March 2017

march2017coverIt’s March! Spring is coming; winter is going. Usher in the new season with some of our recommendations below.

 

 

 

Pat – Circulation

lightbetweenoceansThe Light Between Oceans starring Micahel Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, and Jack Thompson, New DVD Light Between Oceans

A young World War II veteran, Tom, numb from his years in combat, takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on a remote island. He meets, Isabel,  who is from the local town on the mainland. They are soon married and living on the island.
Their happiness is marred only by their inability to start a family. When a rowboat with a dead man and his infant daughter mysteriously washes ashore, Isabel believes their prayers may have been answered.
Tom is torn between reporting the lost child and pleasing the woman he loves, making a choice with devasting consequences.
Kilkillingtherisingsunling the Rising Sun by Bill O’Reilly, Nonfiction 940.54 O’RE
While I knew the basic facts surrounding the atomic bombs, I got a much better picture of the bloody battles, huge decisions, and historic personalities that culminated in the decision the drop the atomic bomb and brought an end to the war in the Pacific.
I feel it’s a great historical read with so much to learn from this book.

 

Angie – Reference

raininportugalpoemsThe Rain in Portugal: Poems by Billy Collins, New Nonfiction 811.54 COL

Billy Collins contributes wisdom, wit, emotion, curiosity, and his adroit use of words to over forty new poems in his first new book in three years. Most of his poems read like micro stories based on observations of everyday objects, past personal events, pets, art, travel, and loneliness— to name a few. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins is the poet to read if you are not “into poetry.” Of course, he is also a poet to read if you enjoy poetry. Fans of Charles Bukowski, Richard Brautigan, Garrison Keillor, and modern poetry will also appreciate The Rain in Portugal. Billy Collins is a skilled architect of the modern poem, and if you enjoy The Rain in Portugal, also check out Sailing Alone Around the Room (811.54 COL) by Billy Collins.

Chris – Technical Services

otherwordlyOther Wordly by Yee-Lum Mak, New Nonfiction 415 MAK

Every language has words for the odd and the wonderful. Some languages have words for feelings that we can’t quite put into words.
Beautifully illustrated, a quick read which will make you “Balter” (verb, English).

Chris – Circulation

The Bones of What You Believe by CHVRCHES, CD 781.66 CHVRCHES

bonesofwhatyoubelieveCHVRCHES is a power trio out of Glasgow, Scotland that creates catchy electropop. The Bones of What You Believe is their debut album featuring the hit single “The Mother We Share.” They have described themselves as being an alternative band that uses lots of electronics like synthesizers, keyboards, and samplers. But behind the shimmering and dreamy synths are introspective and metaphorical lyrics. This is an immediately danceable album that hooks you in with Lauren Mayberry’s seemingly sweet but powerful voice. Other highlights on the album include “We Sink,” “Gun,” “Under the Tide” (sung by keyboardist/sampler Martin Doherty), and “Recover.” If you’re wondering about the “v” in their name, they chose to use it to be more easily searchable online.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

February 2017

feb2017coverIt’s February! Let’s hope for an early spring and in the meantime enjoy the recommended titles below.

 

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

roomwithsecondbestviewThe Room with the Second Best View by Virginia Smith, New Fiction Smith

This is the third book in the delightful Goose Creek series (preceded by The Most Famous Illegal Goose Creek Parade andSirius: The Little Dog Who Almost Changed History by Jonathan Crown). In this book, Millie and Al are working on the Victorian house they bought with plans to convert it to a bed and breakfast. They aren’t planning on opening for a couple of years yet, but with their close friends Justin and Susan getting married soon, Millie has invited some of the wedding guests to stay at the house (without telling Al, of course.) When Justin’s formidable great aunt shows up three weeks before the wedding, will Al be able to survive her demands and will Justin and Susan survive her attempts to take over the wedding planning? Meanwhile, Millie and her best friend have had a falling out over preparations for the town’s 150th anniversary celebration. If you want a fun and light, feel-good read, I recommend the titles in this series. Also includes recipes.

hundredpiecesofmeA Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon, Fiction Dillon

Gina is rebuilding her life after a serious illness and divorce. She decides to simplify her life and keep the 100 things that mean the most to her. When she is landed with an underfed, frightened greyhound who has been abused, Gina, who is not a dog person and knows nothing about caring for a dog, decides to drop him off at a shelter, but as he grows on her and she sees in him another being who needs a fresh start in life, they develop a bond. The book shines a light on the abuse often suffered by greyhounds used for dog racing when they don’t perform well or get old or injured. This is a bittersweet and touching story about healing from past wounds and moving forward.

midnightplanThe Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron, Fiction Cameron

This mystery is loads of fun! It has humor, suspense, action, supernatural elements, romance, loyal friendships, and a cute dog. Ruddy is a former college football star down-on-his luck and now working as a repo man. When he begins to hear a voice speaking to him, he fears he is losing his mind. But it turns out to be the voice of a murdered man named Alan who wants Ruddy to help him bring his killers to justice. Throw in a good-looking but dim-witted best friend, a sister trying to keep the family business afloat, her harebrained new boyfriend, and the daughter of the murdered man, for whom Ruddy falls hard, and you have a laugh-out-loud supernatural mystery that will keep you compulsively reading until the final page. The lead and supporting characters are a delight and you root for them to succeed as they get into one jam after another.

ordinarygraceOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, Fiction Krueger

Touching and beautifully written, this is a gripping coming-of-age novel about tragic loss and finding hope in the aftermath of such loss. The events of the summer of 1961, when Frank Drum was 13 years old and living along the Minnesota River with his parents, older sister, and younger brother, changed all their lives. Frank tells his story 40 years later, looking back at that fateful summer. It was a summer filled with tragedy, beginning with the death of a boy hit by a train and followed by more personal losses for Frank and his family. Though suffering great loss, the family also experienced small miracles that summer that brought healing to their broken lives.

gooddogGood Dog: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Loyalty edited by David DiBenedetto, Nonfiction 636.7 Dib

Celebrating the special place dogs hold in our hearts, this is a collection of over 50 essays, by turns funny and moving, written by a multitude of noted authors about dogs that have touched their lives. Each dog is unique and special in his or her own way, with quirky personality traits, yet all the essays have one thing in common: the love the authors have for their dogs and how that love was returned wholly and unconditionally.

Pat – Circulation

sullySully starring Tom Hanks, New DVD Sully

On January 15, 2009, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed a U.S. Airways jet with 155 passengers and crew in the middle of the Hudson River in New York City after Flight 1549 was struck by a flock of Canadian geese seconds after takeoff from La Guardia Airport. He saved all aboard and became a hero around the world.

Sully is portrayed by Tom Hanks, who is brilliant, and in every role he plays he is fully committed. The story itself also provides some interesting insight into the event. Clint Eastwood does a good job of making a story we already think we know interesting. Definitely enjoyed it and thought it worth seeing.

Chris – Circulation

Image result for loveless my bloody valentineLoveless by My Bloody Valentine, CD 781.66 MY BLOODY VALENTINE

With the theme of Valentine’s Day comes Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, but for those who may be less fortunate in this area. This album is heralded as the definitive shoegaze album by both critics and fans. Originating in the late 1980s, shoegaze is a subgenre of alternative rock that got its name from the performance style of of the artists-they often get enveloped in their own world and just gaze down at their shoes instead of the crowd. That being said, this is a very personal style that the listener can get lost in especially with headphones. My Bloody Valentine piles layers upon layers of guitar effects and distortion in their production, burying the vocals underneath and in effect giving them a dreamlike quality. This style is in full effect on Loveless, thus why the album has become synonymous with shoegaze.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

January 2017

january2017coverIt’s January! Start off the new year by reading some good books!

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

andeverymorningAnd Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman, New Fiction Backman

From the author of the beloved A Man Called Ove comes another tender story about love, family, and loss that will touch your heart. This is a novella of under 100 pages that is told in a dream-like state: you need to read it all the way through before it will all make sense and then you will want to go back and re-read certain parts to absorb the wisdom. The book opens with an elderly man and his young grandson sitting on a bench in a town square. Each day, the square gets smaller. As you read, you realize that the bench and the square are a metaphor and we are really inside the man’s brain: he is beginning to suffer from dementia and he is looking back on his life, trying to cling to each precious memory before it is lost. The book touches on the man’s relationship with his son, his grandson, and his late wife of more than 50 years. There are touching moments when he remembers himself and his wife together when they were young and when he talks to his wife in the present, trying to come to terms with the loss of his memories, his regret over his difficult relationship with his son, and how to explain to his adored grandson that he will lose his grandfather before he is actually gone due to the dementia. Heart-breaking but beautiful, this story brings home the realization that at the end of a life, what matters the most is your relationships with your loved ones. The greatest gift we can leave behind is to be loved and remembered.

youhadmeatwoofYou Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam, Nonfiction 636.7 Kla

This is a very funny, heartfelt book about how adopting a Boston terrier named Otto helped the author mature and find fulfillment in her life. Before Otto, she was in a rut in her professional life and also thought she would never find love, but caring for him and sharing her life with him gave her the courage to try new things and also taught her that she could compromise in a relationship. Single when she got Otto, she was married and expecting her daughter when he passed away. She also discovered her true calling as a writer during her time with him. She later became involved in dog rescue, which, along with her marriage and child, gave her life purpose and meaning. She relates her experiences with rescue: some hilarious, some heart-breaking, and some that make you angry at people’s cruelty or life’s unfairness. A wonderful story of one woman’s life with dogs and how every dog is special and unique and leaves his or her own mark on our hearts. (By the way, the incredibly adorable dog on the cover is Otto.)

siriusSirius: The Little Dog Who Almost Changed History by Jonathan Crown, New Fiction Crown

This book offers a light take on a dark subject. It is an alternate history, putting a dog named Sirius in the midst of some of the darkest events of the 20th century. Sirius is a charming fox terrier belonging to a Jewish family in 1938 Berlin. Sirius’s family is lucky enough to escape Germany shortly after Kristallnacht. Through a connection with the actor Peter Lorre, they immigrate to Hollywood where Carl, the head of the family, works for Jack Warner, of Warner Brothers. Sirius becomes a famous movie star and hobnobs with the likes of Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart until a mix-up separates him from his family and sends him back to Berlin, where he ends up the lap dog of Hitler himself and plays a role in the downfall of the Third Reich. Whimsical and absurdist, this is an entertaining book that is ultimately about the love and dedication of family.

Chris – Technical Services

rocketgirlsRise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt, Nonfiction 629.407 Hol

The women of NASA, this overlooked group of American women, these female scientists, finally get their story told. Inspiring…a hidden history of our race to space. An easy read for a very complicated subject.

 

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

I don’t even like running or am a fan and I loved this book. What a bunch of crazy characters! Students of running or anthropology will want to read this book.

 

Dagmar – Circulation

devouredDevoured: From Chicken Wings to Kale Smoothies – How What We Eat Defines Who We Are by Sophie Egan, New Nonfiction 394.12 Ega

This is an interesting book to read, especially after consuming all the holiday food and in conjunction with our New Year’s resolutions. Except, as I learned from the book, those resolutions don’t really start until after the Super Bowl. The book, written by a food writer and Culinary Institute of America director, has been called “a provocative look at how and what Americans eat and why.” Egan takes us for an eye-opening journey about American food culture and examines our changing eating habits – the good as well as the bad ones. The author puts together facts from food science and psychology and creates a powerful yet entertaining and engaging look at diverse food in America. There is a chapter for everyone – it does not matter if you are a curious cook, casual eater, or student of food marketing and psychology. The book is both very entertaining and highly informative. She talks about the phenomenon of sad office lunches and about our obsession with the latest trends (low-fat, organic, gluten free, etc.) My favorite was a very insightful chapter on Democratization of Wine in which the author explores the role that Trader Joe’s played on changes to the American food market. Thank you, Trader Joe’s!

Chris –  Circulation

fireflyJoss Whedon’s Firefly. The Complete Series starring Nathan Fillion, DVD Firefly

Before he was crime novelist Richard Castle in ABC’s Castle, Nathan Fillion portrayed space pirate Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly. Shrewd and clever, he is willing to do whatever it takes to survive on the edges of civilization. The best way to describe this short-lived show is space western–it’s what you would get if you set a western in the future. Mal assembles a crew aboard his aging Firefly-class ship, Serenity, and unintentionally develops a fondness for them he never thought possible. This crew is portrayed by Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Adam Baldwin (not related to the other Baldwin brothers), Sean Maher, Summer Glau, and the late Ron Glass. Critically acclaimed and a cult classic, it unfortunately fell victim to its episodes being aired out of order and thus confusing audiences. This collection contains every episode that aired (in the proper order) plus three more that never saw broadcast television, a total of fourteen. I highly recommend this series to anyone interested in sci-fi. The pilot is a bit slow, but if you continue on, it only gets better. For closure, creator Joss Whedon reassembled the crew for 2005’s feature film, Serenity.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

December

dec2016newcoverIt’s December!  Celebrate the holiday season with your loved ones and enjoy the recommended titles below.

 

 

Sue – Circulation

breakfastattiffanysBreakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories by Truman Capote, Fiction Capote

This collection includes “A Christmas Memory,” a beautiful short story set in the early 1930’s that tells of Truman Capote’s tender and loving relationship with Sook Faulk, a distant cousin of his. Capote spent his early childhood in Monroeville, Alabama, with four cousins – three sisters and their brother, while his parents were divorcing and fighting over custody. Sook was more than 50 years older than Capote and simple-minded. The two developed a strong relationship that greatly influenced Capote. The story tells of the last Christmas they spent together before Capote was sent off to school. It is written in an enchanting, evocative language that gives you a feel for the time and place and shows you how deeply Capote and Sook bonded and really captures their personalities. The story describes Capote and Sook’s experiences during the Christmas season, including gathering the ingredients for their annual fruitcake baking, flying kites, cutting down a Christmas tree and decorating it with homemade ornaments, exchanging homemade gifts at Christmas, and generally supporting one another against life’s injustices, as they were both considered misfits in society. It is a touching story that will leave you feeling warm and cozy. Sook is such a loving and gentle woman with an innocence and kindness that makes me wish I could have known her in real life. It is a perfect story for reading aloud each Christmas. There are two other stories Capote wrote about his life with Sook, not included in this volume, but worthy of reading: “One Christmas” and “A Thanksgiving Visitor.”

shepherdangelThe Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry, Fiction Barry

This short novel is laugh-out-loud funny in parts and also tender and nostalgic. The book is narrated by Doug Barnes, a junior high student in 1960, and it revolves around his church’s annual Christmas pageant. This year Doug is playing a shepherd. He and his buddies enjoy pulling pranks that drive the director of the play crazy. His little brother and sister are playing angels in the pageant and Judy, the girl Doug has a crush on, is playing Mary this year. This Christmas season has been somewhat melancholy for the Barnes family because their beloved dog, Frank, is elderly and is not doing well. On the night of the pageant, a series of events come together to create happy endings all around. A warm, feel-good Christmas read.

missreadchristmasMiss Read’s Christmas: Village Christmas and The Christmas Mouse by Miss Read, Fiction Read

Miss Read (the pen name of Dora Saint) wrote two charming, old-fashioned series about English country life: The Fairacre series and the Thrush Green series. These two novels are part of the Fairacre series and are published in one volume as a special Christmas edition. In Village Christmas, the conservative residents of Fairacre are not as welcoming as they could be to a new family in the village: Mrs. Emery, her husband, and their three young daughters. Mrs. Emery dresses flamboyantly and is too familiar according to the older residents of the village. But then something happens on Christmas Day that brings the village together and acceptance of the Emery family. In The Christmas Mouse, Mrs. Berry lives with her widowed daughter and two granddaughters. Late on Christmas Eve, she receives two unexpected visitors. Mrs. Berry’s actions towards these two intruders exemplify the Christmas spirit in this gentle read.

Melissa – Technical Services

mistletoepromiseThe Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans, Fiction Evans

In order to combat the loneliness and questions that come with being single during the holidays, two work associates agree to accompany each other as boyfriend and girlfriend to holiday events. They draw up a contract that details what is to be expected, and the contract ends on Christmas Day with no strings attached or hard feelings. As the two get to know each other, however, they find that not only do they enjoy each other’s company, but that this unusual agreement may have brought together two people who understand each other as no one else can.

jamestaylorchristmasJames Taylor at Christmas by James Taylor, CD 781.72 Taylor

Call me crazy, but Christmas music is lovely to listen to all year round. Christmas music inspires the warmth and generosity of the holiday season, and I see no reason to delegate such wonderful attributes to only one-twelfth of the year. That said, James Taylor’s holiday album is simple and sincere, smooth and endearing.

Chris – Technical Services

rememberRemember starring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, New DVD Remember

Remember is a movie I will not soon forget. It stars two well know elder actors, Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, as Auschwitz survivors looking for revenge and retribution.

 

Dagmar – Circulation

skippingchristmasSkipping Christmas by John Grisham, Fiction Grisham

With the upcoming holiday season upon us, many may have mixed feelings about all the fuss that is often associated with Christmas. Especially if you are a new empty nester like Luther and Nora Krank. Their only child, 23-year-old daughter Blair, fresh from graduate school, was inspired to dedicate the next two years of her life helping others. Her assignment with the Peace Corps took her to Lima, Peru. This was the first time in her young and sheltered life she would spend Christmas away from home. This was quite hard on all of them, especially on her mother Nora. The father, trying to come up with a solution, decided to skip Christmas that dreadful year altogether. No need to shop in crowded malls for unwanted presents, no big annual party, not even a Christmas tree. The decision was made to sail on December 25th on a Caribbean cruise instead. It was a good plan, but, as the Kranks later discovered, it was not that simple to follow through. Skipping Christmas was much harder to do and had many more consequences than they had previously imagined. The story, which is now being hailed as the new modern Christmas classic, offers a “hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become part of our holiday tradition.”

youwantitdarkerYou Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen, New CD 781.63 Cohen

On October 17th, the New Yorker published a lengthy article, “Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker,” celebrating Leonard Cohen’s 82nd birthday and his latest album, You Want It Darker. Cohen, who is known for such iconic songs as Hallelujah, If It Be Your Will, and Suzanne, made his last recording already quite ill. As he put it, his situation was bleak and the discomfort acute. His son Adam sensed that Cohen’s “recovery, if not survival, was dependent on …getting back to work.” The new record opens with the title track, You Want It Darker, and in the chorus, the singer declares: “Hineni, Hineni, I’m ready my Lord.”
Hineni, as I later learned, is Hebrew for “Here I am,” Abraham’s answer to the summons of God to sacrifice his son Isaac. According to the New Yorker, “the song is clearly an announcement of the readiness, a man at the end preparing for his service and devotion.” Leonard Cohen died the following month in November 2016.

Chris – Circulation

doctorwhoDoctor Who, The Complete First Series starring Christopher Eccleston, DVD Dr. Who 2005- Season 1

The British television staple Doctor Who was fully revived in 2005 after being canceled in 1989 and spawning a TV movie in 1996. This time around, Christopher Eccleston portrays the Doctor (the ninth iteration of the character). He brings an intensity and brooding nature to the role, appropriate to the plot and themes of the show, along with the signature whimsicality of the Doctor. The Doctor is a time-traveling alien (who just looks like a human) that stumbles into enemy plots to change the course of history or take over the universe. Some are just out to stop his meddling. But being the last of his kind and traveling through the whole of space and time can get lonely. So he comes to Earth and chooses a worthy companion, Rose Tyler, a shop girl from London, to travel with him and reveal the wonders and perils of the universe to her. A science fiction classic, Doctor Who is made for the whole family, though it can get a bit scary for the younger viewers. The Doctor is always ready to teach a life lesson in humanitarianism, compassion, empathy, and the power of well-reasoned thought over violence. Jump aboard the TARDIS and take a trip to Victorian Cardiff, London, in 1941, the present day, the near future, and the end of the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

November

November2016It’s November! Be thankful for all the good in your life and enjoy the recommendations below.

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

biglittlelifeA Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog by Dean Koontz, Nonfiction 636.7 Koo

Novelist Dean Koontz’s tribute to his first dog, a very intelligent golden retriever named Trixie. Trixie was trained as a service dog before being adopted by Koontz and his wife after being retired early from service due to elbow surgery. Koontz was enchanted by Trixie’s joyful spirit. She opened his heart to the wonder of the world and made him a better person grateful for the small moments of life. The book details how Trixie came into the Koontz family’s life and some of their experiences together until her death due to natural causes.

Koontz is a real champion of dogs and an amazing dog parent. He has great respect for dogs’ intelligence and their emotional depth and sensitivity and no patience for people who believe dogs are stupid or don’t think or feel. Of course, no one who has ever loved a dog would for a moment believe dogs aren’t sentient or intelligent.

Koontz speaks of the characteristics of dogs that he admires and that we should strive to achieve more of in our lives, including loyalty, unfailing love, humbleness, a sense of wonder, forgiveness, and gratitude. Trixie taught him to cherish your loved ones while you have them so you’ll have precious memories when they are gone and to be aware of the wonder of everyday moments. You can feel the love Koontz has for this dog and dogs as a whole and what a remarkable dog Trixie was. A lovely tribute to Trixie and to the beautiful nature of all dogs told with life-affirming warmth and humor.

naturalvetguideThe Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs by Dr. Shawn Messonnier, Nonfiction 637.7 Mes

Dogs get cancer the same as people and often the same factors are involved, including an unhealthy diet and over-exposure to chemicals. This book is written for the layman by a vet who specializes in nutritional oncology. It discusses holistic approaches to both treating and preventing cancer in dogs. Nothing can 100% prevent cancer, but there are steps you can take to minimize your dog’s risk. Dr. Messonnier suggests such measures as: feeding a healthy diet – he recommends a homemade diet or a high quality processed food, no chemicals or by-products; don’t over-vaccinate – vaccines are important, but most vaccines last for several years at least, so annual vaccination is an unnecessary tax on your dog’s immune system. Instead, do a titer test to determine that antibodies exist in your dog’s system against the disease, then you know a vaccine is not necessary again; minimize exposure to chemicals – use natural flea control, avoid drugs if there is a natural alternative; i.e. glucosamine instead of Rimadyl or NSAIDS, use natural products to clean your house, and do not put chemicals on your lawn where your dog regularly plays; prevent other illnesses through a healthy lifestyle, as well as preventative measures such as spaying/neutering, using heartworm preventative, etc; and visit your vet regularly and include annual blood work.

For dogs diagnosed with cancer, Dr. Messonnier suggests all of the above, stressing no vaccinations and a healthy diet, combined with a program of conventional and complementary therapies. Conventional therapies include: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Complementary therapies may include: nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, acupuncture, homeopathy and homotoxicology, and chiropractic. The doctor warns that dog caregivers should not self-treat: herbal remedies can be dangerous if taken in improper quantities or combined with certain drugs. Make sure a qualified vet oversees your dog’s treatment. The book also includes appendixes, references, and an index.

ripperstreetRipper Street starring Matthew Macfadyen, New DVD Ripper, Season 1

Set shortly after the Jack the Ripper murders ended, this is a gritty, compelling series about the detectives of Whitechapel Division. DI Edmund Reid is a decent man charged with keeping peace in this poor and violent area of East London. He is assisted by his sergeant, Drake, and a drunken American surgeon, Jackson. Reid is haunted both by the death of his daughter and his failure to solve the Ripper case. The main characters are strong and they grow and develop as the series continues. The series has aired four seasons. The fifth season, which will air in 2017, will be the final season.

nightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, New Fiction Hannah

This is a beautifully told story of two sisters in occupied France during World War II. Vianne has a young daughter and fears for her husband at the front. She just wants to get through the war and get her life back. This becomes more complicated when a Wehrmacht captain requisitions her home and moves in. Meanwhile, Vianne’s younger sister Isabelle rebels against the Vichy government and secretly joins the Resistance. Both women are forced to make desperate choices to survive as the war goes on; both are heroic in their own way. The book is very moving, showing the sacrifices people made for the war effort and for each other in a terrible time in history.

Jette – Shelving

envyEnvy by Sandra Brown, Fiction Brown

Wow – what a thriller with all the twists and turns of a great suspense novel! It’s a love story, yet a revenge story and a book within a book! It will keep you wanting to go on whether you have the time or not…a must read. The book is strictly for adults, not for religious people or people under age 21, due to its language and scintillating innuendos. Brown outdoes James Patterson here.

Hubbell – Circulation

piratehuntersPirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson, Nonfiction 910.9163 or New CD 910.9163 (audiobook)

John Chatterton is a renowned deep sea diver, wreck explorer, and History Channel TV host known for famously discovering and identifying a sunken German U-boat on the eastern American seaboard. John Mattera is a scuba enthusiast, former celebrity bodyguard, and an experienced deep sea wreck explorer himself. Together, they set out to track and find perhaps the most legendary pirate wreck in history. Joseph Bannister was a British merchant captain who went renegade during the so-called Golden Age of Piracy in the colonial Caribbean. He managed to escape a death sentence in then-British Jamaica before finally being killed when his ship, The Golden Fleece, was finally found and bombarded by English frigates. Kurson’s engaging book blends history with the thrill of treasure hunting and tells the story of Chatterton and Mattera’s epic journey to finally find the wreck. In addition to Mother Nature, the crew had to work against government interference from the Dominican Republic, competitor dive groups, island drug runners, and malfunctioning equipment.

Dagmar – Circulation

houseinpragueThe House in Prague: How a Stolen House Helped an Immigrant Girl Find Her Way Home by Anna Nessy Perlberg, Nonfiction 940.53 Per

This is a delightful memoir of Anna Nessy Perlberg, a long-time Chicago resident and widow of the late poet Mark Perlberg. In her book, Anna remembers the cherished house and the family it sheltered; she also explores the true meaning of home. We meet Anna’s mother, the fabulous opera singer Julia Nessy, her prominent lawyer father Pavel Beacher, as well as a loving circle of extended family and friends. In part One, “The Early Years: 1930 – 1945,” we learn stories about the family holidays, special visitors, and country summers, but also about the confusion and fear, about the Nazi invasion of Prague, about the consequent family escape and their voyage to America. The family is starting a new life in New York and a 10-year-old homesick Anna is trying to find her way in the new country. She struggles to become an American in a city “teaming with immigrants and prejudice.”

In Part Two, “Remembrance and Return: 1945 – 2012,” post-war life brings stories of the family reunion when a few family members who survived the Holocaust were able to join them in the USA. There is also love and marriage. During her graduate work at Columbia, Anna meets a fellow student Mark Perlberg who falls in love with her passion for politics and her “foreignness.” Even the rough dark bread sandwiches that Anna brings from home are so different that his family’s soft white bread. Soon afterwards Mark and Anna marry, and she follows him, first to Tokyo and later, in 1956 to Chicago, where Mark is working for Time magazine, covering business and the arts. In Chicago, their two daughters are born and the Pelbergs lead a full family life, rich with friends, journalism, poetry, and politics. Mark helps to establish The Poetry Center of Chicago and serves at its first president. The story, however, ends where it began – in the house. Anna saw the house where she was born after nearly forty years. She went to see it again for the first time during the Communist regime and was not allowed into the house. After the Velvet Revolution, when things in Czechoslovakia changed so rapidly, Anna and her brothers decide to sue for the return of their family home. After a long legal battle, full of “restitution issues,” the house once again belonged to the Baecher family. But now what? Restoring and keeping the house in Prague would be very expensive; Mark gets sick, eventually passing in 2008. In 2012, Anna made the last return to Prague and to the house. Once again, it is necessary to say goodbye to the house. However, this house has given her the Czech roots, her spirit. It will always be a part of her, that house in Prague. Or so she says.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

October

October2016It’s October! Enjoy trick or treating, bonfires, falling leaves, apple cider, and all the other great things about fall and check out the recommended titles below.

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

weareallmadeofstarsWe Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman, New Fiction Coleman

This is a beautiful book, sad in parts, but ultimately uplifting and inspiring. It tells the story of two women: Stella and Hope. Stella is a nurse working at a rehabilitation and hospice center. Since her husband, a solider, returned from duty with a serious injury, their marriage has been in crisis. Hope is a young woman with cystic fibrosis recovering from a life-threatening infection at the center. Knowing that her life expectancy is limited because of her disease, Hope has been afraid to live fully and is isolated and sheltered. Both of these women are at a crossroads in their lives and have to decide how to live going forward. Each character narrates her own chapters. Secondary characters are Grace, a dying patient of Stella’s with a secret, and Hugh, a man who has a connection to the center that is revealed as the story goes on. One aspect of the book that I found especially moving was the inclusion of letters written by Stella for patients who are nearing the end of their lives, interspersed throughout the book. They mainly either express regret over actions taken or not taken by the writers or ask their loved ones to go on living and be happy once they are gone. The letters are extremely touching and really get down to the gist of what makes our lives whole.

leavinglucy

Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon, New Fiction Solomon

In 1917, teenager Beatrice, the daughter of well-to-do Jewish parents in Massachusetts, becomes pregnant after an encounter with a naval officer introduced to her by her mother. Not wanting to leave the baby to an orphanage, Beatrice instead abandons the baby in her uncle’s pear orchard, where unknown persons steal their harvest each year. Beatrice watches as the pear thieves discover and take the baby. Ten years later, Beatrice’s grief over her loss has frozen her in time, wiped away her aspirations, and kept her in a state of depression. She flunked out of college, she stopped playing the piano, though a gifted pianist, and she chose to marry a homosexual man in a marriage of convenience. Now living with her Uncle Ira, whose health is declining, Beatrice hires Emma, the wife of a local fisherman and mother of nine children, to nurse Ira. Unbeknownst to Beatrice, Emma is the woman who took in Beatrice’s baby, now a ten-year-old called Lucy Pear. Meeting Emma is the beginning of taking away Beatrice’s inertia and freeing her to move forward, while Emma’s life also changes due to her meeting Lucy’s birth mother. This is an absorbing novel, filled with the honest emotions of strong characters who face difficult life choices and live with the consequences, and who find the strength to move on from past mistakes and make new lives for themselves.

turnTurn Washington’s Spies starring Jamie Bell, New DVD Turn, Seasons 1 and 2

This is a Revolutionary War drama inspired by the book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose that details a spy ring that fed information about Redcoat troop movements to General Washington during the war. The main characters are four friends who grew up together in Long Island: Abraham, a cabbage farmer with a wife and young son, Ben, an officer in the Continental Army, Caleb, also in the Continental Army, serving under Ben, and Anna, Abraham’s former fiance, now married to another man and running a tavern in their hometown. The show begins slowly, setting up the characters and background information, and builds momentum as the series goes on.

Most of the main characters are based upon real people, but historical facts have been significantly changed for dramatic purposes, so don’t expect the show to be historically accurate, but it is exciting and entertaining. And it may prompt people to learn more about the historical people portrayed in the series. The show is filmed in Virginia. It is well-made with strong production values. Seasons 1-3 have aired on AMC and it has been announced that Season 4, to be aired in 2017, will be the final season.

Chris – Technical Services

beyondthecallBeyond the Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield, New Nonfiction 940.54 Tri

The story of Captain Robert Trimble (Lee’s father), a distinguished flyer in WWII who was sent on a mission to recover POWs in Poland near the end of WWII. Another story of heroism from all those years ago, that might not have been told. Fascinating and heartbreaking.

Michelle – Administration

savingSaving Hope starring Erica Durance, DVD Saving Hope, Seasons 1 and 2

Saving Hope is a Canadian TV drama that is part Grey’s Anatomy and part Ghost Whisperer. The show stars Michael Shanks as Dr. Charlie Harris, the chief of surgery who ends up in a coma after a car accident, Erica Durance as Dr. Alex Reid, Charlie’s fiancée and fellow surgeon, and Daniel Gillies as Dr. Joel Goran, Alex’s former boyfriend and Charlie’s replacement at the hospital. In the first season, Saving Hope follows the lives of these main doctors, as well as their co-workers and patients. Charlie, in his comatose state, is able to communicate with other patients who are also in a coma or have recently passed. Alex tries to juggle caring for Charlie and her patients, while also dealing with the reappearance of Joel in her life. It is a fun twist on the average medical drama that has kept me intrigued well into season three.

Hubbell – Circulation

zeitounZeitoun by Dave Eggers, Nonfiction 921 Zeitoun Egg

Zeitoun is a true account of one man’s experiences in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Zeitoun is Syrian immigrant Abdulrahman Zeitoun, who owned a painting business with his wife in New Orleans. After the flooding, Zeitoun canoed about the city, distributing any resources he had and rescuing survivors. In a twist of fate, Zeitoun was arrested by national guard officers and subsequently jailed without a trial or medical attention for close to 30 days. In the meantime, his property, where he had been taken into custody, was left unlocked and unsecured by the authorities and was subsequently looted and damaged. David Eggers’ account of Zeitoun’s awful experience puts 9/11 anti-Islam sentiment against the backdrop of the worst natural disaster in American history.

Chris – Circulation

community

Community, The Complete First Season starring Joel McHale and Chevy Chase, DVD Community, Season 1

Welcome to Greendale Community College where you’re already accepted! Make some new friends in Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), the recently unemployed lawyer; Annie Edison (Alison Brie), the studious recent high school grad who has a knack for perfection; Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), your source for anything related to pop culture; Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs), the bumbling activist; Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), the former high school football star that got injured; Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown), the religious optimist that you don’t want to mess with; and Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), the inheritor of Hawthorne Industries. Your Spanish teacher, Ben Chang (Ken Jeong), is only slightly ahead of the class in his lessons. Ian Duncan (John Oliver) will be your apathetic psychology professor. Finally, Craig Pelton (Jim Rash) is your dance, costume, and event-loving dean.

Throughout the first season of this highly-acclaimed but ultimately unfortunate sitcom, you will celebrate all of the holidays and zany school promotional events in a way that only Greendale can. The script is smartly written, packed with subtle, and not so subtle, jokes. It helps to be up on pop culture to understand some of the more subtle ones, but isn’t necessary to have a good time watching the show. Community is described as being very “meta,” meaning it knows it is a TV show, but goes along with it and the tropes anyway. Loaded with gags as well as Easter eggs, this show is worth a second viewing to catch even more. Season 1 gets better with every episode, exploring relationships and real-life crises mixed in with the humor. Community has a lot of heart, so maybe it will capture yours.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

September

September2016coverIt’s September! Welcome cooler weather with the change of season and check out the recommended titles below.

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

lilacgirlsLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, New Fiction Kelly

This book is set from 1939-1959 and alternates among three characters, each of whom narrates her own chapters: Caroline, a New York socialite working for the French embassy, Kasia, a Polish teen, and Herta, a Nazi doctor. Kasia and Herta’s stories intersect when Kasia is caught working for the Polish underground and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, along with her sister and mother, where she becomes a victim of gruesome medical experiments. It is not until after the war that Caroline’s part in the story becomes clear. The book is harrowing, showing the atrocities committed by the Nazis, but also inspiring, celebrating the strength and will of the victims.

Having each character tell her story in her own voice makes it more powerful. I felt so sad for Kasia that she struggled to make a life for herself after the war due to the psychological scars she carried and it was chilling and disgusting to see Herta’s hatred for Jews and her justification for the horrors she committed. The book was thoroughly researched by the author and is historically accurate, though the characters’ stories are fictionalized. Caroline and Herta were real people and Kasia and her sister Zuzanna are based upon real victims of the Ravensbrück medical experiments.

jonathanunleashedJonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff, New Fiction Rosoff

Jonathan is in his early twenties and just out of college. He moves to New York City to start his adult life. He is quirky and thinks outside the box. His passion is drawing comics, but he ends up at a soul-sucking job as a copywriter working for a client that sells office supplies. He has a girlfriend who is totally wrong for him – it is obvious to everyone in his life that she is not his match, but still he gets engaged to her on the spur of the moment when the bridal magazine she works for offers to pay for the ceremony, in exchange for live streaming it and doing a magazine spread. Even while engaged, Jonathan meets a few other people who interest him romantically, yet he clings to the idea of marriage to this woman. Jonathan’s life changes when his brother leaves his two dogs with him when he goes overseas for a work assignment. Jonathan develops a strong bond with the dogs – Sissy, a sweet cocker spaniel, and Dante, a very intelligent, work-driven border collie. Jonathan worries that the dogs are unsatisfied with life in a big city and he visits a vet, who suspects that he is projecting his unhappiness onto the dogs, who are dogs after all and take things as they come. Jonathan is a likable guy, but somewhat exasperating as he is stuck and miserable but afraid to make any changes in his life. The reader sees long before he does that he is making the wrong choices. The dogs sense it too and help Jonathan to find wisdom about the best way to live his life, nudging him in the right direction. The dogs’ antics are funny and clever, leading Jonathan down the path to a more rewarding life. The book is very funny and passionate dog lovers will savor it. A fun, light-hearted read.

shetlandShetland starring Douglas Henshall, DVD Shetland, Series 1 & 2

This is a detective series set in the Shetland Islands (part of the British Isles located in the far North and governed by Scotland) that follows Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez and his team as they investigate crimes committed on the islands. The first two seasons have been released as a set, which comprises four two-part episodes that are based on the novels by Ann Cleeves. I find this series to be very well done, with compelling crimes and interesting characters. Each story is allowed to evolve, being two hours in length, moving at a slower pace than most American detective shows, which allows more emphasis on character and setting. The crimes are not cut and dried, but complex with numerous suspects, keeping you guessing until the end. DI Perez is a likable character, a compassionate man who is good at questioning witnesses and suspects as he has a comforting presence. We learn that Perez is a widower with a teenage stepdaughter who grew up on the islands. The beautiful but bleak, rugged landscape sets a mood of isolation and gives you a sense of a close-knit community that feels the effects of crime much deeper than that of a well-populated urban area.

Chris – Circulation

yourinnerfishYour Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin, Nonfiction 611 Shu

Have you ever wondered how the human body has come to look and function the way it does today? Have you noticed similarities between humans and other groups of life? There is a good reason for this–humans are essentially more complex versions of creatures from these other groups. There are even more similarities than you think because many features cannot be seen on the surface. In paleontologist Neil Shubin’s first foray into popular science, he tackles the task of relating 3.5 billion years worth of evolution–of bacteria, prehistoric fish, flies, and many, many others–to the current human form. For example, fish, whales, and bats all have similar “hand” structures to humans. Flies have some of the same genes that function the same way in humans as well. Shubin is successful in his task because of his experience in the field, breadth of scientific evidence, and clear, easily accessible writing style. This is a fascinating read for anyone curious about evolution and the amazing path bodies have taken over 3.5 billion years. There is also a three-part PBS series based on this book.

Melissa – Technical Services

allisnotforgottenAll Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker, New Fiction Walker

In this tale, a teenage girl named Jenny is raped at a party. While being treated in the hospital, she is given a new and controversial drug that will erase the memory of her trauma. The treatment is not as effective as it is purported to be, and the ghosts of the incident seem to linger in Jenny’s subconscious. Her family begins to crumble in the aftermath, as her father regrets this course of action and will not rest until the man is brought to justice. The narrator is Jenny’s psychiatrist as he works to help her uncover the truth of that night. A fun and creative thriller, and the movie rights have recently been sold.

Chris – Technical Services

canalzheimersCan Alzheimer’s Be Stopped? written by Sarah Holt, New Nonfiction DVD 616.832 Can

Scientists reconstruct the molecular chain of events which leads to dementia.They explore the leading theories and you meet individuals struggling with Alzheimer’s and the clinical trials they are participating in as the researchers test their theories. A peak behind-the-scenes of what is happening in Alzheimer’s research. Recommended viewing for those who wish to learn more about the medical research currently going on.

isawthelightI Saw the Light starring Tom Hiddleston, New DVD I Saw

Tom Hiddleston stars as Hank Williams, the country western singer who rose to fame quickly and burned out fast. During his short lifetime, he wrote many timeless and heart-wrenching songs still covered by musicians today. Tom does a terrific job portraying the charismatic performer with a troubled soul and interpreting his songs.

headincloudsHead in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy to Look Up by William Poundstone, New Nonfiction 306.42 Pou

If a few keystrokes can summon information in seconds, why should we bother learning facts? The author examines what Americans know and don’t know on a range of topics. He shows that many areas of knowledge correlate with the quality of our lives – wealth, health, and happiness – and even with politics and behavior.

Being well informed is about context as much as it is about factoids. It is the overview that permits the assessment of the particular that offers all-important insight into what we don’t know. Exposure to facts is good, but so is interacting with others of differing viewpoints. Discussion and debate hone opinions more effectively than reading facts.

walkingpointWalking Point: From the Ashes of the Vietnam War by Perry A. Ulander, New Nonfiction 921 Ulander

Memories of the war you may not want to hear about from a soldier who was there. 236 pages, very fast reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

August

Augustdogdays2016The dog days of summer have arrived! Enjoy the remainder of the summer and check out the recommended titles below.

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

allgirlfillingThe All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg, Fiction Flagg

This is a delightful book, full of warmth and humor. It tells the story of Sookie in present-day Alabama and Fritzi in the World War II years in Wisconsin. Sookie is a dutiful mother and daughter, looking forward to some down time after getting the last of her daughters married off. Her mother, Lenore, is the leading citizen of their small town and quite a handful. In her eighties, but still going strong, she is narcissistic and makes Sookie feel that she is inferior. There is a history of mental illness in the family and Lenore seems to be losing her marbles, something that Sookie fears is in her future too. When Sookie receives a registered letter from the Texas Department of Health, the news therein is shocking to her and sends her on a quest to learn more about herself and her family history. This is where her life and Fritzi’s life intersect. In alternating chapters, we follow Sookie’s story in the present and Fritzi’s story in the past. The book includes a fascinating history of a part of WWII that I knew nothing about and the interesting history of the development of filling stations in the U.S. after cars became more popular. Sookie is an absolutely charming character – so funny and good-natured. This is a feel-good read about strong women finding their own path in life, very humorous and endearing.

drblakemysteriesThe Doctor Blake Mysteries starring Craig McLachlan, New DVD Doctor, Season One

This is an Australian mystery series set in the late 1950’s. Dr. Lucien Blake returns home to Australia after being away for 30 years to take over his late father’s practice while also serving as the police surgeon. Lucien suffered much during WWII, losing his family and being a prisoner of war of the Japanese. He is a very private man with a stoic disposition and he doesn’t care what the locals think of him, but he is a fine doctor and tenacious while on a case to find the truth. Lucien is looked after by Jean, a war widow who was also the receptionist and housekeeper for his father. The district nurse and Jean’s nephew, a police constable, also board in the house.

The show has a serious tone to it. The colors are washed out so everything appears drab, almost black and white. The writing and acting is strong and the period detail is authentic. Dr. Blake is interested in forensics and is ahead of most of his peers in its use, but he also delves into the psychology of the victims and suspects to find motives, giving the show a human touch.

Mary – Reference Services

waypointkangarooWaypoint Kangaroo by Curtis C. Chen, New Fiction Chen

Kangaroo is sent on a mandatory vacation to Mars after he bungles yet another mission. On the interplanetary cruise, he finds himself involved in solving a double murder. Since nothing is ever easy for Kangaroo, he learns that it is actually a massive conspiracy which threatens peace between Earth and Mars. This is a fun summer read for anyone who loves a good spy story. It contains intrigue, action, science fiction, fantasy, romance, and lots of humor.

secondlifenickmThe Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton, New Fiction Hamilton

Steve Hamilton has created a new anti-hero, Nick Mason. In the past, Nick made some poor choices in life – largest amongst them being poor judgement and robbery. He is now paying for those big-time.

The story begins with Nick in prison, serving time for a robbery and the death of an FBI agent. He had been happily married with a 4-year-old daughter. Now he’s divorced and has five years under his belt in the maximum security prison when an offer granting his early release comes his way. He accepts, but the deal comes with deadly terms. Darius Cole, working his empire from his jail cell, now controls Nick. He’s given a new house, new car, and money to burn. The only stipulation is that when his cell phone rings, he must answer and do as directed. As the crimes become more dangerous, Nick’s anxiety and turmoil increases to the point that he is willing to risk all to break free.

Dagmar – Circulation

dinnerwithedwardDinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent, New Nonfiction 921 Vincent

Isabel Vincent is an investigative reporter who just moved to New York from her native Canada. She is new to the city, not quite happy at her job and lonely in her unfulfilling marriage. As an act of kindness, she promises to keep an eye on her friend’s aging father, a recent widower, who just lost his wife after a long and happy marriage of 69 years. Edward, who dearly misses his beloved wife Paula, accepts the newcomer to his life with open arms and agrees to host intimate dinner parties for Isabel, who enjoys their get-togethers tremendously. An unexpected, very unique and precious friendship and a special bond develop between the two. It is not only about the exquisite food and drink that Edward prepares for Isabel so carefully, it is his lessons about enjoying and appreciating good company, beauty, love and life in general, that Isabel is after. Soon Edward plays an important role of mentor in many ways to Isabel, teaching her to slow down, to respect herself, and to live in the moment. “There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drank,” Isabel quotes the famous food writer M.F. K. Fisher, and agrees with her that dinner with a friend “can sustain us against the hungers of the world.” The book is a tribute to food, to life, to love, and to Edward.

Hubbell – Circulation

boysinboatThe Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown, Nonfiction 797.123 Bro or New CD 791.123 Bro (audiobook)

At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany, the American eight-oared crew team shocked the world and won an improbable gold medal. The varsity crew from the University of Washington did so against powerful, more experienced, older crews, especially the hand-selected German boat. This is more than a story about sport, though. The book mainly tracks one member, Joe Rantz, from his Depresssion-era childhood and unstable family life to his success on the world’s stage. Brown’s account also frames the story within the East vs. West mentality still prevalent in America at the time. The crew’s success put Seattle on the map and the Washington crew still remains a national powerhouse.

truthTruth starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford, New DVD Truth

One of the first in a string of controversies affecting national news anchors, Truth is about Dan Rather and CBS News’ fall from grace following their story about George W. Bush’s national guard service leading up to the 2004 election. It provides a refreshing retrospective on the story that brought down Rather and is anchored by great performances by Robert Redford (Rather) and Cate Blanchett (60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes). The story centers around what came to be proven as forged documents suggesting Bush had lied about his national guard service. They were, however, presented to 60 Minutes as authentic and unadulterated. The movie raises questions concerning journalistic responsibility and ethics, as well as the rise of corporate interest in the news media.

pentagonsbrainThe Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency by Annie Jacobsen, Nonfiction 355.07 Jac

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, is informally known as “the Pentagon’s brain.” It is the top-secret military research department which is responsible for advances in American military capabilities. From the first nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll to the space race, Agent Orange, and drones, Jacobsen’s book chronicles DARPA’s role at the forefront of these new technologies. The agency was created by President Eisenhower, the same man who warned the country of the so-called military-industrial complex taking shape at the end of his term. Since then, DARPA has decidedly become part of that group. In addition to DARPA’s historical role, Jacobsen examines the moral quandaries facing the agency responsible for some of modern warfare’s most devastating weapons.

Chris – Circulation

agaetisAgaetis Byrjun by Sigur Rós, New CD 781.66 Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós is one of the monsters of post-rock, a broad genre that is usually characterized by long songs, ambient sounds, and non-traditional use of the guitar. Hailing from Iceland, they sing in their mother tongue, Icelandic, and in a completely made-up, meaningless, scat-like language called Hopelandic. But don’t worry, you don’t need to learn a new language to appreciate their music. Singer Jónsi uses his voice as another layer of instrumentation to convey the melody on top of the humming synths and violin-bow-strummed guitar.

Their second album, Ágætis Byrjun, “A Good Start” in Icelandic, is the product of the band reworking themselves into what they originally envisioned. Coming in at over an hour of music with only two tracks under six and a half minutes, this is an album meant to be experienced. If you have the time, I highly recommend listening to it straight through. Each track blends seamlessly into the next, causing it to feel like one masterwork rather than a collection of individual songs. It is a journey transcendental in nature. You will be transported to a realm where nothing of this world is of any significance. If you only have time for a few songs, I recommend “Starálfur” for its iconic piano and strings, “Svefn-g-englar” for its mantra-like vocals, and “Flugufrelsarinn” for a calming experience. This is a perfect album if you want to slow down, reflect, and experience something new.

kveikurKveikur by Sigur Rós, New CD 781.66 Sigur Rós

Kveikur is the most recent release from Sigur Rós. Compared to Ágætis Byrjun, Kveikur is darker and a bit more aggressive. This is evidenced by titles translated as “brimstone,” “obsidian,” “iceberg,” “storm,” and “kindling.” Immediately, this is apparent to the listener from the opening of the first track “Brennisteinn” (Brimstone) with several hard blasts of sound, followed by heavy drums and, appropriately, a general atmosphere of fire and brimstone. The title track “Kveikur” has a similar feel. Never fear, there’s still plenty of atmospheric arrangements on here. “Isjaki” (Iceberg) even provides a cool down with a nice pop-like sound. Fans of Sigur Rós will find this a welcome addition to their discography. This might be an appropriate introductory album for new listeners, too. There is enough rock sound to segue into Sigur Rós’s unique brand of alternative rock.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

July

July2016coverIt’s July! Celebrate summer and the  July 4th holiday with your loved ones and enjoy the recommended titles below.

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

dogsofbabelThe Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst, Fiction Parkhurst

This engrossing novel deals with the journey of Paul after the death of his wife Lexy. Lexy fell out of the tree in their yard. The police ruled her death an accident, but Paul suspects it may have been suicide. As the novel progresses, we learn he has good reason to suspect suicide. As we visit Paul’s memories of their marriage, we see that Lexy had issues with anger and impulse control and could sink into deep depressions at times. The only witness to Lexy’s death was their dog, Lorelei, who belonged to Lexy before their marriage. Paul is a professor of linguistics and he comes up with the idea to teach Lexy to speak in order to find out what really happened that day. This idea alienates him from his co-workers, who think he has cracked. Some co-workers ridicule him, while others feel sorry for him and try to discourage him from this project. It is a ridiculous idea, of course – dogs do communicate with humans, but not by speaking English. But Paul is in a desperate state and this project keeps his mind occupied during those first several months of intense grief. His progress with Lorelei  moves slowly, however, prompting Paul to get involved with a dangerous and sick group of people who intentionally mutilate and kill dogs in a quest to get them to speak in human language, thus endangering Lorelei. Paul’s relationship with Lorelei is touching – these are the two beings who loved Lexy the most and they are both grieving her loss. And now Lorelei is all Paul has left of Lexy. In the end, Lorelei does help him to learn the truth of the events of that day, but not by talking. The novel treats the issues of mental illness and suicide with sensitivity. We see the tragedy of mental illness and the toll it takes on the loved ones of those affected by it. Paul’s desperate search for meaning after such a loss is heart-breakingly sad, but redemptive in the end. After all Paul has had to go through to get to the point of acceptance, he is able to find peace and move forward with his life.

everyonebraveEveryone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, New Fiction Cleave

This novel begins the day England declares war against Germany and goes through the first few years of WWII, through the summer of 1942 after the Americans arrive in England. The main characters are Mary, Alistair, and Tom, three young people living in London when war is declared. Mary is only 18 and grabs at the chance to volunteer to get her out of finishing school. She is the daughter of a well-to-do family and is very naive as the book opens. She is envisioning being a spy and thinks it must be a joke when they send her to teach at a school. Much to her surprise, she finds that she enjoys teaching and becomes attached to the students she is assigned to teach once the majority of London’s children have been evacuated. Those left are the crippled, mentally handicapped, and a black boy from America named Zachary, with whom Mary develops a strong bond. When Mary is assigned to teach, she meets Tom, a school administrator who has not signed up because he believes passionately in teaching and feels he can serve best by staying behind. Tom’s roommate, Alistair, signs up the day war is declared. First he is sent to France, then Malta. As the war goes on, we see how each character changes as a result of their war experiences. Mary and Tom are caught in the Blitz where the horror of the war is brought home daily, while Alistair sees his men die brutally in battle and then faces starvation due to the Axis blockade of Malta. Mary is the central character and she undergoes quite a transformation, from spoiled, naive rich girl to a much deeper and caring person. We see class and racial prejudice in action and also understand how this began to change after the war. The novel has emotional depth to it and each character is well-drawn and believable.

allwintersafterAll the Winters After by Seré Prince Halverson, New Fiction Halverson

This is a beautiful story about family, love, healing from loss, and taking chances to make a better life for yourself. Twenty years after his parents and brother were killed in a plane crash in their home state of Alaska, Kache returns home for the first time since the crash to visit his ailing grandmother. He has never properly grieved the loss of his family or faced his guilt over their deaths, so his life has been meaningless the last 20 years – not really living, but just sleepwalking through each day. He believes that their home and land has been rented out these 20 years, but his Aunt Eleanor tearfully admits to him that she never had the courage to go back to the homestead, suffering her own guilt over the crash. Kache expects the house to be beyond repair after so many years, but he discovers a young Russian woman named Nadia living in the house. She has been there for the last 10 years, hiding away from her own past tragedy.

All these characters are stuck in time, not able to move forward from tragedy. When Kache and Nadia find each other, they help one another to face the past and be able to live fully again, while Eleanor also blossoms into herself and finds happiness. The story is absorbing and the Alaskan wilderness itself is a character in the book, its magnificent beauty as well as danger an integral part of the lives of the characters.

Dagmar – Circulation

Summer can be a season in which food is greatly celebrated and enjoyed. We associate summers with family get-togethers, with grilling and barbecue garden parties, festive picnics, etc. Food and fun is the theme of the season and that is why I decided to write about food for the month of July. I believe that many readers are familiar with the name Ruth Reichl, a famous chef food and restaurant critic and a gifted food writer. Her books make a perfect summer reading for both their engaging, very personal writing style, and, of course, for her delicious recipes. “Reading Ruth Reichl on food is almost as good as eating it,” wrote the Washington Post Book World. “While all good food writers are humorous…few are so riotously effortlessly entertaining as Ruth Reichl,” commented the New York Times Book Review.

tenderattheboneHer first book, Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, is a delicious memoir of her apprentice years. Her photo on the cover dated 1955 indeed proves that Reichl was cooking at a very young age – seven years old. Early on, she had discovered that “food could be a way of making sense of the world.” From there, we follow her culinary experience all the way to the organic food revolution in Berkeley, California, in the 1970’s.

 

comfortmewithapplesComfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table is the sequel to it and picks up where the first one left off – living in a commune in California with her first husband, Doug. But things are changing fast and Ruth is about to become a restaurant critic and soon she cooks and dines with some word-famous chefs. She becomes one of the best food critics and her pursuit of good food to write about takes her to exotic places all over the world. She shares her experiences, both personal and professional, along with the delicious recipes, with her readers. Even when she writes about some of her personal difficulties, throughout it all, she is funny and entertaining. Just like in her first book, she is able to combine her humorous food writing and her memoirs into an art form.

garlicandsapphireGarlic and Sapphires: The Secrets Life of a Critic in Disguise is the third of Reichl’s memoirs. This time, she is at the top of her stellar career as a restaurant critic at the New York Times, the food editor and restaurant critic at the Los Angeles Times, and editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. She is the most important and feared restaurant critic in the country, and her image with her signature black hair is known to every restaurant it town. She is offered special bonuses and cash bonuses for advance notices of her visits and gets royals treatment whether she likes it or not. However, Reichl is aware that in order to be a good and impartial food critic, you have to be anonymous. And voila, an idea of a critic in disguise is born and Reichl begins her “adventure in deception.” She gets a blonde wig and an acting coach and scouts restaurants as Molly Hollis, a retired school teacher from Michigan (in addition being Ruth Reichl) and then she writes reviews with a comparison about her double experiences. Soon the restaurateur’s learn to watch for Molly, so Reichl buys another wig and another persona is designed. She goes on creating several characters and enjoys switching between them. In her undercover roles, she is not only having fun, but also pokes holes in the pretension of food critics, and reveals both the artifice and excellence existing in the Epicurean world. She also reflects about how our appearance influences the ways we act and are perceived in this world. And, of course, she includes her favorite recipes and review.

Chris – Circulation

absolutionAbsolution by Muse, CD 781.66 Muse

Muse is one of the biggest acts right now in modern alternative rock. This trio has produced seven full-length albums, Absolution being the third. Formed in the U.K., this is the piece that broke them into the U.S. alternative scene. Muse expertly blend alternative rock with progressive, punk, electronic, and orchestral elements. Common themes on Muse albums tend to be love, loss, longing, space, and government conspiracies, and Absolution is no exception. Ranging from mellow piano and soft string arrangements to brash, distortion-heavy guitar works, Absolution excels in variety while still maintaining a cohesiveness with its signature Muse style. Singer Matt Bellamy’s distinctive falsetto brings an extra level of emotion to the songs it is featured in, like “Sing for Absolution,” “Stockholm Syndrome,” and “Ruled by Secrecy.” Matt shows off his piano chops in “Butterflies and Hurricanes,” bassist Chris Wolstenholme proves his bass mastery on “Hysteria,” and drummer Dom Howard perfectly matches the tempo and emotion of every track. This is my personal favorite album, and the one I would suggest to someone looking to check out Muse.

Michelle – Administration

13hours13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi starring John Krasinski, New DVD 13 Hours

This is the true story of the six ex-military operators working as security for the CIA in Benghazi during the terrorist attack in 2012. I was blown away by the story and the heroism shown by these six men who went so far beyond to protect both the CIA operatives and the U.S. diplomatic compound. The politics behind and around the attack do not play a part in this movie. Knowing that this is a true account of events made some scenes difficult to watch, but gave the entire movie such gravitas. Star John Krasinski brought such emotion and depth to his role. The movie, directed by Michael Bay, also stars James Badge Dale, Max Martini, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, and Dominic Fumusa.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

June

It’s June! EnjoyJune2016cover the beautiful weather outside and check out the recommended titles below.

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

brittmarieBritt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman, New Fiction Backman

This is another outstanding novel from Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove, full of warmth, love, and wisdom. Britt-Marie is separated from her husband after 40 years of marriage. She is so afraid of being alone – of dying alone – that she wants a job, any job she can get just so people know she is there. After hounding the girl who works at the unemployment office, Britt-Marie gets the position of caretaker for a shut down recreation center in the dying town of Borg. Once she gets to Borg, she finds herself getting involved in the lives of the remaining residents, especially a pair of siblings who play soccer even though their soccer pitch has been sold and their coach has passed away.

Britt-Marie has dedicated herself to others all her life, first her parents and sister, then her husband, so that she never learned how to be herself or found out what she wanted from her life. A tragedy in her childhood has shaped her life and her husband didn’t respect her, crushed her actually, and she let him, so her self-esteem at the beginning of her journey is zero. However, in Borg, Britt-Marie starts to open herself to new experiences and learn to let go of her pretensions and live a little. Britt-Marie is a very sympathetic character who you will root for to finally live for herself and make the correct choices. The supporting cast of characters are also wonderful. Backman excels at creating eccentric, lovable characters. The book is exceedingly funny and also sad, but leaves you feeling uplifted.

MrRosenblumMr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons, Fiction Solomons

This is a lovely book, gentle and sweet and beautifully written. Jack and Sadie are German Jews who left Germany in the 1930’s and emigrated to England. Upon arrival, they were given a handbook explaining English customs and how to assimilate. Jack took the handbook to heart and his greatest wish is to be the quintessential English gentleman. He makes a list of goals and eventually achieves them, except for being granted membership in a golf club. His name and his accent seem to prevent him from being fully accepted. So Jack decides to build his own golf course. He buys land in Dorset and uproots his wife from their London home to move to the country and build his course. The rest of the book details Jack’s trials and tribulations getting his course built and explores his relationship with his wife and daughter, as well as life in a small village. Jack’s wife, Sadie, lost her parents and younger brother to the Holocaust and she suffers from survivor guilt and depression over this since she escaped and they didn’t. Meanwhile, Jack is eternally cheerful and optimistic, so there is a divide between them. Jack is a wonderful character – you can’t help but root for him and feel for him when things don’t go his way.

curiouscharmsThe Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick, New Fiction Patrick

This is a lovely story about a man grieving the loss of his wife and finding his way again. A year after the death of his wife Miriam, Arthur is packing up her clothing to give away when he comes across a charm bracelet with eight charms on it. He doesn’t recall ever seeing Miriam wearing the bracelet and he wonders about it. One of the charms, an Indian elephant with an emerald, has an Indian phone number engraved on it. Arthur calls this number and speaks to a man who knew his wife when he was a child. Arthur had no idea Miriam had ever been in India and this makes him question what else he didn’t know about her life before they met. This sets Arthur on a journey to discover the story of all the charms that will take him to different parts of England, as well as other countries, where he meets numerous people from Miriam’s past who take him out of his comfort zone and broaden his viewpoint. It is a spiritual journey as well as Arthur questions his life with Miriam and if he ever really knew her at all. Overall, this is a feel-good read as Arthur’s journey allows him to remember the love and joy of his married life and to be free to move forward, as well as reconnect with his children who have drifted from him since their mother’s death. Arthur is a sympathetic character and the various supporting characters all add color and charm to the novel.

Pat – Circulation

whenbreathWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, New Nonfiction 616.994 Kal 

Paul Kalanithi was a talented and dedicated neurosurgeon who, against all odds, is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer while only in his thirties. This memoir tells the story of the almost two years from diagnosis until Dr. Kalanithi’s death. He was married to Lucy, who sounds like an amazing woman. When he died he had and infant daughter, Cady.

This book is and excellent and moving account of a terminal illness, an inspirational story, and a look at the human spirit.

Michelle – Administration

redqueen Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, YA Aveyard

I continue to find myself drawn to YA series and this was the next one to catch my eye. This rich fantasy series can be described as The Hunger Games meets a superhero origin story. In this story, society is divided into two groups, those with red blood and those who have evolved into having silver blood and a superpower. Thus, the Silvers rule while the Reds suffer through a despondent life and perpetual war. Things are turned upside down with the discovery of a red-blooded girl who has a superpower no one has seen before. The first two books in the series, Red Queen and Glass Sword, are out now. Books 3 and 4 have been commissioned and are expected to be released in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

deadpoolDeadpool starring Ryan Reynolds, New DVD Deadpool

After years of negotiation, Ryan Reynolds finally brought his Deadpool to the big screen. If you like superheroes, but wish they wouldn’t be so heroic all the time, then Deadpool is the hero you’ve been looking for. This fast-paced story isn’t for the faint-hearted, but if senseless violence, crude behavior, and dark humor are your thing – this is the movie for you! The movie also stars Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, and TJ Miller.

Dagmar – Circulation

mynameislucybMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, New Fiction Strout

Elizabeth Strout, who is a Pulitzer Prize winner for her previous novel, Olive Kittenridge, has a new powerful novel published: My Name is Lucy Barton. This time, the heroine of the story is raised in incredible, almost unbelievable poverty outside the small town of Amgash, Illinois. The youngest of three children in a greatly dysfunctional family, she takes refuge in school, where it is peaceful and warm. There she discovers her love for books. Especially one book makes a life- changing difference for Lucy. It is about a girl named Tilly, who is a little bit like Lucy. Tilly also endures a childhood full of hardship, and seems strange to others because she is dirty and poor. Books, Lucy explains, brought her things and made her feel less alone. So Lucy thinks that she will become a writer and write books and people would feel less alone. Due to her diligence at school, Lucy gets a college scholarship and thus is able to escape the family’s misery and poverty. While in college, she gets married, and moves with her new well-to-do husband to New York. While living there, Lucy seldom looks back. She is trying to get used to the idea of living in a big sophisticated city and raising her two beloved daughters, while also attempting to write. She has a lot to catch up on because she comes from a world which is incomprehensible to people living around her. not only did the family have little heat and little food, they had no books, no magazines, and no TV. When Lucy gets seriously ill, her wealthy husband asks Lucy’s mother to come to New York to keep her company while she is in the hospital. Five days which they spend together bring a lot of memories – good and bad – of the old days. Lucy and her mother reestablish their problematic but loving relationship. Eventually, Lucy becomes a published author and woman in her own right. After her daughters grow up, she divorces her distant husband, who developed an interest in another woman. She herself happily remarries later. It is a simple but a touching story which offers a wealth of emotion, from sadness and loneliness to simple joy and redemption.

Chris – Technical Services

joyJoy starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, New DVD Joy

This movie is funny, exasperating, depressing, and then…Joyful as she overcomes all obstacles.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews