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Reading Roundup: Favorites of the Marshall Afternoon Book Club

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Book ClubsWhen an enthusiastic group of readers gets together to share books, you are sure to discover some great reads.

The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird

One of the things I like about the book club is that we read books that I might not have read otherwise. The Good Spy: the Life and Death of Robert Ames is one of those books. Not only does Bird paint an intriguing portrait of one of the most important and influential CIA operatives in the Middle East, but he also draws us into the history of an area of the world still in tumult. Robert Ames was a brilliant, if unorthodox, clandestine agent: he built meaningful relationships and found common ground with Arab intelligence officers and those on the ground. Through one of these contacts Ames met with Yasser Arafat, unbeknownst to the CIA. Bird devotes much of the book to stories gleaned from extensive research, interviews and letters. Tragically, Ames was killed in the 1983 bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut. In an interview Bird says that Robert Ames was a decent man and good at his work…a good spy…who might have continued to make a difference had he lived. Thought-provoking and a very good read!
     Barbara M., Marshall Afternoon Book Club

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

This is the love story which began in 1968 within the confines of the Pennsylvania State School for the Incurable and Feeble-minded. Through the grit and determination of two divergently different individuals and their compassion and understanding of each other a third individual is born. This child is entrusted into the care of a retired school teacher and becomes over time the hub of this now separated family. This is also the story of how society treats individuals with developmental disabilities, an extraordinary tale of love, compassion and misunderstanding combined within institutional settings. I invite you to read this wondrous story of love overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.
     Judy, Marshall Afternoon Book Club

Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak

What many of us loved about this book was Pasternak’s beautiful writing style. I especially loved his evocative descriptive passages. The book differs from the Omar Sharif movie: less romance and more 20th-century Russian history. Poet and physician, Yuri Zhivago, leaves his family to tend soldiers in WWI, and after the war he struggles to establish a personal life in the midst of the revolutions of 1917 and the subsequent Russian civil war. Pasternak’s manuscript was smuggled out of Russia in 1957, and the book was banned there for 30 years. Jane, Marshall Afternoon Book Club

The Right-Hand Shore by Christopher Tilghman

Cross the Bay Bridge, over the waters of the Chesapeake, and you have reached the other world of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The Right-Hand Shore  is the story of a home, the Retreat, and the Mason family. Set on this shore, a slave owning family struggles to keep their peach farm going Post-Civil War with former slaves who have now become servants and farm hands on the plantation where they previously worked in servitude. They are now free but not truly, for it will be more than a hundred years before freedom becomes a reality. The relationships are complicated and forbidden, especially those that involve inter-racial friendship and love. The stories hold you and break your heart. Beautifully written, the author captures the characters and the beautiful land on which they work and live. For those wanting more of this story, Mason’s Retreat follows the family in to the years of the Second World War. Both books are memorable.
     Deborah, John Marshall Afternoon Book Club

The Marshall Afternoon Book Club meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 1:00. We have a wonderful selection of titles for 2015. Come join us!

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Reading Riot: Bealeton TAG Earth Day Garden Project

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TAG Gardeners

To honor Earth Day in April, nine TAG volunteers dug into the Bealeton garden, replacing flower pots and replanting flowers at the library. The gardening project has become an annual tradition with the teens creating a welcoming and beautiful entrance for library patrons. They came with shovels, gloves and enthusiasm once again creating an inviting splash of colorful fresh flowers.


All young adults in 6th grade are invited to join TAG, a cool way to get involved at the library, make new friends, plan events and have fun!TAG Gardeners

If you’re still looking for ways to give back to the community, consider volunteering to help with the Summer Reading Program. Applications are available at all library locations and online. Deadline to apply is April 30.


Ann McDuffie, Youth Services, Bealeton branch library

For book lists, program highlights and staff suggestions for young adult readers published prior to January 2015, visit Reading Riot, our blog about the best books, events and websites for teen.

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Kiddosphere: Can’t Wait to Read – Children’s Fiction & Nonfiction

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It’s time for Part II of my Can’t Wait to Read series! I’ve told you about my most anticipated reads for adult nonfiction/fiction and young adult fiction for spring; here are the children’s fiction and nonfiction (and some YA nonfiction) that I am eager to read.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose book cover

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler features a group of Danish teenagers ashamed of their country’s lack of opposition to Nazi forces. Their acts of sabotage and resistance inspired the greater movement of Danish resistance. Phillip Hoose was able to interview Knud Pedersen for this account, which should make for riveting reading. It’s earned excellent reviews so far, and should interest young readers drawn to World War II stories (doubly exciting because this involves teenagers).

Gail Jarrow is becoming the go-to author for books about epidemics (her first in a trilogy of epidemics, Red Madness, explored pellagra). Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary not only features the history of the epidemic, but also raises ethical questions about quarantine (in the light of the ebola epidemic, this should prove to be timely reading). The Horn Book Magazine calls this a “suspenseful medical mystery.”

Like animal stories? Firstborn should probably go on your list. This story of a wolf who thinks outside the box (or pack?) is getting rave reviews and comparisons to White Fang and The Story of Ferdinand.

Gone Crazy in Alabama is the third and final entry in Rita Williams-Garcia’s 1960s trilogy about the Gaither sisters. When the sisters spend a summer with their grandmother in Alabama, they discover that everyday African-American life is vastly different than their experiences in Oakland and Brooklyn; they also learn the true reason why their mother and aunt are estranged. This obviously doesn’t appear to be a stand-alone title; you’ll want to read the books in order. This has received (so far) four starred reviews.

Any publishing year is elevated when Cynthia Lord has a new novel out. A Handful of Stars (set in Lord’s beloved Maine, as are many of her books) details the friendship between a young girl and a young Latino daughter of migrant workers (in town for blueberry picking season). This is receiving outstanding reviews (not unexpected, of course).

The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy's Great Idea. Based on the novel by Ann M. Martin. by Raina Telgemeier book cover

I was an ardent Baby-Sitters Club fan when the series was originally launched, and think they are still sweet choices for tween readers. However, the original covers scream 80s fashion and cover style, which makes them not very attractive to modern readers. Purchasing new copies with new covers was less than successful, but I’m counting on Raina Telgemeier’s many fans and Ann M. Martin’s numerous fans of her later series to boost attention to this relaunch. Kristy’s Great Idea is her first graphic novel retelling of the original story.

The Octopus Scientists is one of the latest entries in the fabulous Scientists in the Field series. Every title is full of amazing facts and pictures about the natural world around us. Can’t wait to learn more about these unique creatures.


Awwww. Yes. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer had me at its very original title and adorable cover. This story of a young girl from Los Angeles who moves to a chicken farm with her family and encounters a telekinetic chicken is “exceptional” (School Library Journal) and a “top picks for young readers” (Kirkus Reviews).

Next week, I’ll wrap up my series with a look at new picture books for Spring 2015.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

For book lists, reviews and staff suggestions for children published prior to January 2015, visit Kiddosphere, our blog about children/young adult fiction and non-fiction.

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Warrenton Great Books Club discusses “Gimple the Fool”

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The Warrenton Great Books Club recently discussed “Gimple the Fool” by Isaac Bashevis Sincouple_readingger. This story is about a gullible small town boy who grows to adulthood under the pressure of being the brunt of all jokes within his community.

This story inspired a thoughtful discussion about the wisdom of this character who is in retrospective and slow to anger. Gimple acknowledges himself as the “fool” preferring to believe everything the townspeople tell him. In this choice to believe he finds some possibility of truth, however fantastical, and some self respect if not social dignity.

At a dramatic turning point in the story, Gimple moves away from the town that named him “fool” and moves away from the role of fool to the role of storyteller. Something to ponder: Is it possible that a town with a storyteller does not need a fool?

Check out our upcoming reads for 2015 on our Adult Reading Page. New members are always welcome!

Jeanne, Warrenton Great Books leader

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Reading Riot: Celebrate Poetry with Books in Verse

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April is National Poetry Month  – the perfect time to connect with poetry and foster a love of language. The library has many outstanding poetry collections and books in verse.

Even this year’s Newbery Award winner, The Crossover, about 14-year-old twin basketball players, is a novel written in verse. Using free verse to describe the game’s intense energy and the brothers’ perceptive observations, Crossover challenges the idea that poetry is stuffy and hard to understand. Instead, poetry can be accessible and moving.

The reading of poetry can have a dramatic influence on our lives and culture. Get inspired! Check out some of these stories in verse available at the library.

Audacity by Melanie CrowderTeen boy spinning basketball

Because I am Furniture by by Thalia Chaltas

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost

Harlem Hellfighters by J. Patrick Lewis

Hidden by Helen Frost

The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes

Happy Reading!

Ann McDuffie, Youth Services, Bealeton branch library


For book lists, program highlights and staff suggestions for young adult readers published prior to January 2015, visit Reading Riot, our blog about the best books, events and websites for teen.


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Staff Picks: Recent Reads by the Warrenton Adult Reference Staff

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Warrenton library gardenHappy Spring! We hope you’re enjoying the beautiful spring weather, but don’t forget to take time out to read a good book. If you need some suggestions, here’s what we’ve read recently. We hope you’re inspired to read one of them, or something similar!

Waterfalls of the Blue Ridge by Nicole Blouin

I picked this book up with the intention of planning a few weekend hiking excursions for me and my husband. I was pleased with the wealth of information in this 4th edition of this Guide to the Natural Wonders of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

This guide is more than just a book of Waterfalls. It includes some of the basics, such as information on what to pack, the best times to visit, the distances of each trail and the trail difficulty. For those who love to photograph the great outdoors, there is even a handy suggestion guide on how to take photographs of the waterfalls. This book is divided into three sections, the first covering the basics of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the second covering Virginia, and the third covering North Carolina. Each waterfall/trail is easily identified, and driving directions and suggestions are included for each site mentioned in the book.

This updated edition includes 30 new waterfalls, some that can be seen with no hiking involved, and others that are only visible from a trail. Whether you are planning an afternoon or weekend excursion, this book provides the basics to help you prepare for your outing. I can’t think of a better way to welcome spring!

Jody, Adult Reference Librarian, Warrenton central library

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

“Oryx and Crake” kept me turning the pages with its blend of science fiction and psychological realism. The novel depicts a future in which Earth teeters on the edge of apocalypse, threatened by dangerous genetic experiments and social unrest. Against this dystopian background, Atwood explores a complex human tragedy—the story of the hapless main character, Snowman, his mad scientist best friend Crake, and the enigmatic woman they both love. Disturbing but moving, I recommend “Oryx and Crake” to readers of dystopian and psychological fiction.

Becky, Adult Reference Librarian, Warrenton central library

Lost Country Life by Dorothy Hartley

“Lost Country Life” is not a book that could be published nowadays, but that’s what makes it such a great read. It’s a chatty, sprawling, not particularly organized compilation of traditional knowledge from the English countryside. Hartley collects all the tidbits that don’t make it into the history books—the small details of farming, cooking, building, traditional crafts and more that defined life for people in pre-modern England. In addition to using medieval sources, Hartley obviously spent a lot of time wandering around the English countryside and talking to old-timers to learn about traditional practices. Fans of history and country living will enjoy this one.

Becky, Adult Reference Librarian, Warrenton central library

Who I Am by Pete Townshend

I listen to music constantly—in the car, at home, even while reading! As a result, reading biographies of rock groups and musicians is one of my hobbies. The Who has been one of my favorite groups ever since I first heard the song “I Can See For Miles” on the radio many, many years ago. This bio, written by Pete Townshend, lead guitarist for The Who, has been eagerly anticipated by fans. While the book has enough information on The Who and the group’s music to satisfy almost every fan, the book is primarily about Townshend himself. From his earliest  musical influences (his father was a clarinetist and saxophonist in a British swing band), to his discovery of blues music, through the wild years of The Who and his solo career, and the deaths of band members Keith Moon and John Entwistle, this book is sometimes brutally honest, sometimes reflective, but never boring. In the end, the reader comes away with a clearer picture of Pete Townshend the musician, the artist, the person.

Vicky, Adult Reference Librarian, Warrenton central library

Looking for more book lists and staff suggestions? Stop by the reference desk at your local library.


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e-Resource News: Are you financially literate?

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Hand holding pencil surrounded by receipts and a calculatorWith the wrap-up of the income tax filing season and Money Smart Week running April 18 – 25, now is a great time to revisit (or introduce yourself to) some basic personal financial topics. Below are online tools that can help guide and improve your financial decision-making skills.

MyMoney.gov organizes information under the easy-to-use My Money Five categories:

  1. Earn – Understand how pay and benefits work
  2. Save – Set money aside for both short- and long-term goals
  3. Protect – Protect yourself against identify theft, fraud and scams
  4. Borrow – Track your borrowing habits and better understand your credit score
  5. Spend – Make a budget and learn to live within your means

There is also a Life Events area covering areas like having a child, owning a home, starting a business and dealing with the death of a family member.

After you check out the resources on the site, be sure to test your knowledge by taking some of the money quizzes.

Because you are never too young to be money smart, be sure to introduce your children to the games, fun activities, websites, video games and information about money for kids and youth.

Another useful government website is the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information portal. Best know as the place to register for the Do Not Call list, you’ll also find a Money & Credit section with tips on buying a car, dealing with debt and shopping for a loan. There is also a convenient list of links for you to file a customer complaint, report identity theft or request a free credit report.

If you’re a teacher and/or parent, the Federal Reserve Education site has loads of interactive games, videos and lessons that you can sort by grade level.

For more government information and services related to financial literacy and well-being, check out the USA.gov website, specifically, Help for Difficult Financial Times.

For additional personal finance e-resources, visit the library’s Business & Personal Finance Resources page.

Alison, Electronic Resources Librarian, Warrenton central library

For tech tools and tips published prior to January 2015, visit eResource News, our blog filled with news and information about Fauquier County Public Library’s electronic resources.

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Staff Picks: The World in a Book

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Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.
     -Mary Schmich

Staff PicksAre you planning a vacation this year? Where are you traveling to? Even if it’s just a “staycation,” you can travel the world reading a book, from the South Carolina Low Country, to South Africa, to the countryside of England — as well as a trip of self-discovery through relationships with our canine friends. The John Marshall library staff is pleased to share these recommendations to get your travels started.

Cheryl, Page, John Marshall branch library

The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank

Set in the heart of South Carolina’s Low Country, and it tells the tale of three generations of women and their buried secrets. The matriarch of the family, at eighty, is a force to be reckoned with because she has to have the final word on everything, especially when she is wrong. The matriarch’s daughter is caught up in being middle-aged and in an emotionally demanding career that will eventually open all their eyes to a terrible truth. Her twenty-two year old daughter whose dreamy ambition of her unlikely future keeps them all at odds. During a Low Country storm these three deal with challenges that demand that they face the truth of themselves. After a confrontation they are forced to rise to forgiveness as they establish a new order for their lives and future. This is a great story of how three generations come together as the Hurricane Sisters.

Johnetta, Library Clerk, John Marshall branch library

A Beautiful Place to Die by Mala Nunn

Set in South Africa in the 1950s, where the irrational rule of Apartheid is the law, racial stratification of society is manifest in every aspect of this murder mystery. The intertwining of every shade of humanity occurs, despite the laws that dictate that many normal interpersonal interactions are unnatural and unlawful. The story line is very satisfying with surprising twists right up to the end. I am now reading the second book in the series, Let the Dead Lie, and I can’t wait to see if some more of my favorite characters resurface.

Gloria, Library Associate, John Marshall branch library

The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney

As an avid dog lover, I eagerly await the next good dog story to hit the shelves. Stories of rescue dogs are nearest and dearest to my heart. This novel does not disappoint, as it is a story of not only rescued dogs but also of people in need of rescue. The Sanctuary, high on the top of a mountain, is a place of refuge for abandoned and abused dogs, but within its walls are the helper people who are also in need of rescue. Both learn, grow and gain strength from each other, however, in the end it seems that the dogs share the most.

Told with a deep understanding of the intelligence and love that dogs have to give to their human companions, this is an inspiring, touching, funny, and insightful tale of dogs and people who fall short of what is expected of them and yet go on to embrace life. This is a book to be treasured and read again, and it is one that could be appreciated by even those not totally comfortable with dog hair on their chair.

Deborah, Library Branch Manager, John Marshall branch library

A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch

When I first started reading this book, recommended by a patron, I thought it might be a little too cutesy. However it turned out to be a delightful travel diary, detailing a springtime trip she and her husband took on the Queen Mary 2 to visit England. The book is a work of art, entirely handmade, from the handwritten text to the wonderfully whimsical watercolors created to illustrate every page. The photographs she and her husband took are very special glimpses into their ramble through the English countryside, as they visited the homes and strolled the gardens of literary greats like Jane Austen and William Wordsworth. Her homage to her favorite author and watercolorist, Beatrix Potter, is as fanciful as Miss Potter’s books. Recipes are even included, and their visits to English tea rooms and pubs are featured throughout. The book was written with real joy and true appreciation to just be there — reading this travel journal made me feel like I was actually there, walking along with her through the wildflower covered countryside dotted with sheep. Susan Branch has done a number of handmade books, mostly cookbooks in the “Heart of the Home” series, but this is her first travel book. My hope is that she has more travel planned — and another travel diary planned as well. This book made me want to book a cabin on the QM2 and sail right over to England!

Cheryl, Page, John Marshall branch library

Looking for more book lists and staff suggestions? Stop by the reference desk at your local library.

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Kiddosphere: Can’t Wait to Read – YA Books

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Spring 2015 is positively blooming with amazing YA titles. We have several titles available now, with others to join them very soon! This is part II of my Can’t Wait to Read series, which started with adult fiction/nonfiction picks for Spring 2015.

Andreo's Race by Pam Withers book cover

Andreo’s Race is helping to fill the need for high-stakes adventure YA novels that aren’t dystopian stories, science-fiction, or fantasy. Just straight-up adrenaline racing reads! An adopted teen goes to Bolivia not just to compete in an ironman challenge, but to discover the truth about his adoption. School Library Journal recommends this for “reluctant readers looking for a thrilling novel.”

The Boy in the Black Suit is the third recent YA novel involving a teen working at a funeral parlor (see also The Dead I Know and Six Feet Over It). Odd, but there it is. I’m a fan of Jason Reynolds’s When I Was the Greatest, so this is near the top of my growing to-be-read list.

Not only does Boys Don’t Knit (In Public) have a great title, but it also has a great cover. I just noticed that this is set in England, so I’m eager to discover if there will be any language/cultural differences that come into play. This story about a teen in trouble with the law who must take up a new hobby is “funny and lighthearted” according to Publishers Weekly.

It’s a good thing that I held off reading Prisoner of Night and Fog, because this means that I only need to wait mere weeks (instead of months) to read Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. For some reason, I thought that Hitler’s weird relationship with his niece was the center of the novel, and although I knew it received excellent reviews, I was really not keen on reading it (it’s only a small part of the story). Gretchen Muller’s father is regarded as a martyr for “Uncle Dolf”, but when a Jewish reporter (whom she befriends) claims that her father was actually murdered, she begins to question everyone and everything surrounding her highly positioned Nazi family. If you need thrilling, thoughtful, and meticulously researched YA historical fiction, you need to read this book. Admittedly, I was a bit uncomfortable with it (Hitler as a character in a novel just gives me the willies), I was quickly drawn into this impressive story. Reviews for its sequel have been superb.

Cuckoo Song, by all accounts, is DARK. Set in England just after World War I, this novel about a girl who finds her world confusing and unimaginable after an accident is “nuanced and intense” (Kirkus Reviews) and “painful and powerful” (Publishers Weekly). It’s already received three individual starred reviews.

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest book cover

AWESOME cover for I Am Princess X. I love it. 16 year old Libby is shocked when stickers, graffiti, and other images of the superwoman character she created with her deceased friend start showing up around town. Reviews have been quite strong for this thriller; it’s received two starred reviews.

Lumberjanes is a graphic novel (“A must-have” according to School Library Journal) set at a camp in which odd things happen (such as a woman turning into a bear). A group of campers investigate these wacky occurrences–this sounds like an awesome read!

Bennett Bardo had just asked his dream date to the prom when she was suddenly abducted by aliens. (What a bummer!) Can he and a band of misfit musicians return her to Earth (hopefully, before prom)? Many reviews for The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Excursion have noted its wit and fast-paced action (and surprising ending). Is it literary YA with tons of meaning and messages? Perhaps not, but it sounds like a fabulously fun read that will appeal to many readers.

We cannot keep Roller Girl on our shelves! This tale of two friends who become divided after one decides to go to roller derby camp and another to dance camp sounds ideal for Raina Telgemeier fans. It’s received four ecstatic starred reviews.

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham book cover

Scarlett Undercover has received a lot of buzz based on the fact that the heroine is an African-American Muslim teen. Scarlett tested out of high school, so she formed a detective agency (as one would). Scarlett stumbles upon a mysterious myth about the descendants of King Solomon. It’s received admiring reviews (including a starred one from Kirkus); we could always use more diversity in YA mysteries (and YA in general), so I’m excited to receive this soon.

This is just a *sampling* of the 2015 YA books on my TBR list! This is going to be an incredible year for YA. Make sure you look at this Saturday’s Wowbrary; it will be full of more titles for YA and children!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

For book lists, reviews and staff suggestions for children published prior to January 2015, visit Kiddosphere, our blog about children/young adult fiction and non-fiction.


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April 2015 Consumer Reports: 2015 Annual Auto Issue

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Car lotEvery April issue of Consumer Reports is devoted to automobiles. Here are some of the topics covered this year:

10 Top Picks of 2015
Subaru has three models that ranked high; Toyota has two.

Best and Worst
Reviews performance, reliability, emergency handling, fuel economy

Do You Really Need a New Car?
Lists several things to consider before buying that new car.

Welcome to the Infotainment Revolution
Lists ten companies (Ford, Honda, etc.) and the infotainment systems they use in their automobiles, including how easy (or not) they are to use.

Lists 241 of the 2015 models, with information on reliability, MPG, and price.

Ratings for 270 models

Reliability ratings for 200+ vehicles, from 2009 to 2014

Each branch of the Fauquier County Library has the print issues of Consumer Reports from 2010 up to the current issue. The Find It Virginia databases have an index to the issues from February 1, 1976 to the current issue, and the full-text of the reviews from January 1, 1999 to June 1, 2009. You can access Find It Virginia from any library computer, or from home with your valid Fauquier County Public Library card.

Reference Staff, Warrenton central library

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