August

augdogdays2015possible The dog days of summer have arrived! Enjoy languid days reading and watching the recommended titles below.

 

 

Mary – Youth Services

gosetawatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, New Fiction Lee

Go Set a Watchman begins when Scout (now called “Jean Louise”) returns from college in New York, to visit her aging father in her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama. All seems to be, at first, as it always had been. A childhood friend, named Henry becomes a determined romantic pursuer; Jean Louise’s Aunt Alexandra oversees that Jean Louise is getting in touch with young girls who never left town for college. Maycomb itself is enclosed in in a quiet standstill, and this childhood stomping ground still holds Jean Louise’s past like a time-capsule. But this mirage is broken, and it is broken fairly quickly as Jean Louise discovers that many individuals within her town – most notably her father, lawyer Atticus Finch – harbor terrifying ideals on race, and what constitutes an ideal American South.

The first thing one needs to know about this book is that it is not To Kill a Mockingbird, this is a very different story. In fact, Go Set a Watchman was written before To Kill a Mockingbird. After reading this book, I firmly believe Lee wrote it, and it appears to be largely unedited. I also believe that this work was published with her consent. If you are looking for a nod to Mockingbird, however, there is a reference within Go Set a Watchman to the events of that famous trial, with one major plot point changed. It seems like whatever happened to have Mockingbird published before Watchman rests largely with the fact that publishers wanted an earlier version of the famous social-justice lawyer, Atticus Finch. Simply put: they wanted a hero.

In many ways, this work opens a Pandora’s box filled with many of our country’s deep-set problems. Not one character within this story exhibits a healthy perspective on race, an issue which the work is largely concerned with. Even Jean Louise, who can be considered the best of the lot, has a view of race which is problematic, at best. And yes, this will make many people uncomfortable. But because of this, I would argue that Go Set a Watchman is the story that we need for our modern age. This book challenges one to see that even if you believe you have healthy perspectives on race, on sexist attitudes, on religion and bigotry, you better look closer.

But as Atticus’ brother, Dr. Finch, points out, it is time and time again that history will repeat itself. Wars are fought. Lives end. And still, we attach ourselves to heroes. To this, Dr. Finch poses the most interesting question of the novel: When we see our hero’s true face, why is it then we turn away?

stillaliceStill Alice starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, and Kristen Stewart, New DVD Still Alice

Dr. Alice Howard is a celebrated linguist and professor at Columbia University. Only in her fifties, Alice begins to think that something is terribly wrong when small instances of forgetfulness progress to her inability to remember important events and people. Thinking she has a brain tumor, she sets out to find a neurologist, only to find out that she has a rare diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. There are few works which cover the pure confusion and rage at the loss of personal identity to Alzheimer’s disease. An uncomfortable topic for many to openly discuss, individuals with Alzheimer’s are often at odds with their diminishing sense of identity, and the loss of their ability to convey their experiences to others. Julianne Moore gives what was an Oscar-winning performance of Dr. Alice, and it was well-deserved. She brings an astounding performance to this film which challenges the boundaries of what we think is identity, what it means to be alive, and what it means to lose and love. Astounding film that all should see.

Chris – Technical Services

zookeeperswifeThe Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman, CD 940.53 Ack (audiobook) or Nonfiction 940.53 Ack (book)

Drawing on Antonina’s Zabinski’s diary and other historical sources, naturalist Diane Ackerman re-creates life at the Warsaw Zoo before, during, and after WWII. A not particularly brave person, she finds herself responsible for her own extended family, the zoo animals, resistance activists, and the refuge Jews, many smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto. A Polish Christian, she, her husband Jan, and young son believe it is their duty to help all, both animal and human, to survive the Nazi terror. Ackerman, the author of the bestselling A Natural History of the Senses, examines the role of nature in both kindness and savagery, and explores the disturbing obsession at the core of Nazism.

Sue – Circulation

holycowHoly Cow by David Duchovny, New Fiction Duchovny

David Duchovny (yes, that David Duchovny, who has a Master’s degree in Literature from Yale in addition to his acting skills) has written a funny and impactful novel. Holy Cow tells the story of Elsie, a cow on a family farm in upstate New York who discovers that she and the other animals on the farm are destined for slaughter. Upon learning this horrifying news, she decides to run away to India, a country where cows are not eaten, but revered. As she makes her plan to escape, she is joined by a pig named Jerry who wants to go to Israel (no pork in the diet) and a turkey named Tom who wants to go to Turkey (where hopefully he will be respected in a country named after him and not eaten for Thanksgiving.) The three animals’ zany adventures around the world are recounted by Elsie with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor, including puns and pop culture references, as well as little nuggets of wisdom. The book is written to be humorous and quirky, but the points Duchovny makes about the horror of factory farms and mankind’s role in the destruction of the environment are valid and worthy.

longmire

Longmire starring Robert Taylor, DVD Longmire, Season 1-3

This series stars Australian actor Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire, an old-fashioned county sheriff in Wyoming. Walt recently lost his wife and is returning to work. Walt is a very honorable man, hard-working and trustworthy and deeply caring and loyal. Through the first three seasons of the series, his wife’s death and its effect on Walt and his daughter Cady is explored. His wife was suffering from cancer, but dark circumstances surrounding her death are revealed as the series goes on. Walt is running for re-election and his deputy, Branch, is running against him, financed by his rich and unscrupulous father. Unbeknownst to Longmire, his daughter is also romantically involved with Branch. The show co-stars Lou Diamond Phillips as Longmire’s best friend Henry, part Cheyenne and proprietor of the local tavern, and Katee Sackhoff as Walt’s trusted deputy Vic, a transplant from Philadelphia with a storied past. Walt’s jurisdiction runs up against a Cheyenne Indian reservation and he sometimes clashes with the chief of the tribal police. The show stands out from standard crime dramas because of the rural setting, which includes cowboys, Native Americans, cattle, and wide open spaces. It is also slower-paced than most detective shows, befitting its Wyoming setting where life moves at a different pace than big cities. I enjoy the show because of the richly developed characters and intriguing mysteries. It is an intelligent, well-made series with an outstanding cast. Unfortunately, A&E cancelled Longmire after Season 3, but it was picked up by Netflix for a fourth season, which is scheduled to air this fall.

grandmotheraskedmeMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, New Fiction Backman

The second novel from the author of A Man Called Ove. Seven-year old Elsa is different and gets cruelly picked on at her school. Her eccentric grandmother is 77 and Elsa’s best and only friend and stalwart defender. Every night, Elsa and her grandmother journey to a magical place called the Land of Almost Awake – a fairy tale world created by Granny that consists of a number of different kingdoms, all with their own purpose and heroes. In this magical world where being different is celebrated, Elsa feels safe and happy. When her grandmother dies after taking ill, Elsa sets out to deliver a series of letters her grandmother left behind for various people from her life, most of whom are residents of the apartment building owned by Granny where Elsa lives. As Elsa proceeds through each delivery, she learns much about her grandmother’s life before she was born and about the lives of the people around whom she has grown up without really knowing or understanding. She realizes that the stories she has heard her whole life in the Land of Almost Awake are actually pieces of the truth of Granny’s amazing life. This book is a bit complex, with the fantasy world of the Land of Almost Awake colliding with the real world, but it all comes together in the end. I didn’t enjoy it as much as A Man Called Ove, which was wonderful and one of the best new books I’ve read in years, but it is a worthy read, more serious-minded and sadder than Ove, but with a hopeful ending.

Brigitte – Circulation

wolfinwhitevanWolf in a White Van by John Darnielle, New Fiction Darnielle

Wolf in a White Van is the first novel by musician John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. It tells the story of Sean Phillips, a young man with a severe facial disfigurement who is attempting to grapple with the humdrum of every day life as a disabled person. This novel has been described as a deep meditation on escapism, especially through the means of role-playing games. It’s definitely a must-read for the summer if you are looking for something a little heavier.

softskinThe Soft Skin starring Jean Desailly and Francoise Dorleac , New DVD Soft Skin

The Soft Skin is the latest of Francois Truffaut’s films to receive acclaim. This movie follows Jean Desailly, a bored literary scholar, married to his wife but wanting more. He is charmed by Nicole, a flight attendant, and soon they begin an affair. As their relationship grows, the film becomes more frantic. As Jean’s life begins to fall apart, so does the world around him. The ending of this fast paced French film will leave you breathless.

 

Michelle – Administration

exmachinaEx Machina starring Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, New DVD Ex Machina

This movie took a very interesting look at the creation and use of Artificial Intelligence and the place for AI in the world. It was beautifully acted and kept my full attention until the end. It also gave me something to think about long after the movie was over.

 

chappieChappie starring Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, New DVD Chappie

This movie also delved into the world of AI and what it means to be human. Chappie was completely unexpected. I’d seen the advertising far too many times and I don’t think it captured what this movie is truly about. I cared more about the AI in this movie than I did most of the human characters. As a bonus, it is fun to watch Hugh Jackman play the villain!

 

Hubbell – Circulation

wildtalesWild Tales (Relatos Salvajes) starrring Ricardo Darin and Oscar Martinez, New DVD Wild Tales

A 2014 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Wild Tales is a collection of six distinct vignettes set in modern day Argentina showing everyday people thrown into emotionally charged situations. Produced by Academy Award-winning director Pedro Almodóvar, Wild Tales plunges the viewer into life-or-death situations and presents moral dilemmas where good intentions are not what they seem. You will find yourself unclear about whom to support as the characters take justice into their own hands. The movie’s stories include an episode of lethal road rage following a casual insult, a man’s crazed revenge on a towing company, a family’s plan to do whatever it takes to protect their son from a long prison sentence, and a bride’s maniacal wedding night retaliation on her cheating fiance. Wild Tales is simultaneously hilarious, violent, shocking, and humanizing.

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July

JulypicnicIt’s July! Celebrate summer, family, and freedom and enjoy the titles listed below.

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

grantchester

Grantchester starring James Norton and Robson Green, New DVD Grantchester, Series 1

This series is set in 1953 in Grantchester, a rural village outside of Cambridge, England. It focuses on Sidney, the young, handsome, and vibrant local vicar, and Geordie, the local police detective. Sidney is good at his job – his parishioners trust him and go to him with their problems, but he is a flawed hero. He drinks too much, his love life is complicated, and he is haunted by his service in World War II. Plus he is not above breaking one of the commandments or the law for the greater good. Geordie is a no-nonsense kind of man, married with a large family. Sidney and Geordie meet in the first episode of the series when a woman suspects a local death was not suicide, but murder. The two become best of friends and Sidney thereafter helps Geordie solve cases. As a trained detective, Geordie focuses on facts and procedure while Sidney is intuitive and quick-witted; together they make a good team. The show is highly entertaining, with a good balance of fun and seriousness. It has been renewed for a second season.

palisadesPalisades Park by Alan Brennert, Fiction Brennert

I enjoyed this book that mixes historical information about the now-closed Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey with the fictional lives of the character Eddie Stopka and his family. The book opens in 1922 when a 10-year old Eddie visits Palisades Park for the first time. From there on out, the park will have a profound impact on his life and the lives of his family, particularly his daughter Toni. We follow Eddie as he leaves home as a teenager, works in the South for a few years, and then returns to New Jersey to work at Palisades, eventually owning his own concession stand, marrying, and having two children who practically grow up at the park. As a very young child, Toni saw a high diver perform at the park and was inspired to become a high diver herself, against the wishes of her mother. The novel explores a number of important events in American history through the prism of the park and its employees, including World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Korean War. We watch Toni and her brother grow up and see the direction their lives take, influenced by their upbringing as concessionaires of the park and choices made by each of their parents. This book is entertaining with well-drawn fictional characters that we care about, as well as real-life characters that were involved in the actual operation of the park over the years, which closed its doors in 1971. A great blend of fiction and fact in a moving family story.

roseRose by Li-Young Lee, New Nonfiction 811.54 Lee

Li-Young Lee is an award-winning poet, born in Indonesia in 1957 to parents who were political exiles from China. In the late 1950s, his family fled Indonesia, eventually emigrating to the United States and settling in Pennsylvania. He currently resides here in Illinois. His poetry is lush and sensuous, evoking feeling through descriptions of taste, smell, hearing, and touch, and celebrating small moments in time while focusing on meaningful issues like family, love, and memories. This collection is very reflective, being greatly influenced by the death of Lee’s father, whom Lee views as an almost mythical figure, having been the personal physician to Mao Tse-tsung, and later a political prisoner and then a minister in his new country. My favorite poem in this collection is “From Blossoms.” Its figurative language is tantalizing – you can almost taste the sweetness of the fruit. I like the way the poem goes from describing the lushness of the peaches to a broader meaning of the lushness and beauty of life. I love the last stanza of the poem, with its repetition, giving strong emphasis to those joyful moments of our lives, that we should hold on to and savor.

Mary – Youth Services

carnivorousplantsCarnivorous Plants by Tony Camilleri, Nonfiction 583.75 Cam

Some of us may have vague, nostalgic memories of being given a venus fly trap as a kid. But for some of us, the cultivation of carnivorous plants did not stop there…and instead, it turned into an obsession. I am a proud sufferer of carnivorous plant addiction, and Carnivorous Plants by Tony Camilleri hits the spot, it really does. Although this guide on carnivorous plants and their cultivation is a bit dated in terms of the latest growing tips, I do think it still stands as an important work on the topic. Also relevant are the stunning photographs taken of a variety of carnivorous plants. You will not believe your eyes. (Or that these plants are real!) After all, did you know that the seeds of the Byblis gigantea will only germinate after a fire? And if you want to grow these small plants, you must actually create a small fire? Or that the carnivorous plant called The Rainbow Plant (Byblis) is named after a woman in a Greek mythology, named Byblis, who cries so much that she turns herself into a fountain? Or did you know that some pitcher plants can digest small mammals? If these facts tickle your curiosity, then welcome to the family. Carnivorous plant cultivation and education ensures these endangered and mystifying plants survive for the future years to come.

tempestThe Tempest starring Helen Mirren and Felicity Jones, DVD Tempest

This modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s last work is an astonishing accomplishment by director Julia Taymor and Helen Mirren, who plays the leading role of sorcerer Prospera. This modern re-telling places a woman in one of the leading roles of Shakespeare, which works marvelously. The Tempest is a story of family, aging, the relationship between a person and their passion in life, and also, when it is time to let go of one’s power and place. It is the story of the transformation of a sorcerer into something much more tricky to be: a human being. With great performances from Felicity Jones, Ben Wishaw, Djimon Hounsou, and of course, Helen Mirren, this Shakespeare adaptation is incredibly memorable, and I will confess, when I saw it years ago, it was the first time I “got” Shakespeare.

Hubbell – Circulation

tyrantTyrant starring Adam Rayner and Ashraf Barhom, New DVD Tyrant, Season 1

Tyrant is a modern drama whose plot is loosely drawn from the recent political revolutions in the Middle East. Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed reluctantly returns to his father’s kingdom, the fictional and politically fractured Middle Eastern country of Abuddin, for the wedding of his nephew. Barry has wiped away the memories of growing up as Abuddin’s prince, but returns with his American wife, Molly (Jennifer Finnigan), and their two children. During their stay, however, Barry’s violent and sociopathic brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom) looks to gain control of the country following their father’s death and Barry chooses to stay to guide his homeland on a rough path to democracy. Tyrant was created by the acclaimed Homeland producer Gideon Raff and its second season just began in June of 2015.

Jacob – Circulation

runningthebooksRunning the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg, Nonfiction 027.665 Ste

This memoir is about a young man who takes a job on a whim as a prison librarian. He thinks the job is going to be pretty straightforward and not too tricky. He learns rather quickly, though, that this is not your typical job. He must navigate the murky waters of helping inmates who want nothing more than to be out of prison and appeasing a prison system that want to keep them locked up and orderly. Steinberg details this dichotomy wonderfully, while also describing the numerous characters he encounters while at work. This is an insightful read with a touch of humor.

Brigitte – Circulation

burningloveBurning Love starring Michael Ian Black and Ken Marino, New DVD Burning Love, Season 1 and Season 2 & 3

Do you love The Bachelor? Do you hate reality television? Do you like comedy? Then this is the show for you. Burning Love is a satirical “reality show” based on modern dating shows. Produced by Ben Stiller and starring Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, and June Diane Raphael, these DVDs will keep you laughing.

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June

junecoverpossibleIt’s June. What could be better than sitting by the pool or at the beach with a good book?

 

 

Sue – Circulation

whistlingpastgraveyardWhistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall, New Fiction Crandall

I really enjoyed this coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s of the South and narrated by 9-year-old Starla. Starla’s mother left her and her father to be a star in Nashville when she was a toddler, so she has been raised mostly by her grandmother while her father is away working on an oil rig. Starla and her grandmother do not get along; Starla feels that the grandmother doesn’t love her as she is always punishing her. So Starla decides to run away to Nashville and find her mother. Along the road, Starla is picked up by a black woman named Eula traveling in a truck with a white baby. This is 1963 Mississippi, so that is not a usual site. However, Starla is an innocent child and so doesn’t fully understand the racial hatred of that time and place. Eula takes Starla to her home, where a confrontation with her violent husband sends her out on the road with Starla and the baby on the way to Tennessee. During the journey, Starla and Eula bond as they face experiences that test their courage and make them grow stronger. Starla learns some hard lessons about life both on the journey and when they reach Nashville. The relationship between Starla and Eula is portrayed beautifully and we really feel the love and devotion between the two.

firstimpressionsFirst Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett, New Fiction Lovett

Part historical fiction, part mystery, and part romance, this book alternates between the present day and the 1790s, telling the modern-day story of Sophie, a young woman just graduated from Oxford with a passion for English literature, especially the works of Jane Austen, and a 20-year-old Jane Austen herself in 1796 England. The part of the story involving Jane Austen revolves around her friendship with an elderly clergyman, Richard Mansfield, and the beginnings of her greatest novel, Pride and Prejudice. In the modern day story, Sophie gets a job in an antiquarian bookstore and receives two requests for an obscure book published in the late 1700s by an unknown clergyman. As Sophie investigates the requested book, she finds a link between it and Jane Austen that could rock the literary world, as well as endanger her own life. Being a book lover and book collector myself, I connected with the characters, especially Sophie’s Uncle Bertram, and I enjoyed the gentle relationship between Jane and Mr. Mansfield.

farmhandspiesFarmhand’s Favorite Pies: Recipes, Hints, and How-To’s from the Heartland by Amy and David Butler, 641.86 But

This book is invaluable for those who enjoy baking. I had never made my own pie crust before, but wanted to learn. I’d heard that using lard makes the best and flakiest crust, so I bought some organic lard and followed the recipe in this book for a super flaky crust. The book includes three recipes for crusts – two with butter, one with lard – as well as a crust for tarts and graham cracker and nut crusts. The book also includes tips and tricks for making the best crust and pies. In addition to the crust, I’ve also made the apple pie and it was a hit with my family. Recipes in the book include fruit pies, cream pies, tarts, and cobblers. The recipes come from blue ribbon-winning pies at county fairs throughout the U.S. Give the recipes a try – I’m sure you and your family will be pleased with the tasty results.

Jacob – Circulation

thunderboltkidThe Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, 921 Bryson

Bill Bryson is an author typically known for his travel and science writing. This book, though, details his childhood in Des Moines, Iowa, in the 1950s. Nothing about his upbringing is particularly noteworthy, but what makes the book so entertaining is Bryson’s humorous storytelling ability. He takes mundane events and adds his own personal twist. Bryson also weaves into his lighthearted memoir the latest gadgets and gizmos available to the American family in the atomic age. Overall, the book is an easy read and a glimpse into what it was like growing up middle class in mid-America after WWII.

Mary – Youth Services

annieonmindAnnie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, YA Garden

Originally written in the early 1980’s, and often on the list of banned classics, Annie on My Mind tells the coming of age story of two girls, Eliza Winthrop and Annie Kenyon. They meet in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and since that meeting, they form a friendship, which transforms to a deep love for one another. At times, Annie on My Mind is a portrait of the times it was written in, but by extension, it is also an unfortunate portrait of intolerance still alive in modern society. You can heal or hurt because of your differences, and I think that Annie on My Mind provides a colorful cast of characters that will truly live beyond the time it was written for, as it already has. It is a book well worth checking out, and because of its frequently banned status, it is surely a story worth fighting to keep on library shelves.

1000formsfear1000 Forms of Fear by Sia, CD 781.63 Sia

There are very few songwriters as unique and explosive as Sia in modern music. Because of her distinct singing voice and iconic style of songwriting, the experience of listening to her sing is quite visceral. This album fully reflects the great emotional depth of her writing, and also her steely strength to battle pervasive anxieties, both personal and societal. 1000 Forms of Fear is a monumental achievement for Sia, and it leaves one imagining what she will do to top her latest work, as she always seems to do.

Hubbell – Circulation

poemsfromguanPoems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak, edited by Marc Falkoff, 892.7 Poems

Compiled by NIU College of Law professor Marc Falkoff, Poems from Guantánamo is eye-opening, inspiring, and heartbreaking. The collection features poems written by detainees themselves while incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay. The English translations are expertly done, annotated with linguistic details so that the native tone is not lost on the reader. Each poem is also prefaced with a brief summary of the inmate’s background and journey to the prison. One prisoner, detained at age 14, gives a harrowing account of his capture and transport to Cuba. Another, of British and Zambian heritage, wrote rap poetry to communicate with his family and friends back home. The stories portray a bleak existence of incarceration, but one that needs to be heard.

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May

MaycoverSpring is here! Take a book outside to read and enjoy the beauty of the season.

 

 

Linda – Technical Services

stilllifeStill Life: A Three Pines Mystery starring Nathaniel Parker and Anthony Lemke, New DVD Still Life

First watch the videorecording, Still Life: A Three Pines Mystery, an excellent adaptation of the first in Louise Penny’s mystery series. Then indulge yourself by reading the books, all available in our adult fiction section under the call number F Penny. In order they are: Still Life, A Fatal Grace, The Cruelest Month, A Rule Against Murder, The Brutal Telling, Bury Your Dead, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery, How the Light Gets In, and The Long Way Home. Enjoy!

Sue – Circulation

mancalledoveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Fiction Backman

I loved this book. It is a beautiful story and so, so funny. Ove is a grumpy, anti-social man who has just been forced into retirement. All he wants is to be left alone, but his neighbors won’t have it. First, there is the pregnant woman who has just moved in, her mechanically-challenged husband, and their two young daughters who keep showing up at his door, then Jimmy, the young man next door, plus Ove’s long-term neighbors Anita and her husband Rune, whose health is in decline. Ove’s best-laid plans keep getting disrupted by these people. Though Ove is a grouch, we discover that he is an inherently decent man, but he possesses unwavering principles and so is very inflexible in his attitudes and actions. As Ove’s past is revealed through flashbacks, we see the heart-wrenching losses he’s suffered throughout his life and begin to sympathize with him and admire him. This book was truly a pleasure to read – it will make you both laugh out loud and cry.

MurdochMurdoch Mysteries starring Yannick Bisson, New DVD Murdoch, Seasons 1-7

This is one of my favorite television series. It is a Canadian show set in the Victorian era when Canada was part of the British Empire. The show stars Yannick Bisson as Inspector William Murdoch of the Toronto Constabulary. Murdoch is an intelligent, taciturn detective very keen on using new technologies such as fingerprints to help him solve crimes. One fun part of the show is bringing in real-life characters and inventions of the time. Such historical figures as Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle, Buffalo Bill Cody, and numerous others make appearances on the show. The show is also humorous in its suggestions that Murdoch himself created early prototypes of many later-to-come inventions, such as scotch tape. The show also has fun with the characters suggesting inventions that are yet to come, like the World Wide Web, paint-by-number kits, and many others. I find the mysteries to be intelligent and entertaining and I really like the characters and their interactions with one another. Besides Murdoch, there is his boss, Inspector Brackenreid, a gruff Yorkshireman transplanted to Canada, Murdoch’s earnest but inexperienced sergeant, George, who abounds with wild theories about crimes being committed by aliens or werewolves or other such supernatural creatures, and the lovely and strong-willed Dr. Julia Ogden, the pathologist who has had to work hard to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor in that time period. As the series goes on, we learn more about each character and the characters grow and change and their relationships with one another deepen. The seventh season concluded in 2014 and the show returned for an eighth season this year.

abovetheriverAbove the River: The Complete Poems by James Wright, New Nonfiction 811.54 Wri

James Wright was an American poet from Ohio. He was born in 1927 and passed away in 1980 from cancer. His poetry was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, as well as other honors. In addition to his home state of Ohio, he spent time teaching in Minnesota and New York. He suffered from mental illness throughout his life and had several nervous breakdowns, yet his poetry celebrates the human spirit, as well as speaking out against social injustice. My favorite poem of Wright’s is “A Blessing.” The first time I read this poem, many years ago, it touched me emotionally. The gentleness of the horses, their quiet companionship, and the affection shown by them towards the speaker is moving. The mood of the poem is soft and tender, using lovely figurative language to express the speaker’s feeling of awe at the wonder and beauty of the natural world.

Mary – Youth Services

frannyandzooeyFranny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger, Fiction Salinger

Sometimes you read a book and immediately wonder how the author created – and there are no other words for it – a small piece of magic. Franny and Zooey is one of those impressionable books. The work itself is a collection of two novellas, Franny and Zooey, respectively. The first novella tells the story of a disillusioned college student, a young woman whose scathing wit begins to be worn down as she opens her eyes to the world of indifferent adults around her. The second novella, Zooey, opens with a grown man sitting in a small bathtub within his childhood home, nursing a nervous breakdown as he awaits his sister Franny’s arrival from college. When this brother and sister – Franny and Zooey – talk to one another, the dialogue that ensues is rich, humorous, and expertly crafted by Salinger. Franny and Zooey is an unforgettable story, and I highly recommended it to anyone facing the blues of indifference. It’s a definite yearly re-read of mine.

artofaskingThe Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, New 921 Palmer

Two years ago, Amanda Palmer gave a TED talk that has a YouTube viewcount steadily climbing towards the 4 million mark. This talk shares the same title of her memoir, The Art of Asking, and it examines why we don’t ask for help, and how we can connect with each other through the act of asking for help. If someone does not know Amanda Palmer from this TED talk, or as a musician, she is especially known for her close connection with fans online, and most notably, her Kickstarter campaign that raised $1.2 million dollars to independently release an album. The book covers these aspects of her life, and also, it is a highly personal look at the figures and events that have shaped who she is. If debating between the book form of The Art of Asking or the audiobook, I would listen to the audiobook. Palmer reads it herself, and it includes her own music, and the music and voices of those you encounter in her stories. It makes for a highly effective, shining collaborative effort of artists and their ideas of what it means to make good art, and most importantly, how to be kind to yourself and live a quality life.

Brigitte – Circulation

runthejewelsRun the Jewels 2 by Run the Jewels, CD 781.649 Run the Jewels

Released in late 2014, Run the Jewels 2 is arguably the best album of the year. It is certainly the best rap album of the year. Musical duo Killer Mike and El-P reflect on racism, poverty, and the economy in their sophomore album with emotion-driven lyrics and harsh beats. It’s truly a must-listen for any hip hop fan. (Note: the album contains explicit lyrics.)

Hubbell – Circulation

MissingBBCThe Missing, starring James Nesbitt and Frances O’Connor, New DVD Missing, Season 1

The Missing is a 2014 BBC original production rebroadcast by Starz in the U.S. Set in London, England and rural France, The Missing begins with a familiar premise when the Hughes’ (Nesbitt and O’Connor) son, Ollie, vanishes during the family’s vacation in the French countryside. The boy remains lost and the series resumes five years later; the couple is divorced, Emily Hughes remarried, while Tony Hughes still searches for his son, now presumed dead. The investigation is reopened with the help of French detective Julien Baptiste (Tcheky Karyo), and the two uncover major flaws in the original investigation borne from police oversight and political corruption, which gives rise to the possibility that Ollie may still be alive. Tony persuades Emily to join them in reexamining the case, and the series concludes with a shocking finale that answers some questions but raises even more.

americans The Americans, starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, DVD Americans, Seasons 1 and 2

Based loosely on the real-life Soviet espionage program, “The Illegals,” and also inspired by the experiences of show creator Joe Weisberg, The Americans tells the story of the seemingly innocuous Jennings family. Elizabeth (Russell) and Philip (Rhys) are introduced as two average D.C.-area suburbanites raising two children, but are quickly revealed to the viewer to be Soviet-born, expertly trained intelligence operatives leading a double-life. In the pilot, the Jennings meet new neighbor and FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) and immediately begin to gain his trust in order to glean information about the FBI’s counter-intelligence efforts. The Jennings stop at nothing in carrying out their directives from their KGB superiors, which include seduction, blackmail, covert surveillance, and outright murder. Philip completes a sham marriage with an FBI office secretary. Elizabeth attends AA classes to befriend an employee of a government defense contractor. The series skillfully balances the couple’s covert intelligence activities with the ever-present prospect of their teenage children discovering their parents’ secret. The series has received critical acclaim and is gaining viewers each week as airs its third season now on FX.

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April

aprilshowers1April is National Poetry Month and April 12-18 is National Library Week. So celebrate your local library and its positive contribution to your community while enjoying these recommended titles, including poetry and prose, as well as movies.

 

Sue – Circulation

flyingatnightFlying at Night, Poems 1965-1985 by Ted Kooser, 811.54 Koo

Ted Kooser grew up in Iowa and now lives in Nebraska. He has won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2004 to 2006. His poetry is firmly rooted in Midwestern values and way of life. He writes of the simple lives of Midwestern farmers, writing often of his grandparents or other ancestors and objects or heirlooms from the past. His poems brilliantly use metaphors and similes to make his words come to life and show the joy and wonder of ordinary life. I find his poetry soothing and beautiful. I am a country girl at heart and long for the kind of simple, rural life that his poems celebrate. In this volume of poetry, I feel you get the most out of the book by readings the poems as a whole, but if I had to pick one that I liked the most, I would pick “Flying at Night”, which compares the light of a galaxy with the light in a farmer’s yard, showing at the same time the enormity of the universe and the interconnectedness of all life, large or small. I also liked “A Quarter Moon Just Before Dawn” where Kooser uses the metaphor of the moon as an old woman, stooping to “pick up a star that she’s dropped in her garden.”

collectedpoemsCollected Poems, 1951-1971 by A.R. Ammons, 811.54 Ammons

A.R. Ammons was an award-winning American poet, including a two-time winner of the National Book Award for Poetry. He was born to a tobacco farmer in 1926 and grew up in rural North Carolina. He passed away in 2001. His poetry is a warm affirmation of the beauty and wonder of nature and man’s relationship to nature. My favorite poem in this collection is “Eyesight”, in which a man is so busy that he misses the coming of spring. He laments to the mountains and they tell him that he can still catch spring if he travels further north, but it’s not that way with all things, some things if you miss them, they are gone forever. I like this poem because it reminds us to slow down and appreciate what is before us right now, whether it be the beauty of nature, our family, our friends, or anything else that may be lost and then it is too late.

annesextonThe Complete Poems by Anne Sexton, 811.54 Sex

Anne Sexton had a very troubled life, which is reflected in her poetry. She suffered from mental illness, spent time in mental hospitals, and took her own life at age 45. Despite this, her work has won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her poems are powerful and raw and speak of her personal struggles, as well as issues all of us face in our lives. My favorite poem of Sexton’s is “Courage”, which speaks of courage not as running into a burning building to save lives or something equally dramatic, but in many small moments over the course of our lives, such as a child riding a bike for the first time, a teenager surviving taunts of peers, adults surviving the death of loved ones, and the strength to face old age and all its indignities. It is a beautiful poem, very moving and inspirational.

finesummersdayA Fine Summer’s Day by Charles Todd, New Fiction Todd

This is the 17th book in the Ian Rutledge series by the fine historical fiction author Charles Todd. The series begins in 1919 with Ian Rutledge, a Scotland Yard inspector, returning to work following his service as an officer in World War I. What Rutledge is keeping a secret is that he returned from the war suffering from shell shock – today called post-traumatic stress disorder. In that time, soldiers suffering from this disorder were considered weak and were treated with contempt. During the war, Rutledge had a traumatic experience involving a Scottish soldier named Hamish under his command that led to Hamish’s death. Now Rutledge is haunted by the voice of Hamish in his head. Added to this, Rutledge’s boss dislikes him and treats him unfairly, which is why he has not been promoted, though he is an excellent detective with a strong history of solving difficult cases. This book is especially interesting because it takes us back in time to 1914, before the war began, and shows us Rutledge’s life pre-war and the last case he solved before he went to France. We meet some familiar characters from the series, including his fiance, whom we know later betrays him. The book also explains how the war developed over the weeks and months following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the British people’s attitudes and fears about a possible war. For those who have read the whole series, this is a fascinating look at Rutledge before the war damaged him. If you are new to the series, you could read this one first, since it is chronologically first, or start with book one and work your way up to this one.

Mary – Youth Services

normalheartThe Normal Heart starring Mark Ruffalo and Jim Parsons, DVD Normal

The Normal Heart opens at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City in 1981. It follows writer and activist Ned Weeks as he struggles to understand and aggressively fight against the blind eye cast upon HIV/AIDS, and those who were dying from it. Little can precisely describe what the true events of the HIV/AIDS crisis were like, but this film gives more than a glimpse into the horror and rage of the times. With a brilliant cast of individuals like Jim Parsons to Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts, this film is unspeakably difficult to watch, but is one of the best I have seen. Although ultimately hopeful, The Normal Heart reflects the belief of its playwright and screenwriter, Larry Kramer, that in the arena of human rights, there is still so much more work that needs to be done.

theoryofeverythingThe Theory of Everything starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, New DVD Theory

If there is anything quite sparkling and dazzling to the Hollywood eye at the moment, it is the subject of The Genius. If the individual was the “tortured” type, well, throw in a brownie point. Stephen Hawking definitely had his fair share of challenges, and is quite the colossal mind, but I think what The Theory of Everything uniquely captures – unlike other genius-trope films – is Stephen Hawking as a human being. This film is heralded by Hawking himself, and is based on his first wife’s memoir of their life together, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, and it covers his early academic years, family, and working with the progression of his motor-neuron disease. Most notably, Eddie Redmayne (playing Stephen Hawking) becomes indistinguishable, absolutely sinking into the skin of man he portrays with a brilliant performance.

intothewoodsInto the Woods starring Meryl Steep and Johnny Depp, New DVD Into

Witches, princesses, and princes are all coexisting on the edge of the dark, dark woods. But what lies within those woods? It may sound like the setup for types of fairy tales we hear over and over – and we may be tired of – but thankfully, Into the Woods has the twist that only Stephen Sondheim can provide. A renewal of classic fairy tales, Into the Woods is a film based off a musical bearing the same name. It follows the fairy tales we all know – Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella – past their happy-ever-afters to endings that, well, aren’t quite happy at all. It must have been a massive undertaking to adapt the Stephen Sondheim musical to screen, but it was expertly done. And Meryl Streep is in it. What more can I say? Well: It’s quite good!

Jacob – Circulation

yeschefYes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson, OB Internet Download (e-book)

Marcus Samuelsson is an award-winning chef and this book chronicles his journey. His unique upbringing, born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden by adoptive parents, provides interesting insight as he climbs the chef and restaurant ranks. Marcus appears frequently on the Food Network and has cooked for the President of the United States. If you are a fan of memoirs or cooking, this book is for you!

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March

Marchcoverdog

March is here. We’ve almost survived another winter! Enjoy the thaw with a good book.

 

 

Jacob – Circulation

wintersboneWinter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell, Fiction Woodrell 

Facing the prospect of losing the family home, a young girl must track down the whereabouts of her deadbeat dad. On her search, Ree discovers a lot about herself, her father, and her rural community. Set in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks, Woodrell crafts a chilling story that leaves you astounded by the courageous actions of the story’s heroine. A very good read.

blueberryyearsThe Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family by Jim Minick, Nonfiction 634.737 Min

Jim Minick has a dream of owning and operating an organic blueberry farm. This is his story. It details everything from his struggles with pesky critters and hot Virginia sun to the triumphs of the first berries and the people who pick them. Because Jim chronicles his experience with humor, the book is entertaining and informative.

Sue – Circulation

thehumansThe Humans by Matt Haig, Fiction Haig

I loved this funny, compelling, and deeply touching novel. When a Cambridge mathematics professor named Andrew proves a complex mathematical hypothesis, an advanced species from a distant galaxy comes to earth and kills him. They feel that humans are not ready to handle the consequences of the knowledge this breakthrough would lead to. They send an alien of their species to earth to impersonate the professor. His job: to kill anyone with whom the professor shared his knowledge, as well as his wife and son. This species is devoid of emotion; they are completely logical. Much of the humor in the book comes from the alien Andrew interacting with humans. For example, when he first arrives, he is nude and he can’t believe the uproar this lack of clothing causes. As alien Andrew continues to live on earth and among humans, including the wife and son, he begins to feel emotions for the first time, which confuses him greatly. He has been told that humans are destructive and greedy. He sees this, but he also begins to see more: he listens to music and is moved by the beauty of it; he enjoys eating peanut butter; he finds wisdom in the poems of Emily Dickinson. When he grows to love the family dog, he is in serious trouble. Now that he knows love – completely illogical, yet wonderful, and like nothing he has ever experienced on his home planet, how can he fulfill his mission and kill the two humans closest to him?

hill top farmThe Tale of Hill Top Farm: The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter by Susan Wittig Albert, Fiction Albert

The first book in an eight-book series, this is a gentle read featuring Beatrix Potter, the author, illustrator, and naturalist, set in the Lake District of England, where Potter in her later life became a farmer. Her farms have been preserved by the National Trust and can still be visited today. This series is a fictionalized account of Potter’s life, with many accurate historical facts. It takes place from the time she buys her first farm in the Lake District to her marriage of a local man. In each book, Potter solves a mystery in the community. The local animal population plays a large role in each book and helps to solve the mysteries. A charming series, especially for animal lovers and those who appreciate life in the country.

broadchurchBroadchurch, starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman, DVD Broadchurch, Season 1

This British drama is set in Dorset, England, along the coast. It tells a single story across eight episodes. The body of an 11-year-old boy is found on the beach in the small, close-knit community of Broadchurch. DS Miller and her new boss, DI Hardy, investigate the case. Miller is a local and close friends with the mother of the murdered boy, while Hardy is a newcomer to the area with a questionable past. The show is powerful and intense, dealing with such a terrible event, and each episode is gripping as the story deepens and we see how many lives are affected by the murder and watch as the community is torn apart. The show is extremely well-done and deals honestly with the emotions of the characters caught up in the drama. We see the press descend on the town and innocent people suffer as gossip and suspicion grow. The show had a shocking ending that I didn’t foresee. A second season will air in 2015, with many of the cast members from season one returning.

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd, Fiction Todd

dutyThe first in a mystery series by the excellent historical fiction author Charles Todd. This series centers around the life of Bess Crawford, an English colonel’s daughter who grew up in India and is now serving as a nurse on the battlefields of World War I. In this story, a dying soldier asks Bess to deliver a message to his family. While on leave, Bess visits the family and becomes suspicious about their reactions to the message. As she investigates further, she becomes involved in a murder mystery involving the dead soldier’s brother and uncovers years of lies and deception. The book evokes the atmosphere of the age and the mysteries are compelling and complex. I also highly recommend Todd’s Ian Rutledge mystery series, set in the immediate years after World War I and focusing on a Scotland Yard detective who returned from battle suffering from shell shock and his struggles to return to society as he investigates cases.

Mary – Youth Services

goodomensGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Fiction Gaiman

This book was definitely out of my comfort zone. But sometimes, that’s quite a good thing. In this seamless collaboration, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett create a story about our world, but in what appears to be the not-so-distant future of the impending apocalypse. The story focuses on an angel named Aziraphale (part-time antique book dealer, full-time angel) and Crowley (demon who inspired Eve to eat the forbidden fruit). Both Crowley and Aziraphale come to an unlikely partnership because – after all they have done to meddle in human affairs – they find that they quite like living a mortal human life. (The sushi restaurants, mostly.) Filled with irreverent humor, and a British touch for linguistics, I would recommend Good Omens to any fantasy lover, or any fan of quite clever British humor.

affinityAffinity by Sarah Waters, Fiction Waters

Recovering from a suicide attempt, Margaret Prior has been urged to look into charity work as a remedy for her failing mind. She agrees, and volunteers in the women’s ward of Millbank Prison, London. While at the prison, Margaret meets an enigmatic prisoner, Selina Dawes, who is a self-proclaimed spiritualist and medium. Both Margaret and Selina grow close in each other’s company, and finally, they try to find a way for them both to escape their suffocating lives – and against all odds, to set Selina free. Set in the Victorian Era, this novel is a whirlwind of desire, lies, desolation, and most of all, the hope for freedom that those on the fringes of society long for.

 thisisallyoursThis is All Yours by Alt-J, New Music 781.66 Alt-J

Here we are again reviewing another Alt-J album, but you can’t help it; their music is phenomenal. This is All Yours is an otherworldly blend of dull melancholy, combining elements of rock, indie, and electronic sounds that is sure to be unlike anything you have ever heard. Alt-J is a new sort of Radiohead; a quiet place in a noisy world.

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February

groundhogIt’s February. The end of winter is in sight (think positive!) Here are some suggested titles for reading on snowy winter nights.

 

 

Melissa – Reference

wewereliarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart, YA Lockhart

A wealthy family is forced to come to terms with its inner ugliness as four young cousins refuse to play the “money game”, pitting themselves against each other for inheritance money. Lockhart contrasts the innocent idealism of youth alongside grave naiveté.


wildtruthThe Wild Truth
by Carine McCandless, New 921 McCandless

For anyone who has read or seen Into the Wild, Carine is Chris’s sister and here she offers more insight into why a young man with a bright future ahead of him would suddenly abandon his family and all his worldly possessions. What Carine tells us is that the picture painted by Jon Krakauer (author of Into the Wild) did at all resemble the truth of Chris’s childhood. It’s an important reminder about knowing a person’s history before judging his/her character.

Sue – Circulation

whenworldyoungWhen the World Was Young by Elizabeth Gaffney, New Fiction Gaffney

This is a coming-of-age story set in post World War II Brooklyn. It tells the story of Wally, who is 9 years old when the book opens in 1945 on V-J Day. Wally’s father is serving in the Navy. Her little brother passed away tragically two years prior of illness. Her glamorous mother, Stella, has returned to doctoring and Wally misses spending time with her. She bonds with Mr. Niederman, a mathematician boarding with the family while he does war work for the government. Wally has mostly been raised by Loretta, her grandmother’s black maid who also helped to raise Stella. Wally is not a typical girl, but a tomboy who is fascinated by ants. Her best friend is Loretta’s son Ham, a few years Wally’s senior. The book follows Wally from 1945 through college-age. A personal tragedy befalls Wally on V-J Day and the book revolves around the lead-up to that event and the repercussions on Wally and other’s lives. We see Wally grow and mature as the novel moves forward in time and how political, racial, and world events of the time deeply impact her life and decisions, as well as other central characters in the book. A powerful and realistic family drama with strong characters set in a fascinating time in American history.

deliciousDelicious! by Ruth Reichl, New Fiction Reichl

Billie has just moved to New York City from California. She is an excellent chef, but for undisclosed reasons, she doesn’t want to cook. Instead, she gets a job at Delicious! magazine responding to customer questions and complaints. She enjoys the job and makes friends with her co-workers. But then the magazine ceases publication and everyone is let go except her. She is being kept on temporarily to continue to assist customers. The book really takes off and gets interesting when Billie, working alone in the building, comes upon a cache of old letters hidden in the library. She is particularly intrigued by a series of letters between a 12-year-old girl named Lulu and the famous chef James Beard written in the 1940s during World War II. After reading the final letter, Billie is compelled to try and find Lulu, and possibly write an article about the letters. Throughout her adventure, we learn more about Billie’s life in California and the personal tragedy that sent her to New York and turned her away from cooking. Billie’s life and Lulu’s life parallel each other in that both suffered major losses, Billie in her recent past and Lulu in her distant past. Billie, through reading about Lulu’s journey, finds the strength to come to terms with her past and make a new life for herself. A satisfying, warm-hearted story.

dustbowlThe Dust Bowl, a film by Ken Burns, narrated by Peter Coyote, DVD 973.91 Dust

The Dust Bowl is a Ken Burns documentary. Four hours in length, it chronicles the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history that lasted almost a decade. Using interviews with people who lived through it, photographs, and video footage, it does a fine job of explaining the causes of the Dust Bowl, including drought and improper farming methods that led to soil depletion and erosion, and the reasons for its end, including actions taken by the FDR Administration to improve farming methods and soil conservation techniques, in combination with improved weather conditions and more rain. The video footage of the dust storms is really frightening. The dust was so thick it would black out the sun. The film also shows how FDR took action to help the farmers after the failure of the Hoover Administration to do so. The personal stories are very moving and you realize the bravery of the people who faced such hardship and loss.

Corky – Circulation

castleCastle, starring Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, DVD Castle Seasons 1-6

I loved Castle from the first day that I saw it in 2008. (Has it been that long?) The TV series features Nathan Fillion as Rick Castle, a famous crime novelist, who is paired up with Detective Kate Becket, Stana Katic, to solve homicides for the NYPD. This reminds me of Moonlighting with its quick dialog, witty banter, and physical attraction between these two who do not necessarily want to work together.

While Rick Castle is assisting the NYPD investigate a copycat serial killer who is following the plot of Castle’s books, he decides to kill off his main character and create a new one named Nikki Heat, based on, who else, but Det. Kate Beckett. Castle plays poker with the mayor, and producer Stephen J. Cannell and author James Patterson (who play themselves in the series) and pulls strings to shadow Det. Kate Beckett for writing inspiration. Castle adds humor by his unique way of looking at crimes and facial expressions. I am recommending Season 1, but all of the six seasons are worth watching.

Mary – Youth Services

brieferhistoryA Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking with Leonard Mlodinow, Nonfiction 523.1 Haw

Recent films such as The Theory of Everything (based on the life of Stephen Hawking) and The Imitation Game (based on the life of mathematician Alan Turing) have both been successful in popularizing great minds in math and science. If you are more curious, however, about the true work of these individuals, I would highly recommend looking into both Hawking and Turing’s non-fiction works. In the case of Stephen Hawking, his most accessible work of popularized non-fiction science is arguably A Briefer History of Time. Based off an earlier work, A Brief History of Time, this “briefer” version (as the title would suggest) takes the original, ground-breaking physics book and helps make its material more approachable for the non-astrophysicist. By utilizing well-designed illustrations, A Briefer History of Time, in a digestible way, breaks down concepts of time, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, space-time, and what would happen to you if you were sucked into a black hole…among other mind-blowing facts about our universe that, if you know them, are sure to make you popular at parties. (Well, the ones worth going to, anyway.)

throughthewoodsThrough the Woods by Emily Carroll, New YA Graphic Carroll

Dark, unsettling, and with all the menacing charm of a Grimm fairy tale, Emily Carroll has created one of the most elegant graphic novels of 2014. In five short stories, Through the Woods contains fairy tale-like stories that even I thought were genuinely chilling. This book is indescribable, and fans of graphic novel will be sure to be awed by Through the Woods’ truly unique and eerie illustration style.

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January

JanuarycoverWelcome to 2015! Start off the year with some good books!

 

 

Chris – Technical Services

700sundaysBilly Crystal 700 Sundays, New DVD 792.7028 Billy Crystal

Based on his one-man Broadway show, this HBO comedy special will fill you with laughter, but more-so with tears – of joy and sorrow as he recounts the people and influences in his life that made him what he is today.

 

peopleuncountedA People Uncounted: The Untold Story of the Roma, New DVD 909.049 People Uncounted

For those interested in WWII history or the Holocaust this is an excellent film, but difficult to watch. A heartbreaking story of the people we call “gypsies” in Europe during the Holocaust in WWII and their continued marginalization.

 

Jacob – Circulation

borntorunBorn to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall, Nonfiction 796.425 McD

Christopher McDougall was constantly getting injured while running. While researching relief for his foot ailments, he came across a tribe of Indians who live in Mexico’s Copper Canyons and enjoy running hundreds of miles without stopping or getting injured. Interested in discovering this tribe’s secrets and how ultra-marathon runners push their bodies to the limits, Christopher McDougall takes the reader from Harvard science labs to the hot, unforgiving canyons of Mexico. This interesting book takes a close look at what it takes to run and how deep down we are all capable of running great distances. Christopher McDougall is an award-winning journalist and writes a great narrative that is uplifting as much as informational.

Skyskyjackjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper by Geoffrey Gray, Nonfiction 364.1552 Gray

This book investigates the infamous case of a man who boarded a Northwest Orient flight in 1971, exhorted $200,000 from the airline, and then parachuted out of the plane over the Pacific Northwest to never be heard from again. Taking a look at never before seen FBI files and discovering possible new clues, Geoffrey Gray reworks the case, making sure to highlight the various scenarios and suspects. This book keeps the reader guessing and wondering if maybe after all these years the mystery will be solved.

Sue – Circulation

docmartinDoc Martin, starring Martin Clunes, DVD Doc, Series 1-6

This is a PBS series about a curmudgeonly London vascular surgeon named Martin who develops a phobia of blood and has to give up surgery. He moves to a small village in Cornwall where his aunt lives and he spent summers as a child to become the local general practitioner. His brusque manner does not go well with the local residents. The show is populated by colorful characters, including the local plumber and his son, the doctor’s receptionist, the village police officer, and a lovely school teacher named Louisa for whom Martin develops romantic feelings. The show is funny and entertaining and the Cornwall landscape is magnificent. It even has a big, lovable dog to top it all off. Season 7 will be filmed in 2015.

ajThe Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, New Fiction Zevin

This feel-good book begins with bookstore owner A.J. slowly drinking himself to death after losing his wife suddenly in a car accident. On top of his grief for his wife, a rare and valuable copy of a collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe that A.J. was counting on to get him through declining sales at his store is stolen. A.J.’s life turns around when a two-year-old child is left abandoned in his bookstore shortly after the robbery. A.J. cares for the child, Maya, while social services is sorting things out and ends up falling in love with her and adopting her. Maya reinvigorates A.J.’s life, giving him a reason to live again and bringing new people and experiences into his life. A quick read that tells a lovely story of renewal, not only for A.J., but also others in his life, including his sister-in-law, suffering in a loveless marriage to an unfaithful husband, the local police chief, lonely like A.J., and Amelia, a publishing representative who visits A.J. a couple times a year to sell him books for the store, whom A.J. finds himself attracted to despite getting off on the wrong foot with her on her first visit.

LewisInspector Lewis, starring Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox, New DVD Inspector, Series 1-7

A spin-off of the BBC detective series Inspector Morse, this series follows Robbie Lewis, former sergeant to John Thaw’s Morse. Robbie lost his wife in a tragic hit-and-run and took some time away from the force. He now returns, promoted to detective inspector with a new sergeant named James Hathaway, solving crimes for the Oxfordshire police as he mourns his loss and rebuilds his life. Robbie and James are both complex characters and their relationship grows and deepens as the series goes on. In addition to excellent character development, the series also presents the viewer with intelligent, compelling mysteries. Entertaining and well-made, this is the kind of quality show you expect from the BBC. The show was cancelled after six seasons, but was then brought back for a seventh season. An eighth season has been announced and will be filmed in summer 2015.

Mary – Youth Services

savingmrbanksSaving Mr. Banks, starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, DVD Saving

Author P.L. Travers is low on cash, luck, and morale when she is contacted by Walt Disney for the rights to her most beloved children’s book character, Mary Poppins. With great reluctance, she decides to go to Walt Disney’s studios to oversee the creation of her children’s book as it enters the film world. Emma Thompson plays a wonderfully complex and moving portrait of an author who writes for the very same reason Mary Poppins comes to the Banks family: not to change lives of children, but rather, the adults who influence their world.

smokeinyoureyesSmoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty, Nonfiction 363.75 Dou

Creator of the unexpectedly hilarious and poignant web series Ask a Mortician, Caitlin Doughty is a crematory operator and champion of the alternative death practice in the United States. If you ever wondered what life is like for those who take care of our dead, there is no greater place to look that Caitlin’s videos and writings. In her memoir, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, she chronicles her experiences at Westwind Crematorium, and her growth as a person, yielding pathos far beyond her years. (Also, if you are worried this topic sounds morbid, rest assured—she. is. hilarious.)

awesomewaveAn Awesome Wave by Alt-J, CD 781.66 Alt-J

An album that is sure to stand the test of time for its original sound, An Awesome Wave is the product of the indie British band Alt-J. It is quite hard to describe the atmosphere this music creates, but it is largely unique due to the vocals of Joe Newman. Lovely, melodic, and mellow; Alt-J is a group that defies categorization.

Corky – Circulation

oneforthemoneyOne for the Money by Janet Evanovich, Fiction Evanovich

In 1994, Janet Evanovich came out with One for the Money, the first book in her Stephanie Plum series. Before that, she had been a romance writer and since I was involved with Romance Writers of America, my friends and I planned to go to a book signing at Anderson’s in Naperville and afterwards take Janet out to dinner. (We lucked out; her publisher, Harper Collins, picked up the tab.) During that dinner, I learned about what went into the making of this new series. Janet spent two years researching this book: drinking beer with law enforcement types, learning to shoot, and practicing cussing. At the end of those years, she created Stephanie Plum, the heroine of this book, not exactly biographical, but according to Janet, “You can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take Jersey out of the girl.”Janet’s research must have paid off. Each year for the last 20 years her latest book is a New York Times best-seller. Why has the series been so successful? I think it’s the characters, who are quirky and funny. Stephanie Plum, an out of work lingerie buyer, is also out of money. In the opening pages of the book, her car is repoed and her refrigerator is empty. I love it when the heroine starts at rock bottom – I always try to guess what I would do in that situation. Duh, get a job. So Stephanie blackmails her bail bondsman cousin, Vinnie, into giving her a try as a bounty hunter. Her first job is to track down an accused murderer and a cop and bring him to the police station. She has absolutely no skills to do this job. One for the Money is witty, fresh, full of surprises, and makes me laugh out loud.

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December

snowmanDecember is here! Time for making snowmen, drinking hot cocoa, and celebrating the holidays with our loved ones. Below are some suggested titles for you this month.

 

Corky – Circulation

Debbie Macomber’s Christmas Cookbook by Debbie Macomber, Nonfiction 641.568 Mac

christmascookbookThis is a Christmas cookbook, but it is so much more. It has the most gorgeous pictures, clear, crisp with vibrant colors. I could have just looked at it and been perfectly happy. On to the recipes: about one hundred from appetizers to Christmas breakfast, lunch, dinner, and finally desserts. The recipes are simple with not a lot of ingredients and easy to make. I tried the Cranberry Walnut Cobbler. It said it took five minutes. It did. I took the dessert to a party, where it was in competition with chocolate cupcakes. The cobbler disappeared.

Debbie Macomber must love the Christmas holidays. She shares family stories and traditions, memories and observations. She includes crafts and decorating ideas, wrapping tips, and again beautiful pictures of all of these. This book is warm, inviting, and did I say it has beautiful pictures.

Sue – Circulation

guernseyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, Fiction Shaffer

Set in 1946 and told entirely through letters sent back and forth among the characters, this book tells the story of a London author named Juliet looking for her next topic for a book who receives a letter from a man named Dawsey in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands located in the English Channel off the coast of France that was occupied by the Germans during World War II. After the first letter, Juliet and Dawsey continue their correspondence and then other residents of the island begin to write to Juliet as well. They describe to her how their book club, named the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, was founded and share their stories of life on the island during the Occupation. Through their letters, Juliet learns about the residents and the hardships they faced during the war years. She decides to write about Guernsey and visits the island to meet all the people she’s grown to care for through their letters. This book is a joy to read. It is charming and full of life, with wonderful, vivid characters that draw you in and a positive, uplifting tone. Guernsey circa 1946 is a place you would like to visit filled with people you would like to know.

roseofsebastopolThe Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon, Fiction McMahon

This historical novel follows two upper-class English cousins with opposite personalities during the Crimean War in the 1850s. Obedient, meek Mariella always follows the rules while strong-willed, determined Rosa is always pushing boundaries. It is Rosa’s dream to be a nurse. Against her family’s wishes, she follows Florence Nightingale to Russia, where her stepbrother Max is an officer in the British Army. Meanwhile, Mariella’s fiance Henry, a celebrated surgeon, also heads to Russia to assist with setting up hospitals for the wounded. At first, Rosa writes home, but then her family loses touch with her. When Mariella gets a message that Henry is very ill, she decides she must travel to the Crimea to see him. Upon seeing Henry, Mariella is devastated to learn that he has apparently betrayed her. She also discovers that Rosa is missing. Already reeling from the shock she received upon being reunited with Henry, Mariella must now embark upon a search for Rosa. Her sheltered life has not prepared her for the horrors of war and illness and she is shocked by what she sees as she tracks Rosa. At first, she is reluctant to continue and just wants to go home. But when she is forced to stay, her journey across the Crimea also becomes a journey of self-discovery and we see her grow into herself and become a stronger, better person. The book has an exciting plot with a look at the devastation of war and how people can rise to become more than they thought they could be under trying circumstances.

lasttangoLast Tango in Halifax, starring Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, CD Last, Series 1 and 2

This British PBS series tells the story of Celia and Alan, two people in their 70s who were in love as teenagers, but then were separated when Celia’s family moved away. Now 60 years later, both widowed, they reunite. They are blissfully happy together, but each has a daughter and both their children’s lives are a mess. A delightful series following Celia, Alan, and their respective families. Celia and Alan are a charming couple and the supporting characters and plot lines are very entertaining with both humor and drama. The series has been renewed for a third season.

Mary – Youth Services

truediaryThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, YA Alexie and YA CD Alexie (audiobook)

A deserving National Book Award winner, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is one of the best young adult books ever written. It follows Junior: a teenager, budding cartoonist, and a Spokane Indian, who lives on a reservation in Washington. The story revolves around Junior’s decision to leave his reservation, in what is, at first, a mission to have a better education. Heart-breaking, wildly hilarious, and always smart, this story is sure to stay with me for some time. Be sure to check out the audiobook, because Sherman Alexie’s story-telling voice is phenomenal.

sherlockholmesThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, Fiction Doyle

Nowhere else can you have within the span of 200 pages a mystery involving a goose who swallowed a gem, all the way up to a father pretending to be his daughter’s suitor, to ward off a potential mate at a Victorian dance. (But so it goes in the world of Sherlock Holmes.) You are sure to have seen an adaptation of the original Holmes stories, but the canonical tales of the detective and his companion, Dr. John Watson, are always a delightful world to return to. Case after case, client after client, the stories of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are never boring, and highlight the extraordinary hiding under the seemingly ordinary lives of those around us.

Michelle – Administration

snowpiercerSnowpiercer, starring Chris Evans, John Hurt, Ed Harris, and Tilda Swinton, New DVD Snowpiercer

This movie is a great futuristic thriller that provides a very interesting look into the class system. There are many twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end. The movie was written and directed by Joon-ho Bong.

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November

novemberIt’s November. Winter is on the way. Enjoy the last days of fall and be thankful for books!

 

 

Linda – Technical Services

lockinLock In by John Scalzi, New Fiction Scalzi

If you’re worrying about Ebola and identity theft, read John Scalzi’s new book for a whole new outlook on these popular 21st Century anxieties. Lock In takes place not too far in the future where a new flu has left some of its victims locked inside their own heads. Computer networks and carbon-fiber technology have created a new breed of humans who live and work along with their biological brothers, but there are huge amounts of money to be made. And there are hackers for sale.

This is classic science fiction, enhanced by Scalzi’s deft characterization and intelligent plotting. Another plus, by reading carefully I was (almost) able to understand the computer stuff, which made me feel smart. So read the book. You’ll feel good about it.

Sue – Circulation

seagardenThe Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson, New Fiction Lawrenson

This mysterious, atmospheric novel interweaves the stories of three women, two who lived during World War II and were active in the French Resistance and one who lives in the present. The book opens in the present as Ellie, an English landscape designer, travels to an island off the coast of France to restore a memorial garden on an estate owned by a man and his elderly mother. The mother’s behavior is erratic and disturbing and Ellie feels unwelcome and even threatened and decides to pass on the job and makes plans to leave. The book then takes us back in time to the war and the efforts of British and French agents in the Resistance movement in France. It follows Marthe, a young blind woman in occupied France who works at a perfumery and discovers that her employers are leaders in the Resistance, and Iris, a British intelligence officer in London who becomes romantically involved with a Frenchman working on behalf of the Allies. As the book unfolds, we discover how the lives of these three women are connected and how the events of the war still reverberate decades later. An exciting story of love, sacrifice, and bravery, as well as the difficult choices that must be made during a time of war amidst confusion and uncertainty.

landofsteadyThe Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson, Fiction Thompson

Sixty years old, with two grown sons, Anders decides he needs to make a change in his life, so he retires from his job, leaves his wife, Helene, and buys a condo. Anders spent his whole life following the rules – working hard, supporting his family – but now he feels like he missed out, spending his life doing what he had to do and not what he wanted to do. Living in a Connecticut suburb, he commuted to the city each day for his job in finance, in which he witnessed corporate greed that has left him disgusted with his former career. His children are a disappointment to him: his older son is a boring corporate drone and his younger son an unemployed wastrel. During his first Christmas since his divorce, he receives an invitation to a party given by his former neighbors. He attended this party for years with his wife. They are really her friends, but he decides to go to the party anyway and it is a disaster. He discovers that Helene is now living with his former college roommate in their marital home. Seeing her doing so well and apparently over him makes him wonder if he made the right decision. Also while at the party, he throws his normal cautious nature to the wind and does drugs with Charlie, the son of the hosts of the party. This action sets off a chain of events that will deeply affect Anders as well as his wayward younger son Preston. Both funny and sad, the book is filled with characters that are neither good nor bad: they feel like real people just struggling to do their best and make sense of their lives. Although I didn’t always agree with the decisions Anders made, especially one near the end of the book, he was a sympathetic character to me – I felt for him and rooted for him to find happiness. I was pleased with the ending.

casehistoriesCase Histories, starring Jason Isaacs, DVD Case Histories, Series 1 and 2

Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, this mystery series revolves around Jackson Brodie, a former soldier and police detective, who is now a private detective. Jackson is divorced with a young daughter. He had a tragic childhood, losing his sister and then his brother in acts of violence that have left him psychologically scarred. Jackson is tough, but with a tender heart. He is more interested in seeing justice done than always following the letter of the law, so private detection suits him, as it gives him more leeway than the police. He is an excellent detective because he knows how to read people. The story lines focus more on the relationships among the characters than police procedure. Jackson does, however, frequently call on his former partner in the police force, Louise, in order to get access to police databases. He and Louise have an intense relationship, with unresolved sexual tension between them. She is often exasperated by his unorthodox methods, but has great respect for him. Jackson takes on all sorts of cases, from lost cats to trailing spouses suspected of adultery to murder investigations. Although Jackson sometimes skirts the law, he is a decent man with a strong code of ethics. Isaacs gives a nuanced performance, showing Jackson’s strength and his tenderness. The cases are all interesting with well-drawn characters. I also love the soundtrack to this series. Gritty, soulful rock/folk ballads add to the emotional intensity of the show.

Corky – Circulation

madbadMad, Bad, and Blonde by Cathie Linz, Fiction Linz

When Faith West, a children’s librarian, is jilted at the altar via a text saying her fiance wants adventure and excitement, but not her, she gets mad. Faith goes on her scheduled Italian honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast alone, but doesn’t stay that way for long. She meets Caine Hunter, an ex-Marine, and the sparks fly. (She is oh so bad.) But when Faith finds out Caine lied to her, she doesn’t put up with it, dyes her hair blonde, and the romance is on.

Cathie Linz, a local author, writes a light, funny book with clever dialogue and characters that are both quirky and memorable. This is a steamy romance with a stormy relationship and some suspense thrown in with twists and turns. Mad, Bad, and Blonde is a cute and fun contemporary romance.

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