Tag Archives: Biology

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.

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It’s DecemberDec2015cover! Enjoy the holidays with your loved ones and check out the recommended titles below.

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

onceagainitschristmasOnce Again It’s Christmas by Kenny Rogers, New CD 781.72 Rogers

This is a new Christmas album by Kenny Rogers. His last Christmas album was released in 1998. This CD includes classic Christmas carols including The Little Drummer Boy, Winter Wonderland, and I’ll Be Home for Christmas, as well as original songs and duets with Alison Krauss and Jennifer Nettles. My favorites of the original songs are Once Again It’s Christmas and The Light. I also enjoyed There’s A New Kid in Town and Back to Bethlehem, which have been covered by other artists as well. Once Again It’s Christmas is a nostalgic song about the joys of the Christmas season. It reminds me of the classic song Silver Bells. The Light is a lovely ballad exalting the virtues of the Christian faith. The song includes accompaniment by a choir and an orchestra. There’s a New Kid in Town is a beautiful, melodic song celebrating the birth of Jesus. Back to Bethlehem is about the troubles of the modern world and returning to the values of Christmas. The album has a soft and peaceful mood, with string instruments and piano featuring on most of the songs, and makes a strong addition to our Christmas collection.

homefiresHome Fires starring Samantha Bond and Francesca Annis, New DVD Home Fires

This is a PBS period drama about the British home front during World War II, set in a small community in rural Cheshire and following the lives of the members of the local Women’s Institute. It was inspired by the nonfiction book Jambusters by Julie Summers, a history of the Women’s Institute during the war and its contributions to the war effort. The series opens in August 1939 and goes through the Battle of Dunkirk in May 1940. The series has been renewed for a second season, which will open in the summer of 1940 during the Battle of Britain.

Over 300,000 women were members of the Women’s Institute during the war. They did their part for the war effort by growing and preserving food, knitting for the troops, organizing the evacuation of children and taking in evacuees, setting up canteens for the troops, and raising money for needed supplies.

I am fascinated by the history of the home front of England during WWII – how England stood alone against Hitler and how strong the people were to keep going in the face of years of war and all the suffering and loss. The Blitz, food shortages, rationing, the death of loved ones on the battlefield and at home, constant fear of bombings, and yet they not only endured, but maintained positive, can-do attitudes. It is remarkable what women accomplished on the home front despite all the hardships and the strength and resolve shown by them. Women did men’s work in the factories and fields, kept their families fed when there was no food, lost not only husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers, but also women and children to bombings and other wartime events, took in evacuees, gave up their homes or land or possessions to the war effort, and in the end, they did their part to defeat Hitler.

halfbrokehorsesHalf Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, Fiction Walls

This novel by the author of the acclaimed memoir The Glass Castle is a fictional account of the life of the author’s grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, written in her grandmother’s voice. Lily was a woman ahead of her time, strong and independent. Born in the early 1900s, she spent much of her life on ranches in the American West. By the age of six, she was working with her father breaking wild horses. She went on to become a teacher, working in rural one-room school houses, and a mother of two. In addition to her skills with horses and teaching, she also learned how to fly an airplane, all great accomplishments for a woman of that time. She was a tough and practical-minded woman with good common sense who did not suffer fools gladly. The book was entertaining as Lily had an adventuresome life. Besides her experiences on the ranch, which involved flash floods, harsh winters, and all the other troubles that come with livestock and living off the land, teaching, and raising her children, she raced horses, ran moonshine, lost her sister tragically, married a con man before finding happiness with her second husband, and survived both the Depression and WWII. She passed away when the author was eight years old and is fondly remembered by her family.

Theresa – Youth Services

heartshapedboxHeart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, Fiction Hill

This is a ghost story about an aging rock star known for his strange and macabre collections. When he finds out that someone is selling a ghost, he has to have it. What he gets is a suit…the ghost’s suit, which comes in a heart-shaped box. What he doesn’t realize is that he was tricked into buying this ghost who has a reason to want him or anyone who helps him dead. It’s difficult to imagine that a ghost could cause bodily harm, but this one convinces his victims to harm themselves. Scary!

I enjoyed this as a perfect book to set the mood for Halloween. After reading it, I found out that the author, Joe Hill, is actually Joseph Hillstrom King, the son of authors Stephen and Tabitha King. He decided to use an abbreviated form of his given name in 1997, out of a desire to succeed based solely on his own merits rather than as the son of famous writers. After achieving a degree of independent success, Hill publicly confirmed his identity in 2007.

Dagmar – Circulation

hemingway

Hemingway & Gellhorn starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman, DVD Hemingway

Hemingway & Gellhorn is a 2012 HBO biopic film by director Philip Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being), starring Nicole Kidman as Hemingway’s third wife Martha Gellhorn and Clive Owen as Ernest Hemingway. They are one of the most famous American literary couples. The film tells the story of their passionate love affair and tumultuous marriage; it depicts the conflicts between the career of a great literary master and that of his beautiful wife, a trailblazing war correspondent. The adventurous writers, who meet by chance in 1936 in a Key West bar, meet again in Spain and they go together through the Spanish Civil War and stay there until 1939. She becomes his muse for the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. In 1940, Hemingway divorces his second wife and marries Martha. Together they witness history and cover the great conflicts of their time, but the war they could not survive was their own. “We were good in war,” says Kidman as the renowned war correspondent Gellhorn. “When there was no war, we made our own.” In 1945, Martha Gellhorn asks Hemingway for a divorce. Kidman received a lot of well-deserved praise for her performance as Martha Gellhorn, especially for using her beauty – exceptional figure and old- fashioned movie star glamour – to full effect. Owen portrays well Hemingway’s charisma and his legendary temper. The film also features an all-star supporting cast and has a lot of extraordinary archival footage scenes. The only flaw the film has is its length – 155 minutes. But it may be a good film to watch on one of those long winter nights.

Hubbell – Circulation

sixthextinctionThe Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, New Nonfiction 576.84 Kol or New CD 576.84 Kol (audiobook)

Written by journalist Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction examines the patterns of the phenomenon of mass extinction throughout natural history. The author, through the presentation of convincing scientific evidence, purports that we presently are in the sixth such massive die-off in Earth’s history. Kolbert keeps the tone light, however, and even entertaining with chapters like The Rhino Gets an Ultrasound and Dropping Acid. The first chronicles zoologists’ attempts at sustaining population of the near-extinct Asian Rhino while the the latter explains the process of ocean acidification and its dire consequences on marine biodiversity. By analyzing past examples of extinction periods throughout the geological ages, Kolbert (and scientists) suggest we have now entered a new period called the Anthropocene Epoch, in which humans have irreversibly changed the very nature of biology on the planet.

Brigitte – Circulation

natlampoonxmasNational Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase, DVD National Lampoon’s

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a Christmas classic that the whole family is sure to love. If you are feeling nostalgic this holiday season, check out this comedy starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, a man just trying to make the holidays fun for his family, often with hilariously disastrous results. Yule love it!

Jacob – Circulation

DeadwakeDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson, Nonfiction 940.4514 Lar

The Lusitania was a luxury cruise liner headed from New York to Liverpool. Tragically, the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland and sank on May 7, 1915. Through meticulous research and historical documents, Erik Larson intertwines the stories of the ship and the submarine, while telling the story of this historic turning point in WWI. If you are a fan of Larson’s previous works, you will definitely enjoy this one as well.

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December 1, 2015 · 2:47 am

September

September2015coverIt’s September! Savor the glorious weather while it lasts and enjoy the recommended titles below.

 

 

Sue – Circulation

 calvaryCalvary starring Brendan Gleeson, New DVD Calvary

Brendan Gleeson shines in this powerful story that explores the effects of trauma on innocent lives. The movie opens with Father James, a kind-hearted and sensible Catholic priest in a small Irish village, in the confessional box. A parishioner tells the father that he was raped by a priest when he was a child and that he is going to murder the father in a week’s time as retribution. The movie then follows Father James through the remaining week, leading up to the stunning finale. We meet the colorful and troubled residents of the village and see what a good man Father James is and that his influence does truly help people.

Though dealing with a dark topic and the serious themes of forgiveness and redemption, the movie has a lot of humor and warmth in it and does a fine job of showing us life in all its aspects – parts of it are very funny, parts are heart-breakingly sad, and parts are horrifically violent. I found it deeply moving and thought it was one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time with a magnificent performance by Gleeson.

shadowsoverparadiseShadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff, New Fiction Wolff

This novel tells the story of two very different women – both of whom suffered a similar traumatic loss in their childhoods that have shaped their adult lives. Jenni is a London-based writer in her 30s who specializes in writing memoirs for others. She is reserved and does not like to draw attention to herself. Living with her boyfriend, their relationship is facing difficulties. Klara is a farmer of Dutch origin living in Cornwall whose family was interred by the Japanese on the Pacific island of Java during World War II. As her 80th birthday approaches, she decides to record the memories of her life and hires Jenni to write them for her. This is how the two women are brought together. Klara’s family moved from the Netherlands to Java in the Dutch East Indies to work on a rubber plantation when she was a child. At that time, the now independent country of Indonesia was under Dutch colonial rule. When the Japanese invaded, they interred all the Dutch colonials living there as the Netherlands had declared war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Though the book is fiction, the author researched the history of the Japanese occupation and the internment camps and spoke to survivors, so the book is historically accurate in its depiction of life on Java during the war. As Klara shares painful memories from her war years, Jenni gradually releases her long- hidden anguish over a childhood trauma. The book was very emotional and moving, dealing with such gut-wrenching issues as war atrocities and the untimely death of loved ones and the guilt over such losses. I have read much about the German concentration camps and the horror and suffering inflicted on people in those camps, but I was not as familiar with the Japanese internment camps for the Dutch/European residents of the Dutch East Indies. The book was a compelling read while also educating the reader about an important event in world history that has not been documented as well as the camps in the West.

littleparisbookshopThe Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, New Fiction George

This book celebrates life following loss. Its characters suffer loss, but also experience healing and find hope for the future and a renewed sense of purpose to their lives. The story opens with fifty-something Jean, a Parisian bookseller whose bookstore is situated on a barge moored on the banks of the Seine River. Jean doesn’t just sell books, though. He fancies himself a literary psychologist – matching the right book to the right person. He even refuses to sell a book to a person when he thinks it is the wrong book to address that person’s need. Jean lost his love 20 years ago, but has not allowed himself to mourn, so he has been stuck all this time, just existing, not really living, unwilling to take any chances. This inertia gets shaken from him when he reads a letter from his lost love he’s left unopened for 20 years and he sets out on his barge to her hometown. The book then follows his travels along the river, picking up first one, then more passengers on his journey into the heart of southern France. As Jean’s journey continues and he begins to heal from his loss, his life opens up to him and he is able to find joy in living again. Reading the book is a pleasure, with lush descriptions of the southern French countryside and Provencal food and wine. The book is full of life and healing, with romance, literature, magnificent landscapes, loyal friends, wise advise, and good food and drink. As a charming addition to the book, it also includes some authentic French recipes and a list of titles recommended by Jean and the ailments they will help cure.

Chris – Technical Services

ashes underwaterAshes Under Water: the SS Eastland and the Shipwreck That Shook America by Michael McCarthy, New Nonfiction 977.311 McC

July 24, 1915, the overturning of an excursion steamer on the Chicago River near Clark Street is a story of a horrible tragedy that killed 844 men, women, and children. Twenty-two whole families were wiped out and who was to blame? A true tale of Chicago politics, the Great Lakes shipping industry, a possible cover-up, and a courtroom drama with attorney Clarence Darrow.

liartemptressLiar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott, Nonfiction 973.785 Abb

A true story of four women, two pro-Confederacy and two pro-Union, all determined and willing to risk liberty and life for their cause.

 

Melissa – Technical Services

hotzoneThe Hot Zone by Richard Preston, Nonfiction 614.57 Pre

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston is simultaneously fascinating and terrifying. The term “hot zone” (in the biology field) means an area that is rampant with a virus. This book delves into the history of ebola outbreaks in Africa in the 80s and 90s, as well as its spread to the United States. Readers learn about how ebola is studied in laboratories, how it manifests itself in victims, the location of the first outbreak, how the virus migrated across continents, and what the four known strands do to the unfortunate people who catch them. The book reads like a thriller. Each new “character” that is introduced plays a key role in the research regarding ebola, and yet readers can’t help but wonder which researchers will die at the hands of the virus. At the close of the book, readers are left in awe of the world we inhabit. Despite all the technological and medical advances, there are still the most basic life forms yet undiscovered that can devastate the human race.

Brigitte – Circulation

melancholiaMelancholia starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, DVD Melancholia

Melancholia tells the story of Justine and Claire, two very different women faced with the end of life on Earth. While their personal relationships blossom and fail, a meteor races through space, ready to destroy the world. Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, is a smart but generally anxious woman who is constantly at odds with her sister Claire, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. Claire has her life together, but with the impending doom of Earth her life falls apart. This movie is visually stunning and sure to leave you breathless.

modernromanceModern Romance by Aziz Ansari, New Nonfiction 306.7 Ans

Modern Romance by comedian Aziz Ansari explores dating in the modern age. Known for his stand-up comedy as well as his breakout role as Tom Haverford on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, Ansari questions how modern technology is impacting the dating lives of the single people of 2015. Funny and sweet, this book is a healthy mix of facts, advice, and comedy.

Hubbell – Circulation

citizenfourCitizenfour produced and directed by Laura Poitras, New DVD 327.127 Citizenfour

Citizenfour, winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary, chronicles the story of ex-CIA whistleblower Ed Snowden. While working as an analyst for the CIA in 2013, Snowden leaked a trove of documents detailing the NSA’s warrantless collection of Americans’ phone calls, emails, and other communications. This documentary follows Snowden from his first meetings in Hong Kong with the journalists who broke the story, Glenn Greenwald and the film’s director Laura Poitras, to his eventual asylum in Russia. After several secret clandestine meetings, Greenwald wrote the first of many revelatory articles and Snowden became the target of an international manhunt. This first-hand account of Snowden’s decision to reveal the government’s controversial spying program is simultaneously riveting, emotional, and thought-provoking.

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