Monday, December 8, 2008

Colette recommends "The Prince of Frogtown" by Rick Bragg

This is the third and final episode of Pulitzer Prize Winner and former New York Times columnist Rick Bragg'search for understanding his roots. Beginning with ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN' followed by EVA's MAN, this biography reflects the author's attempt to understand the relationship between a father and his son: how to be a father.
The impetus for this research (and research it is) into his father is that Rick Bragg has married "the woman" who has "the boy," a 10-year old child and he does not have the slightest idea how to father this child because we know from the previous books that Rick Bragg was never,himself, fathered. He travels to rural Southern Appalachia and essentially obtains an oral history of the man who was never there, yet had enduring influence on his life.

The second part of the story, woven between the tales of his father, is the growing love and respect that Bragg and his stepson come to have for each other as they mature and settle into their parent/child relationship and he realizes that they can make their own history-a better history. Narrative and dialogue is lush and tender. I listened to this via audiobook, read by the author. His soft southern accent sounded spot-on in the telling of this tale. Very enjoyable.

Colette recommends "Bright Shiny Morning" by James Frey

Very highly recommend (the 'disgraced' memoirist) James Frey's new fiction, BRIGHT SHINY MORNING. It is a "must read" for anyone who has ever lived in LA, spent any amount of time there, or dreamed the LA dream. Very interesting: a compelling and fast read. As a result of the media frenzy surrounding his MILLION LITTLE PIECES, Frey seems to be carefully experimenting in creating a new fiction genre...almost non-fiction, but with a story line winding throughout that unequivocally places it into the novel (no pun intended) category.

Adult fiction.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Erica recommends "Three Bags Full" (on CD)

German author Leonie Swann has written a fabulous debut novel. In rural Glenkill, Ireland, George the shepherd is found dead in his meadow - stabbed with a spade. Miss Maple is naturally very concerned. Or, not naturally, as Miss Maple is a sheep, rumored to be the smartest sheep in Glenkill. She and the rest of the flock - including lead ram Sir Ritchfield, always-hungry Mopple the Whale, and mysterious black sheep Othello, begin their investigation. Of course, the flock uses all the usual sheepy philosophies, pointing out that humans have very small souls and grass is the most sensible thing of all. They soon have a vast array of suspects - the butcher always smells of death, nobody likes God in his stiff collar, and Gabriel's sheep are alarmingly silent. In their search for clues, the sheep go to confession, haunt the village of Glenkill, and perform a fabulous pantomime, but will their investigation finally bring the killer to justice? Josephine Bailey narrates this audio book with a wide array of sheepy and human voices - never overdone or cutesy. Adult lovers of British mysteries will eat this one up!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Lisa recommends "Camp Lisa"

This catchy childrens cd is for anyone who has ever sat around a campfire in the middle of the woods. Lisa Loeb has pulled together a fun cd of camping and action songs. Pop this cd in your car the next time you need some catchy tunes to sing along to. Campfires are optional.

Recommended for all ages.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Kara recommends "The Thirteenth Tale"

I really enjoyed listening to this story by Diane Setterfield. It was whimsical and reminded me of a classic fairy tale. It provided a sense of mystery while compassionately getting to the real truth behind one character's life story; and in turn enabling another character to come to terms with hers. This book was very different from anything I had listened to in a while. This is recommended for adults.

Phil recommends "Riding Lessons"

"Riding Lessons" by Sara Gruen doesn't quite compare with her more recent bestseller, "Water for Elephants" but is still a strong debut and an entertaining read. Annemarie is a former horse riding champion who has since retired from the sport due to a terrible riding accident that left her temporarily paralyzed. Recovered physically but still scarred mentally, Annemarie has begun a new life for herself - a successful business woman, married, and raising an independent-minded teen daughter, Eve. But, a shocking revelation by her husband and an abrupt layoff by her employer turns Annemarie's world upside down and she soon ends up back living with her parents and the horse stable where she grew up. There she tries again to rebuild her life but finds herself facing painful and unresolved issues from her past.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lisa recommends "Rapunzel's Revenge"

Mix little Brothers Grimm with Mother Goose and add in a dash of the Wild West in this unique retelling of Rapunzel. Rapunzel teams up with Jack of beanstalk fame and together they take down the evil Gothel to save the land. Shannon and Dean Hale's first graphic novel is fabulous fun for all ages.

Recommended for grades 4+

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jamie recommends "A Prisoner of Birth"

Although this isnt the type of book that I normally read, I thoroughly enjoyed Jeffrey Archers novel A Prisoner of Birth. Full of suspense, it is a book that follows the trial and conviction of Danny Cartwright for the murder of his best friend and future brother-in-law. Funnily enough the book only truly begins once Danny is in jail and he struggles with being imprisoned for a crime he didnt commit. Archer story takes a page from Alexandre Dumas by mirroring the plot of The Count of Monte Cristo, yet he creates wonderful characters and an intriguing plot, which makes you forget that this story is a slight retread of a story youve already heard. A Prisoner of Birth is a quick read because you cant wait to get to the end and see how Archer will resolve his plot to see if the bad guys really get their comeuppance.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kathy recommends "Lottery" by Patricia Wood

Perry Crandall, though not officially "retarded", has an IQ of 76. He lives with his grandmother, the only family member who will acknowledge him. His mother has abandoned him, his brothers instruct him to call them "cousins" and his father is nowhere to be found. But Perry and his grandmother have a happy home. He works in a marina, has loyal friends and is content with his life. When grandma passes away unexpectedly, his birth family shows up, sells the house from under him, and throws him out. He finds a new home with his marina friends and all is well, until the unimaginable happens. He wins $12 million dollars in the lottery, playing the numbers he and grandma used to play before she died. What ensues is a battle royal to gain control over Perry's newfound fortune, with an ending that will warm your heart.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Juliane recommends "Whacked"

I didn't know what to expect from a novel written by Jules Asner (formerly an E! news reporter) but I was pleasantly hooked through much of her work. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy chick lit with a smart, witty edge. The book follows the ups and downs of Dani Hale a television writer in Hollywood who is struggling to find the good guy, gorgeous house, and an enviable career. Asner's novel reveals a lot about Hollywood quirks and obsessions. I especially got a kick out of the characters' references to Steven Soderbergh since Jules Asner is married to Soderbergh. There's not much to the plot of the story, it's more of a voyeuristic escapade for the reader. And I did not predict the ending, which left me a little unsettled and (dare I say) out of whack!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Matt recommends "When You Are Engulfed in Flames"

Fans of humorist David Sedaris will find much to love in his latest collection of personal essays, "When You Are Engulfed in Flames." (And if you aren't familiar with him, it's a great place to start.) With his trademark ability to highlight the absurd (and grotesque) elements of his daily life, he manages to draw out both the humor and poignance in a number of his experiences, and by association, ours. His dark and neurotic wit is a singular one, as I was reminded when single sentences left me laughing so hard I was in tears. Recommended for adults. (Also available on audiobook read by the author, recommended for his pitch-perfect, deadpan delivery.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Phil Recommends "All Over But the Shoutin" by Rick Bragg

All Over But the Shoutin'

Rick Bragg is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the New York Times and the quality of his writing shows in "All Over But the Shoutin." This memoir tells of Bragg's childhood in Alabama, growing up with two brothers, a loving mother, and an alcoholic father. Bragg's mother manages to provide for her family even after being abandoned by her husband. Bragg's talent for storytelling lands him plenty of work in journalism and takes him around the world. The stories of his relationship with his family - particularly with his mother - make this an enjoyable read.

This book is appropriate for adults.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Matt recommends "Without a Map"

Meredith Hall's first book is an unflinching and unsentimental memoir of the indelible pain she felt as a result of being shunned by her family and community when she was a teenager. In 1965, living in a comfortable, sheltered New Hampshire town, she gets pregnant at the age of 16. Her parents react to her mistake with contempt and disappointment that becomes an icy, profound silence over the course of the pregnancy. Her doctor treats her with open disgust, and her former friends and their families suddenly want nothing to do with her. She describes in simple, direct, and elegant prose the process by which this social death wears away her identity, leaving her adrift and alone, her only companion the baby growing inside her – the baby she knows she will be forced to give away.

Hall tells her story in a non-linear way, so that it jumps from time period to time period, smartly mimicking the capricious nature of memory. She sheds light on the relative peace and comfort of her childhood (which only makes her parents’ betrayal more heartbreaking); she details her poverty-stricken days wandering around Europe and the Middle East, searching for meaning in faraway places after years of emptiness; and perhaps most poignantly, she describes her later life as the struggling mother of “legitimate” sons, and her eventual meeting with the (now adult) son she had to give up. Her themes are heavy, and include the construction of memory and identity, the painful failures of well-intentioned love, and the real difficulty of forgiving or (even harder) forgetting. But “Without a Map” is elevated by the author’s haunting, powerful writing; her intelligent and clear-eyed attempt to mine her life story in order to dig up some wisdom was, to me, absolutely successful, and nearly impossible to put down. (You can also listen to a great interview with the author on public radio’s “Here and Now" by following this link: ) Recommended for adults.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Colette recommends "Black Water"

Black Water, written in 1992, is based upon the 1969 Chappaquiddick "Incident' [read: TRAGEDY] involving Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne, a young aide who had worked on his brother Bobby's campaign the year before.

This novel is as compact and incisive at 150 pages as My Sister, My Love [see review] is overwritten! Speculation about Chappaquiddick has been out of the news for almost 40 years, yet reading this small book makes you feel as if you are the one dazzled by the senator and trapped underwater in the car....waiting for rescue when none is coming.

Succinct and well written, the chapters flip back and forth from being in the water, her attraction to the charisma and reputation of the almost mythical political hero, her family, her aspirations, her forgivable vanities. We understand her naivte and cringe because we know what the horrendous outcome will be. It is SO good, because it is so controlled and tight. And you wonder: you can ask forgiveness of others, but what about forgiveness of yourself.

Colette recommends "My Sister, My Love"

The prolific Oates has authored a novel based upon the unsolved homicide of JonBenet Ramsey in 1996. It is SO thinly veiled that it seems as if you are reading still another tabloid expose on the tragedy.

At 562 pages, this rambling, circuitous novel is the story of a nine year old ice skating prodigy, her family, the community in which they live - all remembered by her brother 10 years later. It is overblown, excessive, blowsy and sloppy BUT VERY COMPELLING and ,oh, so sad. Oates utilizes the traditional 'chapter' format, yet skips along in an amorphous stream of consciousness narrative with extra footnotes as an aside to clarify issues. It makes you shake your head at our society, its hypocrisy and concept of celebrity. It makes you wonder what REALLY goes on in someone else's home; it makes you wish you didn't know.
This novel is way way over the top, but a very guilty pleasure for a summer read.

Juxtapose My Sister, My Love with her 1992 Black Water, another novel loosely based upon an actual event; Black Water is as taut as this is overabundant.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Kathy recommends "Lars and the Real Girl"

Lars Lindstrom, uncomfortable with the world at large, lives in the family garage while his brother and sister-in-law live in the main house. When Lars brings home, or more aptly has delivered, the perfect woman for him, she turns out to be a lovely plastic "sex" doll named Bianca. Gradually the whole town comes to accept Lars' new friend as they strive to help this gentle, sweet man find peace. Although touted as a comedy, this film focuses on the emotionally charged capriciousness of human nature.

Age range - Adult

Monday, June 16, 2008

Beth recommends "Private Arrangements"

To the rest of Victorian society, the marriage of Lord and Lady Tremaine seems ideal and oh so civilized despite the fact - or perhaps because they have lived on separate continents for ten years. Now Gigi wants a divorce, freeing her to remarry, but Camden will grant it only if she agrees to his condition. What happened to have created such hostility and driven them apart? In this delightful and romantic story we encounter two exceptional, intelligent, caring adults, one of whom made a foolish but serious mistake early on in their relationship and derailed it. Can they reclaim the love they once shared so passionately? You will truly care about what happens to the two main characters in this story, as well as some of the supporting cast.
Age range - adult

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Erica recommends "The Spellman Files"

Lisa Lutz's first novel in a planned series is a hysterical romp with Izzy Spellman, middle child of the Spellman family and employee of Spellman Investigations, the family PI firm. Caught between her too-perfect lawyer brother and her blackmailing, sugar-addicted teenage sister, Izzy is just trying to live a normal life. Of course, working for Mom and Dad (who also spy on her), and repeatedly tracking down her Uncle Ray during his benders makes that normal life rather difficult. When the best boyfriend she's had in years can't deal with her crazy life, Izzy realizes she's got to get out of the family business. But will she be able to?

This Alex Award winner will be a great read for teens and adults.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Collette recommends "Lush Life"

Lush Life by Richard Price.

Highly reviewed, I was curious about this novel. It is the story of a random act of violence and the aftermath/repercussions to all involved: the victims, the witnesses, the police investigating the crime.

The story and its details branch out and reveal the most curious and intimate thoughts of the characters. The proliferation of TV crime and cop shows have made us (falsely) believe that we know 'what's up.'...we don't.

Lush Life provides a fresh and very real peep into the lives of others. The backdrop of the lower East Side in NYC is a character in itself. I found the book very compelling although a bit confusing in the constant switching between characters and plot-lines.

Lisa recommends "Snacktime!"

It is hard to find good children's music that doesn't drive parents crazy. The Barenaked Ladies (BNL), who typically are a bit zany and off-the-wall, just came out with their first children's cd called Snacktime! As an adult, I found myself singing along to many of the lyrics, which hold great kid appeal. My personal favorites were The Ninjas, Eraser, and Bad Day. I can't wait to see if BNL comes out with another children's cd, because this one was fantastic!

Fun music for the entire family. If your child gets scared easily, skip track #17.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Jamie recommends "Mr. Darcy's Diary"

Amanda Grange revisits Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice in this interesting book that summarizes the events of the original book in Mr. Darcys own words. Austen focuses on Elizabeths perspective in Pride and Prejudice and the reader is really left to wonder when Darcy fell in love with her. Grange clues us in on Darcys feelings and illustrates how he struggles with his feelings for Elizabeth. She leads us through his horrendous first proposal all the way through the end of Austens novel and gives us a hint into the future. Overall, this book was great for Austen lovers. Those who have never read Pride and Prejudice will most definitely want to give that a read, or at least check out a film version of the book, before picking up Mr. Darcys Diary. There are many books that pick up where Pride and Prejudice leaves off, but this one has a unique voice because it unfolds during the course of the original novel. It is definitely a quick summer read for fans of Jane Austen and Mr. Darcy. Recommended for teens and up.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Kara recommends "Don't Call Me Ishmael"

This very funny and endearing book is about ninth-grader Ishmael Leseur and how he takes on the school bully, girls, the debate team and his self-confidence with his pals Bill, Razza, Ignatius, and James (who has no sense of fear)! This book is a great read for anyone age 13 and up.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Annie recommends "Lost Gold of the Republic"

In the past, during an Atlantic hurricane, the SS Republic is sent to the bottom of the ocean, along with a speculated cargo of gold and silver coins, bound for post-Civil War New Orleans. In the present, Greg Stemm, Michigan native and founder of Odyssey Marine Exploration, exhibits incredible perseverance in his quest to find the lost treasure. The author weaves together two fascinating stories, one of the passengers and crew aboard the Republic, the other of the efforts of Greg and his crew to finish the story. A great adventure story. As a bonus, you can view some of the treasures salvaged from the SS Republic at the Detroit Science Center, now through September 1, 2008.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Matt recommends "The Age of American Unreason"

The United States in is trouble, Susan Jacoby argues with great force and clarity in her new nonfiction book, "The Age of American Unreason." We spend too much time being passive: watching junk "infotainment" on TV, staring at videos on our computer screens, listening to our iPods in solitude. We spend too little time actively engaging our brains, whether through reading or conversing with one another about serious, challenging topics. More than the citizens of most other industrialized nations, we give equal credence to pseudoscience and legitimate science. We distrust intellectuals, and don't spend enough time verifying most of the information we take in. We are increasingly culturally illiterate, and know frighteningly little about geography or history. (To repeat just one of the many unsettling statistics she reports, eight out of ten young Americans with a high school education can't find Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Israel on a map.) All of this, Jacoby argues, flies in the face of the founding fathers' intentions. Intellectual products of the Enlightenment, our founders valued reason and education above much else, and expected that for our democracy to work, the voting public must remain educated and think rationally about the important issues of the day. Both a work of history and an analysis of contemporary life, Jacoby's brave and important book traces the origins of this "crisis of memory and knowledge," and outlines its far-reaching implications. Though I didn't agree with the author's every claim or inference, the major argument of "The Age of American Unreason," however ego-bruising, is eye-opening and difficult to deny. Recommended for adults.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Phil Recommends "A Cold Day in Paradise"

I would not consider myself a mystery buff, but I really enjoyed "A Cold Day in Paradise," a private eye novel taking place in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The reluctant hero, Alex McKnight, is a former minor league baseball player and a former Detroit police officer who was shot in the line of duty. Retired, and with the bullet still lodged near his heart, Alex has moved up to the Upper Peninsula to tend to his late father's cabin rental business. There he encounters a ghost from his past - threatening notes from the man who shot him and who is supposed to be in prison for life....

Steve Hamilton's first novel "A Cold Day in Paradise" won the Private Eye Writers of America award for Best First Private Eye Novel. It is also the One Book, One Community selection for Macomb County this fall. Steve Hamilton will be giving a presentation at the Lorenzo Cultural Center (formerly the Macomb Cultural Center) on October 23rd, 2008 at 7:00pm.

This book is appropriate for adult readers.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gretchen recommends "Winter Study"

Nevada Barr's latest Anna Pigeon mystery takes Anna back to Michigan's Isle Royale National Park. Unlike A Superior Death (2nd in the series) which takes place during the warm summer park season, Winter Study finds Anna in an icy island landscape with a scientific team embattled over the future of the wolf/moose study made famous by real-life researcher Rolf Peterson. The team is confronted with the chilling possibility of an oversize dog/wolf hybrid that is preying on both man and beast. With typical "Annatude" familiar to Barr's readers, Ranger Pigeon plumbs the depths of her fellow islanders' darker sides which lead to her harrowing fight for survival in a beautiful but unforgiving environment. For those interested in a blend of mystery with superb natural history writing, this 14th mystery thriller is an enjoyable escape. Suitable for adults.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lisa recommends "Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach"

For everyone who loves a little offbeat humor, Scaredy Squirrel is for you. In his new adventure, Scaredy goes to the beach. Unfortunately, there are people there! What's a squirrel to do? In the end Scaredy Squirrel loves the beach so much, he builds his own complete with people (garden gnomes).

This picture book is perfect for anyone who wants a quick story. Adults will love it too!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Erica recommends "The Kommandant's Girl"

The genre is historical romance, sort of. This story takes place in Krakow, Poland, during the Nazi occupation, and those historical circumstances are the driving force behind this first novel. And romance, there's plenty of that. But somehow "historical romance" doesn't capture the heart of this story. For there are also deep friendships and family relationships, questions about morality in the midst of terrible situations, and perhaps most of all, a young woman slowly learning the meaning of responsibility.

Emma has been married only 6 weeks when her beloved husband, a resistance fighter, must flee for his life. Emma, a Jew, escapes the Krakow ghetto to live as a Gentile with her husband's aunt and an orphaned child. Her safety is further jeopardized when she is asked to become the personal assistant to the most powerful Nazi in Krakow. Her friends realize she can steal information to help the resistance, especially if she becomes closer to the Kommandant, but Emma is torn between wanting to help and wanting to protect her life and her marriage vows. Readers gradually come to understand Emma's bravery, reluctance, and inner turmoil as the story and characters develop.

Jenoff's follow-up (not a sequel), "The Diplomat's Wife," is due out May 1.

This story is suitable for teens and adults. There is sex and the violence of war; neither is described in detail.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jamie recommends "The Autobiography of Henry VIII"

Margaret George weaves history and fiction together into a seamless story about the life of King Henry VIII told from his own perspective. Many people know the story of Henry VIII and his wives, but, by having the narrator of the story be Henry VIII himself, Georges work is set apart from other historical retellings of the infamous tales involving Henry and his many wives. She offers explanations for the behavior of lusty king and gives insight into what must have gone through his mind as he lived. The tome, at 939 pages, is not for one who shies away from detailed historical fiction. However, for those who enjoy it, this story is a wonderful autobiography of the king who changed the face of England forever. Recommended for adults.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lisa recommends "Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos"

Take a little historical fiction and add a dash of mystery and fantasy and you will have Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos. Theodosia has the unique talent of feeling curses that have been left on really old objects, which she must remove through trial and error. This is a bit of a problem since her parents work at a museum with lots of really old objects. When her mom brings back an Egyptian amulet, she unknowingly unleashes chaos throughout England. It is up to Theodosia to return the amulet to Ancient Egypt and save the day. If you are eagerly awaiting the next Indiana Jones movie or are just looking for something a bit different, this book is for you.

Recommended for grades 5+

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bethany recommends "The Willoughbys"

"The Willoughbys" by Lois Lowry

What do you get when you have an abandoned baby, an odious nanny, a melancholy millionaire and four orphaned siblings? A good old fashioned orphan story or at least a parody of one. The four Willoughby children are left with a nanny while their parents travel the world. The parents want to be rid of their children and the children wish to be orphans. Read what happens when their wish comes true.

Recommended for Children

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Matt recommends "Infidel"

From early life in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Ethiopia, to a controversial tenure in Dutch parliament, and finally, to employment at a policy institute in the US, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has come a long way. Her riveting and moving autobiography traces her path, while doubling as a platform from which she explains the politically incorrect views that make her both a popular and despised leader of the Islamic reformation. Raised Muslim, Ali experienced a slow, painful turn away from faith, toward reason. Having undergone ritual genital mutilation as a young girl in Somalia, and having fled to the Netherlands in order to escape an arranged marriage, Ali came to perceive what she considers deep, fundamental flaws in Islam, mostly having to do with the subordinate place of women in Muslim societies. But as her blunt, passionate critiques of Islam became louder, factions of her opposition became more violent and threatening, eventually driving her into hiding, where she remains. Her straightforward and poignant memoir is a testament to reason, gender equality, education and free speech, and offers an informative glimpse into life and politics in both east Africa and the Netherlands. Recommended for adult readers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Matt recommends "The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century"

The task of writing a history of the twentieth century's classical music that can be read and enjoyed by a popular audience is an ambitious one. Lucky for classical music fans that Alex Ross, The New Yorker's music critic, took it upon himself to try. The result is a rewarding and absorbing look back on a century that produced, variously, some of the most complex, baffling, exciting, avant garde, disturbing, beautiful, maddening, and sublime music the world ever heard. It's not just the story of the music, though -- it's the story of the fascinating lives and personalities of the people who created it, of world events that worked to re-shape artistic thought, of legendary performances that resulted in near-riots, and of artistic disagreements that took on (what now seem like) absurdly epic proportions. It's the story, too, of a century ravaged by war on a previously unimaginable scale, and of how composers, caught in the thick of it, responded with new musical vocabularies to articulate the horrors they (and the rest of the world) experienced. For the relatively limited subject it addresses, the book goes in as many different and surprising directions as the twentieth century itself. If I have one complaint, it's that, ideally, The Rest is Noise should have been released with a companion set of CDs, because on almost every page, there's mention of a composition that is begging to be heard. What we get instead, though, is Ross's superb writing; he has the rare gift of writing well about music, so that you can --almost-- hear each work he describes. For adult readers, and available in print and audiobook formats.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lisa recommends "The Talented Clementine"

Move over Junie B., here's Clementine! Clementine's third grade class is putting on a talent show, but she doesn't have a talent that can be performed on stage. Follow her as she tries to find one, from gluing bottle caps on the bottom of her shoes to tap dance to doing an Elvis comedy routine for her little brother. This is a great beginning chapter book for new readers.

Recommended for grades 2-4, plus family reading times.

Lisa recommends "The True Meaning of Smekday"

When Tip Tucci is assigned a five page essay on The True Meaning of Smekday, where should she start? Should she begin with when the Boov kidnapped her mom on Christmas Eve, which is now Smekday? How about when the Boov declared Earth a colony and relocated all Americans to Arizona. Or maybe when she meets a renegade Boov mechanic named J. Lo who changes her normal car into a floating hovercar named Slucious? Tip and J. Lo travel cross-country in Slucious to reunite Tip with her mom in time to save the planet from yet another alien invasion. Coming from a non-science fiction fan, this is a great read that readers will not want to put down.

Recommended for grades 5+

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Kara recommends "The One Where the Kid Nearly Jumps to His Death and Lands in California"

I really enjoyed the sarcastic attitude of the main character in this coming-of-age book. Fifteen year-old Alastair, who is also known as Stump, is sent to California to spend the summer with his estranged father and step-mother. He has an adventurous summer and I found myself laughing at many of his antics. This was a great read.

Kara recommends "General Winston's Daughter"

I really liked that this young adult book. It has many facets to it, such as adventure, suspense, romance, science fiction/fantasy.

Kara recommends "The Secret History of the Pink Carnation"

This adult book details the lives and adventures of English spies during the reign of Napoleon in France. The book also dabbles in the lives of present day relatives of the spies and a woman who is conducting research on the Pink Carnation. This book has an abundance of romance and adventure, which is continued in 3 sequels.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Erica recommends "The Blade Itself"

Marcus Sakey has written a street-smart, striking debut novel. Danny Carter is a former criminal, who fled a crime scene when a robbery went horribly awry. His partner, Evan, took the fall and never squealed on Danny. Seven years have passed since then - Danny has a legitimate job, a serious girlfriend, and a squeaky-clean life. Evan has just been released from prison, and is convinced Danny owes him. He wants Danny in on one last job - a complicated kidnapping of Danny's boss's son, and he won't take no for an answer. As Evan becomes more violent, Danny becomes desperate for a way out. The struggles in this book of life, friendship, and forgiveness play out in a fast-paced plot on the streets of Chicago. Recommended for adults.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kathy recommends "Gods Behaving Badly"

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips is just what the doctor ordered for the blah winter months. Highly irreverent, funny and surprisingly clever, it's the story of the major Greek gods living in a run-down flat in present day London. Artemis, the goddess of hunting, walks dogs for a living, while Aphrodite's choice of employment involves phone sex. When Aphrodite becomes angry with her nephew/lover (and Artemis' twin) Apollo, she forces her son Eros (who has espoused Christianity) into casting a love spell on Apollo. The unfortunate recipient of Apollo's attentions is a mortal named Alice, who is secretly in love with Neal. Alice does not welcome Apollo's advances, so he has his father Zeus kill her with a bolt of lightening. What ensues is Neal's attempts to bring Alice back from the underworld, while Artemis must save the world from catastrophe when Apollo, whose only job is to keep the sun shining, does the exact opposite. A very fun read for a cold winter day!

Recommended for adults.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lisa recommends "Heroes" Season 1

With the writer's strike on this winter, I was catching up on all of those tv series that I wanted to see but didn't. In my search, I became addicted to Heroes. Six people from across the country (and one from Japan) notice that they have various superpowers. Learning to use these powers and learning their purpose is the focus as they come in contact with each other to stop a serial killer and to save New York. If you need another highly addictive tv show, Heroes is it!

Note: Not for the faint of heart as there are some graphic scenes of violence, drug use, and some sexual themes.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Matt recommends Joni Mitchell's Shine

Joni Mitchell has released her first album of new songs in almost a decade, Shine, and the result is well worth the wait. Its tone is generally somber, with one of the last great hippies looking around and, amid the chaos, violence and injustice of the present day, wondering what in the world went wrong. Disillusioned and somewhat bitter, Mitchell paints haunting lyrical portraits of a world full of babbling cell phone zombies, where our cities are electric scabs and our once-clean lakes lesions. The albums not all doom and gloom, though; a piano and saxophone-driven instrumental opening track is tender and optimistic, and there is room for hope in the title song, which suggests that something shines within each of us that transcends the dark. Shine may not be Joni Mitchell's very best work, but it is an album of great beauty and power. For me, listening to it inspired a rewarding trip through her extensive back catalog, from 1970's incomparable Ladies of the Canyon to 2002's lush retrospective Travelogue. If you feel similarly inspired, you'll have no trouble at all finding nearly all of her many albums across CMPL's three locations.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lisa recommends "Paint Transformations"

Winter is the perfect time to tackle a new project. Paint transformations gives you plenty of new ideas that can update your house in a quick weekend. From high gloss stripes to faux tile, the instructions are easy to understand. This past weekend I added faux tile as a backsplash with about 2 hours work for about $10.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Phil recommends "The Book Thief"

In "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak, Death (a surprisingly likeable character) narrates the story of Liesel, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany during World War II. Liesel's foster father teaches her to read and she soon discovers her love of words and books. In a time where money is scarce and books are being burned by Nazi's, Liesel begins stealing books to satisfy her craving for literature. When Liesel's foster family offers to hide a Jew in their basement, a friendship blossoms. Humor and likeable characters make this a pleasure to read. This book is appropriate for young adults and adults.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bethany recommends "Zazoo"

Zazoo by Richard Mosher is a gentle and layered love story; one I have been meaning to read for a few years. Zazoo lives with in an old mill house next to a canal with Grand-Pierre, her adopted grandfather. Zazoo struggles with being different from the others in her French village and taking care of her failing Grand-Pierre. One day a young man comes and asks Zazoo to keep a secret for him. This sets off a chain of events in Zazoo's world some wonderful and some too painful to face.

This books is full of imagery and quiet moments while dealing delicately with harsh events of the World War II and Vietnam War. The book has appeal to teens and young adults but is also excellent to read for an adult.

Recommended for Young Adult

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Colette recommends "Michael Tolliver Lives"

Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin

Continuing with the story of 'Mouse' aka Michael Tolliver of Maupin's Tales of the City series which explored gay life in 1970's San Francisco. You may have seen the movie version on PBS with Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis.

Decades have passed and the remaining friends have survived the illness and changes of the previous quarter century. This is a stand alone book, but also serves as an exceptionally satisfying wrap-up revisiting well loved characters. All are growing older and faced with their own mortality and the fragility of those they love. This is an extraordinarily sweet, humorous and warm story about valuing family, friends and loving relationships in the gay community. "Generous in showing us the secrets of his heart," Armistead Maupin brings a humanity and affection to his characters that makes it a treat to once more share in the life of some of the former tenants of Barbary Lane.

Adult. Gay content and sexually explicit in parts.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Colette recommends "The Sociopath Next Door"

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

Contrary to popular belief, sociopaths are not all crazed psycho-serial killers. The author, a practicing psychologist, contends that 4% of the population is sociopathic according to reports and studies generated by the American Psychological Association.

Sociopathy is identified as a lack of the 7th sense…conscience. "People devoid of an intervening sense of obligation based upon inter-connectedness to others."

Using examples of case studies of sociopaths as well as victims of this behavior, the book is well organized and written with an articulate and clear presentation. It is an interesting treatise on recognizing and coping with sociopathic behavior in our society. 1 in 25. hmmm. Look around you.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Christina recommends "The Looking Glass Wars"

Frank Beddor's reworked version of Alice in Wonderland is action-packed, and wonderfully dark. If you are a fan of Lewis Carrol's original, you will definitely appreciate the creativity and lush detail in this novel. Beddor's novel combines technology with fantasy, and reintroduces the classic characters in a fresh, exciting new light. This novel also has a sequel, Seeing Red.

Perfect for young adults.

Annie recommends "Way Off The Road"

If you enjoy Bill Geist's entertaining segments on CBS Sunday Morning, you'll love this compilation of stories he collected touring our great nation. Laugh-out-loud funny stories of small town America as well as his adventures traveling in an RV. From a one woman town to all the 'festivals' we celebrate, it's a great view of the America we often miss. Also great to listen to on CD. For adult readers.

Enriqueta recommends "The spirit catches you and you fall down: a Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures"

This is a very interesting case study reflecting huge cultural differences regarding medical care between Hmong people and western medicine.

This book is appropriate for adult readers.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Kathy M. recommends "How Starbucks Saved My Life"

Michael Gill had it all: upper-class New York upbringing, private schooling, Ivy League education, beautiful wife, children, big house in Manhattan and a well-paid prestigious position with one of the top ad agencies in New York. This life of privilege and all of its perks soon comes tumbling down when Michael loses his job due to downsizing, has an affair (and a new baby), is divorced and learns he has a brain tumor. The one thing in Michael's life that gives him comfort is his daily latte at Starbucks. Having been unable to find a job, he's surprised with a young African American woman at Starbucks approaches his table and asks him -- not if he is enjoying his coffee, but -- if he would like a job working for her at Starbucks. Why not? he wonders, and he accepts the job, not knowing that this will mean long commutes on public transportation to a inner city neighborhood, low pay, and a new -- and very different -- set of work standards.

Filled with tidbits on the inner workings of Starbucks, Michael Gill tells the story of how he finds satisfaction in a job well done, enthusiasm for even the lowliest job (cleaning the bathroom), and many other simple life lessons we so often forget.

Being the coffee fanatic that I am, I enjoyed this story with a Venti Caramel Macchiato at my favorite coffee house.

Matt recommends "The Echo Maker"

Winner of the 2006 National Book Award, Richard Powers's The Echo Maker is a penetrating novel about a young Nebraska man who, after a terrible car accident, develops a real neurological disorder that causes patients to think that the people closest to them are imposters. When his older sister flies back home to help him recover, her desperate attempts to convince him that she really is his sister become the springboard for a fascinating and moving exploration of the complexities of identity. Set against the glorious natural spectacle of the migration of sandhill cranes along the Platte River, The Echo Maker is a smart, beautifully-written book that has as much to say about living in a post-9/11 world as it does about what it means to be human. The best book I've read in years, it's one that will stay with you long after you finish it. For adult readers.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Janet recommends "A Crooked Kind of Perfect"

Ten year old Zoe Elias dreams of having a grand piano, being recognized as a prodigy and performing at Carnegie Hall. Instead, she gets a Perfectone D-60 electric organ, lessons included. Soon she is preparing to perform in the Perfectone Perform-O-Rama. Zoe’s world includes a workaholic mother, an agoraphobic father, a quirky organ teacher, and a classmate who comes home with Zoe after school each day to bake with Zoe’s dad. Told in first person narrative and chapters that range from 2 words to a few pages, this book is both poignant and funny. Set in Michigan, this sweet story is appropriate for ages 8-12.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Annie recommends "Under the Banner of Heaven"

This book, by award winning author Jon Krakauer (Into the Wild, Into Thin Air), presents a fascinating, yet frightening look at Mormon fundamentalism. It highlights the murder of a young woman and her child by her brothers-in-law, religious zealots who claim they killed for God. I found it very scary to see how charismatic people can persuade others to do just about anything "in the name of God". Hard to believe this happened in America, not in the Middle East. To support the story, the author traces the history of the Mormon religion, from it's establishment in the early 1800's to the present day LDS church, as well as the break-off fundamentalist sects. Very enlightening. For adult readers.