Tag Archives: literary fiction

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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May

May2016It’s May! Take a book outside and enjoy the glorious sights and smells of spring!

 

 

Sue – Circulation

truthaccordingtousThe Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows, Fiction Barrows

This captivating novel is narrated by 12-year-old Willa Romeyn and set during the summer of 1938 in a small West Virginia town when she learns the truth about her family and their past. Willa lives with her father Felix, her aunt Jottie, and her little sister Bird. Felix is a selfish man whose actions in the past and today have hurt his family, but Willa adores him and women can’t refuse his charm. Jottie is the rock of the family, keeping everything together and raising the girls. It is the Depression and the Romeyns have taken in a boarder working for the Federal Writers’ Project under the WPA, set up by the Roosevelt Administration to provide work during the Depression. The boarder, Layla, is a spoiled and sheltered senator’s daughter who has been cut off by her father and forced to work after refusing to marry the man he picked out for her. Layla’s arrival sets in motion a series of events that will rock the Romeyn family, revealing a long-kept secret from the past. Layla’s assignment is to write the history of the town. As she interviews residents, she hears various versions of the same events, and chooses to write a more colorful history than the staid town leaders are ready for. As the town’s history is revealed, so is the history of the Romeyn family revealed. We learn how subjective the truth can be, depending upon who is telling it. The pace of the book starts out slow, like the sweltering summer heat of West Virginia, but then picks up and becomes really engrossing as we learn more about the dark family secret that has torn apart the lives of Jottie and Felix. This book shines – the characters are so well-developed and we see Willa grow up before our eyes as she discovers some hard truths about her family.

fallenlandFallen Land by Taylor Brown, New Fiction Brown

Fallen Land is a powerful story of love and survival set in the American South during the Civil War. Fifteen-year-old Callum, an orphan originally from Ireland, falls in with a band of Confederate guerrillas in Virginia in the later years of the war. The men are brutal, and after trying to help a young woman named Ava they found living on her own from being assaulted by the men, Callum leaves the group and returns to the girl. But the leader of the group, a former colonel in the Confederacy, is killed by Union soldiers when confronting Callum, who stole the Colonel’s magnificent horse, Reiver, in his flight. Believing Callum to be the Colonel’s killer, the rest of the Colonel’s men and a vicious bounty hunter set off in search of Callum and Ava in order to collect a bounty on the head of the Colonel’s killer. Callum wants to reach the coast of Georgia, where distant relatives live, in the hope that they will take Ava and him in. As they travel, they are relentlessly pursued by the bounty hunter. Their path follows the wake of General Sherman’s march through Georgia and we see the utter destruction wrought by Union troops. The book helped me realize the full horror of Sherman’s march. I was appalled by the murder of family pets – so pointless, just cruelty – and the sheer brutality of the destruction of property and livestock. The writing is beautiful. Taylor uses descriptive language to great effect, describing the destruction of the land, but the beauty that is still there to be found. Callum and Ava are well-drawn characters. Callum fears what the war is making him while Ava is strong and sensible. Along their journey, the pair also meet a number of memorable characters. The novel is well-paced, the story line flowing smoothly and keeping the reader absorbed until the end.

summerbeforewarThe Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson, New Fiction Simonson

This beautifully written novel opens in the summer of 1914 in the small village of Rye, East Sussex, shortly after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. The residents of the village are blissfully unaware of the major changes that are coming to their world and their way of life. The main characters are Beatrice, a young woman who has settled in the village to take on the job of Latin mistress for the local school (with some opposition due to her gender) and the Kent family: Agatha, her husband John, who is high up in the government and has more of an inkling of what is coming than most, and their two nephews, Hugh, a surgeon in training, very serious and respectable, and Daniel, a handsome and charming poet, who flaunts the rules of society. Society and respectability are everything in Rye and the local women can be vicious against those who don’t measure up to their standards of respectability. Beatrice is on the cusp of this society, being a woman who doesn’t intend to marry and wants to live a life of meaningful work (and rides a bicycle!), but with Agatha’s support, she fits in. Though Rye is respectable on the surface, there is much simmering under the surface, including a homosexual love affair, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and bigotry against local gypsies. We see how women were limited in their choices in that period of time and how easily they could be ostracized from society for actions that are commonplace today.

The novel is slow-paced and gentle, until the end, when the setting shifts from Rye to France, juxtaposing the charming pastoral life of Rye with the horrific violence of the front. Though a long book told at a slow pace, I truly cared about the characters and was invested in their fate. We see the horror and stupidity of war and the suffering of innocents caught up in it and the waste of promising lives, but also how suffering and loss can make people reach for what they truly want and find happiness.

onlyloveOnly Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington, New Fiction Tarkington

This is a wonderful novel about the relationship between two brothers and their family growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s in a small town in Virginia. The novel is narrated by Richard, nicknamed Rocky by his brother, as an older adult looking back on his life. Richard is seven years old when the novel opens and idolizes his older half-brother Paul, a teenager with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, a cool car, and a taste for rock n’ roll, especially Neil Young. Richard speaks with such an authentic voice you feel as if a friend is telling you a story while sitting on the patio drinking a beer. The book is funny, sad, nostalgic, tender – a lovely story of a family’s ups and downs over Richard’s childhood into his young adulthood. As he comes of age, he experiences abandonment, reconciliation, and first love, as well as darker moments. The characters are richly drawn and all flawed in their own way. We meet Richard’s father, called the Old Man, his mother, the Old Man’s second wife, much younger than him, Paul’s high school girlfriend Leigh, and other residents of the community, all of whom play a part in Richard’s growing up and his education about life. The book defies genre, as it is part Southern Gothic, part domestic fiction, and part mystery. It is very entertaining and well-written and, as the title says, it is ultimately about love between family members and how love can overcome life’s obstacles.

Theresa – Youth Services

ourendlessdaysOur Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, Fiction Fuller

In 1985, eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoat is taken from her London home by her survivalist father. After bringing her to a ramshackle hut in the wilderness, he tells her that the rest of the world, including her mother, has been destroyed. Nine long years pass with harsh winters and times of near starvation. Peggy eventually sees another person and realizes that her father is wrong.

It isn’t until Peggy returns to civilization and her mother that the author reveals how the human mind can play tricks on us. Under such circumstances, sanity may be lost, causing one to do unthinkable things.

The author, Claire Fuller, takes the reader back and forth in time. At points it may seem like the dreariness will never end, but the conclusion had me wanting to reread the book!

Hubbell – Circulation

14931493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles Mann, Nonfiction 909.4 Man

Writer Charles Mann’s 1493 is an engrossing account of world history in the post-Columbian era. The meeting of Europe and the Americas, as well as with the East, irrevocably altered the course of the natural world. Mann explains how global temperature increases were caused by the reforestation of North America following population decline from European illnesses. Or how the discovery of silver in South America opened up the Pacific and catapulted China’s economy. It is a fascinating and well-written book.

greatwarofourtimeThe Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism – From Al Qa’ida to ISIS by Michael J. Morell, Nonfiction 363.325 Mor

Written by former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, The Great War of Our Time is an insightful, first-hand account of America’s counter-terrorism world before and after 9/11. Morell was President Bush’s daily intelligence briefer and his 9/11 day-of account is emotional. What the book is really about, though, is Morell’s explanation of some CIA failures and also successes and that threats abroad continue.

Michelle – Administration

creedCreed starring Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan, New DVD Creed

I have been a huge Rocky fan since I was a kid; a true child of the 80’s, Rocky IV is my favorite. I had not been thrilled with any sequels after that, so I went into this newest addition to the Rocky franchise with excitement and trepidation. I was more than pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Creed. The story line is great and more heart-wrenching than I was expecting. Sylvester Stallone gave his best performance in years and Michael B. Jordan held his own as Adonis Creed. I think this movie is great for both us Rocky fans and the younger generation who may not be familiar with the franchise.

Dagmar – Circulation

irrationalmanIrrational Man starring Joaquin Phoenix, New DVD Irrational

In Woody Allen’s latest film, Irrational Man, Joaquin Phoenix beautifully plays a classic Allen figure: a renowned but disillusioned philosophical professor who takes a new job at fictional Bryalin College on the East Coast. When he arrives, he is preceded by the tales of his brilliant teaching, near-legendary passionate affairs, and global crusades. He is a mysterious man who is plagued by a bleak depression and doubts about his place in the world. Unknowingly, he creates a lot of commotion in the small provincial university town, starving for something new and exciting. He draws the not so subtle advances of Rita (Parker Posey), a lonely science professor looking to escape from a dreary marriage, and soon surrenders to Rita’s insistent seduction tactics. At the same time, he also enchants one of his brightest students, and daughter of his academic colleague, Jill (Emma Stone). While Jill has a doting and uncomplicated college boyfriend, she finds this professor and his exotic past thrilling, exciting, and irresistible. The professor tries to keep his blossoming friendship with Jill strictly platonic, but eventually, she becomes much more than just a friend. However, not even the stimulation of new friendship and romance can quite get the professor out of his depression, nor ease his feelings of futility concerning his teaching and writing. The turning point for the tormented professor comes when Jill and he eavesdrop on a conversation in a diner, listening to an unhappy turn that a complete stranger’s life has taken. The professor makes a resolution, which in turn gives him a purpose and enjoyment of his life once again. His “meaningful act” becomes the talk of the town, the subject of dinner-party chatter, campus gossip, and speculation from students and faculty. The film culminates in a surprising end with a nearly Hitchcockian twist. This “suspenseful mind-teaser” (Rolling Stone) is definitely a worthy edition to the work of Woody Allen.

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April

April2016

It’s April! April is National Poetry Month and April 10 through April 16 is National Library Week. So celebrate your local library and its contributions to your community and read a poem this month (or even write one)!

 

Melissa – Technical Services

littlelifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, New Fiction Yanagihara

Yanagihara has created something that is simultaneously beautiful and gut-wrenching. She depicts the lives of four men over their decades-long friendship. There’s not much new I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said by better literary critics. “How often is a novel so deeply disturbing that you find yourself weeping, and yet so revelatory about human kindness that you might also feel touched by grace?” (San Francisco Chronicle). “There are truths here that are almost too much to bear.” (LA Times). Truly, this is a book that will stay with me for years.

Sue – Circulation

deniselevertovThe Collected Poems of Denise Levertov by Denise Levertov, Nonfiction 811.54 Lev

Denise Levertov was an English-born award-winning poet. She was born in Essex in 1923 and passed away in 1997. She began writing at a young age, even getting a positive response from T.S. Eliot when she sent some of her poetry to him at age 12. She was first published at age 17. She worked as a nurse in London during WWII and moved to the U.S. in 1948 after marrying an American writer. Her poetry included a wide range of themes over her six-decade career. Early on, her themes included feminism and political and social activism, particularly in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when she spoke out against the Vietnam War and supported civil rights. In her later years, she became a Christian and she wrote spiritual and nature poems. I find her poetry to be an affirmation and celebration of life, even with all of its sorrows. Her writing is very lyrical and reads beautifully. Her poems, especially her later poems that focus on spirituality and the natural world, express deep emotions and reflect upon the meaning of our lives. These later poems are my personal favorites and include “Sojourns in the Parallel World,” “Beginners,” “Of Being,” and “A Gift.” “Sojourns in the Parallel World” speaks about how man has moved away from the natural world, but can find peace and wisdom in nature away from man-made anxieties. “Beginners” speaks of how far man has yet to go in order to find justice, mercy, harmony with nature, etc. “Of Being” and “A Gift” suggest that though life includes sadness and suffering, the joy of life makes up for the sadness and helping others is a way to increase our joy and make our lives more meaningful.

waitingformylifeWaiting for My Life: Poems by Linda Pastan, Nonfiction 811.54 Pas

Linda Pastan is an award-winning American poet who resides in Maryland. Her poems deal with our everyday lives and feature themes of domesticity, like parents, children, home, loss, grief, aging, and the unexpected joys and tragedies of life. She writes about ordinary moments of life and celebrates them for their deeper meaning. Her poetry tends to be concise, filled with vivid imagery and simple beauty.

I find her poems to be rich, getting beneath the surface of our ordinary lives to touch on deeper meanings, like love, death, and what defines us as people. A few of my favorite poems from this collection are “Dreams,” “What We Want,” and “The One-Way Mirror Back.” “Dreams” speaks of the meaning of our dreams, how what is most meaningful to us is what our subconscious mind turns to during sleep – how a lost loved one can return to us in our dreams, or a perfect day can be re-lived, or a bad day can have a different ending. Figurative language creates memorable images that add to the poignancy and strength of the poem. “What We Want” is a lyrical poem that explores our longing for something different – how we want things we don’t have or get things we thought we wanted to find that we don’t want them after all. The poem ends, though, with a celebration of the familiar and comfortable, reassuring us that what we do have is pretty good, even if we still feel that longing. “The One-Way Mirror Back” is a longer, reflective poem about the author’s childhood and the love of her parents, shown in so many ways over the years, and her appreciation now that she is older and can understand how blessed she was to have a happy and loving childhood.

alwaysareckoningAlways a Reckoning and Other Poems by Jimmy Carter, Nonfiction 811.54 Car

This is a book of poems written by former president Jimmy Carter. Many of the poems in the book are reminisces of his childhood growing up on a farm in rural Georgia. They speak of important people in the early years of his life and places that affected him. The poems also reflect on his adult life, including thoughts about his family, and his political life.

The poems about his childhood speak of the local farmers and townspeople, his work in the fields planting and tending the peanut crop, and show the divide in the South between black and white at the time.

Some of the poems are quite personal. He includes a poem about his difficult relationship with his father and their healing at his father’s death. He also writes of his mother, a nurse whose strength he greatly admired. Another poem is a tribute to the beloved dog of his childhood. The collection also includes a lovely poem to his wife of over 65 years, Rosalynn, speaking of his love for her when they first met to today when “her smile still makes the birds forget to sing.”

The political poems show us Carter’s deep compassion for people and his strong sense of righteousness and justice, which he never stopped working for, even after his presidency.

Mary – Youth Services

thedoorThe Door by Margaret Atwood, Nonfiction 811.54 Atw

Margaret Atwood’s poems are small, lyrical masterpieces. With minimalistic words and cadence, she can make epics from everyday experiences, such as gardening to watching a young girl sprint down a wooded path. This specific poetry collection includes a CD-Rom, where you can hear Atwood read the highlighted poems of this collection.

carol

Carol starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, and Sarah Paulson, New DVD Carol

Patricia Highsmith is usually heralded for her mystery novels, such as Strangers on a Train. But also within her writing canon is a tender, yet explosive story of two women falling in love in the 1950’s. Like the original book, Carol as a film adaptation is set in a pre-Stonewall era America, where being gay is not openly discussed within society, and it is also a prosecutable crime. This backdrop of social restraint, combined with contrasting 50’s glamour aesthetic, is the world director Todd Haynes carefully creates in this cinematographically elegant film. The story itself begins with the meeting of two women. Therese Belivet wants to be a photographer, but has taken up a job at a department store, in a toy section. Carol Aird, a recent divorcee, meets Therese at this department store when she is looking for a toy for her daughter. Their connection and attraction is immediate. With a highly nuanced, no-nonsense script by playwright and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, this film shines as it delves into the harsher realities of the human psyche and obsession. With unforgettable performances by Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, and Sarah Paulson, this film brings light to a world of women who lived in the 1950’s and were forced by an unforgiving society to make their own way, and search for joy, rooted at the centers of themselves.

Brigitte – Circulation

brooklyn99Brooklyn Nine-Nine starring Andy Samberg, New DVD Brooklyn, Seasons One and Two

If you feel like staying in on a rainy weekend this April, consider renting Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is not your typical sitcom; it’s also not your typical cop show that relies on the gore of a more mainstream police show like Law and Order or Dexter. Watch as Detective Jake Peralta, played by Andy Samberg, tracks down bad guys with his coworkers Terry and Boyle while still being an unrepentant goofball. His best friend Gina, the office administrator, marches to the beat of her own drum while the stoic Captain Holt fires off one-liners faster than he can draw his gun. This show is a light-hearted look at a police precinct that will be sure to keep you laughing!

janethevirginJane the Virgin starring Gina Rodriguez, New DVD Jane, Season 1

Jane the Virgin is an adaptation of a Venezuelan telenovela about a pregnant virgin and the antics that surround her pregnancy and family life. Jane is a smart and driven college student who is accidentally impregnated when she goes for a routine check-up. It sounds crazy – because it is, but what is crazier is how Jane reacts to this impossible situation – she decides to keep the baby. This comedy is sure to keep you on your toes and laughing the entire time. If you’ve never seen a telenovela before, this is a great introduction to a new genre for you!

Hubbell – Circulation

pathbetweenseasThe Path Between the Seas by David McCullough, Nonfiction 972.87 McC

One of McCullough’s first books, The Path Between the Seas tells the complete story of the greatest engineering feat of the 20th century, the construction of the Panama Canal. The canal took more than 40 years to complete from the first breaking of ground to the first ship to pass through it. This account explains the first attempt made by the French entrepreneur Ferdinand de Lesseps, which ultimately failed and exposed deep corruption in the canal company and the French government. Then, the book takes us through the American takeover of the failed project, which ultimately changed the world forever.

underaloneUnder and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America’s Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang by William Queen, Nonfiction 921 Queen

William Queen is a retired ATF agent and Vietnam veteran who managed to infiltrate one of the most prominent outlaw motorcycle gangs in the country, California’s Mongols. Queen’s first person account of his time as a undercover ATF operative is gripping and real. Not only did he manage to gain full “patch” status within the club, he even rose to the ranks of treasurer and vice president of his major local chapter in California. If you liked Sons of Anarchy, you will like this first-hand account of outlaw motorcycle gangs.

fargoseason1Fargo, Season One starring Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton, DVD Fargo, Season One

Fargo, the TV series, is a re-imagination of the classic 1995 film of the same name and has the same dark themes set against the peaceful background of the upper Midwest. Following a chance encounter and an awkward murder for hire, the story devolves into a dark humor tale of revenge and fatal misdirection. The series was critically acclaimed widely and stars Martin Freeman (of Sherlock) and Billy Bob Thornton.

Dagmar – Circulation

grownupThe Grownup by Gillian Flynn, New Fiction Flynn

The Grownup is a very witty new book by Gillian Flynn, the author of other popular books, such as Gone Girl, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects. If you like her clever fiction, thrillers, suspense, and ghost stories, this is your book to read. The book is so engaging that you may not be able to put it down (I was not able to), but the good news is that the book consists of only 62 pages, so you may be able to get through it quickly in one reading (I did). It is a story of an unnamed young woman, who is trying to survive by “various levels of mostly harmless fraud.” She works, among other things, as an intuitive psychic at Spiritual Palms. They call her Nerdy because she wears glasses, reads books, and eats yogurt for lunch. She is not really a nerd; she only aspires to be one. She is a high school dropout who reads constantly, but lacks formal education, so she is left with the feeling that she is smarter than people around her, but not as smart as “really smart people who went to universities, drank wine, and spoke Latin.” Her life is about to change one rainy April morning when Susan Burke walks in for an aura reading. The “psychic” makes her predictions based mostly by being a keen and shrewd observer of human behavior. Therefore, when she sees the beautiful Susan Burke, she diagnosis her as an unhappy woman eager for a change in her life. However, when the “psychic” visits the Victorian house that is the source of Susan’s unhappiness and grief, she realizes that she may start believing in the ghosts herself. Miles, Susan’s stepson, does all he can do to help to fuel this imagination. The story takes many unexpected twists and turns and the result is wickedly funny, clever, and humorous book to read.

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