Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gretchen recommends "A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home"

Sue Halpern’s latest nonfiction work recounts how she trained her Labradoodle, Pransky, to be a therapy dog .  The pair begin to visit a local nursing home.  The story unfolds of encounters with the residents—each chapter named after a virtue—where her dog becomes the true teacher.  Sometimes humorous, often reflective, and always honest, Halpern discovers through their visits what truly matters at a time of life when one’s world seems to be shrinking.  Have hankies on hand when you read this.  It’s poignant, touching, and full of life—both canine and human.  Suitable for adults.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Michelle recommends "Annie's Ghosts"

Annie's ghosts : a journey into a family secret
This is the 2013-2014 selection for The Great Michigan Read and it is an excellent selection. The author is locally connected and really takes the reader on his impossible genealogical adventure.  Annie is actually buried within 2 miles of the South Branch of Clinton-Macomb Public Library, taking Steve’s story right into our neighborhood. It was a well-researched project and interesting to follow as the author discovers a few long forgotten family secrets. Additionally, it is an amazing historical perspective of the mental health system in Michigan throughout the 1900s, showing how things were done in the early decades in comparison to today’s system.  There is a lot of heart in this story, but it does a wonderful job of educating the reader, too.
The South Branch will be discussing Steve Luxenberg’s Annie’s Ghosts on Saturday, November 9th at 12 pm with our monthly book discussion group.

Recommended for Adults

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kathy recommends Charlie LeDuff's "Detroit : an American autopsy"

If you think you are aware of the troubles Detroit is facing, read reporter Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit : an American autopsy.  Be forewarned, what Charlie has to say is not for the faint of heart.  Detroit’s litany of woes borders on the unimaginable, and how the city has survived this long is a mystery. Through his own very personal experiences in the city and his interviews with Detroit’s movers and shakers, along with those who still work and live there, he paints a dismal picture of a once vibrant metropolis now in the final stages of decay. Although it would require a herculean effort to right all that is wrong with Detroit, he still maintains it is a tragedy that is impossible to ignore.  Riveting!

Recommended for Adults

Beth recommends: "This Case is Gonna Kill Me" by Phillipa Bornikova

How would I describe this book?  Legal thriller?  Urban fantasy?  Mystery? Race relations?  Actually it’s a wonderfully off-beat, slightly quirky mixture of all of those.  Linnet Ellery is a newly-minted lawyer, starting with a prestigious law firm.  On her first day, she is assigned to work, with another associate, on a disputed-will case that has languished for 17 long years.  She is dismayed at being stuck with a seemingly minor case, but delves in in a professional manner.  Okay, bright, enthusiastic new lawyer, first case = legal thriller.  But here is what hooked me in the reviews…please keep reading!  Back in the 1960’s, it was revealed that the major players in the world – the top businessmen, lawyers, financiers, etc, - were supernatural beings.  Vampires, werewolves and the Alfar – collectively known as the Powers -  had somehow managed to rule from the shadows for centuries.  By the time our story opens, humans have been aware of the Powers for half a century, creatively working out their co-existence - not the least of which was the arrangement by which Linnet was raised in a vampire household.   Linnet’s case turns out to be not so humdrum after all, and she ultimately has to use skills and resourcefulness not acquired in law school to stay alive.
Now – if you are tempted to brush this aside – “I don’t read vampire books” (actually a typical reaction for me) – STOP!  Consider trying a chapter or two – perhaps you will enjoy, as much as I did, the intriguing characters and their fast-moving adventures – which continue in the sequel, Box Office Poison.

Recommended for adults.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kathy recommends "Corrupt Practices"

After a mentor and a colleague both fall victim to staged suicides, Parker Stern must overcome his stage fright in the courtroom in order to bring down a dangerous cult.

This debut is the promising start to a new series for legal thriller fans of John Grisham or Michael Connelly.

If you enjoy mysteries, thrillers or detective fiction, please join us at the program Once Upon a Crime on Wednesday, September 25 at 7pm in the Main Library.  The Popular Materials Librarians have scoured the shelves and will give you the inside scoop on the authors you must read and titles you should check out!  Participants are encouraged to come with one or more of their favorite titles to share with the group.

Recommended for adults.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lisa recommemds "The Day the Crayons Quit"

What would you do if you went to color one day and all of your crayons were gone?  This hilarious story told in letters from the individual crayons to Duncan is a fun read for ages 3-7. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Michelle recommends "Light Between Oceans"

How often does an entire twenty-person book group give a title a thumbs up?  Very rarely, but for this story they did. Light Between Oceans is an emotionally complex story of decisions made between a married couple that unbelievably affects the lives of others. This is surprising considering the seclusion of a rocky island they live on, with only the communication to the mainland coming seasonally. The novel has a little bit of everything we love about a good novel – brilliantly described setting, well-developed characters, a bit of history, tragedy and dilemma.

Recommended for adults.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Kathy recommends "All the Summer Girls"

A good beach read set on the Jersey Shore.  Three childhood friends, Kate, Vanessa, and Dani, reunite in the beach town where they spent summer vacations as young adults.   During college, a tragic death altered their friendship and caused the once best friends to drift apart.  Now 29, all three are facing life changing issues and harboring secrets that only the tranquility and peace of the beach can resolve.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gretchen recommends "Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won't Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care"

Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and professor of health policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, has written an eye-opening expose into the state of today’s hospitals and the broken health care system.  In clear details, he writes about regrettable experiences he witnessed during medical school and beyond, and he backs these horrifying stories with shocking statistics like a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that as many as 25 percent of all hospitalized patients will experience a preventable medical error of some kind.  Makary points out that modern medicine relies on information, yet this same data, including infection rates, number of surgeries performed, and death rates are unavailable to patients and their families making critical decisions.  There is often a business push to do more procedures, prescribe certain drugs, or admit more patients for financial gain.  Despite these grim facts, Makary is hopeful that the tide is turning towards greater transparency, an improved culture within the medical field, and more accountability.  This book is recommended for all adults; it just might save your life or that of someone you love.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kathy recommends "The Fever Tree"

The Fever Tree transports us to the colonial mining towns and “diamond rush” of South Africa in the late 19th century.  The story begins in Victorian London, where Frances Irvine is used to a life of leisure and privilege. When her father dies suddenly leaving her alone and penniless, Frances is forced to choose between becoming a live-in nurse for her aunt's children or moving to South Africa and marrying family friend, Edwin Matthews. While on the ship bound for South Africa, Frances falls in love with charming William Westbrook, who appears to be everything Edwin is not. Once in South Africa, Frances must learn to adapt to a life filled with hardship, disease, greed and injustice which her upbringing has totally left her unprepared for.  Beautifully written with cinematic descriptions, Jennifer McVeigh brings to life colonial South Africa. You can almost feel the dust in your throat and the unrelenting sun on your skin.

Highly recommended for adults.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Beth recommends "The Age of Miracles"

I thoroughly enjoyed this powerful and haunting coming-of-age story, author Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel.  Julia is a young teen growing up in California – a good daughter and conscientious student, she plays soccer, the piano, and spends time with best friend Hanna.  Julia is a keen observer of the world around her, and feels things deeply.  Change is happening, not just in her personal life but to the world – dramatically.  Earth’s rotation is gradually, mysteriously slowing down.  Extra minutes of light and dark in every day turn into hours as the months pass.  The ramifications for human life are disastrous,  and the future looks grim, but for now life goes on and this unusual backdrop enhances the telling of Julia’s story.  I found “The Age of Miracles” to be absolutely compelling and so readable – almost impossible to put down. 
Highly recommended for Adults and Young Adults

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sarah recommends "Relish"

Lucy Knisley’s second professionally published book is as charming as her first, French Milk.  It is an autobiographical graphic novel telling the story of growing up with parents who loved food, and the culinary adventures she has had as she has grown into an adult.  The book includes beautiful illustrated recipes that will inspire you to perfect your homemade chocolate chip cookies or pesto. 

Recommended for Teens and Adults!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kathy Recommends "A Square (of course)

Michigan is well known for 1960s rock & roll. But even before Detroit's Grande Ballroom, "there was already a thriving rock scene going back to the early years of the decade, and one of the great movers and shakers in Michigan rock was a guy named Jeep Holland. Based in Ann Arbor, Holland managed one of the city's best record stores, booked bands and launched a record label, A Square Records, that released classic sides from some of the area's most notable bands." (

CMPL’s librarians have been buying great local music representing all genres and music periods.  For early rock, also check out SRC, the Frost, and the Rationals.

For more ideas, check out CMPL’s Pinterest Page Music From Michigan.  On this page, we are highlighting local Michigan music talent or live music recorded in Michigan.  In the coming weeks, we will be adding more artists and records.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Kara recommends "Searching for Sugar Man"

In the early 1970s, Sixto Rodriguez was a Detroit folksinger who had a short-lived recording career. Unknown to him, his musical story continued in South Africa where he became a pop music icon. Long rumored there to be dead, two fans decided to seek out the truth of his fate and this is that story.

This DVD is great for young adults and adults.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kathy recommends "Black Fridays"

Black Fridays” is a financial thriller ala "The Firm". The novel is an impressive debut by Michael Sears, who spent over twenty years on Wall Street, rising to managing director at Paine Webber and Jeffries & Co., before leaving the business in 2005.

Jason Stafford was a hot shot on Wall Street until he did some creative record keeping and was sent to prison.  Now, Jason is trying to put his life back together, with his autistic son, after his release from prison. He takes a consulting position with another Wall Street firm and is enmeshed in a high stakes murder mystery. Well written, with good character development.  Appropriate for adults.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tracy recommends "The Knitter's Life List"

Tracy recommends “The Knitter’s Life List” by Gwen W. Steege.    This is one book that I will add to my personal library.  It is not exactly a pattern book, but is full of tidbits of information on anything you might like to knit.  The photographs are fun, the lists are comprehensive.  One could take just a chapter and use it as a “bucket list” of knitting.  I would recommend it for knitters of any age or any skill.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Matt recommends 'Moby-Dick'

Yes, that Moby-Dick. The original. The one with crazy, obsessed Ahab and the mysterious white whale and "Call me Ishmael" and Queequeg the friendly cannibal. The one that was apparently greeted upon its publication in 1851 with a collective, head-scratching "Huh?" and only seventy years later became recognized as a bona fide literary masterpiece.

It's a wonderfully weird book, Moby-Dick. Ishmael, the narrator, is constantly digressing from the story to ponder the color white, for instance, or to list and describe the known species of whales, or to consider the history of whales in art. And occasionally, seemingly out of nowhere, the book transforms into a drama, complete with stage directions, dialogue, monologues, and asides.

It's funny, too, downright hilarious in some parts (especially toward the beginning.) I didn't know that before I started reading it. Nobody talks much about Moby-Dick as being funny, playful, experimental, or fun to read, but it is very much all these things. Which is not to say it doesn’t get gloomy and serious, too. (Spoiler alert: the ship sinks and almost everybody dies.) It’s a lot of things, all at once. When I picked it up off the shelf and decided it was finally time to dive in, I expected to find a dusty, dense, difficult tome that felt like work to get through. It’s definitely a commitment (it took me about two months) and you might need a hand deciphering some of the historical and literary references (this annotated online version is a great help), but if your experience is anything like mine, it will feel more like an adventure than a burden.

For the two months I spent with Moby-Dick, I was entertained, challenged, surprised, and caught up in a grand tale. I was repeatedly moved by the sheer beauty of Herman Melville’s peerless writing (the whale, “gliding at high noon through a dark blue sea leav[es] a milky-way wake of creamy foam, all spangled with golden gleamings”), and struck by the intriguing questions the book raises about fate, obsession, the limits of our knowledge, and our complex relationship to nature.

In all, reading Moby-Dick was a great reminder that every once in a while, it’s a good idea to pick up one of those classics that everybody’s heard about but that not many people actually read anymore, and see what made it a classic in the first place. What you find might surprise you.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Michelle recommends "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain

“I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her”
-- Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Hadley Richardson is The Paris Wife.  Ernest Hemingway is a young man in his early twenties trying to start his career as a writer when he meets and falls in love with Hadley Richardson.   This historical fiction novel takes the reader through their quick romance and marriage in Paris in the 1920s.  And although Hadley is a young 28 year old woman coming from a repressive childhood in the beginning of the novel, the story takes the reader through her growth as a woman showing how Paris and her relationship with Ernest cultivated this growth.

It naturally goes beyond their marriage to the characters that also worked, created and played in Paris during the same time period; describing Hemingway’s work as a writer and their connections with people like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

As we prepared to discuss this title for a book discussion I expected a lot of grumbling about Ernest Hemingway and was pleasantly surprised by the enjoyment all the readers got from Hadley Richardson and how it surpassed Ernest’s betrayal.  This is a story of young writer’s determination and betrayal, with a lot of alcohol and glittering characters throughout. 

Recommended for Adults

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Kathy recommends "Lemons and lavender: the eco guide to better homekeeping" by Billee Sharp

“Bursting with ways to downshift, simplify, preserve resources, and honor the planet, Lemons and Lavender will give you tools to reclaim a purer, tastier, healthier and less expensive way of life. Sharp shares her radical common sense and revolutionary "freeconomics" approach to budgeting in this step-by-step guide to the good life.

Creative ideas inside Lemons and Lavender:

• Garden-to-table recipes for every meal

• Eco-deco ideas for furnishing your home

• Recipes for nontoxic cleaners, house paint and more

• Start a seed sharing garden with your neighbors

• Easy-to-make gifts with handcrafted gift wrap

• Grow your own cup of delicious herbal tea

• Learn to use organic sea salts, skin scrubs and detox bath therapies” (From the Back Cover)

Recommended for adults and teens

Monday, February 18, 2013

Margaret recommends "All Things New"

The civil war is coming to an end but not without the sacrifices of the families left behind to deal with the Yankees. All Things New brings to life the struggles of those in the South particularly the Weatherly family during the Reconstruction of the South.  Josephine Weatherly realizes that her privileged life growing up on their Virginia plantation will never return, while her mother Eugenia believes that all things will be restored to their previous grandeur and social status. Losing her father and brother to the war leaves Josephine with a broken faith in God and struggles with why things have happened to her family.  One thing that she knows for sure is that she needs to learn to survive in this new way of life and realizes that Lizzie, their only servant, is the person who will teach her those skills. But can she make her mother understand and accept this new way of life? All Things New is an absorbing story of survival and forgiveness.

Christian Fiction/ Adults

Anne recommends "The Soldier's Wife"

Fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society or those who enjoy historical fiction set in World War II’s Great Britain may find author Margaret Leroy’s novel about a family living on the Island of Guernsey during the German Occupation a great read.  Leroy brings the island to life by her detailed descriptions, but it is the emotional complexity of the islander’s lives that brings the reader into the story.  Vivienne’s husband is away, fighting in Britain’s army.  Vivienne is left to care for her two daughters and elderly mother-in-law.  When German officers commandeer the house next door, Vivienne must deal with conflicting feelings. Whom does one trust during wartime when a mistake can lead to grave consequences?  Recommended for Adults.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Michelle recommends "Gone with the Wind"

Interested in revisiting the South during a time of change and transition? Get comfortable and dive into the classic epic novel Gone with the Wind.  This novel is a full package of love and war, but also a wonderful story of resolve.  Scarlett O’Hara represents the transition South in her own development from her expected role as a traditional Southern women to hardworking business woman.
If Gone with the Wind has a theme it is that of survival.  What makes some people come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong, brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval.  Some people survive; others don’t. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those that go under? I only know that survivors used to call that quality ‘gumption.’ So I wrote about people who at gumption and people who didn’t.
- Margaret Mitchell, 1936 (About the Author)
Recommended for Adults

Friday, February 8, 2013

Kathy recommends "Tell the Wolves I'm Home"

“Tell the Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt
This debut was my favorite read of 2012.  It is a coming of age story that hits all the right notes. The story takes place in 1987 and is narrated by 15-year old June Elbus, who stays with you long after the book is over. It is told in beautiful prose that gripped me from the first paragraph:

My sister, Greta, and I were having our portrait painted by our uncle Finn that afternoon because he knew he was dying. This was after I understood that I wasn’t going to grow up and move into his apartment and live there with him for the rest of my life. After I stopped believing that the AIDS thing was all some kind of big mistake. When he first asked, my mother said no. She said there was something macabre about it. When she thought of the two of us sitting in Finn’s apartment with its huge windows and the scent of lavender and orange, when she thought of him looking at us like it might be the last time he would see us, she couldn’t bear it. And, she said, it was a long drive from northern Westchester all the way into Manhattan. She crossed her arms over her chest, looked right into Finn’s bird-­blue eyes, and told him it was just hard to find the time these days. 
“Tell me about it,” he said.
 That’s what broke her.

Suitable for Adult and Young Adult readers

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Anne recommends "Broken for You"

Margaret, the long-time owner of a lovely mansion in Seattle, takes in a young boarder, Wanda.  Both women have troubled pasts and have shut out help from the outside world, yet both have a strong objective to seek reconciliation from lost loves and lives.  Through the force of a hidden guilt buried within the beautiful treasures of Margaret’s home, the women find resolution in unexpected people and places.  Recommended for Adults

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jamie recommends "Divergent"

Divergent / Veronica Roth.: In a future Chicago, sixteen-year-old Beatrice "Tris" Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group.  Tris discovers that her divergent nature makes her a danger to the leaders of society, but she may be the only thing saving the factions from all-out war.  If you liked The Hunger Games this is another good story of a dystopian future where teens are forced to grow up quickly in an adult world.

Recommended for young adults and adults.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gretchen recommends "A Ball for Daisy"

This award-winning picture book by Chris Raschka is a simple story about a dog and her bright rubber ball.  It captures, however, the universal experience of what it’s like to lose something you love and the special kindnesses that friendship can bring.  The illustrations intuitively capture the hangdog feeling of dejection when Daisy loses her ball.  When she unexpectedly receives a new one, the movement of thumping tail and a wide-mouthed grin are brilliantly depicted.  The reader can’t help but smile too!  Suitable for all ages and especially good for dog lovers.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Juliane recommends "Paris in Love"

If you love memoirs and if you love audiobooks – especially those read by the author -- this is a great “read” for you!  There are times when I pick up a book because I want to be enchanted by the setting, and the idea of reading about Paris delighted me.  But this book is so much more than a travelogue of an American transplant in the City of Lights.  It is narrated by the author, Eloisa James, who we learn is on sabbatical in France (with her family) from her rather juxtaposed life– she is a respected professor on Shakespeare by day but also writes “bodice ripper” romances on the side.   Her writing style belies her romance writer reputation.  I found her narrative to be almost poetic at times when she describes things like “an airplane that patterns the Parisian skyline like a swatch of fine lace” or “a silver pitcher that held milk chocolate as dark and thick as lava.”  At times it felt like I was reading her diary of daily life with her teen/tween children, and cosmopolitan husband (who is Italian).  While not a romance read itself, its sumptuous descriptions and poignant observations certainly whisked me away from my hum-drum life here in the States.  A recommended read for adults.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Kathy recommends "Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking"

Ever wonder why you’re not at ease with those around you?  Can’t seem to figure your why you don’t always fit in? Susan Cain’s book Quiet : the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking may provide the answers.  In a world that glorifies the Culture of Personality, Cain suggests that those who prize quiet reflection over unreserved camaraderie are not pathologically shy but instead are part of the large number of individuals who are introverts.  With refreshing candor and heartening insight, she assures us that introverts have much to offer, enumerating a wide range of positive traits that their extrovert counterparts might do well to imitate. 

Recommended for adults and teens.