Tag Archives: Southern fiction

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.

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June

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

 

 

Sue – Circulation

whistlingpastgraveyardWhistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall, New Fiction Crandall

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

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

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

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

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

Jacob – Circulation

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

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

Mary – Youth Services

annieonmindAnnie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, YA Garden

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

1000formsfear1000 Forms of Fear by Sia, CD 781.63 Sia

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

Hubbell – Circulation

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

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

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