Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!
We all seem to be a little on the quiet side this week. It could be we are just making preparations for the Impending Doom. Or it could be that we are just feeling beat up by this winter in general. Whatever it is, we are hopeful that the PA rodent’s prediction will come through for us and we will see an early Spring. In the meantime, this week we have some unrequited love, gossip of the librarian kind, knife skills, computer science, some Rez, and another masterpiece.
Let us begin!
Here is Erin’s weekly film pick! “This weekend I watched 10 Years, a movie about a group of friends reuniting for their 10-Year High School Reunion. Admittedly, I picked it up because it stars Channing Tatum. The film is sweet and will perhaps make you a bit nostalgic for your own hometown and high school friends. There are several storylines that deal with unrequited love, lost love, and people trying to appear as someone they are not. Ultimately, I thought the film dragged in the middle but I still enjoyed its saccharine ending.”
Elizabeth, who can sometimes be found on the Reference Desk, reports in with this, “Ok, I had to check out the book that just won the 2013 Printz Award: In Darkness by Nick Lake. This is historical fiction set in Haiti about a young boy trapped by the recent earthquake. There is also a parallel story about the slave who liberated Haiti from France. This book beat out The Fault in Our Stars and there is lots of librarian gossip about that decision.”
Jeanne is distracted. Look-out! “The narrator of Kathleen Flinn's, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks is keeping my mind off the road this week. The author has a lot to share with people who don't (yet) cook and people who already do. There's plenty to learn from Flinn's knife skills tips, simple soup ideas and meal planning. It made me feel virtuous about what I do know in the kitchen and humble about what I don't.”
Sweet Ann is reading Bend Not Break a Life in Two Worlds by Ping Fu. “Ping Fu wrote this memoir to bring to light her childhood during the Cultural Revolution in China during the 1960's and 70's, and her booming career in the United States. As a young child she was taken from her family to be re-educated by the communists. People were cruelly murdered and tortured during this time period. She was one of the lucky ones to survive. When the universities opened years later she was able to attend. She became part of a group that condemned the government. She was arrested and forced to leave China. She came to the United States where she struggled with language but enrolled in college and was able to eventually get her degree in computer science. She is now the CEO of Geomagic, a 3D digital reality solution company. This is a story of family, survival, determination and one woman's drive to succeed. “
Pat T. has just finished a book that is on everyone’s best of from last year; The Round House by Louise Erdrich. “The life of the Coutts’ family irrevocably changes for the worse when Geraldine Coutts is brutally attacked near the Round House on their reservation in North Dakota. Geraldine’s husband, Bazil, and her thirteen-year-old son Joe watch on helplessly, as Geraldine isolates herself from everyone. Joe frustrated by the injustice of the laws of the land, tribal, federal and state, takes action into his own hands and seeks to find his mother’s attacker. There are many layers to dissect in this wonderful novel: Joe’s coming-of-age story when his secure family life is turned upside down and he is reluctantly thrust into an adult world; the racial tensions; land title laws; and moral and legal implications of justice.”
I am about half way through Transatlantic by Colum McCann. Anyone who knows me knows what an evangelist I am for Let the Great World Spin. Well, LTGWS as it is known in Jen-Land is going to have to learn to share the love. Transatlantic which is out in June is another marvel from McCann. These interconnected short stories span 150 years and two continents. This is a novel worth waiting for and when you get it in your hands it is worth savoring. I for one am looking forward to have weather excuse to do nothing but read this gem of a book. For the rest of you it comes out in June. Get excited. You have more than sunshine and roses to get excited about. You have Transatlantic.
We are through. Through with this winter that is! It would appear that the theme this week is one of wanting to do something, anything different. So this week we have some deep questions, some modern romance, and a small town in Germany with a small narrator, dysfunction, Moses and some pretty stellar achievement.
Let us begin!
Caroline aka The Lopez has been caught in the act! The act of avoidance! “I had big plans to clean my apartment on Sunday and instead I read Indiscretion, a debut novel by Charles Dubow. So as you can probably gather, it’s an incredibly engaging, page-turning story. Set mainly in the Hamptons, New York City and Europe, this book reminded me of a modern day Great Gatsby. It centers around a close-knit, very wealthy group of friends who are introduced to a younger newcomer, Claire. The great thing about this book is that it’s told from unusual perspectives, and will keep you guessing while also pondering deep questions like, ‘Even after you find love, success, wealth and fame, why is that sometimes not enough?’”
Amanda is also in search of some escapism. She has just finished These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer "The Duke of Avon is a notorious rake in mid-17th century France. On a walk one evening, he rescues a fiery-tempered boy, Leon. Yet there’s more to Leon than meets the eye for he is actually Leonie, a beautiful girl in disguise. With possession of Leonie, the Duke has finally found a way to take revenge against his lifelong enemy. However, can the Duke carry out his devilish plans as he finds himself enchanted by Leonie’s devotion to him? This book was written in 1925 and is considered by many to be the originator of the modern romance genre. The book’s themes are reminiscent of The Count of Monte Cristo and Pygmalion (My Fair Lady). While the Duke is described by modern readers as an alpha hero, I find him to be too much of a dandy while the women fling tears whenever they’re in danger of not getting their way. The relationship between the Duke and Leonie is unsettling as he intends to adopt Leonie as his daughter. However, the book is described by fans as being very romantic, so you may enjoy it. The highlights of the book are the cutting exchanges between the Duke and his enemy which are hysterical and clever. So while I dismiss the romance, the conversations are a must read for anyone fond of witty arguments. “
Barbara M. is back! BUT she is reading about the wrong country and the wrong war. Discuss. “I don’t know how I missed this book but I am now reading Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi and am totally enraptured. It begins in World War I in a small town in Germany and the narrator, Trudi, is a dwarf. It is so beautifully written that you can feel Trudi’s pain and anger grow; the pain of being different and the anger towards those who made her an outcast. Trudi’s story is set in the historical context of Germany from World War I onwards. I am savoring this book and am reading it slowly to absorb every word. “
Abby is busting out with a new genre! “Despite a few attempts, I had never read an entire graphic novel. However, since we have a new display going up for Graphic Novels I thought I should give it another try. I was having a tough time trying to figure out which one to try and ended up taking it to Twitter. I went with a recommendation from a librarian in Seattle I've never met. And a great pick it was! Stitches by David Small is the story of young David growing up in a painfully dysfunctional home. I don't see how the author could have done a better job relating his story if he had written a traditional memoir. One reason I think Stitches worked for me was the pages are not too colorful or busy. My past experiences with graphic novels have left me uncomfortable for these reasons. I have since moved onto another Twitter based pick Blankets by Craig Thompson. Visually it has some similarities with Stitches and I am enjoying it very much.
Jeanne surrenders! “I am reading The Lawgiver by Herman Wouk. I have been eyeing the book since it came out a few months ago. I could not resist the pull of the legendary author of books like The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. And Mr. Wouk is 97! I wanted to see what he is still producing. The Lawgiver is a novel written in epistolary style with copies of texts, emails, Skypes, diary entries and other communications between the author and people who are trying to convince him to join a project with Hollywood people and rich backers to make a movie about the indefinable Moses. Yes, the one from the Bible. The cast of characters includes Margolit Solovei (which sounds a bit like Marjorie, as in Marjorie Morningstar. Just saying.) who is a young writer-director of just okay comedy and lapsed Jewish faith. It even includes BSW (Betty Sarah Wouk, who in life to 2011 was Wouk's wife of almost 70 years and also his agent). So with the modern communication, the ancient story, and Wouk's wit I am fascinated. “
Sweet Ann is working on some non-fiction this week with My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor. “This is a wonderfully written memoir that chronicles the early life of Chief Justice Sotomayor to her nomination to the Supreme Court. Sonia was born and raised in the South Bronx and speaks lovingly of her Puerto Rican heritage. She shares the hardships she had to endure; juvenile diabetes, an alcoholic father, his early death and her mother's unhappiness. Sonia also happily shares the love of her extended family and the countless people who supported her along the way. She learns that she must rise above her circumstances in order to achieve all that she can. As a reader, you will be rooting for her the whole way.”
Exactly 50 years ago yesterday, poet Robert Frost died at the age of 88. For a man so closely associated with New England, you may not realize that he was born and lived the first 11 years of his life in San Francisco. After his father died, the Frost family moved east to Massachusetts with a grand total of eight dollars to their name.
At the age of 20, Robert Frost sold his first poem, "My Butterfly." Several volumes followed as he attended Dartmouth and Harvard (although he never quite finished at either college). A trip to Europe brought local, then international recognition and he and his family returned to the United States in triumph. Frost eventually won four Pulitzer Prizes, became unofficial poet laureate of the US, read at John F. Kennedy's Presidential inauguration, had a mountain named for him in Vermont, and became a staple in classrooms. If you had to memorize "Mending Wall" or "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," you're not alone.
Fifty years later, his legacy as one of the most important American poets ever is solid. Stop by and pick up one of his poetry books here, perfect for a cold winter's reading right here in Robert Frost's world.
This week we have a tasty morsel, some fear, some bad weirdness, hope in the heart, some hockey, a crash landing, a dead rabbit and the legend of Zelda.
Let us begin!
Abby is, well, for lack of a better word, excited. “A new book on Scientology? BRING IT. I am now about 1/3 of the way into Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief and enjoying every morsel. The author Lawrence Wright has produced some new information that digs deep into L. Ron Hubbard's past and the roots of Scientology. Perhaps the only thing more fun that reading this book will be the responses and lawsuits cooked up by Scientology. I can't wait to get to the Tom Cruise stuff. But like all books on this subject no matter how well researched and written, I suspect I'll be left wondering how the group has managed to assemble such passionate followers based upon (in my opinion) the delusions and pronouncements of a mediocre sci-fi writer. The Church of Abbytology, anyone?”
Pat T. is branching out!” New Year, new genre!! I just finished reading my first graphic novel, Stitches, by David Small and I surprised myself by liking this memoir a lot! This is the author's story of growing up with a troubled mother and father, who as a doctor, treated David with radiation as an infant that eventually caused cancer as a teenager. This graphic novel has more pictures than words, but these pictures accurately convey the character's emotions of fear, anger and resilience. “
Double Secret Agent Erin has a new gig writing reviews for Library Journal so she will no longer be shooting us book reviews as her time is being taken up with Serious Reading. HOWEVER do not despair! She will be supplying us with what she has been viewing. In this week’s offering, Erin takes a bullet for us. Thanks Erin! “This week I watched Your Sister’s Sister, and I am horrified to see that it received an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes because it was such a far-fetched, insanely bad movie. There is Emily Blunt, who is secretly in love with her dead ex-boyfriend’s brother. There is Iris, a lesbian who sleeps with the guy her sister is in love with, unbeknownst to her. There is a possible pregnancy. There are tears. It was all very bad and weird. What I thought was going to be a low budget sleeper indie set in a beautiful location was just a script that could have been written by Dawson’s Creek’s own Dawson Leery.”
Ann seems happier this week. This is a good thing. She has just finished The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam. “This novel follows the life of Percival Chen, a Chinese immigrant, living in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He is running a popular English academy and has learned to work the system to get the things he needs. That is until his son makes the mistake of angering the South Vietnamese government and is arrested. Percival will do anything to get his son back. This book has many twists and turns and people will not be what they seem. It will make you cheer and cry and create hope in your heart. It's a tough story but it is quite well written.”
Stephanie is enraptured! “The first I heard of The Antagonist by Lynn Coady was the Briefly Noted section in last week’s New Yorker. It sounded like it was about a hockey player, and I will read pretty much any fiction that circles around athletes, so I gave it a shot. This is a pretty great book, though it’s only tangentially athletic. Think Andre Dubus III by way of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but in Canada. The same blends of macho/thoughtful, sardonic/compassionate, memory/false memory, but the geography was more confusing. I have no idea whether Coady has adequately captured the inner voice of a college male or adult male, as so many of the Canadian reviews of this book make a point of noting, but that seems beside the point to me. It’s vivid and funny and raw, and I loved immersing myself in it.”
Miss Elisabeth has found a new favorite. “I just finished Code Name Verity, the much-buzzed about YA historical fiction book. Librarians are abuzz at its Printz potential. This is the tale of two best friends in the British Service during WWII - Maddie is an excellent pilot in the ATA (the civilian airforce) and Queenie, aka Eva aka Julie, is a Special Operative. Told from one character's point of view for the first half and anotherfor the second half, the book begins after a crash landing. Only one of the friends has a chance of making it out alive. The story is gripping, and my mind was blown by some of the later twists and reveals. With an unreliable narrator, intense tales of heroism and courage, a detailed historical afterword by the author, and frank depictions of enhanced interrogations and the atrocities of war, this is the most adult YA book I've read in a long time. In fact, as the characters are all adults, I'm surprised it wasn't published as adult fiction. Nevertheless, I can wholeheartedly recommend it as the first book I have read in a few weeks that I couldn't put down.”
Where’s Jeanne? She’s in her car! “I am listening to Whiteout by Ken Follett. The thriller is set in Scotland and I am enjoying listening to Josephine Bailey's clear, lilting voice. The story begins with a lab technician stealing a canister from the top-secret research laboratory where scientists work at finding cures to deadly viruses. Now he's dead and so is the poor rabbit he stole, wanting to cure it. Who was this guy? Were there others involved? Will there be an international crisis? Follett writes greed, deception and unlikely liaisons in such a way that the reader is gripped before they know how creepy some of it is. I never knew I had a penchant for this type of sensationalism!”
I have just started a very promising work of historic fiction; Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. Zelda is one of my obsessions and has been ever since I read Zelda by Nancy Milford. So for me to really begin to love it just by reading the prologue is really quite something. Zelda was the wife and muse of F. Scott Fitzgerald and some say the face of the Jazz Age. It will be interesting to see how Fowler handles one of the most fascinating and legendary women of the 20th century.
The sun is out and we seem to not nearly be so sad this week. Of course this does not mean things are “normal”. Not by a long shot. This week we have some vicious depression, unhappiness, some harrowing experiences, an obituary, gauche behavior, Nazis (of course), tearing up, and a surprising cup of tea.
Let us begin.
Erin is almost done with Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. “It is told from the perspective of a 26-year-old woman living with her parents who takes a job as a companion to a 35-year-old quadriplegic. She is told her services will only be needed for a six-month span but she isn’t quite sure why. The quadriplegic, Will, is viciously depressed at how his life has changed so drastically. Over time, the two start to form a friendship. At this point in my reading I am pretty sure the book can end in 1 of 2 ways and I am eager to know which way it’s going to go. Regardless, the novel brings up interesting questions about euthanasia, living your best life, and overcoming scars from the past.”
Here is Ann’s take on Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. She seems a little happier over last week. But not by much. “This is the heartfelt story of Louisa Clark and Will Traynor. Lou Clark is twenty- six and stuck in her life by an event that happened to her when she was younger. She is content to work at a cafe and live in her small girlhood bedroom with her parents. When her job ends abruptly she becomes the paid companion to Will Traynor, a quadriplegic, who was injured in an accident at the height of his fast- paced career and life. Will is trapped in his life, wheelchair bound and unhappy. After some initial difficulty, Will and Lou begin to enjoy their time together and their lives become larger. Decisions will impact their lives in ways they can't predict. This is a wonderful book with beautifully written characters that will remain with you long after their story is finished.”
Caroline is in a soothsayer kind of mood. “I just finished Above All Things, by debut novelist Tanis Rideout. It is coming out February 12, so place your holds now! Set in 1924, England, this novel is based on a true story in which George Mallory departs for his third attempt to summit Mount Everest. His wife, Ruth, is left home in Cambridge with his children, and the page turner switches back and forth between George's harrowing experiences on the mountain, and Ruth's ordeals at home, where she receives very sporadic updates on his progress. Not as technical as a book like Into Thin Air, this story is about mountain climbing in the way that The Art of Fielding is about baseball, and much like The Art of Fielding. I predict it will be enjoyed by both men and women. “
Abby has just finished the engrossing memoir After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey.” Growing up in Chicago, Hainey had just turned six when his uncle knocked on the door and informed the family their father Bob, a well-respected newspaperman, had died. The sentence of the obituary that stuck with Michael was he died ‘after visiting friends. ‘Fast forward 30 years or so, and we meet Michael as a grown man, also a journalist, determined to learn what really happened to his father that night. The obituaries seemed to offer a hint that things were not as they were written. Michael's mom, not a big talker on even the lightest of subjects cannot help Michael on his quest for the truth, and Bob's journalist friends from the newspaper fraternity all clam up when questioned. Maybe the truth isn't always as healing as we'd like to believe. “
Barbara M. still no Nazis, still no Paris. Yes. I am concerned and you should be too.” I’m reading Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson the absorbing story of the implements we use for both cooking and eating. For example, the reason it's considered gauche to cut lettuce in a salad is because the carbon steel blades of earlier knives interacted unfavorably with vinegar turning the blades black and giving an unpleasant taste to the salad.”
John however has Nazis and he says, “Having just finished Winter of the World, which is a wholly respectable sequel to Fall of Giants, I decided to stay with WWII for a bit longer and delved into HHhH, which says it's a novel, but it's not really. Not quite. The book is about the two Czech parachutists who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the Nazi SS, and chief architect of the Holocaust. Also known as "The Butcher of Prague", Heydrich, after Hitler himself, is probably the most evil man who has ever been born. Much of this book is dedicated to filling in details of his life and his ascent to power. HHhH, incidentally, stands for "Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich" or "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich". This is "not quite" a novel because it's really almost non-fiction. Large portions of the book are given over to simply relaying the facts, and as the author, Laurent Binet, does this, he slips into fictional narrative--perhaps crafting some dialogue or setting the scene. He does this with characteristic French angst, hating himself for having to resort into "imagining". It's quite amusing, actually, and the effect is that he crafts a work that is unlike anything I've read before--a fiction/non-fiction hybrid that brings to life one of World War II's more obscure episodes. Binet's obsessive dedication to accuracy ensures that anyone reading this work will experience a version of the events that is as close to the truth as one can possibly get.’
Jeanne is loving her current read. So she is happier this week than she was last. I am happy for her! “ Louise Erdrich is a master storyteller. She is of German and Native American descent and many of her books are set on and around a Midwestern reservation, as is this one. The Round House, winner of the 2012 National Book Award for fiction, is part mystery, part Native American legend, and part testimony slash confession. Antone Bazil Coutts, aka Joe, is a precocious 13-year old living on this North Dakota reservation in 1988. His mother is brutally raped and the family is changed forever. Joe wants his family’s life back and he goes to great lengths to seek revenge. Erdrich’s writing, as always, is beautifully heart-felt and personal and makes me tear up, smile and shake my head. Just the way I like my books!”
Marianne is driving around town listening to Falling Man by Don Delillo. “I’ve never read anything by this author before and even though he's highly regarded, I didn't think his subject matter was my cup of tea. Surprise of surprises I really liked this book. The main part of the story follows the lives of one family on the day of and immediately following the 911 attack. It's a true urban tale, disturbing in that it brings back the horror of those days. I found it very provocative, made me think about the decisions made by these people and what my own reactions would be in such a difficult set of circumstances.”