Thursday, November 17, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
Have you ever pondered the answer to this question: If you were stranded on a desert island for – well, a long time – which five books would you most want with you? One of mine definitely would be An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, the 1972 detective novel by P.D. James, featuring Cordelia Gray in a mystery set in and around Oxford, England. James is best-known for her Adam Dalgliesh series, and those are wonderful books as well, but I draw your attention to this particular title today because I don’t want anyone who loves exceptional British murder mysteries (exceptional because the characters, plotting and writing are all equally superb) to miss this one—39 years old, but still one of the best in the genre, in my opinion.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
An Asperger's-afflicted woman finds the keys to life and her family history in the kitchen after her parents die in McHenry's inspired if uneven debut. Ginny Selvaggio has lived a sheltered life: unable to maintain eye contact, make friends, or finish college due to her undiagnosed condition, the 26-year-old lives in her parents' home, surfing the Internet and perfecting recipes. But after her parents die, Ginny and her sister, Amanda, disagree about what to do with the family home—Amanda wants to sell, Ginny doesn't. As they bicker about what to do with the house and the problems caused by Ginny's awkwardness, Ginny comforts herself by cooking and soon learns that the dishes she prepares can conjure spirits. The ghosts, including her grandmother, leave clues about possible family secrets, as do a box of photographs Ginny discovers tucked away. McHenry's idea of writing an Asperger's narrator works well for the most part, but the supernatural touches undermine her admirable efforts and add a silly element to what is otherwise an intelligent and moving account of an intriguing heroine's belated battle to find herself.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011
On a snowy evening in New York City, handsome, charming, self-centered Sandy Portman is killed as he makes his way to the animal rescue clinic where his wife, Emily, volunteers. His plan was to take her to dinner and, very civilly, announce his intention to divorce her. As he lay dying in the slushy street, he is visited by a strange old man who gives him one last chance to be better than he was. There’s a slight wrinkle – he has to do it as a dog. Emily and Einstein, by Linda Francis Lee, is the story of how Sandy Portman finally gets it right.
Recommended for adults and older teens.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Tired of the endless reality shows that seem to populate television over the summer, I decided to try to catch up with a show that is currently airing on TV. I decided to try The Good Wife. I had tried to get into the show when it initially started airing, but I didn’t feel hooked and quickly gave up. I decided that liked all the actors and actresses well enough to give it another try and I’m glad I did. Juliana Margulies plays Alicia Florrick, the wronged wife of a Chicago politician. The first season shows Alicia throwing herself back into being a lawyer at the firm of her old friend Will Gardner. Alicia has now become the rock of the family where she must be a mother and full-time lawyer competing with other associates to get a coveted permanent position at the firm. The cases are interesting and towards the end of the season things really start firing on all cylinders that lay the groundwork for the next season. I’m looking forward to catching up with season two once it is released on DVD, but for now, this was an enjoyable summer diversion from reality TV.
Monday, August 8, 2011
A tetralogy by western author, Larry McMurtry [The Sin Killer; The Wandering Hill; By Sorrow’s River and Folly and Glory] based on the adventures of a privileged and outrageous British family travelling through the American West in the 1830s. The rivers – Missouri, Yellowstone, Rio Grande and Brazos create a setting in each novel as the family and their unbelievable entourage join up with the ‘new Americans’ as they hunt and travel and love and endure. Real historical figures are included and the novels are easy to read, gripping and very visual. The characters are unforgettable, larger than life and very very flawed, creating funny, fascinating, gruesome as well as tender moments. It is an incredible journey taken by like characters; English privilege comes up against American necessity creating an epic saga of the west you do not want to miss!
Recommended: adult teen and adult.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
A priest hears the confession of a murderer in Quebec City. Before long, the chief inspector investigating the murder begins to suspect the priest himself of the crime. The priest knows he’s innocent (and so do we) but his vows prevent him from being able to disclose the murderer’s true identity, only casting further suspicion on him. That’s the set-up of the tense, masterful 1953 Alfred Hitchcock movie I Confess. It’s not one of Hitchcock’s better known films, which is a shame, because it’s completely riveting. Shot in beautiful black and white, and featuring stunning vistas of Quebec City (not a very common movie location), I Confess stars a haunted Montgomery Clift as the priest, Anne Baxter as his old flame, and Karl Malden as the inspector on his trail. A superb supporting cast rounds out this fantastic film noir, which deserves to be much better known than it is.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Calpurnia Tate lives in Fentress, Texas in 1899. She is the only girl in the middle of 6 brothers, right in the middle. Her brothers are named for famous Texans, except for Harry, he was named for an uncle with no heirs. She is not interested in any of the domestic sciences she is supposed to learn, knitting, needlework, or cooking to name a few. Calpurnia wants to be a scientist. Her Grandfather helps her learn the scientific method of observing, collecting data and recording their results. This book has a Little House on the Prairie or All of a Kind Family feel. Calpurnia’s Grandfather is a mystery. His ongoing quest is to create a potable drink from pecans, of which they have an abundance of. He spends most of his time in his lab or his library and is very unapproachable. Calpurnia’s relationship with her Grandfather begins when she wants to know how come there are small green grasshoppers and large yellow ones. Her grandfather tells her that she is smart enough to figure it out for herself, and when she does come back with the answer. Thus begins Calpurnia’s journal of observations. This is a happy book with a lot of life’s struggles for a young girl trying to find her place in the world.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
This father’s day, my family is doing something fun to celebrate. We all took our copy of the June 2011 Food Network magazine and each picked out a recipe. (As we are all adults and there are a lot of us, this works for our family.) On Sunday we will all bring our dishes together to have a fabulous buffet of different items to try out. One sister is making pasta salad and another is making the drink. My brother is bringing grilled peppers and I am making a dessert called Cone-oli (like a cannoli, but in ice cream sugar cones). My parents are grilling the steaks. So if you are looking for a new way to try out fabulous recipes, I highly recommend getting your family or friends together and doing something similar. It is great fun!
Please note: Magazines are not holdable and the current issue can’t be checked out. All previous issues can be taken home for 3 weeks at a time.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Having enjoyed Close Range: Wyoming Stories, I was eager to read the author’s recently published biography. Annie Proulx, author of the popular Brokeback Mountain has written an unusual memoir. Bird Cloud is the name she gave to the nature preserve property she purchased for building her dream home. In the construction process, Proulx discovers in her wry storytelling that things don’t always go quite as planned, but despite her misgivings about her intended sanctuary, the book is filled with lyrical descriptions of her enjoyment of the bountiful natural world and the inscrutable activities of the wildlife around her property. Her memoir is in part a natural history lesson about Wyoming, but in larger part a tribute to the importance of finding a place that feels like home. Suitable for an adult audience.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
I always enjoy reading and recommending books that fall into the category : “science fiction for people who don’t read science fiction”. Actually, there are so many wonderful books on that shelf – and I hope if you “don’t read science fiction” you will have a chance to discover them some day. To that end – I recommend Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi. Jack Holloway, an independent contractor mining on the planet Zarathustra discovers two things – an incredibly valuable seam of a rare gemstone, and a possibly human-like (sentient) species that would definitely get in the way of Zaracorp’s mission to strip the planet of anything of value. This is a well-told tale, with characters the reader can care about, plot twists, and even some courtroom drama. I found Scalzi’s take on the contact between two species to be entertaining and thought-provoking.
Recommended for Adult and Young Adult
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Admittedly I am a fan of Tina Fey. She is smart and funny with a sense of humor that can be biting and absurd; I was looking forward to her autobiography, Bossypants, and I was not disappointed. From almost the first page I was literally laughing out loud while reading it. She chronicles moments in her life beginning with her childhood, through her days in Chicago and nights at Saturday Night Live to today with her show 30 Rock and guest appearance on Saturday Night Live. If you like her humor you will definitely enjoy her book. There are many laughs combined with serious moments that you’re not quite sure you should take seriously because, after all, this is Tina Fey. If you’re looking for a light read filled with humor, this is the book for you. I’d follow it up by checking out a season of 30 Rock just to keep the laughs coming.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Sometimes you run across a new book that is a hit with all ages. That was the case with The Cow Loves Cookies this week in our preschool and 2 year old story times out at the North Branch. There are a lot of great farm stories out there, but this one rises to the top because it does something a little bit different. Karma Wilson rhymes the animals food, from the hay for the horses to the treats for the dogs. It is hard to keep a straight face when the cow keeps demanding cookies. If you are looking for a new picture book to read, I definitely recommend picking this one up.
Recommended for ages 2-6 (although older kids will still crack a smile)
Monday, April 25, 2011
Who would have thought that fifth grade could be a life changing year. For seven students and one amazing teacher that proves to be just the case. Everyone has a teacher they remember and some are lucky enough to have had someone who was a major influence. For these seven students it is Mr. Terupt. He is the new, energetic teacher with a fresh approach to teaching actually making it fun. But also teaching life’s lessons that they don’t always want to hear. He knows what’s going on and how to handle each student and each situation. Looking back, after the accident, that might not have been the best way.
In Because of Mr. Terupt Rob Buyea has written a believable and poignant story. Following the school year, the brief chapters tell the story through the voices of these seven students. The pace never drags. And the reader will be left with much to think about. Gr 4-6.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Tracy recommends “Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot” by Sy Montgomery, Photographs by Nic Bishop.
This is a very interesting book. Montgomery describes all of the work that is involved with saving this particular parrot native to New Zealand.
This flightless parrot is friendly and curious. Except for man, it had no natural enemies until mammals were introduced to New Zealand.
The photographs are wonderful. This book is aimed at upper elementary and above.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
If you like the food from The Achatz Pie Company, check out the book, Life, On The Line, by Grant Achatz. He’s part of the Achatz family, but chose a different path, one leading to numerous national and international culinary awards. His is a story of dreams and determination, from opening a restaurant to beating cancer. An interesting story for adults.
Monday, April 18, 2011
I love children’s music that has adult appeal and ScribbleMonster & His Pals is my new favorite group for this. This Chicago-based group is full of fun rhythms and catchy lyrics (I dare you not to be singing Chocolate Milk all day long after listening to it). So if you are looking for a fun and energetic cd for the whole family, make sure you pick up a ScribbleMonster & Pals cd. You will have a great time!
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I don’t normally read a whole book written in verse, but this is an amazing book. Atkins takes the lives of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie and their daughters and fits it into three different biographical stories. All three women were born in 1867. All three had remarkable lives and their daughters did as well. I don’t think that I would even imagine that there was a connection between these women, but Atkins makes one along with this unique book. There is a timeline and a selected bibliography in the end.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Colette recommends "The Warmth of Other Suns: the epic story of America's great migration" by Isabel Wilkerson
Don’t be put off by the 2+ lbs. or the 622 pages! This is narrative non-fiction at its best. The Warmth of Other Suns is a fascinating history lesson that every American should know. The book documents the regional migration of African-Americans from the Jim Crow south between World War I through the 1970s. This epic narrative is structured by detailing the life/journey of three different individuals: a sharecropper’s wife from rural Mississippi to Chicago in the 1930s; a bright activist from the orchards of Florida to NYC in the 1940s; and a physician from Louisiana to Los Angeles in the 1950s. The book traces their lives as they settle into new communities and follows until their deaths; the journeys were brave and unforgettable.
The lives of these 3 people are framed by the cultural, geographic and political sociology of the times. The author interviewed over 1200 people and studied records and data to create a vibrant and compelling treatise of an important regional migration, tenderly told. Very highly recommended for adults and teens.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
With On the Blue Comet, Rosemary Wells has created some fascinating fictional characters as well as a fun look at some historical figures. This is a real page-turner, but at the same time, I didn't want it to end! And I've never encountered so many unexpected plot twists in a children's book. It is an exciting adventure story and totally unpredictable.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) John Luther is the focus of this gritty BBC America police series. Luther isn’t a dirty cop, but he also isn’t afraid to step over to the dark side if it means getting the bad guy. The crimes he investigates are brutal and graphic—this is not a series for the faint of heart. He proves an intriguing character as we get glimpses into his troubled personal life including a relationship with a murderess he knows is guilty of multiple murders though he cannot prove it. It sounds odd but the relationship works and has echoes of the Hannibal Lecter/Agent Clarice Starling relationship from Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs. The 6 episodes in the series were taut thrillers that kept me on the edge of my seat. This DVD is recommended for those that like their British crime drama/police procedurals dark and gritty. It’s definitely for adults as it contains graphic violence and adult themes.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Interrupting Chicken is a story of a chicken hearing bedtime stories from his Papa, but who can’t resist interrupting every single one. After Papa Chicken runs out of stories, he asks little chicken to tell him a story. Find out which chicken actually goes to sleep. This Caldecott Honor book would be fun to read to your own little chicken at bedtime.
Friday, March 11, 2011
As someone who loves period works like Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, it was a mystery to me why I had never delved into Jane Eyre. I decided to remedy that by checking out the book and I am so glad that I did. Jane Eyre is similar to many other period works in that the heroine is poor and trying to make her way in the world. There is an older, rich gentleman who crosses her path to be sure, but the thing that I enjoyed most about Jane Eyre is that she is a very contemporary female character. Jane struggles through life to move away from relations who seemingly hate her and moves up by becoming a teacher. She longs for more from life and sets out to take it for herself. Jane is a bit head-strong at times, but she needs trait in order to work for and interact with Mr. Rochester, the rich gentleman, alluded to earlier. Towards the end I had trouble putting this book down because I was so curious to see how it would end. Although Jane Eyre might be “required reading” for many people, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend this book to anyone interested.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
An engrossing and quick read about a woman who is oppressed by the life that is pressed upon her in 19th century New York City. When Lucy is taken to a new doctor to cure her "fits", Victor turns her world upside down. Unfortunately, he may have motives of his own. Lots of twists and turns. I would definitely recommend this to book groups, as well. It lends itself to a very interesting discussion. This book is best enjoyed by adult readers.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Annabel is the debut novel of Kathleen Winter, a Canadian author.
In the late 1960s, a child is born in Croydon Harbor, Labrador a bleak but beautiful location where there is a rigid and codified way of life that does not acknowledge or recognize much outside of the ‘established norm.’
The child is born mix-gendered: both female and male. The decision is made to raise the child as a male, suppressing the female side through medication and emphasis upon male role expectations. The mother mourns the loss of her daughter, the father, awkward and distant, makes attempts to pattern male behavior (Labrador style). Meanwhile, the child has no idea of the dual-identity and experiences much physical and emotional confusion. He finally learns of the medical reality of intersexuality as an adolescent and eventually leaves the restrictive environment of Croydon Harbor to discover who he really is and to find acceptance.
This is well written literary fiction - an unusual story, told with insight and sensitivity. The issues are not sensationalized, instead they provoke thoughtful discussion of who we are, what we feel about who we are, and how society sees us; it is a most insightful novel about identity acceptance.
Recommended for mature teens and adults.
Friday, February 18, 2011
I am a big Scaredy Squirrel fan. He has a wry wit that will make parents smile, but a storyline perfect for kids. In his newest installment, Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party, he is too scared to invite anyone to his birthday party. His friends all decide that is surprise party is just what Scaredy Squirrel needs. If you have missed his picture books in the past, they are definitely worth a single (or hundredth) reading!
For more Scaredy Squirrel fun, try the other books in the series:
· Scaredy Squirrel
· Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend
· Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach
· Scaredy Squirrel at Night
Monday, February 14, 2011
Susan Linn makes the case for make believe. It helps children intellectually, helps with reasoning and working out life issues. What hinders make believe is the intense media marketing aimed at babies, children and adolescents. These preformed images often stifle children in their role playing and acting out fantasy. She also touches on how media like baby einstien really do not help babies developmentally.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
The groundbreaking, internationally acclaimed architect Frank Gehry is in the news again as his brand-new (and first ever) skyscraper nears completion in New York City. This make it an excellent time to take a look at the wonderful 2005 documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry, made by the architect’s friend, the late filmmaker and actor Sydney Pollack. Because the two men were close, the resulting portrait is surprisingly intimate. It grants the viewer access to Gehry’s working-class upbringing, his creative process, his anxieties about his work, and his development as a designer of spectacular buildings that are frequently described as functional sculptures. In drawing his 82 minute sketch of Gehry, Pollack interviews critics, clients, Gehry’s longtime therapist, and even actor Dennis Hopper, who lived in one of Gehry’s houses. And maybe more importantly, he turns his camera on the breathtaking buildings themselves, filming their startling curves and resplendent surfaces with sensitivity and exuberance. The result is a consistently engaging and fascinating look at one of the most celebrated architects of our time.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Set in 1187 AD, Jerusalem, Pagan Kidrouk somehow finds himself assigned to be Lord Roland’s squire. Lord Roland is the most noble of the Templar Knights. Pagan is not noble in anyway. Catherine Jinks has created a smart, sarcastic, funny character in Pagan. This slightly historical novel is recommended for upper elementary and above ages.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Jake’s Grandfather comes to help out. This is a heartwarming story about family and friends pulling together in a crisis.
Jake finds out that he is up to the task.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, published in 1993, was written by Jeffrey Eugenides who went on to win the Pulitzer for MIDDLESEX a decade later. Many saw the 2000 movie, but never read the book. I may be 20 years late in reading it, but am SO glad that I did because, in spite of 30 year difference in time, its message and social significance is just as compelling today.
The book is narrated by one of the many young boys, now grown, who obsessed over the Lisbon sisters during that strange and unusual year set in comfortable suburban Grosse Pointe area in the early 70s: to the outside observer, living the American Dream. The memories and ‘investigations’ attempt to make sense of the events and for all the detailed examination of the people and the times, no definitive answer can be provided as to the moment why/when things turned (imagery of rotting, decay). It is especially interesting if considered with the “Tiger Mother” concept that is so much in the news these days, questioning the results of such pressure to young girls/women.
As a reading pleasure, don’t miss this book IF you can get past the grief and the darkness. The writing is rich and descriptive and lush and full of wonderful images and metaphors. It explicitly re-creates and examines the illusion of normalcy in a culture and community. Eugenides writes with such imagination and grace.
Recommended for Adults and Mature Teens.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
While taking a mental health break from her job in the wild, Anna Pigeon stumbles onto a new case in the “Big Easy,” a city her creator knows well. Nevada Barr’s latest mystery in the popular series is set in the urban streets of post-Katrina New Orleans—Barr’s current hometown. The National Park Service even has a presence in the city! “Burn” takes Anna on a lurid descent into the dark reality of pedophilia and the child sex trade. Anna learns that people aren’t necessarily who she thinks they are. Without giving away a major plot twist, the novel’s character development is very intriguing. Despite the grim subject matter, Barr’s characteristic depiction of the park ranger as she navigates her middle years keeps us wanting to read more. This title is appropriate for adults.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Have a large hot chocolate and a warm blanket handy when you read Rose in a storm. The title character is a border collie/shepherd mix. And while author Jon Katz tells his story from Rose’s point of view, this is not another story of an animal that thinks like a human. Rather, Katz does an amazing job of creating a world of instinct and sensory perception as he envisions the mental processes of Rose and the farm animals she’s responsible for during a storm of epic proportions. When her farmer, Sam, is airlifted out after suffering a devastating accident, Rose stays behind. Alone, she faces enormous challenges during a cataclysmic blizzard that lasts days. Protecting all those in her care – sheep in labor, cattle, chickens, goats, a donkey named Carol, and a wild dog from a neighboring farm – you will root for Rose every step of the way.
Recommended for adults and young adults.
Monday, January 17, 2011
The year is 1936 and Abilene Tucker can’t understand why she has been sent to Manifest, Kansas, for the summer while her dad, her only family, works on the railroad in Iowa. She has lived her whole life with her father, traveling the rails and never staying long in any one place. Manifest was the town Gideon Tucker left years before but he has never been back. She finds friends in Lettie and Ruthanne and a mystery in a box of old letters and keepsakes and a summer long “spy hunt” ensues. As she works off a debt for Miss Sadie she learns about the past. It is through the stories Miss Sadie tells of the town and its inhabitants 18 years earlier and a regular newspaper column from the same time period that Abilene comes to understand her father. The characters are well defined and the dialog believable. The two stories, past and present, are neatly intertwined. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool is an excellent slice of life of mid-America. Recipient of the 2011 Newbery Award. For grades 5-8; adults may enjoy it as well.
Suitable for the whole family. If you tire of the music on this one, pick up the original Just Dance.
Link to catalog:
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I think one of the best albums I listened to in 2010 was “Doo-Wops and Hooligans” by Bruno Mars. Last year he penned some of the catchiest tunes on the radio, but his solo effort is terrific. His voice at times is reminiscent of a young Michael Jackson, but he brings his own blend of tone and soul to his songs. From beginning to end the album is wonderful. We’ve all heard “Just the Way You Are” and his new single “Grenade” is getting a lot of play, but his playful side is revealed on “Marry Me,” along with an introspective side with “Talking to the Moon.” If you like talented musicians and have a minute, check out Bruno Mars.
Monday, January 3, 2011
I’ve been an Aaron Sorkin fan for a while mostly because of the fabulous series “The West Wing,” but I had yet to check out “Sports Night,” which ran for two seasons. I recently got an opportunity to watch the complete series and I must say I really enjoyed it. This half-hour dramedy revolves around a cable sports show and while there are sports references, you definitely don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate the storylines of the series. The characters are interesting and by the end I was hoping there was just one more disc to check out. If you’ve got some downtime I definitely recommend checking out “Sports Night” from CMPL’s collection.