Was she a blackmailer, an opportunist, or an exploited loyal servant? Simonetta Agnello Hornby's first novel, "The Almond Picker," is a best seller in Italy and has won four international prizes.

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Nick Hornby has done it again. "A Long Way Down" weaves the lives of four potential suicides who meet by chance on the same roof on New Year's Day. Hornby again finds humor where it is least expected. He explores love death, pain, life and the choices it presents.

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This is the true story of Zorro and how he came to be the protector of the weak and oppressed and the scourge of the powerful and cruel. Born in southern California, Diego de la Vega is sent to Spain at the age of 16 for education. Here he encounters cruelty and corruption under Napoleonic rule. He joins a secret society to fight for Spain's freedom. On his return to California, he continues his fight for justice. Isabel Allende again gives us great characters in "Zorro," this historical page-turner of a novel.

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If you listen to NPR, you know Scott Simon. "Pretty Birds," his debut novel, is getting rave reviews. Set in war-torn Sarajevo in the spring of 1992, it is the story of Irena Zaric, a Muslim. Irena is a star on her high school basketball team, and she has taught her parrot, Pretty Bird, to imitate the sound of a basketball hitting a hoop. After Irena and her family flee from Serb soldiers, she gets a job in a brewery sweeping floors. The brewery is a cover for a team of snipers who teach Irena the trade. Heartbreaking and darkly comic, this is a powerful first novel.

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After studying psychoanalysis in France, Mr. Muo returns to China. His purpose is twofold; to spread psychoanalysis in China and to free his longtime sweetheart from political prison. Unfortunately, the price for her freedom is a virgin for the sadistic Judge Di. The story of "Mr. Muo's Traveling Couch," by Dai Sijie, author of "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress," is exuberant, touching, funny and poetic.

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Julia Daniel is a 33-year-old food stylist photographer in a dead-end job in L.A., and she's depressed. Her father and stepmother die in a plane crash, her boss is crazy and she doesn't feel at home in L.A. or her birthplace of Kentucky. But she is returning for a family reunion. Frances Norris' first novel is "Blue Plate Special: A Novel of Love, Loss and Food."

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"Natural History," by Justina Robson, is a sci-fi novel that explores physics, politics and morality. Voyager Isol is half-human, half-machine and created by humans. She discovers an Earthlike planet and returns to explore it with Professor Zephyr Duquesne. What they discover is a gift and a curse and could change the universe.

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When John James Audubon arrived in New York from France in 1803, he spoke no English. In "John James Audubon: The Making of an American," by Richard Rhodes, we see Audubon starting a new life in the Kentucky frontier with his well-born English wife. As he explores the wilderness, he observes and draws the birds of America. Audubon became an overnight success when he took his watercolors to England to be published. This is also a story of enduring love told in the letters between Audubon and his wife during their three-year separation.

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