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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October

puppyoctOctober is here! Time for raking leaves, bonfires in the evenings, and trick or treating. Below are some suggested titles for you to check out this month.

 

Corky – Circulation

carolinamanCarolina Man by Virginia Kantra, Fiction Kantra

The Carolina Man is Luke, a Marine who is determined to do his duty to his country, to the Marines and, now, to a ten-year-old daughter that he’s never met or even known about. Kate, the heroine, is a former military brat who knows firsthand that a Marine can make a lousy father and is not keen on giving her heart to someone who will soon deploy. This romance is filled with everything one would expect in a romance: Luke, the hero who sounds and acts like a Marine with a large, loving, supportive family; Kate, the strong heroine who helps everyone but herself; and a ten-year-old child, Taylor, who in every way is a ten-year-old girl. Add in a small town atmosphere, dogs, cats, and puppies and one has the makings of a heart-warming romance. Although this book is the third book in the trilogy, it’s easy to follow. Oh, and don’t forget the happy ending.

Sue – Circulation

allthelightAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, New Fiction Doerr

This beautifully written book opens in Saint Malo, France in August of 1944 as the Allies are bombing the city. Trapped in the city are two people – 16-year-old Marie-Laure, blind and alone in her uncle’s house, and 18-year-old Werner, a German radio expert tormented by the suffering the war has caused and his role in it. The book then goes back in time to show us what led up to this moment. In alternating chapters, we learn Marie-Laure’s history and Werner’s history. How the stories of these two young people on opposite sides of the war converge in the midst of the burning of the city makes for an exciting and moving story. The book is filled with mesmerizing language and it shows the devastation of war and how it changes everything, how the lives of the characters in the book could have followed a different path were it not for the war.

haroldfryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, Fiction Joyce

When Harold gets a letter from a woman he hasn’t seen in 20 years informing him that she has cancer, at first he writes her a letter expressing his sympathy. But when he walks to the mailbox to post the letter, he just keeps on walking. The woman, Queenie, made a sacrifice for him 20 years ago and he never even thanked her. A letter just isn’t enough. But she is in the north of England, near the Scottish border, while he is on the southern coast, a distance of some 600 hundred miles. Harold decides that by walking to her, he can save her. As he continues his walk, it takes on deeper significance. He is walking for Queenie, but he is also walking to atone for the mistakes he made in his past, mistakes that have led to an empty marriage where there used to be love and estrangement from his son. Harold feels like he is doing something that matters for the first time in his life and it transforms him. Meanwhile, his wife at home is also experiencing revelations about their life together and regretting mistakes of her own, which leads to a reawakening for her as well. This is a poignant novel, about healing over past hurts, letting go of regret, and making new beginnings.

rosemaryRosemary and Thyme, DVD Rosemary, Seasons 1-3

If you like to garden and enjoy watching British mystery shows, this series is perfect for you. Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme are two women going through major changes in their lives. Rosemary has lost her job as a professor of horticulture and Laura has been left by her husband of almost 30 years for a younger woman. The two team up and start their own landscaping business. Laura is a former police officer, with a son who is also a police officer, and Rosemary is very observant and inquisitive. These qualities lead the two into solving mysteries they encounter while working on gardening jobs. The show is fun and the mysteries are entertaining while not being too heavy or dark. Rosemary and Laura are both likable characters that you root for and great examples of strong female lead characters. A major attraction of the show that makes it stand out from other mystery series is the various settings of the episodes, which are beautiful – filmed in gorgeous garden locations in England, as well as some episodes that are set in France, Italy, and Spain.

morethanyouknowMore Than You Know by Beth Gutcheon, Fiction Gutcheon

A creepy ghost story that alternates between the past and the present, it tells the story of Hannah, now an elderly woman looking back on one eventful summer of her life when she fell in love, and Claris, a woman who lived 100 years before Hannah. I found the book to be scary and disturbing, a powerful emotional story detailing the bad decisions made by Claris and the terrible repercussions of those decisions on Hannah’s life so many years later.

Melissa – Reference

historianThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, Fiction Kostova

And here it is: my favorite book. I first came across this book several years ago, and I indulge myself by reading it every year since. And yet how to describe it? My foremost thought is that this book is story-telling at its finest. Kostova has created a wonderful piece of historical fiction. Readers learn about Dracula (who, in case you didn’t know, was a real person. He was Prince of Wallachia [i.e. Romania] during the first half of the thirteenth century). This book is a scholarly quest to find Dracula’s long-lost tomb. Very few scholars study his biography, as it is seen by most as silly superstition, but those who do discover quite the opposite: Dracula still walks the earth. But what does he do with his time, and what does he want? Because Dracula is a historical figure, much of the story unfolds in libraries and archives, which tugs at my librarian heart. The characters are rich and well-developed, existing in a world that reveres intellect. The sub-plots add spice to the quest, which takes readers across the globe and through the centuries. It’s a long read, but very much worth it. For those thinking that this is yet another piece of vampire-hype writing, it precedes Twilight and is anything but fluff.

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September

fall leaves

Fall is here! Back to school, football season, and cooler weather. Below are some suggested titles for you this month.

Melissa – Reference

davidgoliathDavid & Goliath:  Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell, Nonfiction 155. 24 Gla 

In Gladwell’s latest book, he once again offers to readers perspectives on life that they may not have considered.  He opens with the biblical story of David and Goliath, wherein David’s courage has become legendary, and David is the ultimate underdog to the fierce giant warrior Goliath.  But who was the real underdog?  When taking a closer look at the warriors and rules of engagement during that time, it is Goliath who didn’t stand a chance against David. Goliath entered the valley, calling out, “Come face me!” He literally means for another foot soldier (like himself) to do battle in a fair fight; not a soldier on horseback, and not a slinger solider (i.e., soldiers known for slinging rocks with as much force as a modern bullet). Even King Saul acknowledges this rule, as he tries to place armor on David.  Yet once David goes running into the valley, everyone watching realizes that though David has not had any formal training, he is in fact a slinger.  He broke the accepted rules of war, wherein two soldiers of the same category do battle to spare many other deaths.  Gladwell opens with this story to get readers’ attention, and it works.  He encourages readers to look more closely at perceived disadvantages, including amongst those with dyslexia, lack of experience, and difficult childhoods.  The thread that ties all these stories together is the message to never give up on your goals, even in the face of tough obstacles.

3idiots3 Idiots, starring Aamir Khan and R. Madhavan, DVD 3 Idiots

This foreign film captures the academic struggles of three Indian friends as each strives to be successful and make their families proud by becoming engineers. Aside from the difficult curriculum, the friends face other obstacles, including lack of passion and a vengeful dean. Though it is both funny and darkly serious, it sends a great message for all those struggling to find their paths in life or facing difficulty in school. We should learn for the sake of learning, because our world is fantastic and full of wonders. To be able to explore its intricacies is a privilege, not a chore. And for those deciding a career path, to choose what you love. If you’re passionate and enthusiastic about your career, success is much easier to obtain.

Sue – Circulation

The Oorchardistrchardist by Amanda Coplin, Fiction Coplin

When this novel opens around the year 1900, William Talmadge has worked in his orchard for 40-odd years. He raises apples and apricots in Washington State. His mother, sister, and he settled there when he was a child. His mother passed away when he was still young and he lost his sister tragically when she was a young woman. He now lives a solitary life with a couple of close friends, Caroline, the local midwife and herbalist, and Clee, a Native American who visits the orchard each year while moving horses for auction. Talmadge is a gentle and compassionate man, never healed over the loss of his sister, so when two runaway teenagers, both pregnant, steal some fruit from him, he begins feeding them and trying to care for them. The girls have run away from an abusive man and so are very timid around Talmadge, but warily accept his help. Over the next two decades, we see how Talmadge’s relationship with the girls and their offspring develops and where their lives take them. This is a beautiful novel, slowly paced, with evocative language and a lush setting in a valley of the Pacific Northwest surrounded by mountains, that contemplates the meaning of family and the sacrifices we make for those we love.

worldtocomeThe World to Come by Dara Horn, Fiction Horn

This very original and compelling novel begins with the discovery that Ben, newly divorced and mourning the loss of his mother, has just stolen a Chagall painting worth $1 million from a Jewish art museum. While at the museum, Ben recognized the painting as one that used to hang in his parents living room when he was a child. He stole the painting on a whim after realizing there was no security and he was alone with it in the museum. Ben feels that he has a right to the painting and shares what he has done with his twin sister. Of late, Ben has been down on himself and life in general and his sister fears he’s finally cracked. She tries to convince him to return it. Things get more complicated when the museum begins investigating the theft and the investigator figures out that Ben is the likely culprit. As the story goes on, we learn about Ben’s parents and grandparents. His family is Jewish of Russian descent and we are taken back in time to the early 20th century where we meet Chagall at a time when he was teaching orphans in Russia, learning how Ben’s family came to be in possession of the painting. The story delves into three generations of family history, showing us the suffering of Jewish families in Russia in the first half of the 20th century. Although fiction, the book provides historically accurate information about Russia and Jewish persecution in that time period and information about the Jewish faith. It also references the works of numerous actual Yiddish authors from the early 20th century who were lost as a result of pogroms against Jews.

shotgunShotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler, New Fiction Butler
This heartfelt novel follows the lives of several childhood friends from a small farming community in Wisconsin as events occur that affect their relationships. Henry is the soul of the book, a kind-hearted, decent man who runs his family’s dairy farm. Henry is married to Beth, his high school sweetheart, and they have two children. Lee became a rich and famous rock star, but he loves his hometown and is loyal to it and his childhood friends. He and Henry are best friends, though their lives have taken them in completely opposite directions. Henry is a struggling farmer devoted to his wife and children, rarely venturing outside town limits, while Lee dates Hollywood actresses and travels the world. Ronny was a successful rodeo rider until an accident caused by his excessive drinking left him mentally impaired. Lee is very protective of Ronny and they are like brothers. Kip left their hometown and became wealthy working as a stockbroker in Chicago, but has now come back to his hometown to be married and live there with his new wife while trying to renovate the town’s old mill that has been closed for years. Each chapter of the book is narrated by one of the five friends, which allows for a richer understanding of each character and their relationships with each other. The book is a tribute to lifelong friendships. It celebrates sticking by your friends even amidst all the changes that life brings, and living true to your values. It is also a homage to small-town life in the Midwest: though some of the characters leave town and find success, they are drawn back to the land. The town itself is a major character in the book – for each character, the people that they have become has been shaped by their early lives in the town and the influence of small-town values and traditions.

Mary – Youth Services

morethanthisMore Than This by Patrick Ness, YA Fiction Ness
There are few YA authors as talented at Patrick Ness, and chances are, you haven’t heard of him. Grabbing up one young adult fiction award after another, Patrick Ness is a hidden YA treasure, and always a joy to share because of his veiled, yet immense talent. Ness’ newest novel, More Than This, begins with a boy named Seth, drowning. Where it takes you is a world that isn’t exactly heaven, nor hell. And its implications are terrifying. More Than This is a treasure in existential literature, with great depth and humanity. A compelling, extraordinary book from an author with unparalleled talent and skill. Check out a Patrick Ness book. You’ll be glad you did.

tellthewolvesTell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, YA Fiction Brunt
It’s 1987, and fourteen year-old June Albus has lost her uncle – her best friend and mentor – to a disease her parents will not even speak of. Amid loss and confusion, June sets out to find pieces of her uncle’s life left behind, and in the process of doing so, comes to meet a strange man, who lingers at her Uncle Finn’s funeral. This stranger, Toby, requests a meeting with June, and convinces her he has worthwhile information regarding her Uncle Finn. Through these meetings between June and Toby, they both learn more about the man who mattered most to them in life, and in turn struggle to accept their different ways of seeing the same person, now lost. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a phenomenal book that perfectly touches upon confusing first affections, and that unnamable love we have for those who have shaped, and altered our lives.

Michelle – Administration

guardiansofgalaxy

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 1 by Various Artists, CD 781.542 Guardians
Whether or not you’ve seen the movie yet (and I highly recommend that you do), any music lover will enjoy this eclectic mix of hits from the 70’s, including Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling, Redbone’s Come and Get Your Love and many others.

sabotageSabotage, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, DVD Sabotage
From the writer/director of End of Watch, this gritty crime drama leads you through tons of twists and turns before finally dropping you at the end credits. The story follows a team of DEA agents as they battle outside forces and each other. A note of warning: this movie is not for the faint of heart and more than earns its R rating. The cast includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia Williams, Terrence Howard, Sam Worthington, Josh Holloway, and Joe Manganiello.

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August

augustheader

It is August already. Where does the summer go? Enjoy the warm weather  outdoors with a good book!

 

 

Mary – Youth Services

zebrasWhy Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers —By: Robert M. Sapolsky—Nonfiction: 616.98 Sap

For most people, the diagnosis of depression, generalized anxiety disorder, heart disease, or some other stress-related illness is enough to make an individual feel lost, and debilitated. Despite being in a world with more accessible information than ever before, it is difficult to find accurate, or comprehensive material on a wide number of stress-related disease and illnesses. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers is a wonderfully written, extensive look into stress-related medical issues, primarily viewed from a biological standpoint. Quite shockingly, Dr. Sapolsky is also quite humorous in his factual writing; his explanation of complex medical terminology is analogy-driven, to help the individual understand the biological, psychological, and environmental tie-ins with stress, and illness. If you or a loved one suffers from a stress-related disease, or illness, this book is crucial reading. The concrete reasons for mental illness – for instance – is liberating to those who are afflicted.


gaimanThe Graveyard Book—
 
By: Neil Gaiman—YA Fiction Gaiman

The Graveyard Book begins on a darkened night when a violent man leaves a home in ruin, believing he has killed all its occupants. Despite his care, one boy remains – a child. This young boy, later named Bod, wanders from the crime scene of his home, and comes to a graveyard. There he can hear voices, and finally can see the dead – very much still alive – surrounding him. A deliberation ensues, and a deceased couple decides to raise young Bod. Years elapse, and Bod learns from these members of the graveyard, until one day, it may be time for Bod to leave this peculiar childhood behind. This story masterfully takes the dynamics of the world we know, and flips them over on their head using fantastical elements, and of course, the Gaiman-esqe truth that nothing is as it appears to be.

milkMilk —starring Sean Penn, James Franco, and Josh Brolin—DVD Milk

With the recent release of the Harvey Milk U.S. Postal stamp, the passing of equal rights laws, now is a time that Harvey Milk and his Castro Street had hoped for. Milk chronicles the life of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), starting with his fortieth birthday when he moves to the Castro, and finally wants to do something right with his life. This desire transforms into the most iconic struggle for equal rights, and Milk becoming the first openly gay politician in the United States to win office. Sean Penn plays astoundingly detailed Milk; he neither portrays him as a hero-figure to be worshiped, or an icon, but rather, a flawed human being who had a simple desire to make the world a bit better for its occupants. Coupled with archival footage of riots, and marches in the Castro and beyond, Milk is a powerful portrayal of the human spirit, and the continued strive for equality.

Sue – Circulation

outsmartingThe Outsmarting of Criminals: A Mystery Introducing Miss Felicity Prim —By Steven Rigolosi—New Fiction: Rigolosi

I loved this delightful novel. I hope, as the subtitle suggests, there will more novels to come featuring Miss Felicity Prim. Felicity is a very proper and sensible lady who has lived and worked in New York City for decades. After being mugged, she decides that it is time to retire and she buys a cottage in a small Connecticut town. She decides to make a new career as a criminal outsmarter, as she calls it. Being a life-long reader of crime fiction, she feels she can successfully solve crimes in real life. Her family and closest friends, including her sister Celia, Amos, the doctor for whom she has worked for many years, and Dolly, a young woman who also works at the doctor’s office, don’t want her to leave and are worried about her new chosen career. Well before she expects it, she is immersed in her first case when she finds a dead body in the basement of her new home on the day she moves in. This book is very funny with tongue-in-cheek humor poking fun at Miss Prim’s prim character and the plots of typical mystery novels, and it has an ending that is both clever and satisfying.


neartoyouI Shall Be Near to You
— By: Erin Lindsay McCabe — New Fiction McCabe

This book is about a woman who disguises herself as a man and joins the Union Army to fight in the Civil War. The book is fiction, but it is based on historical accounts of over 200 women who fought in the war as men. In New York State 1862, Rosetta’s new husband Jeremiah, her childhood sweetheart, joins up. Rosetta, who has always been a tomboy and never really fit in, doesn’t want to be left on her own in their house on Jeremiah’s family’s land. Her mother-in-law doesn’t understand Rosetta and she doesn’t feel comfortable. So she cuts her hair, puts on clothes belonging to Jeremiah, and enlists under the name of Ross Stone. She joins her husband and other local boys at the encampment where new recruits are being trained. Her husband is not happy with her decision, but allows her to stay. From then on, she is a soldier like all the men in her regiment. The book follows the regiment as it trains and then into battle. They see action at the Second Battle of Bull Run and at the bloody Battle of Antietam. Rosetta tells her story in her own words, which makes the book especially powerful. A moving story about a strong-willed woman living her life on her terms and the bravery she and others showed during a terrible time in American history.


pushingdaisiesPushing Daisies —
DVD Pushing Daisies, Seasons 1 and 2

This was a terrific show and it’s a shame that it only lasted for two abbreviated seasons. It was original and whimsical, with charming characters and bright, colorful settings. Definitely not your ordinary crime procedural, but a unique show amidst so many shows that seem to all be the same. The show centers around Ned, a shy man who has a secret – his touch can bring the dead back to life, but touch the newly awakened again, and they die permanently. Plus, each time he brings a being back to life for more than one minute, someone else must die in that being’s place. Ned learned of his gift and its consequences accidentally as a child under traumatic circumstances. In the following years, Ned learned to keep his distance from people. He now owns his own pie shop and lives a lonely existence with his only companions his dog and the waitress at his shop, Olive, who is lovelorn for him while he is oblivious to her feelings. One day, private detective Emerson Cod witnesses Ned bringing someone back to life accidentally whom Emerson had been chasing and the two enter into an agreement to solve homicide cases. Ned touches the victims and asks them who killed them, then touches them again before one minute has elapsed, and he and Emerson split the reward money. All goes well until one day, the victim is Ned’s childhood love, Charlotte. Can Ned bear to see Charlotte dead when he has the power to bring her back? But what will be the consequences if he does bring her back? Watch this quirky and funny show and see what happens.


shadowofwindThe Shadow of the Wind
By: Carlos Ruiz Zafon—Fiction: Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind is a deep and compelling story that spans over 20 years. It begins in Barcelona in 1945 where 10-year-old Daniel is taken by his father, a bookseller, to visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a repository for out of print or non-circulating books. There Daniel is allowed to choose one book. He selects The Shadow of the Wind, written by an author named Julian Carax. Entranced by the book, Daniel sets out on a decades-long search to discover who Carax is and to find other works by him. Over time, he discovers that an unknown person is traveling throughout Spain, buying and then burning all of Carax’s works. As Daniel grows up, the mystery deepens. The story is complex, following Daniel’s growth from a child to a young man and chronicling his relationships along the way, first with an older girl he is smitten with as a child, then a mysterious woman who has some unknown connection to Carax, and finally to the love of his adulthood, Bea. The story delves into Carax’s childhood, and as we learn more about Carax, we see parallels between his youth and Daniel’s unfolding life. I found this book to be absorbing and haunting with touches of psychological thriller and gothic novel. In the end, it’s mostly a love story, not only Daniel’s story, but the interwoven stories of several characters whose lives are all touched in some way by the mysterious Carax.

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Filed under and Movie Reviews, Book, Music

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